You Can Provide Clean Water to Persecuted Christians

Acts 20 Study Notes


20:1 Paul took one last occasion to gather the believers in Ephesus before going to Macedonia.

20:2-3 Paul probably went to Philippi and Thessalonica in Macedonia before going to Greece (Achaia), where he stayed for three months, possibly in Athens and Corinth. Paul’s Jewish opponents plotted against him, which caused him to change his travel plans. He decided to travel overland from Greece to Macedonia, where he caught a ship at Philippi.

20:4 A number of Paul’s companions hailed from cities he had visited during his missionary journeys.

20:5 The “we” narrative resumes and continues through v. 15 (see note at 16:10).

20:6 When Paul reached Philippi, he sailed after the Festival of Unleavened Bread (Passover week) for Troas, where he stayed seven days.

20:7 On the first day of the week, Paul gathered with other believers to break bread, a tradition that apparently began soon after the resurrection and ascension of Christ. Because he was leaving the next day (this event occurred at the end of his week in Troas), Paul spoke until midnight.

20:9-10 Peter raised a disciple named Tabitha from the dead (9:36-41), and now Paul ostensibly did the same for Eutychus. It is not clear, however, whether Eutychus was actually dead or just unconscious. Paul’s statement that he’s alive (lit “his life is in him”) suggests Eutychus was unconscious. If so, picked up dead would mean he appeared to be dead.

20:11-12 Despite the drama with Eutychus, the crowd went upstairs to break bread, eat together, and talk until dawn before Paul departed.

20:13-14 The narrative follows the events of those in the “we” group (see note at 16:10), who sailed from Troas to Assos, where they met Paul, who had traveled by land.

20:15 The group met in Assos, where Paul joined the ship, stopping at several ports before its arrival in Miletus. This verse ends the we section (see note at 16:10).

20:16 Paul appears to have consciously decided to sail past Ephesus in his hurry to get to Jerusalem for Pentecost. He may have wanted to avoid Ephesus because of the possibility that his presence would cause unrest (cp. 19:23-41). Also, he had close ties with the Ephesian church, and it might have been difficult to take leave of them if he had stopped in the city.

20:17 The port at Miletus was about thirty miles south of Ephesus. In this verse the leaders of the church in Ephesus are called elders, but they are referred to as “overseers” in v. 28. These terms designate a functional and formal title of church leadership. The Ephesian church appears to have had a formal leadership structure.

20:18-35 This speech differs from Paul’s others in Acts. It is the only one delivered to a group of believers, and it has several parallels with themes in the Pauline letters—reference to his serving the Lord, his persecution, his not shrinking from teaching, his ministry to both Jews and Greeks, the need for repentance, counting his life expendable, and finishing the course.

20:20-24 The mark of a truly faithful teacher of the gospel is that he or she does not avoid topics that, though unpopular or personally difficult, are profitable for disciples.

20:21 Paul’s message to both Jews and Greeks called for repentance toward God for one’s sins and faith in the Lord Jesus. This is an excellent summary of the mission of the church.


Greek pronunciation [boo LAY]
CSB translation plan
Uses in Acts 7
Uses in the NT 12
Focus passage Acts 20:27

The Greek noun boulē can mean counsel, will, plan, or purpose. The related verb boulomai occurs thirty-seven times in the NT (14 in Acts) and can mean to will, purpose, plan, or come to a decision. In Greek religion the term boulē often referred to the will or plan of the gods.

In the Greek OT, boulÄ“ normally refers to human plans or desires that may or may not occur and is often advice given to royalty (2Sm 15:31,34; 16:20,23; 1Kg 12:8; 2Ch 22:5). But it can also refer to God’s purpose that cannot be thwarted (Jb 12:13; Ps 33:11; Pr 19:21; Is 19:17; 46:10; Jr 50:45; see Pr 21:30) and that guides his people (Ps 73:24).

The NT usage of boulÄ“ is very similar to that of the Greek OT. Humans may or may not see their plans realized (Lk 7:30; 23:51; Ac 5:38; 27:12,42), but God’s plans and purposes will not fail (Ac 2:23; 4:28; 13:36; Eph 1:11; Heb 6:17).

20:22-23 Paul was undaunted by the God-given knowledge that chains and afflictions awaited him. His persistence in teaching despite this is a model for all Christian disciples.

20:24 Paul put his trials in perspective by declaring that he considered his life of no value. What was important was that he would finish the course that had been set for him by the Lord Jesus, which involved testifying to the good news of God’s grace.

20:25 Either Paul realized that things might go badly for him in Jerusalem, or he had no intention of returning to this part of the Mediterranean. His intention after visiting Jerusalem was to head to Rome and beyond. This is why he declared to the Ephesian elders that he would not see any of them again (cp. v. 38).

20:26-27 Paul declared that he was innocent of everyone’s blood because he had declared the whole plan of God to them. This means he had been faithful to proclaim the plan of salvation, including the coming judgment. Thus no one could accuse him of failing to warn them.

20:28 Paul used the language of shepherding to describe the responsibility of the leaders of the Ephesian church. Here they are called overseers rather than elders (see note at v. 17), appointed by the Holy Spirit for their task. Reference here to redemption through the blood of Jesus is unique in Acts, but the language reflects Paul’s statements elsewhere (Rm 3:25; 5:9; Eph 2:13).

20:29-30 Paul clearly did not regard incorrect doctrine as unimportant. He called false teachers savage wolves because eternity hangs in the balance of rightly understanding the gospel.

20:31 Paul described his three years of active ministry in Ephesus as times of constant vigilance, warning, and deep concern. The events recorded in Acts fit this description well.

20:32 Paul committed the Ephesian Christians to God’s grace, which strengthens disciples in their earthly tasks and provides eternal inheritance to the sanctified—those made holy by God.

20:33-35 Paul was never motivated by money or renown, as proven by the fact that he worked with his own hands to support himself and those who accompanied him. Jesus’s saying, It is more blessed to give than to receive, is found only here. It resembles some of Jesus’s sayings elsewhere (Lk 6:38). Jesus obviously said much more than is recorded in the Gospels (Jn 20:30-31; 21:25).