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Monday, May 20th, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
Acts 20

Contending for the FaithContending for the Faith

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Introduction

This chapter gives record of various trips made by Paul after the riot in Ephesus. There is a very sad overtone to the chapter as the apostle bids a tearful farewell to the brethren at Ephesus and warns them of the "grievous wolves" that are going to decimate the "flock" (verse 29).

Verse 1

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

Paul realizes the "great and effectual door" that has been opened to him in Ephesus has now been closed by his "many adversaries" (1 Corinthians 16:9). The wisdom of Paul dictates a move rather than to remain and draw additional retaliation upon the Christians at Ephesus. Since Paul has previously intended to go again into Macedonia (19:21), he decides that now is the time (see 16:9 for notes on Macedonia).

Verse 2

And when he had gone over those parts, and had given them much exhortation, he came into Greece,

The characteristic brevity of the recorder of the book of Acts is again evident in the record of this journey. How long Paul remains in Macedonia is left to our guess. Where Paul gives "much exhortation" is also left to our assumption. Plumptre says, "we may take for granted that St. Paul would revisit the churches which he had himself founded at Thessalonica and Berea, as well as at Philippi" (136-137).

The word "Greece" is another name for the area often referred to as "Achaia" (see notes on 18:12).

Verse 3

And there abode three months. And when the Jews laid wait for him, as he was about to sail into Syria, he purposed to return through Macedonia.

As Paul and his associates make plans to sail to Syria, they learn of a murderous plot laid for them by the Jews. It should be remembered that Paul and company have with them the "collection for the poor saints at Jerusalem." Because of this large amount of money, the Jews likely have little problem in recruiting a band of thugs to perpetrate this dastardly deed. Paul foils their scheme by going over land instead of by sea.

During this three months’ stay in Greece, Paul writes the letter to the Romans (Romans 15:25) and perhaps also the epistle to the Galatians.

Verse 4

And there accompanied him into Asia Sopater of Berea; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timotheus; and of Asia, Tychicus and Trophimus.

And there accompanied him into Asia: Paul here mentions the seven men selected by the various churches to "bring their liberality unto Jerusalem" (1 Corinthians 16:3). McGarvey says:

There being no banks or paper currency in those days, the money had to be carried in silver on the persons of the messengers, and it was important that no one should be so loaded as to indicate the fact to the sharp eyes of robbers: hence the necessity for so many messengers to carry it (Vol. II 176).

Sopater of Berea: The messenger from the congregation at Berea is one Sopater, a "kinsman" of Paul (Romans 16:21).

and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus: Those sent from Thessalonica are named Aristarchus, whom we previously met in Acts 19:29 when he was seized by the mob at Ephesus, and Secundus, which by literal interpretation means "second." It seems the father of Secundus has a quirk for giving his sons numbers for names. In this same family, there is Tertius (third) and Quartus (fourth) (Romans 16:22-23).

and Gaius of Derbe: This Gaius of Derbe is not the same man as the Macedonian Gaius who is involved in the riot at Ephesus (see notes on 19:29).

and Timotheus: Luke does not state where Timothy is from; but from a previous record, we know he is from Lystra (16:1).

and of Asia, Tychicus and Trophimus: Here are two new names mentioned as traveling companions of Paul. The name Tychicus means "fortunate, " the Greek equivalent of "Felix, " while Trophimus means "foster-child." Both of these names are quite common. Tychicus is most likely an Ephesian. Paul speaks often of him (Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7; 2 Timothy 4:12; Titus 3:12). Trophimus is an Ephesian mentioned again in Acts 21:29 and also in 2 Timothy 4:20.

Verse 5

These going before tarried for us at Troas.

The disciples mentioned in the preceding verse arrive at Troas before Paul where they await his coming. The use of the pronoun "us" indicates Luke is once again united with the Apostle Paul.

It is generally believed Luke was left in Philippi (16:40), which he indicated by dropping the use of the pronouns "we" and "us" in his narrative. The period that Luke is separated from Paul may have been as long as seven years. McGarvey notes, "during this absence from the narrative, many parts of it have been hurried and elliptical; but we shall henceforth find it much more circumstantial" (Vol. II 177). (For notes on Troas, see 16:8.)

