The Church is greatly encouraged so as to overcome the world, by looking beyond the crises in this world to the Lord through His Word, Witnesses, and Worship.
Encouragement is a basic human necessity so as to act in any way that is good. We, naturally being full of idols, will do nothing within or without except that we be encouraged; let alone conquer the world! To be encouraged speaks of being built up, and remains a large part of what it means to minister the gospel. It is for the glory of the Lord and the building up or encouragement of the church we exist. Encouragement is the very thing that God gave Joshua to conquer the land; and encouragement is the thing that was given here to Paul and the church to conquer the world within and without. However, we are often prone (I speak of my own weakness) to assume the worst rather than the best in people. Perhaps this is because of the overemphasis of the T (Total Depravity) is T.U.L.I.P. rather than realizing the U.L.I.P. (Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, Perseverance of the Saints) is the overcoming of the T! And thus requires encouragement, and is the very base potion of encouragement in the deep magic (the gospel) of God. It is not just encouragement, but gospel encouragement. The good news that triune God has come to be with men by His Son and by His Spirit.
I had only been outside my own country once, and for a very short time, but in that time I found the universal need of those that I preached to was the same that I needed along the way, and that was encouragement. So, it is keeping with both the logos as well as wit the experience of life that this thing called encouragement stands as a vital necessity in the Christian church. It is the desire of our God to greatly encourage the church, Christ’s lovely bride, to wash her with His Word and dress her with robes of righteousness and fill her with good tidings within and forever increasing.
Our text before us occurs after an uproar v.1; and in v.3 and v. 9b with other crises; and thus is the perfect occasion for such a subject like encouragement. Correspondingly, we find “encouragement” explicitly repeated in vv.1, 2, 12 (translated “comforted” in the last phrase). We know that this text is about encouragement up and over against crises. And knowing this, as cute as it may seem to some to make sermons on not sleeping in church may be, we must not get distracted with the account of Eutychus (or any other crises). The reality is that Luke is very explicit in his intention in this text. He is giving the church then and for all time to the very end a recipe for great encouragement, or to put it negatively, a remedy to the ills of discouragement. What then are the elements necessary for the church to be greatly encouraged in a world with crises? Dr. Luke tells us as follows.
The Cordial of Much Word
The first tonic or cordial is that of the Word. If we are to be greatly encouraged, we need to be greatly instructed with the Word. The second verse says literally “had given them encouragement with much Word.” The word for encouragement in vv.1, 2, 12 is parakaleo, which is related to paraklete, from which we get that name for Advocate, Helper, Comforter, the Holy Spirit. It is what Jesus was, an Advocate, so the Spirit is another advocate or helper. And the Apostles serve to be filled with God’s Spirit to do this ministry of the Word to encourage us. If we wish to have little encouragement, then we should have little of the Word. So, if we are to have great encouragement or be greatly encouraged, we need much Word! Romans 15:4 is a good parallel, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction that through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
The Cordial of Mighty Witnesses
There is a second cordial to take from Dr. Luke if we are to be greatly encouraged. It appears in more of the form of an example in vv.3–6. The occasion again is opposite of comfort (Cf. v.1a). the occasion is a plot was made against Paul by the Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria. The result is he literally “was possessed of a decision to return through Macedonia” (v.3b). Then comes the remedy to the occasion of the plot in v.3 in practical terms—seven men are placed beside him and Luke, who serve at least three purposes. First, they were a delegation from all the churches in these places to bring a contribution to Jerusalem. Romans was written at this time, and the fifteenth chapter bears witness to the matter of the offering being gathered. These men were sent by the churches to accompany Paul at least for this purpose. Second, they might serve to remove any jealousies of the Jewish believers and the Gentile believers, providing unity for the church. These men are named from all different areas and thus serve a unifying purpose. Third, they are sent for some protection of Paul not only bodily but spiritually to encourage him. Though they go on ahead of him and Luke at one point, they were present at least to be of help to Paul in these ways. The minister also needs great encouragement by means of mighty witnesses. These mighty witnesses are named, and in some cases appear in other parts of Scripture. It is clear something of significance is occurring here, and though there is no explicit statement, we can see by inference that these men must be mighty witnesses to be sent on such a mission for these purposes. If we want to remain discouraged about life and ministry, just go without training men and sending men on missions to do something good for the Lord. We will be as encouraged as we raise up by God’s grace, mighty witnesses to be of encouragement to the minsters of the Word; to assist the ministers of the Word in mercy work; to unify; to protect them even by means of encouraging their souls. And though Paul was indeed able to be encouraged without them because the Lord stands beside him, he is greatly encouraged when he has such people alongside of him.
