Chapter 5 – When the speaker goes on too long!
1 After the uproar had ceased, Paul called the disciples to himself, embraced them, and departed to go to Macedonia. 2 Now when he had gone over that region and encouraged them with many words, he came to Greece 3 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. 4 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. 5 These men, going ahead, waited for us at Troas. 6 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.
7 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. 8 There were many lamps in the upper room where they were gathered together.
9 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 storey and was taken up dead.
10 But Paul went down, fell on him, and embracing him said, ‘Do not trouble yourselves, for his life is in him.’ 11 Now when he had come up, had broken bread and eaten, and talked a long while, even till daybreak, he departed. 12 And they brought the young man in alive, and they were not a little comforted.
13 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. 14 And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and came to Mitylene. 15 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. 16 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.
A moving message!
A church looking for a preacher invited a likely candidate to preach the Sunday morning sermon. The comment made to him at the end of his preaching was that his message was ‘moving, soothing, and satisfying’. He was told it was so moving that half the congregation walked out, so soothing that the other half fell asleep, and so satisfying that he would never be asked back to preach!
Here we see how Paul is literally and geographically moved by the message of the gospel. It moves his fellow Christian workers and him from place to place in their desire to share Christ with lost men and women. Their gospel message of the crucified and risen Saviour moves the souls of people, too. Those who come to trust Him know His pardon and His life-changing power within. That not only moves their souls. It also moves their eternal destiny from Hell to Heaven. Believing and being committed to that message of the cross and the empty tomb should still move Christians today to go many extra miles and spend much time to sharing with others.
So, having encouraged the gathered disciples after the trauma caused in Ephesus by Diana worship and materialism, Paul goes to share the gospel ‘with many words’ in Macedonia, then for three months to Greece. Then on the brink of going to Syria with the same message he decides instead to backtrack through Macedonia. This is because of another Jewish plot to kill him. His co-workers travelling with him are equally committed to putting themselves out even at personal cost so that sinners can hear of forgiveness and eternal life by coming to Christ. Sopater of Berea goes with Paul to Asia. Fellow Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus, along with Gaius of Derbe and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia, go ahead of Paul and Sopater to wait at Troas, the port linking Asia to Macedonia, Greece and Achaia (better known as Troy). Paul’s faithful, trusted and gifted protégé, Timothy is with them also. Paul and Luke sail to Troas from Philippi, in Macedonia, after the Jewish feast of Unleavened Bread and stay at the port for a week.
Please pause to ask yourself if you know Jesus Christ as your Saviour personally. If so, do you ever thank God for those who sacrificed and still sacrifice their time and energy, and maybe much more, to help you to receive and follow Christ in your life? Also, do you surrender your preferences, time and money to help others to come to Christ? Do you pray for non-Christian friends and associates? Do you try to make it a daily habit, with God’s wisdom and caring sensitivity, to encourage others to know about Jesus and to trust Him? The book of Acts is all about these things.
A glimpse into the Troas church on the Lord’s Day
We now see in Troas an early celebration of the Christian Sabbath, the Lord’s Day. The principle of committing one day in seven to remember, worship and serve the Creator Lord together as a full church community, takes on added meaning for Christians by using the first day of the week as that weekly Sabbath.1 Not only is God’s day of rest remembered after He created the universe in six days from nothing. It also reminds us that Jesus rose from the grave on the first day of the week. The first-day Sabbath clearly has apostolic approval, and so the Troas church meets on the Lord’s Day for fellowship and to hear God’s word being taught. They also use the Lord’s Day communion service to remember the Lord’s death on the cross and look forward to His second coming. They will remember Him in this way ‘till He comes’.2 This is known alternatively as ‘communion’, ‘the Lord’s Supper’, or ‘the breaking of bread’. On it they will remember that Jesus’ body was broken and that His blood was shed for sinners on the cross to save them eternally. This weekly memorial should feature in each church’s worship and so obey Christ’s command to, ‘do this in remembrance of Me.’ Remember too that Jesus said, ‘If you love Me, keep my commandments.’3
The early ‘disciples’ make this a regular weekly remembrance. We are told ‘when the disciples came together to break bread’ that Paul speaks to them.4 When taking ‘communion’ together they also feed spiritually on teaching from God’s written word. Wise Christians, irrespective of denomination, do well to do the same today.
‘Many lamps’ are needed in the upper meeting room that Sunday night, simply because many people are present. It is not just the ‘faithful few’ keen Christians who gather together for this. ‘Disciples’ are not a ‘super brand’ of Christian. ‘Disciple’ or ‘disciples’ is the name God gives Christians in the Bible. The Old Testament uses the word ‘disciple’ only once, and the New Testament 258 times.5 ‘Disciple’ describes what God expects any individual to become who has repented and trusted Jesus. Only three times does ‘Christian’ or ‘Christians’ occur in the New Testament.6 Initially the name ‘Christian’ was intended as an insult to believers from opposing unbelievers. But those early Christians count themselves as privileged to bear that name. It identifies Jesus’ dedicated ‘disciples’. Christ has become their Lord, Master and Teacher. That is why there is no problem in getting all these Christians to meet together on the Lord’s Day evening for a long time, to feed spiritually on His word, and to remember Him through the ‘Lord’s Supper’. It is also why Paul gives himself to sharing God’s message now and ‘past midnight’, though he must be already physically exhausted after all he has done and suffered for the cause of Christ. He is ‘ready to depart the next day,’ and must rise early then. But nevertheless he devotes himself to sharing God’s precious word with those who meet together in that Troas church during the early and late evening of that Lord’s Day. Another example of true discipleship!
Have you really become a Christian? Are you a true disciple of Jesus? If so, your Christian life will be spiritually and hugely blessed as you keep the Lord’s Day, as best you can in your circumstances.7 Use that blessed day also to remember each week the broken body and shed blood of our Saviour with your fellow believers, ‘till He comes.’
