Acts Lesson Forty-three

Acts Lesson Forty-three: Acts 20:17-38 – Paul Addresses the Ephesian Church

17 Now from Miletus, he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church. 18 And when they came to him, he said to them: “You know, from the first day I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time — 19 serving the Lord with all humility, with tears, and with the trials that came to me through the plots of the Jews — 20 and that I did not shrink back from proclaiming to you anything that was profitable or from teaching it to you in public and from house to house. 21 I testified to both Jews and Greeks about repentance toward God  and faith in our Lord Jesus. 

22 “And now I am on my way to Jerusalem, bound in my spirit,  not knowing what I will encounter there,  23 except that in town after town the Holy Spirit testifies to me that chains and afflictions are waiting for me.  24 But I count my life of no value to myself, so that I may finish my course  and the ministry  I received from the Lord Jesus,  to testify to the gospel of God’s grace. 

25 “And now I know that none of you will ever see my face again—everyone I went about preaching the kingdom to. 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent  of everyone’s blood,  27 for I did not shrink back from declaring to you the whole plan of God.  28 Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock  that the Holy Spirit has appointed you to as overseers,  to shepherd the church of God,  which He purchased with His own blood.  29 I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 And men will rise up from your own number with deviant doctrines to lure the disciples into following them.  31 Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for three years I did not stop warning each one of you with tears. 

32 “And now  I commit you to God and to the message of His grace,  which is able to build you up and to give you an inheritance  among all who are sanctified. 33 I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing.  34 You yourselves know that these hands have provided for my needs and for those who were with me.  35 In every way I’ve shown you that by laboring like this, it is necessary to help the weak and to keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus, for He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” 

36 After he said this, he knelt down and prayed with all of them.  37 There was a great deal of weeping by everyone. They embraced Paul and kissed him, 38 grieving most of all over his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they escorted him to the ship. (HCSB)

I’ll divide this lesson into four parts.

  • A review of the past – verses 17-21.
  • A testimony of the present – verses 22-27.
  • A warning about the future – verses 28-31.
  • A final blessing – verses 32-38.

A Review of the Past

Once the elders from the church in Ephesus arrived, Paul began his address to them. The opening section reminded them of how Paul had conducted himself during his time with them in Ephesus. Paul pointed to three basic characteristics of his ministry.

  • Humility.
    • The language Paul uses reminds us of the language in his epistles.
    • He often spoke of serving, douleuo, the Lord.
      • 1 Thessalonians 1:9 – “for they themselves report what kind of reception we had from you: how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.
      • Colossians 3:24 –  “knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ.” 
    • Paul often described himself as a slave or servant, doulas, of Christ.
      • Romans 1:1 – Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle and singled out for God’s good news.
      • Galatians 1:10 – “For am I now trying to win the favor of people, or God? Or am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ.” 
      • Philippians 1:1 – Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus: To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons.
      • The proper demeanor of a servant is humility, and Paul frequently pointed to that quality as a major indicator of the Christian life.
        • Philippians 2:3 – Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. 
        • Colossians 3:12 – Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
        • Ephesians 4:1-2 – Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience,  accepting one another in love.
  • The openness of his proclamation.
    • Paul kept no secrets and held nothing back.
    • Whatever was true to the Gospel and helpful to the believers, he preached both in public and in the more intimate setting of individual homes.
      • The reference to public teaching reminds us of Paul’s time in the synagogue and the lecture hall of Tyrannus.
      • The reference to homes reminds us of Paul’s time in the house church meetings of the Ephesian Christians.
    • Paul’s methodology reminds us when we are faithful to proclaim the truth, there is nothing to hide.
  • The inclusiveness of his witness.
    • Paul preached to everyone.
      • He preached to the Jews.
      • He preached to the Gentiles.
      • Even though Paul recognized his special calling as being an Apostle to the Gentiles, he never abandoned the Jews.
      • Paul realized, probably more than anyone else, that God is the God of everyone.
      • Romans 3:29-30 – Or is God for Jews only? Is He not also for Gentiles? Yes, for Gentiles too, 30 since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 
      • There is no room for exclusiveness in the Gospel.
        • It is for Jews and Gentiles.
        • It is for slaves and free people.
        • It is for men and women.
      • However, the Gospel is exclusive in its claim.
        • Acts 4:12 – There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people, and we must be saved by it.
        • Salvation is only through faith in Jesus.

