After the uproar referred to in chapter 19, “Paul called “unto him the disciples, and embraced them, and departed” from Ephesus “to go into Macedonia. And when he had gone over those parts, and had given them much exhortation, he came into Greece, and there abode three months, and when the Jews laid in wait for him, as he was about to sail into Syria, he purposed to return through Macedonia” (Acts 20:1-3). Tychicus and Trophimus of Acts 20:4 were especially attached to Paul. Paul speaks of Tychicus, in Ephesians 6:21, as “a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord,” who would be able to make known to the Ephesian believers “all things.” He says practically the same thing to the Colossians (Col. 4:7-8). Trophimus was “an Ephesian” and a close companion of Paul (Acts 21:29 with II Timothy 4:20). These two brethren along with the others named in Acts 20:4-5, made up the company who traveled on ahead of Paul and Luke unto Troas.
Paul and Luke “sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days;” where they abode seven days (Acts 20:6).
The First Day of the Week
In this 20th chapter of Acts and verse 7, we have the first occasion of the disciples meeting together “upon the first day of the week.” We are told that they “came together to break bread.” The breaking of bread on this occasion was of the same order as that referred to in Matthew 14:19 — “And He commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, He blessed, and brake and gave the loaves to His disciples and the disciples to the multitude.” We see again in Luke 24:30-35 that the risen Christ met with His disciples and they broke bread together. Paul was following the example of the Lord when he broke bread with the disciples in this 20th chapter of Acts and on a later occasion recorded in Acts 27:33-36. The breaking of bread as referred to in these verses is in no way related to the Lord’s Supper referred to in I Corinthians, chapter 11.
Throughout the book of Acts, we find Peter, Paul and other ministers meeting with the Jews in the synagogues, on the sabbath day, until we get to this “first day of the week” meeting in Acts chapter 20. We understand that this meeting and all other “first day of the week” meetings of the disciples were held outside the synagogues. The Jews continued with their regular sabbath day services in the synagogues (Acts 15:21), while the disciples who cast their lot with Paul and his co-workers began to meet on the first day of the week in separate meeting places.
It was in this first service which the disciples held on the first day of the week that Paul preached “until midnight, and there were many lights in the upper chamber where they were gathered together. And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft and was taken up dead. And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him. When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even until break of day, so he departed. And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted” (Acts 20:7-12).
Leaving the disciples at Troas, “Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia: for he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost” (Acts 20:13-16). As Paul journeyed from Troas to Ephesus he sent men ahead from Miletus to call the elders of the church together (Acts 20:17). When he arrived and met with these elders of the church at Ephesus, “he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews: and how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have showed you and have taught you publickly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth that in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed therefore unto yourselves and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn everyone night and day with tears. And now, brethren, I commend 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 them which are sanctified. I have coveted no man’s silver or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have shewed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down and prayed with them all” (Acts 20:18-36).
We suggest that our readers take the time to prayerfully read, re-read and meditate upon this remarkable message which Paul, our example, delivered to the overseers, or elders, of the church at Ephesus.
We call attention to the fact that Paul was an honest preacher and teacher. He “kept back nothing that was profitable” unto the people to whom he ministered, but shewed and taught them publickly and from house to house (Acts 20:20). He was evangelistic, preaching “repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). He was wholly unselfish, not even counting his own life dear unto himself, so that he might finish his course with joy. He had a message which he had received from the Lord Jesus, it was “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). He was thorough in his ministry of the Word, declaring “all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). He admonished the elders to take heed unto themselves first, and then to all the flock “over the which the Holy Ghost” had made them overseers (Acts 20:28). He was faithful in his warnings concerning “wolves” from without and perverse teachers from within (Acts 20:30-31). He sounded the death blow to the Roman Catholic doctrine concerning the priesthood when he failed to commit the church which he had pastored for two years to a successor. He did not commit them to Timothy, he did not commit them to an organization, he committed them “to God, and to the Word of His grace” (Acts 20:32). He was careful to show the disciples that they should labor and support the weak, reminding them of the words of the Lord Jesus and how he said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). After delivering this earnest message, “he kneeled down and prayed with them all” (Acts 20:36).
Human Weakness Manifested
“And they all wept sore and fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship” (Acts 20:37-38).
The attitude of the believers that was manifested on this occasion is intensely human. They loved the man more than they loved his message. We know this is true, because in less than five years we hear Paul saying, “all they which are in Asia be turned away from me” (II Timothy 1:15). These believers of Asia “wept sore, and fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him” as they accompanied him to the ship for the last time. After he was gone and their affections for him had faded, they turned from the message that he had preached and followed after perverse teachers.
The trouble with these believers was the same trouble we find so prevalent today among Christians. They sorrowed “most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more.” Had they been thinking of Paul’s warning in Acts 20:30-31 instead of his statement in Acts 20:25, they could have stood firm in the faith unto the end.
Preachers and teachers should understand that undue affections on the part of the Christian people to whom they minister cannot be depended upon. What pastor is there who has not found this true?