Keith Hunt - Bible Story, NT - Chapter Seventy-Six: Acts 20 - Elders of Ephesus   Restitution of All Things
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New Testament Bible
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Chapter Seventy-Six:

Acts 20 - Elders of Ephesus

                      THE NEW TESTAMENT

                         BIBLE STORY

                          ACTS #30

      PAUL MOVES ON DURING HIS THIRD MISSIONARY JOURNEY


                           Acts 20


     The books of Galatians and Romans is thought to have been
written by Paul while in the city of Corinth. We pick up his
travels in Acts 20 verse 4. Several men were travelling with Paul
and the names of some are given, Timothy is no doubt the most
well-known name, as Paul wrote two epistles to him, that are
preserved for us in the Newt Testament.
     We are told they went ahead and waited for "us" (probably
meaning Paul and Luke as it was Luke who wrote and compiled the
book of Acts), at Troas. As soon as the days of Unleavened Bread
were over (indicating they still gave honor and respect to those
days of the Passover season. We have seen in 1 Corinthians 5 that
Paul told the church at Corinth, they should observe those days
with a new spirit of heart), they (Paul and Luke) boarded a ship
at Philippi in Macedonia and five days later arrived at Troas,
and there they stayed for a week.
     This was about the year A.D. 57 or 58 as best we can gather,
but the exact year is really unimportant, as Luke does not put
any emphasis on the exact chronology of most events he recorded.

     It was on the first day of the week that Paul and many
disciples (as well as many interested locals) gathered together
to "break bread" - which simply meant they gathered to have a
meal together, and has nothing to do with the observance of the
"Lord's supper" or "communion" as many today call the remembrance
of Jesus' death. It was the first day of the week and Paul was
preaching and teaching. He was going to leave the next day, so he
continued preaching until midnight, wanting to make the best of
every minute he had with them, in giving instructions and
explanations of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
     Now, some have jumped to the conclusion that this preaching
"till midnight" was a Saturday evening, saying the Bible counts
days from evening to evening, so, as this was the first day of
the week, it must therefore have been Saturday evening. It is
true that the Lord does count days from evening to evening as we
see in the first chapter of Genesis, but sometimes writers of the
Bible wrote within the time setting of the general society they
lived in. And that society Luke lived in was under Roman rule and
influence. It is then quite possible Luke wrote within Roman
usage of the day, which if that is the case here, then this
meeting look place on Sunday evening, not Saturday evening, and
Paul was going to leave on Monday not on a Sunday.
     The case cannot be proved either way. Those who want to
insist it was a Sunday evening "church meeting" use it to try and
say Sunday was now the New Testament weekly Sabbath. This is
merely the wishful thinking of those who hold that theological
teaching. The rest of the whole New Testament gives no weight to
that theological belief, and secular recorded history certainly
does not back up that teaching. There is no indication or
straight-forward talk by anyone in the New Testament that at the
death of Christ and His resurrection in the first hours of the
first day of the week (what we call Saturday evening - I refer
you back to the last chapters of the Gospels we have covered
already), the FOURTH commandment of the great Ten Commandments
was changed from the SEVENTH day of the week (Saturday) to the
FIRST day of the week (Sunday).
     Not ONE verse in the New Testament ever calls the first day
of the week, HOLY, or BLESSED, or SANCTIFIED, or a day of REST
from secular work. How easy it would have been for any one writer
of the New Testament to have said somewhere in all they wrote,
"We sanctify and keep holy the first day of the week in honor of
our Savior's resurrection" or "God has now commanded us to keep
holy the first day of the week because His Son was resurrected on
that day." Such words or such a sentence would have been so easy
for anyone to have somewhere incased in their epistles and
letters of the New Testament, but SUCH WORDS CANNOT be found.
     
     Acts 20:7 and 8 CANNOT be used to support a sanctified or
holy day for the first day of the week!

     Paul was speaking on and on, as we have seen, he spoke till
mid-night. A young man named Eutychus was sitting on the
windowsill, and became very drowsy, heavy eyed, and kept nodding
off to sleep. Finally he just went into a deep sleep and then
fell three stories down to his death. Paul immediately ran over
to him, took him in his arms and said to them all, "Don't be
alarmed, he is alive." It was a miracle, Luke tells us the
young man HAD died, was killed from his fall, but Paul through
the power of the Holy Spirit, had brought him back to life. They
were all overjoyed. It was a good time for Paul to now stop his
preaching, and they all "broke bread" and had some food together.

