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Acts #74 (chapter 20:1-17)
The Book of Acts
For the Love of the Church, Part 2
Acts 20:1-17
In the first seventeen verses of this chapter, there are six indicators of Paul's love for the church. We started last week to explore those by covering the first two verses where we found three of those characteristics.
First of all, we see his love demonstrated in
1. His Affection
verse 1
After things settled down in Ephesus after a riot broke out, Paul calls the disciples to himself and "embraced them". He gives this visible reminder of just how much he loved them.
Second, we see his love for the church in
2. His Giving
At the end of verse 1 we discover he is going to Macedonia and we discover elsewhere in his writings that he was going there to receive an offering for the church in Jerusalem and he was going, even if it killed him! He was absolutely selfless. He gave, not just an offering, but he gave himself to deliver the offering!
Third, we see his love in
3. His Teaching
Verse 2 says, "He encouraged them with many words". He traveled all over Macedonia teaching and when he got to Greece, he wrote the book of Romans, doing more teaching. He taught the saints in Corinth and Achaia and Ephesus and Colossae. He was committed to teaching God's Word.
Tonight we come to the fourth characteristic where Paul's love for the church is seen in
4. His Persistence
verse 3
He was going to go to Syria to go to the Passover in Jerusalem, and on his way to catch the boat, he found out about a plot to kill him. Apparently they were going to throw him overboard or something, so he changes the plans, They didn't stop him; they just detoured him.
Now Macedonia is a long way out of the way, but if that's what it takes to do God's will, then so be it.
And by the way, we don't find any that he was down and out or aggravated about it. Paul, perhaps better than anyone who ever lived, understood the meaning of the word "flexibility".
Nothing stopped him. He was absolutely persistent. And by the way, when he wrote about love, he wrote about love in those terms. In 1 Corinthians 13, he said, "Love bears all things. Love hopes all things. Love endures all things."
And for the love of the Church and the sake of the Gospel, he could bear anything and never lose his hope! That's the character of persistent love. Love persists. Love is relentless. And we saw his love in his persistence.
verses 4-5
He meets some representatives of the churches that had taken the offerings tells us some fellows accompanied him along, and they met him there in Troas. So when he went to Jerusalem, the money would actually be presented to them by representatives of all the Gentile churches.
What a beautiful picture of unity it would be for the Jewish Christians to see and experience the love and generosity of the Gentiles and, in turn, for the Gentiles to see there was a genuine need and they were being used by God to help.
Next, we see Paul's love in
5. His Availability
Paul loved the Church; thus he was available. It's a simple truth. Now as we look at verses 7-14, there's a lot of different things to notice, but keep in mind, we're thinking about the availability of Paul.
verse 6
So these men mentioned in verse 4 are waiting for his arrival in Troas. They travel for five days, then wait another seven days for the ship to take them to Jerusalem.
verse 7
Let's stop there for a moment because this is one of the first accounts of an early Christian worship service. And in just one verse, we have a very informative look at what they did and why they met.
First, we find out they met on first day of the week. And that became the typical meeting time for the Church. Now obviously, the church met in some form every day . Early Christians met to pray and fellowship and study on a daily basis.
But there were also more formal gatherings such as this one and they met on the first day of the week , which was Sunday. But even more precisely, they met on the Lord's Day. And maybe even more to the point, it is Resurrection Day.
When the disciples gathered after the crucifixion, it was on the first day of the week when the Lord appeared and it happened two weeks in a row. Just think, if He'd appeared one more time, we could have enrolled Him in Sunday School!
And because of that, the early Church celebrated its fellowship and its worship and its teaching together on Sunday. That means after the Resurrection, the worship of God's people was moved from Sabbath Day to Sunday. And it was so important, the writer of Hebrews was instructed to write about not forsaking that time of gathering. You hear people talk about going to church on the Sabbath but unless you are Seventh Day something or other, you don't go to church on the Sabbath. The Sabbath was fulfilled in Christ and we worship on Resurrection Day!
And we are in good company because that was when the early church met.
And then, verse 8 tells us where they met.
verse 8
They met in an upper room. At first, they met in the temple, and that must have got interesting after a while. Then they met in synagogues, but that didn't work out either. Then they met in homes. And by the end of the second century, churches were building their own buildings.
But here, they are meeting in an upper room. And all of that is just a reminder of how important it was for the church to gather. The church cannot exist in isolation. We need the fellowship and unity and strength of the body of Christ.
And they we are told about what they did when they met. On the first day of the week, the church met in the upper room, and according to verse 7, "they came together to break bread.
So what does that mean? In that Palestinian culture, breaking bread was the official beginning of the meal. And eventually, that phrase came to refer to the Christians coming together to have a meal and observe the Lord's Supper.
  1. meal was simply a way to share with one another. Poor people who couldn't afford to bring anything could eat and people who could afford it, shared. And after the meal, which was literal breaking of bread, they would symbolically break bread by observing the Lord's Supper.
