Acts 20

The Word Made Fresh

1When things had quieted down, Paul sent for the disciples. He encouraged them and then said farewell and left for Macedonia. 2He traveled through that region and greatly encouraged the believers. When he came to Greece, 3he stayed for three months. He was preparing to set sail for Syria, but the Jews plotted against him, and he decided to travel instead through Macedonia. 4He went with Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Beroea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, and Timothy, along with Tychicus and Trophimus from Asia. 5Some of them went ahead, and were waiting for us in Troas. 6After the Feast of Unleavened Bread observance we sailed from Philippi, and five days later joined them in Troas. We stayed there for seven days.

7On the first day of the week we met for a meal. Paul spoke with those who were present, and since he planned to leave the next day he continued talking until midnight. 8A lot of lamps lighted the upstairs room where we were meeting. 9A young man named Eutychus was sitting in the window, and began to slip into a deep sleep while Paul was still talking. He fell to the ground three floors below. When they went to his aid, they found that he was dead, 10but Paul went down and bent over him, took him in his arms and said, “Don’t be upset. He is still alive.” Then he went back upstairs, and after he had eaten he continued speaking with them until dawn, and then he departed. 12Meanwhile, the boy had been taken away alive, and they were all greatly comforted.

13We went on to the ship, and set sail for Assos. We meant to take Paul on board, because he had arranged for our passage, but he intended to go by land himself. 14When he met us in Assos we brought him on board and went on to Mitylene. 15We set sail from there and arrived across from Chios the next day. The day after that we stopped at Samos, and the day after that came to Miletus. 16Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus so that he wouldn’t have to spend much time in Asia. He was eager to reach Jerusalem by the day of Pentecost if that were possible.

17From Miletus he sent word to Ephesus, asking the church leaders there to meet him. 18When they gathered, he said to them, “You know how I lived among you. From the first day I set foot in Asia, 19humbly serving the Lord and tearfully enduring the troubles the Jews plotted against me, 20I never refused to do anything that was helpful. I proclaimed the message to you and taught you publicly, and in your homes, 21testifying to Jews and Greeks alike about repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus. 22And now, led by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem. I don’t know what will happen to me there, 23but the Holy Spirit assures me that imprisonment and persecution await me in every city. 24Still, I don’t consider my life to be of any value unless I finish my duty and the ministry the Lord Jesus gave me, to bear witness to the good news of the grace of God.

25“I know that none of you with whom I have traveled around preaching about the kingdom will ever see my face again. 26So, I’m telling you today that I am not responsible for the suffering of any of you, 27because I didn’t hold back from telling you God’s whole purpose. 28Watch over yourselves, and watch over all the others. The Holy Spirit has made you the overseers to shepherd God’s church that was made possible by the blood of God’s own son. 29I know that, once I am gone, savage wolves will attack you without mercy. 30And some of your own group will distort the truth in order to entice the followers to follow them. 31So, keep alert. Remember that I tearfully warned everybody night and day for three years. 32Now I recommend you to God and to the message of his grace. It is a message that can support you and give you the inheritance that belongs to those who are blessed. 33I did not covet anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34You know that I worked with my own hands to support myself and my companions. 35I have sought in every way to be an example for you that we must work to support those who are weak. Remember the Lord Jesus, who said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

36When he finished speaking he knelt with them and prayed. 37Many tears were shed, and they hugged and kissed Paul, 38saddened because he had said that he would not see them again.

Then they escorted him to the ship.


1-6: Preachers always know instinctively when it’s time to move on. Paul sets sail for Macedonia (remember, he had sent Erastus and Timothy there – see chapter 19, verse 22) to visit the churches he established in Thessalonica, Philippi, and Beroea, then travels south to Greece, but we are not told whether to Athens or Corinth or both. After three months he decides to move on, but a threat from the Jews who were so vehemently against him causes him to change plans and travel back through Macedonia instead of directly to Syria. A list is given of his companions — Sopater (his name occurs only here), Aristarchus (mentioned also at 19:29, 27:2; Colossians 4:10; Philemon 1:24), Secundus (not mentioned elsewhere), Gaius (whose name appears also at 19:29; Romans 16:23; 1 Corinthians 1:14; 3 John 1:1-2), Timothy, Tychicus (see also Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7; 2 Timothy 4:12; and Titus 3:12) and Trophimus (21:29 and 2 Timothy 4:20) — quite an entourage accompanies Paul now. They apparently sailed ahead to Troas on the Asia Minor coast, leaving the reader to guess who the “us” refers to in verse 5 and the “we” in verse 6. Paul joins them in Troas after the Passover observance.

7-12: The first day of the week is Sunday, which for Paul and the Jews begins on what we call Saturday sundown, so the breaking of bread mentioned here is probably the evening meal. Paul then preaches until midnight. Eutychus (mentioned only here) falls asleep and out the window and is feared dead, but Paul finds that he is in fact still alive. Back upstairs, after a midnight snack, they talk until dawn.

13-16: “We” — those named in verses 4 plus the narrator, possibly Luke — sail to Assos, eight or ten miles down the coast. Paul, who wanted to walk, joins them there and they sail to Mytilene, Chios, Samos, and Miletus, skipping Ephesus so that they might arrive in Jerusalem for Pentecost.

17-24: He does send a message to Ephesus, however, asking the elders to come and meet him somewhere along the coast outside the city. He reminds them of the example he set while he was with them and tells them that he is going to Jerusalem under the Spirit’s compulsion (remember how the Spirit sent Jesus into the wilderness to face the devil’s temptations). He believes he will suffer persecution and prison.

25-35: He tells them that he knows he will never see them again, and that he is free from responsibility for them. In other words, having faithfully taught them for several years, they know everything they need to know about living a life worthy of the gospel. If they fail to do so it is not his fault. He cautions them about those, externally and internally, who would lead them astray. Finally, he declares that he has no outstanding debts among them and encourages them to live by his example of earning his own keep. Their leave-taking is especially emotional and painful because he has told them this will be the last time they see him.


Paul the apostle is largely responsible for the spread of Christianity throughout the Roman world. His mission was to persuade people that Jesus was the Messiah attested by the Jewish prophets. His interpretation of that promise made the Church an everybody-is-welcome institution.