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Teaching from Troas (2)

H Barnes, Westhoughton

3. "Troas…where we abode seven days" (Acts 20.6)

Months later Paul returned to Troas (Acts 20.3). The sea journey took longer than usual, five days instead of two (cp. Acts 16.11 with 20.6), but he was hastening, "if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost" (Acts 20.16). This longer-than-expected journey, probably due to adverse winds, meant that Paul arrived on the Monday, having missed the Lord's Day at Troas. However, to make up for this, he stayed a whole week there, remaining until early the following Monday morning, so that he could break bread with the assembly on "the first day of the week", even though his intention was to get to Jerusalem for Pentecost! Whenever possible, breaking bread on a Lord's Day with an assembly in an area one is visiting is to be recommended. Sadly many today miss out on this privilege on their holiday planning.

In certain countries today, the Lord's Day is not a public holiday. For instance, in Nepal, which is largely Hindu, the weekly public holiday is on Saturday, while in the Arabian Gulf, where the countries are Muslim, it is on Friday. The question then arises for assemblies in those countries: do they meet on the Lord's Day, either before or after the working day, or do they make a concession and meet on the public holiday. Obviously, if it is merely a matter of personal convenience, making the latter decision would be obvious. However, putting the Lord first by remembering Him on His day might involve personal inconvenience, but what price is obedience to the Word of God and giving pleasure to Him?

The open door at Troas had no doubt resulted in people being saved and added to the assembly, and now Paul wanted to use every moment possible to teach them. On the last day of his visit, the Lord's Day, a good deal of teaching went on, as well as the assembly breaking bread. The day ended with an extended discussion ("Paul preached", AV), possibly in the form a "question-and-answer" session. The proceedings were interrupted when the young man Eutychus was killed when he fell out of the high window, but he was miraculously restored to life by Paul. This raising of Eutychus brought "not a little comfort" (Acts 20.12), and Luke emphasises this point by the use here of understatement. Raising Eutychus from the dead was an example of the now infrequently reported miracles being performed by Paul, the last ones being a few years later on the island of Melita (today's Malta - Acts 28.5,8).

Troas was also the place where the representatives of the Gentile assemblies involved with the collection for the poor saints at Jerusalem waited for Paul (Acts 20.5), intending to escort him thereafter to Jerusalem. These brethren, who were "Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men" (2 Cor 8.21), were "Sopater of Berea [Macedonia]; and of the Thessalonians [Macedonia], Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe [Galatia], and Timotheus [Galatia]; and of Asia, Tychicus and Trophimus" (Acts 20.4). At Jerusalem Paul would then hand over the funds to the assembly elders: "When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit" (Rom 15.28). Paul saw his role as sealing the fruit of the collected funds, that is, as we say today, when something is "signed, sealed and delivered". Paul wanted to see that everything was handed over in full, for he felt this as an obligation and his agreeing that all was handed over set his seal upon the transaction.

4. "The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus" (2 Tim 4.13)

The fourth and final mention of Troas came about fourteen years after Paul's first visit to the city. He was now far away in prison in Rome, knowing his time had come to leave this scene. His sad, final letter to Timothy is marked by a number of personal appeals to his younger friend. He urged Timothy to come quickly before winter set in, and to bring (John) Mark with him when he came, but also to bring his cloak, books and parchments that he had left at Troas, about which the late Dean Farrar suggested that "he left them behind, with Carpus, to take care of them, in his hasty arrest at Troas", or simply, as some have wondered, when he was there some eight years ago. The name Carpus is interesting in that it means "fruit" (New Unger's Bible Dictionary), reminding us that we too can be fruitful, even if it is faithfulness in a little thing like carefully looking after some of Paul's few earthly possessions.

As winter was coming, the cloak would be very welcome, as well as the books but especially the parchments. If, as is likely, the latter were copies of the Scriptures, then body, mind and spirit would be warmed! Historians tell us that Paul was executed the following summer, so the cloak would have been very welcome for the long winter nights, as would be the reading material, since Paul does not seem to have had many visitors, but Onesiphorus' brave and determined efforts to find Paul had eventually been successful (2 Tim 1.16).

Now only Luke was with Paul, and although "the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me", nevertheless the presence of one who was likeminded (Phil 2.20) would help greatly his last days. Timothy seems to have been in or around Ephesus at the time when Paul wrote to him, and Paul took it that Timothy would naturally travel from there through Troas on his way to Rome on his 600-mile journey. He would no doubt also visit places like Philippi and Thessalonica on the way, places where he was so well thought of (Phil 2.22; 1 Thess 3.2,6). However, what joy there must have been when he arrived at Rome!


Things connected with the city of Troas have a lot to teach us today. When it first appears in Scripture (Acts 16), it was no doubt a place of "waiting on the Lord". Paul's experience there must have been the same as David's long before, when he wrote, "I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry" (Ps 40.1), where the Hebrew word for "wait" has the idea of "waiting, looking for, hoping, or expecting" (Brown-Driver-Briggs). Paul must surely have been praying and waiting for positive guidance, having received negative leading so far. His patience was eventually rewarded and there is clear direction for all. Let us similarly wait patiently on the Lord.

Then Troas teaches us about the importance of being determined to "preach Christ's gospel" (2 Cor 2), and we could add, "in season, out of season" as Paul urged Timothy (2 Tim 4.2), using ordinary and extraordinary opportunities. Even when unexpected things happen to us, as Paul says to the Philippians, they can lead to the "furtherance of the gospel" (Phil 1.12).

Troas is also the place where we learn that the first day of the week is the day on which assemblies "break bread" (Acts 20). Also, we understand the importance of meeting with such assemblies to break bread if we are in their vicinity.

It is in Troas that we see an important group of believers gathered from quite a number of places, witnessing to the fact that Gentile saints had an exercise to help poor Jewish Christians. There are many ways today in which we can emulate these brethren in facilitating the collection of practical aid for believers in need.

Lastly, Troas was the location of Carpus's home, where Paul had left his cloak, books and parchments (2 Tim 4), things which would make his final months in prison more tolerable. What these items would be to Paul is a challenge to us in considering that which we have or desire to have. A proper assemblage of necessary and useful things should be of no embarrassment to us today!



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