A Testimony of the Present

Paul now prepares the elders of the Ephesian church for his impending absence. Paul was getting ready for the next stage in his journey to Jerusalem, not fully knowing what would happen, yet understanding through the revelation of the Holy Spirit that persecution was in his future. Let’s look at some features from this section of the passage.

  • Paul and the team still had the offering they had collected and were transporting to the church in Jerusalem.
  • Paul knew there would be some type of trouble once he arrived in Jerusalem.
    • Romans 15:31 – Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea, that the gift I am bringing to Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints.
    • Paul knew there was a personal risk from non-Christians.
    • Paul had at least some doubt about how the offering would be viewed by the Jerusalem Christians.
  • The Holy Spirit was warning Paul of the dangers yet was also directing him to go. There is no contradiction between these two facts.
    • God had a purpose for sending Paul to Jerusalem.
    • The warnings were to prepare Paul to face what was coming.
    • The message was also an assurance that regardless of what happened, God was involved in it.
      • Paul would face server trials in Jerusalem.
      • Through these trials, Paul would ultimately bear his witness in Rome, which he deeply desired.
        • Acts 19:21 – When these events were over, Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem. “After I’ve been there,” he said, “I must see Rome as well!” 
        • Romans 1:9-12 – For God, whom I serve with my spirit in telling the good news about His Son, is my witness that I constantly mention you, 10 always asking in my prayers that if it is somehow in God’s will, I may now at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I want very much to see you, so I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you, 12 that is, to be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 
  • In verse 24, Paul states the reason he was willing to travel to Jerusalem and face the dangers waiting for him there.
    • Paul was ready to give up his life for the sake of the Gospel.
    • Paul referred to his life’s ministry as “the race.”
      • 2 Timothy 4:6-7 – For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time for my departure is close. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
      • The race Paul referred to was the ministry calling he received from Jesus.
  • Paul then gives his final farewell to the Ephesian elders.
    • Paul was on his way to Jerusalem.
    • Danger was waiting for Paul in Jerusalem.
    • Paul had completed the work given to him in the east.
    • His new mission would be in the west, Rome.
    • Paul then declares he is innocent of anyone’s blood.
      • Paul preached the Gospel wherever he went, never shrinking back from that calling.
      • There is a subtle reference to Ezekiel 33:1-6 – The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, speak to your people and tell them: Suppose I bring the sword against a land, and the people of that land select a man from among them, appointing him as their watchman, and he sees the sword coming against the land and blows his trumpet to warn the people. Then, if anyone hears the sound of the trumpet but ignores the warning, and the sword comes and takes him away, his blood will be on his own head. Since he heard the sound of the trumpet but ignored the warning, his blood is on his own hands. If he had taken warning, he would have saved his life. However, if the watchman sees the sword coming but doesn’t blow the trumpet, so that the people aren’t warned, and the sword comes and takes away their lives, then they have been taken away because of their iniquity, but I will hold the watchman accountable for their blood.
      • The watchman blows the trumpet as a warning.
      • Once the watchman has warned the people, he is no longer responsible.
      • Paul had preached the Gospel and had called people to repent.
      • The responsibility now rested with those who had heard Paul’s message.
      • This is also the calling of all followers of Christ. We are to proclaim the message. Once we have done that, the responsibility rests with those who have heard the message.

A Warning About the Future

Now, Paul warns the Ephesian leaders of future threats, threats which we still face today. As we look at the structure of Paul’s warning, let’s note the features it contains.

