The 3rd Missionary Tour of Paul (Acts 18:23-21:16)

Ephesus is the scene of the majority of Paul's 3rd missionary journey. He teaches daily, converting multitudes of the local Diana worshipers and through this effort founding churches in cities for a hundred miles around. He stayed here longer than any other single stop in his missionary tours that we know of.

  1. Paul's Journey Begins - Acts 18:23
    1. Probably began around 54 A.D.
      1. Verse says that Paul "went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia." We know Paul began the journey in Antioch. Acts 18: 22-23. Where Paul went after leaving Antioch is something of a guess because the scripture simply tells us in Acts 19:1 that Paul arrived in Ephesus. Ephesus is more than 1000 miles from Antioch (an estimated journey of about 40 days plus any stoppages). Therefore, it is safe to say that Paul made some stops between Antioch and Ephesus. However, exactly where those stops were made is something we just do not know.
      2. Boles in his book on Acts states that Paul most likely went to Tarsus after leaving Antioch. After leaving Tarsus, Boles believes that Paul headed northwest through Galatia and then southwest through Phrygia. This path might have taken Paul through cities such as Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch (in Phrygia).
    2. The Lesson: The Importance of Strengthening Christians: Whatever the path Paul followed, we do know the purpose for his trip. The Bible says that Paul went to cities "strengthening all the disciples." Paul's obvious purpose was to return to churches that had been established and to strengthen or build up those churches. This process of strengthening existing congregations appears elsewhere in Acts (Acts 14:22; Acts 15: 32-41). The lesson for us is an important one. To often we focus on teaching the Gospel and baptizing souls into the body of Christ. Our focus here is good since baptism is the method by which we obey the Gospel and become members of the Kingdom. However, Christians can fall from grace and Paul understood this. (Gal. 1: 6-9; Gal. 5: 1-4). The Bible repeatedly makes this clear. (John 6: 63-66; Heb. 6:1-6; II Pet. 2: 20-22). What we need to understand is that we need to go beyond simply baptizing folks. New Christians are extremely vulnerable since they are relatively unskilled in the Word. (Heb. 5: 12-14). This lack of strength and spiritual root makes new Christians tempting prey for false teachers. (Acts 20: 28-31; II Pet. 2; II Tim. 4: 1-5; I Tim. 4: 1-6). Paul understood this danger and recognized his duty to build up these new Christians and new congregations. We too need to accept this additional responsibility to strengthen new brothers and sisters in Christ. (Acts 20: 35; Rom. 14: 1; Rom. 15:1; Eph. 4: 11-12; I Thess. 5: 14; Gal. 6:1)
  2. Apollos in Ephesus - Acts 18:24-28
    1. Luke now abruptly jumps in his story. Rather than tell us about Paul's stops between Antioch and Ephesus, he tells stops to let us know what is going on in Ephesus while Paul is en route from Antioch.
    2. This is the first mention of Apollos, but he is mentioned elsewhere in the scriptures. (I Cor. 3:4-6, 21-23; I Cor. 4:6; I Cor. 16:12; Titus 3:13). These verses show that Apollos became a great worker in the Church and evidence that Paul developed a relationship with him. Some scholars have even suggested that Apollos might be the author of the letter to the Hebrews. Whether this is true is at the very least subject to serious debate, but it is clear that Apollos was an important and dedicated servant of the Lord.
      1. The scripture tells us that Apollos was a Jew born in Alexandria and was "an eloquent man, mighty in the scriptures." That Apollos was from Alexandria is significant. Alexandria was a famous city located in Egypt and named after Alexander the Great. The city was renowned as a center for learning and hosted what at the time was the largest library in the world. The Greek work translated eloquent is logios (3052). The word means "learned, a man of letters, skilled in literature and the arts." It can also mean "skilled in speech, eloquent." Accordingly, the word may or may not mean that Apollos was a great orator. Regardless of his speaking abilities, we can surmise that Apollos was a very influential Christian. This can be seen from the trouble in Corinth caused when certain brethren began to divide based on their allegiance to certain Christian teachers (I Cor. 1:11-17). At first glance it may seem a contradiction that Apollos was "mighty in the scriptures" and still in error as to baptism. There is no contradiction. The phrase "mighty in the scriptures" indicates that Apollos knew the Old Testament well. Accordingly, although knowledgeable concerning the Old Testament, we can see how Apollos might still be ignorant of true Christian baptism.
      2. Verse 25 makes it clear that Apollos was a man of zeal and sincerity in his service to God. He taught publicly "the things of the Lord." The verse says that Apollos was "instructed in the way of the Lord" and taught diligently (or accurately: akribos - 199) the things of the Lord. However the verse states that Apollos knew "only the baptism of John." In other words, what he taught was accurate, but incomplete. To understand the distinction, suppose one taught that belief was essential to salvation. This would be accurate, but incomplete.
      3. Of course, in a sense what was missing from Apollos' teachings made them inaccurate. Aquilla and Priscilla understood this and in verse 26 "took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of the God more perfectly." The are several lessons that we can glean from this story
        1. Zeal is not a substitute for knowledge: From the phrase "more perfectly" we can infer that Apollos' knowledge was imperfect and was perfected by the teaching of Apollos. This imperfection existed despite all of Apollos' zeal, sincerity, and hard work. Zeal without knowledge is less than satisfactory. Paul spoke of Israel as being in this situation. Rom. 10:1-9. Because of their ignorance, Paul prayed that they "might be saved" and noted that Israel had "not submitted unto the righteousness of God."
