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Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles - Part 10

By Dr Peter Pett BA BD (Hons-London) DD

PAUL’S JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM AND THEN TO ROME (19.21-28.31).

Here we begin a new section of Acts. It commences with Paul’s purposing to go to Jerusalem, followed by an incident, which, while it brings to the conclusion his ministry in Ephesus, very much introduces the new section. From this point on all changes. Paul’s ‘journey to Jerusalem’ and then to Rome has begun, with Paul driven along by the Holy Spirit.

The ending of the previous section as suggested by the closing summary in 19.20 (see introduction), together with a clear reference in verse 21 to the new direction in which Paul’s thinking is taking him, both emphasise that this is a new section leading up to his arrival in Rome. Just as Jesus had previously ‘changed direction’ in Luke when He set His face to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9.51), so it was to be with Paul now as he too sets his face towards Jerusalem. It is possibly not without significance that Jesus’ ‘journey’ also began after a major confrontation with evil spirits, which included an example of one who used the name of Jesus while not being a recognised disciple (compare 19.12-19 with Luke 9.37-50).

From this point on Paul’s purposing in the Spirit to go to Jerusalem on his way to Rome takes possession of the narrative (19.21; 20.16, 22-23; 21.10-13, 17), and it will be followed by the Journey to Rome itself. And this whole journey is deliberately seen by Luke as commencing from Ephesus, a major centre of idolatry and the of Imperial cult, where there is uproar and Paul is restricted from preaching, and as, in contrast, deliberately ending with the triumph of a pure, unadulterated Apostolic ministry in Rome where all is quiet and he can preach without restriction. We can contrast with this how initially in Section 1 the commission commenced in a pure and unadulterated fashion in Jerusalem (1.3-9) and ended in idolatry in Caesarea (12.20-23). This is now the reverse the same thing in reverse.

Looked at from this point of view we could briefly summarise Acts in three major sections as follows:

  • The Great Commission is given in Jerusalem in the purity and triumph of Jesus’ resurrection and enthronement as King. The word powerfully goes out to Jerusalem and to its surrounding area, and then in an initial outreach to the Gentiles. Jerusalem reject their Messiah and opt for an earthly ruler whose acceptance of divine honours results in judgment (1-12).
  • The word goes out triumphantly to the Dispersion and the Gentiles and it is confirmed that they will not be required to be circumcised or conform to the detailed Jewish traditions contained in what is described as ‘the Law of Moses’ (13-19.20).
  • Paul’s journey to Rome commences amidst rampant idolatry and glorying in the royal rule of Artemis and Rome, and comes to completion with Paul, the Apostle, triumphantly proclaiming Jesus Christ and the Kingly Rule of God from his own house in Rome (19.21-28.31).

It will be seen by this that with this final section the great commission has in Luke’s eyes been virtually carried out. Apostolic witness has been established in the centre of the Roman world itself and will now reach out to every part of that world, and the command ‘You shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth’ is on the point of fulfilment.

This final section, in which Paul will make his testimony to the resurrection before kings and rulers, may be analysed as follows.

  • a Satan counterattacks against Paul’s too successful Ministry in Ephesus and throughout Asia Minor and causes uproar resulting in his ministry being unsuccessfully attacked by the worshippers of ‘Artemis (Diana) of the Ephesians’. This city, with its three ‘temple-keepers’ for the Temple of Artemis and the two Imperial Cult Temples, is symbolic of the political and religious alliance between idolatry and Rome which has nothing to offer but greed and verbosity. It expresses the essence of the kingly rule of Rome. And here God’s triumph in Asia over those Temples has been pictured in terms of wholesale desertion of the Temple of Artemis (mention of the emperor cult would have been foolish) by those who have become Christians and will in the parallel below be contrasted and compared with Paul freely proclaiming the Kingly Rule of God in Rome (19.21-41).
  • b Paul’s progress towards Jerusalem is diverted because of further threats and he meets with disciples for seven days at Troas (20.1-6).
  • c The final voyage commences and a great sign is given of God’s presence with Paul. Eutychus is raised from the dead (20.7-12).
  • d Paul speaks to the elders from the church at Ephesus who meet him at Miletus and he gives warning of the dangers of spiritual catastrophe ahead and turns them to the word of His grace. If they obey Him all will be saved (20.13-38).
  • e A series of maritime stages, and of prophecy (verses 4 and 11), which reveals that God is with Paul (21.1-16).
  • f Paul proves his true dedication in Jerusalem and his conformity with the Law and does nothing that is worthy of death but the doors of the Temple are closed against him (21.17-30).
  • g Paul is arrested and gives his testimony of his commissioning by the risen Jesus (21.31-22.29).
  • h Paul appears before the Sanhedrin and points to the hope of the resurrection (22.30-23.9).
  • i He is rescued by the chief captain and is informed by the Lord that as he has testified in Jerusalem so he will testify in Rome (23.11).
  • j The Jews plan an ambush, which is thwarted by Paul’s nephew (23.12-25).
  • k Paul is sent to Felix, to Caesarea (23.26-35).
  • l Paul makes his defence before Felix stressing the hope of the resurrection (24.1-22).
  • k Paul is kept at Felix’ pleasure for two years (with opportunities in Caesarea) (24.23-27).
  • j The Jews plan to ambush Paul again, an attempt which is thwarted by Festus (25.1-5).
  • i Paul appears before Festus and appeals to Caesar. To Rome he will go (25.6-12).
  • h Paul is brought before Agrippa and gives his testimony stressing his hope in the resurrection (25.23-26.8).
  • g Paul gives his testimony concerning his commissioning by the risen Jesus (26.9-23).
  • f Paul is declared to have done nothing worthy of death and thus to have conformed to the Law, but King Herod Agrippa II closes his heart against his message (26.28-32).
  • e A series of maritime stages and of prophecy (verses 10, 21-26) which confirms that God is with Paul (27.l-26).
  • d Paul speaks to those at sea, warning of the dangers of physical catastrophe ahead unless they obey God’s words. If they obey Him all will be delivered (27.27-44).
  • c Paul is delivered from death through snakebite and Publius’ father and others are healed, which are the signs of God’s presence with him, and the voyage comes to an end after these great signs have been given (28.1-13).
  • b Paul meets with disciples for seven days at Puteoli and then at the Appii Forum (28.14-15).
  • a Paul commences his ministry in Rome where, living in quietness, he has clear course to proclaim the Kingly Rule of God (28.16-31).

Thus in ‘a’ the section commences at the very centre of idolatry which symbolises with its three temples (depicted in terms of the Temple of Artemis) the political and religious power of Rome, the kingly rule of Rome, which is being undermined by the Good News which has ‘almost spread throughout all Asia’ involving ‘much people’. It begins with uproar and an attempt to prevent the spread of the Good News and reveals the ultimate emptiness of that religion. All they can do is shout slogans including the name of Artemis, but though they shout it long and loud that name has no power and results in a rebuke from their ruler. In the parallel the section ends with quiet effectiveness and the Good News of the Kingly Rule of God being given free rein. This is in reverse to section 1 which commenced with the call to proclaim the Good News of the Kingly Rule of God (1.3) and ended with the collapse of the kingly rule of Israel through pride and idolatry (12.20-23).

In ‘b’ Paul meets with God’s people for ‘seven days, the divinely perfect period, at the commencement of his journey, and then in the parallel he again meets with the people of God for ‘seven days’ at the end of his journey. Wherever he goes, there are the people of God.

In ‘c’ God reveals that His presence is with Paul by the raising of the dead, and in the parallel His presence by protection from the Snake and the healing of Publius.

In ‘d’ we have a significant parallel between Paul’s warning of the need for the church at Ephesus to avoid spiritual catastrophe through ‘the word of His grace’ and in the parallel ‘d’ the experience of being saved from a great storm through His gracious word, but only if they are obedient to it, which results in deliverance for all.

In ‘e’ and its parallel we have Paul’s voyages, each accompanied by prophecy indicating God’s continuing concern for Paul.

In ‘f’ Paul proves his dedication and that he is free from all charges that he is not faithful to the Law of Moses, and in the parallel Agrippa II confirms him to be free of all guilt.

In ‘g’ Paul give his testimony concerning receiving his commission from the risen Jesus, and in the parallel this testimony is repeated and the commission expanded.

In ‘h’ Paul proclaims the hope of the resurrection before the Sanhedrin, and in the parallel he proclaims the hope of the resurrection before Felix, Agrippa and the gathered Gentiles.

In ‘i’ the Lord tells him that he will testify at Rome, while in the parallel the procurator Festus declares that he will testify at Rome. God’s will is carried out by the Roman power.

In ‘ j’ a determined plan by the Jews to ambush Paul and kill him is thwarted, and in the parallel a further ambush two years later is thwarted. God is continually watching over Paul.

In ‘k’ Paul is sent to Felix, to Caesarea, the chief city of Palestine, and in the parallel spends two years there with access given to the ‘his friends’ so that he can freely minister.

In ‘l’ we have the central point around which all revolves. Paul declares to Felix and the elders of Jerusalem the hope of the resurrection of both the just and the unjust in accordance with the Scriptures.

It will be noted that the central part of this chiasmus is built around the hope of the resurrection which is mentioned three times, first in ‘h’, then centrally in ‘l’ and then again in ‘h’, and these are sandwiched between two descriptions of Paul’s commissioning by the risen Jesus (in ‘g’ and in the parallel ‘g’). The defeat of idolatry and the proclamation of the Kingly Rule of God have as their central cause the hope of the resurrection and the revelation of the risen Jesus.

We must now look at the section in more detail.

Paul Purposes To Go To Jerusalem and Then To Rome. Satan Counterattacks at Ephesus (19.21-20.1).

Paul’s purpose to go to Jerusalem in spite of warnings raises an interesting question. If the Spirit was giving him warnings, why did he proceed? In answering this question we need to recognise that part of Luke’s purpose here may well be in order to give encouragement to those facing persecution by stressing Paul’s steadfastness of purpose in the face of known adversity.

The section commences in 19.21 where we are told that ‘Paul purposed in the Spirit --- to go to Jerusalem’ and that ‘it was necessary for him to see Rome’, and we will soon learn that he was determined if at all possible to reach Jerusalem in time for Pentecost (20.16). On the way there he tells the Ephesians that he is going up to Jerusalem ‘bound in the Spirit’ so that bonds await him in Jerusalem (20.23) and that he does not know what future awaits him, but that he is ready for martyrdom, twice telling them that they will see his face no more (20.25, 38). This latter makes it clear that he is already aware of what his future will be and is convinced that it is of the Holy Spirit. In the light of what follows we have thus to assume that God has in some way spoken to him, and indicated that his going there is of His will. This then gives positive meaning to the statement, ‘The will of the Lord be done’ (21.14).

