Luke begins chapter 20 by telling us that Paul left Ephesus and went to Macedonia. He does not give much detail. But when we read what Paul has written in his letters, we find that this was a period of great agony on Paul’s part. His chief concern at this time was the situation in the church at Corinth. At some time during his two-year ministry at Ephesus, word had come to him of problems in the Corinthian church—the kind of problems that are reflected in his letters to it. There were factions in the church. Some were claiming to be followers of Apollos, and they formed an “Apollos party.” Others were claiming to be followers of Peter, and they were a “Peter party.” Some were even claiming to be followers of Paul; they were a “Paul party.” And then there were the spiritual ones who said, “We don’t follow any earthly leaders. We are followers of Christ.” So there was a “Christ party,” too.
There was immorality in the church. One church member was sleeping with his father’s wife, presumably his stepmother. There were lawsuits among the Christians. The communion service was not well observed, and it was contributing to disunion among the congregation rather than to union. The well-to-do were feasting by themselves while ignoring their poorer brethren.
This troubled Paul because, among other things, he had spent a good bit of time in Corinth. He had been there a year-and-a-half, pouring much energy into the church in this great cosmopolitan center. So, after he had written to them, he was understandably anxious to find out how the church was doing.
Paul had left Titus in Corinth. Titus had been given the responsibility of dealing with the problems and then reporting back to Paul. He was supposed to meet Paul at Troas. But when Paul left Ephesus, arrived at Troas and waited for Titus there, Titus did not come. Paul says in his second Corinthian letter that he was so troubled by what he imagined was happening in Corinth that he passed over into Europe, probably intending to go directly to Corinth himself. However, there in Macedonia, he did at last fortunately meet his co-worker who informed him that his anxiety had been unnecessary. The Corinthians had responded to his letter and had dealt with the problems (cf. 2 Cor. 2:12-13; 7:5-16). Paul says that he was greatly comforted by the coming of Titus.
I suppose that is why Paul spent as much time in Macedonia as he did, ministering further. It is also why he wrote 2 Corinthians. Paul spent the summer traveling around Macedonia. He refers to this work in Romans 15:19, saying that “from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.” Then he spent the winter in Corinth where he wrote the letter to the Romans in preparation for the trip he planned to make there later.
During the months of December, January and February the seas were too rough for boats to travel. But Paul had made up his mind that, if possible, he was going to get to Jerusalem for Passover that spring.
As it turned out, he did not get there for Passover. When he was about to leave Corinth to sail to Jerusalem, word came that the Jews of Corinth were plotting to kill him. Not much is said about this, but it is not hard to imagine what was involved. Jews going to Jerusalem would sail on a “pilgrim ship.” It would carry cargo, but it would take as many passengers as possible. It would be crowded to make a lot of money, and it would be quite possible in such crowded conditions for someone who had been hired by Paul’s enemies to sneak up on him and kill him some dark night at sea. Word came to Paul that something like this had been planned. So rather than going by sea, Paul decided to return overland through Macedonia. This took longer than a trip by sea and delayed his timetable. However, he would be able to visit the Macedonian churches again, and then later, from another port, make his way to Jerusalem.