  • It’s important to note the order which Paul uses in the warning.
    • The first area to guard is the elders.
      • Leaders are the most important element within any organization.
      • Attacking or eliminating leaders can often bring disarray or defeat to an organization.
      • This is especially true in ministry. Discrediting or causing ministry leaders to have moral or ethical failings can often have broad and far-reaching impacts.
    • Once the leaders have prepared (safeguarded) themselves, they can effectively guard the flock that’s been entrusted to their care.
    • What is the role of the Holy Spirit in verse 28?
      • It is likely that Paul appointed the initial elders of the Ephesian church.
      • However, as the church grew and Paul wasn’t there, the responsibility would belong to the congregation under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
      • Those who were gifted as teachers and leaders would be appointed to the office of elder.
    • What is meant by “overseer?”
      • The Greek word is episkopos, which is translated as “overseer” in some translations and “bishop” in others.
        • A monarchial bishop that ruled over more than one congregation doesn’t make sense in this context.
        • The monarchial structure didn’t exist until the second century.
      • In the New Testament, when the term episkopos is used to describe a function within the church, the term is interchangeable with the term presbyteros, which is called an elder.
        • This is clearly the case here. The Ephesian leaders were called “elders” in verse seventeen.
        • However, the term may be better understood to describe a function, overseeing the flock, rather than an office.
      • The Ephesian leaders were elders whose function was to “shepherd the church of God.”
    • Whose blood was the church purchased with?
      • The reading of the text seems to point to God’s blood, and there are differing views by scholars on what is meant.
        • It could be a reference to the Trinity, but there isn’t anything else in the New Testament that corresponds to this phrase.
        • Some manuscripts read “church of the Lord,” but that doesn’t appear to be the original writing.
        • Some believe that Christ is implied in the passage.
        • Some recent translations and commentaries have taken the position that the blood is Christ’s, and since Christ is God’s own beloved Son, there is a connection.
      • The last position would appear to be the best solution to a difficult verse.
  • Now, Paul goes on to warn the leaders of a time when predators would attack the church.
    • Savage wolves describe those who will attack the church from the outside.
      • This would include false teachers or cults.
      • The term “wolves” is often used in Jewish apocalyptic and early Christian writings to describe false teachers and prophets.
      • Jesus warned the disciples of this danger in Matthew 7:15 – Beware of false prophets  who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. 
      • There are several references to this fact in New Testament writings.
        • Ephesians 5:6-7 – Let no one deceive you with empty arguments, for God’s wrath is coming on the disobedient because of these things. Therefore, do not become their partners.
        • Colossians 2:8 – Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elemental forces of the world, and not based on Christ.
        • Revelation 2:2 – I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate evil. You have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not,  and you have found them to be liars. 
      • However, the danger wasn’t just from outside false teachers. There were some within the church who would fall away from the true Gospel and lead others astray.
        • 1 John 2:18-19 – Children, it is the last hour. And as you have heard, “Antichrist is coming,” even now many antichrists have come. We know from this that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. However, they went out so that it might be made clear that none of them belongs to us.
        • 3 John 9-11 – I wrote something to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have first place among them, does not receive us. 10 This is why, if I come, I will remind him of the works he is doing, slandering us with malicious words. And he is not satisfied with that! He not only refuses to welcome the brothers himself, but he even stops those who want to do so and expels them from the church. 11 Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God.
  • Paul concludes with reference to the three-year ministry in Ephesus.
    • It wasn’t just a reminder of his warning.
    • It was an appeal for them to be faithful to the teachings he brought to them.
    • It was a warning to stay alert and not become careless.

A Final Blessing

The conclusion to Paul’s address to the Ephesian elders in Miletus included both a benediction on the elders and an exhortation to them, followed by a final farewell.

In some ways, the benediction also included warnings.

  • The sin of shallowness. We can’t build the church unless God is building our lives daily.
    • Time in prayer.
    • Time in studying God’s Word.
  • The sin of covetousness. 
    • A consuming and controlling desire for what others have and more of what we already have.
    • “Do not covet” is the last of the ten commandments. If we break this commandment, we will likely break all the other ones.
      • We will steal, lie, and murder to get what we want.
      • We will end up dishonoring our parents.
      • Covetousness is idolatry.
      • One of the qualifications for an elder is that he must not be guilty of covetousness.
  • The sin of laziness.
    • Paul worked as a tentmaker to support himself, even though he could have used his apostolic authority to justify support from the church.
    • When we work, we are able to help those in need.
    • However, we must remember that it isn’t wrong for Christian workers to receive a salary, as noted in Luke 10:7, but they need to earn their salary.
  • The sin of selfishness.
    • Gospel-centered living means to give, not receive.
    • It means following the example of Jesus.
    • Blessing comes from sharing what we have, not hoarding it for ourselves.
    • Those in ministry leadership positions are to be servants, a giver, and not a taker.

Paul then kneeled down to pray with them. Knowing it was the last time they would see each other in this life, they shed many tears as they parted ways. As painful as partings can be, as followers of Jesus, we have the assurance that we will be reunited in our eternal home!


