28 June. Acts 20:3-6

28 June. Paul changes his mind on how to return to Jerusalem

"He [Paul] was ready to sail [from Corinth] for Syria, but some Jews were planning something against him. So Paul decided to go back through Macedonia to Syria."

"The men who went with him were Sopater son of Pyrrhus, from the city of Berea; Aristarchus and Secundus, from the city of Thessalonica; Gaius from Derbe; Timothy [from Lystra -see Acts 16:1]; and Tychicus and Trophimus [from Ephesus - see Acts 21:29], two men from the country [Roman province] of Asia [Minor]. These men went on ahead and waited for us at Troas."

"We [Paul, joined by Luke] sailed from Philippi after the Feast of Unleavened Bread [Passover]. Five days later we met them in Troas, where we stayed for seven days."

          (Acts 20:3-6)

 

 

Today's passage is another one that modern readers often skip over because they don't understand the context and significance of what Luke is telling his readers.

To appreciate why Luke gives us a verbal route map and a list of 7 believers who accompanied Paul, we need to remind ourselves why Paul was so keen to return directly to Jerusalem.

Before Paul and Barnabas set off from Antioch in Syria on their 'first missionary journey' in 46AD, the elders of the church in Antioch had sent them to Jerusalem on a famine relief mission prompted by a request from the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem.

Luke tells us, "About that time, some prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and spoke with the help of the Holy Spirit. He said, 'A very hard time is coming to the whole world. There will be no food to eat.' (This happened when Claudius ruled) [from 41 to 54AD]."

"The believers [in Antioch] all decided to help the followers who lived in Judea, as much as each one could. They gathered the money and gave it to Barnabas and Saul, who brought it to the elders in Judea." (Acts 11:27-30)

When Paul set off from Antioch on his 'third missionary journey' in 53AD, this famine was still raging. There had been little rainfall and poor harvests for several years, and the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem were becoming increasingly desperate.

When Paul left Ephesus in the autumn of 56AD, his original intention was to sail across to Corinth, and then return directly from Corinth to Jerusalem. But Paul changed his mind before leaving Ephesus and decided to travel through Macedonia so he could collect money for his famine relief fund to take to the Jewish believers in Jerusalem (see 2 Corinthians 1:15-16).

Paul reminded the believers in Corinth about "the generous gift you promised" for the famine-struck believers in Jerusalem before visiting Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea in Macedonia. In each of these cities, he appealed for funds to take to the Jewish believers in Jerusalem, and to ensure their generous gifts ended up where intended, each of these fellowships sent a believer to report back to them after the money had been delivered to Jerusalem.

These men, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, and Sopater from Berea, accompanied Paul to Corinth, from where Paul was intending to sail straight back to Jerusalem.

But Paul heard of a Jewish plot to kill him on board the ship just before he sailed for Syria, so he altered his plans again and decided to return overland through Macedonia (see 5 on the map).

Paul set off north again, accompanied by his companions who were bringing gifts from the more prosperous Gentile churches to the Jewish believers in Jerusalem (Sopater from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy from Lystra, and Tychicus and Trophimus from Ephesus).

On arrival at Philippi, Paul’s travelling companions went on ahead to Troas. But Paul stayed on in Philippi for the Passover festival in March 57AD, before being joined by Luke (who probably came from Philippi) and sailing from Neapolis to join the others in Troas (see 6 on the map).

You can read more about this step of Paul's journey @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/…/paul-returns-to-macedonia/


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