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David Guzik :: Study Guide for Acts 20

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Paul's Farewell to the Ephesian Elders

A. Paul in the region of Macedonia again.

1. (Act 20:1) From Ephesus, Paul travels to Macedonia.

After the uproar had ceased, Paul called the disciples to himself, embraced them, and departed to go to Macedonia.

a. After the uproar had ceased: The rioting in Ephesus (Acts 19) had convinced Paul to move on, so he went westward across the Aegean Sea to Macedonia (modern Greece).

2. (Act 20:2-5) Travels through Greece and Macedonia.

Now when he had gone over that region and encouraged them with many words, he came to Greece and stayed three months. And when the Jews plotted against him as he was about to sail to Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia. And Sopater of Berea accompanied him to Asia; also Aristarchus and Secundus of the Thessalonians, and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia. These men, going ahead, waited for us at Troas.

a. When he had gone over that region and encouraged them with many words: Paul spent his time working with the churches he had already established, as recorded in Acts 16-17.

i. "One activity that especially concerned Paul at this time was collecting money for the relief of impoverished believers at Jerusalem … Paul viewed it as a symbol of unity that would help his Gentile converts realize their debt to the mother church in Jerusalem." (Longenecker)

b. When the Jews plotted against him as he was about to sail to Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia. Paul had planned to take the long journey by sea directly back to Syria (where his sending church at Antioch was), but the plotting of anti-Christian Jews made him take a more overland route back through Macedonia, accompanied by many companions.

i. "It may have been planned to attack him on board ship, especially if the vessel was crowded with Jewish pilgrims for Passover or Pentecost." (Williams)

c. Sopater of Berea … Aristarchus and Secundus of the Thessalonians … Gaius of Derbe … Trophimus of Asia: These traveling companions of Paul were probably representatives from other churches who had sent money with Paul to Jerusalem. They were also present as ambassadors from the churches Paul has founded among the Gentiles, and were there to vouch for Paul's good stewardship in regard to the collection destined for Jerusalem.

B. Back to Troas and the region of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey).

1. (Act 20:6) Arrival at the city of Troas.

But we sailed away from Philippi after the Days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days joined them at Troas, where we stayed seven days.

a. We sailed away from Philippi … joined them at Troas: Paul has now sailed back across the Agean Sea, eastward towards the Roman province of Asia Minor.

2. (Act 20:7-12) A long sermon and Eutychus raised from the dead.

Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where they were gathered together. And in a window sat a certain young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep. He was overcome by sleep; and as Paul continued speaking, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. But Paul went down, fell on him, and embracing him said, "Do not trouble yourselves, for his life is in him." Now when he had come up, had broken bread and eaten, and talked a long while, even till daybreak, he departed. And they brought the young man in alive, and they were not a little comforted.

a. Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread: This is the first certain example we have of Christians making a practice to gather together on the first day of the week for fellowship and the word - though here, it seems they gathered in the evening, because Sunday was a normal working day for them.

b. Spoke to them and continued his message until midnight: Paul sensed the need to carry on long because he was ready to depart the next day; he knew he might never see these particular Christians again - so he preached for some six hours to them!

c. A certain young man named Eutychus … fell down from the third story and was taken up dead: The combination of the late hour and the heat and perhaps fumes from the oil lamps made the young man Eutychus fall asleep. His fall and death certainly would have put a damper on the meeting!

d. Do not trouble yourselves, for his life is in him: Paul, again receiving the gift of faith from God, sensed that God would raise this boy from the dead - and God did.

i. "Paul's comment that the boy's life was in him refers to his condition after he had ministered to him. Luke would not have devoted space to the raising up of somebody who was merely apparently dead." (Marshall)

e. Talked a long while, even till daybreak: Paul, obviously getting their attention back, continued preaching until daybreak!

C. Paul's address to the Ephesian elders.

1. (Act 20:13-17) Paul comes to Miletus and sends for the elders of the church in Ephesus to meet him there.

