And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight. And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together. And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead. (Acts 20:7-9 KJV)
As occasion demands, Paul could accustom himself to short-timed preaching, for example, the sermon on Mars Hill, and his synagogue addresses. However, when he was among the disciples who had gathered to listen to him, making short sermons was not his stock in trade. It was normal with Paul to preach the word of God for hours (for example for his stay in Ephesus teaching at the school of Tyrannus, he taught the word of God daily for about 4 hours!) The Apostle understood the fact that there was need for quantity as well as quality preaching if men would be built up into Disciples of Christ indeed. It is not enough to go for quality word, but there is also need for ‘quantity word’.
Vs. 2 of Acts 20 says, “And when he had gone over those parts, and had given them much exhortation, he came into Greece,” Now, the Greek word translated as “much exhortation”, is simply “polus logos”, meaning “much word”. If there was one thing that Disciples of Paul struggled with as a disease, it was ‘too much word’. Anyone who followed God under Paul’s tutelage had more than enough word to be able to stand and contend against the world and the Devil. Now, it was not just the practice of Paul, but of the early Church. Yes, they sang, they did all manner of religious activities that we do today, but they also spent time in preaching, speaking, hearing and reasoning with the Word of God.
There is no place we see this more evident as is the case of Paul’s farewell speech at Troas. At this point in Paul’s journey, he had a lot of people who now journeyed with him in the labour, and also we take note of the fact that it was in this journey to Troas that Luke (the writer of Acts) rejoined him physically, and continued with him till the end of Acts. That was why the pronoun use returned back from “he” and “they” to “we” and “us” in vs. 5 of Acts. 20, and continued so till the end of Acts.
Paul came to Troas and gathered the disciples there for his farewell address. They gathered on the first day of the week (Sunday), and the time of their gathering was not given us, but we were told that from the time they gathered for the breaking of bread that evening, Paul spoke until midnight! Can you imagine that? This must have been something between 4-6 hours of preaching (if we assume that they met between 6-8pm in the evening). Paul went from line to line, precept to precept, from the Laws to the Prophets; reasoning, arguing, encouraging, taking questions and answers, and possibly praying in-between. Like it would have happened in any normal meeting in life (as these were also human beings), one young man called Eutychus fell asleep. Now, the Bible said: “and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep,” I do not know how long Paul’s preaching had gone before Eutychus incidence happened, but the Bible said that Paul preached quite long (and I believe he was not a shouting preacher). This made Eutychus to sink into deep sleep, and from that deep sleep he tumbled, and falling through the window up at the 3-storey building where they met, he died instantly.
Of course this disrupted the meeting and everyone had to rush downstairs to meet the already dead brother lying on the ground. Paul went down to the brother, embraced him and said, “Don’t worry. He’s still alive!” (vs. 10). Thus, the brother was restored back to life, and was restored back to the fellowship.
I thought that Paul would have ended the sermon there, but the Bible reports thus: When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed. (Acts 20:11 KJV). Did you see that? The sermon continued till daybreak… essentially, Paul spoke for about 10-12 hours non-stop! What a man! What a people!
It is not so good to see today how impatient brethren can be when it comes to the word of God. With our 2-hour services filled with singing, dancing, testimonies, launching, announcement, etc., we now no longer knows what it means to spend 1-2 hours sitting and listening to God’s word. The challenge is double-edged:
- Several priests and so-called preachers of the Gospel actually have nothing to say. They are running without a message. They are boring to the core, and it takes a lot of grace and mercy to sit under them for 30 minutes! Hence, sitting under them for 2 hours will be a nightmare. Then for 5 hours? That will be sheer terrorism! I am grateful to God for the rise of men and elders who have something to say and they can keep us for hours listening to them. I pray that God will raise much more of such men who will help to bring back a revival of quantity and quality word of God in the Church.
- For some people, no matter how ‘worded’ a man of God is, they simply cannot sit down long to hear God’s word. This is a disaster, and such a person must really bring out time to fast and pray for God’s help so that he will learn to sit down and listen to God’s word for a long time. The truth is that there are heights of spirituality you will never attain if you do not give quantity time to the reading and the listening of the word of God.
After the long farewell speech, Paul had his companions travel on ship to the next town, while he walked on foot to get to that same place. Why he did that we do not know; maybe because there were some brethren he wanted to meet on the way, or because he wanted to preach on the way, or he needed time for meditation. However, this shows us the disciplined character of the Apostle, and how he indeed pummels his own body in order to serve the purposes of God.