  • Leadership within the church is a special calling. This calling requires the following characteristics.
    • Individuals who are committed to spending time with God and investing in their spiritual growth.
    • A feeling of contentment with what they have. This includes both their worldly possessions as well as their ministry position. Ministry leaders can “covet” a higher or more prestigious position instead of being satisfied with where God has planted them.
    • Embracing the hard work that is required with Kingdom-building. While it’s true that most of us won’t have the level of energy and passion that Paul exhibited in Scripture, we still need to work hard at the calling God has placed on our lives.
    • Leaders need to be generous with their time, talent, and possessions. Sometimes this can be challenging, but it’s what Jesus calls us to do.
  • Followers need to exhibit the same characteristics. All followers of Christ have a priestly identity. When we don’t exhibit the characteristics listed above, we can often display a witness that harms the church instead of advancing the church.
  • We need to challenge each other as we walk the path given to us. If we see others failing, we need to come alongside them and correct them in the spirit of love. At the same time, if we are the ones falling short, we need to be accepting of the correction extended to us. We shouldn’t get defensive or be hurt. All of us make mistakes and stumble. It’s how we respond to the stumble and correction that exposes where our allegiance lies.

Acts Lesson Forty-two

Acts Lesson Forty-two: Acts 20:1-16 – Paul Departs to Macedonia

After the uproar was over, Paul sent for the disciples, encouraged them, and after saying good-bye, departed to go to Macedonia. And when he had passed through those areas and exhorted them at length, he came to Greece and stayed three months. When he was about to set sail for Syria, a plot was devised against him by the Jews, so a decision was made to go back through Macedonia. He was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy, and Tychicus  and Trophimus from Asia. These men went on ahead and waited for us in Troas, but we sailed away from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread. In five days we reached them at Troas, where we spent seven days. 

On the first day of the week, we assembled to break bread. Paul spoke to them, and since he was about to depart the next day, he extended his message until midnight. There were many lamps in the room upstairs where we were assembled, and a young man named Eutychus was sitting on a window sill and sank into a deep sleep as Paul kept on speaking. When he was overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was picked up dead. 10 But Paul went down, fell on him, embraced him, and said, “Don’t be alarmed, for his life is in him!” 11 After going upstairs, breaking the bread, and eating, Paul conversed a considerable time until dawn. Then he left. 12 They brought the boy home alive and were greatly comforted. 

13 Then we went on ahead to the ship and sailed for Assos, intending to take Paul on board there. For these were his instructions, since he himself was going by land. 14 When he met us at Assos, we took him on board and came to Mitylene. 15 Sailing from there, the next day we arrived off Chios. The following day we crossed over to Samos, and the day after, we came to Miletus. 16 For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus so he would not have to spend time in Asia, because he was hurrying to be in Jerusalem, if possible, for the day of Pentecost. (HCSB)

Starting in Acts 20, Paul begins to wrap up his final missionary journey and head back to Jerusalem. I’ll break this lesson into three parts.

  • Paul concludes his visit to Macedonia – verses 1-6.
  • Paul revives Eutychus – verses 7-12.
  • Paul journeys from Troas to Miletus – verses 13-16.

Paul Concludes His Visit to Macedonia

The events starting in chapter twenty take place sometime between late 56 A.D. and early 57 A.D. In Acts 19:21-22, Paul had already indicated his intention to leave with four objectives in mind.

  • To leave the trouble at Ephesus.
  • To encourage believers in the province of Asia and throughout Greece.
  • To meet Titus in Troas – 2 Corinthians 2:12-13.
  • To collect offerings for Judea – 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, 2 Corinthians 8:1-15, Romans 15:25-28.

Paul left Ephesus and traveled to Macedonia. Paul had expected to meet Titus in Troas and hear about the situation regarding the church in Corinth. However, when Titus didn’t arrive in Troas, Paul continued his journey to Macedonia, visiting the churches and finally meeting Titus. Let’s look at some information regarding Paul’s journey contained both here and in corresponding epistles.

