Acts 20 - Outline of Acts (Book Notes menu page)
Chapter 20 follows very closely from the events recorded at the end of Acts ch. 19.
1. And after the uproar was ceased,
Paul called unto [him] the disciples, and embraced [them],
and departed for to go into Macedonia.
2 And when he had gone over those parts,
and had given them much exhortation, he came into Greece,
3 And [there] abode three months.
And when the Jews laid wait for him, as he was about to sail into Syria,
he purposed to return through Macedonia.
4 And there accompanied him into Asia
Sopater of Berea; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus;
and Gaius of Derbe, and Timotheus; and of Asia, Tychicus and Trophimus.
5 These going before tarried for us at Troas.
...after the uproar was ceased...- ie., the uproar raised by the silversmiths in Ephesus (Acts 19:23-41).
Once things had calmed down, Paul and his companions made a circuit through Macedonia and Greece.
     As he made his way toward Corinth, he wrote his second letter to the Corinthians, from Philippi. Among the subjects discussed in that letter, was a financial collection which was being taken to assist believers in Jerusalem, where persecution had brought many into poverty. In 2Cor ch. 8 - 9, Paul encourages the participation of the Corinthian church in this collection, reminding them that the Gentile churches had received great spiritual value from the church in Jerusalem, from where the Gospel had come out to them. So, they, in turn, ought to offset the material lack which that church was experiencing, out of their own relative abundance (2Cor 8:13-15). In the same letter, he discussed measures being taken to ensure safe and honest delivery of their gift, and refers to several trusted men who would convey this money to Jerusalem (2Cor 8:16-22). The men listed in Acts 20:4, were among the representatives "chosen of the churches to travel with" Paul and others with this gift.
     Paul's planned route from Corinth had to be altered (v.3), to avoid an ambush from enemies of the Gospel. Instead of taking the more direct route by sea from Corinth to Syria, he traveled overland to Macedonia, and from there would travel by sea making several stops before reaching his destination. For the first portion of the journey, his traveling party was divided into smaller groups, perhaps to avoid the attention of the enemies.
6 And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread,
and came unto them to Troas in five days; where we abode seven days.
7. And upon the first [day] of the week,
when the disciples came together to break bread,
Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow;
and continued his speech until midnight.
8 And there were many lights in the upper chamber,
where they were gathered together.
...after the days of unleavened bread...-
They departed on the voyage to Jerusalem, within a few days after Passover.
Philippi... to Troas...- 125 miles in 5 days (a half hour hop by air, today).
Six years earlier, during Paul's second missionary journey, it was at Troas, that Paul had heard the call to "Come over into Macedonia and help us" (Acts 16:8,9). He had gone without delay to Philippi, where many were converted to faith in Christ, at the cost to Paul and Silas of scourging and imprisonment. Now, with many scars and victories behind him, he departs from Europe and heads east toward Jerusalem, with plans to proceed, eventually, to Rome (19:21).
...upon the first day of the week...-
The Christians in Troas met, as we do, on the first day of the week, to commemorate the resurrection of our Lord. They also commemorated his sacrificial death, as we do, with the breaking of bread, the observance of the Lord's Supper, as Jesus instructed us: "This do in remembrance of me" (1Cor 11:23-26).
     Again, as we do, they fed together on the Word of God. On this occasion, Paul sliced and served this spiritual meal. There was a lot on the table, for he knew that he would not pass that way again, and there was no end to what his spiritual children needed to understand. 'His words stretched on until midnight.' And the people were absorbing it like sponges. They had prepared the room with many oil lamps and torches, to facilitate reading, and perhaps the taking of notes. They 'were gathered together,' like fish caught in a net, held captive by the Words they were hearing.
     Until the meeting was suddenly disrupted...
9 And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus,
being fallen into a deep sleep:
and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep,
and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead.
10 And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing [him] said,
Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him.
11 When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten,
and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed.
12 And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted.
Eutychus, his name means "good fortune" or "fortunate." The name is fitting, don't you think?
The result of his fall from the third floor, was that he was "taken up" or "carried off" dead {GK=nekros, devoid of life}. His body would have been buried the next day. He was fortunate that death was interrupted, when Paul intervened.
