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Acts #73 (chapter 20:1-2)
The Book of Acts
For the Love of the Church, Part 1
Acts 20:1-2
Tonight we're going to begin at the first verse of chapter 20, and if you read the first several verses of the chapter, it almost sounds like Paul's travel itinerary. We sailed here and we went there and one this day this happened and the next day we encountered this, and at first reading, there's not too much exciting going on with the exception of the young man who goes to sleep while Paul is preaching and apparently dies when he falls out of an upstairs window.
But if you look at it in another way, it is really a very encouraging chapter in that we are given a look into the heart of Paul and his love for the church.
You remember it was Paul who wrote to the Ephesians about how Christ loved the church and gave himself for it. But just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it, redemptively, Paul loved the church and gave himself for it in service.
And as you read these verses, that's what you see. Paul loved the church and you can see it by what he does and where he goes. Notice
verses 1-2
As I said, that's not the most instructive or encouraging verses you will ever read. But below the surface, there's more there as Paul kind of cracks open the door and lets us see his heart.
For instance, notice, first of all,
1. His Affection
verse 1 (embraced them)
In case you weren't here, the uproar that is referenced is a riot that broke out in Ephesus because the preaching of the gospel is affecting the business of producing and selling silver idols.
The silversmiths got really upset about the Christians in town and started a riot that resulted in people screaming and running around out in the streets for two hours. And finally, things were quieted down by the town clerk. That's how chapter 19 ends.
And after the uproar quieted down, we are told, Paul calls the disciples to himself and embraces them. So what does that mean?
The word "embrace" means to draw to oneself. To clasp and pull toward oneself. It's a very intimate word, and it was used to refer to greetings that were customary among eastern people.
It's not so familiar in our culture, but beginning early in Genesis and throughout the Old Testament, we read about people giving each other embraces and kisses as early. And we see that to some measure in Christianity today, although sometimes it can get a little awkward.
And I don't want to read more into the text than is here, but I think we see something of the heart of Paul expressed in this little phrase.
The church has just gone through a traumatic experience. Two of their own have been seized and hauled into the theatre before their attackers. All of this is happening simply because they are sharing the gospel.
And Paul just wants to encourage them. It's not so much about what he said. That happens in another time and place and we see that in the next verse. But in this situation, he just embraces them before he departs for Macedonia.
  1. if you follow the ministry of both Paul and Jesus, you will find open, visible almost embarrassing by our standards, expressions of love between the disciples and Jesus and with Paul. They hugged and kissed and John laid his head on the chest of Jesus.
Even in the betrayal, Judas used a kiss, a sign of friendship and love and devotion.
And Paul has that same kind of affection and relationship with those who are his friends and disciples. He really loved people and showed his affection for them.
And I think we see Paul's love for the church in his affection. We also see it in
2. His Giving
verse 2 (that region)
Let's talk about "that region". Paul traveled north of Troas across and over into Macedonia where the churches of Philippi, Achaia, and Thessalonica were located.
And even though this verse doesn't say anything about his giving, we know from other places in the New Testament, he went to Macedonia to gather an offering for the church in Jerusalem.
According to what we read in chapter 19, while he was still in Ephesus, he decided to go through Macedonia and Achaia, which, by the way, was where the church in Corinth was located, on his way to Jerusalem and eventually to Rome. And the purpose of the trip, we find out in 1 Corinthians 16, is to gather up some financial help for the church in Jerusalem.
1 Corinthians 16;1
So he writes ahead to the Corinthians and says, "Now I told the Galatians to get their offering together, and I'm writing you to remind you to get yours together also".
Why is he so insistent about this offering? Well, for one thing, he told the Jerusalem leaders he would do it, as we read in Galatians 2:10. So his integrity and honesty is on the line.
  1. secondly, he knew there was a real need there. The Christians in Jerusalem were struggling and they need the help. thirdly, he loved them. That was his heart. He wanted to be of help.