        2. Women can teach outside of the Church: The Bible is clear that women are not permitted to teach in the assembly. (I Cor. 14:34-35; I Tim. 2: 11-15). However, the Bible places no such prohibition on the women in a private setting. Indeed, this story is an example of how effective a woman can be in a teaching role. Other verses confirm the woman's role in influencing and teaching others. (Rom. 16:1-2; Phil. 4:3; Titus 2:3-5).
        3. We ought to correct error: So many times we hear things taught in error from the pulpit or from a brother or sister in a private setting and do not take the opportunity to correct the error. Would the later verses concerning Apollos be in the Bible if he continued to teach the baptism of John and never taught Christian baptism? The answer is no. Apollos then would only be teaching confusion rather than truth. When we confront error, no matter how sincere the person, we have an obligation to correct it (Prov. 17:15; Prov. 24:24; Prov. 28:4; Isaiah 5:20; Ezek. 13:22; Mal. 2:17; Luke 17:3; Rom. 1:32; Eph 5:11; I Tim. 5:20; II Tim. 4:2; Titus 2:15). More and more the church has become complacent in this area and it represents one of the gravest dangers to the spreading of the Kingdom in our generation. Of course, this does not mean that the church should overreact and become insensitive to the human weaknesses that afflict us all. We need to be firmly for the truth and against error, but we need to do so with a spirit of humility and compassion (Gal. 6:1-3).
        4. Good instruction to a single individual can affect many: Apollos was one man who was misinformed concerning baptism. Aquilla and Priscilla took the time to properly teach Apollos and it had a tremendous ripple effect. In Acts 18:27 we learn that Apollos went into Achaia (specifically Corinth - Acts 19:1) and helped the Christians there a great deal. In Acts 18:28 the Bible states that Apollos "mightily convinced the Jews, and that publickly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.
        5. Baptism is important: While other verses establish that baptism is an essential element in our conversion (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Rom. 6:1-7; I Pet. 3:21, etc.), this verse provides a sort of illustration of the importance of baptism. If baptism was unimportant or a matter of personal taste, why would Apollos need to be corrected? The misunderstanding Apollos had was serious and in need of correction. While this does not establish that baptism is essential (we can leave that to the other plain verses in the Bible), it does establish that the subject is an important element of Christian doctrine that must be correctly understood. It is not a subject that can be left to personal interpretation and preference.
  3. Paul in Ephesus - Acts 19
    1. Paul confronts the disciples who knew only John's baptism: Apollos is away in Corinth and Paul arrives in Ephesus. This fulfills the contingent promise he made when he last left Ephesus (Acts 18:21). Upon his arrival, Paul finds disciples who are in the same state that Apollos was in prior to meeting Aquilia and Priscilla- they only knew the baptism of John (Acts 19:3). This is not surprising since Apollos had been teaching the baptism of John publicly in Ephesus (Acts 18:25). Something clues Paul into the fact that these disciples were lacking in spiritual knowledge and that something was missing. Therefore, Paul asks whether they had received the Holy Ghost. There answer in the King James Version is translated "We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost." This phrase should probably be understood to mean that these disciples had not heard that the Holy Ghost had been given. In other words they had heard of the Holy Ghost (which is not surprising since John the Baptist spoke of the Holy Ghost - Matt. 3:11; John 1:33), but had not heard of the pouring out of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2).
    2. The Baptism of John and the Christian Baptism: That the baptism of John was insufficient is plain from this chapter (Acts 19:3-5). In verse 4, Paul states that the baptism of John was a baptism of repentance and a commitment to accept Jesus when he arrived as the messiah (Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:7-8; Luke 3:16). It was a baptism that preceded Jesus and looked forward to Jesus and his death, burial, and resurrection. (Matt. 3:11-12; Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3-18). Individuals were baptized with the baptism of John after hearing Jesus speak (Luke 7:24-30). The inferiority of this baptism is evident once one understands the purpose and basis for Christian baptism. Christian baptism symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, which is the Gospel (Rom. 6:1-7; I Cor. 15:1-4). John's baptism could never do this because it preceded this Gospel fact. Once Jesus died, was buried, and arose, the only correct baptism became the Christian baptism, which embodied this core fact of the Gospel. In addition, it is clear from the account in Acts that John's baptism could not impart the Holy Ghost because the Holy Ghost came after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and was thus received only through Christian baptism (Acts 2:38). Apparently these disciples had received John's baptism after it was no longer in force. Accordingly, they were re-baptized (Acts 19:5).
    3. Paul lays hands on the re-baptized disciples: In verse 5, after being properly baptized, the disciples received the "gift of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2:38). What occurs in verse 6 is the bestowing of supernatural gifts by Paul as an outward sign of the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. The Bible teaches that these supernatural gifts would only exist for a limited period of time (I Cor. 13: 8). Moreover, it is clear that these gifts could only be bestowed by the laying on of hands by the apostles (Acts 8:5-17).
    4. Paul begins his public preaching in Ephesus: Having taught the existing disciples the way of God more perfectly, Paul turns to teaching publicly at Ephesus. He begins in the synagogue speaking boldly for three months concerning the kingdom of God. This in and of itself is a valuable lesson to us. Paul preached to the Ephesians boldly, with confidence, and with power. Too many times, even if we happen to muster the courage to speak to someone concerning Christ, we deliver a timid and uncertain rendition of the Gospel. We should not be ashamed of the Gospel and preach it with a confidence that is based on the power of that Gospel (Rom. 1:16). Interestingly, verse 8 says that they he was "disputing and persuading." The word "persuading" seems to infer that Paul had some success in his preaching. However, it is clear that not everyone accepted Paul's teachings. The individuals who did not believe began to speak evil of Paul and his teachings.