     Paul though was not finished talking to them about the Lord
and the Gospel. After they had had the refreshments, he again
continued talking to them right up to the break of day. Then Paul
departed. The young man we are told was taken home completely
unhurt, and all were joyous and relieved of any worry or sorrow
over his fall.
     
     Yes this was an all-night preaching and teaching seminar we
might say today. No doubt every one was pumped up with excitement
and enthusiasm, and except for the one young man, all were able
to be awake and attentive. When you are in this frame of mind the
body is able to go through the night without sleep, but I'm sure
they all had a good sleep the next day after Paul and his
companions left (Acts 20:4-12).

PAUL MEETS WITH THE EPHESIAN ELDERS

     Paul actual went on by land to Assos, while all the rest of
his companions went on by ship ahead of him. Paul did join them
there and they all sailed on together to Mitylene. Why Paul went
by land and the others by sea is not told to us. Luke just
records the fact of it. The second day of sailing they passed the
island of Kios. The day following they crossed to the island of
Samos, and a day later they arrived at Miletus (Acts 20:13-15).

     Paul had decided not to stop at Ephesus this time, he did
not want to spend any time in Asia, as he was hurrying to get to
Jerusalem for the great feast of Pentecost. The Greek can be
understood to read that he was wanting to "observe" to "keep" to
"celebrate" the feast of Pentecost at Jerusalem. Not that
Jerusalem was still the only place to observe the Feasts of the
Lord. We saw in past chapters how that Paul at one point in his
life had NOT BEEN in Jerusalem for FOURTEEN YEARS!  Obviously
being in Jerusalem this time for Pentecost had certain important
designs for Paul, all of which we are not told.

     When they all landed at Miletus, Paul sent a message to the
Elders of the church at Ephesus, asking them to come and meet
with him. They did come.
     Before we read the important words what Paul had to say to
them, we need to note that this church (and so naturally others)
DID HAVE "elders." Some in the Churches of God and other sects,
have the modern notion that "spiritual elders" are a thing of the
far past ages, and that all in the "church" today (men and women)
can be, and in their teaching, ARE, all "elders." We see here
that Paul did NOT call ALL the church members of Ephesus to come
and meet with him, but he called the "elders" of the church at
Ephesus to meet with him. And we shall see from the very words of
Paul to them, that he TAUGHT and he PRACTICED, the theology, that
there were spiritual "elders" over the "churches" of God, who did
indeed have the calling to be spiritual "shepherds" to the
flocks of God. Truly, all the apostles believed that this was so,
as we see the apostle James writing to the twelve tribes
scattered abroad (James 1:1), that NOT MANY of them should be
"masters" or "teachers" in the church (see the modern
translations on this verse (James 3:1).

     Paul addressed the Elders of Ephesus and said:

     "You know from the day I set foot in the province of Asia
     until this day, I have done the Lord's work in a humble
     manner. Yes, and at times, with tears. I endured the trials
     that came to me from the plotting of the Jews against me.
     Yet, despite all that, I never shrank from telling you the
     truth, either publicly or in your private homes. I have had
     one message for Jews and gentiles alike - the need to turn
     from sin and to turn to God, and have faith in our Lord
     Jesus Christ.
     Now I am going to Jerusalem, as the Holy Spirit has said I
     must, yet not knowing exactly what is waiting for me there,
     except as I've been informed by the Spirit, I'll have
     suffering and many times be put in jail, in various places
     and cities. But my life is really worth nothing if I do not
     serve the calling and work of the Lord that I have been
     called to do, which is to tell others of the Good News about
     God's great kindness, mercy, and love.
     I do know this though, none of you to whom I have preached
     the Kingdom of God, will see me again in this life time. I
     tell you that I have been faithful, and no one's
     damnation can be blamed on me, for I did not shrink back to
     declaring and teaching you ALL that God wants for you in how
     to live, think, and practice.
     Now, BEWARE! Be sure that you feed and shepherd the flock of
     God - His called out ones - His church - that have been
     purchased with His own blood. The Holy Spirit has
     appointed you and made you spiritual Elders and OVERSEERS
     over His flock. I know of a certainty that FALSE teachers
     like wolves will come into the flock, not sparing them, but
     attacking and devouring them. Yes, as shocking as this may
     sound, even SOME OF YOU, will distort the truth to gain a
     following. WATCH OUT! Remember the three years I was with
     you - remember my constant watch and care I had over you,
     day and night, and the many tears I shed for you.
     I have never coveted anyone's money or fine clothes or
     material blessings. You know my own hands have worked to pay
     mine own way, and even supplied the physical needs of some
     who were with me. I have been a constant example of how you
     can help the poor by working hard with your skills. You need
     to remember the words of our Lord, 'It is more blessed to
     give than to receive.' "

