After the rioting in Ephesus caused by Demetrius and his fellow silversmiths, as recorded in Acts 19, Paul left Ephesus and departed into Macedonia. From thence he went on to Greece, particularly to Corinth, where be hoped to receive the bounty of that assembly for the needy in Jerusalem, to which he refers in Romans 15.26, 27; 1 Corinthians 16.1-4; 2 Corinthians 9.1-5. He remained in Greece for three months. He hoped to sail from Greece to Syria, but owing to a plot laid against him by the Jews he determined to return through Macedonia.
There accompanied Paul as far as Asia certain outstanding servants; of the Lord: of Beroea, Sopater; of Thessalonica, Aristarchus and Secundus; of Derbe, Gaius and Timothy; of Asia, Tychicus and Trophimus; the latter was an Ephesian, who evidently accompanied Paul all the way to Jerusalem (Acts 21.29). These went on before and were waiting at Troas for Paul and Luke, who left Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, which were for seven days after the day of the Passover, and reached Troas by ship in five days. There they tarried seven days. Then on the first day of the week they were gathered with the disciples in the church of God in Troas to break bread. It is clear that it was the custom for the disciples to be gathered together on the first day of the week, as we learn from the fact that they were together on the evening of the first day of the week, on which day the Lord was raised from the dead (John 20.19), and they were together eight days after, both first days included in the eight days (verse 26). Then they were together on the day of Pentecost, which was the first day of the week (Acts 2.1).But it is to Acts 20 we turn for definite guidance as to the day on which the Lord's remembrance in the breaking of the bread is to be kept, as He instructed His disciples on the night in which He was betrayed (1 Corinthians 11.23-29).
The breaking of the bread is to be observed not more often and not less seldom than on the first day of each week, not every day, as some seek to do, not once a month or once in six months, as others do, and not once a year at Easter, as do some others who observe it once only in the year at the time of the year at which it was instituted by the Lord. If the breaking of the bread was to be only at Easter, then Paul and his companions were in error in breaking the bread some nineteen days after the Passover, and besides, the Lord did not institute His remembrance in the breaking of the bread on what is now called "Easter Sunday," for He rose from the dead on the first day of the week after His death on the day of the Passover three days before. How totally blind are some who read the Scriptures!
Another thing that we need to pay definite attention to are the words of Luke relative to the ministry of the word by Paul, when the disciples were gathered together to break bread. His words are, "And upon the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul discoursed with them, intending to depart on the morrow; and prolonged his speech until midnight" (Acts 20.7). By no process of reasoning can a case be made out, that it is the Lord's mind as contained in the teaching and practice of the apostles, that ministry of the word should be excluded from the meeting for the breaking of the bread. Paul's ministry took place, the passage says, "when we were gathered together to break bread." The occasion was peculiar only in this, that Paul continued his speech (logos) until midnight, for, as Paul told the Ephesian elders that they should behold his face no more (20.38), it was improbable that he would be back in the church in Troas.
At this meeting for the breaking of the bread there were many gathered together and many lights in the upper chamber. Eutychus, a young man, fell asleep as Paul continued his discourse, and he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. But Paul went down and fell upon him, and embracing him restored him to life. Paul's action was similar to the actions of Elijah and Elisha (1 Kings 17.21, and 2 Kings 4.84), when these prophets restored boys to life. There can be no reasonable doubt but that Eutychus was dead and that Paul restored him to life. After this miracle Paul returned to the upper chamber. The passage says, "And when he was gone up, and had broken the bread, and eaten, and had talked with them a long while, even till break of day, so he departed" (verse 11). Many textual critics insert "the" before bread. It seems far from proper to conclude that the breaking of the bread in the Lord's remembrance had been kept back until after midnight and that this was interrupted by the accident to Eutychus. They had come together for the purpose of breaking bread and that purpose, we judge, was fulfilled before Paul commenced his discourse. After having eaten, Paul talked with them for a long while, even till the break of day; he then departed to walk alone on the over-twenty-mile walk from Troas to Assos. Why he determined to walk alone to Assos we are not told, therefore it is vain to conjecture. It shows clearly the powers of endurance of the apostle, that after his long discourse, and being up all night, he set out to walk the journey to Assos, while Luke and the others went the easier way by ship.
