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A New Chapter – Acts 20:1-6


A New Chapter.

Text: Acts 20:1-6 

This section of text encompasses a period of well over a year, an eventful and fruitful year. This is he start of a whole new chapter in Paul’s ministry, for now he turns from a purely pioneer missionary, to a pastoral theologian, as he visits and cares for the new churches he had previously formed. He will be arrested and imprisoned. It is a transitional period in the history of the first church. Let’s learn about…

1 PerseveranceV1-3. 

Paul is going to return to Macedonia.  He desires to unite the churches, hopefully bringing together the Gentile and Jewish Christians, by reminding them of the plight of the Christians in Jerusalem, who have lost everything, when they decided to follow Jesus, and with the effects of a dreadful famine.  There are two lessons for us in verses 1-3.

  • The extent of the journey.  Note the perseverance and determination of Paul in his passion to take the gospel into all the world.  Luke simply says, ‘And when he had gone over those parts, and had given them much exhortation, he came into Greece,’  What parts?  We get a clue to extent of his work in this almost silent year of mission, when we read Romans 15:19.  
    • Where was Illyricum? He must have preached in Illyricum – an old Roman name for the area north of Greece, that is now called Albania.  If Paul had travelled from Ephesus to Troas, then across the sea to Macedonia via Philippi, he could have joined the Via Egnatia, which wound its way through Thessalonica to Dyrrachium on the Adriatic coast. 
    • When did Paul go there? But by a process of elimination, we can work put there is no other window of opportunity for him to visit Albania, except at this time, when he is ‘going over these parts.’  
    • Why did Paul walk all that way? Paul will walk miles, and go to any lengths to reach lost sinners!  In Illyricum, he ‘fully preached the gospel of Christ.’  
  • The enormity of the danger.  The second illustration of Paul’s missionary determination to fully preach the Gospel of Christ is illustrated by the fact that he rarely is out of danger.  Again we see that here. And when the Jews laid wait for him, as he was about to sail into Syria, he purposed to return through Macedonia.  Paul would be departing from Corinth by ship, sailing directly to Jerusalem.  But it seems that Paul had got wind of a plot.  It would be simple for a group of hostile Jews to overpower Paul, when far out at sea, and dispatch him overboard to drown.  Paul changed his plans at the last minute.  He cancelled his sailing, and travelled instead overland. Back up the eastern coast of Greece via Berea, Thessalonia and Philippi, from where he could sail to Troas.  

The Christian life is an adventure.  It wont always be easy, but Paul kept going in whatever circumstances he found himself. There was no turning back.  Luke 9:62,

2 Perspicacity.  V

Now, let’s think about this offering that Paul was collecting as he travelled around the various churches.  It seems to have been fairly successful for the most part.  2 Corinthians 8:1-4  Although Corinth seems to have been reluctant at first.  Paul waited at Troas for a report from Corinth, by Titus. 2 Corinthians 2:12-13.  Paul journeyed over to Macedonia, and began to travel along the Roman road, from Philippi to Thessalonia, knowing that Titus would have to travel this same road in the opposite direction.  They met, and the news was good.  2 Corinthians 7:5-16  So, now Paul is at Corinth for the winter of AD55-56, and he is gathering together his team to take the money back to Jerusalem.  He selects representatives from the churches to go with him, to demonstrate the unity of the church.  He takes:-

  • From the Church at Berea.   Sopater would represent them.
  • From the church at Thessalonica, Aristarchus and Secundus. The two names indicate that they probably came from opposite ends of society.  Aristarchus – a high born aristocrat,  Secundus, – a slave.  The word is derived from the Latin for ‘second-best!’  It’s unlikely that anyone would saddle their child with a name like that!  But slaves were often named by their master, number one, (Primus) and number two, (Secundus) etc.  A noble Lord and a slave, both believers, both entrusted with money, both equal in the sight of God!
  • From the churches in modern Turkey came Gaius of Derbe, and Timotheus from Lystra and of the province of Asia, Ephesus and its surroundings, Tychicus and Trophimus.

But there’s another reason why Paul is taking these men to Jerusalem to distribute the aid from the gentile churches.    Giving must be perspicacious! 1 Cor. 16:3-4   Paul was anxious for these Corinthian Christians to know that he himself would not be involved in any way with these offerings. When money in the church is concerned, there must be no doubt whatsoever that everything is being done properly and openly. Even if Paul himself is going to travel to Jerusalem, he would still not handle that money! The people appointed by the churches would come with him and would carry the money on behalf their won local assemblies.

So the church representatives were sent to Troas by ship, direct from Corinth, and Paul sets off on foot, to travel up through Greece and Macedonia to Philippi.

3 Pastoring and Parting. V5-6  

So Paul has returned overland to Philippi. Notice that Luke’s record changes from ‘they’ and ‘him’ to ‘we.’ When Paul, Silas and Timothy had left Philippi, Luke seems to have been left behind there, probably to mentor the new believers, establish an eldership and teach Christian doctrine.  He’s been doing that for over four years now, and the church is well founded.  He will join Paul on the journey onwards, and no doubt he will represent Philippi when the party gets to Jerusalem.   It’s the Spring time, and the ships can sail again, – It’s late April AD56, and they leave the port of Neopolis for Troas, a journey of five days by ship, much longer than the two days it took, back in  Acts 16:11  with the prevailing winds now against them.

A whole new chapter in Paul’s life, and the life of the church has begun.  

© Bob McEvoy August 2021

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