Acts 20:1-12 – Paul in Troas

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Acts 20:1

  1. When the unrest in Ephesus (Acts 19) had calmed down, Paul decides to travel on to Macedonia. Paul had spent 3 successful years in Ephesus and now it was time to move on (Acts 20:31).

Acts 20:3

  1. It was not that the Jews as a people were against Paul and the Christian faith. Jesus, Paul and all the early Christians were themselves Jews. The Jews referred to here are the Jews who did not accept Jesus as the Messiah and who actively opposed Paul’s missionary work.
  2. In the last chapter we saw how the Greeks were upset by the gospel, and in this chapter it is the Jews who are upset. So it wasn’t just one specific group that opposed Paul, but within all people groups, some accepted the message of Jesus while others opposed.
  3. Today, Christianity and Judaism exist as two separate religions, but if we go back 2000 years, we see that the Christian faith exists within Judaism. Jesus is a Jew and all his disciples are Jews. In the New Testament we can see two different kinds of Judaism crystallising: the “rabbinic Judaism” of the Pharisees and the “messianic Judaism” of Jesus. The clear distinction that exists today between these two was not nearly as clear in biblical times, but one can clearly see the origins of Messianic Judaism, i.e. Christianity, in biblical texts such as this one.
    1. Because the Jews had helped Julius Caesar in a war, the Jews had a religious exemption from the otherwise generally prevailing Roman imperial cult. All peoples occupied by the Romans would sacrifice to the emperor and thus worship the emperor as a god. This exemption also applied to the early Christians as long as the Romans considered Christians to be part of Judaism. But eventually, when Christianity and Judaism parted ways, this no longer applied to Christians, and those who refused to sacrifice to the emperor became martyrs. This in turn led to internal Christian divisions between those who had refused to sacrifice to the emperor and those who had agreed to do so.

Acts 20:4

  1. The name “Aristarchus” roughly means “the best ruler” and our Swedish word “aristocracy” is closely related.
  2. The Romans sometimes gave their slaves “numbers” as names: primus (first), secundus (second), tertius (third), quartus (fourth). The most important slave was named Primus and the second most important slave was named Sekundus, etc.
    1. We find several such names in the New Testament: Sekundus (Acts 20:4), Tertius (Romans 16:22) and Quartus (Romans 16:23).
    1. It is interesting to note that we do not find the name “Primus” (=first) in the Bible. Perhaps that name is reserved for Jesus Christ, who took “the form of a servant” (Phil 2:7) and who is in all things “the first” (Col 1:19)?
  3. It is certainly interesting that the noble name “Aristarkus” and the slave name “Sekundus” are mentioned together!
    1. A recurring teaching of Paul is: “Here is not Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female. You are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28)
    1. Perhaps these two were master and slave before they became Christians, but now they travel together as if they were brothers!