     When Paul had finished speaking, we are told he knelt and
prayed with them. Ah, it is good at times to kneel with some of
God's children and pray. There will indeed be times when this is
very important to do. Paul knew this was one of those times. We
are told the Elders "wept aloud as they embraced him in farewell,
sad most of all because he had told them that they would never
see him again in this life. Then they accompanied him down to the
ship" (verses 18-36).

     We see in the last paragraph, that it is far from wrong for
God's people to show some emotions at times, even with loud
weeping. This was a very emotional time for Paul and the Elders
of Ephesus. A kind of special teaching and prayer meeting if you
will.

     Then we again need to notice some up-front, even dogmatic
words of Paul. It should be very clear that God HAS APPOINTED
spiritual Elders as OVERSEERS (as the Greek puts it) over the
flocks of God, over the Churches of God. Not everyone in Paul's
mind was an Elder, and certainly not everyone was an OVERSEER
over the flock. It was the duty of the Elders of the flock to
GUIDE and SHEPHERD the flock in faithfulness, as Paul himself had
done among the church at Ephesus. 

     Then we also find the teaching here that it may be right and
proper and the best thing to do, in that Elders WORK with their
skills at a SECULAR job, and maintain themselves, even as Paul
said, helping others in the physical way also. We have seen
as we went through the books of Corinthians, that Paul knew it
was NOT wrong for those who preached the Gospel to "live off the
gospel" - to be supported by those to whom they taught and
preached the Gospel, supported in a physical way. This is very
clearly brought out in 1 Corinthians 9 and 2 Corinthians. Read
those books in a modern translation and the truth on this point
will become abundantly clear, if of course you are willing to see
it.
     There are times, as in the life of Paul, when it is the
right and best judgment for an Elder to work at a secular job as
well as shepherding the flock of God. Paul found, as with the
Corinthians, that some groups of the flock of God, just were not
in the mind-set to support him with the physical needs of life,
so he gladly supported himself with the skill of being a tent
maker. Then as he shows the Corinthians there were other groups
of the flock who gladly helped him and his companions in the
physical needs of this life.

     The THIRD very important teaching of Paul in this message to
the Elders of Ephesus it that FALSE teachers WILL arise among the
flock of God. It would seem there was nothing more sure in Paul's
mind than this sad fact - false teachers would come into
the flock of God, and would DEVOUR, and speak PERVERSE things
(KJV) to gain a following. The one trait it seems that false
teachers have is that they LOVE to be loved and to have people
following them. Jesus once said to His true faithful apostles
that when men shall say well of you, have you as some great
"religious figure or teacher" then BEWARE, for so they did to the
FALSE prophets of old.
     The other startling truth that Paul gives is that MANY of
these FALSE teachers will COME FROM the VERY ELDERS to whom he
was speaking. Paul knew that many Elders, many shepherds of the
flock would GO ASTRAY, BECOME FALSE TEACHERS, SPEAKING PERVERSE
THINGS. We need to fully realize that just because a person
STARTS out as being called by God to be an overseer and a
spiritual Elder of the flock of God, DOES NOT MEAN, he
automatically and irreversibly, can never become a false
teacher. Paul was addressing those Elders whom at THAT TIME, were
true Elders of the flock. Paul did not say that some WERE and HAD
ALWAYS been false Elders, from the word go. No, those elders were
at the time Paul was speaking to them, true, faithful Elders and
overseers, BUT Paul knew SOME, later, would become FALSE
teachers, speaking perverse things, so thy could have "a
following" - "to draw away disciples after them" (KJV).

     How does a person NOT fall prey to false teachers, one clear
answer is found in Isaiah 8:20. 

     Keep your nose and eyes in the Word of God, the Bible.

                                     
     What an important chapter is Acts 20. The teachings and
lessons for us there are of major importance to our salvation.

                      ................

Written October 2004


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