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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary for Schools and Colleges

Acts 20

Verses 1-99

20:1 6 . Paul journeys through Macedonia and Greece, and returns as far as Troas

1 . And after the uproar was ceased ] Some little time may have elapsed and public feeling have become calm enough for a meeting of the Christian congregation.

Paul called unto him the disciples, and embraced them ] The oldest authorities read “ Paul having sent for the disciples ,” and then add “ and exhorted them ” (adopted by R. V. ). The word rendered “embraced” signifies as it is rendered in 21:6, “to take leave of,” “to make parting greetings.” He did not probably feel that it would be wise to leave till he saw the Church in quiet once more.

and departed for to go into Macedonia ] In fulfilment of the purpose mentioned in 19:21. We see from 2 Corinthians 2:13 that he went first to Troas expecting to meet Titus there. He did not find him till he reached Macedonia, from which country he wrote the second letter to Corinth.

2 . And when he had gone over those parts ] Visiting specially, of course, the churches of Philippi, Thessalonica and Berœa, among which St Luke may have been left from the former visit, and have laboured to carry on the work which St Paul had begun. Some have judged this to be very probable, and that in this Macedonian residence St Luke’s Gospel may have been written. It was also, as it seems, at this time that St Paul made the journey into Illyricum alluded to in Romans 15:19 .

and had given them much exhortation ] We may form some idea of the topics which would be embraced by such exhortation, if we read the two Epistles to the Thessalonians which had been written to that Church since St Paul’s former visit to Macedonia. The most marked language in the first Epistle is against sorrowing immoderately for the dead. By the words of St Paul on this subject the Christian congregation had been much troubled concerning the nearness of the coming of the Son of Man, and the second letter is written to bring them to a calm and thoughtful mind. The Apostle’s much exhortation would be an echo of what he had said in his letters, “Watch and be sober,” “Abstain from every form of evil,” “Be at peace among yourselves.”

he came into Greece ] There is nothing said of the places which St Paul visited in this journey, but as he was always anxious to strengthen any work which he had before begun we may feel sure that Athens and Corinth, on this account, as well as for their importance as centres of intellectual and commercial life, were the places in which he spent the greater part of his three months’ stay. In the latter Church especially there were many things to be set in order. He had already written to the Corinthians his two Epistles. In the first, sent from Ephesus, he had found it necessary to rebuke them for the party-spirit in the Church, some calling themselves by the name of Peter, some of Apollos and some of Paul himself, instead of finding true unity in Christ; he had also censured the disorders in the Eucharistic feast, had given his judgment on a notorious offender, and on many topics raised by the difficulties of a Christian Church rising up amid heathen surroundings. These matters, and the guidance into a right channel of the exercise of those special gifts of preaching and speaking with tongues with which God endowed the Church in Corinth, would give the Apostle little rest during his brief stay even if he bestowed his whole time on Corinth alone.

3 . and there abode three months ] More literally, with Rev. Ver. , “ and when he had spent three months there ,” connecting it, as the Greek does, with what follows.

and when the Jews laid wait for him ] The English of the A.V. defines too precisely the form of the danger. Read “ And when a plot was laid against him by the Jews .” The Jews, who had tried to engage Gallio in their matters on St Paul’s last visit to Corinth, now take a secret instead of a public means of wreaking their vengeance on him. And we may judge that St Paul anticipated some trouble from the Judaizing party at Corinth by the tone of the latter portion (after chap. 9) of his second Epistle written to them while he was on his way, but detained in Macedonia. There were persons in Corinth who spoke slightingly of the Apostle. His bodily presence was weak and his speech contemptible. And in opposition to the remarks of these opponents, the Epistle concludes with an assertion of St Paul’s equality to the chiefest Apostles, a recital more full than in any other place of his sufferings for the Gospel, and an account of revelations divinely made unto him. It is clear therefore that among those who would be counted as Christians St Paul was not everywhere accepted. The Jews under such circumstances would have some abettors in their animosity even among the Judæo-Christians, and seem to have planned some means whereby St Paul might be attacked on his sea-voyage to Syria. No doubt the intention was to kill him. The word in the original is that used (9:24) when the Jews watched the gates of Damascus night and day to kill him.

as he was about to sail into Syria ] The rendering of the Rev. Ver. gives the sense more vividly “ as he was about to set sail for Syria .” He had apparently gone so far as to arrange for his passage and go on board, and was nearly departed, before he got the warning news. Perhaps some heart, among the people to whom the plot was known on shore, was moved to give a hint of the great peril at the last moment. This is the more probable if we suppose some previous communications between the Jews and the Judaizers among the Christians.

he purposed to return through Macedonia ] Better, he determined , with Rev. Ver. As the scheme for killing him had been meant to be carried out at sea, the choice of an overland journey and a prompt departure made the forming of a new plan impossible to the conspirators.

