Acts - Lesson 20

Acts Chapters 18 - 20

In this lesson, you will gain insight into the conclusion of Paul's second missionary journey. The first section will cover his time preaching in Corinth, as well as his dismissal from charges against him. The second section will cover Paul's return to Ephesus and his preaching in the synagogue. The third section will cover Paul's farewell message to the elders of the Ephesian church. The lesson will highlight the importance of discerning the Holy Spirit's work and the ministry of the Word.

Lesson 20
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Acts Chapters 18 - 20

NT619: Acts chapters 18-20

I. The Conclusion of Paul's Missionary Journey to Corinth

A. Paul preaches in Corinth

B. Gallio, governor of Achaia, dismisses charges against Paul

C. Paul leaves Corinth and returns to Syria

II. Paul's Return to Ephesus

A. Apollos preaches in Ephesus

B. Paul arrives in Ephesus

C. Paul preaches in the synagogue

D. The importance of discerning the Holy Spirit's work

III. Paul's Ministry in Miletus

A. Paul sends for the elders of the Ephesian church

B. Paul's farewell message to the elders

C. The importance of the ministry of the Word

  • Acts is often referred to as "Luke: Part 2" suggesting that Luke was the author. Internal and external evidence confirms this authorship. It is believed that Acts was written in the 70's or 80's of the first century as a historical monograph with a biographic focus.
  • You will gain knowledge and insight about the authorship, date, and genre of the Book of Acts. The lesson will present evidence that Luke is the author of the Book of Acts and provide historical context to help determine the date of its writing. The genre of the Book of Acts will also be discussed, giving you a better understanding of its composition and purpose.

  • Acts is not a novel because it doesn't fit the style that novels of that time period were written in. It has elements of both common folk literature and elite literature. One motive that Luke had in writing Acts is as an apologetic to support a Jewish perspective. Acts is an apologetic, ethnographic history in a monograph form. 

  • In this lesson, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of the genre, historiography, purpose, and historical reliability of the book of Acts and its implications for interpretation.
  • This lesson teaches you about the themes of theology, history, culture, and miracles in the book of Acts, including Christology, the Holy Spirit, the Kingdom of God, and the historical and cultural context of the first-century Roman Empire and Jewish culture. You'll learn the role of miracles in establishing the credibility of the gospel message and its relationship with faith. By the end, you will have a complete understanding of the main themes in the book of Acts.

  • In this lesson, you will learn about the role of miracles in the early church and how they were used to support and advance the gospel message in the book of Acts. The purpose of miracles, such as healings and other supernatural events, were seen as signs of the Holy Spirit's power and evidence of the truth of the gospel, which helped attract people to the message. Through exploring specific examples from the book of Acts, you will see how miracles played a crucial role in the growth of the early church and the spread of the gospel.

  • This lesson covers the historical context of Acts, including the Jewish World, Roman Empire, political/social structures, and Mediterranean Geography. The purpose and authorship of the book, including Luke as the author, the purpose of the book, and its theology, will be discussed. The narrative structure, major sections, and events will be overviewed.
  • The lesson is about the historical and theological context of the ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit in the early Church as described in the first two chapters of the Book of Acts.
  • In this lesson you will learn about Peter's healing and sermon, the persecution and expansion of the church, and Stephen's martyrdom. You will gain insight into the early church's growth and the challenges they faced, as well as the impact of Stephen's death on the spread of Christianity.

