November 11, 2015

 

Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles

By: Tom Lowe

 

 

Topic #IV: The Church Advancing to the End of the Earth (Acts 13-28)   

                    

Subtopic D: The Third Missionary Journey (18:23-21:14) 

                

                                    

                          

Lesson: IV.D.5: Paul's Sermon & Healing at Troas (Acts 20:6-12)                           

 

 

 

Acts 20:6-12 (KJV)

 

6 And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days; where we abode seven days.

7 And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.

8 And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together.

9 And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead.

10 And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him.

11 When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed.

12 And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted.

 

 

 

Introduction

 

Paul was primarily occupied with his Jerusalem collection during the period covered by Acts 20:1-6.  The mystery is why Luke did not mention it.  He was certainly aware that Paul took a collection to Jerusalem, for it is mentioned explicitly in Paul’s later speech before Felix [“Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings” (Acts 24:17).] The group that accompanied Paul was almost certainly the collection delegation from the churches.  Luke did not mention this, nor did he mention the collection at all in connection with the journey to Jerusalem, which Romans 15:25-28 clearly indicates was undertaken to deliver the gift.  Why is Acts silent on the subject?  Was there ultimately some problem with the collection?

 

These are unanswerable questions, and any solution would at best be an argument based upon guesswork.  It is clear, however, what Luke did want to emphasize.  He wanted to show how Paul’s journey to Jerusalem was as foreboding as that of his master before him, how it ended in chains, but how that even in the seeming defeat of his arrest in Jerusalem God turned the events to the triumph of the gospel, leading Paul to the capital of the empire, the end of the earth, to bear his witness openly and unhinderedly.

 

The event described in this passage occurred on the eve of the delegates departure from Troas. Paul met with a group of local Christians for a “service.” Luke allows us a glimpse of what was probably a typical meeting of Christians in these early days of the church.

 

 

 

 

 

Commentary

 

6 And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days; where we abode seven days.

 

“And we sailed away from Philippi”

After the completion of the Passover festivities, Paul and his companions departed “Philippi” by sailing from its port of Nablus.

 

The “we” indicates that Luke was once more with Paul.  The last time we saw Luke and Paul together was at this same city of “Philippi.”  No doubt Luke’s presence was a great comfort to Paul, who was not a well man.  The constant abuse of his body by violent men, by exposure to the elements in storm and shipwreck, and by his divinely-appointed “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7) all added up to continuous pain and suffering.  That did not daunt Paul.  All in all, he traveled 5,580 miles by land, facing all kinds of hardships and danger, and 6,770 miles by sea in little cockleshell boats, at the mercy of wind, sun, and storm—12,350 perilous miles.  He evangelized an area of 1500 square miles in less than sixteen years.  Yet Paul was a sick man, in constant need of the services of a Physician.  Luke’s ministry to him helped ease is travels somewhat, though his brave spirit refused to give up or to take it easy just because of physical handicaps.

 

“after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days”

The year was a.d. 57.  The Jewish festival of “unleavened bread" (Passover) lasted that year from April 7 to April 14.  Paul tarried at “Philippi” for the period of the feast, then he and Luke sailed across the Aegean in “five days” to join the others at “Troas.”  “Five days” was excessive when compared to the two days it took in Acts 16:11— “Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis.” The difference in sailing time may be attributed to the wind or lack of it.

 

The apostle still observed the old ritual, Passover, but from 1 Corinthians 5:7 [“Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us”], we can see something of the new meaning and status he gave it—the Jewish Passover was becoming the Christian Easter. 

 

It was at “Troas” that Paul’s European pioneer missionary adventure began and ended so far as the Acts narrative is concerned.  He could look back over many remarkable achievements since he had first received his Macedonian call about six or seven years before.

 

“Where we abode seven days.”

Why Paul spent a week in Troas at a time when he was “in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost” is not explain, but there may simply have been no ship for the southward journey.  The time spent in Troas gave him the opportunity to minister to these people again.