Then we went ahead to the ship and sailed to Assos, there intending to take Paul on board; for so he had given orders, intending himself to go on foot. And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and came to Mitylene. We sailed from there, and the next day came opposite Chios. The following day we arrived at Samos and stayed at Trogyllium. The next day we came to Miletus. For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he would not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the Day of Pentecost. From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church.

a. Intending himself to go on foot: Paul apparently preferred to walk from Troas to Assos instead of sail with the rest of his group; but he sailed with them from Assos to Miletus (we took him on board).

i. Paul "stayed till the last possible moment, probably to be assured of Eutychus's complete restoration to consciousness and health, and then took a shortcut by land to join the ship at Assos." (Bruce).

b. Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus: Paul's intention wasn't to slight the church in Ephesus, but he knew that it would be impossible for him to have a short visit there, and he wanted to hurry so as to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the Day of Pentecost.

c. From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church: Though Paul knew he couldn't make a brief visit to Ephesus, he still wanted to pour his heart into the leaders of the church at Ephesus. So, from Miletus, he called for the elders of the church to come for a special meeting.

2. (Act 20:18-21) Paul begins his farewell to the elders of Ephesus by recounting his work among them.

And when they had come to him, he said to them: "You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews; how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ."

a. Most of the time in Acts, we see Paul the evangelist; but here in Acts 20, we get a unique picture of Paul the pastor - what was important to him as a leader and shepherd of God's people.

i. "It is the only Pauline speech delivered to Christians which Luke has recorded, and it is not surprising to discover how rich it is in parallels to the Pauline letters (especially, in fact, to the later ones)." (Bruce)

b. You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you: Paul first calls attention to himself as an example. Not an example instead of Jesus, but an example as he follows Jesus. Paul didn't act like a "religious celebrity" and expect people to serve and honor him; he just wanted to be serving the Lord with all humility.

i. If you aren't an example of how to live the Christian life, why not? You might say, "well, because I'm a new Christian." Then are you a good example of how a new Christian should live?

c. I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you: Paul could solemnly saw before these elders of the Ephesian church that he kept back nothing that was helpful. He didn't only teach the topics that pleased him. He proclaimed it all.

i. Testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks: if Paul didn't limit his message, he didn't limit his audience either. He wanted to preach all the word of God to all people.

d. From house to house implies that the Ephesian church, lacking any central building, was organized logically in house-churches. Probably, each elder had charge over a particular house-church.

3. (Act 20:22-27) Paul reveals his heart and mind to the Ephesian elders.

"And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God."

a. I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there: Paul didn't know what was ahead of him; he even had reason to believe it was bad. But that didn't trouble him. He could give it all over to God even when he didn't know what would happen. May God give us more Christians who will say none of these things move me!

i. Uncertainty did not move Paul. Even though he was not knowing the things that will happen to me there, he would not be moved from his cause. Paul could sing this Psalm from his heart: I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved. (Psalm 16:8)

b. Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me: Paul recognized the dangerous road ahead of him; apparently he had received many words of prophecy telling him of this danger already. Yet he is not dissuaded by danger, but willing to lay down his life for the gospel of the grace of God.

i. Nor do I count my life dear to myself: Paul thought of himself as an accountant, weighing carefully the credits and the expenses; and in the end, he does not count his own life dear to him, compared to his God and how he can serve him.

ii. So that I may finish my race with joy: Paul thought of himself as a runner who had a race to finish, and nothing would keep Paul from finishing the race with joy. Additionally, Paul speaks of my race - he had his race to run, we have our own - but God calls us to finish it with joy.

c. I am innocent of the blood of all men: Paul declared his heart was clear. He could leave these Christians to God's care with a good conscience, knowing that he has not shunned to declare to[them] the whole counsel of God.

i. The whole counsel of God: Paul thought of himself as a watchman, there to bring forth the whole counsel of God's word. This doesn't guarantee the people will be saved, but it will guarantee Paul is without guilt before God. He has done his job!

ii. Where are those who today declare the whole counsel of God? Paul warned that in the last days, people would not endure sound doctrine, but look for teachers who would tell them what they want to hear - teachers who will scratch their itching ears (2 Timothy 4:3).