  • The lesson teaches about the events in Acts 5-7, including the story of Ananias and Sapphira, the growth of the church, the appointment of the seven, Stephen's defense, and his martyrdom, providing insight into the early Christian community and its challenges.
  • The lesson is about the early events of the Church of Jerusalem and the role of the seven men chosen to serve the community, the first major persecution of the Christian Church, the spread of the gospel, and the conversion of Saul to Paul.
  • The lesson covers the spread of the gospel in Jerusalem and beyond following Stephen's death, including Philip's preaching in Samaria, conversion of Simon and the Ethiopian Eunuch, and the challenges faced by early Christians.
  • This lesson provides an overview of Saul's conversion and the events that took place on the Damascus road, including his baptism and ministry, and the implications for our lives today.
  • This lesson provides an understanding of the events leading to the inclusion of Gentiles in the early Christian church and the spread of the gospel to non-Jewish people.
  • This lesson explores the early Christian church's growth and challenges through the events of Acts 12 and 13, including the arrest and deliverance of Peter, Herod's death, the mission of Barnabas and Saul, and the first missionary journey.
  • The First Missionary Journey in Acts 13-15 provides insight into the early Christian church through covering the team sent out, their ministry, and the results of their ministry.
  • In this lesson, you will learn about the major issue that arose in the early Christian church regarding the relationship between Gentile converts and Jewish customs, the decision of the Jerusalem Council, and the implementation and response of the Gentile churches.
  • In this lesson, you'll learn about the spread of the gospel in Philippi through Paul and Silas and the conversions of Lydia and the jailer, showcasing the gospel's power.
  • In this lesson, you will learn about Paul's encounter with the philosophers of Athens and his message to them about the one true God, the judgment of humanity, and the resurrection of Jesus.
  • This lesson provides a comprehensive overview of Paul's ministry in the city of Corinth, including the challenges he faced, the Lord's encouragement, and the significance of this episode in the book of Acts.
  • This lesson provides insight into Paul's second missionary journey and his preaching, as well as the importance of the Holy Spirit's work and the ministry of the Word.
  • The lesson provides an overview of Paul's journey to Jerusalem and the events that took place during his arrival in Jerusalem, the incident at the temple, his arrest, and his appearance before the Sanhedrin and its significance in the early Christian church.
  • The lesson covers Paul's defenses in the final four chapters of Acts and his navigation of political and religious tensions while remaining faithful to his beliefs and mission.
  • In this lesson, you will gain insight into Paul's journey from Caesarea to Rome, including details about the voyage and shipwreck, the aftermath of the shipwreck, and the significance of Paul's ministry.

The book of Acts portrays, in a narrative way, the life of the early church. The theme of the book is, "the mission of the early church." It tells how Jesus continued to carry out his mission that he started as recorded in the book of Luke, by working through the people of the early church. Dr. Keeener discusses the growth of the church from its Jewish roots through reaching the ends of the earth to fulfill the Great Commission. 

Dr. Craig Keener
Acts Chapters 18 - 20
Lesson Transcript


A. Before Gallio in Corinth

Remember that Paul split the synagogue in Corinth and he will do it again in Ephesus in the next chapter. That means that the community is divided; some people believed him and some people didn’t. The ones who didn’t eventually brought him before the proconsul Gallio of Achaia and charged him with doing and speaking contrary to the law. Technically, it was their view that he was doing this contrary to the law; they may have worded it ambiguously to make it sound like it was against Roman law. They may have wanted him to be disassociated from the Jewish community if it was just against their law. If Christianity and its movement could be argued that it wasn’t Jewish, then it would no longer have the same kind of protection under Roman law. Judaism wasn’t technically a legal religion or in Latin, religio iuris, but because of its antiquity, it was considered a respectable and reputable religion. If the Christian movement was considered disassociated from it, it would be very difficult as it was entirely based on the same Scriptures as Judaism was. It could be argued that it was a different religion, and then it could be seen as a new cult, therefore creating instability in the Roman Empire. So you had in Thessalonica the charge of treason or maestros and now it is a different kind of legal strategy. Paul claimed that the Christian movement was the true Judaism, the true fulfillment that the Biblical prophets spoke about. Gallio regarded it as a Jewish sect in contrast to the way it was being accused of being disassociated from Judaism and contrary to their law. He said that this was an internal Jewish issue; Jewish people, like other groups of resident aliens in cities were considered to be their own community. They could judge their own internal affairs. But when it came to Roman law the Romans would step in. So he said that they had to see to it themselves, this isn’t my affair. So, in this case, it doesn’t go like it did with Pilate who was influenced in Luke 23, but instead, this is a case where Roman law and justice actually followed as opposed to political issues. This may be in part because the Jewish community didn’t have that much political force in Corinth. It may also have been because Gallio didn’t like the Jewish community as there was a precedence set in Rome due to the Jewish expulsion.