Following is an excellent summation by Coffman of those traveling with Paul and the areas they represent in this mission of mercy:

One may observe that the Macedonian congregations were represented by Sopater, Aristarchus and Secundus; the Galatian congregations were represented by Gaius of Derbe and Timothy of Lystra; the ones in Asia were represented by Tychicus and Trophimus; and it may be inferred from 2 Corinthians 8:6 ff that the Corinthian contribution was entrusted to Titus and two other brethren sent by Paul to Corinth to receive it (381).

Verse 6

And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days; where we abode seven days.

And we sailed away from Philippi: Notice again the language of the narrative has changed from the third person (they) to the first person (we), thus indicating the presence of Luke with Paul.

after the days of unleavened bread: There are those who would surmise that Paul’s purpose in tarrying in Philippi is to observe the Passover. There is no indication this is the case at all; rather this notation is simply a way Luke uses to identify the time these things are happening. We know by this entry in Luke’s record that it has been a full year since Paul left Ephesus. Paul’s intentions were to remain in Ephesus until Passover, and now it is Passover time again one year later (1 Corinthians 16:8).

The Passover, which is the most important of all Jewish feast days, is observed on the fourteenth day of the first Jewish month. This first month is called Abib or Nisan and corresponds to the last part of our month of March and the first part of April. The following seven days, beginning with the fifteenth day of Abib, are known as the Feast of Unleaven Bread (Numbers 28:16).

and came unto them to Troas in five days: The reader may remember an earlier trip from Troas to Philippi required only two days (16:11), but the return trip lasts five days. This is but a reminder of the uncertainty of travel in those days. It takes only a contrary wind to stretch a two-day trip into five days.

where we abode seven days: There is some discussion as to what went on during this time from Tuesday until Monday, but there is no real reason for concern. Luke is there in person. If anything happened that God desired us to know, Luke would have recorded it. Suffice it to say, that Paul and these brethren desire to observe the Lord’s supper with the church at Troas.

Verse 7

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 upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread: Here is the first mention of a specified day when Christians meet for the express purpose of observing the Lord’s supper. The language is plain: the disciples assemble upon the "first day of the week to break bread." The Jews have no names for the days of the week; they simply number them counting from their sabbath, which is the seventh day of the week. Thus, the day after the sabbath (the seventh day) is "day one" or the "first day of the week" (Sunday). This practice establishes a divine example, and the logic follows that we also are to keep this pattern and assemble upon the first day of the week for observing the Lord’s supper.

There are numerous questions that have arisen from this verse, some of which are worthy of our consideration:

1. When does the "first day of the week" become the day of worship rather than the "seventh day" (sabbath) as practiced by the Jews? We are not told how the "first day" becomes the day of worship for Christians, but it is not difficult to ascertain. Jesus is resurrected and appears before his disciples upon the "first day of the week" (John 20:19). On the following Sunday, Jesus again appears to his disciples (John 20:26). The Lord’s church is established upon the first day of the week (see notes on 2:1). Paul affirms it is the custom of the churches to assemble upon Sunday by giving orders to the Corinthian brethren, as he had also given to the Galatians, to "lay by in store" upon the "first day of the week" (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). John refers to this specified day as the "Lord’s day" (Revelation 1:10).

2. Is Sunday the Christian Sabbath? The quick answer is no, the Lord’s day of the New Testament is not akin to the sabbath of the Old Testament. But perhaps the excellent comments given by Lenski offer a better explanation:

To call our Sunday the Christian "Sabbath" is to apply a wrong and misleading name. Sunday as a day of rest and worship for Christians is just about the opposite of the Jewish Sabbath. The latter was wholly compulsory, the former is altogether voluntary. We keep Sunday because we want and need it for the public worship without which we cannot get along in our Christian life (826).

3. What is the exact chronology of events as they occurred and is the time Jewish time, sundown to sundown (a day being from approximately 6:00 O’clock in the evening until 6:00 O’clock the next evening) or is the time Roman, midnight to midnight (as our modern time, a day being from 12:00 O’clock midnight until 12:00 O’clock midnight the next night)?

Following are the events of this narrative as they occurred:

1. The disciples "came together" on "the first day of the week" (Sunday) [likely in the afternoon or early evening (verse 7)].