So when they met, they broke bread. But notice also, verse 7 says Paul preached a message.
In other words, they came together to receive instruction from the Word of God. In fact, that was the primary reason they came together. This was the priority when they met. And here, I think it is understood, this was not an evangelistic message. IF they are breaking bread, they are already Christians.
Instead, this is instruction and encouragement. In fact, it was probably more like Sunday School because the word used for preaching has to do with dialogue. He answered questions, and there was feedback, and he shared with them.
And I'm afraid somewhere along the way, we forgot that going to church is for instruction and teaching. Some think we'll I'll just go sit and listen and enjoy the music. But when we come to church, whether it is Sunday School or worship or Wednesday night, we ought to be ready to learn and absorb and to hear with obedient ears.
Listen: We don't come to church to be entertained; we come to be taught and discipled. And boy, did Paul teach! He's fixing to leave town, so he loaded their wagon and preached until midnight!
Apparently, unlike today, their meeting weren't regulated by the clock. Instead they were regulated by the needs of the people, and their hunger for the Word. These folks people were hungry and they came to be fed. In the early church the problem wasn't how to get people to come to church, Instead it was how to get them to go home!
They came and stayed! And why not? After all, where they were meeting had many lamps in the upper room. What else do you need to have church?
By the way, why does Scripture insert that little details about many lamps? Two reasons:
1. The pagans and Jews of the day were suspicious of the Christians. They believed them to be immoral and getting together for less than honorable reasons. So maybe the Holy Spirit inserts this little notation just to let us know that the Christians in Troas had lit the place up like a Christmas tree so nobody in town could criticize them for meeting in the dark.
But I think there's another reason that is probably more accurate because it explains why this guy in the next verse fell asleep.
Those lamps would have been oil-burning lamps and they would have created a a smoky, stuffy atmosphere. Can you imagine all the fumes and smoke and a room full of people and the preacher preaching for hours?
If you've ever been in a cellar with a kerosene lamp and half the neighborhood, you can imagine it!
So this kid named Eutychus moves over close to the window.
verse 9
He's just looking for some air, he doses off. He fights it and shakes his head and tries to pay attention, but he loses the battle and he goes sound asleep sitting in this open window!
You know what it's like! You've been there! And apparently it is very serious to fall asleep in church because this kid falls asleep and wakes up dead! Think about that next you get sleepy!
He fell down, and he was taken up dead. That's what Luke says! I know there are a lot of commentators who try to explain it away and say he was just unconscious, but Luke says he was dead.
That would tend to kind of interfere with the worship service and it did.
verse 10
And at the end of that encounter, a resurrection occurred! Every time I read that, I think of Paul's prayer in Philippians 3:10 where he asked to know Christ and the power of His resurrection. That's what happened in this moment as Paul enshrouds this boy in his arms and all of the broken bones are reverses and the internal injuries are healed and life re-enters his body.
What a testimony to the power of God that must have been to this little group of believers! Can you imagine how that must have encouraged them and strengthened them?
verse 11-12
Paul spends the rest of the evening with them and Eutychus eventually comes in and they rejoice in his healing!
They had supper and took the Lord's Supper. Paul preached until about midnight, goes downstairs and raises a man from the dead, goes back upstairs about 12:15, he came back up and started preaching again. And I'll guarantee you, by this time everyone is wide awake and listening a whole lot better than they were before. And Paul preached until dawn.
After all, he's got a long journey awaiting him!
He's available!
And if you need any more proof of his availability, notice
verse 13
Luke and the others got on a boat to sail to Assos, but Paul walked. Why? It was customary in that day and culture for those that your were leaving to travel with you a portion of the journey, so Paul walks just to spend more time with these friends. He wasn't in a hurry, was he? He loved the church and he was available so he walked between 20 and 30 miles, and probably the last five or ten miles, he walked alone.
That's a picture of his availability. Quickly, we see his love for the church in
6. His Concern
verses 14-15
Those cities are scattered down the coast of Asia Minor and each one is about 30 miles past the next one. Typically, the winds only blew from early morning to late afternoon, so that was the only time they could travel.
  1. their itinerary was to travel about 30 miles and stop for the night and tomorrow, repeat the process and that's why we have all these stops. Eventually, they came to Miletus, which was not too far from Ephesus.
verse 16
Apparently, the ship going to Ephesus, or the one that would have stopped there, was going to stay too long, and he was in a hurry to get to Jerusalem.
verse 17
So what? Just this. Here he is in the middle of this journey, and he stops in Miletus, and he's got a few days before the boat takes off. So what does he do in those few days? Rest? No. He calls for the elders of Ephesus to come over that he might teach them some more. Instruct them some more. Exhort them some more. The man is unbelievable in his commitment to the love of the Church.
You know what happened? One of the most beautiful scenes that ever occurred in the life of Paul took place as a result of this stop and we'll see that next time.
In the meantime, may God help us to love the church in the same way that Paul did through our affection, our giving, our teaching, our persistence, our availability and our concern.
Let's pray.
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