The word" before," in "we, going before to the ship," is somewhat difficult to understand. We ask, "Before what? " It may be, before the accident to Eutychus and Paul's miracle. This, no doubt, is the chief matter in the paragraph, not to us now, but in the history of events as narrated by Luke.
Paul met the others at Assos and they took him into the ship with them. They set sail and certain places on the voyage are mentioned, Mitylene, Chios, Samos, before they arrived at Miletus. Paul had determined to sail past Ephesus, not to be detained there, so that he might arrive at Jerusalem at Pentecost. Thus we read, "From Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called to him the elders of the church." When they came, he addressed them. His address is one of the outstanding addresses in the book of the Acts. We have a few of his addresses on different occasions. It may be that what is given to us by the Spirit through Luke on this occasion (and perhaps on others) is an accurate synopsis of his address, for what is given would only take a minute or two to deliver. In his review of his work he begins from the first day that he set foot in Asia. He tells of his manner of serving the Lord, with all lowliness of mind and with tears. He mentions his trials from plots of the Jews, which were of frequent occurrence in his ministry in different cities. He declares to the Ephesian saints all that was profitable while he taught them publicly and from house to house. His message to both Jews and Greeks was repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. Now he was going to Jerusalem, bound in the spirit, it being God's will that he should go to Jerusalem. He knew not what would befall there, save that the Holy Spirit testified to him in every city that bonds and afflictions awaited him there and afterwards. But the nobility of his character and sincerity of purpose shone out in his words, "But I hold not my life of any account, as dear unto myself, so that I may accomplish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God." This was his consuming desire, to preach the gospel, especially where the name and work of Christ were unknown. It was to this end he was separated unto the gospel of God (Romans 1.1). Then he tells them that they, among whom he went about preaching the kingdom (of God, A.V.), would see his face no more. He further said that he was clear from the blood of all men, for he shrank not from declaring the whole counsel of God. Thus his ministry among them had been, (1) the gospel of the grace of God, (2) the kingdom of God, and (3) the whole counsel of God; the gospel to the sinner, the kingdom for the obedience of the saint, and God's whole counsel reaching back into His eternal purposes and forward to their future accomplishment. He had laid a foundation of divine teaching and it was now their responsibility to see that they held it fast.
Following these words he begins to warn them of the stormy waters ahead in the voyage of life. He counsels them to take heed to themselves, and to all the flock in which the Holy Spirit had made them overseers. This is one of the places in which the Revisers of the R.V. would have done well to let well alone, instead of changing "overseers" of the A.V. to "bishops." The word "overseer" is more easily understood, a word derived from the Anglo-Saxon, than bishop, which is an anglicized Greek word which has been seriously misused in things ecclesiastical. Elders were overseers; they were elders because they were mature men, and overseers as to their work of overseeing the flock. In the time when the Scriptures were written there were elders or overseers in each church of God (Acts 14.28; 20.17; Philippians 1.1), and it was not until the apostasy was well advanced that we read, in what we may call church history, of the bishop" of this and that place, and later of archbishops " or patriarchs." Men had by then drifted well away from the pattern given to the early saints through the apostles. First of all, overseers must oversee themselves, for if they do not take heed to themselves, they will be useless in taking heed to the flock. The Holy Spirit makes (Tithemi, to place, set or constitute) overseers in the flock. There would be no flock unless there were persons to care for it. The overseers were to feed (Poimaino, to tend, or shepherd) : see John 21.15-17 where the Lord said to Peter, Feed (Bosko) My lambs," "Tend (Poimaino) My sheep", Feed (Bosko) My sheep." Poimaino conveys more than simply to feed (Bosko) the church of God, it covers the whole work of a shepherd. Though some textual critics incline to the reading "the church of the Lord," no other scripture in the New Testament conveys such a thought. We may therefore without fear follow the text of the A.V. and R.V. The words which follow therefore call for consideration, "Which He purchased with His own blood." The word "purchased" (Peripoie6, being in the middle voice here, means to acquire for oneself), means " acquired," see R.V. marginal reading. The best attested reading of the Greek is He peripoiesato dia iou haimatos iou idiou, which literally is, "which He (God) acquired through the blood of the (His) own." This means that the church of God was what God acquired for Himself through the blood of His own Son.