At Tyre he is again warned by some who receive a message through the Spirit and say that ‘he should not set foot in Jerusalem’ (21.4). Reaching Caesarea the prophet Agabus comes from Jerusalem and indicates that he will be bound in Jerusalem and handed over to the Gentiles, so that all plead with him not to go to Jerusalem (21.10-12), at which he declares that he is ready to die for Christ.

Unless we are to see Paul as totally disobedient we must see the purpose of these revelations as in order to demonstrate Paul’s faithfulness in the face of coming martyrdom, rather than as an indication that the Spirit was actually seeking to dissuade him from going. This may be seen as confirmed by the fact that once he is in chains the Lord appears to him and tells him to be of good cheer, because as he has testified in Jerusalem, so he will in Rome (23.11). There is no rebuke and thus the Lord is clearly content with the situation. This would serve to confirm that ‘purposed in spirit’ in 19.21 should be translated ‘purposed in the Spirit.’ Paul, Luke informs us, is following a course determined by the Lord.

We will consider these verses in more detail later in their context.

19.21 ‘Now after these things were ended (were fulfilled), Paul purposed in the Spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, it is necessary also for me to see Rome.” ’

‘After these things were fulfilled’ probably refers to the whole section from 12.25- 19.20. He has ministered throughout Asia Minor, Macedonia and Greece. Now all that remains for him is to testify in Jerusalem and in Rome.

As suggested above ‘he purposed in the Spirit’ must probably be seen as indicating the inner compulsion of the Spirit. It is by the Spirit’s impulsion that he now goes forward. And this interpretation is supported by the ‘it is necessary’ which regularly indicates the divine compulsion. Yet even if we took it to mean ‘purposed in (his own) spirit’ our conclusion must be little different, for our knowledge of Paul is such as to recognise that he would only have this purpose if he believed it to be of God. Prior to his visit, however, it was his intention first to visit the European churches that he had founded in Macedonia and Achaia.

19.22 ‘And having sent into Macedonia two of those who ministered to him, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while.’

As a preliminary to this he sent two of his assistants, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he remained a little longer at Ephesus. This coming visit might have been intended to be the last that he would make to them (Romans 15.23). One of its purposes was in order to receive the collection which they had been making (1 Corinthians 16.1-5; 2 Corinthians 8-9) in order to take it on to the needy people of Judaea, but Luke clearly intends to pass over this whole visit as briefly and as uninformatively as possible.

This is the first mention that we have of Erastus (compare 2 Timothy 4.20), which was a fairly common name. It is a reminder that Paul’s missionary parties may always have been larger than we might have gathered from Acts. Luke, for example, never tells us about the presence of Titus, but judging by Paul’s letters he must often have been with Paul.

A Stirring in Ephesus On Account of the Name of Artemis (19.23-41).

In considering what follows we should note two things about its context:

  • Firstly that it introduces the final section of Acts (19.21-28.31) which leads up to the triumph of the Kingly Rule of God in Rome (28.30-31), by illustrating the emptiness of the royal rule of Artemis and of Rome, a royal rule which seeks to undermine those who proclaim the Name of Jesus.
  • Secondly that it follows up 19.17-19 where the previous main section has ended with the idea of ‘the Name of the Lord Jesus was magnified’ and the equivalent of 50,000 pieces of silver were burned up by Christians in full rejection of the occult as they turned their backs on it because they were following the Way. Here at the commencement of this new section which leads up to the triumph in Rome, what follows reveals that it is greed for silver obtained through the sale of occult items which causes an attack on the Way, and it is the name of Artemis which is continually held up for idolatrous worship. ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians’ is set up in opposition to the Name of Jesus, and is rebuked by its own leadership.

    19.23 ‘And about that time there arose no small stir concerning the Way.’

    It was at this stage, as his successful ministry in Ephesus was coming to an end, that a crisis came that may even have threatened his life. What follows might be what he was describing in 2 Corinthians 1.8 when he wrote, ‘our affliction which befell us in Asia, that we were weighed down exceedingly, beyond our power, insomuch that we despaired even of life’.

    ‘No small stir’ means a fairly large one, and it was an attack on ‘the Way’ which could have been successful had not God prevented it. It arose partly due to the fact that Ephesus, with its silting up harbour, was becoming more and more dependent on revenues associated with the worship of Artemis, and partly because of the grip that the occult had on the worshippers of Artemis. Thus anything which affected those revenues or her name was seen as threatening.

    19.24-25 ‘For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis (Latin: Diana), brought no little business to the craftsmen, whom he gathered together, with the workmen of like occupation, and said, “Sirs, you know that by this business we have our wealth.” ’

    Behind the trouble was a business magnate, Demetrius, who operated in silver. He may have been an overseer of the silversmiths’ guild. His business made ‘silver shrines’, and he employed the services of many people and cooperated in business activity with many more. Until Paul arrived all had been going very well, and trade was brisk. Silver shrines sold like hot cakes. But Paul’s coming had affected trade. People who became Christians were not interested in shrines which were ‘gods made with hands’, and due to the widescale advance of the word, they had consequently all lost many good customers.

    So he called together all who were involved in the trade to discuss what should be done. He pointed out to them that their wealth depended on selling the silver shrines. If the market dried up they would be ruined. It is very probable that we have here in this gathering an example of a trade guild, in which members of a trade would gather together. There were many such guilds for different professions, and the Romans were not very keen on them and sought to limit them by legislation. There were severe laws about illegal associations. But they were popular because they provided a means of mutual support and trade protection, although their main purpose was social interaction. They presented a problem to Christians who worked in those trades for they tended to have idolatrous associations.

    The reasons behind the Roman objection to such guilds comes out in the much later reply of the Emperor Trajan to Pliny when he wanted to form a fire brigade. He replied, ‘It is to be remembered that societies of this sort have greatly disturbed the peace of the province --- whatever name we give them, and for whatever purpose they may have been founded, they will not fail to transform themselves into factious assemblies’. This was always a danger with ‘unofficial’ gatherings of any kind.

    The ‘shrines’ may have been replicas, on a small scale, of the image of Artemis (which could be seen in the temple) which was considered to have ‘fallen from heaven’. That was very possibly a meteorite, the appearance of which with a number of protuberances on it had been seen as suggestive, and which may then have been shaped into a likeness of the goddess with her many breasts.

    Or the ‘silver shrines’ may have consisted of small plaques of shrines containing such an image, of which examples have been discovered. They would be sold as mementoes, votive offerings, burial items and in order to grace idol shelves in homes. They would be made of various materials such as silver, terracotta, lead or marble to suit all tastes and pockets.

    This Artemis was not the same as the divinely beautiful Artemis of the Greeks, although they were often equated, but was the ancient Anatolian fertility goddess who was worshipped all over Asia Minor in the form of a nature religion, and depicted as rather ugly and many breasted, her main image probably being an asteroid with suggestive protuberances, possibly partly shaped in a rough way by priests, and revered because it had fallen from the gods. Her worship was conducted by a high priest who was a eunuch, and there were other eunuch priests and three classes of priestess courtesans. Her fertility rites would undoubtedly have encouraged very loose sexual behaviour (compare Revelation 2.14, 20) as fertility rites regularly did. Her huge temple, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, was supported by over one hundred massive pillars. It was a major treasury for the ancient world, acting as a bank where large sums of money could be kept safe under the protection of the goddess. Cult and business enterprise were thus closely linked, and its importance to Ephesus, and the world, is clear.

    19.26 “And you see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they are no gods, which are made with hands.”

    Then he turned their attention to their major problem. Throughout the whole region, as they could see and had no doubt heard, many people had ceased buying silver shrines, and the reason was because Paul had turned them away from worshipping gods which were made with hands and were therefore not gods at all. The drop in trade was wholly his fault.

    This admission was, of course, evidence that what was done in the Name of Jesus had proved far more powerful and effective than anything connected with the name of Artemis of the Ephesians. Her followers might yell her name for hours, but she was totally ineffective, whereas all had seen earlier what the Name of Jesus could do (19.11-17).

    ‘This Paul.’ Paul was a much loved figure by Christians, but he was also much hated. His very success was his undoing. Here many important people in Ephesus hated him because of the effect he had had on their Temple trade. We can compare how around that part of the world many Jews who had rejected the name of Jesus also hated him so much that in many cities they were constantly seeking means to kill him, something which we constantly discern throughout Acts (14.5, 19; 17.13; 20.3; 21.30-31; 22.22; 23.12; 25.3), to such an extent that they were willing to travel some distances to do so. This intense hatred cannot be described as normal even in those days. Such intense hatred was directed at no one else as far as we know. He took the blame for all their anger directed at the name of Jesus. Even some extreme Judaisers among the Christians hated him. It was probably they who had tried to make the Corinthian church hate him. He was possibly the most loved and the most hated man in the world.

    19.27 “And not only is there danger that this our trade come into disrepute; but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis (Diana) be made of no account, and that she should even be deposed from her magnificence whom all Asia and the world worship.”

    But while Demetrius could probably see that the entrepreneurs like himself were agreeing strongly and nodding at the thought of losing profits, he also probably recognised that many of the lower level workers present were not too impressed. Drop in trade had not yet affected them too much, and was not so obviously important for them. So he now changed his tack. Not only was there the danger that their trade would come into disrepute (a slight exaggeration. Those who worshipped idols were still well in the majority) but they should also take into account the effect of it all on the worship of Artemis with its huge Temple. If things went on as they were Artemis herself would be degraded and her magnificence lost. Her very name would be brought into disrepute. Did not all the world look to Artemis? Yet here was this Paul deposing her from her magnificence, and, if things went on as they were, visitors would cease coming because of her lost reputation.

    Economically speaking it was, of course, an argument with little basis. The grand temple remained, the famous statue of Artemis was still in place, and those who came from worldwide to see her would not be affected by what was virtually a minority religion in Asia. While sales had undoubtedly been lost, that would only be in the local and regional market, and had already happened, although it had been sufficient to cause this stir. It would, however, not at this stage very much affect their worldwide and souvenir trade. But what stirred a chord more with the lower level workers was the possibility of Artemis being humiliated. It is doubtful if Demetrius and some of the other entrepreneurs were too bothered about that side of things, but the lower level workers certainly were.