  • The events in Acts 20:1-2 overlap with the events in 2 Corinthians 1-7, where Paul talks about the events during the same period.
    • Paul had evidently written a letter, now lost, to the Corinthian church that confronted their behavior.
    • Paul described the letter as painful and written with many tears.
    • Strong opposition within the church had arisen because of Paul’s letter.
    • From the context, it would appear that Paul confronted the opposition directly and severely.
  • As Paul was traveling to Corinth, he met Titus in Macedonia – 2 Corinthians 7:5-16.
    • The ministry in Macedonia may have lasted just over a year.
    • During this time, the Gospel spread across the Balkan peninsula and possibly as far as Illyricum – Romans 15:19.
  • After leaving Macedonia, Paul traveled to Achaia and then spent three months in Corinth. 
    • Paul wrote Romans during the winter of 57-58 A.D.
    • During this time, the collection for the Judean Christians was ever-present in Paul’s mind.
    • It is quite likely that if Paul was not focused on the offering for the Judean Christians, he would have traveled from Greece to Rome and then continued on to Spain.
  • Because of the plot by the Jews against Paul, he decided not to sail from Corinth and instead headed north through Macedonia, taking with him a team of men from various locations in the region.
    • Sopater from Berea. He is likely the Sosipater referenced in Romans 16:21.
    • Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica.
    • Gaius from Derbe.
    • Timothy from Lystra.
    • Tychicus and Trophies from Asia.
    • Luke from Philippi – included because of the reference “we” in verse six.
    • Although Corinth isn’t explicitly referenced, it is possible that Paul was speaking for the Corinthian church.
    • The team represented a large group of companions to provide safety for the funds Paul was carrying to Jerusalem, as well as an impressive cross-section of young Gentile church leadership who would appear before the Jerusalem church.
  • The group sailed from Philippi and, in five days, reached Troas.
  • Since the main purpose of the trip and the large contingent who traveled with Paul was to bring an offering to the church in Jerusalem, it is interesting that Luke avoids a direct discussion of the purpose of the trip. Here are several theories as to why Luke didn’t discuss it.
    • Was there some type of problem with the collection?
    • Was it possible that Luke deliberately omitted it because it could cause embarrassment for the Jewish Christians in their relations with the Jewish community?
    • Could it have caused problems with the relations between the Christians and Roman authorities?
    • Is it possible the offering was not well-received by the Jerusalem Christians, which Paul alludes to in Romans 15:31?
    • Honestly, the reason is unclear. 
    • Or it could be that Luke wanted the focus on Paul’s journey to Jerusalem, which would ultimately result in him being in Roman chains and sent to the capital of the empire, Rome.

Paul Revives Eutychus

Paul and the rest of his team arrived in Troas and spent seven days there, likely waiting for their next ship to continue the journey. We also see one of the earliest references to Christians meeting on Sunday for their worship service, in contrast to the Jewish Sabbath worship time. Let’s look at some points regarding this.

  • It’s possible the early Christians continued to observe the Jewish Sabbath.
  • Over time Jesus’ resurrection day became the primary day of worship for Christians.
  • It appears the service was an evening service, which would accommodate both Jews and Gentiles who would be working on Sunday.
  • The breaking of bread should be interpreted as celebrating the Lord’s Supper.
  • The assembly followed the pattern of the early church by meeting in someone’s home.
  • The members of the church enjoyed fellowship with each other, regardless of their social status.

Since Paul was leaving the next day, he took the opportunity with the gathered church to share a message. Luke includes various bits of information that, when taken together, give us a glimpse into why Eutychus likely took his tumble out of the window.

  • Paul’s message was a long one, going until midnight.
    • Since Paul was leaving the next day, he likely wanted to deliver as complete a message as possible.
    • We need to remember that Sunday was a normal workday. Many of those in attendance may have started work early in the morning and were very tired by this point.
  • Even the phrase, “there were many lamps in the room,” sheds light on the incident. It takes oxygen for the fire to burn, and the “many lamps” may have actually led to a lower level of oxygen in the room.
  • The group had shared a meal before Paul’s message.
  • It could very well have been a warm spring evening.
  • All of these factors contributed to Eutychus sitting on the window sill, possibly getting a bit of fresh air in an attempt to stay awake.
  • In the end, Eutychus falls asleep, falls out of the third-story window to the ground, and is killed by the impact. 
    • Others reached Eutychus before Paul, and they picked up his body before Paul reached them.
    • The miracle that Paul performs reminds us of Elijah and Elisha in 1 Kings 17:21 and 2 Kings 4:34-35, as well as Jesus’ ministry.
    • Paul revives the dead man.
  • The service continued as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. 
    • It seems that by this point, the worshippers were hungry.
    • After they returned to the third floor, they shared a meal, likely a snack, considering the time.
    • With everyone rejuvenated by the meal and likely still talking about Eutychus being revived, Paul continues with his message until dawn.
  • The boy’s family brings him home, being greatly comforted that Paul had revived him. 
  • Let’s consider some final points regarding the incident with Eutychus.
    • Paul follows the same pattern used by Elijah and Elisha by placing himself over the young man.
    • In the New Testament, the miracles of raising the dead present an implied symbolism of resurrection.
    • This event occurred during Easter.
    • The Passover had just concluded.
    • It was the first day of the week, the day Jesus was resurrected.
    • Paul may have been speaking on that very subject when Eutychus fell out of the window.
    • The restoration of Eutychus would be a vivid reminder to the Christians gathered there that the Jesus who Paul was preaching about was the resurrection and the life.

