Setting

During Paul’s two-year stay in Ephesus, the work of God prospered in that city and impacted the whole of Asia. But Paul’s ministry was not without opposition. Demetrius, a silversmith anxious over the potential loss of profit, incited his fellow tradesmen to start a city-wide uproar. But, fortunately, it was put to rest by the city clerk. After the uproar, Paul left Ephesus to go to Macedonia and Achaia to see the brethren in those regions, before heading toward Jerusalem as he had purposed to do.

Key Verse

(20:24)

Did You Know...?

1. Break bread (20:7,11): “break bread” (klasai arton) refers to partaking of the Holy Communion, whereas “broke bread and ate” (klasas ton arton kai geusamenos) refers to an ordinary meal. [ref]
2. Assos (20:13): “a sea-port town of Proconsular Asia, in the district of Mysia, on the north shore of the Gulf of Adramyttium. Paul came hither on foot along the Roman road from Troas (Acts 20:13,14), a distance of 20 miles. It was about 30 miles distant from Troas by sea.” [ref]
3. Mitylene (20:14): “the chief city of the island of Lesbos, on its east coast, in the Aegean Sea.” [ref]
4. Chios (20:15): “an island in the Aegean Sea, about 5 miles distant from the mainland, having a roadstead, in the shelter of which Paul and his companions anchored for a night when on his third missionary return journey. It is now called Scio.” [ref]
5. Samos (20:15): “an island in the AEgean Sea… It is about 27 miles long and 20 broad, and lies about 42 miles south-west of Smyrna.” [ref]
6. Trogyllium (20:15): “is the rocky extremity of the ridge of Mycale, exactly opposite Samos… A little to the east of the extreme point there is an anchorage, which is still called St. Paul’s port.” [ref]
7. Miletus (20:15): “a seaport town and the ancient capital of Ionia, about 36 miles south of Ephesus.” [ref]
8. Cos (21:1): “an island in the Aegean Sea… It was famous for being the birth place of Apelles the painter, and Hippocrates the physician.” [ref]
9. Rhodes (21:1): “an island to the south of the western extremity of Asia Minor, between Cos and Patara, about 46 miles long and 18 miles broad.” [ref]
10. Patara (21:1): “a city on the south-west coast of Lycia” [ref]
11. Phoenicia (21:2): “a strip of land of an average breadth of about 20 miles along the shores of the Mediterranean, from the river Eleutherus in the north to the promontory of Carmel in the south, about 120 miles in length.” [ref]
12. Tyre (21:3): “the chief city of Phoenicia, famous for navigation and commerce: it stood about four furlongs distant from the shore, and was joined to the continent by Alexander the Great” [ref]
13. Ptolemais (21:7) was a maritime city of Galilee.

Outline

  • Ministry in Macedonia and Greece
    (20:1-6)
  • Ministry at Troas and Resurrection of Eutychus
    (20:7-12)
  • From Troas to Miletus
    (20:13-16)
  • Paul’s last exhortation to the Ephesian Elders
    (20:17-38)
  • Journey to Jerusalem
    (21:1-17)
  • Miletus to Tyre
    (21:1-3)
  • Visiting the disciples at Tyre
    (21:4-6)
  • Short stay at Ptolemais
    (21:7)
  • Visiting Philip at Caesarea
    (21:8-14)
  • Final leg of journey to Jerusalem
    (21:15-17)

General Analysis

  • 1.

    The passage of this lesson gives us much insight into Paul’s heart and conduct as a servant of the Lord. Go through the verses carefully and pick out as many positive things about Paul that we ought to imitate.

