Sermon Summary - Paul: A Model of Faithfulness - Acts 20:1-12
Paul: A Model of Faithfulness
Every person who has come to faith in Jesus is called to impact their spheres of influence to differing degrees, with different callings and in different ways. One sure way to get discouraged in that is to compare yourself with others. If you were to compare yourself with the impact that Paul had, you’d be doomed. If you were to compare yourself to brothers and sisters with varied giftings in preaching, evangelism, helps, starting new deliverance ministries or foster care, you would likely get discouraged. You are called to be faithful. You are called to be faithful first and foremost to love God, and then to give of yourself and your giftings to others in love.
In God’s providence, Paul’s impact changed the world through his drive to establish and strengthen local churches. Paul was not just about telling people how you can be saved in Jesus, but he was utterly committed to Christ’s church (Cf. Phil. 4:1, Col. 2:1-2, 1 Thess. 2:19-20, 2 Cor. 11:28). This commitment is what we see played out in Acts 20:1-6.
There were two main purposes for Paul’s travel through the churches in Macedonia (Acts 20:1). The first purpose was to preach, and to encourage and strengthen the believers. The second reason was to bring unity to all the churches, particularly between the Gentile churches and the primarily Jewish church in Jerusalem. That’s why Paul has been encouraging the churches in Macedonia and Greece for the last two years to be raising money for the poor in Jerusalem (Cf. 1 Cor. 16:1-4, Acts 19:21, 20:16, Eph. 2:13-14). Paul saw this offering as a witness to the Jewish church (and probably also the non-believing Jews), of the power of the gospel to transform the lives of Gentile believers.
As Paul is about to leave Ephesus, he is very anxious about how the Corinthians will respond to the letters he has written to them calling them to repent and reconcile with him. Paul originally had planned to leave Ephesus and go straight to Corinth, but those plans changed because he doesn’t know how the church at Corinth will respond. As he is waiting for Titus to return with their response, he instead goes to Troas and then to Macedonia (Cf. 2 Cor. 2:12-13, 7:5-9). Upon receiving a good report from Titus, Paul then writes again to the Corinthians, encouraging them to be very generous in their giving to the special offering for the Jerusalem church (2 Cor. 8:1-6, 9:6-9).
Next, Paul leaves Macedonia to go to Greece (Acts 20:2), and probably spends most of his time in Corinth. While Paul is there, he writes a letter to the church in Rome, telling them of the contributions made by the churches in Macedonia and Achaia (Rom. 15:25-28). As Paul is getting ready to leave Greece, there is a plot by the unbelieving Jews against him (Acts 20:3), so he instead changes plans and returns through Macedonia. At this point, Luke re-enters the narrative (“we”, Acts 20:6). The last time Luke mentions himself with a “we” statement was back during the first visit to Philippi when the church was planted there. Paul left Luke in Philippi to pastor the church there six years earlier. The names listed in Acts 20:4 represent all of the different churches collaborating in the Jerusalem offering. These representatives of the churches travel with Paul to Jerusalem, showing that they (as Gentiles) are there to help the (Jewish) church in Jerusalem. Paul’s desire was for good will and unity between all the Gentile churches and the Jewish church in Jerusalem.
Luke gives us a taste of what the churches did on Sundays by focusing on one particular Sunday in Troas (Acts 20:7). Sunday became the main day for worship in the early church. The switch from the Jewish practice of Saturday worship to Sunday took place because of the resurrection of Jesus on Sunday. This practice has continued throughout 2000 years of church history. Sunday came to be known as the Lord’s day (Rev. 1:10). The worship gathering usually took place in the evening, since Sunday was just a normal working day (and not a weekend like it is in our day). Luke notes that when they gathered they broke bread, which probably refers to the Lord’s Supper. We also see that they gathered to receive instruction from God’s word.
As Paul is preaching for several hours, a young man named Eutychus falls asleep and tragically falls from the third story window to his death (Acts 20:9). But the apostle Paul miraculously raises him back to life (Acts 20:10, 12), mirroring the Old Testament prophets Elijah and Elisha, who also raised dead boys back to mortal life. After that miraculous event, they all go back upstairs to continue the teaching until daybreak (Acts 20:11). What is distinctive of the church is their giving, and their regular meetings on the Lord’s day to break bread and to break open the word of God.