Friday: Formal Worship and Informal Fellowship

Acts 20:1-12 In this study we observe changes that take place at this point in Paul’s ministry.
Formal Worship and Informal Fellowship

In today’s study we continue our look at a normal day of worship of the church at Troas. 

3. They observed the Lord’s Supper. The third thing to notice about the worship at Troas is the observance of the Lord’s Supper. They had it late in the evening. Paul preached first; then they celebrated the sacrament. The Reformers rightly emphasized the combination, saying that there was to be no observance of the Lord’s Supper without preaching. 

4. The formal part of their worship was then supplemented by informal conversation. After the observance of the Lord’s Supper, Paul talked with them in an informal way until daylight (v. 11). The word that is used here for “talking” is different from the words used earlier for Paul’s preaching to them. In the earlier instance, the words indicate formal teaching, teaching that is sustained and carefully reasoned. That was the heart of the actual worship service. Toward the end, the word that is used refers to informal conversation, or what we would think of as fellowship. 

Luke recorded almost the same thing in Acts 2. Toward the end of chapter 2, after Pentecost, when the church was established in Jerusalem, we read: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). That is precisely what we find here. In fact, the only one of the four elements mentioned in Acts 2 that is not mentioned in Acts 20 is prayer, but the fact that the Christians in Troas also prayed is to be understood. 

This format is natural to Christian people. Wherever we go, wherever the Gospel has penetrated and churches have been established, we find that Christians come together naturally to hear the Bible taught, pray, observe communion, and enjoy fellowship. 

These verses also contain the story of Eutychus, who fell asleep and fell out of the window where he was sitting, so that people thought he was dead. 

I am glad this story is in the Bible, though not for the reasons most people are glad to know about it. I am happy because it indicates that sometimes people fell asleep even when the Apostle Paul was preaching. I am sure Paul was not boring or irrelevant. He did not turn people off with the dullness of the things he was teaching. Paul taught well and deeply. But sometimes, in spite even of the best teaching, human flesh is weak. That was the case with Eutychus. 

Was Eutychus dead? There are different opinions. It says in verse 9 that he was “picked up dead.” But when Paul got to him, he said, “Don’t be alarmed. He’s alive” People have concluded from Paul’s words that the people thought Eutychus was dead but that, when Paul got to him, he discovered he was actually alive. Others believe that Eutychus died and that when Paul got to him he performed a resurrection. I suppose this is a matter we cannot fully resolve. Luke was present. Luke was a physician, and if Luke says Eutychus was dead, I am willing to believe that he was dead and that there was a resurrection.1 On the other hand, not a great deal is made of the event, and maybe that is a way of indicating that the situation was not as serious as the onlookers originally thought. 

The significance of the incident may be this. Paul was not going to see these believers again. This is a farewell scene. Moreover, they were observing the Lord’s Supper, and it was clear that they were not going to do that together again until they should be together in heaven. Before that happened they would all die, though they would be raised again. Maybe the story concerning Eutychus is a picture of that. If it is, then it is a picture from which we can take heart. We are alive now and are with other believers. But death will come and with death a parting. If this life were all there is, that would be the end. But it is not the end, because there is a resurrection. The resurrection tells us that we will meet again. 

We also know the end of the story in Acts. Paul will go to Jerusalem, be attacked, arrested, beaten, and imprisoned. Then he will be sent to Rome where eventually he will lose his life, though Luke does not end Acts with Paul’s death but rather with him alive in Rome and the Gospel spreading everywhere. But even the death of Paul was not the end. Paul had many trials. But for two thousand years now he has been with Jesus, and so have these faithful believers from Troas. The ending is never bad for Christians. The God who has begun a good work in us keeps on perfecting it until the day of Christ. 

1This is John Stott’s argument: “Luke declares that he was dead; as a doctor he could vouch for it” (John R. W. Stott, The Message of Acts: To the Ends of the Earth [Leicester, England: InterVarsity, 1990], 320).

Study Questions
  1. Why do the Lord’s Supper and preaching belong together?
  2. Why is informal conversation among Christians important?
  3. Explain what happened to Eutychus.

Application: Do you take advantage of fellowship opportunities at your church?

Prayer: Thank God for the promise of our resurrection and the meeting we will have with Christ and fellow believers.

Key Point: Wherever we go, wherever the Gospel has penetrated and churches have been established, we find that Christians come together naturally to hear the Bible taught, pray, observe communion, and enjoy fellowship.

For Further Study: Download for free and listen to James Boice’s message, “The Long Way Home.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

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