Tod Kennedy, October 22, 2000
Main points of application or “So what?” from Acts 20
- Israel had rituals. The church has two rituals, the Lord’s table and water baptism. Do they mean anything to you?
- Take time to reflect on, to think through, and pray about the biblical faith and what your heavenly Father wants you to do in service to him.
- Listen to, learn from, and apply the teaching, encouragement, and spiritual exhortation from your pastor-teacher.
- Pastor-teachers: your-God given job is to teach the word of God and shepherd or pastor the flock-congregation that God has given to you. That is your divine duty.
- Pastor-teachers: reject the temptation to covet material possessions; do not make the focus of ministry material gain. If necessary “make tents” so you can support yourself and help others.
- Conferences for pastor-teachers are a good thing to have. They provide teaching, warning, encouragement, vision for ministry, and build the spiritual camaraderie.
- Acts 20.1-5. After the riot in Ephesus, Paul and his missionary team traveled west through Macedonia and into Greece. The major cites on his Macedonian itinerary were Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea. The cities of Greece that Paul spent time in were Athens and Corinth. After Paul taught about God’s grace for three months in Greece, the Jews had enough of grace; they wanted him silenced. God made the plot known to Paul and guided him west by a different route. As a result, Paul set out for Syria by way of Macedonia. Recall that each of his missionary trips had begun in Antioch of Syria. He first traveled through Macedonia and then on to Troas. Luke notes the home cities of some of their team members: Sopater of Berea and Aristarchus and Secundus of Thessalonica in Macedonia; Gaius and Timothy of Derbe in Galatia; and Tychicus and Trophimus, possibly of Ephesus of Asia. Paul and Luke sent these ahead to wait at Troas. Throughout Paul’s ministry he had certain men whom he taught and trained to help him in the ministry. Pastors should do the same; they should teach and prepare men to help in the ministry, and be ready to carry on after them.
- Acts 20.6. Paul stayed in Philippi during the feast of Unleavened Bread. This was a seven day Jewish festival that began the day after the Passover and lasted from Nisan 15-21. The Jewish month, Nisan, was the same as March 15 to April 15. The mention of the feast of Unleavened Bread was Luke’s way of dating the visit; it was not a statement that the church should observe the Jewish feasts. The feasts had taught spiritual truth to the Jews. We in the church learn from the feasts but do not observe them. Passover and Unleavened Bread were one unit; the Passover marked the redemptive sacrifice, and Unleavened Bread marked the feast following the sacrifice. Passover commemorated and taught redemption by God; Unleavened Bread commemorated the separation from Egypt under God’s direction and protection and taught separation from the past to a new life with the Lord. From Philippi, Paul and Luke sailed to Troas, where they remained a week. Troas was a Roman colony located near Homer’s ancient city of Troy, the site of the Trojan War.
- Acts 20.7-13. Three things stand out from Paul’s stay in Troas: The desire for Bible teaching by the believers, Paul’s long Bible class, and the miraculous resuscitation of Eutychus. Believers gathered for fellowship—to eat and possibly to observe the Lord’s table—and to listen to Paul the apostle. They crowded into a third floor room that was lighted by oil lamps. Paul continued to talk to them, probably about his missionary trip and Bible doctrine that they needed to know. As the hours passed, the room temperature rose. The crowd of believers did not complain; they wanted to hear God’s message through Paul. Eutychus fell asleep and fell three stories; the fall killed him. Paul still possessed the gift of miracles and brought Eutychus back to life. The Troas believers set a pattern for us: they were willing to assemble with each other and to listen to Paul teach the Word of God, not just for forty-five minutes or one hour, but for many hours. We often tend to put church assembly and Bible teaching at the bottom of our list. We might complain that today’s pastors are not equal to Paul; that is true, but the center of the assembly is Christ and the Word of God. They do not change.
- Acts 20.13-16. Paul’s group sailed for Assos, while he walked, intending to meet them and sail the rest of the homeward journey, a voyage that would take them to Chios, Samos, Miletus, Cos, Rhodes, Patara, and Tyre. Assos was thirty miles from Troas by sea—shorter by land. Paul probably needed to think and pray without the interruptions that go with traveling with a group who would have question after question for him. There is a time to talk and actively serve and a time to think and reflect. Talk and activity depend on the time to think and reflect; without that we will have little worthwhile to say and the activity will become busywork without value.