Paul then warns the elders what would happen after he was gone, that grievous wolves would enter in among the elders who would not spare the flock, and that men from among themselves who were present there that day would arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Here was a state of things envisaged in which the Flock of God would be torn and scattered. This state of things caused Paul to leave Timothy in Ephesus at a later time to charge certain men not to teach a different doctrine (1 Timothy 1. 3), and in 1 Timothy 4.1-3 he indicates that this work of undermining the Faith was the work of seducing spirits, which were actually demons at work injecting their foul doctrines among the saints, through the hypocrisy of men that spoke lies. This state of things came to such a pitch, that Paul called on Timothy and the faithful to purge themselves out from such evil teaching and evil teachers, and to "follow after righteousness, faith, love, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart" (2 Timothy 2.21-26).
In the light of impending declension Paul reminds the Ephesian elders that for the space of three years he ceased not to admonish them with tears. Now as a father who had nursed them, was leaving them and expecting not to see them again, he commends them to God, and to the word of His grace, which was able to build them up and to give them the inheritance among all them that are sanctified (verse 32). Not God without His word, and not the word without God, both are needed if saints are to be built up upon their most holy Faith, and if they are to realize the purpose God has in them in that present inheritance among His gathered people.
After reminding them of his manual labour whilst he laboured among them in spiritual things, and of the need that there ever is to minister to the poor, as the Lord had said in one of His sayings (not recorded in the Gospels), he kneeled down and prayed with them all. It was a touching scene, one of the most touching in his ministry, for they all wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck and kissed him, greatly sorrowing because of his words that they should behold his face no more. Then they brought him on his way to the ship.
After parting from the Ephesian elders they sailed for Syria and landed at Tyre. Certain places are mentioned on the voyage, Cos, Rhodes, Patara, Phoenicia, and Cyprus. The ship was to unload at Tyre, and having found the disciples, Paul and those with him tarried there seven days. The disciples in Tyre were enlightened by the Spirit as to what would happen to Paul at Jerusalem, and their counsel was that he should not set foot in Jerusalem. Nevertheless Paul pursued his journey to that city. The disciples with their wives and children brought Paul and his companions on their way, and outside Tyre this godly company kneeled down on the beach and prayed, and then, bidding each other farewell, Paul and the others went aboard the ship. They sailed from Tyre to Ptolemais where they saluted the brethren and remained with them one day. The next day they departed and came to Caesarea, and there they entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, who is the only one in the New Testament called an evangelist, though there were undoubtedly many evangelists in those days. Philip is mentioned in Acts 6.5, and more at length in chapter 8. Philip's four virgin daughters were evidently women who had devoted themselves to the Lord, for it says that they prophesied, within the sphere proper to women. There they tarried for some time. Agabus, a prophet who came down from Judea, came to Paul and taking his girdle bound his feet and his hands, and said, "Thus saith the Holy Spirit, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles." Those that heard this besought Paul not to go to Jerusalem. Paul answered them, "What do ye, weeping and breaking my heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done."
Following their stay with Philip at Caesarea, they went up to Jerusalem, and certain disciples from Caesarea accompanied them, and they brought with them an ancient disciple called Mnason of Cyprus with whom they were to lodge. Thus Paul arrived at Jerusalem, ending his third missionary journey, and bringing to the needy in Jerusalem the bounty of the churches of Macedonia and Achaia.
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