Sunday, 17 September 2023
For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he would not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the Day of Pentecost. Acts 20:16
In the last verse, the missionaries had left Mitylene and had wound their way as far as Miletus. Now, and from Miletus, Luke next records, “For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus.”
It is a pluperfect verb. He had decided before getting on the ship that they would not stop there, and in having arrived further along the journey in Miletus, the matter was resolved. If he had stopped at Ephesus, it would inevitably have meant spending time there that he did not want to lose. Also, The KJV says “sail by” Ephesus. This is ambiguous. It could mean “sail to along the way” or “sail past.” The intent is the latter, as indicated by the Greek word parapleó. It is found only here in the New Testament. It signifies sailing near or past but without stopping. This was “so that he would not have to spend time in Asia.”
Both Miletus and Ephesus are in the region of Asia. But Miletus was a short distance past Ephesus on the way to Jerusalem. Not stopping in Ephesus via ship would avoid getting bogged down in a long visit but it would still allow them to meet with members of the church. Verse 17 will further explain this.
For now, Luke explains the matter using the word chronotribeó, translated as “spend time.” It is also only found here in the New Testament. It comes from two words: chronos, time, and tribos, a worn path, a road, or a highway. It indicates to delay or waste time.
If he had stopped at Ephesus, he would certainly have gotten caught in a significant delay which he did not want. Instead, Luke next says, “for he was hurrying to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the Day of Pentecost.” Paul had his sights set on this and did not want to be deterred from it. Jerusalem is where the church began. Pentecost was both the timeframe when the law was received at Sinai, and it was also when the church began with the coming of the Holy Spirit upon believers.
He had left Philippi at Passover and this only gave him 50 days to travel the entire distance. He probably wanted to be at Jerusalem to celebrate the feast with the brethren there as a memorial. It was also because it was a good time to pass on the gift from the churches to them. Along with that, it was a good time to meet family and old friends who would be in town. Likewise, it would be a good time to evangelize many who had come for the feast and who were curious about the Way.
Life application: In Galatians 4:9-11, Paul writes –
“But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11 I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain.”
Also, in Colossians 2:16, 17 he writes –
“So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.”
In both, he is alluding, among other things, to the Feasts of the Lord recorded in Leviticus 23, of which Pentecost was such a feast. Paul calls that bondage. He also says these things were mere shadows of the reality found in Christ. He says these things because they are a part of the Law of Moses, something that anticipated the work of Jesus and which were fulfilled by Him. Further, being Gentiles, the Galatians and Colossians had never been obligated to the law. The law was given to Israel alone.
Likewise, Paul had entered the New Covenant and was no longer bound by the Old. However, being a Jew, it was still a part of his culture. It was a time when the multitudes would gather and celebrate. There is no contradiction in Paul’s words and his actions. His intent to be in Jerusalem was not because the Law of Moses demanded it. It was because it was an opportune time for him to carry out many affairs.
Quite often, Hebrew Roots adherents and others will try to influence your thinking by noting that Paul was an observant Jew in all ways, including the Feasts of the Lord, the Sabbath, dietary restrictions, and so on. From that springboard, they will then attempt to impose on you the exact same bondage. Don’t be led astray by this false teaching.
The Law of Moses, of which the Gentiles were never under, was fulfilled and set aside in Christ. You are were never under it and you remain free from it, completely and entirely. Live out your life in Christ, understanding the grace that has been bestowed upon you. Don’t set that grace aside for the sake of false humility. The cross is sufficient to restore you to God. Don’t mar the grace of the cross.
Glorious Lord God, thank You for the freedom we possess in Christ. You sent Jesus to accomplish all things, and He did. What can we add to that? Rather, help us to live our lives in gratitude for what You have accomplished in Him. Be glorified as we praise You, O God, for the giving of Your Son to bring us back to You! Amen.