4 . And there accompanied him into Asia ] The literal rendering of the last words is “as far as Asia,” but they are altogether omitted by the oldest MSS. We find Trophimus went to Jerusalem (21:29) and that Aristarchus was with St Paul in the voyage to Rome (27:2).

Sopater of Berea ] The oldest MSS. add the son of Pyrrhus . A various reading here has Sosipater , a name which is found in Romans 16:21 , but there is no reason for connecting the two persons. We know nothing of Sopater beyond the mention of him in this verse.

and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus ] Aristarchus has been before mentioned (19:29), and in the Epistles written during the Roman imprisonment, to Philemon (24) he is one of those who sends greeting, and also to the Colossians (4:10) in which place the Apostle calls him his fellow-prisoner, shewing that he shared in a great degree the whole hardships of St Paul’s life at Rome. Secundus is only mentioned here.

and Gaius of Derbe, and Timotheus ] As Timotheus was probably of Lystra, these men may have been friends from an early period and the former may have been a convert at the same time as the latter. We only know of him from this verse, and he has no connexion with any other Gaius named in the New Testament.

and of Asia, Tychicus and Trophimus ] Of the former of these we have mention several times. In Ephesians 6:21 , he is called a beloved brother and faithful minister, and St Paul states that he is about to send him to Ephesus. To the Colossians (4:7) he writes, “All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you.” From both which notices we see that Tychicus was with St Paul in his first Roman imprisonment. He was also at hand when the Apostle wrote to Titus (Titus 3:12 ), and also had been with St Paul in the later imprisonment, when the second Epistle to Timothy was written (4:12) and had again been sent to Ephesus. Perhaps Tychicus like Trophimus was by birth an Ephesian. Trophimus also continued much with St Paul, for we read (2 Timothy 4:20 ) that the Apostle at that time had left him detained by sickness at Miletus.

5 . These going before tarried for us at Troas ] Better (with Rev. Ver. ), But these had gone before and were waiting for us , &c. What the writer wants to point out is that these men before-mentioned did not stop like St Paul at Philippi, nor indeed tarry at all in Macedonia. As in this verse the change of pronoun indicates that the writer of the narrative again becomes a fellow-traveller with St Paul, we may presume, as has before been said, that he had been left here by the Apostle, who now separated himself for a brief time from his companions that he might pick up St Luke.

6 . And we … unleavened bread ] St Paul seems to have stayed in Philippi because of the Jewish feast. As there could be no sacrifice of the Passover out of Jerusalem, the Apostle would feel no difficulty about remaining at any other form of the feast, and we know how loath he was to sever himself from his people in all things which he might lawfully share with them.

and came unto them … seven days ] Troas could not be without much interest both to St Paul and Luke and Timothy, for at least these three had been here together, on that former visit when they were called over to Macedonia by a vision. Aristarchus and Secundus represented in part the fruits which God had granted to their work.

7 12 . Paul preaches at Troas. Eutychus is restored to life

7 . And upon the first day of the week ] Which had now, in memory of the Resurrection, begun to be observed as a holy day by Christians. In an Epistle written before this visit to Troas (1 Corinthians 16:2 ) the day is appointed by St Paul as the special time when the Christian alms should be laid aside.

when the disciples came together to break bread ] The oldest authorities give (and the Rev. Ver. represents) “ when we were gathered together ,” &c. We can see how the alteration has been introduced by some one who felt the awkwardness of the following “ them .” Wherever a congregation was organized the natural service of the Christian worshippers was the communion of the body and blood of Christ.

Paul preached unto them ] Except here and in verse 9 the verb is nowhere else rendered “preach.” Better, “ discoursed with them .” The meeting was one where reasoning and conversation were used to solve doubts and clear away difficulties which might be in the minds of the Christians at Troas. For we can perceive that there was a Church established here. Indeed wherever St Paul came he was enabled to leave that mark of his visit behind him. It is true the meeting was only still in an upper chamber, but the “many lights” shews that it was not a mere gathering of one or two with the Apostle and his friends, but a settled Christian congregation.

ready [ intending ] to depart on the morrow ] They had met first for an evening service, but the consolation of Christian intercourse and the additional zeal infused into the church by the Apostle’s visit caused the irregular conversational meeting to be protracted beyond the intended time.

and continued his speech until midnight ] The “prolonged” of the Rev. Ver. is no improvement. It rather gives the impression that the Apostle had worn out all his hearers.

8 . And there were , &c.] Our thoughts go back to the upper room in Jerusalem where (Acts 1:13 ) the first preachers of Christianity waited for the promised gift of the Holy Ghost.

