1. After the uproar had ceased, Paul called the disciples to himself, embraced them, and departed to go to Macedonia.
Once the great uproar caused by Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen that we read about in chapter 19 has died down, Paul seems to realize that his time in Ephesus has come to an end. Indeed, he would never set foot there again, as far as we can tell. So, he calls the disciples to himself and embraces them. Paul was a very zealous man, but he also was a very loving one, and he had spent more than two years and three months among this people. No doubt he had gotten very close to them, and now their parting is a sad time for both parties. Yet depart he must, and as he said he would do in Acts 19:21, he leaves from there for Macedonia to the west, where he had visited such places as Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea.
Another important fact to note is that it appears that it was during Paul’s time in Macedonia as it is set forth here that he wrote the epistle of II Corinthians. In the very next verse, as we will see, he will make his journey into Greece and visit Corinth, but first he writes them this letter to prepare them for his coming.
2. Now when he had gone over that region and encouraged them with many words, he came to Greece
Paul’s visits to these places are only briefly noted here, so we do not know for certain all he did while he was in these places. Yet we do know that he visited all the places he had ministered in that region, and he encouraged the believers there with many words. It would be many years before he could pass this way again, and so he wanted to offer these people the encouragement they needed to continue serving the Lord Jesus Christ on their own.
The word “encouraged” here is a form of the Greek word parakaleo, which is the verb form related to the paraclete, the one who comes alongside to help. These were words that Paul believed would help these people later when he was absent from them, and they had to stand for the Lord on their own.
Having completed his tour of Macedonia, Paul now moves south into Greece, where he had previously visited Athens and Corinth. No doubt he wishes to perform the same kind of work for Greece as he had done for Macedonia already.
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.
Paul stays in Greece three months. We are not told how he divided his time between the cities of Greece. Yet at the end of this time, the Jews there plot to kill him as he leaves. Since he had been planning to sail from Macedonia back to his home base in Syria, it seems they planned some way to murder him aboard ship. Therefore, Paul knowing of this, decides that his best course is to abandon the idea of returning to Syria by sea, and instead to return by land, at least as far as Macedonia. So instead of sailing east for Syria, he retraces his steps north back into Macedonia.
An important fact to note at this point is that during this three month stay in Macedonia in around 58 AD is the time that Paul writes the book of Romans, the last book he will author during the Acts period. This book tells of his plans to visit Jerusalem, and then to come to them in Rome on his way to Spain.
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.
Paul heads from Macedonia east back into Asia, where he had spent so much time at Ephesus. Now we learn of the men who are accompanying Paul on his journeys. First of all is Sopater of Berea in Macedonia. Sopater means “Savior of his Father,” and he is only mentioned here, so we know nothing more about him. Strong’s calls him the son of Pyrhus, but they must be getting this from extra-Biblical sources, since the text never mentions his father.
The next two companions of Paul are Aristarchus and Secundus of Thessalonica. Aristarchus or “The Best Ruler” we already met in chapter 19. Secundus means “Fortunate,” and only appears here in Scripture.
Next, we meet Gauis or “Lord” of Derbe, which is in Lycaonia. He has probably been accompanying Paul for quite some time, as it has been a long time since Paul was over in Derbe. We already met a Gauis in chapter 19, but that must have been a different Gauis, since that one was from Macedonia. Therefore, Gaius too is mentioned only here. Timothy, Paul’s young but loyal companion, is mentioned next. Timothy means “Honoring God,” and that is indeed what this young man did as we follow the record of him throughout Scripture. He was also from Lycaonia, either from Lystra or Derbe, and so it makes sense that he is listed with Gaius of Derbe here.
Finally, we meet two men of Asia who are Paul’s companions, Tychicus and Trophimus. Tychicus is the first of these, and his name means “Fateful.” He is the only person besides Paul mentioned by name in the book of Ephesians in Ephesians 6:21, and other than the words “in Ephesus” in verse one of that book, his name is the only thing to link that book to Asia.
Ephesians 6:21. But that you also may know my affairs and how I am doing, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make all things known to you;
Tychicus was sent to carry the book of Colossians to that city as we read in Colossians 4:7, and probably carried Ephesians at the same time, wherever it was that he delivered it.
Colossians 4:7. Tychicus, a beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord, will tell you all the news about me.
Paul considered sending Tychicus to Titus in Titus 3:12, though it is not clear whether he decided to actually do that or not.