    ‘All the world.’ Over thirty sites around the Roman Empire from Spain to Syria have been located where the worship of Artemis was carried on, while according to Pausanias this cult achieved the most extensive and most supreme worship in the ancient world. People flocked to Ephesus from all over the Empire in order to participate in the Games, take part in the festivities, and enjoy the religious orgies (compare Revelation 2.14, 20). Gifts and coins from many different countries, discovered at the site of the Temple, bear witness to the worldwide nature of her appeal. Thus when the Emperor married Agrippina commemorative coins were struck at Ephesus with the profiles of the newlyweds on one side and a figure of the statue with the legend "Diana Ephesia" on the other. She was seen as extremely important.

    19.28 ‘And when they heard this they were filled with wrath, and cried out, saying, “Great is Artemis (Diana) of the Ephesians.”

    When they heard the suggestion that Artemis would be humiliated they were filled with fervour and anger and began to cry out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians”. This was a common formula of prayer and invocation and is found on inscriptions. And gradually they became incensed and the idea took over their actions. Note here at once how the emphasis is placed on the name, a name which they revere and hold dear, and this in contrast with those who have rather turned to the name of Jesus at which every knee will bow, and which every tongue will confess to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2.10-11).

    19.29 ‘And the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed with one accord to the theatre, having seized Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paul’s companions in travel.’

    They poured out of their meeting and raced in large numbers down the main street which led to the theatre, yelling ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians’ and harassing people, and as they went, calling them to come to an unofficial assembly. And at one point they came across, and were able to seize, Gaius and Aristarchus, two Macedonians who were working with Paul as companions and assistants. Whether this was by going to where they were staying or from the unfortunate circumstance of their being in the street at the time we are not told. Then they dragged them to the large theatre calling for an informal public assembly to be held (something of which Rome did not approve) so that they could be given rough justice. All were to behold their humiliation.

    For Aristarchus, who came from Thessalonica, see 20.4; 27.2; Colossians 4.10; Philemon 1.24. If this Gaius was a Macedonian he was probably not the Gaius in Corinth (1 Corinthians 1.14; Romans 16.23) or the Gaius of Derbe (20.4). Gaius was a very common name).

    19.30 ‘And when Paul was of a mind to enter in to the people, the disciples did not let him.’

    On recognising the situation, and concerned for his companions who had been seized, Paul bravely wanted to go into the theatre to assist their defence before the people. He was never afraid to put his head in the lion’s mouth. But the disciples knew that while Gaius and Aristarchus might come away from the situation only having been roughed up, if Paul showed his face there he was liable to be torn to pieces. He was Public Enemy Number One. Thus they prevented him from going, no doubt pointing out that while he was free his companions were less likely to be in such deep trouble. It was not his companions that they were after, it was him.

    19.31 ‘And certain also of the Asiarchs, being his friends, sent to him and besought him not to venture himself into the theatre.’

    This thought also occurred to certain of the Asiarchs who were friends of Paul’s. They had no doubt been called to the theatre as a result of the uproar, and hurrying there recognised the full truth about the situation. So knowing Paul they sent him a message advising him to keep well away from the theatre and not to venture there.

    The Asiarchs were men of great power and influence who controlled the league of cities of the province of Asia. They were chosen annually from the wealthiest and most aristocratic citizens, and probably kept the title when they retired. From their ranks were drawn the honorary high priests of the provincial cult of Roma and the Emperor, established by the league which had its headquarters at Pergamum. Among other things they were responsible for the organisation and running of the Games, much common provincial business and the cult of Roma and the Emperor, of which there were at this time at least two temples in Ephesus. Paul had clearly won the esteem of some of them and Luke mentions them because it would demonstrate to any sceptical reader that the most important and loyal men in the province were on Paul’s side. Thus it drew attention to the fact that what he was doing was clearly legal and acceptable to the authorities.

    19.32 ‘Some therefore cried one thing, and some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and the majority did not know why they were come together.’

    But while the silversmiths and their employees knew exactly why they were there, the larger proportion who had been gathered by the commotion had no idea. They had only come because they had been hustled into it, or because they felt that it was their responsibility to do so when a situation like this arose. Thus the assembly became confused, and the majority were still asking what it was all about.

    19.33 ‘And they brought Alexander out of the crowd, the Jews putting him forward. And Alexander beckoned with the hand, and would have made a defence to the people.’

    Then a man called Alexander was put forward by the Jews, who would not be favourable to Paul. This might well have been because sinister rumours were spreading around that Paul was a Jew, and they were afraid that it would arouse feelings of anti-Semitism, something that they knew could only too easily be aroused. They wanted to ensure that the Jews did not share the blame for Paul’s activities. Alexander then beckoned with his hand in order to obtain a hearing, and explain things to the assembly, which would probably not have boded Paul’s companions any good.

    19.34 ‘But when they perceived that he was a Jew, all with one voice for about the space of two hours cried out, “Great is Artemis (Diana) of the Ephesians.” ’

    However, the sight of a Jew inflamed their feelings even more. They knew that the Jews too looked down on Artemis their goddess. So they shouted him down and for two hours chanted, ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians’. The whole matter had got totally out of hand (although the attention seems to some extent have turned away from Gaius and Aristarchus). After two hours the first fervour would have died down.

    Luke may have mentioned this attempt by Alexander because it confirmed the uselessness of Paul’s wish to enter the theatre and speak. He too was a Jew, and a monotheist, and as such he would have been given no more opportunity to speak than Alexander. Such people were clearly not welcome in the theatre at this time, whoever they were, Paul most of all. He could be sure from this that his presence would certainly not have done any good at all.

    19.35 ‘And when the city clerk had quietened the crowd, he says, “You men of Ephesus, what man is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple-keeper of Artemis (Diana) the Great, and of the image which fell down from heaven (or ‘from Zeus’)?” ’

    Then the city clerk hushed the crowd and spoke to them. With the Asiarchs there, and the city clerk, the meeting had become quasi-official, exactly the kind of unofficial meeting not approved of by the Romans who kept an eye out for such things. He pointed out that he was on their side, but that they were making a fuss about nothing, for everyone knew that the city of Ephesus was the temple-keeper of ‘Artemis the Great (a title found on inscriptions) and that its image ‘fell down from heaven’. This was probably a meteorite which happened to have protuberances on it which suggested breasts, the whole possibly even having been manually shaped to suit her reputation. Meteorites are know to have been worshipped in other great cities. They were naturally seen by the ignorant as from the world of the gods.

    His argument was subtle. These people were declaiming because Paul had taught that idols made with hands could not be true gods. Well, in this case that was irrelevant. Was it not known to all that the image of Artemis had fallen from heaven? It was thus not made with hands! Therefore Paul’s words had not been spoken against Artemis.

    He was not, of course, aware of what had been the original grievance, the trading losses of the silversmiths. For by being transformed into a religious quarrel the initial complaint had been lost sight of. Demetrius had probably not expected such a swift intervention by the authorities. He had possibly hoped that he and his colleagues would find Paul and ensure that he was ‘accidentally’ severely beaten up, or died in the riot, before any hearing actually took place.

    ‘Temple-keeper (literally ‘temple-sweeper’).’ This was an official title indicative of connection with the Imperial cult. Thus by the use of this phrase the Temple of Artemis is seen as directly connected with the Imperial cult. A later Ephesian coin shows that at some later stage there were four official temple-keepers in Ephesus, the temple-keeper of Artemis, and the temple-keepers of the three Imperial cult temples. But at this stage there were probably only the Temple of Artemis and two Imperial cult temples, the Temples of Dea Roma and Divus Julius, established with the permission of the Emperor Augustus. These latter were Imperial Cult temples erected with the permission of Augustus in honour of his adoptive father Julius Caesar and of the goddess Roma who signified Rome. The cult of Artemis and the cult of Roma and the Emperor are thus seen to go hand in hand, as related to the Imperial cult. Rome and the goddess ruled together. Depicted by Luke in terms of the Temple of Artemis (as it had to be. The Imperial cult Temples were best not mentioned in a negative way) they were the very antithesis of the Kingly Rule of God.

    19.36 “Seeing then that these things cannot be gainsaid, you ought to be quiet, and to do nothing rash.”

    So the city clerk pointed out that as no one could deny these things they should take matters quietly and not do anything rash. They needed to be calm and look at matters sensibly, or otherwise they would simply bring down trouble on them all.

    19.37 “For you have brought here these men, who are neither robbers of temples nor blasphemers of our goddess.”

    For they needed to recognise that there was no real excuse for holding this meeting. The men whom they had arraigned were not guilty of anything tangible. They had neither robbed Temples nor blasphemed their goddess (had such charges been brought they might at least have been seen as justifying an extraordinary city meeting). So the Roman authorities would not like it at all.

    ‘These men.’ They were seemingly still stood there, a little battered but unharmed.

    19.38 “If therefore Demetrius, and the craftsmen who are with him, have a matter against any man, the courts are open, and there are proconsuls. Let them accuse one another.”

    If Demetrius and his craftsmen really did have a criminal charge against these men, or against anyone, then the periodic courts were available, and they could bring the matter before the proconsuls. Let them accuse one another there, and not in this unofficial way, which could only cause trouble.

    The plural for proconsuls may simply be a general reference, indicating the generality of proconsuls, as there would normally be only one in the region. On the other hand it is an interesting historical fact that around this time there was a short period when there were seemingly two proconsuls in this region.

    19.39 “But if you seek anything about other matters, it shall be settled in the regular assembly.”

    If it was a civil matter then they should wait for the regular assembly, where such matters could be dealt with, not at an ad hoc meeting gathered like this by a riotous crowd which would only be seen by Rome as reprehensible.

    19.40 “For indeed we are in danger of being accused concerning this day’s riot, there being no cause for it, and as touching it we shall not be able to give account of this concourse.”

    For the truth was that they were all in danger of being called to account by the Roman authorities for this days riotous behaviour and this clandestine meeting. For they could produce no real grounds to excuse the one or authorise the holding of the other. (Had it been a matter of a charge of blasphemy or the robbing of a Temple it would have been a different matter. It might have been seen as justifying such a meeting).

    19.41 ‘And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly.’

    Then having spoken in this way he quickly dismissed the assembly hoping that its convening, and his part in it, might not have been noticed or might be overlooked. But in Luke’s eyes it was a clear and unequivocal declaration that the authorities saw nothing about the Christian church to disapprove of.

