Online Bible Commentary
Making the Lord Our Priority
Acts 20:13 Then we went ahead to the ship and sailed to Assos, there intending to take Paul on board; for so he had given orders, intending himself to go on foot. 14 And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and came to Mitylene. 15 We sailed from there, and the next day came opposite Chios. The following day we arrived at Samos and stayed at Trogyllium. The next day we came to Miletus. 16 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. 17 From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church. (NKJV)
The time is spring, 57 A.D. The Apostle Paul is on his third missionary journey. He has just spent the winter in Corinth, Greece. He intends to depart Corinth and sail home but the Jews are laying in wait for him. So Paul traveled north overland and spent the Passover festival with the church in Philippi, Macedonia.
After the seven day Passover festival, Paul and Luke sailed eastward to Troas, Asia. They took five days for this journey, perhaps being delayed by weather or the need to rest on the island of Samothrace.
Seven faithful travel companions sailed ahead of them to Troas. These seven men were: Sopater of Berea; Aristarchus and Secundus of Thessalonica; Gaius of Derbe; Timothy; and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia.
Paul, Luke and their travel companions stayed a week in Troas so that they could meet with the church on the first day of the week. After that Paul began his long trek home to Antioch, Syria, via Jerusalem.
The first stop was Assos, about twenty miles to the south. Luke and the others sailed to Assos but Paul chose to walk by himself (v. 13).
Perhaps Paul needed some alone time to reflect on his third missionary journey or perhaps he just needed alone time with the Lord. The scripture is not clear.
At any rate, Paul joined with the others at Assos and they sailed south down the coast to the island of Lesbos and docked overnight at the chief city of Mitylene (v. 14).
The group then continued their island hopping southward along the coast of Asia Minor. They spent a night on the island of Chios and the next night on the island of Samos at the port city of Trogyllium (v. 15a).
The next day Paul, Luke and their companions set sail for Miletus on the coast of Asia Minor. Miletus was located about forty miles due south of Ephesus (v. 15b).
Paul had spent over two years in Ephesus teaching and sending disciples out to start churches throughout Asia Minor. Shortly before he left Ephesus for Europe a mob had risen up against him.
Perhaps he chose to stop in Miletus instead of Ephesus to avoid another riot, or perhaps he did not wish to be delayed by all the disciples there who would surely want to spend time with him.
Whatever, Paul “decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he would not have to spend time in Asia” (v. 16a). “He was hurrying to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the Day of Pentecost” (v. 16b). Pentecost occurs fifty days from Passover, and half that time had already passed.
While in Miletus Paul sent word to Ephesus and “called for the elders of the church” to come to him (v. 17). In this way he could meet with them for one last time.
Paul would not return to Ephesus and he wanted to leave with the elders some final instructions and say a formal goodbye. He had been unable to do this previously due to the riot in Ephesus.
Paul could have easily bypassed Asia in his rush to arrive in Jerusalem for Pentecost. However, he felt the need to meet with the elders of Ephesus one last time.
This was typical Paul. He always put the ministry first no matter his own personal desires. He was a wonderful example for all Christians. We should put the Lord’s work first, even if it means delaying our personal desires. We should always seek to make the Lord our priority in life.