 

 

7 And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.

 

“And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread”

This is an important statement.  It proves that it had become the established custom of the early church to gather for formal worship on the “first day of the week”; 1 Corinthians 16:2 substantiates this, as does the writings of the early church fathers.  Where we have a record of the day on which the early church met, it is always the “first day of the week.”  Paul tells the Corinthians that they are to bring their gifts on the “first day of the week.”  We should also remember that the church was born on the “first day of the week” when the Spirit came at Pentecost.  During the early years of the church, the believers did maintain some of the Jewish traditions, such as the hours of prayer (Acts 3:1).  But as time went on, they’ve moved away from the Mosaic calendar and developed their own pattern of worship as the Spirit taught them. 

 

The Jewish Sabbath was already obsolete; the date of the Lord’s resurrection had rung its death knell.  Matthew’s way of recording it is most significant, especially because he wrote initially for Jews. In the end of the sabbath,” he says, “as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulcher” (Matthew 28.1). The end of the Sabbath.  The “first day of the week.”  An empty tomb!  A risen Christ!  No wonder the church adopted a new day for a new dispensation. 

 

The church continued to meet on Sunday after the close of the New Testament period.  Scripture does not require Christians to observe the Saturday Sabbath: (1) the Sabbath was the sign of the Mosaic covenant (Exodus 31:16, 17; Nehemiah 9:14; Ezekiel 20:12), whereas Christians are under the New Covenant (2 Corinthians 3; Hebrews 8); (2) there is no New Testament command to keep the Sabbath; (3) the first command to keep the Sabbath was not until the time of Moses (Exodus 20:8); (4) the Jerusalem council (chapter 15) did not order Gentile believers to keep the Sabbath; (5) Paul never cautioned Christians about breaking the Sabbath; and (6) the New Testament explicitly teaches that Sabbath-keeping was not a requirement (Romans 14:5; Galatians 4:10, 11; Colossians 2:16, 17).

 

It seems, too, that in the early church not only was the “first day of the week” set aside for Christian gathering and worship, but it was the day when the Lord’s people commemorated the Lord’s Supper in obedience to His express command— “And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come” (1 Corinthians 11:24, 26).  In the early times it was the custom to receive the Lord’s supper every Lord’s day, thus celebrating the memorial of Christ’s death.  The “breaking of bread” in verse 7 refers to the Lord’s Supper, whereas in verse 11 it describes a regular “potluck” meal. By sharing and eating with one another the church enjoyed fellowship and also gave witness of their oneness in Christ. Slaves would actually eat at the same table with their masters, something unheard of in that day.

 

“The first day of the week”was a Jewish expression; the Jews and the Romans marked the days differently. By Jewish reckoning this would have been a “Saturday” night (as we would call it), since the new day started for them at sunset (6:00 p.m.), making a Saturday night the beginning of the first day of the week.  But because Luke speaks of “sunrise” and “the next day” (v.  11 and 7) he appears to be using Roman reckoning, according to which midnight, and for practical purposes sunrise, marked the beginning of the new day.  In this event it would appear that the church had concluded an ordinary working day, hence the meeting was held at night (Sunday night). And in this assembly Paul preached.  The preaching of the gospel ought to go hand-in-hand with the sacraments.

 

“Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.”

In many of our churches today Paul would have been told what time to finish.  Paul, however, was not to be governed by the clock on an occasion like this.  He had much to say, and they might never see him again.  This was a golden opportunity, never to come again.

 

Paul, the most considerate and thoughtful of men, on this occasion with so much to say, simply ignored the clock and “preached to midnight.”  A visiting preacher who did that nowadays would never be asked back.  “Don’t you know, Paul, many of these people are slaves?  They have been up since before sunrise.  They have toiled all day and are tired. They were unable to come to the assembly until their work was done.   They have to be up again tomorrow with the crack of dawn.” That’s why the church met in the evening—Sunday was not a holiday during which people were freed from their daily employment.  The believers met in an upper room because they had no church buildings in which to gather. Yet we hear no complaints from this group.  It was a rare opportunity to have an apostle in their midst.  Let him preach!