    We can summarise a number of lessons that Luke wishes us to see from this passage:

    • 1) That the Christian church was publicly approved of by those set in authority by Rome including the respected and loyal Asiarchs.
    • 2) That it reinforces the idea of the unquestionable and widespread impact that Christianity had made on the whole of Asia Minor
    • 3) That it brings out how Paul’s ministry was becoming more and more difficult in this area, and indeed in many areas round about. He had too great a reputation. It is in complete contrast with chapter 28 where Paul can calmly continue his witness to his heart’s content, and has no reputation (28.21, 30-31).
    • 4) That the political-religious alliance of Ephesus, with its temple dedicated to a prestigious local deity combined with its temples dedicated to Roma and the imperial cult, is the very antithesis of the Kingly Rule of God. The cults of Ephesus were for the Gentiles what Herod Agrippa had been for the Jews (12). It must surely be significant that Acts opens with the sending forth of the message freely and without restraint in Jerusalem and that this led up to the false religious and political alliance in Jerusalem in chapter 12. Now here we have the false religious and political alliance in Ephesus (subtly symbolic of the Roman Empire), which will lead up to the message of the Kingly Rule of God going out in Rome without restraint in chapter 28. Having been rejected by Jerusalem Christ is seen as having ‘conquered’ Rome.
    • 5) That the magnifying of the name of the LORD Jesus (19.17), stands over against the magnifying of the name of Artemis, the one defeating the powers of evil and rejecting the occult, burning its instruments in fire, the other exalting the powers of evil and the occult and manufacturing its occult instruments. What happened to the sons of Sceva illustrated what would one day happen to the cult of Artemis.

    Thus this was God’s message to Paul that He intended to take him away from this parody of Royal Rule to Rome where he would be able to proclaim the Kingly Rule of God freely. Luke no doubt saw it as ironic that Satan chased Paul out of his ministry at Ephesus in order that he might set up his ministry in Rome.

    20.1 ‘And after the uproar ceased, Paul having sent for the disciples and exhorted them, took leave of them, and departed to go into Macedonia.’

    Once the uproar had ceased and everything had quietened down Paul sent for the disciples in Ephesus and exhorted them, encouraging them in the faith. Then he took leave of them and departed in order to go to Macedonia. We know from verse 21 that this had already been his intention. And he had already sent Timothy and Erastus ahead of him. Thus while he was wisely leaving, he was not to be seen as driven out. The authorities in Ephesus had nothing against him.

    Paul’s Visits To Macedonia and Greece And Seven Days in Troas (20.1-6).

    It is indicative of Luke’s concentration on the new direction in which events have turned, and his purpose in writing what follows, that he ignores many things of which we would wish to have been apprised. We are reminded again that Acts is not ‘a life of Paul’. His main concern is now to demonstrate that God will so work events that having been faced with false royal rule at Ephesus the Kingly Rule of God will triumph in Rome.

    However, in passing we may note that while at Ephesus Paul has been engaging in the Corinthian controversy and has written letters to the Corinthians, of which we have 1 Corinthians, and that now, on these visits so cursorily dealt with, he will be finally reconciled with the Corinthians, writing 2 Corinthians from Macedonia once Titus has arrived, and following it with a visit to Corinth. He will also receive from those involved the Collection for the people of God in Judaea, the collection taken up by the Macedonian and Greek churches of which the Corinthian letters indirectly tell us a good deal. But Luke is interested in none of these things. He wants us to see Paul’s visit to Jerusalem as God-impelled and with a deeper motive behind it. His concern is with the continual spread of the Good News and how Apostolic ministry will reach Rome. Thus these times are rapidly passed over.

    From 2 Corinthians 2.12; 7.5-7 we learn that in fact on leaving Ephesus Paul had stopped at Troas where he had found an open door for ministry, but that he was so constrained by his love and fear over the Corinthians that he had cut it short and sailed for Macedonia where he waited in agonies until Titus arrived with the good news that all was well at Corinth. This need not mean that he did no preaching at Troas. He would have taken any opportunity that came his way while he was there, however he felt. The point is that when this was beginning to be fruitful he left the work to others because of his concern to see Titus with news of the Corinthian situation.

    20.2 ‘And when he had gone through those parts, and had given them much exhortation, he came into Greece.’

    Paul now visits the churches in Macedonia, exhorting and encouraging the churches at Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea, among others, for we know that more churches have been established through their witness (1 Thessalonians 1.8). Yet this all passes in a sentence. During this period he will have exhorted them also to make ready the Collection for him to take to Jerusalem, and will have written 2 Corinthians. But Luke does not want to interfere with his picture of the inevitable ongoing flow of God’s purposes which will result in Apostolic testimony in Rome, and all this is dismissed without a word.

    Then Paul moves on to Greece (the only mention of ‘Greece’ as such in the New Testament, which suggests that here it means more than just Corinth). Here he spends three months, probably mainly at Corinth where he has a joyful reconciliation, although he may also have visited Athens. Again he was here, not only for joyful reconciliation, but in order to accept their contribution towards the Collection for him to take to Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16.1-7; 2 Corinthians 8-9), and here he would write his letter to the Romans in preparation for his coming expected visit in which he expressed his hopes concerning the Collection (Romans 15.31), hopes which were to be only partially fulfilled.

    But why does Luke not mention the Collection here? He certainly knew of it (24.17). Probably it was because as far as he was concerned he does not wish to draw attention to Jerusalem as any other than the place towards which Paul was going in order to suffer. As far as he was concerned Jerusalem was no longer important in the forward moving of the work of God. Its sole purpose now was as the fulfiller of God’s will by its treatment of His messenger, just as it had done when it had crucified Jesus. It had rejected its Messiah twice (by crucifixion and in chapter 12), now it would reject Paul.

    Paul probably had great hopes for the Collection, monies that were to help a famine ridden Judaea, and were to be an example of the wealth of the Gentiles coming to the Jews in true Biblical fashion (Isaiah 60.9-12). He probably also hoped, with his great love for his people in spite of the contretemps he had had with them, that it would make at least some of them feel more friendly both towards him and the Gentiles.

    The Journey to Jerusalem (20.3-21.16).

    As we read this section of Acts some of it may seem a little pointless and repetitive. But we must recognise in it what Luke is doing. One purpose that he has in mind is to depict Paul’s journey as a slow, inexorable progress with the final goal in mind. He wants to hang out the suspense as he slowly approaches Jerusalem and the bonds that await him. But a second purpose that he has in mind is to bring out how successful has been the spread of the word. In so many places there is a flourishing church where Paul can meet up with believers. And they are not only believers, they are believers whose love, and faith, and prayers reveal that they are very much spiritually alive.

    20.3 ‘And when he had spent three months there, and a plot was laid against him by Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he determined to return through Macedonia.’

    The three months of continual ministry in Corinth having come to an end Paul now determined to set sail directly for Syria on a ‘pilgrim boat’ with other Jews and Jewish Christians who were going to Jerusalem to attend the Feast of Pentecost, but he learned of plots laid against him by Jews as he was about to set sail which made him change his mind. It was far to easy for someone to ‘disappear’ on a boat journey. So he determined rather to return through Macedonia. The hatred and determination of the Jews to destroy this one man are an indication of the widespread impact of his ministry, and of the sinfulness and hardness of the hearts of some ‘dedicated’ Jews.

    At this time of the approaching Feast of Pentecost many Jews would be taking ship for Caesarea and Jerusalem, and thus any ship could be a place of danger, for some had clearly determined to take the opportunity of getting rid of Paul, probably at sea. We may presume that a ‘brother’ or a rare friendly Jew was able to warn him of the danger. The threat of Jerusalem hung over him even there.

    20.4 ‘And there accompanied him as far as Asia, Sopater of Beroea, the son of Pyrrhus; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy; and of Asia, Tychicus and Trophimus.’

    With him on his journey Paul had a number of people from the different churches. These would come with him to Jerusalem in order to bring their greetings to the church from their own churches and in order to help him guard and hand over the Collection. Luke himself possibly represented Philippi. There is no Corinthian representation but it is possible that they looked to Paul, Timothy or Titus to represent them.

    ‘As far as Asia.’ It is possible that we are to understand here that Paul was accompanied ‘as far as Asia’ by Sopater, and that the remainder went ahead and awaited him in Troas. Sopater may even not have been going with them to Jerusalem.

    In total the travellers included Sopater from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia, even possibly from Ephesus itself.

    20.5 ‘But these had gone before, and were waiting for us at Troas.’

    These (apart possibly from Sopater) had been sent ahead and were waiting at Troas, quite probably having with them some of the Collection monies.

    20.6 ‘And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came to them to Troas in five days, where we tarried seven days.’

    Having taken another opportunity to visit Philippi, where he seemingly again met up with Luke (the ‘we’ passages recommence), and observed the Passover (which may explain why he sent his Gentile companions on ahead), he sailed for Troas, a journey which took five days. Travelling the other way it had taken much less (16.11). This was immediately after the Passover feast (the days of unleavened bread). This distinction between himself and his Gentile companions illustrates that, as Jesus had before him, Paul probably continued to observe the niceties of Pharisaic teaching as well as he could in the circumstances in which he continually found himself. To the Jew he wanted to be as a Jew, to the Pharisee as a Pharisee. He was still a true ‘Israelite’ for the church was the Israel of God (Galatians 6.16)

    ‘After the days of unleavened bread.’ Taken as it stands this can only signify that Paul was observing the feast, otherwise why wait until the end of it when he was in a predominantly Gentile city where there was no synagogue? Together with his sending on ahead of his companions all this points to his observing the feast, as Jewish Christians still did. In what is very much an abbreviated account by Luke this must be seen as significant. We must not portray Paul as always behaving like a Gentile. He would fight every inch of the way against Gentiles having to celebrate Jewish feasts as necessary for salvation (Galatians 4.8-11). But he was himself very much a Jew, even though an emancipated one.

    It will be noted that in describing all this we have had to fill in a few blanks ourselves, and even then much is missed out because this travelling and exhorting the churches has in fact taken many months, and valuable ministry has been carried out.

    However, from the point of view of understanding Acts we must note that Luke has been deliberately silent on these matters. Having portrayed the false ‘royal rule’ and Satanic activity which has cut short his own activity at Ephesus he is hurrying on to the journey to Jerusalem and Rome. This is now what the remainder of Acts is to be about, the journey under God to Jerusalem and Rome, with its opportunity to witness to Jesus and the resurrection before rulers and its constant revelation of Paul’s innocence as accepted by those rulers, which will result in his triumphant ministry in Rome. Anything else is incidental.