- Acts 20.17. Paul had his heart set on reaching Jerusalem by Pentecost, so he did not go to Ephesus. Instead, when he reached Miletus, a prosperous city 36 miles south of Ephesus, he sent for the Ephesian pastors to come to him for a pastors’ conference. These were the men whom Paul had boldly taught in the School of Tyrannus and elsewhere for three years (Acts 19.1-20.1; Acts 20.31). Compare Acts 20.17 and 28, Ephesians 4.11-12, Titus 1.5 and 7, and 1 Peter 5.1-2, and you will see that the pastor and teacher is the same person as the elder and as the bishop. The different words highlight different aspects of the pastor-teacher’s ministry. Paul alerted the pastors to the dangers to them and their congregations because of the great spiritual battle they had joined.
- Acts 20.18-36. The conference emphasized three topics: Paul’s sacrificial ministry for them (Acts 20.18-21); Paul’s resolve to continue his apostolic ministry even in the face of more tests, more misunderstandings, more criticism, more accusations, more pain, and more imprisonment (Acts 20.22-24); and Paul’s message to the gathered pastors about their responsibilities as elders-bishops-pastors and teachers (Acts 20.25-35). No matter what the consequences, Paul had taught these men and other believers Bible doctrine; and to unbelievers—Jews and Greeks—he preached “repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (20-21, 27). Repentance is the call to think about one’s need for relationship with God and what to do about it; faith in Jesus Christ was the only way to gain eternal life and begin a relationship with God. When unbelievers repent, it does not mean that they have become believers. An unbeliever’s repentance may hold off God’s judgment or prepare him to listen more closely to the gospel. Even Paul was clear that repentance was not necessary to gain eternal life (Acts 16.31 and Ephesians 2.8-9). The Holy Spirit warned Paul about what was in store for him if he went to Jerusalem, but Paul did not change his resolve (22-24). Paul taught the pastors to be on guard because many people, even believers from their own churches and other pastors, will try to distract and break up the churches by teaching false doctrine (28-30). He then entrusted them to God and God’s gracious word, the only sources for spiritual growth, protection, and future spiritual inheritance (32). He concluded by challenging them to reject the temptation to covet material possessions; they should not make the focus of ministry material gain. If necessary “make tents” (“these hands….working hard” 34-35) so they can support themselves and help others.
- Acts 20.36-38. Before Paul sailed away, they all got on their knees and prayed together. It was an emotional farewell. They thought that this was the last time they would be together.
Dictionary of Bible Doctrine
- Feasts of Israel (Biblical feasts, Leviticus 23) were five in Number. 1. The Passover and Unleavened Bread were the first of the three great annual feasts (Exodus 12.1-28; 23.5; Leviticus 23.4-8; Numbers 28.16-25; Deuteronomy 16.1-8). The Passover commemorated God’s deliverance from the tenth plague, which brought the death of the firstborn, and the Exodus. It was a spring festival, the first festival of the religious calendar, and occurred on Nisan 14. Nisan was the first month of the religious calendar and was equivalent to March-April. The Passover taught redemption by God. The Feast of Unleavened Bread was a seven day festival that began the day after the Passover and lasted from Nisan 15-21. Passover and Unleavened Bread were one unit; the Passover marked the sacrifice, and Unleavened Bread marked the feast following the sacrifice. Unleavened Bread commemorated the separation from Egypt under God’s direction and protection. Unleavened Bread taught separation from the past to a new life with the Lord. 2. Pentecost, celebrated in May-June, was the second great annual feast (Exodus 23.16; 34.22; Leviticus 23.15-16; Numbers 28.26; Deuteronomy 16.10). It was also called the feast of Weeks (Exodus 34.22; Deuteronomy 16.10, 16), the feast of Harvest (Exodus 23.16) and “the day of first fruits” (Numbers 28.26). Israel observed Pentecost seven weeks plus 1 day (50 days, Pentecost) after the Nisan 16 wave offering of the barley sheaf during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Pentecost linked the spring barley harvest to the early summer wheat harvest. Pentecost stressed thanksgiving and taught that God provides the necessities for life for Israel. 3. Trumpets occurred in the fall, during Tishri, September-October, the seventh religious month and the first civil month (Leviticus 23.23-25; Numbers 29.1-6). It marked the beginning of the civil year, like our New Years Day. Israel blew trumpets on the first day of every month (Numbers 10.1,10), but this trumpet blast was on the first day of the seventh religious month or first of the civil month. The trumpet blasts symbolically called on the Lord to bless Israel (Numbers 10.10). Trumpets called the Lord’s attention to Israel’s need of His blessing; it may have prepared for the Day of Atonement, besides opening the civil year. 4. The Day of Atonement occurred on the 10th day of Tishri, the seventh religious month, September-October (Leviticus 16; 23.26-32; Exodus 30.10-30; Numbers 29.7-11). This was the most important annual festival. The high priest entered the holy of holies. The scapegoat was sent into the wilderness, signifying the sending away of the people’s sins. The Day of Atonement taught that God graciously forgives all sin. 5. The Feast of Booths or Tabernacles was the third great annual feast (Leviticus 23.33-43; Numbers 29.12-39; Deuteronomy 16.13; Nehemiah 8.18; John 7.2,37). It occurred during Tishri 15-21, the seventh religious month, September-October. The name comes from the fact that Israel was to live seven days in temporary booths that they made out of boughs. This commemorated that God took care of Israel during the exodus, during which they did not have permanent houses. Booths taught that God gives fatherly care and protection. In summary: the Passover taught redemption by God, and Unleavened Bread taught separation from the past to a new life with the Lord; Pentecost stressed thanksgiving and taught that God provides the necessities for life for Israel; Trumpets opened the civil year and called the Lord’s attention to Israel’s need of His blessing, and it may have prepared for the Day of Atonement; The Day of Atonement taught that God graciously forgives all sin; and Booths taught that God gives fatherly care and protection.
