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Bible: What Does Acts 20 Teach Us About the Apostle Paul and Spiritual Leadership?

Updated on September 15, 2016

The Apostle Paul

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Eutychus is Alive!

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Acts 20: Saving Eutychus; Exhorting the Ephesian Elders

Paul Travels to Macedonia

Paul bids farewell to his disciples in Ephesus, and sails north to Macedonia (v. 1).

After spending an unspecified period ministering among the churches there, he travels south to Achaia (Greece) where he abides three months (vv. 2-3a).

A Jewish assassination attempt on Paul’s life fails in this location, but it does alter his plans; instead of returning to Syria by sea, the apostle takes an alternate route, going north through Macedonia (v. 3b).

Seven leaders from various Macedonian, Asian, and Galatian regions who accompanied Paul to Asia travel toTroas, an Asia Minor seaport, and await Luke and some unidentified people there (vv. 4-5).

[The reference to “we” indicates that Luke (and others) rejoins Paul in Troas—the place he resided the first time he accompanied the apostle (cf. 16:10).]

Luke’s missionary band, having remained behind in Philippi until after the Days of Unleavened Bread, sails southeast for five days and arrives in Troas, where they spend a week with Paul and the others (v. 6).

Paul Revives Eutychus

Luke the physician records a miraculous incident that occurred in Troas on the seventh day of Paul’s visit.

Whether particularly long-winded or not, the apostle extends his Sunday message until early Monday morning (v. 7).

Young Eutychus, sitting in an upper room window of the home where the gathering met, dozes off and falls three stories to his death (vv. 8-9).

Paul races downstairs, and God uses him to restore the youth’s life, bringing no small comfort to the boy’s loved ones (vv. 10, 12).

Assured that all was well, Paul resumes his conversation with the believers, and continues for several more hours until he decides to leave at sunrise (v. 11).

For an unspecified reason, Paul walks from Troas to Assos while Luke and others sail there (v. 13). In that town, the apostle joins them on board, and they travel down the coast of Asia Minor to Mitylene,opposite Chios, Samos, and Miletus on successive days (vv. 14-15).

Desiring to be in Jerusalem for Pentecost, Paul bypasses a visit to Ephesus (v. 16).

Jesus and His Apostles

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The Ephesian Elders

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Biblical Terms

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Paul's Final Conversation with the Ephesian Elders

Thinking it necessary to speak to the Ephesian elders, however, the apostle sends for them while he is staying in Miletus (v. 17).

Once they have gathered with him, Paul delivers a short, farewell exhortation (vv. 18-35).

He reviews his faithful ministry among them: how he humbly served the Lord despite attempts on his life (vv. 18-19), taught them all the truth worth knowing wherever he could (v. 20), and evangelized both Jews and Greeks, preaching repentance toward God and faith toward Christ (v. 21).

Paul feels spiritually compelled to visit Jerusalem again, a place where the Spirit has told him he would be imprisoned (vv. 22-23).

[Did the Spirit impel him to go to Jerusalem, and at the same time tell him to expect great suffering there?

If Paul desired to please God, he would have to submit to His will that he would suffer.]

He considers these coming trials as inconsequential, desiring only to finish his ministry of evangelism and discipleship (“the ministry . . . to testify to the gospel of the grace of God”) well and to remain faithful to Christ (v. 24; cf. II Tim. 4:7).

[When a person truly dedicates himself to Christ and His cause, he does not consider his life as dear to himself].

The apostle then tells the elders that God had revealed to him (implied) that he will die before being able to visit them again (v. 25).

In light of this reality, Paul prefaces his final words of exhortation with a belief and a claim that God will not find him guilty of negligence (implied), because he has fully and faithfully discharged his responsibility as a Bible teacher in Ephesus and wherever else he has gone (vv. 26-27).

As their apostolic mentor, Paul charges the elders to guard vigilantly their own spiritual lives as well as the lives of those under their care (v. 28a).

According to His sovereign will, the Holy Spirit has chosen them as overseers (bishops): men responsible to manage the affairs of the church of God and to provide spiritual sustenance for those whom the Lord redeemed with His Son’s blood (v. 28b).

[In this verse, one sees the primary church leader as an elder (a spiritually mature man), a bishop (an administrative official), and a pastor (a nurturing guide).]

Paul warns them that outside human influences will enter the fold and destroy people’s lives (v. 29); he knows that even some of the leaders sitting before him will draw away disciples to themselves by teaching false doctrine (v. 30; cf. I Tim. 1:3-7).

He reiterates his opening exhortation for them to watch or guard themselves and the flock, and to remember that he spent three years with them, warning them about these spiritual dangers (v. 31).

Addressing them all as brethren, the apostle entrusts them to God’s care and to “the word of His grace” [v. 32a]; only this powerful message edifies and rewards believers (v. 32b).

[To what “word” was Paul referring here? To what did Paul point as “an inheritance”? For Jews, “an inheritance” meant the Promised Land.]

Paul: The Model of a Christian Leader

Paul continues to portray himself as a model for the elders to follow; he informs them of his lack of covetousness (v. 33), of his industry (v. 34), and of his concern for the welfare of the weak (v. 35a).

His last words to them contain a quote from Jesus not recorded in the Gospels, a quote elevating the practice of giving one’s “goods” to meet the needs of others (v. 35b).

Having concluded his exhortation, Paul kneels in prayer with his friends.

They all bid their tearful farewells to him as they accompany him to the ship, mindful of his comments about not seeing them again in this life (vv. 36-38).

© 2013 glynch1

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