1. Sosthenes Is Beaten

So in chapter 18 and verse 14, we know that Jews that were condemned by Jewish courts could always appeal to Rome, but in this case, Gallio’s decision was that this was simply a Jewish issue. It wasn’t something that could be taken beyond that. Gallio’s decision, unlikely the local decision of the politarks, a Greek name for magistrates in Thessalonica, wouldn’t be merely local because he was the governor. So this would set the highest precedence in Roman courts until the time of Nero who was not very well reputed afterwards. Unfortunately, Nero brought about a precedence that caused the persecution of Christians throughout the empire for many years. In verses 16 and 17 Paul’s accusers are beaten in front of Gallio. An emperor executed Samaritans who had brought charges against Jewish leaders and Greeks who were notably anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic, although less than the Greeks in Alexandria. But, perhaps the Jewish community was exercising synagogue discipline against its own leader. Whatever the case, Sosthenes gets beaten whether it is by an angry mob of Greeks that the governor simply ignores or whether it is the members of the synagogue community beating their own leader for getting them into trouble. It’s an interesting thing though that the name of the leader isn’t a common name. Sosthenes turns up in one of Paul’s letters as a co-sender of the letter to the Corinthians. It suggests that he became a believer, but Luke doesn’t explain exactly what the details here.

2. Apollos

In chapter 18:24-19:7, Apollos is contrasted with other followers of John the Baptist. He was an eloquent speaker, well-versed in the scriptures. He goes from Ephesus to Corinth and publicly debates there and is really good at it. Why doesn’t he get baptized again after being taught more about Jesus? In 18:25 he was enthusiastic in the Spirit. This could be translated, given Luke’s normal usage and even given the slightly parallel usage in Romans 12; I think it means that he was enthusiastic in the Spirit, in the Holy Spirit. So he had already received the Holy Spirit, he may have not known much about Jesus but he knew enough and had received the Holy Spirit. In regards to the other followers of John, both had received John’s baptism. They said in 19:2, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit. Paul explains this to them and in their case, they hadn’t as of yet received the Holy Spirit until Paul lays hands on them. John’s baptism counted retro-actively for Apollos because he already had the Holy Spirit. So, when Paul laid hands on them, they spoke in tongues and prophesized. There again was an emphasis on Spirit empowered speaking. There is a division of thought in regards to whether they were just John’s disciples before being baptized with the Holy Spirit or they were Christian disciples even with John’s baptism. I think the slight majority think simply that they were John’s disciples. This is another issue of debate.

B. Paul in Ephesus

1. The School of Tyrannus

In 19:9 where Paul is ministering in Ephesus at the School of Tyrannus. Some think that this school could be a guild hall named for it patron. However most think that is was simply a lecture hall. Tyrannus may have been the owner, the landlord or he could have been the lecturer. It is probably a nickname which appears a few other times in Ephesus. Interesting, if Tyrannus was the lecturer, the hall was finished with by eleven in the morning as that was when public life ended. Paul probably did his manual labor until then and then used the school in the afternoon. People would normally break mid-day for resting and sleeping or eating. That why that we see in Acts 26, when Paul was travelling at noon, thus considering his mission quite urgent. Paul is a model of a Spirit filled teacher; he teaches using the venues that were already available in his culture. He speaks as a lecturer, something like a Christian philosopher because people came and listened to philosophers. So, he would have his own students and also other people would come in and listen if they wanted. So this was impacting the whole region, both Ephesus and places beyond Ephesus, the Roman province of Asia which was one of the wealthiest provinces in the Roman Empire. Ephesus was one of the most prominent cities in Asia Minor. We also read that miracles were taking place which is similar to Acts 5. So, because of this, some Jewish exorcists had decided to imitate Paul. Such exorcists often used a bad odor to get the demon to flee; we see this in Tobit and also attested to in Josephus. Also, ancient Jewish techniques used name vocations; for example, often in antiquities a person would use Solomon’s magic ring in casting out spirits in the name of Solomon. Early Christians would cast out spirits in the name of Jesus, but that meant that they were authorized by Jesus. If somebody isn’t authorized by Jesus, they really don’t have that authority or the ability to use that name. Paul, of course, was a disciple of Jesus but these seven sons of Sceva weren’t. Sceva was a Latin name and he was said to be a Jewish chief priest. Josephus used the high priest or chief priests, arhiarius in the plural. But the question here is whether this person was genuinely from an aristocratic priestly family or was said to be that, a claim that he made to recruit more people to make use of his followers. It makes you think of Luke 11 where Jesus says if he cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? In that case, Jesus said that he wasn’t casting them out by Beelzebul. In this narrative, their sons don’t seem able to cast them out. In fact, the irony of it is, it isn’t the demon that gets cast out, but instead it is the exorcist.