iii. Many preachers today simply use a Bible text as a launching pad, and then go on to say what they want - what the people want to hear. Others throw in Bible quotations to illustrate their points, or to illustrate their stories! But who will simply let the Bible speak for itself and let it declare its own power? Taking Paul's testimony at full strength, we must say that those preachers who deliberately fail to declare … the whole counsel of God are guilt of the blood of all men. The preacher who preaches what his audience wants to hear, and not the whole counsel of God, hurts both his audience and himself!

iv. We also must demand that we are being taught the whole counsel of God; not just interesting topics, not just what we want to hear, not just the things that will "grab" people, but what God says to all of our lives.

v. "That man does not preach the whole counsel of God who does not let God's Word speak for itself in its own pure, simple language … He will not shirk the truth. He will dare to look at it straight in the face himself and then he will bring it up into the pulpit, and there say to it, 'O Word, speak for thyself, and be thou heard alone. Suffer me not, O Lord, to pervert or misinterpret thine own heaven-sent truth.'" (Spurgeon)

4. (Act 20:28-35) Paul exhorts the Ephesian elders to continue in godly ministry.

"Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me. I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"

a. Paul's counsel to the elders is plain: Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock. The godly leader knows that effective leadership flows from a life, not just knowledge.

i. Also important to leaders is the principle that the church belongs to God, because He purchased [it] with His own blood. The people don't belong to the pastor; they belong to the Lord. As long as they choose to remain under the care and leadership of that pastor, he has a responsibility before God to feed and lead them; but they never belong to him.

b. Take heed … to all the flock … to shepherd the church of God … therefore watch: Taking care of God's people basically amounts to two things. First, being a shepherd to the flock; secondly, watching over them, protecting them from danger.

i. The first idea behind being a shepherd is feeding God's people. "They are to be shepherds of God's church, poimanino meaning in general to tend a flock and in particular to lead a flock to pasture and so to feed it. This is the first duty of shepherds." (Stott)

ii. But it isn't enough to feed; the shepherd must also protect the sheep. Watch applies both to savage wolves that come in from the outside and to those who rise up from among yourselves.

iii. It is often easier for pastors to deal with the wolves that come from the outside - obviously false teachings and goofy winds of doctrine. But it is very difficult to deal with those who rise up from among yourselves, because you don't want to believe that they are in fact speaking perverse things and trying to draw away the disciples after themselves. But Paul insisted that such people were real, and that pastors would have to deal with them!

c. Therefore watch: Paul knew that spiritual attack would rise up among the church itself; we should be aware that Satan likes to attack through infiltration - so pastors must watch.

i. 2 Timothy 1:15 and Revelation 2:4 prove that Paul's concerns for the church in Ephesus were justified.

d. Though Paul gave his all for the Christians in Ephesus for some three years, at the bottom line, he can only commend [them] to God and the word of His grace.

i. Programs can't do it; the spirit of the age can't do it; slick marketing can't do it; entertainment can't do it; only God and the Word of His grace can build you up and give you an inheritance in heaven.

e. I have coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel: Paul concludes by trying to communicate his heart, his motive in ministry. He wasn't in it for himself, but for God's glory and for the building up of God's people. Laboring like this means that Paul was a hard worker for God's glory!

f. His parting words, taken from a quote of Jesus' unrecorded in the gospels, are perfect for all who would minister to God's people: It is more blessed to give than to receive. Ministers must be more concerned about what they can give their flock than concerned about what their flock can give them.

i. This is the best beatitude of all. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us how to be blessed; here, He tells us how to be more blessed!

ii. It should not stumble us to consider that Jesus taught many things unrecorded in the gospels; John said as much in John 21:25. But we can trust that God has preserved all that is necessary of the teaching of Jesus.

5. (Act 20:36-38) Paul's tearful good-bye to the Ephesian elders.

And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. Then they all wept freely, and fell on Paul's neck and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke, that they would see his face no more. And they accompanied him to the ship.

a. That they would see his face no more: They part with prayer, tears, and a sending-off party, believing they would only meet again in eternity.

b. This reminds us that Paul was not a cold dispenser of doctrine, but a warm, pastoral man who loved his people greatly and won great love from them.

© 2001 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission

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