Going, going, gone!
When Jesus prayed in Gethsemane’s garden, before going to the cross, chronic tiredness overcame His disciples. They could not stay awake even for an hour to pray for Him in His ordeal.8 A young man in Troas, named Eutychus, knows only too well how that feels. It has been a long day and the many lamps and large gathering in that upper room combine to make his eyes feel like lead as he tries to listen to a good but long Bible message. The great apostle, Paul, is speaking, although he too must feel very tired after all he has done, and he has a long journey to make in the morning. Eutychus succumbs to sleep. Maybe you too know the experience of trying to listen to a long sermon while your eyes start to close. You feel yourself ‘going—-going—–gone!’ You lose the battle. The preacher loses a hearer.
But Eutychus is now in great danger in the Troas church’s upper room! Sitting in a window seat on the third storey, sleep overcomes him. He falls unconscious to the ground below. He is dead. What will Paul and the church now do?
Apostolic power in practice and apostolic priority in preaching
In any circumstances, God’s man is the man for the crisis. So it is here for Paul. He goes down and falls on Eutychus’ dead body. He embraces him. This is not cold and mechanical ‘healing’. He assures everyone with the words, ‘Do not trouble yourselves, for his life is in him.’ Paul is not an attention-seeking showman. This dedicated apostle of God uses one of his God-given ‘signs of an apostle’,9 namely the ability to heal. God enables him to bring the young man back to life. He then returns to break bread with the gathered disciples. He concentrates not on the restoration of life or healing, but on the even more important God-given task of teaching God’s word to the church gathering. This he does ‘even till daybreak’. What stamina Paul has for spiritual ministry, and what an appetite the congregation has to hear God’s word being taught. Here are a preacher and a church with right priorities, so rare in the West today. The Christians are richly rewarded when Eutychus is now presented alive to them. They are ‘not a little comforted’. What a lovely way to put it. This is a visit from Paul, blessed by God, which they will not forget!
Paul sails on
We started this chapter by noting how the priority of sharing the good news of Christ crucified and risen again determines the movements of Paul and company. We end with further examples of this. Luke, the author of both Luke’s gospel and the Acts of the Apostles,10 now joins the party. This we know because he includes himself when he writes, ‘Then we went ahead to the ship and sailed to Assos’.11 Assos is another port near Troas. Paul instructs his team to meet them there, so he can walk from Troas to Assos. Having ongoing fellowship during the week with the Lord’s people is a great privilege which every Christian should prize and seek,12 but it is also good occasionally to take time out to be on our own with God. Obviously, we should do that every day in our quiet times when we read and study the Bible and pray in solitude to God. But also at other times, as now, we can think things through with the Lord and speak to Him in prayer on our own. We will never know what confessions, what thanksgiving, and what intercessions for others and for himself Paul covers in his hike from Troas to Assos. Have you ever tried to go for a ‘prayer walk’ on your own? It can be very helpful and refreshing spiritually.
The team meets up at Assos, go on board, and follow the ‘island hopping’ route via three small islands spreading southward by the coast of Asia Minor (modern Turkey) until they arrive at Trogyllium on the mainland. Thus they visit en route on successive days Mitylene, Chios, and Samos. These servants of Christ have the opportunity to see the amazing beauty of God’s wonderful creation as they travel in those parts.
Paul gives Ephesus a miss this time, sailing past it to Trogyllium. Paul is rushing. He does not want to spend more time in Asia Minor. He hopes to reach Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. What memories of the birth of the church that must bring to some of his brothers and sisters in Christ who were in Jerusalem on that historic Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon the church. From Trogyllium the gospel team arrive at Miletus, the next town to the south east.
Although Paul bypasses Ephesus, he certainly does not ignore or forget the church there. As we will see in the next chapter, they are on his mind and in his heart.
Questions on Chapter 5
When the speaker goes on too long!—Acts 20:1–16
A. Between leaving Ephesus and arriving in Troas, how many practical tokens of supportive fellowship can you find within Paul and his missionary team? Compare this with other passages showing how Christian fellowship can work.
Acts 20:1–6, Philippians 2:1–2, Colossians 4:7–9, 1 Thessalonians 3:1–3, Philemon 1:22–24
B. What points strike you most about what happens at Troas on the first day of the week? What in this passage gives you positive examples about how best to use the Lord’s Day?
Acts 20:7–12, Acts 2:42, Hebrews 10:24–25, Acts 18:11
C. What personal things do you learn about Paul as he leaves Troas and later arrives at Miletus? Is there something here in his life that you can put into practice in your own life? Are there other Bible verses that emphasise some of those things?
Acts 20:13–16, 1 Corinthians 14:40, Philippians 1:3–7, Philippians 2:1–4
- Exodus 20:8, 1 Corinthians 16:1–2, Acts 20:7 and John’s comment in Revelation 1:10 show the apostles endorsing the first day of the week as the ‘Lord’s Day’ Christian Sabbath. Jesus rose again, and also the Holy Spirit came on the church on the first day. ↩
- 1 Corinthians 11:23–26 ↩
- John 14:15 ↩
- The emphasis of ‘when’ is the author’s emphasis to show that it was a regular happening each week on the Lord’s Day. ↩
- Isaiah 8:16 ↩
- Acts 11:26, 26:28, 1 Peter 4:16 ↩
- Isaiah 58:13–14 ↩
- Matthew 26:37–46 ↩
- 2 Corinthians 12:11–12 ↩
- Luke 1:1–4, Acts 1:1 ↩
- ‘The word ‘we’ shows that Luke, the writer, was with and in the party that travelled. ↩
- Hebrews 10:24–25 ↩