2. They observe the Lord’s supper. To observe the Lord’s supper seems to have been the primary purpose of the meeting; there is no reason to think otherwise than that they did it immediately (verse 7).

3. Paul preaches to them "and continues until midnight" (verse 7).

4. Eutychus falls out of the window and is "taken up dead, " and raised from the dead by Paul (verses 9-10).

5. Paul and the disciples break bread and eat (share a common meal) (verse 11).

6. Paul departs at "break of day" on the "morrow" (the next day, Thayer 229-1-1887), which would be Monday (verses 7, 11).

There is no reason to believe the time frame mentioned by Luke is Jewish time. If one insists on the use of Jewish time keeping, the following conclusions will still be true:

7. If the disciples met on Saturday evening after 6:00 O’clock as some maintain, Paul could not have left on the "morrow" (the next day) as it would still have been the "first day of the week" (Sunday).

8. If the time keeping is Jewish, the disciples would have met early on Sunday evening and observed the Lord’s supper before 6:00 O’clock because at 6:00 O’clock the day became Monday, the second day of the week.

Paul preached unto them: Even the admonition from the great Apostle Paul takes second place to the "breaking of bread." This is no ordinary meal! This "breaking of bread" is a celebration of the Lord’s supper!

ready to depart on the morrow: It is Paul’s plan to leave on the next day. As noted above, Thayer defines "morrow" as "the next day, " which would have been Monday (229).

and continued his speech until midnight: Paul perhaps realizes this occasion will be the last opportunity to speak to this congregation face to face; therefore, he takes advantage of the time to remove any doubts, solve as many problems as possible, and reassure these young Christians of the realities of serving God.

Verse 8

And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together.

There is some speculation as to the reason to mention the setting for Paul’s extensive discourse; but it seems that Luke, forever the physician, is laying groundwork for an explanation of the events in the next verse. The "many lights" in this relatively small enclosure would have produced overheating along with a shortage of oxygen.

Verse 9

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.

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: Because of the heat, the stuffy atmosphere, and the length of Paul’s sermon, a young man is overcome with sleep and falls out the window. He is probably sitting in the window in hopes of reviving himself with some fresh air.

and fell down from the third loft: In Eastern houses the windowsill usually extended out over the street or a courtyard. There was no glass in the window; therefore, it would have been a simple matter for a sleeping lad to fall out. In this case the window was in the "third loft, " literally the third story.

and was taken up dead: Eutychus takes what amounts to a three-story fall! It is no wonder he is "taken up dead." It should be noted that Eutychus "was taken up dead" not taken up for dead, or as if he were dead. Luke, the trained physician, declares him dead.

Verse 10

And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him.

As is usually the case, the preacher does not enter until the physician has done all he can do. It also seems the crowd has begun their lamentations at the death of this young man as Paul implores, "Trouble not yourselves." There is no doubt, the spirit of Eutychus has left his body; he is dead.

We emphasize the fact that the lad is dead to forestall the attempts of those who would dismiss all the miracles of the Bible by saying there is a non-miraculous explanation. This lad is dead when Paul "fell upon him and embraced him." Miraculously his life is restored. Paul says, "his life is in him." The spirit of Eutychus is restored; he is alive!

Verse 11

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.

When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten: It is the understanding of this writer, along with a number of commentators, that this breaking of bread is a common meal taken by Paul for nourishment before his trip. There are those who believe this breaking of bread is the Lord’s supper, but this cannot be the case. If the observing of the Lord’s supper comes sometime after midnight and the time keeping is Roman, it would now be Monday. Surely they do not meet "on the first day of the week to break bread" and then wait until Monday. If the time keeping is Jewish and they come together on Saturday night, the observing of the Lord’s supper would have been on the "first day of the week"; but Paul could not have left on the "morrow" (the next day) because it would have still been the first day of the week.

and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed: We can only imagine the content of the conversation that took place between Paul and these devoted disciples. The entire night has been spent in teaching and hearing the "unsearchable riches of Christ" (Ephesians 3:8). At "break of day," the apostle and his company resume their trip toward Jerusalem.

Verse 12

And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted.

The physician gives us one final assurance about the condition of Eutychus. He is alive and well. In Dr. Luke’s classic divine understatement, they "were not a little comforted."