 

 

8 And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together.

 

They had the place all lighted up.  Candles and torches flamed in that crowded upper room.  The place was almost certainly packed.  These early Christians didn’t stay up until midnight whooping it up, but they were still up at midnight listening to the Word of God and praising Him.  It was a warm spring evening, the torches were burning up the oxygen supply, and the atmosphere grew hot and heavy. And still Paul preached.  Some perhaps grew restless, the spirit indeed willing but the weak flesh demanding its due.  Some were utterly absorbed, hanging in breathless suspense on every Spirit-filled word of the great apostle.  Children settled down and slept.  And still Paul preached, setting forth one more time the great mysteries of the faith, the demands of the hour, the urgency of the task, all illustrated from his vast and rich experience in the Word and in the world.  The Word of God was always declared in the Christian assemblies, and this included the public reading of the Old Testament Scriptures (1 Timothy 4:13) as well as whatever apostolic letters had been received (Colossians 4:16).

 

 

9 And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead.

 

The upper room was on the third floor.  The only spot where there might be any breeze at all was by the open “window.”  A “young man” [probably 8-14 years of age] named “Eutychus” (“Fortunate”) was perched there.  He fought against his weariness.  His heavy lids came down over his eyes, his head drooped.  He would jerk awake again, change his position and try to concentrate on Paul’s message, only to be overcome again by drowsiness.  The apostle preached late into the evening and probably long past the lads normal bed time—all these factors conspired against the youth.  Can’t you just see this “Eutychus”?  It says that “he sunk down with sleep.” He was sound asleep, and I can imagine that he was snoring.  We can feel for him.  We have all done it.  I remember being seated across the aisle from a good friend who had worked all night and then came to church without having slept. It was the same every Sunday.  I watched as his eyes would close and he would jerk awake.  Sometimes his wife would elbow him in the side.  But eventually he lost out to the “sleep” he so greatly needed, and as he did so he “fell” out of his seat and landed in the isle. Everyone turned to see what caused the noise.  Naturally he was very embarrassed and the incident evoked a lot of laughter.  Poor “Eutychus” finally stopped fighting it and “sleep” took over.  Nobody seemed to notice.  Everyone else was riveted on Paul.  Suddenly there was a crash.  “Eutychus” had fallen out of the “window,” and was killed.

 

Everyone rushed down the stairs.  Paul followed, his message rudely interrupted.  “Eutychus” was dead!  Luke assures us of that.  He was “taken up dead,” he says.  Literally it means he was taken up (picked up or lifted up) a corpse.

 

 

10 And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him.

 

“And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves;”

Paul was full of tenderness toward the young man. He embraced him, Luke says.  His resuscitation of the lad echoes that of both Elijah and Elisha in similar circumstances (1 Kings 17:21; 2 Kings 4:34).  Some have suggested that Paul had administered artificial respiration though that in itself would not account for the miracle.  Luke plainly tells us the young man was dead; what Paul embraced was a corpse.  Paul, however, plainly expected a miracle, and it came instantly as life returned to the lifeless corpse. 

 

“Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him.”

News of the young man’s death quickly engendered a typical Oriental display of extravagant grief.  The noise would have disturbed the neighborhood and caused a commotion that Paul was anxious to avoid at all costs. Paul played everything down. Far from taking advantage of the miracle, Paul sought to minimize all undue fuss and excitement. “His life is in him,” he said.  Luke, however, has already made it quite clear that the young man was truly dead (v. 9). 