9 . And there sat in a [better, the ] window ] The window in that climate was only an opening in the wall, and not as in our country provided with a framework, the bars of which would have prevented the accident which is here described.

a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep ] The last verb signifies borne down, overpowered , and the Rev. Ver. gives “borne down with deep sleep.” He was not a careless hearer, but sleep at the late hour overcame his youthful frame and he could resist it no longer.

and as Paul was long preaching ] Better, “ and as Paul discoursed yet longer ” with Rev. Ver. The comparative degree refers to the expectation or the wearied powers of the young man. The discourse went on longer than he thought it would, or than he could keep awake.

he sunk down with sleep ] The verb is the same as before. Read “ being borne down by his sleep ,” as the word is a participle.

and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead ] To join on with the participial sentence preceding, render he fell down from the third story and , &c. The latticework with which such windows were closed in the East would be set wide open to admit the cool air into the crowded room. The lad fell out, and down to the floor of the courtyard. There has been much debate whether the restoration of Eutychus was meant to be described as miraculous; whether, that is, “dead” may not be taken for “in a swoon like death.” But St Luke’s expression (ver. 12) “They brought him alive” seems to leave no room for question. That life was gone by reason of the fall and was restored by the prayer of the Apostle is the natural reading of the story, which has all the vividness that marks the narrative of an eyewitness.

10 . And Paul … fell on him ] The access to Eastern houses was by a staircase on the outside, so that the way down would be at hand. The action of the Apostle recalls that of Elijah (1 Kings 17:21 ) and of Elisha (2 Kings 4:34 ). No doubt the Apostle, like the Old Testament prophets, accompanied his action with a cry unto the Lord.

and embracing him said ] As he clasped the child in his arms, he would feel the returning motion, and know that his prayer was heard. The boy seems to have been left to the care of some members (perhaps women) of the congregation, who tended him till the service was over.

Trouble not yourselves ] The Rev. Ver. gives “Make ye no ado,” evidently conforming to the rendering of this same Greek word in Mark 5:39 , but while in English we find “this ado” and “much ado” and “no more ado,” the expression “no ado” seems not to occur. The two open syllables are not agreeable, and that probably caused the combination to be avoided. What the Apostle means is, “Don’t make any tumult or distress yourselves.”

11 . When he therefore was come up again ] Better ( with Rev. Ver .), “ And when he was gone up .” The Apostle’s calmness, as well as his words, was not without effect on the congregation. He returns to the upper room, and the unfinished act of worship is completed.

and had broken bread ] The best texts give “ the bread ,” i.e. the bread of the Eucharistic service.

and eaten ] i.e. partaken of the more substantial meal of the “Agapæ,” which in the early church followed after the Communion.

and talked a long while ] The verb implies the talking of persons one with another, the talk of friendly intercourse, as distinguished from the previous discourse on more solemn subjects of the spread of Christ’s kingdom and the part each of them might take in helping it on. So the Rev. Ver. well, “ and had talked with them a long while .”

12 . And they brought the young man alive ] Here is a different noun, and the Rev. Ver. rightly gives “the lad.” It would seem as though those who had had the care of him brought him, before the congregation broke up, perhaps even before the Apostle’s departure, back again into the upper room.

13 16 . Paul goes on foot to Assos, then by sea to Miletus

13 . And we went before to ship ] The conjunction should be adversative. The writer is describing now what the rest, without St Paul, did. Read “ But we ,” i.e. St Luke and some of the other companions of the Apostle, “ going before to the ship ,” i.e. before St Paul’s departure from the congregation and those events by which it was attended.

and sailed unto Assos ] Better “set sail for Assos.” The verb is only indicative of the putting-out to sea. Assos was in Mysia, on the north shore of the gulf of Adramyttium. Opposite and about seven miles out at sea lay the island of Lesbos. There was a Roman road from Troas passing through Assos. So while the ship went round the cape Lectum, the Apostle was able to come by land and be taken on board by his companions.

there intending … to go afoot ] The last verb when opposed to a journey by sea, need not necessarily signify a pedestrian journey, but may mean only “by land.” This (as Rev. Ver. ) seems the better rendering here, for although the distance between Troas and Assos is only 20 miles, yet after the labours and excitement of the past night, a walk of that length would scarcely have been contemplated by the Apostle, when his companions in the ship already had the start of him. Many reasons have been suggested why St Paul separated for a few hours from his friends: that he wished for solitude: that he would not be at sea one moment before he could help it: that there was some Christian duty which he could perform on the way: or for his health’s sake. The historian, who probably knew, has not told us, and conjectures in such a case are valueless.

14 . And … Mitylene ] The voyage was a coasting voyage, the nights being each spent in some harbour. Mitylene was the capital of Lesbos, to which place they went from Assos, because probably it had a better anchorage. There could have been little time for anything on St Paul’s land journey like meeting Christian friends, since the vessel left Troas in the morning, and by an indirect course came to Mitylene before nightfall.

