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.

Applications

  • 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. 

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