2. The Seven Sons of Sceva

In any case, syncretism was common in Jewish magic where it blended together traditional magic with attempts to use the name of the supreme God. Other people tried to do that also thinking that they could learn from Jewish magical practices. This isn’t the majority of Jewish people but only a minority who were practicing magic, yet they were among the most highly praised in antiquities. We have come across this a few times in Acts with Simon the sorcerer in Acts 8 in Samaria. This also happened on Cyprus with a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus or Elymas as the name was translated. So now, we have these Jewish exorcists which normally mainstream Judaism would not have approved. As many Jews complained about Paul and his group as miracle workers, they wouldn’t complain about these false prophets and sorcerers. In any case, exorcisms continued to be common and were used in the name of Jesus by followers of Jesus and were very effective as late as the 4th century; this was the leading cause of conversion to Christianity. This use of a name to cast out demons; they are trying to use Jesus’ name to cast out these spirits and they are not successful. Instead, the demon speaks to the man and says, ‘I know Jesus and I have heard of Paul, but who are you?’ You are not authorized to use this name and the evil spirit jumped on them and beat then all into submission. Apparently, the evil spirit ripped the clothes off some of them and they had to flee. Remember what Jesus said about casting demons out and they rushing back in seven fold more. So the demon chases them out and then word spread and the Lord Jesus was glorified. The name of the Lord Jesus wasn’t like a name of some spirit to control another spirit; it was not some magical formula. It was authorization of his true followers.

3. Artemis of Ephesus

That may be why when Paul later writes to Ephesus, in Ephesians chapter 1, where he was writing to people within the context of the province of Roman Asia. He addressed people who had come from a cult background; they were afraid of these spiritual powers. Paul reminds them that Christ has been exalted above every principality and power, every rule and authority and every name that is named, every name that is invoked, the name of Jesus is higher and that is why he can go on to say that we have been enthroned with Christ in heavenly places that is far above these powers. We have nothing to fear. As result of this, many people brought their magic books which they were using to manipulate spirits. They confessed their practices. Some scholars have noted that this may include information about their spells. Divulging spells deprived magical spells of their power. That was at least the belief. They come together with their magical books and they burnt them; burning books in antiquity was often used to repudiate their contents. This is a way people saying that they no longer wanted this anymore; we are following the true way. Paul’s impact on Ephesus was massive; it was impacting the entire community. The amount of books that were burned equated to fifty thousand drachmas. This was a lot of magical books being burned. Some people argued that they weren’t actually books, but magical papyri, spells or counter-spells rolled up in small cylinders or lockets worn around the neck or elsewhere. But the big conflict ended up coming with local religion; not so much from the priest but for economic reasons. It was cutting into people’s business. Artemis of Ephesus in verses 19:2-27, some have suggested that the appendages on her breast on the statues were a fertility goddess. Some contrast this god with the Greek god of Ephesus and suggested that these appendages were some kind of fertility eggs or something signifying fertility. However, there is also a statue of Zeus with something like this which suggests that it may not have been fertility eggs. In literary sources, she is still the virgin huntress, not a fertility goddess at all. All the sources we have for interpreting the artwork from antiquity suggests that she is not the mother goddess of the interior of Anatolia, she is just the famed Greek Artemis in Ephesus.