15 . And we sailed thence, and came the next day over against Chios ] As the word for “next” here is not the same as that so rendered in the following clause, the Rev. Ver. gives (with more closeness to the Greek) And sailing from thence we came the following day , &c. The island of Chios is about five miles distant from the mainland. It was in the shelter of the roadstead that the Apostle and his companions passed the night in their vessel.

and the next day we arrived [ touched ] at Samos ] The verb is a technical seafaring word, which the Rev. Ver. has thus represented. The island of Samos lies off that part of the coast of Asia Minor where the ancient Ionia joined on to Caria. It has been famous both in ancient Greek and modern European history (see Dict. of Greek and Roman Geogr . s.v.). On the mainland opposite, at the termination of the ridge of Mycale, lay Trogyllium, for which the Apostle’s vessel made without stopping in Samos.

and tarried at Trogyllium ] The oldest MSS. omit these words. How they came into the text, if they be an addition, is not easy to explain. As the previous verb only implies the “touching” at Samos, some early marginal annotator knowing the country may have thus suggested the night’s halting-place, which the historian did not mention.

and the next day we came to Miletus ] Here is yet another Greek phrase for “next day.” The A.V., which often gives a varied English for the same Greek, has here for varying Greek given the same English three times over. The Rev. Ver. has “the day after,” and thus marks the variation in the original. Miletus had been a most famous sea-port in the earlier Greek history, but in the days of St Paul its fame was eclipsed by Ephesus. It lay on the coast of Caria, some 20 or 30 miles distant by land southward from the city of Ephesus, and one day’s sail from Trogyllium. The site of the town is now some distance from the sea, and was not close to it in the Apostle’s time, as we shall see below (verse 38).

16 . For Paul , &c.] In the midst of a large Christian congregation, such as we know to have existed in Ephesus, there would have arisen many causes of delay which the Apostle in this rapid journey desired to avoid. Perhaps too there might have been some hostility roused against him, and either from a wish not to awaken this or from fear lest the allaying of it should consume time he resolved to send for the heads of the church to confer with him at Miletus.

because he would not spend the time in Asia ] Better (with Rev. Ver. ), that he might not have to spend time in Asia . He felt that he could not go to Ephesus and leave again in a day.

for he hasted ] Better, was hastening . The verb expresses the whole character of his journey, and we can only conclude that there was some difficulty in finding a vessel at Troas, or he would not have stayed there so long as he did and not have given a day to Ephesus, which he felt he was hardly likely to see again.

if … Pentecost ] Pentecost at Jerusalem must have been a high Christian as well as a Jewish festival. There would be at such a time an opportunity for the Apostle to meet the more prominent members of the Christian body, and, while bringing his contributions from the churches which he had founded, to gladden them with the news of what God had enabled him to do.

17 38 . Paul sends for the Elders from Ephesus, gives them his parting Charge and leaves Miletus

17 . And … Ephesus ] At Miletus the Apostle and his party must have tarried more than one day. It would take quite that time to send his messenger and summon those whom he wished to see. If they came to him on the next day, that would be consumed in their conference and leavetaking, and the voyage could hardly be begun again till the third day at the earliest.

and … elders of the church ] To express the force of the preposition in the compound verb the Rev. Ver. gives “ called to him .” For “elders” the Gk. word is presbuteroi , and might be rendered “presbyters.” These men are called (ver. 28) episcopoi , i.e. “bishops” or “overseers.” It is well established that the titles “presbyter” and “bishop” were in the early days of the church synonymous.

18 . And … he said unto them ] This is the only speech recorded in the Acts of the Apostles which we can be sure that the writer heard St Paul make. This is probably the reason why we have it somewhat in detail, and why it is so marked, as we shall see it is, with expressions that are to be found in the Apostle’s letters. While giving other speeches in abstract St Luke employs his own diction or that of some who were his authorities.

Ye know ] The pronoun is emphatically expressed, and for this reason the Rev. Ver. says, “ Ye yourselves know .” Had St Luke been giving the speech in substance, his Greek training would have made him commence, as he so often does, “Men and brethren.” That he has not done so in the speech which he gathered from St Paul’s own lips is an evidence of a faithful reporter.

from the first day that I came into Asia ] The Rev. Ver. brings out the force of the Greek verb “ I set foot in .” The Apostle is appealing not only to what he had done in Ephesus itself, but to what they had heard of his labours elsewhere in Asia. Ephesus was no doubt the greatest centre of Christian life in Proconsular Asia, and all that was done elsewhere would be reported there, and the lesser churches would seek for intercommunion with a church in which they could learn so much of what St Paul had taught.

after what manner I have been with you at all seasons ] The A.V. neither represents duly the last noun, which is singular, nor the tense of the verb. Read (with Rev. Ver. ) I was with you all the time . The Apostle is appealing to his behaviour from first to last during his residence in Asia. It is not that he had been with them at all seasons which he desires to note, but how he had borne himself while he was among them.