Titus 3:12. When I send Artemas to you, or Tychicus, be diligent to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there.
We do know he did send Tychicus to deliver the book of II Timothy to Timothy, as we read in II Timothy 4:12.
II Timothy 4:12. And Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus.
Therefore, Tychicus is one of those faithful followers of Paul whom we know was loyal to the end.
Trophimus means “Nutritious.” He is much like Tychicus. We read of him again in Acts 21:29, where it confirms that he was an Ephesian, so unlike Tychicus we know for certain that that was his home city rather than some other city in Asia. It was Trophimus whom the murderous mob in Jerusalem assumed Paul had brought into the temple and defiled it, although Paul in fact had done no such thing to the poor man.
Acts 21:29. (For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.)
Trophimus apparently was another one who stayed loyal to Paul to the end, as we read of him still being with Paul in II Timothy 4:20. However, unfortunately, Paul had left him behind sick, and so he is an illustration to us of the cessation of Paul’s gift of healing after the great dispensational dividing line of Acts 28:28.
II Timothy 4:20. Erastus stayed in Corinth, but Trophimus I have left in Miletus sick.
5. These men, going ahead, waited for us at Troas.
From this verse, we learn a final member of Paul’s companions. For notice that Luke the author switches to the first person plural here, telling us that Paul and his companions went into Asia and waited for “us,” apparently meaning the rest of his companions including Luke, to rejoin him at Troas. So apparently Luke met up with Paul’s companions in Macedonia, and from here on Luke will be journeying with Paul, and so we get his eyewitness account of the things that took place. He will be a companion to Paul through all his trials and persecutions in the time following this.
Troas was the very town from which Paul had initially embarked to go to Macedonia back in Acts 16. It was there that he had his vision of a man of Macedonia pleading with him to come there and help them. Now, Troas is their stop on the way back to Syria and the land of Israel.
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.
So now Luke and the rest of Paul’s companions sail away from Philippi in Macedonia. Philippi was not a port city itself, but the port city of Neapolis was so closely connected with it that it is considered as Philippi here. They sail after the Days of Unleavened Bread are completed. They could not really celebrate this feast as they should have outside of the land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem, but no doubt they did what parts of it they could, like removing all the leaven from their homes. Yet now the celebration is over, and so they sail away from Philippi and five days later arrive at Troas, where they rejoin Paul.
Now Paul and his companions stay at Troas for seven days. Back in chapter 16 we did not read of Paul proclaiming the word in Troas, yet here we see that there are believers there, so it would seem that others had gotten to Troas before Paul and had proclaimed the gospel there. Now, Paul and his company stay with these believers and fellowship with them for a week.
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.
Now we read of something that took place “on the first day of the week.” Yet this is not at all what the Greek says here. The actual phrase is “But in the one of-the sabbaths.” This is the same phrase that is used of the day the Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead in Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:2, Luke 24:1, and John 20:1 and 19. It is then used here, and again in I Corinthians 16:2, where Paul told them to lay aside their donations on that day so that they would be ready when he came. Yet what is the meaning of this phrase?
We have discussed this issue in our study of the book of Luke, wherein I showed that, in spite of the fact that the word “Sabbath” is used, this phrase cannot mean the Sabbath day, since in Luke 23:56 we are told the women rested on the Sabbath, and then in Luke 24:1, we are told they went to the tomb on “the one of-the Sabbaths.” Therefore, this day must not be the Sabbath, because they would not have broken the Sabbath right after being so careful not to break it. Therefore, I suggested that this phrase must have to do with the Feast of Firstfruits, which took place in Israel on the following Sunday after the first of their crops for the year came in. This is specified in Leviticus 23:9-14. Let us examine verse 11.
11. He shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.
Then, from this day, they were to begin counting for the Feast of Weeks. This is specified in verses 15-21 of the same chapter. Let us look at verses 15-16.
15. ‘And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. 16. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the LORD.
So from the Sunday on which they celebrated the Feast of Firstfruits, they were to start to count seven Sabbaths until the Feast of Weeks. Thus the Feast of Firstfruits was actually the first day of counting to the Feast of Weeks. This is what I believe that this phrase “on the one of the Sabbaths” referred to. We might expand it to say, “on (day number) one of (the days that we use to count) the Sabbaths (until we get to the feast of weeks.)” So this phrase is referring to a Sunday, and it is also referring to the Feast of Firstfruits.