In 19:35, the city clerk speaks of the statue of Artemis as a statue that fell from heaven; some have suggested that it was originally a meteorite. But this was said of a lot of statues in antiquity; many of these were simply craved by people; it is interesting that in Ephesus that many were said to have fallen from heaven. In any case, her statue was well known and there were a lot of miniature statues that imitated the larger statue. Her temple was among the seven wonders of the ancient world; however, it wasn’t as big at the temple in Jerusalem. It is listed today as having been one of the seven wonders whereas the Jerusalem isn’t. The entire base was calculated at 420 feet by 230 feet. That was 130 meters by 70 meters. It was about four times as large at the temple for Athena in Athens. So, indeed, it was a huge temple. It wasn’t in the city proper; there was a sacred route you could take out to the sight of the temple about 1.5 miles or 2.4 kilometers northeast of the city. They had a special month dedicated to Artemis with special festivals of her birth, etc. This is Artemis of Ephesus of whom all of Asia and the world worshiped. The Greek Artemis was worshiped all over the place. The Ephesian version actually was worshiped around the world as well. There are over thirty places in the known world, places that we know about where specifically the Ephesus Artemis was worshiped and not the general Artemis. Missionaries spread the cult; often these were merchants and said that they had dreams from Artemis. They would go and spread that. Jews around the Roman Empire knew about Artemis of Ephesus; it was a well-known deity. What really provoked the riot involved economics issues. Demetrius calls together his fellow craftsmen; he is portrayed as a demigod by Luke. Demigods in ancient literature were very poorly looked upon, especially in the Roman Empire when people stirred up mobs and riots could be prosecuted for sedition. Demetrius speaks like a demigod with the rhetoric of the speech being very populous. This was looked down upon by orators in antiquity. He was a maker of silver shrines. Many of the shrines which archaeologists have found are terracotta, souvenir shrines of Artemis. They were modeled after the real shrine of Artemis; these were souvenirs that pilgrims could take with them. But silver was more prestigious and among the makers of shrines, Demetrius was one of the elite makers of shrines. However, he is still a worker, maybe a silver worker which was among the most respected classes of artisans, yet he is still an artisan.

When you speak of similar trades; there may have been others involved in making shines and others could have been metalsmiths. We have a lot of gold and silver statuettes of Artemis from antiquity besides the shrines. They average between three to seven pounds or one point four to three point two kilos. Economic issues could cause a lot of instability. Even in Rome where they imported massive amounts of grain; the children in Egypt from which they imported it from often went hungry. Even in Rome where they tried to keep everybody happy and everything stable, there were sometimes grain riots. So here, their livelihood is involved in making these silver shines. We also know of other troubles in Ephesus due to economic problems at this time. There were actually some people who misappropriated some funds from the temple of Artemis which owned massive estates. This became a major scandal just a few years before the events narrated here. So, everything fits well with what we have here and it fits with what we know of antiquity and what we know of some other parts of the world. In Acts 16, remember why Paul and Silas were arrested and beaten; it was because they were affecting the economics of somebody who was speaking by the spirit of the pythoness. That is true here also and it happened in various other places and it happened with me one time when I used to work in a street mission. In one area, there was a place that dealt a lot in regards to sexual practices; they were complaining that we were too close to them and therefore interfering with their clientele and business. So, because of their economic influence, and because we were helping people for free, we were forced to relocate to another place in the city. Things like this happen. The people were very loyal to Artemis and this was part of their civic loyalty which was a big thing back then. It was like nationalism. And when you touched on something like patriotism, riots would spread easily, especially given the close knit and public structure of ancient urban society. Word traveled quickly, trade guilds was one place where word would quickly travel.

4. Demetrius, Riots and the Ephesus Theatre

So, the crowd ends up in a theatre and two places have been suggested where Demetrius may have been or where the guild he was addressing may have been. One is on what later became Arcadius Street which ran directly from the harbor to the theatre and the other is a bit closer to the market. In any case, they didn’t have far to go while they were stirred up. The market place was right by the theatre and would be full of people. If you go into the market place and you start shouting these things, you could stir up a riot very quickly. They could go into the theatre very which was a massive place in and of itself. You could see the theatre from the harbor and even now, you can still see it today. It had a seating capacity of over twenty thousand; we have said over twenty five thousand which was due to a later expansion in the 1st century. This suggests that the population of Ephesus may have been over two hundred thousand people. But it was right by a crowded market; the theatre was used for civic assemblies. Regular civic assemblies met at regular times and there were irregular civic assemblies where someone could just call a meeting. We know a lot about Ephesus from the volumes of Ephesian inscriptions that have been published. It appears that some of the people that were rushing into the theatre thought it is an irregular assembly that has been called to deal with an issue. They had no idea that it was a mob and so they didn’t know what was going on. This was just like the riot in Acts 21; you had different opinions of what was going on. This is what happens in a riot, people have different ideas of the issues behind it.