    Here at Troas he remains seven days. These seven day stops appear to be significant. They ensured that at least one Sabbath and one ‘first day of the week’ could be spent with the church in question, and probably also indicated a time of ‘divinely perfect’ (‘sevenfold’) fellowship. Compare 21.4; 28.14. In the analysis above and in the introduction this seven day fellowship here parallels that in 28.14. Luke wants us to be aware of the wonderful fellowship that Paul enjoys on his journey to Jerusalem and Rome, both at the beginning and at the end. God’s watch is over him.

    It may be that this kind of seven day stopover had become an accepted courtesy when visiting places where there was an established Christian church, which may help to explain why Paul decided to bypass Ephesus because he could not afford another seven days.

    On the other hand we must remember that the last time he had visited Troas he had hurriedly taken ship when they had wanted him to stay (2 Corinthians 2.12). Thus it may be that by this he was letting them know that even though he was in a hurry this time as well, he cared enough for them to remain with them for seven days. The seven days would give him good opportunities for teaching and admonishing the elders privately.

    Alternately it may simply be that the ship on which they were travelling was unloading and loading, a process which would take seven days.

    The Sign of The Raising of Eutychus: Paul Hurries On (20.7-16).

    At this point in the account we are informed of a remarkable confirmation of God’s presence with Paul in the raising from the dead of a young man. The significance of this story is threefold. Firstly it provides comfort and consolation both to Paul and his companions, and to the churches who are anxiously watching his progress towards Jerusalem (verse 12). Secondly it is a sign that God is with him in what lies ahead (as are the later parallel events of being saved from snake bite, and the healing of Publius - 28.1-10). Thirdly it is a reminder that they serve the God Who raises men from the dead. We can compare here 9.36-42. Here was living and continuing proof of the power of the resurrection.

    20.7 ‘And on the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul discoursed with them, intending to depart on the morrow, and prolonged his speech until midnight.’

    When the first day of the week arrived the church in Troas met together to break bread. This presumably included a fellowship meal culminating in the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11.23-26). This confirms that, as well probably as observing the Sabbath (for the sake of the Jewish members at least), the church was now also observing the first day of the week (Sunday).

    We note that the prime purpose in meeting was ‘to break bread’. It is difficult to decide whether the emphasis in this statement is on the fellowship meal or the Lord’s Table. They would at this stage probably partake of both. However, the statement in verse 11, which demonstrates that they had been so eager to hear Paul that they had not yet commenced eating, and that Paul did then break the bread and begin to eat, suggests that the emphasis is on the fellowship meal. If both were seen as part of one whole, however, the difference in emphasis is minimal. Fellowship with the Lord and fellowship together went hand in hand

    The meeting would probably begin in the evening when work was over and darkness had fallen. They may well also have met early in the morning before work. In a letter to Trajan written from Bithynia in the early second century, Pliny the Younger described Christian practise as he knew it. "They meet regularly before dawn on a fixed day to chant verse alternately among themselves in honour of Christ as if to a god. . . . After this ceremony it had been their custom to disperse and reassemble later to take food of an ordinary, harmless kind".

    The seven day period coming to an end Paul was ready to set sail on the next day. Being his last day with them he continued preaching until midnight. He had so much that he longed to pass on to them, and such long sessions of teaching were commonplace to him. Compare the long sessions in the School of Tyrannus (19.9). But we need to recognise also that these early churches too were used to long meetings. It was their general practise, so as to make the best opportunity of their time.

    20.8-9 ‘And there were many lights in the upper chamber where we were gathered together. And there sat in the window a certain young man named Eutychus, borne down with deep sleep, and as Paul discoursed yet longer, being borne down by his sleep he fell down from the third story, and was taken up dead.’

    But the weather was hot, many lamps were burning and letting off their vapours and contributing to the heat, (and burning up the oxygen in a crowded room), and even possibly having an hypnotic effect, Paul’s teaching was deep, and the sermon was long, and many who were there had come from a day of hard toil. This was possibly so with Eutychus as well, a teenager who may have gone to sit in the window in order to obtain some air. And being sat on the sill of the unglazed open window on the third floor, and becoming very sleepy, he fell to the ground and was ‘taken up for dead’. What had been a wonderful fellowship evening had suddenly turned into a nightmare. During the preaching of life there had come death, and the life of a promising young Christian had prematurely come to an end.

    20.10 ‘ And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, “Make no fuss, for his life is in him.’

    But Paul in the quiet confidence of faith went down and stretched himself out on the young man, embracing him, and then declared that the young man was alive. He may have been ‘taken up dead’ but now he was alive again. We can compare Paul’s approach with similar incidents in the lives of Elijah and Elisha who had both behaved in a similar way (1 Kings 17.21; 2 Kings 4.34). It was a deliberate imitation which confirmed that he saw the young man as really dead. None there failed to recognise that it was a miracle, and Paul’s imitation of Elijah and Elisha would seem to confirm it. Paul’s confidence was similar to that of Jesus when He had said, ‘she is not dead, but sleeps’ over another who was really dead (Luke 8.52). Like his Lord he did not want to make a great fuss over what had happened. This was not denying that a ‘miracle’ had happened but declaring that with God at work, all was well. Where Jesus is present in the midst of death, life comes. The fact that as a result of it the church was ‘not a little comforted’ confirms that they saw it as a miracle, not just as a lucky escape. It was confirmation to all that God was the Lord of both life and death, and that therefore they could safely leave Paul’s future in His hands. The tragedy had become a huge encouragement for the whole church, especially in view of Paul’s quiet assurance which demonstrated that he expected God to do this kind of thing.

    ‘His life is in him.’ An echo of 1 Kings 17.23. Paul is following Elijah’s example. Paul may have been thinking of this incident when he wrote to the Ephesians, ‘Awake you who sleep and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light’ (Ephesians 5.14).

    20.11 ‘And when he was gone up, and had broken the bread, and eaten, and had talked with them a long while, even till break of day, so he departed.’

    Then Paul returned quietly to the upper room where they continued their fellowship meal and he continued to talk with them until morning. The miracle had given them much to talk about and he knew that he would not see them again for a long time, if ever.

    It is interesting to note that the Lord’s Supper was taken after midnight. The early church probably did not distinguish ‘days’ quite as clearly as we do. ‘The first day of the week’ was a guide not a dogma, and we do not even know whether it was reckoned here on Jewish (evening to evening) or Greek reckoning. Originally it would have begun on Jewish reckoning in accordance with the day of resurrection, so that the practise may have continued. If that is so then the whole of the meeting was on the first day of the week. But it is doubtful if the early church would have even thought about it. They would probably simply have seen the first day of the week as extending. (We can only too easily become obsessed with dates and details).

    20.12 ‘And they brought the lad alive, and were not a little comforted.’

    And they brought the young man up with them, a living witness to God’s power to raise the dead, and received great comfort from what had happened. With a God like this working through Paul what was there for them or him to fear? They had all had further evidence of the power of life that was at work in the world.

    20.13-14 ‘But we going before to the ship set sail for Assos, there intending to take in Paul, for so he had appointed, intending himself to go by land. And when he met us at Assos, we took him in, and came to Mitylene.’

    It would appear at this point that Paul wanted to be on his own, for he left Luke and the others to go by ship to Assos while he travelled overland for about twenty miles along a hilly road. The journey by sea was 30 miles and involved the rounding of Cape Lectum against the strong prevailing north-easterly winds. Probably Luke did not know what the reason for this plan was. Perhaps Paul was a little overborne by people wanting to question him about the miracle. Perhaps he wanted a little time alone on a twenty mile hike as he faced up to the warnings about the future. Or perhaps there was someone he wanted to call on before embarking. It may have been Carpus, because he wanted to entrust to him some precious parchments so that they would not be lost by his coming captivity in Jerusalem. As he wrote to Timothy later, ‘When you come bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments’ (2 Timothy 4.13). Or perhaps he wished to spend a few more hours in Troas before taking horse to Assos on the Roman coastal road. Whichever way it was Luke remembers him meeting them again in Assos where he boarded ship and went with them to Mitylene, an important seaport on the island of Lesbos which was favoured by the Romans as a holiday resort. We are not told how long the forty four miles to Mitylene took. Except when necessary in open sea, ships did not usually choose to sail at night unless they had to, as we now discover.

    20.15-16 ‘And sailing from there, we came the following day over against Chios; and the next day we touched at Samos; and the day after we came to Miletus. For Paul had determined to sail past Ephesus, that he might not have to spend time in Asia, for he was hastening, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost.’

    Due to the writer having been with the party we have a detailed description of a well remembered journey as they proceed on the voyage. Perhaps the full detail is given in order to stress the emotional tension in which they all were, each one counting the stops to Jerusalem as they went forward with agonising slowness, aware that for Paul there were dark times ahead. We can compare how in the story of Abraham offering Isaac every detail is given in order to prolong the agony (Genesis 22). Or they may indicate to those knowledgeable about that coast the speed at which they were travelling. But Paul is careful not to stop at Ephesus. This is stated as simply being in order to avoid any delay. Had he stopped at Ephesus he might have felt obliged to spend ‘seven days’ there. That would not, however, have fitted in with his plans as he wanted to be in Jerusalem by Pentecost. On the other hand he may have determined it because it would have meant leaving that ship and obtaining another, as it did not wish to unload at Ephesus, something which would have caused further delays.

