Acts 20 – 2019-10-03
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- CHAPTER 20 COMMENTARY
“Luke now narrates how Paul left Ephesus (20:1), having spent the best part of three years there during his third missionary expedition. And then traveled from place to place until at last he reached Jerusalem (21:17). True, Luke has let us into the secret that Paul was intending after visiting Jerusalem to make for Rome (19:21). Nevertheless, it was Jerusalem which filled his vision at this stage.“In fact, it is hard to resist the conclusion that Luke sees a parallel between Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem […] Of course the resemblance is far from being exact, and the mission of Jesus was unique; yet the correspondence between the two journeys seems too close to be a coincidence. (i) Like Jesus Paul traveled to Jerusalem with a group of his disciples (20:4ff). (ii) Like Jesus he was opposed by hostile Jews who plotted against his life (20:3, 19). (iii) Like Jesus he made or received three successive predictions of his ‘passion’ or sufferings (20:22-23; 21;4,11) including his being handed over to the Gentiles (21;11). (iv) Like Jesus he declared his readiness to lay down his life (20:24; 21:13). (v) Like Jesus he was determined to complete his ministry and not be deflected from it (20:24; 21:13). (vi) Like Jesus he expressed his abandonment to the will of God (21:14). Even if some of these details are not to be pressed, Luke surely intends his readers to envisage Paul as following in his Master’s footsteps when he ‘steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem’.”
“This chapter records the conclusion of Paul’s third missionary journey. Paul was heading for Jerusalem, intending to arrive before Pentecost. On the way, he took time in Troas to encourage the believers, then he had a tearful farewell with the elders of the church in Ephesus.
Paul may have wanted to go to Jerusalem in time for the Passover. He was about to sail from Corinth on a ship bound for Syria, which possibly carried Jewish pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem for their feast. But he found out about a plot against him, possibly by some of the people traveling on this ship (v.3). As a result, he decided to take the long route on foot through Macedonia, traveling north instead of east. He spent Passover in Philippi (v6), a city that had had such a small Jewish population that it did not even have a synagogue. According to his revised plan, he hoped to be in Jerusalem in time for the next feast, Pentecost (v.16)”
v.4: “These men who were traveling with Paul represented churches that Paul had started in Asia. Each man was carrying an offering from his home church to be given to the believers in Jerusalem. By having each man deliver the gift, the gifts had a personal touch, and the unity of the believers was strengthened. This was also an effective way to teach the church about giving because the men were able to report back to their churches the way God was working through their giving. Paul discussed this gift in one of his letters to the Corinthian church.”
vv.18-27: “The first and most prominent theme of the speech is Paul’s example- an element typical of farewell addresses. He says he was an example in four things. (1) He identified with the people, living among them (v.18), serving God with humility and tears (v.19), and going from house to house (v.20). This enabled him to know what they needed to hear, so that he was able to preach everything that was helpful to them […]
(2) Paul was a teacher. He taught the Ephesians everything that was helpful to them, and did so publicly and from house to house (v.20). His teaching was relevant to their needs.
(3) Paul was a witness to the gospel (v.21). Paul uses the word diamartyromai, translated ‘declared’ here. This word conveys the idea that evangelism is a serious responsibility as it calls people to repentance and faith. Later Paul says that the preaching was comprehensive in that he did not hesitate ‘to proclaim to (them) the whole will of God’ (v.27). Because of that he was able to declare that he was innocent of their blood (v.26). Verses 21, 26-27 remind us the call to be a watchman, with a responsibility to warn people adequately as described in Ezekiel 3:16-21; 33; 1-9.
(4) Paul’s commitment to evangelism is closely tied in with the fourth area where he was an example: Paul suffered because of obedience. In verses 22-23 he attributes two actions to the Holy Spirit; a compulsion that is now driving him now to Jerusalem and a regular warning (diamartyromai) that he will suffer if he goes to Jerusalem. Verse 24 explains how these two seemingly contradictory messages can be reconciled; the goal of life is not to preserve our lives but to be faithful to our calling to testify to the gospel. If such faithfulness involves suffering and imprisonment, then such experiences will be taken on willingly.”
vv.17-38: “It is important to note that in Acts 20 Paul presents his willingness to suffer for the gospel as part of his attempt to encourage the Ephesian elders to be faithful to their task. This is a common theme with Paul. He often appeals to his own sufferings when he wants to influence his readers about something important (see1 and 2 Corinthians, Gal. 6:17, Eph 4:1). Note also what Hebrews says: After writing how Jesus, ‘for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning it shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God,’ the author goes on: ‘Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart’: (Heb 12:2-3) leaders who suffer encourage others to take on suffering themselves.
“In summary, then, this passage teaches us three things about suffering. (1) Christians take on suffering that they can easily avoid because of their commitment to the glorious gospel of Christ, a cause that makes such suffering worthwhile. (2) People will be motivated to suffer for the gospel when they see their leaders suffer for it. (3) Leaders not only suffer for the gospel they suffer for those whom they lead.”
vv.28-31: “The third section of Paul’s address continues with an exhortation to the Ephesian elders in light of what Paul sees will soon take place in the church. He warns regarding persecution from outside and apostasy within (cf. 1Tim 1:19-20; 4:1-5; 2Tim 1:15; 2:17-18; 3:1-9, which tell of a later widespread revolt against Paul’s teaching in Asia, and Rev 2:1-7, which says that the Ephesian church abandoned its first love). So he gives the elders the solemn imperative of v. 28.” 
 John Stott, The Message of Acts, The Bible Speaks Today Series (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity, 1992) 315.
 Ajith Fernando, et al., ACTS, Life Application Bible Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1998) 529-530.
 Life Application Study Bible (Wheaton, Il; Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1991) 2003.
 Ajith Fernando, Acts, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998) 531,532.
 Ajith Fernando, Acts, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998) 537,538.
 Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992) notes for vv.28-31.
- Acts 20:1-38 (ESV)
1After the uproar ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and after encouraging them, he said farewell and departed for Macedonia. 2 When he had gone through those regions and had given them much encouragement, he came to Greece.3 There he spent three months, and when a plot was made against him by the Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia. 4 Sopater the Berean, son of Pyrrhus, accompanied him; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy; and the Asians, Tychicus and Trophimus. 5 These went on ahead and were waiting forus at Troas, 6 but we sailed away from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days we came to them at Troas, where we stayed for seven days.
7 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered. 9 And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer. And being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. 10 But Paul went down and bent over him, and taking him in his arms, said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.”11 And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed. 12 And they took the youth away alive, and were not a little comforted.
13 But going ahead to the ship, we set sail for Assos, intending to take Paul aboard there, for so he had arranged, intending himself to go by land. 14 And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and went to Mitylene. 15 And sailing from there we came the following day opposite Chios; the next day we touched at Samos; and the day after that we went to Miletus. 16 For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he might not have to spend time in Asia, for he was hastening to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost.
17 Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. 18 And when they came to him, he said to them:
“You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there,23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 25 And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. 28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. 34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. 35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
36 And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all.37 And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, 38 being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.
- Acts 20:7-11
- Knowing he had one last night with the believers at Troas, Paul stayed up all night teaching them, even after a rather traumatic event. What does this reveal about Paul, and how does this challenge me?
- Write down striking aspects of Paul’s ministry as he recalls how he was while he was among them. What am I most challenged by?
- What would it have been like to be on the receiving end of Paul’s ministry in Ephesus for three years?
- Reflect on v. 24 as a sort of life mantra for Paul. What would it take to make my life mantra the same?