The Asiarchs in verse 31 didn’t want them to go into the theatre. Demetrius had not been able to find Paul, but they had seized a couple of Paul’s companions; they had dragged them into the theatre and accused them. The Asiarchs were priests of the imperial cult in Asia. They were taken from the same group and elite people who often made major donations to the temple. The emperor cult was a major issue in Ephesus; this had been since Augustus when they got the first imperial temple in Asia-minor. So, why were these people Paul’s friends? Friends could mean different things in antiquity; you had friends who were peers who shared confidences together. You might even be willing to die for one another. The Greek ideal was that you shared everything in common. However, it also became a euphemism, particularly in Roman culture and also in Greek culture for patrons and clients and for benefactors in the Greek world and their dependents. Well, the Asiarchs were known for their donations to public works, but they were also what we call today, patrons of the Arts or of Education. They sponsored things for the public good. So, here is Paul, a popular teacher and what better way to get honor for yourself than help sponsor this popular teacher. He was very well liked and had a great reputation with miracles taking place. So, they got honor by sponsoring him. So, all of a sudden, there is a scandal about him and so you don’t want to be associated with him. If you know that it is a false scandal, you would still be as least associated with Paul as possible. So, they ask Paul not to go into the situation even though Paul liked to preach in situations like this. In Acts 21, there is a riot in the temple, the Romans take him out and he wants to speak to the people even though it restarts the riot. Here, he doesn’t because he does owe these Asiarchs something because of the social structure. So to prevent embarrassment for them, he doesn’t go in when they request that he doesn’t in verse 31.

Here were people who were leaders in a pagan society, undoubtedly they were not Christians, but think about how Paul related to people. Paul preached monotheism, as that is what he is denounced for by Demetrius. Apparently, he wasn’t really preaching against any god in particular. He was preaching Jesus, one true God and therefore you shouldn’t follow other gods. For a monotheist, he is doing a good job of relating to people who don’t agree with him. This is a good model for us in societies that aren’t completely Christian which means virtually every society. He gives us a model for not being separatists but instead for integrating with the culture and reaching it. What we have in Revelation is a bit different and what you have in John 15:18-25 with the world hating you is a bit different. It is because they are addressing a different kind of social situation. When you are being persecuted, the lines are more clearly drawn. We see this with Jesus also; Jesus was willing to eat with tax collectors and sinners but what is he doing at the same time? Whenever we hear what he is doing, it says that they were hearing him gladly. He was sharing the good news of the kingdom with them. So, we are not friends with the world in order not to absorb the world’s sinful values; we are there to bring hope and light and truth and peace, good things to the world. We are there to be an influence of good for the world, not to be influenced by the bad things in the world. We see different approaches from different parts of the New Testament. But sometimes, people favor one or the other and we need to be sensitive to what the times call for. This was a wonderful opportunity for Paul to minister, but it is quickly coming to an end.

Well, the city clerk gets up and addresses the people who are there with Demetrius. They were chanting, ‘great is Artemis of Ephesus’, repeating it over and over. This was a way of hailing the goddess. So, the city clerk or grammateus, the person who kept the city records, comes in; Luke tells us that most people there didn’t know what the riot was about. They didn’t know that it had anything to do with Paul. So, this was actually the chief official of Ephesus and when he comes on the platform, the crowds quietens down somewhat. By the way, the theatre had statues of Artemis and other things. If this is an irregular meeting, he is the one in charge. Such a place as the theatre was actually built for acoustics so people could be heard. So, how does he know that Demetrius was responsible for the riot, most likely the Asiarchs who were Paul’s patrons got word to him? The clerk clearly condemns Demetrius as a demigod and said that it needed to be dealt with in the courts. In verses 39-40, he talks about lawful assemblies; he says that the courts are open and the governors are here. Ephesus was a free city, just like Athens and Thessalonica with its own senate and assembly. This was completely dependent upon Roman good will and conflicts within a city sometime led to Roman intervention. And for the proconsuls, their headquarters were in the city; so if they weren’t careful, the city could lose privileges. Sometimes the Hellenized cities of Asia Minor did lose privileges because of riots. I love the way Luke narrates this; he is kind of like Josephus on the anti-Jewish riots. When there were riots against Jews, Josephus reports the legal precedence saying that it wasn’t their fault and that these were their rights. Josephus has always been eager to show that the Jewish community did not start the riots. Luke always tries to show that Paul isn’t the one who started the riots. And we know the person who wrote the letters of Paul would not have started riots. Having said that, Luke needs to show this because this was an initial charge against Paul in Acts 24:5; starting riots is sedition which is a capital offense.

