Many years ago, an unknown poet wrote:
“How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?”
At about the same time another poet, John Burton, wrote,
“Holy Bible, book divine, Precious treasure, thou art mine;
Mine to tell me whence I came; Mine to teach me what I am.
Mine to chide me when I rove; Mine to show a Savior’s love;
Mine thou art to guide and guard; Mine to punish or reward.
Mine to comfort in distress; Suff’ring in this wilderness;
Mine to show, by living faith, Man can triumph over death.
Mine to tell of joys to come, And the rebel sinner’s doom;
O thou Holy Book divine, Precious treasure, thou art mine. Amen.
It is impossible to overestimate the profound value of the Bible, God’s Holy Word. Unquestionably it is now and always has been the most important book in the world. This is certainly the conviction of Christians but also of thoughtful political statemen and renowned intellectuals. As she was coronated Queen of England, Elizabeth II held the Bible in her hands as a confession of her faith and allegiance. Patrick Henry, the American patriot, who said the immortal words, “Give me liberty or give me death,” also said of the Bible, “This is a book worth more than all the others that were ever printed.”
The evangelist Billy Graham said of the sixty-six books of the Scriptures, “No other book can touch its profound wisdom, its poetic beauty, or the accuracy of its history and prophecy. The Bible embodies all the knowledge man needs to fill the longing of his soul and solve all his problems. I want to be saturated with the Bible. I want to know it by heart before I die.” Consequently, when he preached, Dr. Graham continually said, “The Bible says…”
The immense value of the Word of God for believers is evident in their willingness to literally sacrifice their lives for possessing it. In the great persecution of Christians in A.D. 303, the Roman emperor Diocletian was determined to completely destroy the Scriptures. Any copy of the Bible that was found was burned. Thousands of believers and their families were martyred for possessing even small portions of the Word of God. This killing and destruction of the Scriptures went on for two years, after which a victory column was constructed over the ashes of a Bible with the words that “the Bible is extinct.” But only twenty years later Emperor Constantine proclaimed the Bible the infallible judge of truth.
God, in His great and unlimited power and authority has always preserved His Word. It is His treasure and gift to His people. It is simple enough for the young child to understand its message and complex enough to challenge the most intelligent minds. The Bible is essential in Christianity because it is the record of God’s saving intervention into human history. It tells why people are sinners, why they need the salvation only Jesus Christ can provide, and it explains carefully how a soul can be eternally forgiven and be granted everlasting salvation. The answer to the soul’s longing question of how to be reconciled to the righteous and holy Creator God can be found only in the Bible.
Our verses today show that the Apostle Paul constantly proclaimed and taught the Bible to Christians. Wherever he went, he preached the Bible. These Christians were saved out of a wicked and pagan world and, like all of us, needed to be transformed by the renewing of their minds. They needed a biblical worldview and a godly perspective. This transformation can only happen through the ministry of the Word of God, under the dynamic power and illumination of the Holy Spirit. Today we will see how Paul employed God’s Word in exhorting and encouraging the Christians in Macedonia, Greece, and Troas. We begin with Paul’s ministry in Macedonia.
MINISTRY AT MACEDONIA. Acts 20:1-5
Paul’s Concluding Ministry at Ephesus. It is worth noting once again that it was the design of the Lord Jesus Christ for the apostles to make disciples and then collect them into local churches. The “uproar” in verse one was the riot in Ephesus caused by the silversmith, Demetrius. This must have been frightening to the members of the church of Ephesus, since Christianity was the target of the crowd’s anger. Graciously, the Lord caused the town clerk to stop the riot and relieve the tension. Paul then called the church together for a special service. The word in the original language is parakaleo and can be translated either by exhortation or encouragement. Most of the major recent translations use the word encourage, while the New American Standard uses exhort. The King James Version translates it “embrace” in verse one but translates the same word “exhortation” in the next verse.
The word reflects Paul’s concern for the believers, especially for their spiritual safety and security. The “exhortation” or “encouragement” included biblical counsel and warning in his preaching and teaching. These have always been key elements in Christian preaching. Paul would have used the Scriptures to encourage and exhort the believers. Paul knew that it was only through the use of the Bible that Christians can be comforted and strengthened. In our day, many are downplaying strong biblical preaching and the results are tragic. When pastors and church leaders neglect their responsibility to equip the saints with God’s Word, then the saints cannot do the work of service, as a result, the building up of the body of Christ does not take place. The disastrous consequences include the lack of true unity, imperfect knowledge of Jesus Christ and the profound lack of spiritual maturity. The absence of biblical preaching and teaching leads inevitably to spiritually immature Christians who are tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine by the teaching of men by craftiness and deceitful scheming.
Paul Exhorted the Believers in Macedonia and Greece. After three years of ministry in Ephesus and the surrounding region, Paul left for Macedonia. In Macedonia, he visited the churches of Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, and other local churches that had been planted in the area. Once more, it is worthy of our note that Paul gave them much exhortation in the form of the teaching and preaching of the Bible. Unlike today, when many church leaders are relying on market-driven philosophies of ministry and pragmatism rather than relying on biblical truth. The problem with churches is not poor attendance but poor spiritual health.
Paul left Macedonia, and traveled to Greece and visited the churches at Athens and Corinth. During Paul’s earlier ministry in Macedonia, there were plots to stop his preaching about Jesus Christ. This time, after three months of ministry, another plot was discovered, so, in order to protect the Christians of those churches, Paul decided to leave. Rather than sailing for Antioch of Syria, he traveled overland to Philippi in Macedonia.