    5. Paul withdraws from the synagogue: Verse 9 says Paul departed from the synagogue once the unbelievers began to speak evil of the Gospel. The word translated departed is aphistemi (868) and means to withdraw. The same word is used in I Tim. 6:5 to indicate a termination of fellowship. Paul also separates the disciples who were gathering at the synagogue to worship and brings them into a more sheltered environment for worship (Acts 20:28-29). This was not the result of some cowardice by Paul, but Paul's care and concern for these disciples. Paul had done the same thing in Corinth (Acts 18:6-7). Paul and the disciples withdrew to the "school" of Tyrannus. This is not a school as we would think of it. The Greek word here is schole (4981) and means a place of leisure. The name Tyrannus is interesting in that the name means tyrant. Whatever the demeanor of Tyrannus we know nothing about him other than what is stated in this verse.
    6. The Gospel spreads throughout Asia: Paul stayed in Ephesus teaching in the school of Tyrannus for 2 years. While he was there everyone in the province of Asia had the opportunity to hear the Gospel. Interestingly, this occurred even though Paul apparently stayed in Ephesus. The implication being that disciples taught by Paul were out preaching the Gospel in other areas of the province.
    7. Special miracles wrought by Paul: God worked miracles that were particularly wonderful through Paul while he was at Ephesus. These "special miracles" included the healing of the sick by handkerchiefs that were from Paul. Paul could heal by proxy without being present himself! The purpose for these wonderful miracles probably was to confirm the teaching of Paul, but also might have been a prelude to Paul's showdown with the Ephesian exorcists.
    8. The Ephesian exorcists: In verse 13, the Bible speaks of vagabond Jews who were exorcists. The term vagabond here is the Greek word perierchomai (4022) and means a wandering individual. In other words, these were essentially Jewish gypsies who professed to have the power to cast out devils. Jesus may have alluded to these individuals during his ministry (Matt. 12:27; Luke 11:19). The word exorcist is from the Greek word exorkistes (1845) and refers to one who binds by an oath or a spell. These exorcists were individuals who used sorcery to cast out devils. Josephus writes of these exorcists and states that the exorcism they practiced was invented by King Solomon and was so effective that the evil spirit could never return to its host. The method employed by these individuals is described by one commentator as follows: The exorcist applied to the nose of the possessed the bezil of a ring, under which was a certain root prescribed by Solomon, and so drew out the evil spirit through the man's nostrils. The possessed then fell to the ground, and the exorcist commanded the evil spirit in the name of Solomon never to return, and then recited one of Solomon's incantations. To give full assurance to the bystanders that the evil spirit had really left the man, the exorcist placed a vessel full of water at some distance off, and then commanded the ejected spirit to overturn it, which it did.
    9. The exorcists employ the name of Jesus: These exorcists apparently heard Paul preach and probably witnessed the miraculous power the Paul wrought. As a result, seven sons of Sceva decided to attempt to cast out devils "by Jesus who Paul preached." The Bible says that Sceva was a high priest. Some scholars think that the Greek should be translated as ruler. This controversy does not affect the meaning of the scriptures in any fashion and is simply yet another example of the meaningless mental gymnastics that clutter a good deal of today's commentaries.
    10. The evil spirit embarrasses the exorcists: In verse 15, once the exorcists invoke the names of Paul and Jesus, the evil spirit responds and states "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?" The evil spirit most likely spoke through his host as appears to be the case in other instances in the Bible (Mark 3:11). But the evil spirit does not stop there. In verse 16, the evil spirit overcomes the exorcists and runs them out of the house "naked" and "wounded." To say the least, the exorcists were powerless and the evil spirit humiliated them.
    11. News of the exorcists' humiliation spreads: News of the exorcists' humiliation spread throughout Ephesus and "a fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified." This fear seems to mirror the same fear that was produced by the judgment against Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:11). What is significant is that the "name of the Lord Jesus was magnified." The Ephesians had come to understand that the name of Jesus was a powerful name that must be used correctly, as the episode with the Ephesians demonstrated.
    12. The book burning: The fear that fell upon the city was apparently extremely profound, so profound that it produced a mass confession by Christians (verse 18) and non-Christians (verse 19) who practiced magic. This mass confession is interesting because it demonstrates the prevalence of magic and the practice of magic at that time. Moreover, it shows that some Christians had held onto the practice after their conversion. Through the defeat of the Jewish exorcists, the individuals who repented came to see the error of their trust in magic and became aware of the very real power of God. This confession culminated in a mass burning of magic books. The scriptures place the price of the books destroyed at "fifty thousand pieces of silver." How this translates into today's dollars depends on if the monetary unit referred to is Greek or Jewish. The weight of the commentaries seems to be that the Greek monetary unit was the intended reference. If this is true, then Boles puts the value at around $10,000. Whatever the monetary unit, it was a substantial sacrifice. In verse 20, the scripture states that, as a result, the word of God "mightily grew" and "prevailed." That the word of God fared so well might have been aided by the fact that the Ephesian magicians had left their belief system because it had proven unreliable. Accordingly, many of these folks probably represented the "good ground" that Jesus speaks of that is earnest to hear God's word and honest in its response (Matt. 13:23).
