Online Bible Commentary
The Faithful Seven
Acts 20:1 After the uproar had ceased, Paul called the disciples to himself, embraced them, and departed to go to Macedonia. 2 Now when he had gone over that region and encouraged them with many words, he came to Greece 3 and stayed three months. And when the Jews plotted against him as he was about to sail to Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia. 4 And Sopater of Berea accompanied him to Asia--also Aristarchus and Secundus of the Thessalonians, and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia. 5 These men, going ahead, waited for us at Troas. 6 But we sailed away from Philippi after the Days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days joined them at Troas, where we stayed seven days. (NKJV)
The time is about 56 A.D. The Apostle Paul is on his third missionary journey. He has just completed a two year, three month ministry in Ephesus training up disciples who took the gospel to the other parts of Asia.
In this passage, Paul has just escaped a riot in Ephesus without injury (v. 1a). The Holy Spirit had already called him to visit the churches that he had planted in Macedonia and Greece on his second missionary journey. He has already sent Timothy and Erastus ahead to the Macedonian churches to pave the way for his visit.
So “Paul called the disciples to himself, embraced them, and departed to go to Macedonia” (v. 1b). He would not return to Ephesus.
Instead of sailing directly to Macedonia Paul travelled overland north to Troas, a port city located in the northern area of the province of Asia. In Troas, Paul found an open door to his ministry (2 Cor. 2:12).
He was also hoping to find Titus in Troas (2 Cor. 2:13), but was unsuccessful. Likely Paul wanted to inquire of Titus how his letter (1 Corinthians), which he wrote while in Ephesus earlier in the year, had been received in Corinth. Titus had been sent to Corinth previously.
Not finding Titus, Paul then “departed” Troas and sailed for Macedonia (v. 1c). In Macedonia Paul “encouraged” the new churches, in Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea (v. 2a).
While in Philippi, Paul received donations for the poor in Jerusalem (2 Cor. 8:1-5). Also, in Philippi, Paul met up with Titus (2 Cor. 7). After hearing from Titus regarding the state of the church in Corinth, we believe that Paul then wrote 2 Corinthians and sent it with Titus back to Corinth.
After his time in Macedonia Paul departed, sailing southward to the new church at Corinth, Greece (v. 2b). He ministered in Corinth for three months, during which time it is believed that he wrote the book of Romans (v. 3a).
Paul then planned to sail for his home church in Antioch, Syria (v. 3b). However, “the Jews plotted against him” and changed his plans (v. 3c). He decided to travel overland back to Macedonia avoiding the sea lanes for his personal protection (v. 3d).
Next, we read that Paul has recruited seven disciples as travel companions, and possibly for protection. Those seven men were: Sopater of Berea; Aristarchus and Secundus of Thessalonica; Gaius of Derbe; Timothy; and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia.
Aristarchus was one of Paul’s travel companions who had been seized by the mob in Ephesus. These seven faithful disciples continued to serve Paul, some even as far away as Rome.
Paul’s team of seven faithful disciples then sails from Neapolis, Macedonia to Troas (v. 5). Paul and Luke followed, after celebrating “the Days of Unleavened Bread”, the Passover, in Philippi (v. 6a).
The 120 mile trip to Troas took five days (v. 6b). Perhaps they were delayed by bad weather or just chose to layover on the island of Samothrace for a few days. Paul and Luke then stayed in Troas for seven days (v. 6c).
This passage reminds us of the importance of being faithful to our church leaders. Their calling is not an easy one. Like the faithful seven, this is our duty to the work of the Lord.