We’ve been reading about Paul’s time in Ephesus and it hasn’t all been plain sailing for him. After the first three months of preaching in the synagogue, the Jews turned on him. Luke tells us the became obstinate and they refused to believe and they publicly maligned the faith. So, Paul moved next door to the Hall of Tyrannus and he spent the next two years teaching all who came to hear him. And so, we read in verse 20 of chapter 19 that the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power. However, then we read about Demetris’s complaint. He was a silversmith who used to make a living from making silver shrines dedicated to the goddess Artemis whose temple was in Ephesus. And his complaint led to a riot in Ephesus. And the riot was so serious, that Paul’s companions urged him to stay well away from it. Who knows what they rioters might do to him if they saw him. So, the work in Ephesus has not always been easy and there was opposition from the Jews and from the Gentiles.
Verses 1 to 6
Back in verses 21 of chapter 19, Paul announced his intention to leave Ephesus. He wanted to go back through Macedonia and Achaia and encourage the churches he had established. And he wanted to go to Jerusalem. And he also wanted to go to Rome. So, it’s no surprise then to read in verse 1 of chapter 20 that he was leaving Ephesus and was setting out for Macedonia. And in verse 2, Luke tells us how he travelled through the region of Macedonia, speaking many words of encouragement to the people, before arriving in Greece, or Achaia. And he stayed there for three months. Well, wherever he went, there was trouble. And sure enough the Jews began to plot against him, so instead of sailing for Syria, he decided to go back to Macedonia. Well, Luke tells us the names of some of the men who accompanied him and explains how he eventually arrived at a place called Troas. And the use of the word ‘us’ in verse 5 tells us that Luke has joined them and is once again Paul’s travelling companion.
It’s thought that it was during this time that he began to raise funds among the believers in Macedonia and Achaia to help the believers in Jerusalem. He mentions this fund in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 as well as in Romans 15. It’s therefore possible that the people mentioned in verse 4 were not so much fellow missionaries and preachers, but representatives from the churches in Macedonia and Achaia who were going with Paul to bring the money they had collected. And, of course, the money they sent to Jerusalem was an expression of their love for their fellow believers. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 8:
And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.
Though they themselves were poor, they wanted to help the believers in Jerusalem, even though they had never met them and even though the believers in Jerusalem were Jews and they were, for the most part, Gentiles. Yet they were brothers and sisters in the Lord and they wanted to care for one another. And thus they have set us an example of generosity towards about fellow believers and of sacrificial giving. —
Verses 7 to 12
Verses 7 to 12 focus on what happened in Troas. Luke tells us in verse 7 that the believers met together on the first day of the week. In other words, they met together on Sunday just as we do. And they met together to break bread. Now, this could be a reference to the Lord’s Supper, but perhaps it simply refers to a meal they had together as part of their Christian fellowship. You see, there were no church buildings in those days, and therefore they tended to meet in the home of a believer. And so, it’s perfectly reasonable to suppose that they met for worship and they stayed for lunch or dinner. And, of course, these meals together were a testimony to the unity which believers had in Christ. In these churches, you might have had Jews and Gentiles, and slaves and masters and rich and poor, male and female and young and old. A mixture of people with very little in common, apart from the fact that they all loved the Lord. And because they all loved the Lord, they were able to sit down together and share a meal. Nowhere else would that happen, apart from in the church of Jesus Christ.
Down in Naas we often did the same thing. We’d meet for worship and then we’d go back to someone’s house for dinner. And around the table, you’d have believers from Ireland and Africa and Poland and France and Australia and India, all enjoying each other’s company. It too was a testimony to the unity we have in Christ.
Paul also spoke to the people. And since he was intending to leave the next day, he kept on talking until midnight. Now, no one was complaining. No one was objecting to being kept so late. After all, it’s not every week that you have an Apostle at church and so, while he’s there, let’s make the most of it and hear everything he has to say about the gospel. But it was late at night. And Luke tells us there were many lamps in the room. And you know what it’s like when it’s late and it’s warm. You can’t help yourself from drifting off. I’ve certainly been to prayer meetings where some people have drifted off to sleep and I’ve heard people snoring in church from time to time. So, it’s not that Paul was boring. It’s just that it was late and it was warm. And so, poor Eutychus, who was sitting by the window, fell asleep. And not only did he fall asleep, but he fell through the window. And look at verse 9: he fell so far that he died!
Paul immediately went down and threw his arms around the man’s body. And look at verse 10:
Don’t be alarmed [Paul said]. He’s alive!