If you look through the Book of Acts, there are a number of riots wherever Paul goes. You have them in Acts 13 and 14. You have these mob scenes. Who starts those riots; it looks as if it is often the Jewish community in the cities. In Acts 19, here it isn’t the Jewish community in Ephesus, just like in Acts 16. Both in 16 and 19, it is because Paul is monotheist and that is why he gets accused from pagan sources. But in Ephesus, the Jewish community ends up getting blamed for it; Paul doesn’t take the stage because he has been begged not to. Somebody from the Jewish community does take the stage from the synagogue that Paul split. Many from the synagogue went with Paul as Jewish believers with the rest remaining, they put forth Alexander, a member of the synagogue to try and disassociate themselves from Paul. This is their community and once the crowd realizes that he is a Jew, they cry out even louder, ‘great is Artemis of the Ephesians’. So the local Jewish community ends up getting blamed for it, even though they didn’t start this riot. So, it isn’t surprising that in Acts 21, it is going to be Jews from Ephesus who are going to accuse Paul of having taken a gentile into the temple with him. But Paul didn’t start that riot either. So, it is important to see why Luke is developing this story the way he is. We do see that Luke leaves out a lot from this story, but there is a reason for his emphasis. So, the city clerk humiliates Demetrius but the Asiarchs were likely embarrassed. This may the reason that Paul circumvents Ephesus in Acts 20:16. That partly is due to the reason Luke explicitly gives and that is to save time. But, how would that save Paul time to circumvent Ephesus and has to wait for the elders to come from Ephesus to Miletus which is where he goes. Part of it may have depended on where his ship was going to be travelling. But, most likely it was due to hospitality obligations. Everybody wants to visit you and others may be offended if you don’t visit them. In cultures that don’t have such a thing, we may not be as familiar with it. But in cultures that are will understand this. People actually get offended if you are in town and you don’t stop to visit them. We see this in ancient letters. But an additional reason, it may be that Paul was not as welcome. It may have done more harm for the church than good for Paul to show up in Ephesus.

C. Paul in Troas – Eutychus Falls Out of the Window

Luke rejoins them in Philippi after many years and then they travel for six days to Troas. So, he is there in Troas speaking to the believers. They have what is apparently a Sunday evening meeting that lasted all night long. This probably isn’t a precedent for holding all night meetings. It was probably because Paul was leaving the next day. So, like Jesus says, the Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. This is where Eutychus falls asleep. It is considered bad for a student to fall asleep on a teacher and so, sometimes the teacher would throw a book at the student to wake them up. We have reports of this from antiquity. Now, widows were often fairly large, especially those higher up on the wall. I did some study on ancient architecture, looking for resources. Very few windows had glass in them; glass did exist but it wasn’t normally used for windows. People would sometimes have wooden shutters or drapes which they would open at certain times. So, most likely, this was a large window. Why is he sitting in the window and why is he falling asleep? This is sometimes connected with the question, why does Luke mention lampstands? Some say that perhaps lampstands were to show that this was not a subversive meeting. They actually had light; they weren’t meeting in the dark. Some say that the smell and warm of the oil put him to sleep. Friends of mine who smell oil a lot, it doesn’t have that effect on them, while others say that it does have such an effect. I don’t know. Perhaps this may have made sitting in the window desirable. He could have simply fallen asleep despite the fact that lighting was available. In any case, he falls out the window and Paul goes down and raises him up similar to that of Elisha. This is ‘we’ material here where Luke himself is a witness. So, he is alive and well after falling. Paul returns to his preaching; they eat together talking to them all night.

