Acts: For the Cause of Christ #28

Acts: For the Cause of Christ #28

Title: Paul the Pastor

Acts 20:1-38

Review of 19:1-41

Last time we looked at Paul’s ministry in Ephesus. Paul spent the longest amount of time in Ephesus than in any other city during his recorded journeys. We saw that Paul was constantly working and proclaiming the gospel. We were reminded in Ephesus of the spiritual battles that we are in engaged in as Christians.

Here we see Paul continue his third journey and return to Jerusalem.

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Paul Gathers Funds for Judea – vv 1-6

After the riot was dispersed and calm had returned to the city, Paul gathered the disciples there and encourages them before he leaves for Macedonia. We get a brief statement that Paul went through Macedonia offering a word of encouragement and then went to Greece. But with a little detective work, we can glimpse parts of this journey from Paul’s writings. From passages in 2 Corinthians we see that Paul had sent Titus to Corinth, possibly with 1 Corinthians or the lost letter Paul had sent them. Since Titus was not at Troas, they met in Macedonia where Titus gave a good report helping to relieve concerns Paul had. During this time in Macedonia, Paul may have gone into the Province of Illyricum which is west of Macedonia and borders the Adriatic Sea, since Paul references himself ministering there in Romans 15. Paul may have also mentioned and began gathering the companions and relief fund to assist the needs in the Judean churches.

We see that Paul continued on into Greece/Achaia and this is generally thought to mean he returned to Corinth and spent 3 months there. During his time in Corinth, Paul wrote the book of Romans. Now Paul may have been planning on going back to Antioch in Syria before heading to Jerusalem, but the Jewish population in Corinth was plotting against him again, so he changed plans and returned by land back through Macedonia to Philippi. 

Here we get a list of names of men from churches in Macedonia and Asia who are with Paul traveling back to Jerusalem, but it is probable that these men are messengers from those churches with the relief funds to go to Judea. One man from Berea, Sopater, two from Thessalonica, Aristarchus and Secundus. We see one from Galatia, Gaius of Derbe, and two from Asia, Tychicus, and Trophimus. Now Timothy is listed and we know he is from Lystra in Galatia, but Timothy may have already been with Paul in Macedonia. There is no mention of a representative from Philippi, but that may have been Luke, as another “we passage” appears in verses 5 and 6. Timothy and the others leave for Troas before Paul and Luke. It is assumed the Luke rejoins Paul here at Philippi, as the last “we-section” ended at Philippi in chapter 16. Paul and Luke leave for Troas after the Feast of Unleavened Bread which immediately follows Passover. As we will see in a few verses, Paul wants to get to Jerusalem before Pentecost, so time was of the essence.

We see is this section that Paul continues to take a personal interest in the churches he planted or were planted by co-workers. When Paul had the chance to visit those churches he did so to encourage them to remain faithful to Christ and the gospel. We cannot be unfaithful to Christ or the gospel and do the work for the cause of Christ.

Paul’s Travels from Troas – vv7-16

Paul is finishing his stay in Troas. We are told they stayed seven days, then on the first day of the week, Sunday, the church met together. We don’t know when the early church moved their worship time to Sunday instead of Saturday, but we can assume that the why is to remember the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. In the account before us, it appears that the church met in the evening as their time of worship. As Paul may have already been receiving warnings about arriving in Jerusalem, and I think it is likely, Paul took the opportunity to encourage this church as well as to say good-bye.

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Paul was speaking, late into the night. We are told he spoke until midnight. Now there were no electric lights, no air conditioning or fans. The room was full of people, oil lamps burned adding to the heat, and it was very late at night. Nobody can blame Eutychus for being drowsy and falling asleep. He may have moved closer to the window to help him stay awake, but sleep overtook him. They were meeting on the third story, Eutychus fell back out of the window three stories and died. We don’t know how young Eutychus was, it is thought that he may have been a servant, so it is possible that he was between 8 and 14. Luke may have been one of the first to arrive on the scene and confirmed that Eutychus was dead. But then Paul arrived. Look at verse 10. Paul in a manner similar to Elijah in 1 Kings 17:21-22, bent over the body of the boy, embraced him and then declared Eutychus alive. Paul may have even prayed the prayer of Elijah, saying “LORD my God, please let this boy’s life come into him again”. 

They return to the upper room and continue their meeting, as we see Paul speaking until daybreak. It is possible that this second reference to breaking bread may not be the Lord’s table, but may have been a late snack or, if they hadn’t had the fellowship meal the usually accompanied the Lord’s Table, they may have been enjoying the meal at this time. I think this time was more laid back and focused on fellowship. At daybreak, Eutychus went home alive and the church was encouraged.

Paul sent Luke and the others by ship to the next port at the city of Assos, but Paul walked the 20 or so miles and met them there. Paul may have stayed a little longer in Troas to finish some farewells, or he wanted to spend the time alone with God. I think Paul may have already been receiving warnings about the danger for him in Jerusalem, and that he took the time walking to Assos to pray and spend time with God. The next few verses (14-16) describe the group’s island hopping along the Asian cost in the Aegean Sea. We see Paul skipped past Ephesus and went to Miletus instead. He wanted to visit, to encourage and say farewell in that region as well, but he was trying his best to get to Jerusalem by Pentecost and the clock was ticking. You’ll remember that Pentecost is 50 days after Passover, at this point in Miletus at least 24 days have passed. The Feast of Unleavened Bread, five days sailing to Troas, seven days in Troas, and another 5 days between Troas and Miletus.