And if you need proof of his love, just follow his journeys and in particular, this journey as he travels all over the known world collecting money to take to Jerusalem and help them out.
And by the way, everywhere he went, he got beat, arrested, imprisoned, and run out of town. But that's the kind of man he was, and that's the kind of love he had. He knew there was a need and at all costs to himself he met the need. That's giving. That's love in action.
So Paul then leaves Ephesus having written this letter to the Corinthians and instructed them about the offering. He goes out from there to collect this money. And we pick up the story here in
verse 2
By the way, just to help you follow the chronology of the New Testament, sometime during these days after he left Ephesus and traveled to Troas and on to Macedonia, he wrote 2 Corinthians. And if you want to know how much he loved the church, and how difficult the work was, listen to a portion of what he wrote in the letter:
2 Corinthians 1:8-11
In other words, Paul says, "We understood that there was no human resource to prevent us from dying. So we had to trust not in ourselves, but in God and His resurrection power." And what he's saying is, "Even if we even lost our lives, we had to trust in the resurrection power of God so we could get this offering to Jerusalem." Which means that even if he died, God would have to raise him from the dead so the offering could make it to Jerusalem.
He had this unbelievable desire to help people! isn't that amazing?
Here is the apostle Paul. Weary, tired, anxious, pursued, threatened, recognizing at any time that he could die and he has no physical power to restrain that, totally dependent on the power of God and yet, all he thinks about is helping others!
All he wants to do is get the money together to give to the needy saints that need help! that's how much he loved the church!
Let me give you a third thing before we close. We see his love for the church in his affection, in his giving, and thirdly, in
3. His Teaching
verse 2
"He encouraged them with many words" Now that is important, and it becomes even more important in the next section that we'll see before long where he preaches this all night sermon and Eutychus falls asleep and dies because of it. You stand warned.
Nevertheless, the apostle Paul spent a great deal of his time teaching. He knows he's on the last legs of his journey in eastern Mediterranean area because he knows that the hostility has really reached a fever pitch and so he knows he's not coming back. You just sense that in his heart. And, by the way, he didn't come back. So he's saying goodbye.
And he knows the churches are established and there are elders in the churches now that can teach and he knows that the gospel has had a foothold and he knows that he's not going to be back because of the pressure.
But he also sees, out there before him, Rome and eventually Spain and so this is his last opportunity to teach and help these church leaders. So he uses many words to encourage them.
That really was the drive of his life. Paul lived to develop disciples of Christ. After all, he's the one who wrote that God gave apostles and prophets and evangelists and teaching pastors to the church so the saints could be perfected and matured.
He lived for that. To him, that's what the church was. You know it's a sad thing to see how so many people view the church and why it is here. We are here to help socially and pay bills and buy groceries. We're supposed to provide recreational opportunities for the kids and programs for the children.
And all of those have their place, I suppose. But first and foremost, we are here to teach the word of God and develop mature, growing disciples of Christ.
And it's amazing to me how many people can take it or leave it. There is not commitment to Bible study opportunities. The preacher preaches too long. They don't need the classes and instruction. Sunday School is for kids.
They call themselves Christians, and yet they can come in and out of church and miss it for a long time and it doesn't bother them a bit. They don't miss a beat. That isn't love for the church. If I love the church, I'll show my affection for the church, I'll give to the church and I'll be involved in the teaching ministry of the church.
If God gives me an opportunity to teach, I'll teach and if God gives me an opportunity to learn, I'll get under somebody else's teaching and soak in everything I can.
You know what the apostle Paul was doing until he got his head chopped off? Read the last two verses in the book of Acts when he was in Rome and you'll find out. He was teaching the things concerning Jesus Christ. He never stopped.
Paul loved the church and he never stopped. He loved and he gave and he taught and he never rested. In fact, by the time he got to Troas, he must have been wiped out, and yet what does he do?
He teaches all night long! That's his commitment!
Well, next time, we'll see what else we can learn about his love for the church, but that ought to give us enough to chew on for now.
Let's pray.
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