 

Paul’s words “his life is in him,” should probably be understood in the sense that the boy’s “life” would be restored, though they are sometimes taken to mean that he was only unconscious.  But that is not how Luke saw it.  He spoke of the boy as “dead” (v.  9, not “as if dead”) and alive (v.  12), and the vivid details of the narrative suggests that it has come from a careful observer. Paul thus raised someone from the dead just as Peter did. Eutychus’ case is almost exactly parallel to the story of Jesus raising the daughter of Jairus.  “She is not dead, but sleepless” (Luke 8:41).  On this basis, Paul is placed in the front rank of miracle workers with Peter and Jesus himself (9:36-41; Luke 7:11-15; 8:49-56).  It was, of course, Jesus working through Paul who gave “life” to the boy.  This was a gift that belonged to the apostles.  After the canon of Scripture was established, the sign gifts were not manifested—they disappeared from the church.

 

In the New Testament, raising from the dead was a miracle that clearly symbolized the resurrection of Christ.  In the case of Lazarus, it is quite obvious. And in the present case there are some rather strong similarities with the resurrection.  It was Easter time.  The Passover had just ended, and it was the season of Jesus’ death and resurrection (v.  6).  It was the first day of the week; the day of Jesus’ resurrection (v.  7); and, given the season, Paul may well have been preaching on the event.  The restoration of Eutychus’ “life” was a vivid reminder to the Christians of Troas that the Jesus whom Paul had been preaching was indeed the resurrection and the “life.”

 

 

11 When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed.

 

“When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten,”

To help calm everyone down, Paul turned peoples’ thoughts to a meal.  It was a sensible idea.  There was no point now in going on with his sermon.  Fellowship around the table would help vent the excitement and give Eutychus a chance to recover.  Then, when the whole incident had been thoroughly aired, Paul could steer the conversation backed into spiritual channels again, which is what he did.

 

It has been suggested (and needlessly, I might add) that in the original source the word “eaten” refers not to Paul but to Eutychus on the ground that eating is a conventional proof of a complete cure (9:19; 10:41; Luke 8:55).

 

Luke has given us here another feature of these early meetings, namely, the eating of a common meal (the Agape or “Love Feast”) in the course of which the Lord’s Supper was held, for Paul is said to have “eaten” as well as having “broken the bread.” Here the meal followed rather than preceded the Lord’s Supper as was the case at Corinth (1 Corinthians 11:17-34), which suggests that that was the norm.  In any case, Paul remained talking with them long after this part of the meeting was finished.  Meanwhile, Eutychus was left in the care of some of the members until the meeting had ended.

 

“and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed.”

We could draw two conclusions to the Eutychus incident.  One focuses on Paul, the other on the lad.  The first serves to connect the incident to the larger narrative of Paul’s journey (v.  11).  Assured of the youth’s recovery, Paul returned to the upper room, partook of the Lord’s Supper with the other Christians, and evidently shared a larger meal with them. [verse 11 seems to reflect two meals, the Lord’s Supper (the “breaking of bread”) and a further meal, which he “ate.”] He then continued his discourse with them until daybreak.  Afterwards he “departed,” since he would soon need to hasten to Assos to catch his ship (v.  13).  The second conclusion focuses on Eutychus (v.  12).  He was taken home fully recovered from the fall.  Everyone was immeasurably comforted.  It was more than comfort.  They were encouraged and strengthened in their faith by what they had witnessed that night.

 

We can well imagine that Paul’s talk in the upper room was anything but frivolous.

 

12 And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted.

 

Paul delayed his departure to the very last minute, waiting, no doubt, to observe Eutychus as long as possible.  The “young man’s” complete recovery cheered everyone immensely.  He was taken home.  “Thus Paul left” (v. 11), says Luke, with particular reference to Eutychus’ restoration; that is, Paul left them as the victor (through Jesus) over death.

 

Thus the incident ended on a happy note, and Paul’s reputation, already soaring, was even more enhanced.  We also get another glimpse at the great, sympathetic heart of the apostle.  How easily he turned aside from the crowd to minister to the one.  How his heart went out to the “young man” who fell soundly asleep under his preaching.  How careful he was to damp down all fires of fuss and fretfulness when dismay was at its height, and how concerned, too, to create a calm atmosphere and a measure of privacy for the “young man” afterwards.  No wonder Paul was Luke’s hero.

 

 

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