    13. Lessons from the Ephesian exorcists:
      1. Money and Christianity often do not mix: While the Bible does not explicitly say so, historians and Bible scholars state that the Jewish exorcists worked for money. Perhaps they saw a moneymaking opportunity by incorporating the name of Jesus that was able to work such wonders through Paul. The Bible demonstrates time and time again that a profit motive and worship do not mix (I Tim. 6:9-10). This is not the only instance where the combination of money and worship was met with disapproval. Jesus threw out the moneychangers in the temple (Matt. 21:12-13). In an a very similar story, Simon the sorcerer was rebuked for trying to offer money to purchase the power to work miracles (Acts 8:14-24). Ananias and Sapphira were killed for their dishonesty in giving money to the church (Acts 5:1-11). The lesson for us is that money, profit, and advantage should be the last thing on our mind when it comes to serving and worshipping God. Unfortunately, there are many false teachers who lead many astray in order to profit on their misplaced devotion (II Pet. 2:1-3). We often look at this as reprehensible and pride ourselves in our belief that we are not guilty of such vile actions. However, we may be guiltier than we suspect. While this is often a matter that people contend is an area where judgment is exercised and there are no hard and fast rules, we need to carefully consider how our congregations handle money and what are actions are towards Christian brethren. The church is not a place to develop business contacts our "network." It is a place of worship and only worship.
      2. The name of Jesus must be properly handled: If there is one thing that really sticks out about this story, it is how powerful the name of Jesus can be when it is properly handled. Just a few verses before this story Paul is working miracles in the name of Jesus. These jealous and/or opportunistic exorcists try to tap into this power. The problem is the name of Jesus cannot be used effectively for improper purposes. Jesus taught that just because people worked in his name did not automatically render them righteous in the eyes of God (Matt. 7:21-23). The world needs to learn this lesson. Mankind has become so gullible and unable to discern between truth and falsehood that anyone invoking the name of Jesus is often assumed to be a Christian. Perhaps even worse, it also works the other way. Individuals with negative views on religion based on television evangelists or something else often assume that anyone invoking the name of Jesus is crooked, stupid, narrow-minded, intolerant, and/or weird. This is a shame. The truth is that the name of Jesus is powerful when used appropriately. Accordingly, those of us who teach in his name carry a very grave responsibility to make sure that we teach in a manner that glorifies and honors our Savior.
      3. True repentance is more than saying you are sorry: The Ephesians who practiced magic did more than merely express their regret at being involved in the
        occult. The Christians did more than merely make a half-hearted promise to do better. They removed the problem. True repentance involves more than a feeling of sorrow, it is a godly sorrow that produces a change (II Cor. 7:8-13). Many Christians may not appreciate this distinction.
    14. Paul Makes Future Plans and Deploys Evangelists to Macedonia (Acts 19:21-22)
      1. Paul plans his future journey: Paul plans his future journeys in verse 21. Once again, Paul demonstrates his continuing concern for churches that he previously established. Paul obviously wanted to visit Jerusalem. The purpose for visiting Jerusalem was to deliver assistance to the needy saints residing there (Rom. 15:25; I Cor. 16:1-3). Paul then wanted to visit Rome. Paul expressed this same desire in his epistle to the church at Rome (Rom. 1:13; Rom. 15:23-24; 28). As an aside, Paul clearly wrote I Corinthians while at Ephesus (I Cor. 16:8-9; 19). The events recorded in verse 21 and the following verses most likely occurred after he authored this letter.
      2. Paul tarries in Ephesus: In verse 22, Paul elects to stay in Ephesus for awhile. Paul mentions this same intention in his letter to the Corinthians (I Cor. 16:8-9). Most commentators agree that the reason for Paul's decision to stay was that the festival of Artemis was near. The festival was a major event at Ephesus and the city would be filled with visitors who would come to celebrate, observe or participate in the games that took place during the festival, and worship Diana. Ephesus was host to the temple of Diana. The many visitors provided Paul with a tremendous opportunity to preach the Gospel. The commentators believe that this was the reason for Paul's decision. Paul dispatches Timothy and Erastus. This Erastus may or may not be the same Erastus mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament (Rom. 16:23; II Tim. 4:20).
    15. The Uproar Over Diana (Acts 19:23-41)
      1. Ephesus and Diana: As previously mentioned, Ephesus was the site of a temple dedicated to Diana. It was also the site of a major festival that attracted numerous visitors to the city. In Ephesus there were silversmiths that made silver shrines or miniature temples that worshipers of Diana often purchased. Sales were probably brisk during the festival. Demetrius was one of the silversmiths and he feared that Paul's teachings would dampen sales. The reason for this fear appears to be that Paul had succeeded in converting many idolaters to Christianity (verse 26). This caused a considerable amount of trouble. Verse 23 says that "there arose no small stir about that way." The Greek words used render the meaning that there was a dispute concerning the way. Accordingly, the Bible makes it clear that this was a dispute that involved Christianity.
      2. Demetrius incites a riot: Demetrius determined to do something about Paul's anti-idol teachings. Accordingly, in verses 25-28, Demetrius calls together the silversmiths and points out that Paul's teachings threaten to curtail demand for their silver shrines and threaten Diana. This enraged the silversmiths and they began to cry "Great is Diana of the Ephesians." This mini-riot soon snowballed as the whole city became caught up in the confusion. Unfortunately, the silversmiths elevate their own greed over the truth that was preached by Paul (Prov. 15:27; Eccl. 5:10; Jer. 17:11; I Tim. 6:9-10; James 5:3). This story is quite similar in certain respects to the story of the Philippian damsel who landed Paul and Silas in jail (Acts 16:16-24).
