Paul’s Comrades in Arms – Acts 20

In Acts 19 we left the Apostle Paul in Ephesus at the tail end of a small riot (uproar).

    Vs 1-3 After the uproar had ceased, Paul called the disciples to himself, embraced them, and departed to go to Macedonia. Now when he had gone over that region and encouraged them with many words, he came to Greece and stayed three months. And when the Jews plotted against him as he was about to sail to Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia.

Comrades in Arms
Now we see Paul traveling over the area on his way to Macedonia and he makes three-month stop in Greece (Corinth). This is probably over the winter months when it is far more dangerous to travel by sea. We also read that as he travelled through the region he encouraged the believers there. What a great lesson for us. Encourage other believers! Even those you don’t know well. Have you ever heard a fellow-believer that you barely know say in the Spirit and in love “Press on! God has a plan for you. God is our deliverer. Hang in there!” One of the most uplifting ways someone can encourage me is to stop what they’re doing and pray with me and for me. What an awesome thing to hear words of God’s truth spoken into my life in prayer and in encouragement.

    Vs 4-6 And Sopater of Berea accompanied him to Asia—also Aristarchus and Secundus of the Thessalonians, and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia. These men, going ahead, waited for us at Troas. But we sailed away from Philippi after the Days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days joined them at Troas, where we stayed seven days.

Over and over again in the book of Acts we see Paul traveling with a group of disciples and fellow-teachers. This group provides much strength to him, and it acts as a good model for us today in ministry. Rob Fischer wrote a book where he compares this to being “comrades in arms” (that’s actually the title of the book). Christian men joining with other Christian men fighting our battle together. We were not meant to fight the battle alone, and we see this idea demonstrated to us throughout God’s word.

    And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
    ~Ephesians 4:11-16

You see, it is so easy in our fallen world to be swayed and influenced by whatever tempts us at that moment. Having other believers around us to not only support us and pray with us but hold us accountable is critical. Paul values these men around him. He knows that they will encourage one another and pray for one another, and they will correct one another when the Holy Spirit prompts them to do so. That is so critical not only working in ministry but in our Christian walk!

    Vs 7-12 Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where they were gathered together. And in a window sat a certain young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep. He was overcome by sleep; and as Paul continued speaking, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. But Paul went down, fell on him, and embracing him said, “Do not trouble yourselves, for his life is in him.” Now when he had come up, had broken bread and eaten, and talked a long while, even till daybreak, he departed. And they brought the young man in alive, and they were not a little comforted.

Have you ever fallen asleep in church? If not, have you come close? This young man had been listening to Paul for hours now, and it’s midnight. His physical need for sleep gets the better of him and he passes out in a deep sleep. He is so unconscious that he falls out the window! I don’t see this as sin on his part, or his fall as God’s punishment on this guy for falling asleep. I believe he was simply too physically weak to stay awake. Maybe he needed a friend next to him to support him and hold him accountable! 🙂

    Vs 13-17 Then we went ahead to the ship and sailed to Assos, there intending to take Paul on board; for so he had given orders, intending himself to go on foot. And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and came to Mitylene. We sailed from there, and the next day came opposite Chios. The following day we arrived at Samos and stayed at Trogyllium. The next day we came to Miletus. For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he would not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the Day of Pentecost. From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church.

Now Paul continues on his journey and we again see him go from city to city, traveling with his “comrades in arms”. (Notice he’s still trying to make it to Jerusalem in time for Pentecost.)

No Fear!

    Vs 18-21 And when they had come to him, he said to them: “You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews; how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Now he is in Miletus and he calls together the church leaders from Ephesus. He reminds them that in his teaching he “kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you”. He didn’t hold back! He taught what he felt the Holy Spirit was leading him to speak without fear.

Not only that, but he did it “publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks”. He taught to whoever would listen! He knew there were Jews who wanted him in prison or killed, but he didn’t concern himself with that or allow it to stop his teaching.

Paul’s message was the simple Gospel truth: “repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ”. It was a simple “repent and believe in Jesus” message. Not complicated doctrine. There are traveling preachers that still teach a similar message today. Billy Graham is one example. As Billy went from city to city preaching, his message was always a very simple salvation message.

Paul didn’t seem to think of himself as particularly wise!

    For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”

    Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. ~ 1 Corinthians 1:17-24

Look at Moses, who at 80 years old thought himself far too weak and limited in his ability to lead the Israelites – and check out the Lord’s response:

    Then Moses said to the LORD, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” So the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LORD? Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.”
    ~Exodus 4:10-12

We say “God I don’t have the ability or the skill!”

God says “So what? I made your mouth! I made the weak and I made the strong! I can certainly put words in your mouth and I can show you what to say.”

That is so encouraging to me. I certainly don’t have the ability to speak for God. But I know that God can speak using me. There’s the difference.

    For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. ~Romans 8:14

    I have taught you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in right paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hindered, And when you run, you will not stumble.
    ~ Proverbs 4:11-12

Paul Doesn’t Care

    Vs 22-23 “And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me.”

Paul says he feels compelled (bound) by the Holy Spirit to continue to Jerusalem. He tells us that he doesn’t know “the things that will happen to me there”. He doesn’t know specifically what his future holds. But he does feel “that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me”. He knows trouble will come his way and he’ll be persecuted but he doesn’t yet know to what degree. How bad will it get? Is Paul concerned?

    Vs 24-27 “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.”

No, Paul doesn’t care at all. As a matter of fact, when it comes to what matters or what “counts”, God’s math is much different than ours is! Paul says “nor do I count my life dear to myself” – in other words I don’t count my physical health and well-being (life) as important.

What does count? “That I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” Look at how God’s math is used elsewhere by Paul and by James:

    Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ. ~ Philippians 3:8

    My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
    ~ James 1:2-5

Using God’s math, “all things” are a worthless loss. But what does have value is “the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord” and we are to “count it all joy” in falling “into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience”.

    Vs 28-35 “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.

    So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me. I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

Paul encourages them to shepherd the church (the flock). He reminds them that Jesus bought us with His own blood. And he gives them warning against “savage wolves will come in” among them and other men “will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves”. His warning is still true today. We are tempted toward sin from within the church and from without. We need to be aware and be on the lookout. And we need someone alongside us who can help us, hold us accountable, pray with us, and encourage our faith.

    Vs 36-38 And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. Then they all wept freely, and fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke, that they would see his face no more. And they accompanied him to the ship.

See also Hard-Hearted Shepherds

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9 thoughts on “Paul’s Comrades in Arms – Acts 20

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