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Bible Commentaries

Bridgeway Bible Commentary
Acts 20

 

 

Verse 1-2

Through Macedonia and Achaia (20:1-2)

As seen in paragraph 8 of the above summary, at the end of Paul's three years in Ephesus he travelled north to Troas and then across to Macedonia (20:1). After meeting Titus and writing 2 Corinthians, Paul moved around other parts of the region and then headed south towards Achaia (2). Possibly one place he visited was Illyricum, a region that in New Testament times included the Roman province of Dalmatia and in modern times includes the country of Albania (Romans 15:19; cf. 2 Timothy 4:10).

Paul writes to the Romans

In due course Paul arrived in the south of Greece and stayed there three months (see 20:3). No doubt he spent much of this time with the church in Corinth (2 Corinthians 13:1), for he wanted to be assured that it was stable and strong before he expanded his work to the west (2 Corinthians 10:15-16). From Corinth the next base in his planned move westward was Rome (Acts 19:21).

A church already existed in Rome. Paul had not planted it, as he had not yet been to Rome (Romans 1:13; Romans 15:22). Most likely those who planted it were Christians from other parts of the Empire who travelled to Rome or went there to live (cf. Acts 2:10; Romans 16:3-16). Paul saw Rome as a key centre from which to spread the gospel farther to the west, perhaps even as far as Spain (Romans 15:23-24; Romans 15:28-29). More than that he saw that if Christianity had a strong base in the heart of the Empire, it would readily spread throughout the Empire. He therefore wrote to the church in Rome to make sure that the Roman Christians themselves had a clear understanding of the gospel and that they shared his vision for worldwide evangelism (Romans 1:10-15; Romans 10:12-17; Romans 15:14-16).

At the time of writing, Paul was staying in Corinth with Gaius, one of the earliest Corinthian converts and probably a respected leader in the church (Romans 16:23; cf. 1 Corinthians 1:14). Another local Christian, Phoebe, was going to Rome and took the letter on Paul's behalf. She was a deacon in the church at Cenchreae, one of the port areas of Corinth (Romans 16:1-2).


Verses 3-12

Return to Macedonia and Troas (20:3-12)

Although Paul was planning to visit Rome, his immediate concern was to go to Jerusalem with the money he had been collecting from the Gentile churches (Romans 15:24-26; Acts 19:21). But just as he was about to set sail, he heard of a Jewish plot to kill him. So he changed his plans and returned through Macedonia (3). In Macedonia, probably at Philippi, Luke rejoined the party (indicated by the renewed use of 'we' and 'us' in the narrative). They then sailed across to Troas, where they joined the representatives of the Gentile churches who were to go with Paul to Jerusalem (4-6; cf. 1 Corinthians 16:3).

It seems that, by this time, Sunday had become a special day for Christians, when they met for fellowship and worship (7; cf. 1 Corinthians 16:2; Revelation 1:10). During Paul's final meeting with the Christians in Troas, the all-night discussion was interrupted when a young man fell out of a window to his death; but Paul restored him to life (8-12).


Verses 13-16

To Jerusalem with the offering (20:13-21:16)

From Troas Paul went by land to Assos, where he rejoined the rest of the party and sailed to Miletus (13-16). Since Miletus was only about fifty kilometres from Ephesus, Paul took the opportunity to call the elders of the Ephesian church to come and meet him. He wanted to give them some final encouragement and pass on helpful warnings (17).

Paul's opponents in Asia had probably been trying to turn the Christians against him. Therefore, he reminded the Ephesian elders of his tireless work in Ephesus and of the constant danger he faced from the Jews (18-24).

The Christians at Ephesus also were about to be shaken by serious troubles. Paul knew that, in spite of his preaching in Ephesus, people both from within the church and from outside would try to destroy the work of God in that city. The elders would need to be watchful, understanding, hard-working and strong if the church was to withstand Satan's attacks (25-31). Paul reassured the elders that by God's grace and through his Word they would be built up. He also reminded them that, like him, they were to sacrifice their rights and comforts for the sake of others, and never use their position of leadership for personal profit (32-38).

From Miletus Paul and his party sailed to Patara, where they changed ships and sailed across the Mediterranean to Phoenicia (21:1-3). They had fellowship with the Christians at Tyre, Ptolemais and Caesarea, where churches had been founded by those scattered after the killing of Stephen. One of those early evangelists, Philip, was still in Caesarea and Paul's party stayed with him several days (4-9; cf. 8:4-5,40; 11:19). In Caesarea, as in Tyre, prophets warned Paul of the trouble that he would meet in Jerusalem, but he was determined to go on (10-14; see also v. 4).

Finally, Paul reached his destination, Jerusalem. There he stayed with Mnason, who was a Jewish Christian from Cyprus and an early member of the Jerusalem church. He was probably one of the few in Jerusalem who were fully in agreement with Paul's work among the Gentiles (15-16).

 


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Bibliography Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Acts 20:4". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/acts-20.html. 2005.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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