19 . serving … humility of mind ] The Rev. Ver. here has “lowliness of mind,” as the word is rendered Philippians 2:3 , but the version is not consistent, for the same rendering is not kept (Colossians 3:12 ) where it might just as well have been. Probably the translators of 1611 did not like the collocation all lowliness . St Paul is careful to point out that the service in which he spent himself was done unto the Lord as His Apostle.

and with many tears ] The oldest authorities omit “many.” The adjective is a comment from the statement in verse 31. In 2 Corinthians 2:4 St Paul says “I wrote unto you with many tears.”

and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews ] The old sense of “temptation” is lost. Read (with Rev. Ver. ) “ and with trials by the plots of the Jews . We could only see in the account of the tumult at Ephesus that there were some indications that the Jewish population were anxious to make it plain that they had no sympathy with the Apostle who was so obnoxious to the Gentiles. Here we have an express declaration made before those who knew all the circumstances that plots had been laid against Paul’s life by the Jews. It did not fall in with St Luke’s purpose to tell us of them, but he manifestly knew about them, for he feels no difficulty in recording the Apostle’s own mention of them here, nor has he a thought that his narrative will be held for other than true, though men may point out here an allusion to events of which he had made no mention before. We cannot too often bear in mind that the book is not meant for a history of either one or other Apostle, but a record of how the course of the Gospel was guided according to Christ’s injunction, “beginning at Jerusalem” and ending when an Apostle had proclaimed Christ in the Imperial capital.

20 . and how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you ] The Rev. Ver. makes of these clauses, in which there is nothing for “and” or “but,” only one, rendering “ How that I shrank not from declaring unto you anything that was profitable .” The form of the sentence corresponds with verse 27 below. The word “how” takes up the “after what manner” of verse 18. The first verb implies the wrapping up of something to keep it out of sight, or out of the way, and is used of “furling” sails. Hence the metaphorical sense of “wrapping up” or “cloaking” what ought to be spoken out. The Apostle declares that he had never from any fear or under any circumstances done this. What he means by “that which was profitable,” we may learn from his own expression (1 Corinthians 10:33 ) “the profit of many, that they may be saved .” This would call for rebuke as well as encouragement, and would not always be a congenial work, however necessary.

and have taught you publickly, and from house to house ] To connect with what has gone before, read “ and teaching you , &c.” Here we are afforded another glimpse into the zealous character of St Paul’s work. It was not only in the school of Tyrannus that he waited for and taught those who came to hear, but he also went about among the people, seeking to impress any who would listen.

21 . testifying , &c.… to the Greeks ] The Rev. Ver. omits “the” before both nouns, the Greek having no article. “ Both to Jews and to Greeks .” By “testifying” is meant “proclaiming the need of.” And this message the Apostle would support by his own witness.

repentance … Christ ] By some MSS. the last word is omitted. Some have seen in these two clauses a reference to the character of the preaching, “repentance” indicating what was most needful for the Gentiles, and “faith toward our Lord” the demand made upon the Jews. This however seems fanciful, especially when we remember the Pentecostal sermon of St Peter (Acts 2:38 ) which was certainly addressed to Jews rather than Gentiles, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you.”

22 . And now … Jerusalem ] The Apostle refers to his own spirit, the constraint which in his own mind was laid upon him. Some therefore to make this plain would render “in my spirit.” The verb implies that he felt there was no freeing himself from the impulse to go, but it has no such sense as that he already regards himself as a prisoner, that he will be seized and deprived of his liberty when he arrives at Jerusalem.

not knowing … there ] This shews that the Holy Ghost had not given to the Apostle more than a general sense that in all places he would be called on to suffer for Christ.

23 . save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city ] The oldest MSS. add “unto me.” Rev. Ver. “testifieth unto me.” The Holy Ghost had called him to the work (13:2) and moved the disciples (21:4) and Agabus (21:11) to warn him of the sufferings which were at hand. We may suppose too that such warnings came more frequently than St Luke has recorded them.

saying … abide me ] The two nouns are combined in Philippians 1:16 , “supposing to add affliction to my bonds,” where the sense is, as most likely here, mental grief in addition to bodily constraint. Such “afflictions” were harder to bear than the “bonds.”

24 . But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself ] The oldest MSS. omit the words for “neither count I,” and following these the Rev. Ver. has translated, “ but I hold not my life of any account, as dear unto myself .” The feebleness and tautology of this sentence are enough to condemn it, and the “as” is a mere substitute for the “neither” of the A. V., which it quite implies. In a very clear paper on the verse Dr Field has shewn that there is probably some omission before “dear unto myself” of the same character, though not exactly the same, as what is supplied in the A. V., and that the reading of א , B, and C, which the Rev. Ver. has tried to give in English, arose after the words, of which he suggests the loss, had fallen away from some very early exemplar. The literal English of Dr Field’s suggestion would be “Neither make I account of anything, nor think my life dear unto myself.”

so that I might finish my course with joy ] Better, “may accomplish.” The figure of the Christian life as a race is common enough in St Paul’s language (cp. 13:35). The Apostle signifies by his words that the race will last as long as life lasts, and that he must not faint in the middle, whatever suffering may be in store. The “joy” would arise from the sense of duty done, or, at all events, striven to be done.

and the ministry, which I have received , &c.] Better to omit the “have” with Rev. Ver. The Apostle refers to the commission which he received at his conversion. The work and the sufferings are both foretold to Ananias from the first (Acts 9:15 , Acts 9:16 ), and St Paul speaks of this ministry or service by the same word (1 Timothy 1:12 ), “I thank him that enabled me, even Christ Jesus our Lord, for that he counted me faithful, appointing me to his service .”

to testify … God ] To bear witness to men of the good news that God is willing to be gracious. In the context of the passage just quoted (1 Timothy 1:14 ) St Paul shews how fit a person he was to bear such testimony. He had been a blasphemer, a persecutor and injurious, but had obtained mercy … and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ abounded exceedingly .

