The Early Church in Action – Acts 20:1-12

By John Bellingham on January 12, 2014
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The Early Church in Action

Acts 20:1-12


– These few verses in Luke’s narrative cover approximately 1 year of Paul’s Third Missionary Journey!  During this time Paul re-visited the Churches of Macedonia and Greece which he had planted on the Second Missionary Journey.  The Epistles of 2 Corinthians and Romans were both written during this time and give us further insight into  the details of his missionary activity.

– Although we must be careful about drawing doctrine from narrative (descriptive) passages, these verses help us to understand a few central priorities within the Early Church (cf. Ac 2:42-47)


I.  Generosity (vv. 1-4)

1)     The Jerusalem Collection:

  • One of the crowning achievements of Paul’s ministry which is underappreciated!
  • Mentioned in Acts 19:22, Romans 15:25-26, 1 Corinthians 16:1,  2 Corinthians 8-9)
  • Intended to ease the burden of the poor and persecuted Jewish believers in Jerusalem.

2)     A Pattern of Generosity:

  • A top concern for Paul’s ministry
  1. Agreement with Apostles (Gal 2:9-10)
  2. Paul’s hesitance to place a financial burden on the Church (Acts 20:33-35)
  • A top concern for Luke’s writing of Acts
  1. Selling of personal property (Acts 2:44-45, 4:34-37)
  2. Consequences of greed (Acts 5:1-11)
  3. Famine relief (Acts 11:27-30)

Application:  A concern for us today??  Do our financial priorities reflect the generosity and priorities of God?  Do we love the brethren in both word and deed? (cf. James 2:14-17; 1 John 3:18)


II.  Camaraderie (vv. 2-6)

1)     Ulterior motive for the Collection

  • Relations between Jewish and Gentile Christians in the Early Church were tense because of cultural differences
  • Paul hoped that the love and generosity of the Gentiles would help ease these tensions

2)     A Display of Gospel Solidarity

  • The messengers mentioned by name and region in v. 4 accompanied Paul to Jerusalem as a visible expression of Church Unity!
  • Paul’s persistence in “encouraging” the churches also underscores the camaraderie that existed within the Early Church

Application:    Do we see other Churches and Missions as ‘comrades’ in the Gospel or as ‘competitors’?


III.  Worship (vv. 7-12)

1)     A Designated Day for Worship:

  • Early Christians met on Sunday instead of Saturday (cf. 1 Cor 16:1-2)
  • Jesus rose from the dead, and the Spirit was poured out on the first day of the week
  • Sunday is not a replacement of the Sabbath! (cf. Col 2:16-17; Gal 4:10-11; Rom 14:5-6)

2)     The Lord’s Supper:

  • Observed during a communal meal called the ‘Love Feast’  (cf. Acts 2:42; 1 Cor 11:17-34)
  • Observed weekly in the Early Church!

3)     Preaching:

  • Church’s insatiable hunger for God’s Word
  • Paul’s delight in preaching


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