A Riot and Travel

RIOT IN EPHESUS (ACTS 19:23-41). The most dramatic episode during Paul’s stay in Ephesus was the riot provoked by Demetrius the silversmith. He agitated the citizens into a wild mob that surged into the 25,000-seat theater. They dragged with them two of Paul’s associates, Gaius and Aristarchus. Paul wanted to go to the assistance of his friends, but the extreme danger caused his followers to restrain him. Interestingly, his friends included officials of the province.

The assembly was in confusion. A mob is not very discerning. Alexander was pushed forward by the Jews in the crowd so that all the blame would fall on the Christians and not on the Jewish community, which was also well know for its monotheism. The crowd refused to listen to him and kept shouting for two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” Finally, the town clerk, an executive officer who issued the decrees passed by the assembly, got the attention of the people. He convinced the assembly that legal means had to be used, not mob rule. Otherwise, Rome would launch an investigation into their actions— something no city relished!

ON THE ROAD AGAIN (ACTS 20:1-6). Paul leaves Ephesus in the spring of A.D. 57 He had told the Corinthians that he would stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost (1 Corinthians 16:8), having written that letter around Passover. However, staying in Ephesus had become like fighting wild beasts (1 Corinthians 15:32); it was impossible to remain there. Hence, Paul said his good-bye and departed from Ephesus before Pentecost.

He set out for Macedonia (Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea). He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people, and finally arrived in Greece, where he stayed three months. Because the Jews made a plot against him just as he was about to sail for Syria, he decided to go back through Macedonia. Paul was accompanied by seven men, who went on ahead and waited for Luke and Paul at Troas. Luke and Paul sailed from Philippi after the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and five days later joined the others at Troas, where they stayed seven days.

TROAS (ACTS 20:7-12). Troas was an important port on the Aegean coast of western Asia Minor, opposite the land of Tenedos, at the mouth of the Dardanelles. It was founded by the Greeks in 300 B.C. and was now a Roman colony. Julius Caesar considered the idea of transferring the center of the government to Troas because its port was the nearest point to Europe. Here Paul had the vision of the man from Macedonia and Luke had joined his inner circle.

Paul met with the Christians at Troas at their regular meeting time on the first day of the week “to break bread,” which refers to the Agape (Love Feast) and the Lord’s Supper. The Agape was a “potluck” meal in which Christians sat down and ate in loving fellowship, sharing with each other. During it or at the end the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper was observed. The breaking of bread marks the real family spirit of the church.

It was customary for the early church to meet on Sunday evenings, when the day’s work was done so that slaves could come to the Christian fellowship. Sunday was no day off! In Paul’s day only the Jews, God-fearers, and Christians kept a calendar in which the week had seven days. They did so in harmony with the creation account in the first two chapters of Genesis. The rest of the ancient world considered a month to have three ten day weeks. Seneca scoffed at the Jews and ridiculed them for wasting time by resting one day out of every seven.

Since Paul was planning to leave the next day, he kept on talking until midnight. The air on the upper floor became stuffy and oppressive from the oil burning lamps. At this point, a young man named Eutychus, probably tired from a hard day’s work, fell asleep, fell from the third story windowsill to the ground floor, and was picked up dead. Paul raised the young man from the dead! His approach is similar to Elijah (1 Kings 17:21-22) and Elisha (2 Kings 4:34-35).

Luke says, “Paul talked on and on” before midnight. The apostle was just warming up; he preached for another five or six hours until daylight.

At Troas for the second time, Paul found a promising opening for the Gospel, but he had no heart to undertake it. Why build new churches with an old one crumbling beneath him? Worse still, the Corinthians’ attack upon him had given his sensibilities what was almost a mortal wound. Worst of all, Titus had not kept his appointment at Troas.

Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said good-bye to them and went on to Macedonia (2 Corinthians 2:12-13).

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