D. Paul Addresses the Elders of Ephesus in Miletus

So, Paul gave a farewell speech which was typical in ancient literature. In verses 20:18-35, Paul is addressing the elders of Ephesus who had to gather very quickly. There are many parallels in Paul’s letters, even in wording. Steve Walton mentioned these parallels in 1 & 2 Thessalonians where 1 Thessalonians was perhaps Paul’s earliest letter or second earliest. We read about Paul speaking to the elders as overseers and how God has made them shepherds. We have these same terms in Titus 1 and especially in 1 Peter 5. So in the 1st century, it appears that church elders were also an overseer which is a language later used for bishops. That did evolve very quickly but during this period, these are still overseers of probably local churches. They could have multiple elders for local churches if we are reading the text correctly. They were also shepherds; they were pastors, poimaino in Greek. In the Old Testament, the leaders of God’s people were often called shepherds. Shepherd had been a frequent metaphor for leaders and even kings in Sumerian literature and in Homer and Agamemnon, the shepherd of his people. In any case, these are the people who are responsible and in the teachings of Jesus, these were not to lord it over the flock but were to serve the flock. Paul presents himself as an example for them as moralists and philosophers often did. In verse 26, after he talks about ministering to people day and night as well as in larger assemblies, he says, ‘I am innocent of the blood of you all.’ That sounds like Ezekiel 33:8-9 and then he goes on to talk about shepherds perhaps evoking Ezekiel 34. This suggests that even though Luke doesn’t mention all the connections, Luke doesn’t go into detail. He is remembering a real speech that Paul gave him.

Paul is actually expounding Scripture from Ezekiel. Also in verse 29 he warns them to watch out for fierce wolves that will come teaching perversions, even from your own people. Back in Luke 10:3 Jesus warns his disciples that he is sending them as lambs among wolves. But here in Acts 20:29 we see that wolves will come among them. False teaching became a very big issue in Ephesus as we see later and also in a lot of other places as well. It is something that we really need to watch out for. We are not talking about minor things and break fellowship over such things. But when you have some serious false teachings, it needs to be addressed. And when people become like wolves, they start exploiting the sheep for their own interest, you have to watch out. Paul has appointed elders to watch over such things as they can be very serious. Even friends of mine that I started with years ago serving the Lord have fallen away. So, we can’t let the sheep be harmed by this, we have to protect them.

E. Paul Says His Goodbyes before Returning to Jerusalem

The Holy Spirit testifies that in every city danger awaits Paul. This is part of being willing to suffer for God’s people. Even though the Holy Spirit testified to this in every city, I am determined to go there because I will fulfill my calling. Paul was driven by his calling; when it burns inside of you, you are going to do it and nothing is going to stop you. You don’t want to run over people with it. What does it mean that the Holy Spirit testifies to him in every city? It is probably the Spirit of prophecy. We get examples of this afterward in when he goes to Tyre and also when he stops in Caesarea. In Tyre the prophecy was not to set foot in Jerusalem. In Caesarea it is very explicit in regards to what is going to happen to him. There is a lot of pathos; a few people think that he should not have been as pathos in speaking. Some things do generate emotions, pathos or sympathy is used by defendants in speaking and in other ways as well. Paul says that he had exhorted them with tears and by the time he was done, the people were crying because they know that perhaps they would never see him again. Their affection for Paul communicates something that Luke couldn’t just communicate by simply saying that Paul was a great person, etc. You can see how much, people did love Paul. Sometimes, depending on our own background, we may see the firmness in Paul’s letters and miss other things. Paul’s letters is full of pastoral concern and love and yes, sometimes he is firm, but so much of that firmness is caused by love and caring for the people. In 1 Thessalonians, we would have given our own lives for you; like a nursing mother caring for her children. Paul was that kind of person, he was a people person. He was probably an extravert like Peter. But Paul was loved by people who really knew him. They were weeping and kissing him as some cultures were like this with kissing on the cheeks and even on the lips. In our culture, we hug the people that we like. Different cultures do it differently, but in ancient Mediterranean culture family members and close friends or a student and teacher would often greet with a kiss. Sometimes it was a light kiss on the lips for family members.