Acts, Lesson 23: Paul Gives Godly Counsel to Fellow Pastors

Whole Counsel of God (610x351)Paul is still on his third missionary journey. Having left Ephesus, his longest stay during his missionary travels, he makes a final sweep through Greece before going to Jerusalem. During this time, he was collecting donations to help “the poor among the saints in Jerusalem” (Romans 15:25-27, 2 Corinthians 8-9). Paul may also have traveled into a new mission area as far west as Illyricum, on the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea (Romans 15:19). He traveled with seven others who were with him to represent the new Gentile congregations in Macedonia and Asia Minor to the “mother Church” in Jerusalem. We now find Paul and his traveling companions in Troas.

Lesson 23, Troas

In Troas

Read Acts 20:7

  • What do we find taking place “on the first day of the week”?


  • Why did they gather (note: the Greek also has the infinitive verb form)?


  • What two parts of the Divine Service do we see mentioned, although in passing? (Luke 22:19, 24:47)


  • Why did Paul “prolong his speech [Greek, logos]” for so long?


Excursus: Why Sunday became the day of worship for those in the New Covenant

When asked why we worship on Sunday, the most-standard answer you will hear is that Jesus rose from the dead on a Sunday (Mark 16:2, Luke 24:1). And so Christians have worshiped on Sundays since the earliest days. The Apostle Paul wrote, “On the first day of the week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income” (1 Corinthians 16:2). Church father, Ignatius (a student of the Apostle John) wrote:

Those who lived according to the ancient practices [the Old Covenant] came to the hope of new life, no longer keeping the Sabbath but living according to the Lord’s day, by which our life also arose through him and his death. [Letter to the Magnesians, 9:1]

But that doesn’t tell the entire story. The Israelites in the Old Covenant observed the Sabbath, the seventh day of the week from Friday evening to Saturday evening. It was a day of rest, which is what Sabbath means, where they worshiped God, being brought into His rest for them. Why the 7th day? That also was to inculcate in them that worship of God involved resting in Him, since God rested on the seventh day (Genesis 2:1-3, Exodus 20:8-11).

In the New Covenant, the idea of worship as “rest” did not go away (still today, worship is not our work for God but us, as His people, resting in Him). However, the earliest Christians transferred the celebration of the Lord’s Day to the first day of the week, Sunday. This was more than because Jesus happened to rise from the dead on a Sunday; it was also because He rose as “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (Colossians 1:15).

Being united to Jesus’ death AND resurrection in baptism (Romans 6:3-5), Jesus’ resurrection pointed forward to the New Creation, when the physical resurrection of Jesus would become reality in the lives of Christians in the physical resurrection of their bodies the Last Day (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17). Worshipping on Sunday was an “object lesson,” pointing Christians to the fulfillment of their salvation on the Last Day in the New Creation:

Just as people are appointed to die once and then face judgment, so also was the Messiah sacrificed once to take away the sins of the many. He will appear a second time, not to take away sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him [Hebrews 9:27-28].

In the Old Covenant, the Sabbath day pointed back to the first creation, and what was lost in the Fall (hence our need for salvation). In the New Covenant, worshipping on Sunday points forward to the New Creation, where our salvation will be fulfilled. In between both covenants is Jesus Christ: He is the salvation to which the Old Covenant prophesied; He is also the fulfiller of that salvation in His resurrection, realized in its fullness on the Last Day in the resurrection of the body.


Read Acts 20:8-9

  • Discuss why Eutychus may have fallen asleep?


  • What happened to him? (vs. 9)


Read Acts 20:10-12

  • What takes place through Paul, almost mentioned in passing?


Paul revived Eutychus just as Peter revived the young girl, Tabitha (Acts 9:40). The prophets Elijah and Elisha both resuscitated youths to new life by lying down on them (1 Kings 17:21, 2 Kings 4:34).

  • In verse 11, what does Paul do? When he “breaks bread” now, what does that mean about what has not yet taken place? (Remember also “agape meals” taking place with “the breaking of bread.”)


  • From these two events, what do we learn about the order of Christians worship?


The order of apostolic preaching (20:7), the Service of the Word, followed by the Lord’s Supper (20:11), the Service of the Sacrament, reflects the structure of Christian worship, where Jesus comes to us in Word and Sacrament.