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    1. He diligently encouraged the believers (20:2,7 11).
    2. He taught the believers by word and by personal example (20:18, 33-35)
    3. He served the Lord with all humility (20:19)
    4. He sincerely cared about the well-being of the believers, often toiling for them and teaching them in tears (20:18,31).
    5. He endured the trials that came from the Jews (19)
    6. He kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed to the believers the whole counsel of God (20:20,27).
    7. He taught them in public and from house to house, catering to the general as well as specific needs of each believer (20:20).
    8. He preached to everyone, both Jews and Greeks (20:21).
    9. He submitted to the guidance of the Spirit, even when he did not know what would happen, except chains and tribulations (20:22,23).
    10. He was not unsettled by sufferings, nor did he count his life dear to himself, in order to finish the race with joy and the ministry which he received from the Lord Jesus (20:24; 21:13). This shows his total loyalty to Christ.
    11. He was faithful to God and had a clear conscience (20:26).
    12. He cared about the believers’ faith in the future, when he could no longer be with them, and so he earnestly exhorted the elders to shepherd the church of God (20:28-31).
    13. He warned the believers night and day against spiritual danger (20:31). He was persistent and diligent.
    14. He did not take advantage of the believers, but worked hard to support himself, his coworkers, and the needy (20:33-35).

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  • 2.

    What sentiment permeates the entire passage?

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    Paul’s closeness with the believers everywhere truly came to the fore as he bade farewell to them on his way to Jerusalem. Paul as well as the believers knew that suffering awaited him in Jerusalem, and that they probably would never see him again. Luke’s vivid descriptions of the events as well as his recording of Paul’s words bring out a touching, and even heart-wrenching, sentiment. Some of the detailed phrases that indicate this sentiment are “wept freely” (20:37); “after we had torn ourselves away” (21:1NIV), “pleaded with him” (21:12), and “breaking my heart” (21:13).

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Segment Analysis

  • 20:1-6

    1.

    Why did Paul go to Macedonia?

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    To encourage the believers there (20:2)

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  • 2.

    What made Paul take a detour when leaving Greece?

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    Knowing that he would be harmed by the Jews if he traveled by sea, Paul decided to return through Macedonia instead of sailing directly to Asia.

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  • 3.

    What did the churches in Macedonia and Achaia entrust Paul and his companions to do? (see Rom 15:25-28)

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    They made contributions for the brethren in Jerusalem who were in need.

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  • 4.

    Why did the brethren from the various regions accompany Paul?(cf. 1Cor 16:1-4; 2Cor 8:16-23)

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    These few brethren were probably representatives from their respective churches who had been sent to accompany Paul to Jerusalem to deliver the gifts from these churches.

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  • 20:7-12

    5.

    What miracle occurred in Troas?

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    Raising Eutychus from the dead (20:9-12)

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  • 6.

    Why do you think Paul spoke to the brethren at Troas until daybreak?

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    Paul was leaving the next day, and he probably was never going to see the brethren in Troas again (cf. 20:25). He loved them dearly, so he wanted to spend as much time with them as he could to encourage them for the last time.

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  • 7.

    How did the believers feel about the resurrection of Eutychus?

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    They were greatly comforted (12). Paul’s lengthy encouragement, their fellowship together, and the miraculous resurrection of Eutychus must have greatly strengthened the believers.

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  • 20:13-16

    8a.

    Why did Paul decide not to spend time in Asia?

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    He was in a hurry to go to Jerusalem, hoping to be there by the Day of Pentecost (20:16). A likely reason was that he wanted to bring to Jerusalem the gifts from the churches overseas as soon as possible.

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  • 8b.

    What sort of things do you tend to hurry to do? Buy things that are on sale? Rush home for your favorite TV program? Carry out your task? Help someone in need? What can you learn from Paul?

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  • 20:17-38

    9.

    What kind of life did Paul live among the Ephesians?

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    See 20:19-21.

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  • 10a.

    In 20:20, Paul mentioned the two kinds of settings for his ministry. What are they?

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    Paul proclaimed God’s word to the people publicly as well as from house to house.

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  • 10b.

    What can ministers today learn from Paul in this respect?