Verse 13

And we went before to ship, and sailed unto Assos, there intending to take in Paul: for so had he appointed, minding himself to go afoot.

Here is one of those interesting verses that actually inspires more questions than it answers. Apparently, Luke and the rest of Paul’s company take ship at Troas and sail to Assos, which is about twenty miles by land almost directly across the peninsula from Troas. Paul chooses to walk across the peninsula by himself. McGarvey suggests Paul knows that hard times lie ahead and he "longed for a season of meditation and prayer which could only be found in solitude" (Vol. II 183).

Verse 14

And when he met with us at Assos, we took him in, and came to Mitylene.

The disciples meet Paul in Assos as planned and sail on to Mitylene, the capital of the island of Lesbos, located about thirty miles from Assos.

Verse 15

And we sailed thence, and came the next day over against Chios; and the next day we arrived at Samos, and tarried at Trogyllium; and the next day we came to Miletus.

Luke summarily reviews Paul’s return to Jerusalem without a waste of words. It is evident the brethren are traveling on a trading ship, making numerous stops along its route. Hurlbut supplies the geographical and historical information on these stops:

Chios is an island thirty-two miles long and five miles from Asia; it is said of have been the birth place of Homer (122).

Samos is an island near the mainland, forty-two miles southwest of Smyrna ... (122).

Trogyllium is a town and cape on the coast of Asia Minor ... The place at which the vessel anchored for the night is still called St. Paul’s Port (122).

Verse 16

For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia: for he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost.

Paul is in a hurry to get on with his trip to Jerusalem that he might be there for Pentecost. Pentecost is a reunion of Jews from all over the world of that day. This great ingathering will give Paul the opportunity to preach to Jews literally from everywhere (for notes on Pentecost, see 2:1).

Verse 17

And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.

Paul’s ship apparently has a layover of four or five days at the port city of Miletus. In order to take advantage of this time, Paul sends for the elders at Ephesus. Miletus was about thirty miles from Ephesus. (See notes on elders at 14:23.)

Verse 18

And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons,

These elders must have been some of the original members at Ephesus who have observed the labors of Paul from the first day he set foot in their city. Paul begins this sad farewell by calling to their minds the struggles he and they have been through for the sake of the gospel.

Verse 19

Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews:

Without arrogance or pride, Paul has discharged his apostolic and private responsibility to preach the gospel in the face of much opposition. Beginning with the setting forth of Alexander against him (19:33), the Jews have been a constant threat to Paul’s work.

Verse 20

And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house,

And how I keptback nothing that was profitable unto you: Even in the face of such opposition, Paul declares he "kept back nothing that was profitable unto" them. Paul does not preach only that which may tickle their ears, but he preaches the whole "counsel of God" (verse 27).

but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house: There is a great lesson in this statement for all would-be soul winners. The gospel may be and should be taught in public (publicly) as Paul does in the schoolroom of Tyrannus (19:9). But the gospel also needs to be taught in private (house to house).

One of the greatest needs in the church of Christ today is personal evangelism. That is the teaching of the good news of Jesus on a one-on-one, face-to-face basis. We know the general population is not breaking down the doors of our buildings to hear the gospel preached from the pulpit. Many have the idea that if we have a gospel meeting or two during the year, we have met our responsibility to take the gospel to the lost. Our attitude is "Here it is; come and get it."It is obvious" they are not coming to get it."Therefore, the gospel must be taken to them by every individual Christian. While public teaching is restricted to men (1 Corinthians 14:34-35; 1 Timothy 2:11-12), the teaching of the gospel in private is a responsibility of both men and women. Where a woman is allowed to teach (in private), she may teach anyone (man, woman, child) (see notes on 18:26).

One will quickly find himself in a scriptural pickle when he attempts to give scriptural grounds for allowing a woman to teach in "Bible classes" or "Sunday school," which are not scriptural in and of themselves. One preacher, upon being asked, "Are your Bible classes public or private?"confidently replied, "Our Bible classes are public."The response was, "If your Bible classes are public, you have women teaching publicly which is a violation of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12."The preacher, a bit rattled at this point, quickly said, "Well, I guess our classes are private."He was then asked, "If your classes are private, will you allow a woman to teach a man’s class?"He immediately replied, "No, a woman could not teach a man’s class."Seeing his contradiction of scripture, he said, "I guess our classes are semi-private or maybe semi-public!"Ah, "the legs of the lame are not equal" (Proverbs 26:7)!