Lesson 23, Assos to Miletus

Traveling Toward Jerusalem

Troas was on a peninsula with Assos on the southern side. Paul travels there by land while Luke and the others go by ship.

Read Acts 20:13-16

  • Why was Paul hurrying to Jerusalem?


  • What does this say about Pentecost in the New-Covenant Church?


Paul Meets with the Ephesian Pastors

In Miletus, Paul summons the elders (one of the words used for a synagogue leader in the Old Covenant) in Ephesus.

Read Acts 20:17-21

  • Through how Paul Himself interacted with the elders, how is he encouraging them to serve? (vs. 19-20)


  • What two things does Paul connect (using an “and”, kai in the Greek) as part of life with God? (vs. 21)


Read Acts 20:22-27

  • How does the Holy Spirit in Paul’s life and what he expects may happen to him bring him to say that “none of you… will see my face again”?


  • How can Paul say that he is “innocent of the blood of all of you”?


  • Based on Paul’s words, what is the pastor’s job when it comes to his teaching and preaching task (vs. 27)?


Read Acts 20:28-30

  • What does Paul tell the elders to do?


Warnings about false teachers: Having God’s doctrines (teachings) in their purity and fullness matter. If this were not so, then the entire New Testament would not have so many warnings. Outside the book of Acts, we find: Matthew 7:15; 24:11, 24; Luke 21:8; Ephesians 4:14; 1 Timothy 1:3-7, 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 3:1-9, 13; 4:3-4; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 2:26; and Revelation 2:2, 14, and 20.

Thus, a de-emphasis on doctrine is not biblical. Pitting the mission (evangelizing the “lost”) against purity of doctrine, as some may do, is a false dichotomy. Pure doctrine has within in it the call for every Christian to bring Jesus to others in his words and actions (Matthew 5:16, 1 Peter 3:15), even doing so in a way that is not abrasive (Colossians 4:5-6). Further, bringing a Gospel devoid of “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) is bringing a deficient Gospel, contrary to what Jesus commanded of His first pastors: “teaching them to keep all I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20).

  • What does Paul call the elders? (vs. 28)


  • What does that term let us know about later developments in the Church on the hierarchy among the clergy that will develop (beginning soon with John’s student and pastor, Ignatius)?


Read Acts 20:31-32

  • What does Paul tell these overseers (bishops) to be? (vs. 31)


  • What do God and the word of His grace have the power to do?


  • In verse 32, the word for “sanctified” in the Greek is a passive participle (verb) for “holy.” Since it is passive, how then does one become holy? Discuss.


Read Acts 20:33-35

Paul teaches that congregations should materially support their pastors (see 1Corinthians 9:1-14). Yet, he did not require this for himself from the congregations he helped establish. This allowed Paul to preach all the more freely, minimizing opportunities for others to question his motives (compare with Nehemiah 5:14-19, 13:10-13). 

  • Paul used the example of himself to point pastors in how they should live. In what way of life does Paul encourage them to live?


“It is more blessed to give than to receive”: Not one of the four Gospels quotes Jesus saying those words (see John 21:25). Yet, it must have been part of the oral tradition of Christ, passed down through His Church, that Paul told congregations to know and follow (2 Thessalonians 2:15, 1 Corinthians 11:2). We also find this truth in early Church, non-biblical writings: 1 Clement 2:1 and the Didache 1:5-6.

The irony, of course, is that when Paul quoted that oral tradition, he added it to the Scriptures, giving that tradition the authority of the written Word.


Paul Departs from the Ephesian Pastors

Read Acts 20:36-38

  • What did they first do before Paul left?


Prayer postures: Kneeling is one among several traditional prayer postures (Luke 22:41, Acts 21:5). Kneeling is a posture of humility, similar to the worship posture spoken of in the New Testament, proskeneuo, being prostrate before God, showing reverence and submission to God through one’s body posture (Psalm 95:6; Ephesians 3:14). Other prayer postures inherited from Jewish, Old-Covenant practices include raising the hands (Psalm 141:2, 1 Timothy 2:8) and standing (Mark 11:25).


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