Here we see the importance of regular attendance to church and staying awake. Warren Wiersbe made the following observation: “Perhaps each of us should ask ourselves, ‘What really keeps me awake?’ Christians who slumber during one hour in church somehow manage to stay awake during early morning fishing trips, lengthy sporting events and concerts, or late-night TV specials” (Wiersbe, Warren W. Be Daring. © 1988, p84).

We all see Paul’s care for individuals in the church as well. We said earlier that Paul was returning to Jerusalem to bring the offerings raised by these churches to the needy Christians in Judea. Paul not only wanted to build up the churches through preaching and teaching but through the care of individuals as well.

Paul’s Farewell and Charge to the Ephesian Elders – vv17-38

Paul the others stopped in Miletus. Miletus is about 30 miles south of Ephesus. In the pre-Roman days, Miletus held more importance than Ephesus. Miletus sits on a small peninsula and had three harbors operating. From Miletus Pauls for the Elders of the Ephesian church. Paul had spent two and a half to three years with these men ministering to and alongside them. If this was going to be the last he saw them, he wanted to do so face-to-face and give them one final charge.

Paul begins his address in verses 18-21 by reminding them of his history with them, that since the beginning of his third journey he was determined to be in Ephesus. He reminds them that he served God with humility and through trials and plots from the Jews. He reminds them that he taught publicly and privately and didn’t discriminate between Jew or Gentile. He taught anyone who would listen the way of salvation. 

In verses 22-25 he tells them that his future is uncertain, but it appears that hardships await him and that he will likely not see this group again. We don’t know how the Holy Spirit was warning Paul, it could have been with prophets in similar ways to what we see in 21:10-11. But Paul was determined to remain faithful and he knew that he was innocent before God no matter what happens in Jerusalem. In the following verses (26-27), he explains why he was innocent. 

Starting in verse 28 Paul begins to issue his challenge to the Elders from Ephesus. The first thing I see here is that Paul is addressing these men as pastors and leaders. We are told in verse 17 that they are elders of the church. Here in verse 28, Paul calls them overseers, this is the same word in 1 Timothy 3, sometimes translated bishop. Still, here Paul tells them to shepherd the flock, this is the same word and language Peter uses in 1 Peter 5 when he addresses church elders. Acts 20 is key to understanding pastoral ministry and we see these terms used interchangeably, referring to one office with 3 titles. The other things we see here are that these pastors not only need to guard the flock, that is the church, but themselves as well. Pastors need to be aware of the dangers to the church. 

Paul continues in verse 29 with what some of those dangers will be [read 29]. In the immediate context, Paul is concerned that once he is out of the picture in Ephesus and the other surrounding churches, that false teachers and others wishing ill for the churches will come and lead some astray and seek to destroy the churches. Paul tells them that even some of the men there before him would begin teaching false doctrine, he can also mean individuals from the congregation causing division, seeking power, or being false teachers themselves. So Paul tells these pastors to be alert, not to be careless, and to remember his example of constantly teaching and warning every day for those three years he spent in Ephesus.

Verses 32-35 Paul uses himself as an example to these pastors . In verse 32 he warns them not to be shallow. Paul commends these men to God and God’s Word. Pastors need to spend time in prayer and the Word as much as the everyday Christian, if not more. Verse 33 Paul reminds them not to covet. It is easy to see the wealth of other people and to want it for yourself and it can be more difficult for those in full-time ministry when their church members have a level of wealth, but the pastor, missionary, full-time Christian worker should be a servant leader and not given to covetousness. In verse 34 Paul reminds them that he literally worked for everything he had and still devoted himself to teach and preach daily. There are other passages that teach that the church should care for its leaders, and think the other point here is to not be lazy. Pastors should not only be willing to do the work but when it is time to work, they do the work and earn what they receive. 

Then in verse 35, he reminds them that selfishness has no place in ministry. Christian service is not about receiving, but giving. Paul quotes Jesus’ own word of “it is better to give than to receive”. Now you’re not going to find those words in any of the gospel accounts. “This saying is one of the agrapha, a term, used to describe sayings of Jesus which are not recorded in the four gospels. That thee were many such can hardly be doubted” as John 21:25 tells us (Kent Jr., Homer A. Jerusalem To Rome © 1972, p158).

Paul finishes his time with the Ephesian Elders by praying with and for these beloved coworkers. It was difficult for everyone to say goodbye. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place, they took turns hugging him and as was the custom a affectionate kiss on the cheek. They were all grieving because as far as anyone knew at this point, Paul could have been going to his death, and he nearly did. But his friends escorted him to the ship and he sailed for Jerusalem.

Paul here was not only concerned for the churches, or the individual members of the churches, but for the leaders of the church. Just as churches and their members need to be encouraged and challenged, so do their leaders and pastors.


Warren Wiersbe said of Paul’s meeting with the Ephesian Elders, “…is unique in that it reveals Paul the pastor rather than Paul the evangelist or Paul the defender of the faith” (Wiersbe, p85). I think he is right, but I think we can expand that statement. How we see Paul in Acts 20 is not Paul the evangelist as in chapters 13, 14, and 17; not Paul the apologist as is in chapters 22, 23, 24, and 26, but here we see Paul the pastor. Caring for multiple flocks, individual sheep, and fellow shepherds.

You’re thinking, “that’s great for you, but not all of us are pastors or leaders”.

We need to encourage each other to remain faithful to Christ and the gospel. We cannot be unfaithful to Christ or the gospel and say we are for the cause of Christ.

We need to be intentional and regular in our church attendance.

The church is built of individuals that need each need specific care and attention.

We need to be praying with and for each other. We need to be invested in each other to pray for our church and one another.

Even pastors need prayer and encouragement as we guard and tend to the flock.

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