Some commentators suggest that he wasn’t really dead in the first place. But it seems to me that Luke is really trying to tell us that Paul brought him back to life. He really was dead. But, miraculously, Paul was able to bring this young man back to life.
And look at what happened next: they went back indoors; had some supper; and then, Paul went on speaking to them thought the night. And, of course, that makes sense, doesn’t it? Bringing Eutychus back to life would have caused a considerable stir among the people. I’m sure they were all excited by what they had witnessed and so they were ready to hear more from Paul. It’s not every week that you have an Apostle in church; and it’s not every week that you see someone brought back to life. So, they were ready to forego sleep in order to hear more from Paul.
Verses 13 to 24
In verses 13 to 17 Luke describes the route they took to Miletus. And you’ll see from verse 16 that Paul was eager to get to Jerusalem before Pentecost. Pentecost for believers is the day the Risen Lord Jesus poured out his Spirit upon the believers in Jerusalem in fulfilment of God’s promise in the Old Testament book of Joel. But Pentecost was also an annual feast of the Jews which celebrated the harvest. From Miletus, Paul sent for the elders of the church in Ephesus because he wanted to see them one last time and give them some final instructions. Having spent so long with them, he was clearly very attached to them and he to them. In fact, if you look down to the end of the chapter, you’ll see that they all wept as they hugged and kissed Paul. And Luke adds that the thing that distressed them the most was the thought that would would never see Paul again. Well, what a way to leave a church — knowing that you’ll be missed by the congregation.
Paul describes his ministry among them in verses 18 to 21 and he makes clear how faithful he was and how dedicated he was to making known to them the full counsel of God. And so, in verse 19 he reminded them of how he served the Lord in Ephesus with great humility and tears. Though he was an Apostle, he was not proud or arrogant towards them, but he was humble and gentle like his Master, the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s servants must seek to display in our lives the same lamb-like gentleness of the Saviour.
He was also severely tested by the Jews, though he did not give in to them or give up his work. Therefore, he showed stickability and perseverance. The Lord’s servants must not give in at the first sign of trouble, but we must also keep on going.
Furthermore, he did not hesitate from preaching anything that would be helpful to them. In other words, he faithfully preached God’s word without holding anything back from them. In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul refers to the temptation preachers face to distort God’s word or to use deception. Sometimes a preacher will be tempted to hide certain things which he knows the people may not accept. They tempted to water down the gospel message to make it more acceptable to unbelieving people. But Paul did not give in to such temptations and was careful to teach them everything they needed to know.
And look: He taught them publicly. In other words, he taught them in public meetings like the ones he held in the Hall of Tyrannus. And he taught them privately in their homes. So, he taught large groups of people and he taught them individually.
And in verse 21 he said that he taught the same message to both Jews and Greeks or Gentiles. And his message he preached to them was that sinners need to turn from their sins in repentance and turn in faith to the Saviour. Both are necessary and whenever we call sinners to put their faith in the Saviour we must also call them to turn from their sins. No one can come to Christ and hope to hold on to their old sins. And, of course, repentance and faith is not something we do only once in our lives, but every day we must repent of the sins we have committed and we every day we must believe in the Saviour who died for us.
So, that was the manner of Paul’s ministry in Ephesus. In verse 22 he announced that he felt compelled by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem although he did not know what would happen to him there. One thing he did know, though, was that he would face persecution and trouble wherever he went. Those who think that evangelism will be easy will be surprised to see that Paul found it a difficult and demanding work. But whether he suffered or not was not Paul’s chief concern. His chief concern was that he finish the race and complete the task the Lord had given to him. Though obstacles lay in his way, though people were against him and opposed him, though there were disappointments and sorrows on the way, he hoped to keep going to the end. And what was the task the Lord gave to this Apostle: It was to testify to the gospel of God’s grace. In other words, to the good news of God’s kindness to sinners in Christ Jesus.
That was the task which the Lord gave to Paul. And he had discharged his duties faithfully in Ephesus. And he hoped now to preach the same good news of God’s grace in Jerusalem. And eventually he hoped to do the same in Rome.
Paul description of his ministry — including the temptations and trials he faced — shows us how hard it can be for those whom God has called to teach his word. So, as we turn to prayer, let’s remember to pray for those missionaries and preachers on this island and across the world, whom God has called. Pray that they will run the race to the end and complete the task God has given to them to preach the good news of God’s grace to sinners like us.