      3. The mob seizes Christians: Obviously the mob that had come together wanted to take their frustration out on Paul. However they were apparently unable to seize him. Unable to lay hold of Paul, in verse 29 the crowd seizes Gaius and Aristarchus, both of whom traveled with Paul. According to the commentators, this Gaius is not the same Gaius we read about elsewhere in the Bible (Acts 20:4; Rom. 16:23; I Cor. 1:14; III John 1). Aristarchus was from Rome (Acts 27:2) and was a great help to Paul in his ministry (Col. 4:10; Philemon 24).
      4. Paul's desire to aid his fellow Christians: After grabbing these men, the mob went into the theater. In verses 30-31, Paul learned of it and wanted to go to the mob and confront them. The disciples, realizing the danger, prevented Paul from going to the mob. In addition, "certain of the chief of Asia" also persuaded Paul to stay away. These "chiefs" were officials elected to oversee the games and festival. In short, these were very important men who had befriended Paul. What is ironic about the help from the "chiefs" is that these men presided over the festival that celebrated idolatry. Somehow Paul was able to make influential friends such as Felix, Festus, and these chiefs. This is an interesting lesson for those who think that Christian influence can never be used with respect to powerful individuals. This story also illustrates the boldness of Paul. He was ready to march in and defend his fellow Christians even if it meant his life (I John 3:16). The story should shame us when we fail to stick up for Christian principals in a relatively sheltered setting or when we run down brethren to those outside of the Church. Once the silversmiths and the Ephesians who had joined them were inside, chaos ensued. The mob was disorganized and confused.
      5. The Jews make a half-hearted attempt to raise a defense: The Jews, obviously concerned since they too opposed idol worship, desired to put up a spokesman. They obviously feared that they might eventually bear the brunt of the angry mob's wrath. They put forth a spokesman named Alexander. Alexander tries to quiet the crowd to talk, but the crowd notices that he is a Jew and cries the same chant ("Great is Diana of the Ephesians") for two hours. Alexander never gets an opportunity to speak.
      6. The town clerk restores order: Finally, the town clerk, an elected official, steps in and restores order. The town clerk starts off with "flattering" speech concerning Ephesus and its reputation as a city that worshipped Diana. After appealing to this sense of civic and religious pride, the town clerk then argues that Paul's teachings cannot change the renowned allegiance of Ephesus to Diana. The town clerk obviously underestimated the power of the word of God (II Cor. 10:1-6; Heb. 4:12) In making this argument, the town clerk means to convey that Paul is not the terrible threat they were professing him to be. The town clerk goes on to point out that Paul had not attacked Diana in any way (again painting Paul as harmless). This statement is interesting because it may give us an insight into Paul's method of teaching. From this statement one might infer that Paul had not directly attacked idolatry, but had used indirect teaching to convince many Ephesians that idolatry is wrong. We know from the scripture that Paul was not always so gentle (e.g. Rom. 1-2). Finally, the town clerk points out that the law forbids the mob from taking the law into its on hands. The town clerk observes that any dispute should be brought before the appropriate tribunal. The town clerk noted that not following his advice may provoke a response from Rome. This is enough to quiet the crowd and the crowd disperses.
  4. Paul Goes to Macedonia, Greece, and Troas (Acts 20:1-12)
    1. Paul leaves Ephesus for Macedonia: In Acts 20:1, Paul leaves Ephesus after his confrontation with the Ephesian silversmiths. There is no reason to believe that Paul left Ephesus because of the silversmiths. Paul had already decided to leave Ephesus before the riot broke out (Acts 19:21-22). From Ephesus, Paul goes to Macedonia. The Bible does not explicitly disclose where exactly Paul went. However, it is possible to glean a little detail from other books in the Bible. Paul probably went to Troas where he expected to find Titus, but Titus was not there. Paul then departed from Troas for Macedonia (II Cor. 2:12-13). Eventually, Titus caught up with Paul in Macedonia (II Cor. 7:5-6). Paul had previously written to the church at Corinth that he would come to Corinth after passing through Macedonia (I Cor. 16:5-8). We do not know for sure where Paul went while in Macedonia. Possible cities where scholars suggest that Paul visited include Phillipi, Thessalonica, and Berea. This makes sense given Paul's habit of visiting existing churches.
    2. Paul continues to Greece: Acts 20:2 says that Paul left Macedonia after giving the Christians there "much exhortation." Once again, we see Paul's concern for the newly established churches and his care for the new converts. After leaving Macedonia, Paul went to Greece, and probably stopped in Corinth (II Cor. 1:15-16).
    3. Paul changes plans and heads back through Macedonia: Paul stayed in Greece three months. During this stay, Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans (Rom. 16:1). Paul then wanted to sail to Syria but "the Jews laid wait for him." While it is unclear what the plot was, it obviously was serious because it caused Paul to abandon his plans and to go out of his way through Macedonia.
    4. Paul's group: From Macedonia, Paul traveled to Asia with quite an entourage of fellow Christians. The entourage might be explained by the fact the Paul was carrying a contribution from various churches to Jerusalem (II Cor. 9; Rom. 15:25-27). The idea might have been safety in numbers. In the group were some individuals that are mentioned elsewhere in the Bible: Aristarchus (Acts 19:29; Acts 27:2; Col. 4:10); Timothy; Tychicus (Eph. 6:21; Col. 4:7; II Tim. 4:12; Tit. 3:12); and Trophimus (Acts 21:29; II Tim. 4:20). Sopater may possibly be the same individual referred to as Sosipater in Rom. 16:21, but that is subject to much controversy. Secundus and Gaius of Derbe are not mentioned elsewhere. Gaius is not the same Gaius mentioned in Acts 19:29 because that Gaius was from Macedonia (Derbe is in Galatia).
