- Acts 20:3b-21:16
Having left Ephesus and returned to Corinth for three months, Paul and his companions are headed towards Jerusalem, apparently for the purpose of delivering the Corinthians’ gift of financial aid to the needy Christians in Jerusalem (1 Cor. 16:1-4). However, the Jews there in Greece made a plot against Paul (Acts 20:3) as they were preparing to sail east to Syria, and they decided instead to travel north and revisit the Macedonian brethren. They visited Philippi and then stopped at Troas for seven days.
It is here, in Troas, that we get the clearest picture of a church assembly in all of the New Testament. Here’s what the text says:
7 On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. 9 Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. 10 Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “He’s alive!” 11 Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. 12 The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted.
(Acts 20:7-12 NIV)
There is much that can be said about this text, but for now the point is that, in this situation, as Paul was passing through, the Christians gathered, apparently in the evening, to eat together in a third-floor room. Paul spoke to them and encouraged them for a very long time. The next day, Luke and company got on the ship and sailed for Assos. Paul went on foot from Troas to Assos, got on the ship and they traveled on to Miletus.
While at Miletus, Paul sent to the Ephesian elders to come see him, which they did. Paul encouraged them and told him of his plans to go to Jerusalem, not knowing what would happen. Paul said the Holy Spirit warned him at every city that prison and hardships awaited him. Then Paul told them a sad truth:
25 “Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. 26 Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. 27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.
(Acts 20:25-31 NIV)
36 When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. 37 They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. 38 What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.
(Acts 20:36-38 NIV)
Goodbyes are never easy, and especially when it’s a final goodbye. This must have been a very sad time in the lives of these Christians. However, its sadness is lessened by the knowledge that they would one day see each other again in heaven. That, after all, is the Christian hope.
After a few more stops and many more miles, the travelers finally arrived safely in Jerusalem.