Paul Journeys from Troas to Miletus

The team now continues their journey to Jerusalem. Let’s note some information regarding this leg of the journey.

  • Paul traveled on foot to Assos while the rest of the team went by boat.
    • The journey on foot was a relatively easy one of twenty miles. 
    • The journey by boat was longer, about forty miles, as it required going around Cape Lectum, now known as Cape Baba.
    • There are several suggested reasons for Paul traveling separately from his other companions.
      • He may not have wanted to make the difficult passage around Cape Lectum.
      • He may have wanted to spend as much time as possible in Troas before departing.
      • He may have been delayed by the incident with Eutychus.
      • He may have just desired a period of solitude at this point in the journey.
  • Once Paul and the ship meet in Assos, Paul rejoins the team.
  • The journey from Assos to Mitylene would take about five days.
  • As they journeyed from Mitylene to Chios, Samos, and Miletus, each leg took one day. By the time they arrived in Miletus, they had been together on the ship for eight days. Each of the stops along they have historical significance.
    • Chios was the birthplace of the poet Homer.
    • Samos was the birthplace of Pythagoras.
    • Miletus was a major Asian city in Paul’s time.
  • Paul then makes the decision to sail past Ephesus instead of stopping to visit. There are several possibilities for this decision.
    • It may not have been safe for Paul to visit Ephesus at the time.
    • The ship’s schedule may not have permitted may have prevented Paul from visiting Ephesus.
    • Paul may have been fatigued and didn’t want to make the overland journey to Ephesus.
    • Paul may have felt that if he had visited Ephesus, he would not have been able to leave quickly to make it back to Jerusalem.
  • Although we don’t know the underlying reason for Paul’s decision, his message was received, and the elders of the church at Ephesus made the journey to Miletus.


  • As we go about our daily lives, we shouldn’t miss the opportunity to share the Gospel to the lost and disciple those already in the family of God.
  • We should engage in fellowship with other believers. This includes Bible study, prayer, sharing meals, and participating in the Lord’s Supper.
  • There may be seasons where we need a time of refreshment and a break from ministry. It happens to even the best and strongest of ministry workers. It does no good to run ourselves into the ground. 

Acts Lesson Forty-one

Acts Lesson Forty-one: Acts 19:21-41 – Paul and the Riot in Ephesus

21 When these events were over, Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem. “After I’ve been there,” he said, “I must see Rome as well!” 22 So after sending two of those who assisted him, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, he himself stayed in Asia for a while. 

23 During that time there was a major  disturbance about the Way. 24 For a person named Demetrius, a silversmith who made silver shrines of Artemis,  provided a great deal of  business for the craftsmen. 25 When he had assembled them, as well as the workers engaged in this type of business, he said: “Men, you know that our prosperity is derived from this business. 26 You both see and hear that not only in Ephesus, but in almost all of Asia, this man Paul has persuaded and misled a considerable number of people by saying that gods made by hand are not gods! 27 So not only do we run a risk that our business may be discredited, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be despised and her magnificence come to the verge of ruin—the very one all of Asia and the world adore.” 

