GETTING THE MESSAGE/Christ conquered death
Paul is on his 3rd missionary journey in this passage. He has spent nearly three years in Ephesus, but now his ministry there is drawing to a close. So he calls the disciples together, encourages them, says farewell, and departs for Macedonia (Acts 20:1).
Paul sets out on another circuit of church visits in Macedonia and then moves on to Greece, dispensing “much encouragement.” This means he was strengthening the churches with the word of the Lord. Proverbs 25:25 says, “Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.”
Luke gives us a list of converts who have become helpers to Paul on his travels (Acts 20:4). The list reveals that they are converts from different missionary journeys of Paul. The first, second, and third missionary journeys are represented in this list of men.
We may pause here and reflect on the distinct nature of those who believe and come to Christ. Each city Paul ministered in was marked by conversions. But it is also important to remember that, like in Ephesus, most who heard the gospel went back to their way of life without Christ. Paul travels about encouraging Christians because they have distinct challenges in following Christ.
It isn’t easy to be faithful. It is a narrow road. Paul in Colossians 3:1 teaches Christians to “seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” To seek something means you are aiming at something; you have a mission to complete.
Likewise, to set your mind means an intentional trajectory of thought and allegiance. The labor of a Christian is here in the world, but his life is oriented by the reality of the unseen world in heaven, a place where holiness, love, and the glory of Christ abounds.
In Philippians 3, Paul distinguishes the Christian’s devotion to Christ from those who have their “minds set on earthly things.” Paul says this of these people: “Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame.”
It is essential that the Christian regards himself as distinct from the world, not in a self-righteous way, but in his connection to Christ. It is an amazing thing to know you belong to heaven and have an inheritance there that is undefiled, imperishable, and unfading. These men in verse 4 became different men when they believed: men who sought to honor Christ. So must we.
In Acts 20:7-12, we are given the account of Paul’s visit to the church in Troas. Several things stand out in the story. The most obvious is a young man named Eutychus falling asleep in a window on the 3rd story where Paul was preaching. The boy fell out of the window and died from the fall. Paul went down to the boy and embraced him, and his life came back.
The story is reminiscent of the resurrection of a young man by Elijah in 1st Kings 17 and another by Elisha in 2nd Kings 4. And it is meant that way by the Lord, who worked the miracles through those prophets. Christ is validating Paul’s apostleship and thereby the teaching Paul brings to the churches.
The church was comforted by the miracle but more especially by the word Paul brought to them. Christians have young children or loved ones that die. They also must face death themselves. Paul’s message was that Christ died and rose again for our justification. Eutychus would die again in time. The message, though, is clear. For those in Christ, even though they die, yet shall they live.
Notice also that Paul preached on the first day of the week (verse 7). After God created all, he pronounced it very good and set aside the 7th day as a day for men to commemorate his creation and enjoy the worship of the living God. It was an obligatory command that brought blessing.
After men fell from God, they no longer listen to God but seek to run from God, which is the way not of blessing but of death. So God did another work, the work of redemption. Christ conquered death by his death and resurrection. He rose on the first day of the week, so now his people gather to worship God through him on that day. And there is blessing attached to that observation, as we see in our text. So don’t neglect the Lord’s Day. It is the day given by Christ to his people to honor him.
The Rev. Chris Shelton is pastor of Union’s First Presbyterian Chuch.