     Of course, it was not Paul, but God who raised the boy from death, in the same way that he had once used Elijah to raise a widow's son (1Kin 17:19-24), and Elisha to raise the son of the Shunammite woman (2Kin 4:32-37). The method employed is very similar between these three incidents. In each case, the miracle would have served to confirm the man of God and his message (eg., 1Kin 17:24).
"Trouble not yourselves; for his life {ie., his soul, his breath} is in him." -
Paul's announcement may have interrupted the first stages of funeral planning. This word for "trouble" is used, elsewhere, concerning the "much ado" of mourning. For example, at the house of Jairus, where his little daughter lay dead, in Mark 5:38,39, "And he [Jesus] cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly. And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth." But, here, the mourners were silenced almost before the shock of death could sink in.
...even till break of day...-
Eutychus, and the others were also fortunate to hear the Word opened to them by Paul. Refreshed by dinner, and invigorated by the visible demonstration of God's power, they continued their studies under Paul, until break of day.
     Then, without benefit of sleep, Paul and his companions continued on their journey, being escorted out of town, in company with the young man, 'Fortunate,' who might otherwise have been carried off for burial.
13. And we went before to ship, and sailed unto Assos, there intending to take in Paul:
for so had he appointed, minding himself to go afoot.
Luke and most of the company ('we') went by ship, while Paul chose to walk from Troas to Assos (about 20 miles). Perhaps Paul needed to walk off the exhilaration of the previous evening, while the others were exhausted, and planned to sleep on the ship.
14 And when he met with us at Assos, we took him in, and came to Mitylene.
15 And we sailed thence, and came the next [day] over against Chios;
and the next [day] we arrived at Samos, and tarried at Trogyllium;
and the next [day] we came to Miletus.
16 For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus,
because he would not spend the time in Asia:
for he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost.
This was not the direct, non-stop route that had originally been planned (back in v.3).
Word that enemies intended to ambush Paul, had forced him to take a less favorable route. The many stops allowed for visits with believers, but he could not linger, because he had a schedule in mind. From the time they first set sail (v.6), fewer than 50 days remained for travel to Jerusalem by the day of Pentecost. Why then? Perhaps it seemed fitting to Paul to present the gift from the gentile churches on the anniversary of the day when the church had begun (Acts 2:1).
     They sailed from Assos to Mitylene, on the island of Lesbos (40 miles), to the island of Chios (1 day, 50 miles), then past the island of Samos to the mainland city of Trygyllium (1day, 75 miles), and a day later to Miletus (20 miles).
17. And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.
During his layover at Miletus, Paul arranged a meeting with the elders from Ephesus.
He had a message to deliver to them. His message included...
  1. (v.18-21) an Introduction, where he rehearses the history of his relationship with them,
  2. (v.22-24) an Explanation of Paul's purpose and motivation for his journey to Jerusalem, and
  3. (v.25-35) his Farewell Admonition to the elders about their responsibilites toward the church of Christ.
18 And when they were come to him, he said unto them,
Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia,
after what manner I have been with you at all seasons,
19 Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears,
and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews:
20 [And] how I kept back nothing that was profitable [unto you],
but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house,
21 Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks,
repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul's relationship to the Ephesian church was that of a spiritual father.
From the first day that he arrived in that city (Acts 19:1-f), he had declared the Gospel openly to Jew and Gentile alike, proclaiming...
  • "Repentance toward God" (ie., the need for personal conviction and confession of sin, and of one's need for reconciliation with the holy God), and...
  • "faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (ie., the need for conversion {ie., turning} from sin to the Savior, trusting in Him alone, for deliverance from the guilt and power of sin, by the power of His death and resurrection).
Having been won to faith in Christ, these men had observed the example of their spiritual father's life in serving the Lord:
  • "with all humility of mind..."
    Paul was not like some ministers who take pride in how humble they are. He had a deep inward sense of personal inadequacy and, therefore, of dependency upon the Lord. The phrase "humility of mind" is one GK word, which is translated "lowliness of mind," in Php 2:3: "Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus..."
       That was Paul. He was not seeking personal recognition or praise. His one overarching desire was that others would know and love his Savior, who loved him and gave Himself for him (Gal 2:20).
    Paul's humility of mind was exhibited...
  • "...with many tears..." (v.19)
    as he sought to warn unbelievers of future judgment, and the only way of salvation (see v.31); and as he sought the well being of his spiritual children who were caught in Satan's snares (eg., 2Cor 2:4).