    5. Luke joins Paul in Philippi: In Acts 20:5, the scripture changes person, indicating that Luke has joined the group. Luke was apparently left in Phillipi judging by the changes in person in the scripture in Acts 16. Luke rejoins Paul in Phillipi as Paul made his way back through Macedonia on his way to Asia (Acts 20:6). For some reason, a portion of the party went ahead to Troas while at least Paul and Luke remained in Phillipi for the Passover. Exactly how much of the party and who went ahead to Troas is the subject of much debate. The outcome of this debate does not make a single bit of substantive difference. Why Paul and Luke tarried is unclear. Luke may have needed time to prepare for the journey. Paul may have wanted to remain so that he would have an opportunity to preach to the Jews who were gathering for Passover. In any event, after Passover, Luke and Paul sailed from Neapolis (the port of Phillipi) for Troas. The journey apparently lasted 5 days. Paul's previous journey from Troas to Neapolis only lasted 2 days (Acts 16:11).
    6. Paul preaches in Troas (Acts 20:7-12): Verse 7 is a crucial verse that gives us critical insight concerning how and when Christians should worship. From this verse we learn that the early Church gathered on the first day of the week and had communion. This is confirmed elsewhere in the Bible (I Cor. 16:1-2). Some have raised questions about this verse based on the fact that the Jewish day began at sundown. The concern is that, according to the Jewish calendar, the "first day of the week" really begins at sunset rather than midnight. This concern seems to be more academic than spiritually significant. It is quite clear that the early church followed this example. Justin Martyr in his second Apology to Antoninus Pius describes the early church's worship service as taking place on Sunday and including communion. The Greek words here translated as "break bread" are the same Greek words used in Acts 2:42. Accordingly, there is little doubt that this verse refers to the communion service. In verse 8, Luke mentions that the Christians were gathered in the upper room and that the room was full of lights. The purpose of this detail has been the subject of much speculation. For example, some say that the lights were used to make it clear that nothing untoward was going on so late at night and some say that the lights mark the solemnity of the service. Whatever the purpose of the reference, it is evident that it carries no real spiritual significance. In verses 9-12, we read an account of Paul raising dead young man. Eutychus fell asleep during Paul's sermon and fell to the street below. Verse 9 says he was "taken up dead." Notice that the scriptures do not say "taken up for dead." The implication being that Eutychus was actually dead. Paul went down to the street and "fell on him." Apparently Paul actually laid down on top of Eutychus and embraced him. This action imitates both Elijah (I Kings 17:21) and Elisha (II Kings 4:34). After doing this, Paul told the people that the Eutychus was alive again and then he returned upstairs to break bread an eat. Here the reference can be either to the communion service or to an actual meal. The weight of the commentary seems to be that it was a common meal. In any case, Paul was right. Eutychus was alive and his resurrection was a great boost to the Christians who were present.
  5. Paul's Farewell to the Elders at Ephesus (Acts 20:13-38)
    1. Paul's Journey to Ephesus (Acts 20:13-16): In verse 13, Paul's companions set sail from Troas to Assos, which is approximately 30 miles by sea. Paul decides to travel to Assos by land, which is approximately a 20 mile journey. There is no explanation in the Bible as to why Paul made this decision. After leaving Assos, Paul and his group traveled to Mitylene, which is the capital of the island of Lesbos. The trip from Assos to Mitylene was about 30 miles. From Mitylene, the group traveled the next day to Chios. The following day they traveled to Samos, but apparently did not stop there and went on to Trogyllium in Asia Minor. The Greek word paraballo (3846) is translated as "arrived," but seems to indicate that the group went beside it or brushed by it on their way to Asia Minor. The next day the group sailed into the inlet and arrived at Miletus. Miletus is about 28 miles southwest of Ephesus and was a major seaport. Paul was determined to arrive in Jerusalem by Pentecost (perhaps to take advantage of the opportunity to influence the masses that would surely be gathered there). In order to expedite his journey, Paul elected to avoid stopping in Ephesus. After all, Paul had many friend at Ephesus and the risk of being compelled to stay longer than he intended was the motivation for Paul's decision to go to Miletus.
    2. Paul's Speech to the Ephesian Elders (Acts 20:17-38): Upon arriving in Miletus, Paul sends for the Ephesian elders. His address to the Ephesian elders tells us much about Paul and the lessons that we can learn from his ministry.
      1. Paul reminds the elders of his humility and sincerity: Paul begins by pointing out to the elders that they had known Paul and his actions. Paul then states that he had served the Lord humbly, sincerely, and steadfastly through much persecution from the Jews. The importance Paul placed on humility can be seen in the frustration he expressed when the Corinthians' attacks on Paul forced him to defend his apostleship and validate is ministry (II Cor. 12). Humility is a critical characteristic for a Christian to cultivate (Rom. 12:3; James 4:10; I Pet. 5:5). Pride has no place in our service to God. Likewise, sincerity is something that should influence our service to God. Worship that is insincere is worthless in the eyes of God (I Cor. 5:18; II Cor. 1:12; II Cor. 2:17; Phil. 1:9-10; Titus 2:6- 8; I John 3:16-19). Paul points out here that he persevered despite the plots against him concocted by the Jews. What a shame that we let far less keep us from serving God or "finishing our course" (Gal. 6:9; Heb. 12:1; I Pet. 1:13).
