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Paul's farewell tour

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This week we turn to chapter 20 of the book of Acts. At first glance as you read through this chapter it might seem like a collection of various stories and to an extent it is, but it all flows together into a single narrative. The largest part of this chapter is Paul’s emotional message to the leaders of the Ephesian church, but the chapter as a whole also serves as a general farewell to all the mission churches that Paul has helped to establish as he prepares to head back to Jerusalem and then on to Rome.
Holman New Testament Commentary: Acts Acts 20: How to Lead in the Church

“We will only be weak and stumbling believers and a crippled church unless and until we truly apply God’s Word—that is, until we truly love Him and act on that love.”

Charles Colson

So let’s pick up reading with verse 1 of chapter 20. Remember last week we talked about the riot that arose in Ephesus due to the foothold that the gospel had gained and the effects it was having on the worship of Artemis which was centered in that city.
Acts 20:1–6 CSB
1 After the uproar was over, Paul sent for the disciples, encouraged them, and after saying farewell, departed to go to Macedonia. 2 And when he had passed through those areas and offered them many words of encouragement, he came to Greece 3 and stayed three months. The Jews plotted against him when he was about to set sail for Syria, and so he decided to go back through Macedonia. 4 He was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia. 5 These men went on ahead and waited for us in Troas, 6 but we sailed away from Philippi after the Festival of Unleavened Bread. In five days we reached them at Troas, where we spent seven days.
Acts 20:1-
Now I’m not going to go into a whole lot of detail explaining parts of this chapter. What we have here is simply Paul beginning what would be his “farewell tour.” We see a lot of the same things that we’ve seen throughout our study of this book. Paul comes into an area, he starts preaching the gospel, after a time the Jews oppose him and he leaves. This has been our pattern for a while now. So let’s continue reading with verse 7 to see something a little different.
Acts 20:7–12 CSB
7 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 kept on talking until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the room upstairs where we were assembled, 9 and a young man named Eutychus was sitting on a window sill and sank into a deep sleep as Paul kept on talking. When he was overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was picked up dead. 10 But Paul went down, bent over him, embraced him, and said, “Don’t be alarmed, because he’s alive.” 11 After going upstairs, breaking the bread, and eating, Paul talked a long time until dawn. Then he left. 12 They brought the boy home alive and were greatly comforted.
I want to pause here for a couple of minutes. Here we find one of many references in the New Testament to Christian worship being conducted on Sunday instead of Saturday. Remember the Jews worshipped on the Sabbath which is Saturday but Christians began to gather on Sunday to commemorate the fact that Christ rose from the grave on a Sunday. And that’s what we see here in . It says they gathered on the first day of the week (Sunday) to break bread, which is likely a reference to the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. They gathered in the evening on that Sunday, since in that culture they would have all been working throughout the day. So Paul starts talking. And he just keeps on going, and going, and going, until midnight. Now don’t worry, I’m not about to start following Paul’s example here. We’re still going to be out in time to get to lunch. But Paul is talking late into the night, and these men have been working all day long, so they’re understandably tired. So it’s really no surprise when Eutychus falls asleep. Maybe he worked a double shift that day. Maybe he was a laborer who did lots of physical work. Whatever the reason, he’s tired and he falls asleep. Unfortunately, he did it while sitting on a window sill of a third floor window. And he fell out. And he died. But not to worry. Paul goes downstairs, embraces the young man and says, “Don’t be alarmed, because he’s alive.”
And that’s all great, but you know what amazes me the most in this story? The next verse. Verse 11 says, “After going upstairs, breaking the bread, and eating, Paul talked a long time until dawn. Then he left.” Seriously? They’ve probably already been there for five or six hours listening to Paul preach at this point. It’s midnight. They’re all exhausted to the point that Eutychus just fell out of a window and died when he hit the ground. Paul raises him from the dead and what do they do? They go back inside, celebrate the Lord’s Supper, and then listen to Paul preach for probably another four or five hours until dawn. Wow! How hungry are these people for the Word of God? Would any of us have had the same reaction? Would any of us have sat and listened to Paul preach for what was likely nine to eleven hours? I doubt it. Look, I’m not saying that we need to have 12 hour worship services. I’m not even saying that we need to make our services longer than they are now. But do we hunger for the Word of God? Do we desire to know God? To learn more about Him and become more like Him? The late Charles Colson once said “We will only be weak and stumbling believers and a crippled church unless and until we truly apply God’s Word—that is, until we truly love Him and act on that love.” I pray that we would all desire to know Him better. To learn more and more of His Word and to show more and more of His love to the world around us.
Holman New Testament Commentary: Acts Acts 20: How to Lead in the Church

“We will only be weak and stumbling believers and a crippled church unless and until we truly apply God’s Word—that is, until we truly love Him and act on that love.”