Verse 21

Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul asserts to the elders that he preaches the same message to both Jews and Greeks. The words "repentance" and "faith" are not mentioned in chronological order. Paul’s use of this arrangement seems to indicate that since we sin against God we repent "toward God" and have faith "toward" Jesus for salvation from sin. Repentance does not precede faith in the usual sense because this arrangement would require one to repent (change his life) before he even believes in God. Faith comes from a hearing of the word of God (Romans 10:17). The motivation of faith must occur in our hearts before repentance will take place in our lives (see notes on 13:39).

Verse 22

And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there:

There is some discussion as to the meaning of"bound in the spirit."Does this statement indicate Paul has decided to go to Jerusalem in his own spirit, or does it indicate a direct leading by the Holy Spirit? This writer prefers the explanation given by Lenski, which is a combination of the two thoughts:

An inward constraint urges Paul to go on. The fact that this does not refer merely to the decision of his own will, one that he could alter at any time, should be evident; the passive participle points to a higher agent that holds Paul bound to go to Jerusalem, an agent to whom Paul was wholly submissive in the direction of his life (841).

Verse 23

Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me.

Paul admits he does not know what or who will be the source of fetters and calamities that await in Jerusalem, but he knows they will happen. The Holy Ghost’s witnessing to him in"every city"is not solely the result of the Holy Spirit’s direct influence upon Paul, but this witnessing comes also from the mouths of such prophets as Agabus (21:10-11).

Verse 24

But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.

Paul declares his total dedication to the preaching of the "gospel of the grace of God."Without reservation, he is willing to make the total sacrifice in order to give testimony of Jesus Christ. What we often fail to appreciate is the reality that wicked men can do nothing to the Christian. If the adversary takes the Christian’s life, he has accomplished no more than the loosing of his immortal soul from his mortal body that he might forever be with the Lord!

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

Verse 25

And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more.

Here Paul is as "a spiritual father taking leave of his spiritual children" (Lenski 844). Whether Paul is ever again in the city of Ephesus is a point of much discussion (see additional notes at verse 38).

Verses 26-27

Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.

Because Paul has not failed to preach the gospel at every opportunity available and he has not hesitated "to declare all the counsel of God," he can say with confidence "I am pure from the blood of all men."Christians of today, take every opportunity to declare the gospel of Christ. Do not shrink from preaching the "whole counsel." It is not sufficient to obey a portion of the gospel; "all things" must be observed (Matthew 28:20). How will we stand in judgment day if some lost soul’s blood is "required at our hand" (Ezekiel 3:18-21)?

Verse 28

Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

Take heed therefore unto yourselves: The primary requisite in being an effective leader in the Lord’s church is to look first at one’s own example. This admonition from Paul is just as valid today as it was on the day it was given to the elders of Ephesus.

and to all the flock: The good elder (overseer, bishop) must see to the needs of all his flock. There should be no distinction made in the rich or poor, young or old:"the true shepherd knows no dividing line, no factions, loves every one of the sheep, especially the weak and the needy" (Lenski 847).

over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers: Paul uses this statement to further emphasize the gravity of the office of an elder (overseer). These men, as are elders today, are "made overseers" by God’s Holy Spirit. God did not leave the church in a state of anarchy but established a plan for the government of the church. The Holy Spirit reveals in God’s word the qualifications to be met in order to implement this government (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9) (see notes on 14:23).

to feed: To see that the members of the church receive the necessary spiritual nourishment to allow them to function is a primary duty of the elders. Barnes says, "To feed, denotes not merely the duty of properly instructing the church but also of governing it; of securing it from enemies, (verse 29) and of directing its affairs so as to promote its edification and peace" (501).

the church of God: Paul continues to stress the important duties of the elders by reminding them the church over which they were made overseers is the "church of God." This is a very important statement as it affirms a basic tenet of Christianity: Jesus has absolute divinity. Jesus is God.