      2. Paul preached the complete message of the Gospel to all: Paul emphasizes that he "kept back nothing that was profitable" for the Ephesians. This was probably important since this would be Paul's last message to the Ephesian elders. He wanted them to know that he had taught them everything that they needed to know. Paul understood that the Church would face threats from false prophets (Acts 20:29-30). Accordingly, Paul probably wanted them to know that there was nothing else and that any additions or alterations to the Gospel that he had taught only perverted the Gospel as certainly not beneficial (Gal. 1:6-9). In short, Paul held nothing back. We need to do the same. Too many times we shy away from subjects because that might offend the hearer. If the message comes from God, it not only should be but also must be taught. We need to be bold in proclaiming the Bible's message (Rom. 1:16), but we need to make sure that perspective and compassion temper our boldness (Gal. 6:1-2). Paul taught this message both privately and publicly. We need to do the same thing. Our obligation to teach God's word does not only exist on Sunday morning once every month or two when we are on the schedule to speak. Our obligation to teach is a continual one. Aquilla and Priscilla were able to correct Apollos by teaching him privately. The Church has had much more success in converting sinners when a Christian takes time to study privately with someone. Rarely do we see someone walk into a service a sinner with no prior teaching and walk out after the service converted. Private teaching plays an important role in our efforts to win souls. Paul goes on in verse 21 to state that he has taught the same message to the Jews and to the Greeks. This was a major statement at the time. There had been much controversy over the inclusion of Gentiles in the Church (Acts 11:1). Paul never blinked at this concern and forcefully proclaimed that the Gospel is for all whom will obey it. (Rom. 1:16; I Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:26-29). The reference to repentance and faith generally describe the subject matter of Paul's teachings. It is unimportant that baptism is not specifically mentioned here. Paul makes it quite clear in is teachings and in recounting his own story of conversion that baptism is a necessary step in salvation through the Gospel (Acts 22:16; Rom. 6:1-7; I Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:26-29; Col. 2:10-15).
      3. Paul foretells his future afflictions: Paul mentions his journey to Jerusalem and states that he goes "bound in the spirit." This phrase could mean that the Holy Spirit was compelling Paul to travel to Jerusalem. It could also mean that Paul felt personally compelled to travel to Jerusalem. The latter seems more likely since Acts 19:21 states that "Paul purposed" to go to Jerusalem. Paul states that he does not know specifically what will happen in Jerusalem. However, in verse 23, Paul acknowledges that he has been warned through the Holy Ghost that future afflictions will come. We can see examples of these warnings in the scripture (Acts 21:4; Acts 21:10-14). How different we are! We wake up every morning taking for granted our religious freedom and squandering our tremendous opportunities. Paul woke up every morning knowing that afflictions awaited and yet searched for opportunities to serve the Lord. Despite this knowledge, Paul does not intend to pull back, but instead intends to preach the Gospel even if it costs him his life. Paul had the ability to properly assign priorities in his life even placing serving God above his own life (Matt. 10:39). Paul seemed to almost relish suffering for God (II Cor. 12:10). While it may seem difficult we should endeavor to develop the same attitude (Acts 5:41; Rom. 8:17; I Pet. 2:20). We should look at the temptations and perils that infrequently face us (when compared to the early Church) as opportunities to show the power of God's Word in our life and score a victory for God against Satan (James 1:1-12). Paul also emphasizes the need he feels to finish his course. If any one could sit back and take it easy and coast into heaven, it was Paul. However, Paul refuses to let up and consistently warned others to endure until the end (I Cor. 9:24-27; Gal. 6:9; Phil. 3:8-15). If Paul could not give up, neither can we. If we can persevere, perhaps we can have the same sense of satisfaction and peace that Paul enjoyed at the end of his life (II Tim. 4:6-8). In verse 25, Paul tells the elders that he will not see them again.
      4. Paul's admonition to the elders and his warning concerning false prophets: In verse 26-27, Paul again emphasizes that he has preached the entire Gospel and has declared "all the counsel of God." Paul states that he is "pure from the blood of all men." This is obviously a reference to the fact that no souls would be lost from Paul's failure to teach, because Paul had declared the entire "counsel of God." The Ephesians only had themselves to blame if they failed to heed Paul's preaching (Acts 18:6). This idea of innocence is illustrated in the Old Testament story of the watchman (Ezek. 3:18-21). After assuring the elders that they had heard the entire message of God, Paul exhorts them to take this message and feed the Church. Paul urges them to "take heed" to themselves. Elders are obligated to be examples to the congregation (I Pet. 5:1-3). Paul also instructs them to watch over and feed the Church. Elders have a duty to teach and watch over the souls of the congregation (I Tim. 3:1-7). In fact, elders are specifically charged with the duty of effectively dealing with false teachers (Titus 1:5-16). Interestingly, Paul commands the elders to watch over "all of the flock." The obvious message is that an elder should treat each and every soul as important as demonstrated in the teachings of Jesus (Matt. 16:26; Luke 15:4-32). Paul brings home the gravity of the elders' duties to the Church by reminding them that this Church was purchased with the blood of Christ (I Cor. 6:20; Eph. 1:7; Eph. 5:25; Col. 1:14; I Pet. 1:18-19). Paul then goes on to warn the elders that false prophets would attack the Church. The word grievous is from the Greek word barus (926) and means violent, cruel, or unsparing (Matt. 7:15). Paul's prediction was correct. Ephesus suffered a great deal from false teaching (Rev. 2:1-7). Hymenaeus and Alexander (I Tim. 1:20), Phygelus and Hermogenes (II Tim. 1:15), and Diotrephes (III John 9) are all false prophets mentioned in the Bible that can be traced to Ephesus. Paul states in verse 30 that some of these false prophets would come from within the Church. This should be a lesson to us that we remain watchful and refuse to accept some teaching that is inconsistent with the Bible simply because the person teaching the false doctrine wears the name Christian. In verse 31, Paul describes the deep and sincere efforts he made to warn of these false teachers.