25 . And … ye all ] We cannot be sure that the Apostle never again came to Ephesus. For we learn from Philemon 1:22 that, toward the close of his imprisonment at Rome, he had hopes and the intention of visiting Philemon, who was at Colossæ, and we can hardly think that if he went to Colossæ he would fail on the way to stay at Ephesus. Some have therefore been inclined to lay a great stress on the word “all” in this clause, as though the Apostle only meant that they were sure some of them to be dead before he paid their city another visit. It seems better to take the words as the conviction of the Apostle’s mind at the moment. He was impressed with the belief that he would never come back. We have seen, however, just above that the Spirit did not give him definite knowledge of what would befall him in every place. And the sense that he was to be seized and imprisoned might make him sufficiently alive to the chances of his martyrdom for Christ to warrant the words which he here uses.

among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God ] The oldest MSS. omit “of God.” The verb is more fully rendered by the Rev. Ver. I went about .” Though speaking to the Ephesians only the memory of the Apostle recalls those missionary visits throughout Proconsular Asia which we may feel sure that he made during his “three years’ residence at Ephesus.” For the use of “kingdom” alone = kingdom of God, cp. Matthew 4:23 ; Matthew 9:35 , &c.

26 . Wherefore I take you to record this day ] The Rev. Ver. , to explain the older English, gives “I testify unto you.” The sense seems a little more than this. The Apostle not only gives his own testimony, but challenges them to confirm or refute it.

that … all men ] St Paul looks upon himself as one like the watchmen of the house of Israel (Ezekiel 33:8 ) to each of whom God says, if he warn not the wicked from his way, “his blood will I require at thine hand.”

27 . For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God ] The Rev. Ver. as in ver. 20, “ For I shrank not from declaring unto you the whole , &c.” The “counsel of God” means the whole plan of salvation; what God offers and what he asks of men. This includes the “repentance and faith” as well as the “grace and mercy.”

28 . Take heed therefore unto yourselves ] The best MSS. omit “therefore.” The Apostle now resigns into their hands a charge which before had been his own, and the form of his language would remind them that the discharge of their duty after his example would be the means of saving both themselves and those over whom they were placed.

and to all the flock ] He commits to them, as Christ had at first to St Peter, the charge to feed both lambs and sheep, in the name, and with the word, of the “good Shepherd” himself.

over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers ] These men who are called “elders,” i.e. “presbyters” before (ver. 17) he now calls “overseers,” i.e. “bishops,” (see note there). The Rev. Ver. gives “ In the which , &c.… bishops .” We have no information how these “elders” had been chosen or appointed, but we can see from this verse that there had been some solemn setting apart of the men for their office. The Church, as in 13:2, had recognised some indication that they were to be placed over the church. By reminding them from whence their appointment came, St Paul would enforce on them the solemnity of their position. Though they be “in the flock” they are not as others, more has been given unto them, and so more will be required.

to feed the church of God ] Perhaps no text in the New Testament has been more discussed than these words. “Many ancient authorities (says Rev. Ver. in a note,) read the Lord ” instead of “God.” The Revisers have kept “God” in the text, and that reading is accepted as of most authority by Westcott and Hort. The variation, which has much support from MSS., has been discussed and the evidence for it most fully stated by Dr Ezra Abbott, of Harvard University. The text as it stands asserts most strongly the Divinity of our Blessed Lord, but the form of the sentence implies, from what follows, the use of such a phrase as “the blood of God” which is not like the New Testament mode of expression, though it is found in the Epp. of Ignatius, who perhaps derived it from this passage. Because in other places where “the Church of God” is used “God” cannot be taken, as it must here, to mean Christ, some have given a strong force to the word own , which follows, and have explained “His own blood,” i.e. “the blood of His own Son.” And as the Greek text, which has been accepted, as of most authority, by Westcott and Hort, reads αἵματος τοῦ ἰδίου , it has been suggested that after this peculiar collocation of words, υἵου has fallen away in very early times. This would make all easy, rendering “with the blood of his own Son.” But there is no evidence that the word “Son” was ever there, and though the death of Christ is in Scripture spoken of as something “given up” by the Father “for us all” (Romans 8:32 ), yet the price paid and the purchase made are as definitely (1 Corinthians 7:22 , 1 Corinthians 7:23 ) referred to Christ. The direct assertion of Christ’s Godhead has been the occasion of the questioning of this text, and may in early times have led to the various readings. That doctrine does not stand or fall by this verse, but as the authority of MSS. is in favour of the reading “God” we gladly accept it, and feel that to the first readers the harshness of the expression “blood of God” was not much regarded, as the words are not so written, but only suggested by the close of the verse.

which he hath purchased … blood ] Better, as the price was paid once for all, “ which he purchased .” The verb implies the “making of what is bought peculiarly one’s own.” It is not the usual word for “buying.”