Now for this to make sense, we need to realize that the Feast of Firstfruits was what we might call a moveable holiday. The two criteria for determining when it would take place were that it must be on a Sunday, and it must be just after the first of the yearly harvest comes in. Yet the harvest is a variable thing, sometimes occurring earlier, sometimes later, depending upon the weather that year. This means that this was a feast that could not be mapped out in advance. You couldn’t put it on your calendar and count on when it would take place. You would know the three or so weeks it might take place, but only once the crops had been planted and one observed how they were growing could any good idea of when the Feast of Firstfruits was going to take place be formed. Even then, the priests had to see the first of the harvest and be satisfied that it had come in before they would declare the next Sunday as the day of the feast.
Now we can contrast this very much with a feast like that of Passover and Unleavened Bread, which had set times, and always took place on the same days of the same month. This holiday would never move around, whereas the holiday of Firstfruits would always be moving around.
We know that while Christ died on Passover, He rose “on the one of the Sabbaths,” that is, Firstfruits, three days later, right during the days of Unleavened Bread. Yet on this year in Acts 20, we read that Luke and his companions celebrated Unleavened Bread, traveled for five days to Troas, stayed there for a week, and then the Feast of Firstfruits came. This shows us that, on the year Christ died, the harvest came in earlier so Firstfruits was earlier, whereas this year in Acts 20, the harvest came in later, so Firstfruits was later. Yet this was the Feast of Firstfruits that they came together to celebrate here. This had nothing to do with celebrating Sunday as “the Christian Sabbath,” as some have tried to make it to be.
So the disciples come together to share a meal on this Feast day. Paul is ready to depart the next day, and so he wants to take this last opportunity to speak to the people. It seems he has a lot to say to them, as he continues speaking as the hour grows later and later, and at last midnight arrives.
8. There were many lamps in the upper room where they were gathered together.
Luke further sets the scene for us. They are all gathered in an upper room. This room is full of many lamps. This means that though it was very light, it was probably quite bright in the room. Yet these were oil lamps, and so they would be putting off quite a bit of heat, as well as smoke. So we are to imagine that the time is midnight, the room is bright, and the air is hot and smoky. This all makes quiet understandable what we see happens next.
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 story and was taken up dead.
Now we are introduced to a certain young man of Troas named Eutychus, which means “Fortunate.” The word “young man” here is neanias, and means that he is between 20 and 40 years of age. He is sitting in a window listening to Paul. Probably the room was quite full, and the window provided a convenient seat for him, as well as some cool and less smoky air from outside. Yet he is overcome by sleep. When we remember that many of the people at that time were farmers, and that farmers typically go to bed early and get up early, we can understand that this was probably far past this young man’s usual bedtime. If he was a manual laborer, then his drowsiness is even more understandable. These people worked hard, and would be quite ready for sleep by the time night came. Thus, though no doubt this young man fought sleep in the desire to hear the words of God that Paul is proclaiming, he was not able to win the battle, and eventually he drops off.
Now a young man falling asleep while listening to Paul would not be a tragedy in and of itself, but the problem is that this young man is sitting in the window. As Paul continues speaking, he sinks backwards in his sleep, and ends up falling out of the window, which is on the third story. Needless to say, his plunge did not go unnoticed, and when those inside rush down to see if he is okay, they find him dead when they take him up from the ground.
This was a sad and tragic accident, though quite an understandable one. In our day, such a tragedy would be irreversible. Yet not so in the Acts period! For they had an apostle present, and Paul could act with the very power of God. This young man had done nothing for which the government of God would condemn him as worthy of death, and the government of God will not allow death from tragic accident to overcome any of its subjects. Eutychus did not deserve death, and so the government of God was not going to allow death to have its way with him. He had been set free from the law of sin and death, and God’s government would now demonstrate that by acting in his behalf.
10. But Paul went down, fell on him, and embracing him said, “Do not trouble yourselves, for his life is in him.”
Paul goes down from the upper room, falls on this young man, and embraces him. Then he makes a stunning statement. He commands those with him not to trouble themselves. He didn’t want them making a scene, for at midnight surely any loud noises would have roused the neighborhood. He assures them that Eutychus’ life is in him. But he uses the word psuche, which means “soul.” Of course, it wasn’t in him just a moment before. Yet now at Paul’s embrace it has returned. This was a miracle, and a miracle brought about by God’s government through its agent, Paul. That government has acted to bring about God’s will on earth, just as someday it will again, when His kingdom comes in full and takes control of this world.
