When Paul left Ephesus, he went back through Macedonia and Greece. He continued to encourage the disciples and to collect funds for the poor in Judea (Rom. 15:26). Then, he headed back toward Jerusalem and the end of his 3rd journey. Reaching Troas, Paul’s company stayed there for seven days. In 21:4 we also see a seven-day stay in Tyre. The reason for week-long visits becomes clear before long. Paul wanted to be with the disciples on the Lord’s Day, to join them for worship.
The first day of the week is the day for Christian assembly and worship. On this day, Jesus arose from the dead (Mark 16:9). And on this day of the week, the gospel was first preached, and the church had its beginning (Acts 2). Pentecost followed the Sabbath and was on the first day of the week. By apostolic example, we learn the pattern of early New Testament worship, and we do well to follow this example. The breaking of bread is the stated purpose for the church gathering in this context (20:7; compare Acts 2:42). In this simple meal, Christians commune with the risen Savior and with one another. It is the highlight of our worship, and it reminds us weekly that our salvation was purchased at a precious price.
Old time preachers used to tell of Eutychus’ death and warn young folks against falling asleep in church, usually with a chuckle. The lengthy worship assembly indicates how rare it was to have an apostle present with the church. When we gather, we should assemble with purpose and with patience. Worship is not a matter to be hurried through. The hurry-scurry lifestyle of today tempts us to look at the clock when we should be looking more closely at the Lord. One small church where I preached many times in the distant past had the clock at the front of the worship center, a few feet to the left of the pulpit. It was both sad and humorous to see so many eyes cut in that direction.
On his way to Jerusalem, Paul arranged for the elders of the church in Ephesus to meet him in Miletus (20:17). Paul had a long and wonderful relationship with the Ephesian church and its leaders. He rehearsed his time with them and encouraged them to do their best to feed and watch over the people of God. In this context, three terms refer to church leaders: elders (20:16), overseers, and shepherds (20:28). Peter also uses these three terms in reference to church leaders (1 Pet. 5:1-2). The term “elder” indicates experience and maturity. An “overseer” is one with management and organizational responsibility. The familiar word “shepherd” carries the connotation of one who personally knows and cares for his flock. New Testament churches always had a plurality of elders (Acts 14:23). There is strength in numbers. Each man brings his own set of skills to the job. All who serve as elders must meet the qualifications found in Titus 1 and 1 Tim. 3.
In his touching farewell, Paul quoted Jesus’ words about taking care of the weak and poor (20:35). Paul was in a hurry to be in Jerusalem on Pentecost (20:16). The feast day would provide great opportunity to preach the gospel to the assembled Jews.
My comments are not an inspired commentary, but rather a few words to draw attention to the background, context, and dynamic situation of the book of Acts. May God bless your reading of His Word. T.C.