    The aim to be in Jerusalem by Pentecost, one of the three great feasts of the Jews, may have been for a number of reasons:

    • 1) It may well have been because he wanted to demonstrate to his Jewish Christian brethren, and even to the Jews, that he himself was still concerned to be a true Jew. By this he was following in the steps of the Master. We remember how the Pharisees, while they criticised His disciples for it, never criticised Jesus for failing to observe proper cleansing ritual. It was a sign that while He did not consider it strictly necessary (He allowed the disciples not to do it) He Himself did so in order to avoid causing offence. As He said to His disciples, ‘observe what they say, just do not do what they do’ (Matthew 23.3). In the same way we have no reason to think that Paul ever dropped his Jewishness even when consorting freely with Gentiles (many Diaspora Jews and Jewish Christians would regularly consort with Gentiles for business purposes and maintain their Jewishness). What he did not allow it to do was keep him apart from them. He tried to steer a middle course.
    • 2) He may have wanted to celebrate Pentecost in Jerusalem as the anniversary of the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit which had begun the outward movement of the word of which he had been such a vial part.
    • 3) He would see Pentecost, the time of bringing the firstfruits, as the ideal time for arriving and presenting to the Jewish Christian leaders the large sum of money that he and his companions had brought as a gift from the Gentile churches. Doing this while all of Judaea were in Jerusalem, along with many other Jews and Jewish Christians from elsewhere, as a kind of donation of firstfruits, would give maximum publicity to the Gentiles’ generous gift, would give it a special religious significance (compare Romans 15.26-27 where he sees it as the Gentiles partly repaying the debt that they owed to the Jews because they had been made partakers of spiritual things which proceeded from the Jews), and would hopefully warm the hearts of the Jewish Christians, and even of Jews who benefited, towards their Gentile brethren. He may well too have seen it as a kind of fulfilment of Isaiah 60.9-12, with the pilgrim Jews arriving on ships also laden with Gentile treasure, thus revealing to all that the eschatological days of the end were here when Gentiles were to be welcomed as Gentiles, as James had earlier recognised (see on 15.16). The fact that Paul had great hopes that this gift would soften the Jews towards the work among the Gentiles was probably one reason why Paul had been so eager to bring it himself. Perhaps at first he had hoped that it would soften their hearts towards him, although he was to learn from prophecies that that was unlikely.

    Chios was a city on the island of Chios and a free port, Samos was an island west of Ephesus, Miletus was on the mainland thirty miles south of Ephesus. It may be that there were no established churches on these islands, for no mention is made of any contact with them, or it may simply mean that they were not contactable in the time available.

    Paul’s Address To The Elders of the Ephesian Church (20.17-38).

    20.17 ‘And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called to him the elders of the church.’

    Arriving in Miletus Paul then sent messengers to Ephesus to request the elders of the church there to meet him at Miletus, which would involve them in a journey of about thirty miles, so that he could give them his final words. This would mean a stop of a number of days in Miletus, which may well have been require for unloading and loading cargo. The finality of the statement, ‘You will see my face no more’, may only signify that he was aware that once he had arrived in Rome, which was his intended destination after Jerusalem, his further intention was to go on to Spain and what lay beyond (Romans 15.24, 28). It may simply suggest that he now saw his ministry in this part of the world as completed. Others could carry it through from now on. It need not be an absolute statement. We may often say, ‘you won’t be seeing me again’ when we mean in the foreseeable future. Thus he may simply have been indicating that he intended to go to regions far away and that therefore they must not be expecting to see him again within the foreseeable future. But because he was aware of what they might face he wanted to warn them before he went of the troubles that might lie in store.

    The speech is typically Pauline with Pauline phrases and ideas in it. It bears his stamp. We may briefly analyse it as follows:

    • a Paul describes to them the personal pattern and full depths of his ministry to the Ephesians (18-21).
    • b He describes what has caused him to want to speak to them and the fate that awaits him (22-24).
    • c He confirms that he has faithfully proclaimed the Kingly Rule of God to them and has taught them ‘the whole counsel of God’ so that they are fully knowledgeable about His ways and saving purposes (25-27).
    • d He warns them to watch over the church faithfully because of false teachers who will come among them and rise up among them, so that they must constantly be on the watch in order to combat them (28-31).
    • c He commends them to God, under Whose Kingly Rule they are, and to the word of His grace (the whole counsel of God) which can build them up and give them their inheritance among those who are made holy by faith in Him, thus fulfilling His saving purposes (32).
    • b He stresses that he has never personally taken advantage of them in any way while ministering to them (33-34).
    • a He finally describes what he has shown them in order to make them suitable for their ministry to the Ephesians (35)

    Thus in ‘a’ and its parallel he is describing his and their ministerial responsibility to the Ephesians past and present. In ‘b’ he describes what he is to suffer, demonstrating his own willing self-sacrifice, and in the parallel that the same lack of self-seeking could be seen in the way he had behaved towards them. In ‘c’ he lays out the foundation teaching that he had given them concerning salvation, and in the parallel commends them to it so that they will indeed be truly saved. It will be noted that the central feature of his speech in ‘d’ is his warning concerning the troubles that will come on the church, followed by the assurance of His protection for those who trusted Him.

    This last makes it significant that according to the introductory analysis above this speech is in parallel with the description of the terrible storms that Paul would later face, from which few would have escaped with their lives had it not been for the undeserved goodness of God and their readiness to trust Him. Thus the setting of the two together in this way was partly in order to give Luke’s readers a picture of the storms and perils that lay ahead for the Ephesian church, and to indicate that their survival also would depend on God’s unmerited goodness, in the same way as it would for Paul and all the people in the dreadful and protracted storm. But the corollary was that if they obeyed God not a man would perish (see 27.30-44), just as none would perish in that horrendous storm if they obeyed God. In view of this it is an indication of the accuracy with which Luke gives us the content of Paul’s words that he introduces no seagoing metaphors into the speech. It must have been tempting to do so. (Although the verb used in verses 20 & 27 for ‘shunning, shrinking’ can mean ‘reefing sail’, but Paul would be hearing much seagoing language at the time and it is not directly related to the warnings as it would have been if Luke had introduced it).

    Paul Describes The Personal Pattern and Full Depths Of His Ministry to the Ephesians (18-21).

    We may ask, why did Paul spend so much time in this speech talking about himself? Some have suggested that he was necessarily combating criticism. But a careful consideration of the speech opens us up to another suggestion, and that is that it was carefully worded so as to be an object lesson to the elders as to how they too should go about their ministry. He could have given a lecture on, ‘how to be a good elder’. And they might have taken down notes and gone away and studied it, or lost the notes. But it would have been very formal. But these men all loved Paul. And as he described the kind of ministry that he had conducted they would all have been nodding their agreement. And they would all be becoming enthused with what sort of people they now ought to be. Here was an example to follow. Indeed he points out at the end that that is precisely what he wants them to do, he wants them to follow his example (verse 35). Seen in this light his message gains new meaning. He is saying, ‘go and do likewise’.

    20.18-21 ‘And when they were come to him, he said to them, “You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, after what manner I was with you all the time, serving the Lord with all lowliness of mind, and with tears, and with trials which befell me by the plots of the Jews, how I shrank not from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” ’

    We have in these words an overall picture of the dedication with which Paul sought to serve the churches, especially in Ephesus, and what his main message was, ‘repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ’. He had wanted them to ‘change their mind and heart and will’ (repent) so as to see God in a new way as the One, living, invisible, transcendent, holy God Who was Lord over heaven and earth (13.15-17; 17.24-29), having a change of heart and mind from their old ideas and ways (compare Jeremiah 26.3; Hosea 6.1-3). He had wanted them to ‘turn to God from idols’ (1 Thessalonians 1.9). And he had wanted them to recognise in Jesus the One Who was both Lord and Messiah (2.36), their divine Saviour, and to put their trust in Him. To any Gentile the idea of Lordship as associated with God would regularly indicate a Saviour.

    Note his dedication and constancy:

    • ‘From the first day that I set foot in Asia’ - He had wasted no time in delay. He had set to work as soon as he arrived so that not a minute should be lost.
    • ‘I was with you all the time’ - nothing else was allowed to hinder his dedication or prevent him giving fully of himself. His whole time was devoted to helping them and doing God’s will.
    • ‘Serving the Lord’ - his whole aim was to give himself continually to the service of the Lord in every way possible. This is a typical Pauline phrase and the idea occurs regularly in his letters. Compare Romans 12.11; and see also 1 Corinthians 7.22; Ephesians 6.7; Colossians 3.24; 1 Thessalonians 1.9; 2 Timothy 2.24.
    • ‘With all lowliness of mind’ - he served in meekness and humility and without seeking to lord it over them or gain any credit or honour for himself. He did not seek to think of himself above what he ought to think. He remembered that he was their servant, for Jesus’ sake. This phrase is another typical Paulinism (Philippians 2.3; Colossians 3.12).
    • ‘With tears, and with trials’ - in His service he boldly faced suffering, persecution, unpopularity and the fierce hatred of men, together with disappointments and heartaches, not as one who was unfeeling, but as one whose heart was burdened down by love.
    • ‘I shrank not from declaring to you anything that was profitable’ - he did not court popularity, but presented every aspect of the truth that he felt would assist them to know Christ and walk with Him truly, even when he knew that they might not like it. His one concern was whether it might be helpful to them.
    • ‘Teaching you publicly, and from house to house’ - he took every opportunity for service, both in the synagogues and the meeting house and the marketplace and by going to smaller gatherings held in different houses, and even possibly chatting from door to door.

    We only have to consider each of these statements to recognise that here indeed was a lecture on ‘How to be a good elder’. When we read it we must not just say, what a wonderful man Paul was. We must say, ‘Is my life like this. Am I too following in his steps?’ (Philippians 3.17). The same was true for the Ephesian elders.

    He Describes What Has Caused Him To Want To Speak To Them And The Fate That Awaits Him (22-24).

    20.22-23 “And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will befall me there, save that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me.”

    He declares that he is not sure what is to befall him but does know that bonds and affliction await him, and that he must necessarily go forward. He cannot escape, for he is already bound by the bonds of the Spirit Who holds him captive, taking him inexorably forward in the fulfilment of His will.

    He knows that this is so because in every place that he visits prophets warn him of the bonds and affliction that lie ahead. Luke has avoided mentioning this previously lest it became too repetitive. He will shortly give specific examples. So like Jesus before him, Paul goes steadfastly towards Jerusalem in order to suffer for Christ’s sake, because he knows that only through that suffering can God’s purposes be fulfilled. He will not shrink from anything that will enable him to fully accomplish God’s will, even the ‘much tribulation’ through which we must enter under the Kingly Rule of God (14.22).

    20.24 “But I do not hold my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may accomplish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify the good news of the grace of God.”

    Indeed he does not consider himself at all when making his decisions. He will not cling to his life or count it as of more value than being faithful to God’s service, for he knows that his life is of little value except as it is spent in fulfilling the pathway and ministry that the Lord Jesus has set before him to follow and do. And all this is so that he may testify to the good news of the unmerited favour and compassionate mercy and activity of God (‘the grace of God’). This is his ministry and lifework and nothing else matters.