11. Now when he had come up, had broken bread and eaten, and talked a long while, even till daybreak, he departed.
Now Paul goes back up to the upper room where they are meeting. This being a convenient stopping place, they pause in listening to Paul long enough to break bread and eat. Remember, that is why they got together on this day of Firstfruits. (Remember, too, that their days started at sunset and ran through sunset the next day, so it was still Firstfruits even though it had passed what we would call midnight.) Then, having eaten, Paul continues talking, and does so for a long while. This would be his last chance to address these people of Troas for a long time, and God had much to say to them. We would imagine the same would be true of today, if God chose to speak to us. How much He could say if He wished to speak! Yet He does not wish to speak, for He has determined in this dispensation to keep silent. If He did speak, however, we have no doubt that there is much He could say to us, and many things in our world that He would like to comment on.
Though Eutychus may not have been the only sleepy one in the bunch, his tragic death and miraculous resurrection do not deter Paul from his message. Instead, he continues it even till daybreak before he finally departs. We can be sure he would not have done this if it was not necessary. There must have been many things these people of Troas needed to hear, and now Paul has spoken them to them. Let us hope that they were all awake enough to hear them and to take them to heart!
12. And they brought the young man in alive, and they were not a little comforted.
So they led the young man back before them alive and well, and this was not a little comforting to all the believers in Troas. To know that God was with them in such a powerful way…this must have been very encouraging indeed! He was taking charge of things, and soon all things would be conformed to His will. They need not fear for the future, for the future was in His hands.
The word for “comforted” here is parakaleo, and it related to the paraclete. The fact that this young man was alive comforted them as one coming alongside them to help. As I said, they knew God was with them from this, and that was very encouraging.
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.
Now by Paul’s orders Luke and the others go ahead to the ship they had booked passage on and sailed to Assos. Assos was a seaport in the Roman province of Asia. There, Paul planned to rejoin them, making the journey from Troas to Assos on foot. Why Paul wanted to make this journey on foot alone we are not told. Perhaps the Lord had something for him to do along this road that we are not told. Or perhaps he wanted to spend some time alone with the Lord while he traveled down this road. This is a good thing for any of God’s servants to do now and then. At any rate, this is the plan, and Luke and the others carry out Paul’s orders and set sail.
14. And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and came to Mitylene.
Their plans proceed as intended, and Paul meets them at Assos. They take him on board the ship with them, and then sail on to Mitylene. Mitylene means “Mutilated,” and is the chief seaport on the island of Lesbos in the Aegean Sea. Lesbos was an island known in ancient times for loose morals, and we get our name “lesbian” from this island. For Paul and his companions, this island is just a stop on their way from Asia back to Syria.
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.
They sail away from Mitylene on Lesbos, and come the next day opposite the next island in the chain, named “Chios” or “Snowy.” The following day they arrive at the next island called Samos, which means “Sandy Bluff.” They do not land at Samos, however, but at Trogyllium, meaning “A Cache,” a town on a promontory of the mainland of Ionia not far from Samos. They stay the night there, and the next day sail on to Miletus. Miletus means “Pure White Fine Wool,” and is another port town along the coast.
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.
Miletus is about 35 miles from Ephesus, and so it would have made sense for Paul to leave the coast at this point and travel inland back to that city where he had done so much successful work in spreading the gospel to the Roman province of Asia. However, Paul does not choose to do this. The reason is that he is hurrying his journey, going as fast as he can, because he hopes to reach Jerusalem and be there on the Day of Pentecost. Paul was an Israelite, and one who did all he could to keep the law God gave to the nation of Israel. One of those laws regarded traveling to Jerusalem three times a year for the God-appointed feasts. Paul was unable to keep this part of the law while he was spreading the gospel out so far away from the land. However, now, as he is approaching the city, he wants to try to make it there for this Day of Pentecost, or what is otherwise known as the Feast of Weeks in the Old Testament.
There were more than just religious reasons for Paul to want to be in Jerusalem at the Feast. This was the time when the inhabitants from throughout Israel would all be gathering together at Jerusalem. If he could be there at that time, there would be many people there whom he could not see otherwise if he came at any other time of year. This could also be part of this reason for hurrying.
Then, as we noticed back in chapter 18, it could well be that Paul had made a vow about attending the feast in Jerusalem. This could the vow that he fulfills in chapter 21. Of course, if this was so, Paul would be anxious to keep the vow he had made to the Lord to celebrate His coming feast in Jerusalem.