29 . For I know this ] The oldest MSS. (and the Rev. Ver. ) have only “ I know .”

that after my departing ] This noun is only used here, and most frequently in classical Greek signifies “arrival,” though not always. But as the person who departs from one place arrives at another, it is only a difference of the point of view. Here there can be no doubt of its meaning. It does not refer to the Apostle’s death, but his leaving Asia, with the thought that he should return no more.

shall grievous wolves … flock ] The Apostle seems first to refer to false teachers who should come in from without. He must have been familiar with the dangers to which the Ephesian church was exposed, and we know from his Epistles how much harm was already inflicted on the Christian Church by the Judaizers and Gnostics. Even when writing to so undisturbed a church as that in Philippi, we find the Apostle giving warning against both kinds of error. And if we turn to those early parts of the Apocalypse in which the condition of the churches of Asia is described, we can read of a crop of errors the sowers of which St Paul may have had in his mind as he spake at Miletus. “Nicolaitans,” “those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan,” “those that hold the teaching of Balaam,” “the woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess,” all these could not have risen in a moment, but must have given indications of their existence long before they became so prominent as they were when St John wrote. He must have read the New Testament with little appreciation who speaks of the words here ascribed to St Paul as a “prophecy after the event” made by the writer of the Acts in the second century.

30 . Also of your own selves , &c.] Better (with Rev. Ver. ) “ And from among your own selves .” This gives an idea of the greater nearness of the apostasy which the Apostle predicts. Not some who may come of those to whom he speaks, but even out of the present existing Christian body. We know from St Paul’s own experience that he had learnt how out of the professedly Christian body some would go back like Demas (2 Timothy 4:10 ) through love of this world’s good things, and some would err concerning the truth, like Hymenæus and Philetus, and that their word would eat like a canker, and they would overthrow the faith of some. These are the speakers of perverse things, things which should twist even the Apostle’s own words into a wrong sense.

shall men arise … draw away disciples after them ] Better, “ the disciples ,” i.e. other members of the Christian body. It is not that these men will desire and endeavour to gain disciples, but they will do their best, after their own falling-away, to drag others likewise from the true faith. This is expressed also by the verb which implies the tearing away from that to which they are already attached, and this more literal translation of the verb expresses the labour and exertion which these false teachers will spend to achieve their object.

31 . Therefore watch ] The sort of watching implied is that unsleeping alertness which can never be taken by surprise.

and remember, that by the space of three years ] As the verb here is a participial form the Rev. Ver. translates “ Wherefore watch ye, remembering , &c.,” in which there is this gain, that the watchfulness which the Apostle enjoins is thus enforced by his own example. Be ye watchful, because ye know that I was so night and day while I was among you. The “three years” may be a speaking in round numbers, yet it cannot have been far from the length of time which Paul spent at Ephesus. See notes on 19:8, 10.

I ceased not to warn [admonish, Rev. Ver. ] every one night and day with tears ] We know from his appeal to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 11:29 ) and other places, how sympathetic St Paul was in all that concerned his flock. “Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?” And if for weakness and offences, how much more in a city like Ephesus where idolatry was rampant everywhere. We need not confine the “every one” to the presbyters, St Paul’s labour was spent on the whole Ephesian Church.

32 . And now, brethren, I commend … his grace ] The oldest authorities omit “brethren.” I am to leave you, but I commend you to One who will help you as He has helped me, and who will not leave you. “The word of His grace” means the gracious promises of the Gospel, such as those which Christ gave to His disciples when He foretold the mission of the Comforter (John 17:7-12 ), and which the Christian preachers might repeat as His words to the converts who believed on His name.

which , &c.] This must refer to God, and not to the intervening explanatory clause concerning the “word of God’s grace.” It is God who can build up His people, and give them their heavenly inheritance.

and to give you an inheritance ] The oldest texts give “ the inheritance .” The figure is taken from the apportionment of the promised land among the Israelites. The part of each of God’s servants in the heavenly Canaan is to be regarded as definitely as were the possessions of the chosen people in the earthly Canaan.

among … sanctified ] The tense is literally “that have been sanctified.” But just as the Apostle uses “saints” frequently in his Epistles to mean those who have been called to be such, so here his words do not indicate that those of whom he speaks have attained the perfection of holiness. When they reach their inheritance, then they will have been perfected in Christ.