- Pastor and teacher or pastor-teacher is the man gifted by God to equip believers for ministry and for the edification of the church (Ephesians 4.11-14). We often shorten the title to pastor, but that includes the teaching part of the job. God gives each pastor-teacher his own flock or local church congregation to teach and to shepherd (Acts 20.28; 1 Peter 5.1-4). The general profile indicates that he is to study the Word of God and to authoritatively teach the Word of God for spiritual growth and application, and to lead, encourage, and protect his own God-given flock. This will result in believers who are able to minister and participate in the build up of the body of Christ and therefore represent God on earth (Ephesians 4.11-14; Acts 20.17 and 28; Romans 12.7; 2 Timothy 2.15; Titus 2.15; 1 Peter 4.11-12; 1 Peter 5.1-4). There are three terms that refer to the pastor-teacher: “Pastor and teacher” (poimhn kai didaskalo~), which can also be written as pastor-teacher, is the working title for the man God gifts to teach, encourage, lead, and protect his flock or congregation. Pastor emphasizes leadership, encouragement, care for, protection, correction. Teacher emphasizes communication and instruction of the Word of God. Pastor-teacher emphasizes the person and ministries that result from the gifts. The pastor-teacher is also the overseer and elder (Ephesians 4.11; Acts 20.17 and 28). The title “overseer” (episkopo~, guardian, superintendent) is an official title emphasizing the supervisory activity (1 Timothy 3.2; Titus 1.7). The title “elder” (presbutero~, elder, older man) is an official title emphasizing the rank. Both refer to the pastor-teacher as the leader, and both carry authority (1 Timothy 5.17; Titus 1.5; 1 Peter 5.1-4). The pastor-teacher seems to be multi-gifted in order to perform God’s function. The gifts most apparent are teaching, leadership, encouragement, and administration (Acts 20.28; Ephesians 4.11-12). God gives each pastor-teacher a specific flock or congregation to teach and to shepherd (Acts 20.28; 1 Peter 5.2-3). Along with this God-given responsibility, God also gives the pastor-teacher the spiritual authority to serve his own congregation. This authority has been delegated from God through the Holy Spirit and the Bible (Ephesians 4.11-16; Acts 20.17-28; 1 Peter 5.1-4; 1 Timothy 5.17; Hebrews 13.17). The pastor-teacher must be a servant and must not abuse his authority (Matthew 20.25-28; John 13.15-17; 1 Pet 5.3). In human terms he is a general and a soldier, and a coach and a player. The character of the overseer (pastor-teacher) must be good, but it does not indicate that spiritual leaders are more holy than anyone else. All possess sin natures, all have weaknesses, and all fail (1 Timothy 3.2-7, Titus 1.5-9, and 1 Peter 5.1-3). The pastor-teacher must please the Lord, not people; God wants him to equip his congregation (Galatians 1.10; 1 Thessalonians 2.4-6; Ephesians 4.11-12; Titus 2.15). In day to day life the practice of the pastor-teacher is to study the Bible, from the original languages if possible, and to communicate the content for application, to lead and encourage the church, and to protect the congregation from bad doctrine and disruptive influences in the church (Acts 20.28-31; Ephesians 4.11-12; Philippians 1.25; 2 Timothy 2.15; 4.2).