We need to remember, in general usage, there is no one named God. The term, God, is a "general appellation of deities or divinities" (Thayer 287-2-2316). Usually, when the term God is used in the scriptures, we understand it to be a reference to God the Father; but the reference may be indicating God the Son or God the Holy Spirit (John 1:1-3; John 5:18-29; John 15:26; Romans 1:4; Romans 8:9; Philippians 2:6; Matthew 28:19). In this particular verse, it is not difficult to realize the term "church of God" refers to the church of Christ (the Son) because neither the Father nor the Spirit died (shed His blood) to "purchase the church."

which he hath purchased with his own blood: The elders are admonished that the church, over which they have oversight, required the blood of God (Jesus Christ) to bring it into existence. The price for the church of Christ is precious indeed; it required the blood of the "only begotten Son of God." If "No church ever saved anyone," or "You do not have to be a member of any church to be saved," as the religious hucksters of our day declare, then Christ died in vain! To the contrary, every member of the church has been bought with a price; that price is the blood of Christ (the Son of God). The church is made of these "blood bought" members; thus, the church is purchased with the blood of Christ (Romans 5:9; 1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Corinthians 12:12; Ephesians 1:7). Note the excellent comments of Coffman:

No verse in the NT, nor any other statement that could be imagined, could possibly exceed the power of this in declaring the eternal importance and necessity of the church Christ established. Here the heretical notion of salvation "by faith alone" is shattered and countermanded forever. By any definition, salvation by "faith alone" means salvation without the church of Jesus Christ; and in such a view the crucifixion of our Lord is reduced to the status of a senseless murder. If men are saved, in any sense by the blood of Jesus, they must be saved, through the church of which that blood is here declared to be the purchase price. ... If one person can be saved without the church, then all men may be saved; and such a proposition is emphatically contradicted and denied by Paul’s words here (392-393).

(For additional information, see notes on 2:47).

Verse 29

For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.

Apparently, the apostles are able to hold apostasy at arms’ length while they are alive; but Paul foresees a disaster on the horizon. False teachers with their "doctrines of devils" will soon ravage the Lord’s church as a bloodthirsty wolf would butcher a flock of sheep. Paul later affirms this same prediction with these sinister warnings:"For the mystery of iniquity doth already work" (2 Thessalonians 2:7) and "... some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils" (1 Timothy 4:1).

Verse 30

Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.

Do not think because Paul drops the name of wolves that he is not speaking about the same type of men."Men speaking perverse things" are also wolves. These are those who lose their respect for the authority of God’s word and by the introduction of false doctrines, innovations, and various assorted and sundry heresies they tear and rent the Lord’s church with schisms and sects.

When Paul says, "from among yourselves, "the indication is the apostasy will have its beginning among those who are supposed to be guarding and protecting the flock, that being the elders themselves. This is exactly what happened! Because certain elders overstepped their scriptural bounds, the church was cast into apostasy. As some writers have said, "The Pope himself is only an elder gone wrong!"

With the twenty-twenty hindsight that history provides, we can see the results of these"grievous wolves."The church of Christ has been attacked on every hand by the pagans, the Catholics, the denominations, and modern innovators who have introduced such unscriptural practices as women teachers, instrumental music, multiple cups in the communion, and dividing the assembly into classes. But the immutable fact remains, "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."The church of Christ will be in existence when the last breath is drawn on this earth; it will never die (Matthew 16:18)!

Verse 31

Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.

Sadly, the only thing Paul can leave with these elders is a warning"with tears."This warning, to remain faithful, must be made to ring again and again in the ears of God’s people as it takes only one negligent generation that fails to be firmly grounded in the principles of God’s word to bring eternal loss to the Lord’s church. By the time of the writing of the book of Revelation, the church at Ephesus has"left her first love" (Revelation 2:4).

Verse 32

And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.

And now, brethren, I commend you to God: This emotional speech to the elders is now tempered a bit with this pronouncement."Commend, "according to Vine, means"to put near, ... to place with someone, entrust, " (Vol. I 210-211). Literally, Paul is committing the fate of these brethren to the care and keeping of God.

And to the word of his grace: If one is looking for a physical manifestation of God’s grace, it may be seen in the written word of God. There are many definitions of God’s grace, but the one preferred by this writer is grace is giving what is needed rather than what is deserved. Man, in his sin, deserves to die and be punished everlastingly; but that is not what he needs–he needs salvation. God, in His grace, gives what is needed, a means of salvation. This salvation is found in obedience to His word.