Charles Colson

Now let’s continue reading
Acts 20:13-
Acts 20:13–16 CSB
13 We went on ahead to the ship and sailed for Assos, where we were going to take Paul on board, because these were his instructions, since he himself was going by land. 14 When he met us at Assos, we took him on board and went on 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 to avoid spending time in the province of Asia, because he was hurrying to be in Jerusalem, if possible, for the day of Pentecost.
Again, I’m not going to say much about this passage. Paul is travelling back to Jerusalem stopping at various cities along the way to encourage the believers at the churches there. Now let’s pick up with verse 17 and read through the end of this chapter.
Acts 20:17–38 CSB
17 Now from Miletus, he sent to Ephesus and summoned the elders of the church. 18 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 during the trials that came to me through the plots of the Jews. 20 You know that I did not avoid proclaiming to you anything that was profitable or from teaching you publicly 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, compelled by the Spirit, not knowing what I will encounter there, 23 except that in every town the Holy Spirit warns me that chains and afflictions are waiting for me. 24 But I consider my life of no value to myself; my purpose is to 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, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will ever see me again. 26 Therefore I declare to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, 27 because I did not avoid declaring to you the whole plan of God. 28 Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has appointed you 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 Men will rise up even from your own number and distort the truth to lure the disciples into following them. 31 Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for three years I never stopped warning each one of you with tears. 32 “And now I commit you to God and to the word 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 I worked with my own hands to support myself and those who are with me. 35 In every way I’ve shown you that it is necessary to help the weak by laboring like this and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, because 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 were many tears shed by everyone. They embraced Paul and kissed him, 38 grieving most of all over his statement that they would never see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.
Acts 20:17-
Paul knows that this is his last trip. He knows he’s not going to be coming back through this way again so he calls for the leaders of the church at Ephesus where he has invested so much of his ministry and he tells them what’s going on. He tells them that the Spirit is warning him that he is about to experience great affliction and spend time in chains. And he warns them that they will experience hardships also. But what I really want to focus on in this passage is verses 26 and 27. It almost seems out of place coming from Paul, especially here where he’s telling them farewell and warning them of trials to come. In the middle of all that he says
Acts 20:26 CSB
26 Therefore I declare to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you,
Acts 20:26–27 CSB
26 Therefore I declare to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, 27 because I did not avoid declaring to you the whole plan of God.
Doesn’t that seem out of character for Paul? I’m innocent of your blood? It just doesn’t seem like something that he would say. We’ve seen Paul, after his conversion on the Damascus road, go through every kind of trial and tribulation in order to bring the gospel to people. He has suffered, he has been beaten, he has been thrown in prison, all to make sure that the gospel was shared.
It almost seems out of place coming from Paul, especially here where he’s telling them farewell and warning them of trials to come. In the middle of all that he says
In fact in Paul says:
1 Corinthians 9:19–23 CSB
19 Although I am free from all and not anyone’s slave, I have made myself a slave to everyone, in order to win more people. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win Jews; to those under the law, like one under the law—though I myself am not under the law—to win those under the law. 21 To those who are without the law, like one without the law—though I am not without God’s law but under the law of Christ—to win those without the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, in order to win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some. 23 Now I do all this because of the gospel, so that I may share in the blessings.
1 corinthians 9:19-
So why now is Luke telling us that Paul is saying, “I’m innocent of your blood?” Well the key is in the next verse.
So why now is he saying, “I’m innocent of your blood?” Well the key is in the next verse.
Acts 20:27 CSB
27 because I did not avoid declaring to you the whole plan of God.
What does he mean by that? What is this “whole plan of God” that Paul refers to? Well for one thing Paul never shied away from talking about sin. Read through his letter to the Romans.
Romans 1:18 CSB
18 For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth,
Romans 3:23 CSB
23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Romans 5:12 CSB
12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all people, because all sinned.
Romans 5:
Romans 6:23 CSB
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
- For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Paul’s conscience is clear because of the fact that he has done everything he could do to ensure that people heard the gospel. But he’s also secure in the knowledge that he didn’t sugar coat it. He told people the good news about heaven, but he didn’t leave out the bad news about hell. He told people how they could be saved, but he also told them what they were facing if they didn’t repent of their sins. That’s why he can say here, “I’m innocent of your blood.”
Paul’s conscience is clear because of the fact that he has done everything he could do to ensure that people heard the gospel. He is telling the Ephesian leaders here the same thing he would tell Timothy later when he writes to him in .
He is telling the Ephesian leaders here the same thing he would tell Timothy later when he wrote to him in .
2 Timothy 4:7 CSB
7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
2 Timothy 4:7–8 CSB
7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 There is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me, but to all those who have loved his appearing.
Can we say the same? Part of sharing the whole plan of God is telling people when they are living in sin. Now we have to be careful about doing this. Especially in the times in which we live. People today are far too quick to take offense when you call them on something. They are quick to call up a lawyer, or to call up the media and plaster accusations of discrimination or intolerance. We hear stories in the news all the time these days about the “hateful Christians” who won’t let people live their lives the way they choose. “It’s my life. How dare you tell me how I should live it? I’m not hurting anyone.” Sound familiar? Well what we have to remember as Christians, and what non-believers will likely never understand unless and until they believe, is that the most loving thing we can do for someone living in sin is to tell them.
We seem to have figured that out in some areas of life. In the military, we do training all the time about bystander intervention. If you see someone doing something they shouldn’t be doing it’s your duty to step in. We’re told we’re supposed to do that with drinking, with assault, with suicidal behaviors. Now don’t get me wrong, all of those are serious, but they are all symptoms of a lifestyle of sin. The symptoms affect our lives here on earth, but the lifestyle of sin affects our eternity. If we can step in to try to help someone who is drinking too much, why wouldn’t we step in to tell them about Jesus and the change he can make not just in the symptom of drinking, but in the overall lifestyle of sin?
That’s what Paul did. He told people about their sin. But he didn’t stop there. He told them about their sin, but then he told them how they could be saved from that lifestyle of sin and live eternally with God in paradise. What about us? When we stand before the judgment seat of God, will we be able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished, the race, I have kept the faith?”
Would you pray with me?
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