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    As shepherds of God’s flock, we need to minister to the needs of the congregation from the pulpit in the form of sermons or seminars. In addition to that, we should cater to the needs of each individual believer on a personal level. This can be done through house-to-house visitations as well as personal counseling and encouragement.

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  • 11a.

    What was Paul’s attitude toward the chains and tribulations that awaited him?

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    Sufferings and even death did not bother him, as long as he could accomplish the ministry that the Lord Jesus had entrusted to him.

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  • 11b.

    What are you willing and ready to do at all costs? What can you learn from Paul?

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  • 12.

    Why did Paul urge the elders to “take heed” (28), “watch,” and “remember (31)?

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    Soon, the church would have to face persecutions from the outside and apostasy from the inside (29-30). All these things will become a great trial for the shepherds of the flock. Therefore, they must be fully aware of the danger that lay ahead, guard the believers, and remember the examples left by Paul as an encouragement.

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  • 13a.

    Do you have a “flock” to shepherd today? How should you oversee them?

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  • 13b.

    Why is shepherding the flock such a noble and important task?

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    The flock that we shepherd is the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood (20:28). God has entrusted the very people whom He had purchased to the shepherds of the church. This is a serious and noble responsibility, and we ought to carry out our commission wholeheartedly, for we are directly accountable to God. If we care for the flock of God willingly and diligently, we will receive the crown of glory when the Chief Shepherd appears (1Pet 5:1-4).

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  • 14.

    Have you ever served with tears (19) and warned others with tears (31)? What does it take to do so?

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  • 15.

    What does Paul say about the effect of God’s word of grace? Why does it have such an effect?

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    God’s word of grace is able to build us up and give us an inheritance among those who are sanctified. God’s word proceeds from God Himself, and is able to give us spiritual life (Mt 4:4; Jn 6:63, Jas 1:21). It gives us the wisdom of salvation, showing us how to walk in the way of God through faith in Jesus Christ (2Tim 3:15; Rom 10:17). It also purifies and strengthens us so that we become spiritually fit for the kingdom of God (1Pet 1:22; 2Tim 3:16-17; Ps 119:9).

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  • 16.

    Have you experienced the truth of “It is more blessed to give than to receive”? Which do you tend to do more? Giving or receiving?

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  • 21:1-17

    17.

    What did the disciples in Tyre tell Paul to do?

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    They told Paul through the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem (20:4).

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  • 18.

    What the disciples said to Paul was through the Spirit, but Paul did not change his plans. Was Paul acting contrary to the Spirit?

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    These disciples had probably been revealed by the Spirit that tribulation awaited Paul in Jerusalem. So they told Paul not to go there. Their advice was based on what they had been revealed, but the text does not say that the Holy Spirit had instructed them to stop Paul from going forward. We know that from the very start, Paul’s resolve to go to Jerusalem was by the movement of the Spirit, not of his own will (19:21; 20:22). The Holy Spirit would not give contradictory revelations to different individuals. This leads us to the conclusion that the disciples in Tyre had only been told by the Spirit about the dangers that faced Paul, but their words to Paul came from sincere concern for Paul’s safety rather than from any explicit instructions of the Holy Spirit.

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  • 19a.

    Paul did not waver even though the believers in Caesarea and his traveling companions dissuaded him from going to Jerusalem. Was Paul being stubborn in his own ways and cared little about others’ concern for him?

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    Paul wanted to go Jerusalem not for his own sake. Neither was he indifferent to the feelings of those who cared about him. In fact, he felt very hurt to see them weep for him (21:13). But he still had to carry out the will of God, knowing that the sufferings that awaited him were for the name of the Lord Jesus. He expected that the Lord had a good purpose for him, and that he would eventually testify for the Lord in Rome (19:21). That is why, as difficult as it was for him to see the sorrow of those who loved him, he chose to place the divine will above their advice.

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  • 19b.

    Did you ever have to make a difficult decision that your loved ones earnestly advised against? What made you go ahead nevertheless?

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