3 May 2018
A Commentary by John Stott
Acts 20:2-6. Paul in northern and southern Greece (Continued)
At this point Luke interrupts his narrative in order to tell us who Paul’s travelling companions were. It is noteworthy that Paul hardly ever travelled alone, and that when he was alone, he expressed his longing for human companionship, for example in Athens (Acts 17:15-16; cf. 1Thess. 3:1,5) and in his final Roman imprisonment (2 Tim.4:9,21). That he favoured team work is specially clear during his missionary journeys. On his first he was accompanied by Barnabas and John Mark (until the latter defected), on his second by Silas and later Timothy, then Luke, and now at the end of his third Luke supplies his readers with a list of Paul’s friends. *He was accompanied by Sopater* (perhaps the same as the *Sosipater* who in Romans 16:21 is called one of Paul’s ‘relatives’) *son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus (19:29; 27:2) and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe* (probably the same as in 19:29, where one reading makes only Aristachus a Macedonian, not Gaius), *Timothy also, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia*. Trophimus came from Ephesus (Acts 21:29; cf. 2 Tim. 4:20); perhaps Tychicus did also. (see Eph.6:21-22; Col.4:7-8; 2 Tim.4:12; Tit. 3:12). In most cases Luke supplies these men’s home as well as their name in order both to identify them clearly and also (probably) to indicate how they represented the different regions which were taking part in the collection. Thus, Macedonia was represented by Sopater (Berea), Aristachus and Secundus (Thessalonica) and perhaps Luke himself (Philippi); Galatia by Gaius (Derbe) and Timothy (Lystra); and Asia by Tychicus and Trophimus (Ephesus). Achaia is missing, but could have been represented by Paul himself, and/or by Titus (2 Cor. 8:16-24), who according to Ramsay’s conjecture was a relative of Luke’s. This would mean that Paul’s entourage consisted of at least nine men.
Luke does not actually mention the offering in connection with them, although it must have been in his mind. In our minds, as we reflect on Paul’s associates, should be the threefold witness which they bear. The first is to the growth, unity and even (one might say) ‘catholicity’ of the church. Already Christian leaders from inland and coastal Asia Minor, from both sides of the Aegean, and from the northern and southern halves of Greece, know that they belong to the same church and in consequence co-operate in the same cause. Secondly, they bear witness to the fruitfulness of Paul’s missionary expeditions, since Derbe and Lystra were evangelized during his first, Berea and Thessalonica during his second and Ephesus during his third. All nine men must have been the fruits of mission. But they then became the agents of mission. For, thirdly, they gave evidence of the missionary-mindedness of the young Christian communities, which already gave up some of their best local leadership to the wider work and witness of Christ’s church.
Reading between the lines of Luke’s compressed narrative, it seems that Paul and his group of associates left Corinth together and reached Philippi together. Perhaps it was here, and not earlier, that Luke joined the party (since the previous ‘we-section’ left him there, 16:12, and the next ‘we-section’ begins now in 20:5). Here too the group apparently split into two. *These men*, at least seven or eight of them, *went on ahead and waited for us at Troas (5). But we* (just Paul and Luke?) *sailed from Philippi*, that is, from its port Neapolis (16:11), only *after the feast of Unleavened Bread*. This is unlikely to be a purely chronological note. Nor is Luke clearly saying that, having been foiled in his desire to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem, Paul celebrated it in Philippi instead. Are we sure that he continued to observe the Jewish feasts, even though for a particular purpose he intended to get to Jerusalem in time for Pentecost. (20:16)? I prefer Professor Howard Marshall’s explanation: ‘It is probable that he was celebrating the Christian Passover. i.e. Easter, with the church at Philippi (1 Cor.5:7f.). At all events, it was not until after the festival that they left Philippi, and then it was *five days later* that they *joined the others at Troas*. They must have encountered strong head winds, for their voyage in the opposite direction had taken only two days (16:11). Once in Troas, however, they *stayed seven days* (6).
Tomorrow: Acts 20:7-12. 2). A week in Troas.
The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of Acts. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.