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The Significance of Certain Numbers In the Bible
My weekly Biblical study series for 05/25/23 on the Social Gospel Blog, "where truth, justice and the Bible meet"
The Significance of the Numbers 3 and 7 In the Bible
(Acts chapter 20 part one, verses 1-12)
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You are about to read a brief excerpt from my Christian nonfiction book, “The Social Gospel Teaching Series Vol. 2: the Acts of the Apostles” by Rev. Paul J. Bern (c) copyright 2022 by Rev. Paul J. Bern, all rights reserved; available from this link
This week, in our ongoing series on the writings of the apostle Luke, we will be moving on to part one of Acts chapter twenty. As we do so, the apostle Paul is leaving Ephesus, and is on a journey through Macedonia and Greece, with his ultimate destination being Jerusalem. Macedonia remained as it was until the mid-fourteenth century, when it became a part of the Ottoman Empire. It remained that way until the end of World War 1, when it became a part of Yugoslavia. It remained that way until the Balkan Wars of the 1990's, the outcome of which was to have Yugoslavia broken up into four countries, one of which was Macedonia. So it took a total of 600 years for the country of Macedonia, together with its people, to come full circle and regain its original identity. Having explained Macedonia's background and history from a Biblical perspective, let’s begin this week's lesson at verse one of Acts 20:
Part One of This Week’s Verses for Study and Memorization
“1) When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said goodbye and set out for Macedonia. 2) He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people, and finally arrived in Greece, 3) where he stayed three months. Because some Jews had plotted against him just as he was about to sail for Syria, he decided to go back through Macedonia. 4) He was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy also, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia. 5) These men went on ahead and waited for us at Troas. 6) But we sailed from Philippi after the Festival of Unleavened Bread, and five days later joined the others at Troas, where we stayed seven days.” (Acts 20, verses 1-6)
Paul the Apostle Leaves Ephesus
Like I mentioned in last week's lesson, Paul the apostle was no dummy, and he knew when it was time for him to get out of Ephesus. The riot that had just occurred had begun over the perceived encroachment of Christianity into their totally pagan culture. The population of the entire city had gotten completely out of control over this issue, and Paul wanted no part in that. So Paul left Ephesus, leaving the church there in capable hands. Paul went on another of his 'road trips', traveling throughout Macedonia while making many stops along the way. You could say that Paul went on the road with his own version of a modern-day revival tour. Since Paul was a tent maker, he may have brought his own tents with him, but the Bible doesn't tell us that.
The Significance of the Number Three in Parts of the Bible
After a long, meandering journey, with many stops along the way, Paul arrived in Greece, where he stayed for three months. The number 3 is one that consistently reappears throughout the Bible, with the most significant being that Jesus was dead and in the ground for three days and three nights before he arose in magnificent splendor. Paul's travels were filled with peril and fraught with danger, as verse 3 relates (there's that number again): “Because some Jews had plotted against him just as he was about to sail for Syria, he decided to go back through Macedonia.” As you can see, the early Church had its own intelligence network, like the “underground” forces in Europe during World War 2.
The Plot Against Paul
So back through Macedonia Paul goes, this time accompanied by a team of men, all of whom were converted earlier by Paul as Christ-followers. There were two men from the church at Thessalonica, Timothy, two from the province of Asia, plus others. Evidently they had been the ones who had come to warn Paul about the plot that was about to be hatched against him. The Bible doesn't specify the nature of this plot, except that it was Jew against Christian and, specifically, certain men in positions of leadership in the synagogues of that era. You know, the same group of men who handed Christ over to the Romans to be slaughtered?
Our Need to Reconnect
“5) These men went on ahead and waited for us at Troas. 6) But we sailed from Philippi after the Festival of Unleavened Bread, and five days later joined the others at Troas, where we stayed seven days.” There's another number you see a lot of in the Bible, the number 7. According to Genesis chapter 1, there were 7 days to creation, 6 days of work and 1 day of rest. In a world where many find themselves working up to 7 days a week, usually with no time off except for emergencies (like mental health emergencies from overwork), these poor individuals have lost sight of this simple Biblical premise designed for us to have some balance in our lives. People in the Western hemisphere, and particularly in the US, urgently need to reconnect with this basic premise of healthy living. And now let's move on to part 2 of this week's lesson.
Part Two of This Week’s Study Verses
“7) On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. 8) There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. 9) Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. 10) Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. 'Don’t be alarmed,' he said. 'He’s alive!' 11) Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. 12) The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted.” (Acts 20, verses 7-12)
Paul the Apostle Preaching and Teaching the Word
In verse 7, the “first day of the week” did not mean the Sabbath, since that was the seventh day of the week. It was just that, since their faith was so fervent and intense, they had a breaking of bread, which they ate in Christ's memory just as at the Last Supper, every day of the week. Here is where we find out that Paul was a long-winded preacher. Anytime anyone can talk until midnight before running out of things to say, as Paul did back then, I would call that a really long church service. Except it wasn't a service, it was a Bible lesson, a Sunday school that ran 7 days a week. It doesn't say when they stopped to eat dinner or not, but I would imagine they did at some point during Paul's teaching. Otherwise, they would have been one hungry bunch of folks.
Paul Performs an Act of Healing
It says plainly in verse 9 that one person fell into a deep sleep and fell out a window. That makes me wonder how many others were nodding off during Paul's marathon teaching session. It finally got to the point where, “he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. 'Don’t be alarmed,' he said. 'He’s alive!'” The apostle Paul, filled with deep concern for Eutychus, had laid hands on the young man's lifeless body and prayed him back to health in a matter of moments. Still, it says in verse 11 that Paul stopped to eat, and then proceeded to talk until daylight. All the while, “The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted.”
Be Sure and Return Next Week for Part Two of Acts 20
It is probable that some of the people there had begun to grow restless with Paul's incessant talking. By saving the young man's life – Eutychus was probably just a teenager – Paul proved that their long hours together were not in vain. And yet, it was not Paul who showed them all, but rather the Spirit of the risen Lord that dwelt within Paul's heart, mind and soul. The apostle Paul had learned how to yield to the Holy Spirit and let Him work, rather than attempt to work on his own. He also put his teaching into action, and set a good example for everyone, by saving the young man's life. Afterward, Paul goes and visits several different places in that vicinity, which is where we will begin for next week's lesson. So be sure and come on back next week for part 2 of Acts chapter 20.
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