33 . I have coveted ] Rev. Ver. I coveted. ” But this seems unnecessary. The Apostle implies that the state of mind was his when he was with them and continues still.

apparel ] In which Oriental wealth largely consisted. Hence Naaman brings “changes of raiment” as well as money among the rewards which he expects to give for his cure (2 Kings 5:5 ), and the same may be noticed in many other parts of the Scripture history. Cp. Genesis 24:53 ; Genesis 45:22 ; 2 Kings 7:3 , &c.

34 . Yea, ye yourselves know ] The oldest texts omit “Yea.” The working in company with Aquila and Priscilla, which the Apostle began in Corinth, was probably continued when they came together to Ephesus, and so the Apostle’s trade and his steady pursuit of it would be well known to many of the listeners. It has been suggested that he was a partner in trade-matters with Philemon during this residence at Ephesus. Cp. Philemon 1:17 .

that these hands have ministered ] No doubt, he held them forth, and they bore marks that not only while at Ephesus, but since that time they had laboured for the means of living.

unto … them that were with me ] We cannot determine under what circumstances the Apostle felt himself called upon to minister by his hand-labour to the support of his companions. We may be sure however that the necessity was there, and that St Paul, working himself, did not countenance indolence in others. And when we read of Timothy’s “often infirmities” (1 Timothy 5:23 ) we may conjecture that there were those among the companions of St Paul who were less able to work with the hands than the Apostle himself.

35 . I have shewed you all things ] Better (as Rev. Ver. ) “ In all things I gave you an example .” The verb is cognate with that noun which Jesus uses (John 13:15 ), “I have given you an example that ye should do as I have done unto you.”

how that so labouring ] i.e. in like manner as the Apostle laboured. And the verb implies “wearying toil.” He had spared for no fatigue. He speaks of this toil (2 Corinthians 11:27 ), “in labour and travail.”

ye ought to support [ Rev. Ver. help ”] the weak ] By “weak” does St Paul here mean those standing in need of material or moral help? Grimm (s. v.) takes it for the poor, those who are in want from any cause, as those must have been who could not support themselves, and whose wants the Apostle supplied by his own labour. Yet this is a very rare sense, as he admits, for the verb to have, and “feebleness” of faith and trust is much the more common meaning. And that sense suits well here. If among new converts large demands should be made for the support of those who minister, they who are weak in the faith as yet, may be offended thereby, and becoming suspicious, regard the preacher’s office as a source of temporal gain. An example like St Paul’s would remove the scruples of such men, and when they became more grounded in the faith, these matters would trouble them no more. For the use of “weak” in the sense of moral, rather than physical, weakness, cp. Job 4:3 , Job 4:4 ; Isaiah 35:3 .

and to remember … Jesus ] He appeals to them as though the saying was well-known, and as we notice this, we cannot but wonder at the scanty number of the words which have been handed down as “words of Jesus” beyond what we find in the Gospel. This is the only one in the New Testament, and from all the rest of the Christian literature we cannot gather more than a score of sentences beside. See Westcott, Introd. to Study of the Gospels , pp. 428 seqq.

how he said ] The Greek has an emphatic pronoun, which is represented in the Rev. Ver. he himself said .”

It is.… receive ] In support of what has just been said about strengthening the feeble in faith, these words seem as readily applicable to that view of the Apostle’s meaning, as to the sense of “poverty.” What would be given in this special case, would be spiritual strength and trust; what is referred to in “receive” is the temporal support of the preacher, which St Paul refrained from claiming. We cannot doubt that he felt how much more blessed it was to win one waverer to Christ than it would have been to be spared his toils at tent-making by the contributions of his converts.

36 . The kneeling posture marks the special character and solemnity of the prayer. We find the Apostle doing the same in his parting from the brethren at Tyre (21:5). On the usual custom of standing in prayer, cp. Mark 11:25 and the account of the Pharisee and publican (Luke 18:11-13 ). It has often been noticed that the historian, who gives the speech with unusual fulness, does not venture to record the prayer.

37 . kissed him ] The word is not the simple verb but expresses earnest, sorrowing salutations.

38 . sorrowing … the words which he spake ] More literally “the word which he had spoken” ( Rev. Ver. ).

that they should see , &c.] The word in the original is not that which the Apostle uses in verse 25, when he says he shall not come again. So the Rev. Ver. has well given “ behold .” The Greek expresses the earnest reverent gaze, with which we can fancy those who knew the Apostle and his work would look upon him. His presence filled not only the eye, but the mind, they contemplated all which the sight of him would recall.

And they accompanied him unto the ship ] Rev. Ver. “And they brought him on his way, &c.” thus making the rendering of the verb here agree with the language of 15:3 and 21:5. They would not lose one look or one word before they were forced to do so. We can see from these words that the harbour was at some distance from the town of Miletus. See on verses 15 and 17.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Acts 20". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cgt/acts-20.html. 1896.