"For the grace of God that bringeth salvation has appeared unto all men" (Titus 2:11). This salvation is made known in the word of his grace (Romans 1:16). Does this mean all men will be saved? Sadly, no, because "all men" will not accept God’s word and obey it. "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father..." (Matthew 7:21) (see also Matthew 7:13; Hebrews 5:9).

"The power unto salvation" is found in and accomplished by obedience to the "gospel of Christ" (Romans 1:16); yet as Coffman says:

When all is said and done, the great gift of eternal redemption is a gift of the Father in heaven. Meeting the tests of faith, obeying the gospel, walking in the steps of Abraham’s faith, etc., –however well men may obey, the great gift is yet a gift (394).

which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified: It is the word of God and only the word of God that can "build a person up" (edify) spiritually and make him an heir to the bounties of heaven. All the false doctrines, modern speculations, human theories, and philosophies of men provide no real answers to the needs of the hearts of men.

Verse 33

I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel.

Paul reminds the brethren that he has discharged his responsibility to labor among them without the motivation of material gain. This labor without remuneration certainly stands out in contrast to the modern religious extortionists who revel in opulence and excess.

Verse 34

Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me.

It should not be understood that Paul is opposed to the financial support of those who preach the gospel. To the contrary, he is an advocate of "thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn" (1 Corinthians 9:6-14). Why Paul chooses to support himself during the work at Ephesus is left to speculation. Perhaps it is for the example of industry and charity mentioned in the next verse.

Verse 35

I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.

I have shewed you all things: There is no better teacher than a good example. Paul demonstrates his teaching by working with his hands to support not just himself but those brethren in need.

how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak: It is the responsibility of able-bodied Christian men to work to support their families and to have sufficient to assist others (Ephesians 4:28; 1 Timothy 5:8).

The weak are those who, because of illness or accidents, are unable to provide for themselves. Paul rarely misses an opportunity to express compassion for the weak. One of the main reasons for his trip to Jerusalem on this occasion is to bring a collection for the "poor saints."

and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive: It is of interest to note that this statement attributed to the Lord is not recorded in any of the gospels. "It is more blessed to give than to receive" was one of those precious morsels of divine truth, of which thousands fell from his lips that are not recorded in our brief gospels" (McGarvey, Vol. II 193).

In this selfish"me"generation of which we are a part, the word"give"is a foreign concept; yet this word is the very glory of heaven. God is the greatest Giver in that"he gave his only begotten Son" (John 3:16). The life of Jesus is an example of giving right down to the ultimate sacrifice of His on life for the salvation of man (Romans 5:8). This giving must go own in our lives, prompted by a genuine love for the physical and spiritual welfare of others.

Verse 36

And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all.

How sad it must have been for Paul to know the dangers that are to be thrust upon this congregation–a congregation that he has suffered with, cried with, rejoiced with, and spent himself to establish. He knows he is leaving this church quite literally with the "grievous wolves" at the door. The contents of Paul’s prayer are not revealed, but we can be assured Almighty God is petitioned with an ardent plea for the preservation and continuation of the church at Ephesus.

Verses 37-38

And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul’s neck, and kissed him, Sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship.

The pent-up emotions of this gathering now break out in an emotional display over the words of Paul. In particular, these disciples sorrow to think they will not see Paul again. Lenski says:

Sorrowing" is too weak a translation; the participle means"pained, ""deeply distressed"; and brings out the thought that now, in a few moments, they would behold him no more, "behold"not merely"see"; their eyes would not again rest upon him (857).

Goodbyes are but one of the many heartaches of mortal human beings. Whether Paul ever goes back to Ephesus or not really is not the concern here. It is a fact that once a crowd of any size is broken up, the odds are astronomical the same crowd can never be reassembled at some later date. Paul and this group of men realize the time has come to say goodbye. The only cure for this mortal heartache is heaven, where partings come not.

The good brethren of Ephesus accompany Paul as far as the seaport at Miletus, and there they sadly watch as he sails out of their lives, gone but never to be forgotten."The greatest of all human preachers was on the way to prison, and eventually to death; and those whom he loved watered the occasion with their tears" (Coffman 396).

Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Acts 20". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ctf/acts-20.html. 1993-2022.
 
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