The Cordial of Marvelous Worship
There is then a last necessary means to greatly encouraging the church of God in every place in all times. This occurs in vv.7–12. We can see that once we know what Luke is doing we will not be distracted by crises that can form an alternative message that is not intended by Luke. The message is one of greatly encouraging the church. And in order to teach this lesson, Luke puts a big distraction, a potential hindrance to the encouragement of the church before them and us. He has been doing this already in the form of the uproar in v.1, the plot in v.3b, and now does so in the form of a boy falling out the window of their meeting place. What could have stopped the goal of greatly building up the church more more than a man falling out the window (literally wind door; a place for the breeze to enter and fill the room), and falling dead? This account is putting before us a great obstacle to the advance of the kingdom just as we have seen in the past in the form of an uproar (v.1) or a plot (v.3); and now here Satan seeks to stop the kingdom from progressing by killing a young boy (v.12 indicates his age of approximately between 8–11 years of age, a youth) in the congregation over a long discourse. How Satan would be pleased to find anything he can to destroy and link it to Scripture discourse and worship so as to discourage the church and keep her from experiencing marvelous worship that encourages them all greatly! Well, what is here that makes the worship marvelous up beyond this attack? We see first the first day of the week, the Lord’s Day, is here set by apostolic example for the church going forward for worship. There is now a distinct day on which the Christian church worships going forward from this point that contributes to their encouragement. We know it is for worship because they are gathered to in the form of synecdoche “break bread.” This speaks of Communion or the Lord’s Supper which occurs at the end in spite of the boy falling out the window dead. If the boy was not raised here, there would be many excuses to give up this day. But God put his seal on it with a resurrection and with much comfort. Another item is that of the sermon. The word “talked” and “speech” in v.7 refers to a sermon. In fact the word for “speech” in the latin is sermonem from which we get our word sermon. It was of course a long sermon, but again, if they would be greatly encouraged they need much Word (see point 1). This does not argue for long sermons, but simply for adequate sermons appropriate to the occasion. In this case, Paul was spending the evening onward giving them all the encouragement he could must by preaching a sermon on the Lord’s Day with a goal toward Communion or Lord’s Supper. They would not see him for long and so the occasion required length. There is another key element in marvelous worship, and that is the end goal they gathered for, Communion or Lord’s Supper. After the boy had been raised, the meeting was not cancelled, but lengthened! He goes on to daybreak, but not just goes on, but resumes the service with the Lord’s supper. The Lord’s Supper indicates a continuation of encouragement. The result is put in terms of Litote, they were not a little comforted, that is, they were greatly encouraged!
Thus we see that Luke as a physician of the soul gives us a clear remedy that goes beyond uproars, plots, and interruptions, namely—much Word, mighty witnesses or companions, and marvelous worship. That last item of marvelous worship is worship that makes one marvel at the fact that the Kingdom advances against all odds and and leaves the church full of encouragement beyond the crises they experience in this world. This can only come by the Spirit, the great paraklete, comforter, helper, advocate, encourager who entered this world in the apostolic times in a deep and miraculous way because of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is God’s intent to not only to found his church, but fill his church by building her up greatly. May the Church thus in all times and places be greatly encouraged with much Word, mighty witnesses (or workers with the pastor), and marvelous worship (as prescribed by Luke here). May the Church especially get the message here to look beyond the crises to those things which God has ordained to give them much encouragement. The Church then, we learn, is greatly encouraged so as to overcome the world, by looking beyond the crises in this world to the Lord through His Word, Witnesses, and Worship. Amen and glory and praise be to our God and Savior Jesus Christ!