The Results of the Ministry of God’s Word. Paul did not travel alone. Luke listed seven men who traveled with him: Sopater of Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus of Thessalonica, Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy, Tychicus, and Trophimus of Asia. Who were these companions? These men are the results of Paul’s ministry in proclaiming the Word of God and leading others to faith in Jesus Christ. Every place Paul preached; listeners chose to trust in Jesus Christ. These seven are those from his missionary journeys who had received Christ into their lives, and then obeyed God’s call to follow the Lord into Christian service. Paul and these seven were joined at Philippi by Luke, who had been establishing the church at Philippi and who would now join Paul for his journey. Although by separate means, they all traveled to Troas.
MESSAGE AT MIDNIGHT. Acts 20:6-8
After the Days of Unleavened Bread. Luke gives us a date stamp. Paul stayed at Philippi during the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, an important Jewish celebration. This tells us that his journey took place in the spring. When the feast was completed, he boarded a ship. This time of year, the winds blew in the wrong direction, so it took the ship five days to make the 150-mile journey.
The Church Gathered on Sunday. Luke notes that the believers of the local church at Troas met together on the first day of the week; or Sunday. This is the earliest unambiguous evidence that Christians gathered together on Sunday to worship the Lord. This was common practice and became the standard for the church. The church meets on the first day of the week to continually commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ which took place on the first day of the week.
The “breaking of bread” referred to the observance of the Lord’s Supper, which the Lord Jesus commanded believers to do in remembrance of Him. Many churches combined the observance of the Lord’s Supper with a communal meal, something very similar to pot luck lunches and suppers modern churches enjoy. At the end of the meal, the bread and the cup were distributed and the Lord’s Supper was celebrated by all.
Paul Preached a Long Sermon. The Christians gathered in this upper room, wanted Paul to preach to them. Like all believers, many of them had questions, and Paul could provide many answers. They likely started their meeting early in the evening, after their work was finished. Paul preached God’s Word to church members who were so interested, they did not want him to stop preaching. Paul had planned to continue his journey that would ultimately take him to Jerusalem the next day, but the people persisted and he kept preaching. We are told he continued his message until midnight. Now that’s a long message! By then, nighttime had long since fallen, and the people brought oil lamps so that they could see Paul as he preached.
A MISHAP AND A MIRACLE. Acts 20:9-12
A Young Man Named Eutychus. Being a physician, Luke’s mention of the many lamps in the upper room may point to a cause of what happened next. The many flames in the room may have depleted the oxygen and filled the room with smoke and fumes, perhaps causing some to become drowsy. Of course, that it was past midnight may have added to the difficulty as well.
The word used to describe Eutychus indicates he was between ten and fourteen years old. In the Greek language, his name meant “lucky one.” The room was on the third floor or about twenty-five feet above the dark, quiet street below. Eutychus climbed up into one of the windows, either for some fresh air or to have a better view of the preacher. In that position, sitting on the window sill, Eutychus fell into a deep sleep. As he lost control of his body, he suddenly fell out of the window and impacted on the street. The fall killed the young man.
Eutychus Was Raised from the Dead. Paul’s meeting was now interrupted by a medical emergency. In those days, there were no EMT’s to call to help with the trauma. Paul went down to where Eutychus was lying. What he did next is similar to what two Old Testament prophets did when confronted by similar situations. In First Kings 17, a widow’s son became sick and died. In verse twenty-one, Elijah took the boy to an upper room. “Then he stretched himself on the child three times and called to the Lord and said, “O Lord my God, I pray You, let this child’s life return to him.” And the dead child revived. In Second Kings 4, a Shunammite woman’s son died. When the prophet Elisha arrived, the boy was dead and had been placed on his bed. Elisha lay on the child, put his mouth on the child’s mouth and his hands on the child’s hands until the child became warm. After repeating the process, the child sneezed seven times and opened his eyes. Paul said, “Do not be troubled, for his life is in him.” The result was miraculous. Eutychus had died, but now, returned to life. The raising of Eutychus is the last of eight occurrences of raising the dead in the Bible.
Paul Continued Preaching Until Sunrise. After witnessing this profound miracle, what did Paul do next? He went back upstairs and resumed his preaching right where he left off. I think this time they did not allow Eutychus to sit in the window. We are told they ate a meal together, celebrated the Lord’s Supper, and Paul continued preaching until sunrise. Paul’s ministry of preaching, teaching, the fellowship of the meal together and the raising of Eutychus to life brought great comfort and encouragement to the Christians of Troas. As the sun rose over the city, Paul and his companions left for the town of Miletus.
Paul proclaimed and taught God’s Word to local churches out of his deep love for Christians, his obedience to God’s command, and out of a heart of worship for the Lord. About his ministry, Paul wrote, “But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8). He preached because he wanted God’s people to grow in God’s Word. He wanted them to be able to stand strong and remain faithful to the Lord. To do that, knowing the Word of God is essential.
The Bible is different from all other books because it is God’s Word. Other books, regardless of how profound, are only human words. The Bible certainly occupies the central place in God’s relationship to those who receive Jesus Christ into their lives as their Lord and Savior. Only the Bible can explain to us how we can come to the knowledge of God and how to receive everlasting life. Only in the Bible will you find the eternal truth that it is “by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10).
Are you saved by faith? Have you received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? If you have not, you can do that right now! The Bible calls us to turn from our wicked ways and embrace Jesus Christ as our Lord and Master by faith. Will you do that right now as I close in prayer?
Updated by Pastor Vernon Welkner, 2/26/2024