28 When they had heard this, they were filled with rage and began to cry out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 So the city was filled with confusion, and they rushed all together into the amphitheater, dragging along Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s traveling companions. 30 Though Paul wanted to go in before the people, the disciples did not let him. 31 Even some of the provincial officials of Asia, who were his friends, sent word to him, pleading with him not to take a chance by going into the amphitheater. 32 Meanwhile, some were shouting one thing and some another, because the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together. 33 Then some of the crowd gave Alexander advice when the Jews pushed him to the front. So motioning with his hand, Alexander wanted to make his defense to the people. 34 But when they recognized that he was a Jew, a united cry went up from all of them for about two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 

35 However, when the city clerk had calmed the crowd down, he said, “Men of Ephesus! What man is there who doesn’t know that the city of the Ephesians is the temple guardian of the great Artemis, and of the image that fell from heaven? 36 Therefore, since these things are undeniable, you must keep calm and not do anything rash. 37 For you have brought these men here who are not temple robbers or blasphemers of our  goddess. 38 So if Demetrius and the craftsmen who are with him have a case against anyone, the courts are in session, and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another. 39 But if you want something else, it must be decided in a legal assembly. 40 In fact, we run a risk of being charged with rioting for what happened today, since there is no justification that we can give as a reason for this disorderly gathering.” 41 After saying this, he dismissed the assembly. (HCSB)

I’m going to split this lesson into three parts.

  • Paul’s future plans – verses 21-22.
  • The charge of Demetrius – verses 23-27.
  • The meeting in the amphitheater – verses 28-41.

Paul’s Future Plans

Let’s make some observations from this section.

  • Paul is nearing the end of his ministry in Ephesus and is formulating his future plans.
  • This is the first time Scripture mentions Paul’s plan to visit Rome.
    • More detail is found in Romans 15:22-29.
    • His planned visit to Rome was in conjunction with a desire to visit Spain.
  • This point is a major transition in the narrative of Acts.
    • Rome will be Paul’s final destination.
    • But first, Paul will go to Jerusalem, which in some ways parallels Jesus’ decision that Jerusalem would be His final earthly destination.
      • In Acts 20:1-21:16, there is an ominous feeling concerning what Paul would encounter in Jerusalem.
      • The same ominous air surrounded Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, the city that killed the prophets.
  • Paul sent two of his co-workers, Timothy and Erastus, ahead into Macedonia to prepare for his arrival.

The Charge of Demetrius

Before diving into this section of the passage, let’s consider some facts setting up this incident.

  • Paul had been preaching the Gospel in Ephesus for approximately three years at this point.
    • There is no record of Paul staging protests against the Temple of Artemis or holding anti-idolatry rallies.
    • Paul preached the truth and sent the converts out to witness to the lost people in Ephesus.
    • As more people converted, there were customers to buy the idols.
  • The enemy was continuously being defeated during this time as the Gospel spread.
    • Satan made one final attempt to defeat Paul with a city-wide attack.
    • The goal was Paul’s arrest or even death.

Let’s take a closer look at Demetrius, the silversmiths, their business, and the temple.

  • It’s likely that Demetrius was the president of the silversmith guild.
    • It was customary for members plying the same trade to form professional guilds. 
    • These guilds set the standards for their trade and were unified to defend their economic interests.
  • His trade was making miniature replicas of the temple of Artemis.
    • The making of these replicas was a common practice.
    • Pilgrims to Ephesus would purchase these replicas and either place them in their homes as a shrine or offer them in the temple.
  • The temple of Artemis was the hub of Ephesian economic life.
    • The building was 165 feet by 345 feet and built on a platform 240 feet by 420 feet. 
    • It was adorned in brilliant colors and a gold leaf pattern.
    • The altar was 20 feet square and contained a large image of the goddess.
    • The worship of the goddess centered around Artemision, a week during the spring dedicated to the goddess.
      • During the week, there were numerous ritual plays and dances.
      • An image of the goddess was paraded through the streets during this festival.
      • Pilgrims flocked to Ephesus during the week of Artemision.
  • Because of its enormous wealth, the temple was the primary financial institution in Asia, receiving offerings and making loans.
  • The real issue behind Demetrius’ protests had nothing to do with the worship of Artemis. The issue was the loss of income to the silversmith guild because of Paul’s evangelism.
  • However, Demetrius was clever in mixing religion and patriotism into his protest because that was more likely to get a response from the public.

Now let’s consider the charge that Demetrius and the silversmith guild presented.

  • He accused Paul of being a threat by saying that gods made by hand were not gods. The irony is this is a true statement.
    • Paul was leading followers of Artemis away from worshipping her.
    • Paul was attempting to discredit the worship of Artemis.
    • Attacking Artemis was the same as attacking Ephesus.
  • From Demetrius’ viewpoint, these allegations were true.
    • Paul did preach against idolatry.
    • Paul was a threat to anyone who made their living from producing idols.
  • The Gospel is always at its most controversial when it conflicts with economic interests.