  • " temptations {ie., trials, testings}..."
    which he suffered through the enemy's attacks upon him. (eg., Acts 19:23-28)
  • In his faithful handling of God's Word - (v.20; cp. Acts 19:8-10)
    "I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you..." Later, in v.27, he echoes these words, saying...... "I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God."
    Through declaring the Gospel of Christ, he had laid the foundation for their faith. Then upon that foundation he had built with the gold, silver and precious stones of God's Word, to help his children reach spiritual maturity (1Cor 3:11-13). During three years of ministry in Ephesus, Paul had used every available opportunity, whether in public meetings, or in private settings.
But now, he must move on.
In the next few verses, Paul gives them an Explanation of his purpose and motivation for his journey to Jerusalem.
22 And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem,
not knowing the things that shall befall me there:
23 Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city,
saying that bonds and afflictions abide me.
24 But none of these things move me,
neither count I my life dear unto myself,
so that I might finish my course with joy,
and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus,
to testify the gospel of the grace of God.
Some Bible scholars believe Paul's desire to go to Jerusalem, in the face of the Holy Spirit's warnings, was an act of disobedience. Others (including the editor) believe that Paul accurately discerned the Spirit's leading, and was determined to follow that path, despite any difficulties.
  • 'Paul, Why are you going to Jerusalem, against the Spirit's counsel?'
    "I go bound in the spirit..." (v.22) - Some argue that this is Paul's human spirit determined to have his way. But, the wording can also mean, that he was constrained by God's Spirit to go. In either case, he was held captive by the need to go there. He must go, or his course would not be finished.
  • 'Paul, Can you describe this inward need which compels you to go to Jerusalem?'
    He answers us from Romans 9:1-5. ... Perhaps the gift from the gentile churches to the believers in Jerusalem will open the hearts of some of my Jewish kinsmen, to receive the gift of God's Grace in their Messiah, the Lord Jesus.
  • 'But Paul, There are enemies who will seek to slay you, as the Holy Spirit continually warns you.'
    He answers in v.24. - During Paul's second missionary journey, the Spirit had prevented him from going into Bithynia or into Asia (Acts 16:6,7). But now, the Holy Spirit was neither prohibiting Paul from going to Jerusalem, nor blocking his way. Rather, the Spirit had impressed Paul that to complete the 'course' of his ministry he must go to Jerusalem. By means of the many warnings, the Spirit was preparing and strengthening Paul for new opportunities, and for trials which he would soon endure.
25 And now, behold, I know that ye all,
among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God,
shall see my face no more.
26 Wherefore I take you to record this day,
that I [am] pure from the blood of all [men].
27 For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.
Verses 25-35 are Paul's Farewell Admonition to the leaders of this church.
Though he had planted this church, these elders would be in charge of it from now on, for he knew he would never return.
     He reminds them again of the example that he set for them... the model of ministry that he lived before them. As he would write to Timothy (about six years later): "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith..." (2Tim 4:7).
     He had been faithful. He had not taken shortcuts.
     "I am pure {ie., free, clean} from the blood of all men." He had been a faithful witness to the Way of salvation.
     He had taken to heart the Lord's warning to Ezekiel: "Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul." (Eze 3:17-19)
     "I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God." Paul was not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He was determined to open every aspect of God's purposes (as revealed in His Word), to everyone who was hungry to hear.
Then, from the base of his own example, Paul charged the Ephesian elders with their responsibilities.
28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves,
and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers,
to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
29 For I know this, that after my departing
shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
30 Also of your own selves shall men arise,
speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
In v.17, these men are called "elders" {GK=presbuteros, ie., the old, mature, and experienced men}.
Here, he tells them that God's Spirit has appointed them to be "overseers" {GK=episkopos, men charged with duty as guardians and superintendents} over the church of God. The word 'episkopos' is sometimes translated 'bishop.' It sometimes refers to the pastor(s) of a local church. But here, there is no division between the laity and the clergy. The elders are the overseers. All, together, are charged with the care of God's people.
     The role of an overseer is to shepherd God's flock... feeding them from God's Word, and tending them in accord with it. Tending sheep seems like a rather idyllic even peaceful job, out in the beauty of nature... leading them in green pastures, and by the still waters. There are those quiet times... But scripture suggests that they are the exceptions, because sheep get sick, and injured, and lost... and the shepherd must bind them up, and carry them, or go out of his way through great difficulty to find them. The sheep are prey to many enemies, and the shepherd must be ready to defend them, with his own life if necessary.