    Paul is not here seeking to arouse great admiration for himself. He is telling them of his own dedication, in order that it might be a call to their hearts to go and be the same. He is hoping for a like response. He is not only saying ‘Pray for me.’ He is also saying, ‘You also must face life with the same constancy’.

    He Confirms That He Has Faithfully Proclaimed the Kingly Rule of God to Them and Has Taught Them ‘The Whole Counsel of God, So That They Are Fully Knowledgeable About His Ways and Saving Purposes (20.25-27).

    20.25 “And now, behold, I know that you all, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will see my face no more.”

    He had proclaimed to them the Kingly Rule of God, both as a present reality and as a future hope. But in view of his future plans which will take him far away he is aware that this is the last time that they will see him. If he survives what awaits him in Jerusalem, God’s plans for him will take him elsewhere (Romans 15.24), so that he will no longer be visiting Asia Minor. Many see this phrase as suggesting a foreboding of death, but that is to read in what is not said. It is rather an indication that he knows that whatever the future holds, it will not be a future in Asia Minor.

    20.26-27 “For which reason I testify to you this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I shrank not from declaring to you the whole counsel (or ‘will’) of God.”

    And this is why he wants them to know that he has fully discharged his responsibility. That he is pure from the blood of all men. That he has done all that he could. That no charge of unfaithfulness can be laid at his door. Because at no stage has he shrunk from, or failed in his responsibility to, the declaration to them of every aspect of God’s purposes, and way, and will, and being. He has shown them all that God has provided for them and requires of them. He has left nothing out.

    No doubt it was important to Paul that all recognised that he had done his duty. But it is also a call to them to consider the words of Ezekiel 33.8 and be the same as he was. He has given an example that they might follow in his steps as he follows Christ (1 Corinthians 11.1).

    He Warns Them to Watch Over The Church Faithfully Because of False Teachers Who Will Come Among Them and Rise Up Among Them, So That They Must Constantly Be On The Watch In Order To Combat Them (28-31).

    As the central point in the chiasmus we now come to the idea to which all the remainder is pointing, the dangers that lie ahead for the church as a result of false teachers. He has good cause to recognise this danger. It is this kind of thing that above all has caused his tears. As he looks back to what had already happened to the churches in Galatia (Galatians 4.11, 19) and Corinth (2 Corinthians 2.4) and Syrian Antioch, he knows that at some point Ephesus must face it too. For Satan is ever active. He has seen it too often before not to be aware that it will come. And he wants them to be ready for it. It is no accident that in the larger chiasmus from 19.21-28.31 (see above) this parallels the almost unbelievable storm described in 27.14-44 which illustrates so vividly what the effects of false words can be in seeking to sweep away the souls of men, and what we must be willing to sacrifice in order to come through unscathed. There men were ready to betray those who trusted in them. And it was only because men listened to Paul’s words that they were prevented. Luke is letting us all know that if we are to come through the storms of life safely we must cling to nothing other than God, but must willingly let all go, so that we may go forward with our whole trust in God and His word alone.

    20.28 “Take heed to yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you bishops (overseers), to feed the church of the Lord which he purchased with his own blood.”

    He makes clear to them their prime future responsibility:

    • He warns them first to watch for themselves. Only by careful attention to the word of God, and a watchful care for each other, will they be able to steer a sure course, and be faithful undersheperds. The undershepherds must first ensure their own soundness in the faith.
    • Then he tells them that as faithful undershepherds they must carefully watch over all the flock, not just the nice ones, but the awkward and weak ones as well. They have a responsibility before God for every single one of them, and must give account for them all.
    • He reminds them of their privilege. The Holy Spirit Himself has appointed them as overseers/guardians (‘bishops’) of the flock. Their responsibility is from God Himself, so that they too might be humble, following Paul’s (verse 19) and Christ’s (Matthew 11.29; Mark 10.45) example. Note the plurality of bishops in each city, and that the elders and bishops are synonymous. The church was not monarchic, but oligarchic. They ruled by common agreement as guided by the Holy Spirit, as servants of God’s people, not as their masters.

      The Holy Spirit may have appointed them through prophecy, or as a result of general acceptance by the church because of their gifts, or more probably both. This plural oversight is in the end essential in the church, otherwise it becomes a dictatorship and response to ideas can become stilted, or alternately too much emphasis is laid on the minister with the result that he can become like a god, and when he goes many drop away.

    • And the reason that they have been made overseers and guardians is so that they might feed ‘the church of the Lord’, not be fed by it. They are to remember that it is the Lord’s church, purchased with His own blood, and that they must therefore as faithful undershepherds be responsible to the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5.4) for ensuring that it is properly fed and watched over. Jesus had said to Peter three times, ‘feed/tend my sheep’ (John 21.15-17). This was now the responsibility of all the elders of the churches.
    • ‘Which he purchased with his own blood.’ Or ‘with the blood of One Who is His own’. Either way this is a statement of the full deity of Christ, and of the doctrine of redemption through His blood sacrifice, through the sacrifice of Christ (1 Corinthians 5.7). He paid a price in death that we might live. See Romans 3.24; 1 Corinthians 6.20; 7.23; Ephesians 1.7; 5.25; Hebrews 9.11-14; 10.10-14; 1 Peter 1.18-20. The emphasis is on the price paid, not on to whom it is paid, although in the end it is paid to the justice of God. Man had to be bought from under the legal consequences of his own sin, by the payment of the necessary price, and had to be set free from the bondage of Satan. There had to be ‘satisfaction’. In the Old Testament, the idea of redemption often includes the idea of the exertion of power in deliverance. That too lies behind these words. But we cannot get away from an emphasis on the cost.

    20.29-30 “I know that after my departing grievous wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock, and from among your own selves will men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.”

    He warns that the attacks will come from without and within. Wolves will find their way in from outside, deceitful, lying, thieving shepherds will be found inside. Neither will spare the flock. Men, themselves being deceived, will deceive others. He had already witnessed this himself in the troubles brought on the churches by the Judaisers.

    For false prophets as wolves see Matthew 7.15. For the opponents and antagonistic authorities as wolves see Matthew 10.16; Luke 10.3. The consequences of men who have offered themselves as teachers of truth but have in fact simply led men astray are so obvious today that little needs to be said. And the sad thing is that they are often the nicest of men, for it is the art of the con man, even the unconscious con man, to be nice.

    That this began at some stage to happen in the Ephesian church comes out in that later Paul left Timothy with them, and one of the reasons for his doing so was in order to deal with some who were seeking to lead others astray (1 Timothy 1.3-8, 20; 4.1-7; 6.3-6, 20-21). There would of course have been a number of different assemblies in the large Ephesian church. We must not necessarily see the whole church as affected. But it was clearly an important issue.

    20.31 “For which reason watch you, remembering that by the space of three years I ceased not to admonish every one night and day with tears.”

    He reminds them how while he was with them over the ‘three year’ period he had not ceased, often with tears, to admonish them night and day so as to lead them into and keep them in the truth (compare 2 Corinthians 2.4; Philippians 3.18). Let them therefore take the more earnest heed (Romans 11.21; 1 Corinthians 10.12; Hebrews 2.1), and let them follow his example. Let them too learn to weep and admonish.

    He Commends Them to God, Under Whose Kingly Rule They Are, and To The Word of His Grace (the whole counsel of God) Which Can Build Them Up and Give Them Their Inheritance Among Those Who Are Made Holy By Faith in Him, Thus Fulfilling His Saving Purposes (32).

    20.32 “And now I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”

    But Paul knows the place of safety and security. It is to be found in God Himself, and in the full teaching concerning His grace (compare verse 24), and of how men are saved through that grace (God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense). ‘The word’ is the message preached (compare 1 Corinthians 1.18), but especially as found in the Scriptures and in the Testimony of Jesus, that (then) partly written partly oral tradition of the life and teaching of Jesus.

    ‘The word of His grace.’ That is, the teaching concerning the unmerited love and compassion of God reaching out in Jesus Christ to all who believe as defined in Romans 3.24; 5.15, 17, 21; 8.28-30; 2 Corinthians 8.9; 9.8; Ephesians 1.6; 2.7-10; 2 Timothy 1.9.

    And that teaching concerning salvation by the grace of God is not only the means through God’s working of their salvation, but is also the means by which His people might be built up and established and made strong (1 Corinthians 3.10-16; Ephesians 2.21-22; Jude 1.20).

    ‘And to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.’ And its final end is so that all His own might receive their inheritance, both now and in the future. This inheritance, which consists of all that God purposes for His people, is for all who are ‘sanctified’. In this case to be sanctified means that Christ has been made their sanctification (1 Corinthians 1.30 compare John 17.19; Hebrews 10.10), that they are sanctified, acceptable to God in holiness, in Him (27.18; 1 Corinthians 1.2; 6.11; Romans 15.16), although it will of course result in practical sanctification (2 Timothy 2.21).

    To be sanctified means to be set apart as holy, as totally His as available for His use (2 Timothy 2.21). And the moment the newest believer responds to Christ he is in that moment sanctified for ever. He has become one of God’s holy people. He is called a ‘saint’, a sanctified one (1 Corinthians 1.2), one ‘set apart’. And this because the very holiness of Christ has covered and enveloped him ‘in Christ’. His life is then hid with Christ in God (Colossians 3.3). This sanctification is the work of God (Jude 1.1), of Christ (1 Corinthians 1.2) and of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15.16’ 1 Corinthians 6.11). And all this because of His ‘grace’, His unmerited love and favour revealed to us in Christ by the Holy Spirit.

    Thus all who are His will receive their inheritance because they are in Him, and are sanctified in Him.

    He Stresses That He Has Never Personally Taken Advantage Of Them In Any Way While Ministering To Them (33-34).

    20.33 “I coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities, and to those who were with me.”

    ‘I coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel.’ How could he even wish to when he was a recipient of Christ’s inheritance? But he wants them to recognise that it was nevertheless true, and that he did not just teach the doctrines of faith. He believed in them and lived by them.

    So he points out that he had been satisfied with his inheritance. In no way had he ever obtained any earthly benefit from them. He had not desired or accepted gold, or silver or clothing. He had rather laboured with his own hands to provide himself with the necessities of food and clothing, both for himself and his companions. For what God gave him was sufficient for him. This was in a day when there were many travelling teachers and philosophers who in return for their services expected both. Indeed some in the Corinthian church had actually suggested that the fact that he had not been paid for his preaching demonstrated his inferiority (2 Corinthians 11.7, 20).