      5. Paul concludes his charge to the Ephesian elders: Paul commends these elders to God. Paul will not see them again, so he leaves them in the very best of hands. In addition, Paul commends them to the Word "which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified." The power and importance of the word of God cannot be overstated (John 17:17; Titus 3:14-17; Heb. 4:12). In verses 33 and 34, Paul makes it clear that his motives were pure and that he had not preached for monetary gain or other benefit. Instead, Paul points out that he had worked to support himself. Not only had Paul worked to support himself, but he also worked to help support those that were with him (I Cor. 4:!2). This was a difficult subject for Paul because this had been a source of criticism by his opponents. In fact, Paul defended his right to obtain church support to the Corinthians (I Cor. 9:1-15). In verse 35, Paul goes a step further and points out that he has showed them how they ought to support the weak. Paul, a tentmaker, somehow found the ability to give to the needy in Ephesus. Through those actions, Paul taught the importance of working to enable such help to be given (Eph. 4:28). Paul quotes Jesus as saying "It is more blessed to give than to receive." It is unclear how Paul had knowledge of this quote, but it is almost certain that some of the words of Jesus that were not specifically recorded by the Gospel writers were passed along and shared orally. After concluding his charge to the elders, Paul prayed with the elders. The elders were overcome with sadness since they would never see Paul again and they express these emotions by weeping and hugging and kissing Paul. It is interesting to note that the Greek word translated "kissed" is kataphileo (2705) and means to kiss again and again. The elders then accompanied Paul back to the ship.
  6. Paul's Journey to Jerusalem: (Acts 21:1-16)
    1. The Journey to Tyre (Acts 21:1-3): After leaving Miletus, Paul and his companions sailed south to Cos, which is a small island approximately 40 miles from Miletus. They apparently made the journey in one day. The next day the group sailed to Rhodes, 50 miles southeast of Cos. From Rhodes, they traveled to Patara. Once at Patara, the group found a boat sailing to Jerusalem and decided to get on board. The reason for the change in boats might have to do with the nature of the journey from Patara to Jerusalem. The two cities were over 400 miles apart and traveling between the two required sailing over the open seas. The group's boat may not have been able to handle such a journey. The ship actually went to Tyre first because it was supposed to unload cargo there.
    2. The Tyre Disciples Warn Paul (Acts 21:4-6): Paul and his group found disciples at Tyre so they stayed there seven days. "Finding" is from the Greek word aneurisko (429) that means to find by searching. Paul and his group did not simply happen upon these disciples but actively sought them out. These disciples warned Paul that dangers awaited in Jerusalem. This warning is consistent with the warnings given by the Holy Ghost (Acts 20:23). During their stay, Paul's group made preparations for their journey to Jerusalem. "Accomplished" is from the Greek word exartizo (1822) and means to equip fully. After these seven days, Paul and his group left Tyre. Much like the Ephesian elders at Miletus, the disciples in Tyre (men women, and children), followed them to the boat and prayed with Paul's group before they left by boat. It is unclear whether they left on the same boat that brought them to Tyre.
    3. The Journey to Caesarea and the Prophet Agabus (Acts 21:7-14): After leaving Tyre, Paul's group sailed to Ptolemais and stayed with the brethren there one day. Ptolemais was approximately 30 miles south of Tyre. After leaving Tyre, the group went to Caesarea and stayed with Philip the evangelist. It is unclear whether the group made this trip by land or sea. Philip mentioned here is not the apostle Philip. This is the Philip that converted the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8. He has become an "evangelist." The word "evangelist" is from the Greek word euaggelistes (2099) and means a preacher of the Gospel. This is also the same Philip that was one of the seven in Jerusalem chosen to assist the widows (Acts 6:1-6). Philip had four virgin daughters who had the gift of prophecy. These women provide additional support for the lesson that women had an important role in the church. These women obviously prophesied in a private setting (I Cor. 14:34-35). Paul and his group stayed several days at Caesarea. While they were there Agabus, a prophet from Jerusalem, arrived. This may be the same Agabus that foretold of the great famine (Acts 11:28). Agabus came to Paul and took Paul's garment and bound his own hands and feet and prophesied that Paul would be bound in Jerusalem by the Jews and delivered to the Gentiles. Having heard this, Luke and the rest of Paul's companions try to persuade Paul to stay away from Jerusalem. Paul refused to heed their pleas. In verse 13, Paul indicates that he was affected by their pleas in that it was breaking his heart. However, Paul refuses to listen and shrink away from his mission. Paul states that not only is he willing to be bound, but he is also ready to die for Christ. This is consistent with the dedication Paul showed throughout his ministry (Acts 20:22-23; II Cor. 12:15; Phil. 3:8; II Tim. 2:10). If only we had a sliver of such determination. After seeing that Paul would not be persuaded, his companions gave up and said "the will of the Lord be done." Finally, Paul's companions understood that Paul was doing the Lord's will. Too often we let our desires and our concerns get in the way of doing the Lord's will. We need to stop worrying about our wants and desires in this life and start paying more attention to our destiny in the eternity that is to come.
    4. The Journey to Jerusalem (Acts 21:15-16): Paul and his companions left Caesarea and traveled to Jerusalem. Jerusalem was 64 miles south. Unfortunately for Paul and his companions, it was uphill. Some of the disciples at Caesarea accompany Paul to Jerusalem. One of these disciples is Mnason of Cyprus who was an "old disciple." The better translation is "early disciple." In other words, Mnason was converted early in the history of the Church. Mnason, through some method had the ability to procure lodging for Paul and his companions.