     Overseers serve under the Owner of the flock, who intends that not one of His sheep should be lost, for He has paid a great price for them. The Owner is "God." The price was "His own blood" (v.28). It is to Him that overseers must give account, for those over whom He has charged us to watch (Heb 13:17).
"Take heed therefore unto yourselves..." - ie., Be ware. Be aware.
  • Be aware - Make sure that you fulfill your God given responsibilities,
    toward those whom He has entrusted to your care. (v.28)
  • Be ware -
    1. of wolves in sheep's clothing - who enter in among the flock, from without. (v.29)
      Rather than feeding the sheep, these wolves feed upon them. Their purpose is to better themselves. They have no care for God's flock.
         Paul calls them "grievous wolves." {The root word for 'grievous' means 'heavy' or 'weighty.'} These 'heavy weight predators' work forcefully, violently, and unsparingly to scatter and destroy the sheep, in the absence of a shepherd.
         Paul, knew that his departure would give such enemies an opening.
    2. of self-promoting leaders, from within the fold, "of your own selves shall men arise..." (v.30)
      • "...speaking perverse {GK=diastrepho, distorted, misleading} things..."
        Why would Christian leaders twist the scriptures, to deceive God's people?
        Why would born again believers speak slanderously against other leaders, as some did against Paul?
      • " draw away {lit., to tear away} disciples after themselves..."
        Like the enemies from without (who are unsaved impostors), these leaders from within (who may be true believers) are looking to advance their own self interests. These shepherds want the flock to recognize and honor them, while the Lord's purpose in appointing overseers, is that they should lead the sheep to love and follow Christ, who purchased them with His blood.
    What a contrast: between such leaders and Paul, who served the Lord and His flock "with all humility of mind" (v.19).
31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years
I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.
32 And now, brethren, I commend you to God,
and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up,
and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.
33 I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel.
34 Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands
have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me.
35 I have shewed you all things,
how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak,
and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus,
how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.
"Therefore watch..." - You who are overseers, do your job. Watch over the flock.
Watch out for enemies. Watch out for your own fleshly tendencies and motivations.
"...and remember..." - Paul again exhibits the example he has given them,
not to receive their acclaim, but to demonstrate the way of true ministry.-
Paul served...
  • v.31 ...with tears....-
    -- of love for the Lord, and for His sheep... (v.19)
    -- in prayer, for the Shepherd's intervention in behalf of His sheep.
  • v.33 ...without regard for money...
  • v.34,35 ...with personal toil and at his own expense (not from a position of ease). support {lift up} the weak {feeble, sick}.
The apostle Peter, himself an example of humility, also exhorted church elders to give themselves whole heartedly to the Lord's work of caring for His sheep (see 1Pet 5:1-4).
Paul, We appreciate your example. But, how can we follow it?
How can we care for the people whom God has entrusted to our care?
How can we be kept from falling into error, or from leading God's people astray?
v.32 "I commend you to {I entrust you to..., or, I set before you} God, and to the Word of His Grace..."
Notice that Paul named no human successor to take his role. He did not say: 'I commend you to Timothy.' The success of the church of God, and of the leaders appointed by the Holy Spirit, depends upon their direct relationship to Him, not to any succession of human leadership.
     Neither the minister nor his ministry will be effective and fruitful, unless God supplies "the effectual working" of His power in and through you, and within the Body of believers (Eph 3:7; 4:16). Therefore, Seek Him.
     It is God's Word {'the Word of His Grace'} alone, by which your life will be built upon the one Foundation. It is through God's Word, that you will receive the 'inheritance' {ie., the portion, the appointed possession} pertaining to one who is set apart for God's purposes. Therefore, "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of Truth." 2Tim 2:15
     Deacons... other elders in the faith... Christian parents... The great responsibilies which Paul identifies here belong to us. Are you, am I, faithfully following the Lord, in all humility of mind, drawing near to Him, and feeding upon His Word, in order to be equipped to nourish and nurture others?
36. And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all.
37 And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck, and kissed him,
38 Sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake,
that they should see his face no more.
And they accompanied him unto the ship.

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