    Paul made a point of never receiving gifts from churches unless he was absolutely certain that they came from hearts that overflowed with genuine love and fellowship, and never while he was working among them. He did not state that it was wrong to do so. He even said that it was his right in the Gospel (1 Corinthians 9.14). But he would still not do it (1 Corinthians 9.15-18). Thus this was very much a Pauline attitude. And it was to be seen by the elders as an example to follow as he now makes clear.

    20.35 “In all things I gave you an example, that so labouring you ought to help the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, which he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’.”

    And now he wants them to take what he has done as an example that they too might labour without charge, helping the weak and remembering what the Lord Jesus Himself had taught, ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive’. Thus they are to be givers, not receivers. For those who give are the ones who will truly be blessed, for they enjoy both the thrill of giving and benefiting others, and the certainty that the Lord will reward them (Matthew 10.42).

    This may have been Paul’s interpretation of sayings such as, ‘freely you have received, freely give’ (Matthew 10.8). ‘Give to him who asks of you’ (Matthew 5.42; Luke 6.30). ‘Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that you measure out, in that way it will be measured to you again’ (Luke 6.38). ‘But rather give charitably of such things as you have; and, behold, all things are clean to you (Luke 11.41). ‘Sell what you possess, and give charitable gifts. Provide yourselves with wallets which do not grow old, a treasure in the heaven that does not fail, where no thief approaches, nor moth spoils’ (Luke 12.33). The thought is certainly the same. But there is really no reason why Paul might not have known of such an actual saying. We do in fact lack considerable amounts of what Jesus taught, and it has His ring to it.

    On these words of Jesus about being more blessed to give than to receive, which epitomised his whole message, he ended his message. He had given them much to think about as to how to conduct their own ministries.

    20.36 ‘And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down and prayed with them all.’

    Once he had finished speaking Paul then kneeled down and prayed with them all. His action was such as to emphasise how deeply he felt, for it was quite a regular practise to pray standing (Luke 18.11). But he wanted them to be aware that they were before the Lord of all, before Whom every knee should bow (Philippians 2.9-11)

    20.37-38 ‘And they all wept grievously, and fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the word which he had spoken, that they would behold his face no more. And they brought him on his way to the ship.’

    And they all responded in like kind. They wept grievously, they hugged him, they kissed him on the cheek and on the arms, and they were filled with sorrow at his warning that they would not see him again. Such a sense of finality on parting always adds to its poignancy. It would seem, however, that it was misplaced, for 1 Timothy appears to suggest that he did go among them again, probably before going to Spain (1 Timothy 1.3).

    A Series Of Maritime Stages And Of Prophecies (verses 4 and 11) (Which Reveal That God Is With Him) On The Way To Jerusalem (21.1-16).

    This passage is paralleled by 27.1-26 which will again depict a maritime journey in stages together with prophecies. But this is on the way to Jerusalem. Then it will be on the way to Rome. In both cases he has a similar agonising journey, and in both cases God reveals through prophecy that He is with him.

    21.1-2 ‘And when it came to about that we were parted from them and had set sail, we came with a straight course to Cos, and the next day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara, and having found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, we went aboard, and set sail.’

    The suspense continues. The ship continued slowly down the coast of Asia Minor to Cos on the mainland and then across the strait to the island of Rhodes, and then back to Patara on the mainland, getting ever closer to Jerusalem. It was at Patara that large ships could be found for the sea crossing. From there they would cross the open sea for four hundred miles to Phoenicia which would require a larger sea-going vessel rather than a coaster. It was the regular route from that part of Asia Minor to Phoenicia. So at Patara they changed vessels and found one that was crossing over to Phoenicia. Going aboard this vessel they set sail.

    21.3 ‘And when we had come in sight of Cyprus, leaving it on the left hand, we sailed to Syria, and landed at Tyre, for there the ship was to unload her cargo.’

    Soon they passed by Cyprus on their left, and then continued on to Syria, landing at Tyre because it was there that the ship was to unload its cargo. We are here reminded that much of what happened on the voyage had been partly determined by the ships’ schedules. Compare 15.3 for a previous visit to the area.

    21.4 ‘And having found the disciples, we tarried there seven days, and these said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not set foot in Jerusalem.’

    There at Tyre they spent the customary ‘seven days’ and it was here that Luke mentions for the first time the prophecies concerning what was to happen to Paul. But that these had been happening with alarming frequency we have already learned from 20.23. Here certain disciples who were prophets said to Paul through the Spirit that he should not set foot in Jerusalem. This must mean either that the Spirit had in prophecy warned them of what was to happen, and they then gave him the message that he should not set foot in Jerusalem, or that the message was given as a warning so that the churches would be aware of the situation, even though the Spirit knew that he would set foot in Jerusalem under His compulsion (19.21; 20.22).

    The seven days may have been the time necessary for the unloading of their cargo and the taking aboard of a new cargo. Either way it give opportunity for fellowship with, and teaching to, the Christians at Tyre.

    21.5-6 ‘And when it came about that we had accomplished the days, we departed and went on our journey, and they all, with wives and children, brought us on our way till we were out of the city. And kneeling down on the beach, we prayed, and bade each other farewell, and we went on board the ship, but they returned home again.’

    The seven days being ended they prepared to go on board, and the whole Tyrian church, including wives and children, came with them out of the city, and all kneeling on the beach, they prayed and bade each other farewell. It was a wonderful expression of Christian love and unity. If it was within sight of the ship it must have been a wonderful testimony to the amazed crew, which would give further opportunity of witnessing to them on what remained of the voyage.

    We note how Luke is desirous of bringing out these examples of Christian love. Perhaps he had in mind the words of Jesus, ‘By this will all men know that you My disciples if you have love one another’. (John 13.35). He wants us to know the genuineness of the faith of these churches. The word has accomplished its work, and it is the same everywhere.

    21.7 ‘And when we had finished the voyage from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais, and we saluted the brethren, and abode with them one day.’

    The voyage from Tyre brings them to Ptolemais (now Acre) where they probably landed for the last time. From now on it will be on foot. Here again they greeted the brethren and remained with them for a day, before proceeding.

    Some, however, consider that the one day stop was in order to unload some cargo and that they then sailed to Caesarea.

    21.8 ‘And on the morrow we departed, and came to Caesarea, and entering into the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, we abode with him.’

    Leaving Ptolemais they arrived in Caesarea, where they went to stay with Philip the evangelist, one of ‘the seven’ of the early days (6.3-6). He had probably been ministering here for many years. (He was not the same as the Apostle).

    21.9 ‘Now this man had four virgin daughters, who prophesied.’

    Luke then explains that Philip had four virgin daughters who were apparently official prophetesses (compare 2.17; 1 Corinthians 11.5). This was probably to be seen as an indication of his continued godliness and flourishing faith. It had passed on to his daughters. Here were women who had kept themselves as virgins the better to serve Christ. It was also an indication that the promise at Pentecost (2.17) was being fulfilled. Luke is constantly stressing the signs of the power of the word, which has changed men’s lives, by his mention of the love constantly being shown to Paul, the praying on the knees and now this prophesying. Now it is seen in these daughters. They were wonderful indications of the new life that they all enjoyed in Christ.

    21.10 ‘And as we tarried there some days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus.’

    Due to having made good time they were able to stay in Caesarea for a time and have fellowship with the church here. Perhaps Paul’s Gentile companions were able to have good fellowship with Cornelius and his household. And then from Judaea arrived the prophet Agabus. Predictive prophecy is relatively rare in the New Testament (it cannot be a coincidence that apart from the warnings concerning Paul little else is heard of predictive prophecy, except later by Paul and Peter, and of course John in Revelation), but Agabus appears to have been especially gifted in that direction. He was the one who had gone from Jerusalem to Syrian Antioch and had prophesied there the famine that was coming on ‘all the world’ (11.28).

    21.11 ‘And coming to us, and taking Paul’s girdle, he bound his own feet and hands, and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, So will the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this girdle, and will deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.” ’

    Agabus deliberately sought them out and then took Paul’s belt and used it to bind his own hands and feet. And then he declared that the Holy Spirit had shown him that the owner of that belt would himself be bound in the same way by the Jews in Jerusalem, and would then be handed over to the Gentiles. This last would be seen as the worst possible fate for a Jew. He would be unable to maintain his religious cleanliness and would be cut off from Israel.

    We note that this is the third time that Luke has mentioned these warnings, indicating completeness of warning (20.23; 21.4). He was in fact warned any number of times (20.23). This acted out prophecy of Agabus relates him to the Old Testament prophets who regularly acted out their prophecies (1 Kings 11.29-31; Isaiah 20.2-4; Jeremiah 13.1-7; Ezekiel 4.1-17).

    21.12 ‘And when we heard these things, both we and they of that place besought him not to go up to Jerusalem.’

    The result of the prophecy is that his companions, including Luke, together with the church at Caesarea pleaded with Paul not to go to Jerusalem.

    21.13 ‘Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” ’

    But Paul rebuked them. He knew that he was destined to go to Jerusalem and told them that their pleas were just making it harder for him. Indeed that their weeping was breaking his heart. But he wanted them to know that it was the Lord’s will, and that he was ready, not only to be bound at Jerusalem (which was what was prophesied), but also if necessary to die there. Neither he nor they realised the opportunities that his being bound would give him to testify before rulers, and to proclaim the word freely in Rome. Indeed in view of the hatred for Paul among the Jews, who were out to kill him, it may be that being in a kind of gentle captivity was the safest place from which to carry on his ministry.

    21.14 ‘And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, “The will of the Lord be done.” ’

    One they recognised that he believed that it was God’s will for him to be bound in Jerusalem, and that nothing would change his mind, they declared ‘The will of the Lord be done.’ Compare Luke 22.42, ‘not My will, but Yours be done’. Paul was continually following in His steps.

    21.15 ‘And after these days we took up our baggage and went up to Jerusalem.’

    Their time at Caesarea coming to an end they took up their baggage (which included the Collection) and went up to Jerusalem. The verb ‘took up our baggage’ may indicate that they used horses.

    21.16 ‘And there went with us also certain of the disciples from Caesarea, bringing with them one Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple, with whom we should lodge.’

    They were accompanied by certain disciples from Caesarea, together with Mnason who was from Cyprus, but had a house where they could lodge. He was an ‘early disciple’, probably from Pentecost days. He had invited them to stay with him. In view of the fact that Paul was a marked man his bravery in doing this must be recognised. All these men were willing to hazard their lives and their futures for Christ.

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