Reading Between the Lines
Acts 20:1-12
And after the uproar was ceased, Paul called to him the disciples, and embraced them, and departed for to go into Macedonia.…

There does not seem to be much in this section of the apostolic history. We must not, however, judge by appearances. Paul is still here, and wherever you find the great man you find the great worker. Paul does nothing like any other man. Look at —


1. Paul "embraces" the disciples — a word which hides in it the pathos of a farewell. Paul will often now say "Farewell." He is not quite the man he was. Sometimes he straightens himself up into the old dignity and force, and we say, "Surely he will last many a long year yet"; but, nevertheless, we see age creeping upon his face, and taking the youth out of his figure and mien.

2. Then he "departed to go into Macedonia." We like to go back to old places, to see that the old flag is still flying — yes, and to the green grave to see if it is still there. Paul will go back to Thessalonica, Berea, and Philippi. Who can tell what happened in those visits? At first, when we go to a place, there is nothing but that which is common to other places; but having worked there, when we return we talk over old themes, quote old sayings, and ask for old friends with a doubtful tone lest we should rip up old wounds and tear open the deepest graves of the heart. These are the things that make life sacred and precious.

3. Next Paul "came into Greece," and it is just possible looked in upon Athens once more. Certainly he went to Corinth, but Corinth was changed. The decree which made many exiles had been annulled, and Aquila and Priscilla were no longer there. The friends are the town; and if they are not there, we are mocked by masonry. There is a Friend that sticketh closer than a brother; Aquila and Priscilla will leave the city, but Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, always at home.

4. Paul "abode" in Greece three months. The word "abode" misleads us. Paul cannot merely abide. But what is he doing? That we cannot always tell. Have confidence in faithful men. If you have only confidence in your friend so long as you can see every action, you have no confidence in him at all. What, then, has history shown that Paul was doing amidst all this commonplace movement? Within this period Paul wrote his second letter to the Corinthians, and probably his great letter to the Galatians. There is a written ministry. It is beautiful to read what Luke has to say about Paul, but how infinitely better to read Paul's own words. We do not always want to hear about a man, we long to hear the man himself; one sight of him, and we understand much that can never be explained; one utterance of his voice, and we are able to fill up gaps that vexed us. What we would give for the writing of some men!

II. A PERIOD OF WAITING. Paul had written a letter to the Corinthians and wished to know its effect, and Titus was charged to hasten back to Troas with a report. Paul is now waiting at Troas. How did he wait? Read 2 Corinthians 2:12, 13. That is the same spirit we found at Athens; he soon fell into restlessness. Read 2 Corinthians 1:8. I thank God for those words and for that trouble. It brings Paul down amongst us. Read 2 Corinthians 12:7. See how Paul was being educated. Conclusion: Where is the commonplace now? The narrative is full of gaps, but when they are filled up by Paul's own records, we find that within a framework of sentences that merely indicate locomotion we have experiences of the most intensely spiritual nature. We cannot tell all we are doing. There is a public life that the neighbours can see and read and comment upon; but there is a within life, that fills up all the open lines and broken places, and only God sees that interior and solemn existence. You go amongst men as worldly; there may be those who "do not know how you spend half your time." They have no right to know. You will one day hand in your own account to the only Judge who has a right to overlook your life. Fill up your days well; do not ask human criticism to approve you; live ever in the great Taskmaster's eye.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And after the uproar was ceased, Paul called unto him the disciples, and embraced them, and departed for to go into Macedonia.

WEB: After the uproar had ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, took leave of them, and departed to go into Macedonia.

Human Life: Lights and Shadows
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