Friday, June 07, 2013

Christian devotion: Slumber Party - Acts 20:9

Acts 20:9         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.

            Who listens to Paul anymore? Who takes times to read and study what he has to say? During the past couple of decades, many Christians have been pushing back against Paul and his teaching. He’s treated by some as a long-winded, misogynistic, slave supporting, self-centered teacher whose writings led the Early Church away from Christ’s grace into a new form of legalistic, dogmatic, self-opinionated religion that had more to do with his Pharisaic roots rather than his conversion by Christ. The post-modern writers and followers of Jesus who push back against Paul and diminish his teachings usually think of themselves as progressive reformers, whose mission is to get the Church back on the right track. Unfortunately, this frequently ends up just as legalistic when progressives write negative things about other Christians or even produce their own self-righteous lists which state things like: “10 Things You Can’t Do When Following Jesus.”

            Like Eutychus of old, the church tends to drift off and fall asleep when reading Paul’s teaching which essentially grew out of his actual preaching. If you don’t believe me, then next time you are suffering from insomnia and can’t sleep, try reading all of the chapters of Paul’s Letter to the Romans – by the time you get to chapter 5, you’ll probably be slumbering.

            Eutychus, as a young person, didn’t understand the importance of Paul’s preaching at the time, so it caused him to switch off, fall asleep, and drop from the window ledge. He was dead to the teaching, and literally to the rest of the world. It’s perhaps ironic and, to some degree, symbolic that it is Paul who raises him from death, back into life. The sleeper is awakened by the same teacher who made him drift off. Perhaps in the future, a whole generation of Christian folks who are turned off by Paul’s teaching today, may return to the church through the words of the very same apostle.

Questions for personal reflection

What do I honestly think about the apostle Paul? Have I truly read all of his letters?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, no matter what we think about Paul, keep reminding us that it was You who chose him to preach the Gospel and teach the Church. He is Your Chosen One, and so we should treat his teaching with a better understanding and greater respect. Open our hearts and minds to his messages, which originated from Your Spirit, and grant us positive opportunities to apply them in our daily lives. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment on today’s message, please send him an email to

Today’s image is one of John’s Christ Icon drawings. It’s called “Christ Icon” and represents Christ as a teacher with the scriptures in His hands. It’s based upon an old Syriac icon. If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link:

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