An Upper Room Scene
This interesting study of Paula ministrations in an upper room by our Associate Editor will be appreciated. It is so suggestive of many other matters of spiritual worth.
There are at least four upper room scenes in the New Testament (cf. Luke 22:14-39 with Matt. 26:7-30; Mark 14:17-26; John 13:Iff.; see also Acts 1:13; 9:36-42), including Acts 20:1-12. While the upper room scene of the Gospels is the most significant and precious of all, still the Holy Spirit has been pleased to record these other scenes as well, and we would not part with any one of them.
The first dozen verses of Acts 20 are packed with many details, and we wish to consider them under two simple headings, the first being:
The Journeyings in Europe (20:1-5)
With the uproar at Ephesus over, Paul was led to leave that city and again go into Macedonia (v. 1), having described his life at this time “in journeyings often” (2 Cor. 11:26). Such is the experience of every true evangelist, and in Paul’s particular case he faced many and extraordinary perils (2 Cor. 11:26). The specific purpose of this trip was to collect the contributions of the churches of Macedonia and Achaia for the relief of the poor saints at Jerusalem (1 Cor. 16:2; 2 Cor. 8-9). It may be that Acts 20:2 involved an entire year. After again visiting Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea, exhorting and encouraging the believers and writing 2 Corinthians, the apostle went to Corinth, remaining there three months (v. 3), during which time he wrote Galatians and Romans. The year was about 58 A.D.
Some of the Corinthian Jews hadn’t forgotten Paul and plotted against his life (v. 3 with Acts 18:12). Having learned of their murderous intent, he forsook his original plans and returned through Macedonia, crossing the northern section of the Aegean Sea from Neapolis to Troas (see vv. 3, 6). Troas was a small town below the west entrance to the Dardanelles. Both in his journey from Neapolis and at Troas, Paul was not alone. Seven friends journeyed ahead and met him at Troas, Paul having been accompanied by Luke and probably Silas (see vv. 4-6). Had Luke, the beloved physician, remained all this time at Philippi? Of this we cannot be certain, but the last “us” is found in Acts 16:15-17.
We come now to our second main heading — namely:
The Joys at Troas (20:6-12)
What a blessing true Christian friends are, and what joyous memories these ten must have had both in the past (16:8-9) and during their week at Troas (v. 6)! Here we have what might be called a “Workers Conference,” the local assembly at Troas having received the benefit and blessing of Paul’s and his fellow laborers’ ministry. How much their visit must have meant to the believers there!
Several joyous keynotes are found in these verses, so let’s consider them one by one in the order of their occurrence.
1. The first day of the week (v. 7; see Rev. 1:10). The Jewish Sabbath was no longer the day of worship; the Lord’s Day, “the first day of the week,” had displaced it, something that our “Seventh Day Adventist” friends have not yet learned. The shadow (Col. 2:16-17) had given place to the substance of the believer’s rest of faith in Christ (Heb. 4:9-10), the resurrection day (John 20:19, 26), and the day of the Holy Spirit’s descent (Acts 2).
2. The Lord’s Supper (v. 7). From the very beginning of the Church the Christians had broken bread in accordance with Christ’s command (Acts 2:42 with Luke 22:19-20; 1 Cor. 11:24-25.) At this time there was probably a fellowship meal, called the Agape or Love Feast, followed by the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 10:16; 11:17-31; Jude 12). Of the Lord’s Supper itself, W. Graham Scroggie has aptly stated, “At the Holy Table the Christian looks back in Faith, looks out in Love, and looks on in Hope. The Supper is therefore a Commemoration, a Proclamation, and an Anticipation. Between the Cross and the Crown is the Communion.” As a result of various abuses, the Agape became separated from the Lord’s Supper and eventually died out.
It is clearly evident from this particular upper room scene alone that there was a great “togetherness” about the early Church believers (see also Acts 4:31; 11:26; 14:27; 15:6, 30; 19:7-8; 1 Cor. 5:4) Have we perhaps lost something of that “togetherness” in these modern times? If so, are we prepared to do anything about it?
3. Preaching (v. 7; see Rom. 10:1317; 1 Cor. 1:18-25). Though living in a day of tremendous emphasis on dialogue, preaching is still one of God’s primary ways in which He is pleased to reach the lost and build up His people.
One of the best books I have read in more recent years is Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’, Preaching and Preachers. It should be required reading for all who, in any measure, aspire to the holy and responsible task of preaching, “To me,” says Dr. Lloyd-Jones, “the work of preaching is the highest and the greatest and the most glorious calling to which anyone can ever be called. If you want something in addition to that I would say without any hesitation that the most urgent need in the Christian Church is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and the most urgent need in the Church, it is obviously the greatest need of the world also” (p 9).
4. Attentiveness to the Word of God (v. 7). To be sure, the saints at Troas counted it a great joy and privilege to have Paul as their preacher. Their appetite for the Word was seemingly insatiable. Time was disregarded, and God’s message through His messenger was given priority over all else. What preachers they had in those days! Yes, and what hearers, too!
5. Eutychus (vv. 8-12). Sometimes unusual things happen during a sermon. Out of my own experience a runaway horse stuck his head in the doorway one evening when I was preaching in a rural district of northern Ontario. He went on, evidently not caring for what little he heard. On another occasion two kittens pranced down the aisle, completely “breaking up” the audience (not to mention the preacher). Still another time my oldest son, Paul, when just a little fellow, ran up on the platform during my message. All he wanted was to be with his Dad, and from a father’s viewpoint that’s great. It’s just that his timing was poor.
At any rate, Paul’s sermon was unexpectedly and startingly interrupted. The heat, the crowd, the flickering and smoking lamps, the late hour, the long sermon, and a tired body were too much for Eutychus (a common slave name) who was precariously perched on the sill of a third loft lattice window. Having succumbed to a deep sleep, he fell down and was taken up for dead. Dr. Luke seemed to agree with the view of the people around Eutychus (v. 9). Nevertheless, the Lord was pleased to restore physical life to this young man through Paul (v. 10; of 1 Kings 17:21; 2 Kings 4:34), and a momentary tragedy became a triumph of the grace and power of God. The name Eutychus means “fortunate” and in spite of his sudden and short-lived misfortune, he was indeed fortunate to hear God’s Word, to hear the Apostle Paul preach, and to have been miraculously raised up.
By the way, this incident is not a solemn warning to those who fall asleep in church (though such should not do so), nor is it a rebuke to preachers who go overtime. It is, however, a small “comfort” to some of us preachers that even the best of preachers have people in their audience fall asleep. There are definite reasons why Eutychus ended up in the “arms of Morpheus.”
1. He may have been a slave and, if so, he would have been understandably weary after his day’s work.
2. The atmosphere was conducive to sleep, the warm air no doubt having constantly enveloped Eutychus in his rather unusual circumstances.
3. All are not able to listen attentively to a long address.
4. Paul’s preaching was not light (see 2 Pet. 3:15-16), and Eutychus was young (v. 9).
As we take leave of this interesting and instructive upper room scene, consider two further points. First, Paul’s intense concern over Eutychus may be thought of as a parable in action. We should all have a genuine concern for the Eutychuses (or should it be Eutychii?) of the local assembly — namely, the young people. And second, we read that Paul and the others continued their fellowship together “even till break of day” (v. 11). In a spiritual sense, let us be sure and make the most of the “togetherness” which we have in Christ, and which by His grace He has made possible, and midst the deepening darkness of this increasingly evil world may we continue faithfully in that holy and happy fellowship until the break of “That Day” of His return.