Acts 20:7

  1. It is not easy to determine exactly which day is meant here because the Jews and Romans counted the beginning of the day differently. The Jews believed that a new day began at sunset, i.e. at 18:00, while the Romans and Greeks counted from 00:00. What both agree on is at least that “the first day of the week” is Sunday.
    1. According to the Old Testament, the Jewish people celebrated the Sabbath on Saturday, the seventh day.
      1. It was only in 1972 that it was decided internationally that Monday would be the first day of the week.
    1. So we know that the Jews, according to the Old Testament, celebrated the Sabbath on Saturday and that the Christians, according to church history, eventually began to worship on Sunday, but has this change already taken place here in Acts?
      1. If Luke is using the Jewish time count, then this should reasonably be Saturday sometime after 6:00 pm, i.e. early Sunday according to Jewish time counting.
      1. If Luke is using the Roman-Greek era, this should be Sunday morning or evening, since common people worked on Sunday day.
        1. The evidence for this theory is that the “next day” (verse 7) was at “dawn” (verse 11). If Luke had counted according to the Jewish calendar, dawn would have been the same day.
        1. Moreover, it seems to be normal for Christians to gather on “the first day of the week” (1 Corinthians 16:2).
    1. The New Testament does not specify the exact day of worship and there is no requirement to worship on either Saturday or Sunday. It makes sense that the Christian Jews worshipped on Saturday because they were accustomed to it and still kept the Sabbath on that day. It is also not unreasonable that Christian Romans and Greeks celebrated worship on Sunday because it was more natural for them.
      1. The main reason for celebrating worship on Sunday is that it was the day Jesus rose from the dead (Matthew 28:1).
      1. The important thing is not exactly what day you worship, but that you worship.
  2. From this text it is clear that the first Christians gathered and celebrated communion together, but there is also an interesting outside note about what else the Christians did when they gathered. Here’s what the Roman senator Pliny the Younger wrote about the first Christians around 110: “They met on a certain day before it was light, and addressed a form of prayer to Christ, as to a deity.”
    1. Pliny was a Roman senator who mentions and describes the Christians in a letter to Emperor Trajan in order to ask his advice on how to deal with them. Since Pliny died in 113, this letter was written only 20 years after the Apostle John wrote his Gospel. Even so early in the history of Christianity, outside Roman government officials describe Christians as praying to Christ as a deity.
  3. From 1 Corinthians 11, it is clear that the “breaking of bread” of the early Christians was something more than the traditional celebration of the Lord’s Supper that most Christians do today. They gathered for a “meal of love” (2 Pet 2:13), eating together while also lifting up the bread and wine in remembrance of Jesus.
  4. Here we see another interpretation of “preaching biblically”, namely, preaching long sermons! 😉
    1. Paul had a lot to impart to the Christians in Troas, so he taught as much as he could.
      1. From this we can learn that there is indeed much that we Christians need to learn. When we gather for worship, it is important that we gather around God’s word and try to understand what God wants to communicate to us.
      1. The message of the Bible is important, it is not just a programme item that needs to be covered at some point during the service. God wants to teach us how to live through the study of his Word. 
    1. So it seems that even in biblical times, Christians gathered on Sunday, celebrated communion together, listened to God’s word, prayed, sang praises together (Matt 26:30) and collected a collection (1 Cor 16:2).
      1. Even today, 2000 years later, we gather in this way.

Acts 20:9-10

  1. Again, we see that names often also have some kind of message in the text. The name Eutykus means “fortunate”, and it is fair to say that he was!
  2. The author of Acts, Luke, was a physician by profession (Col 4:14), and here we see how he observes this event through the eyes of a physician. Luke notes that Eutychus fell from the “third floor” and that he was “dead”. What happened next was undoubtedly a miracle of God!
    1. Like Elijah (1 Kings 17:17-24) and Elisha (2 Kings 4:32-37), Paul bowed over Eutychus and was thus brought back from death.
    1. Similarly, Jesus observed that a little girl who had just died was not dead at all (Mark 5:39).
  3. Probably Paul’s preaching came off a bit when Eutychus died, but must have become quite exciting when Eutychus miraculously came back to life!
  4. Even today, people fall asleep when someone is preaching, even though today’s preachers often preach for only 20 to 40 minutes, compared to Paul’s all-night sermon.
    1. Often a lack of interest starts even before the sermon and is reinforced the longer the sermon takes. But anyone who listens to a sermon with a hunger for God’s Word will be satisfied!
  5. Although this incident is quite innocent because it was probably due to the fumes from “the many lamps” in the room (verse 8), there is a worse kind of sleep that Christians can fall into and that both Jesus and Paul warn against (Mark 13:33-37, 1Thess 5:6-11).
    1. Jesus’ parable of a man who goes away is matched today by a manager who goes on a business trip. How do we behave at work when the boss is away? Do we do our job dutifully or do we go to bed and sleep because the boss won’t see us anyway?
    1. The same applies to us today, how do we Christians do our job; i.e. the Great Commission? Are we fulfilling our duty to the poor and sick? Are we witnessing to our faith? Do we immerse ourselves in our personal discipleship?
  6. A Christian needs to be “awake” so that he or she is always living the Christian life as an active disciple of Jesus. A sleeping Christian forgets the church and loses interest in his own discipleship.
    1. Christians who are “asleep” need to be “awakened” so that they begin to care more about God’s Word, prayer, worship, evangelism, mission and service.
    1. From this imagery we have the word “revival”, which is about Christians waking up and starting to take God’s word seriously.
    1. A revival always starts among Christians who wake up in their Christian life and begin to take the Great Commission seriously, leading to many being saved.
    1. Often we Christians gather together and ask God for a revival in the hope that people will flock to the church and be saved. Instead, perhaps we should simply obey the Great Commission and see how people are saved once we begin to witness to Jesus.
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