The Meeting in the Amphitheater

After successfully stirring up both the silversmith guild and the city’s residents, the scene shifts to the Amphitheater in Ephesus. Before we look at the event that took place in the Amphitheater, let’s consider the building itself.

  • It was the largest building in the city of Ephesus.
    • It was 495 feet in diameter.
    • It was built into the western slope of Mt. Pion.
    • The capacity is estimated at around 24,500 people.
    • Town meetings were held there.
  • There is little doubt the Amphitheater was a magnificent building.

Let’s consider the meeting.

  • The residents roused to action by Demetrius and his cohorts rushed to fill the Amphitheater to capacity.
    • What is described here is a typical mob action; some know what’s going on, and others participate just because they are dragged in by emotion and momentum.
    • At some point, they identify and drag Gaius and Aristarchus along with the rest of the crowd.
  • Where was Paul?
    • Knowing Paul’s character, there is little doubt he wanted to address the crowd.
    • Paul was either not in the vicinity of the mob, or some of his co-workers realized the danger and whisked him to a safer location.
    • Others of his followers also sent a message for Paul not to be involved in the proceedings in the Amphitheater.
  • The scene inside the Amphitheater was one of extreme confusion.
    • The people were shouting various things, either with or without foundation.
    • Many were probably just sucked along with the mob and didn’t really understand what was happening.
    • The inclusion of Alexander in the proceedings did nothing to quell the commotion.
      • The Jews likely wanted Alexander to address the crowd to demonstrate the Jews didn’t agree with what the Christians were doing.
      • The Jews were no threat to the worship of Artemis.
      • However, when they realized Alexander was a Jew, they drowned out anything he would say with a cry about the greatness of Artemis.
    • The mob continued to declare the greatness of Artemis for about two hours.
    • It was only the efforts of the city clerk who was able to calm the crowd.
  • Who was the city clerk?
    • He was the chief administrative officer of Ephesus.
    • He presided over the council of city magistrates and the public assembly.
    • He served as the liaison officer between the city and the Roman provincial administration.
  • The clerk realized the mob could be mistakenly interpreted as a violation of Pax Romana, and Ephesus could lose its self-governing privileges.
  • The clerk then uses both his position and skillful language to defuse the situation.
    • He starts by telling the crowd that Artemis was not really threatened.
    • The image that fell from heaven was likely a meteorite. They were often associated with the worship of the Mother Goddess.
  • After successfully convincing the crowd that Artemis was under no threat, he moves on to the legal consequences of their mob action.
    • Gaius and Aristarchus had not committed any crime.
      • They had not blasphemed the goddess.
      • They had not robbed the temple.
    • If anyone was in the wrong, it was the Ephesians who could be accused of unlawful assembly.
  • The clerk then outlines two legal avenues Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen could follow.
    • The charges could be brought before the provincial court under the direction of the Roman proconsul.
    • The charges could be brought before the town assembly in a formal way.
  • The clerk then plays his strongest card. Since the mob had no legal basis for their action, what they were doing could be interpreted as an insurrection.
    • The mob charged that Paul was a danger.
    • The clerk pointed out the real danger lay with the citizens of Ephesus, who were acting in a dangerous manner.
    • After convincing the crowd of the validity of his argument, he dismisses the crowd.
    • The clerk wasn’t taking the side of the Christians. He was merely trying to restore order and point out the error in the way the mob had acted.
  • One recurring theme to remember, as it’s repeated throughout Acts, is the Christians were innocent with respect to civil law. Paul was never found guilty by any Roman official.


  • We must understand and be prepared that when we are involved in kingdom work, we will face opposition at some point. The opposition could be mild, or it could be very strong, even to the level of death threats. If we aren’t following God, immersing ourselves in His Word and prayer, and in unity with fellow believers, we may fold under the pressure of threats. We need to work with and support others and trust in God’s protection.
  • As we share the Gospel and evangelize others, regardless of the circumstances, we should follow the example of Paul and not break the law. As an example, we can protest against abortion, but our protests shouldn’t turn violent, nor should we make or carry out threats against the workers of the clinic. Often our “flesh” wants to act out but rarely will that turn out well, and often it will paint Christians in a negative light.
  • Be prudent as you face persecution. Sometimes there’s a fine line between potentially being a martyr and needlessly throwing away your life. As we face these situations, we need to be immersed in prayer and carefully discern God’s will in the situation.