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THE BOOK OF ACTS | CHAPTER 20
OUTLINE AND COMMENTARY - MARK DUNAGAN
I. OUTLINE OF CHAPTER 20:
I. From Ephesus to Corinth: 20:1-3
II. From Corinth To Troas: 20:3-12
A. Paul's traveling companions: 20:4
B. Events at Troas: 20:7-12
III. From Troas to Miletus: 20:13-17
IV. Paul's farewell speech to the Ephesian elders: 20:17-38
Act_20:1 "And after the uproar ceased, Paul having sent for the disciples and exhorted them, took leave of them, and departed to go into Macedonia"
"After the uproar ceased": After the riot described in 19:29-41. "Took leave of them": "His helpers could stay behind and carry on the work without the terrific opposition all the Christians would have had if Paul had continued in their midst. Those helpers can continue to go through the 'great and effectual door' ( 1Co_16:8-9 ) even if for him it was closing" (Reese p. 726). Paul was not trying to end his life as soon as possible. He realized that his continued presence in a community could hinder the work there. The work could continue in Ephesus by the Christians in that city and he could always preach in places that desperately needed him. "Departed to go into Macedonia": Consider the brevity of the Bible, because from other Scriptures we learn that a tremendous amount of activity was happening in this brief statement. From Ephesus Paul had already written the First Corinthian letter ( 1Co_16:8-9 ). Titus had been sent to Corinth to see how the Corinthians were reacting to that letter ( 2Co_7:5-9 ). Evidently, the plan was to meet Titus in Troas (north of Ephesus), but Paul came to Troas and Titus was not to be found. He was so concerned about the situation in Corinth, that Paul could not even take advantage of the wonderful opportunity that was open in Troas to preach the gospel ( 2Co_2:12-13 ). Hence, Paul takes a journey similar to the one described in Act_16:11-12 , as he travels from Troas to Macedonia. In Macedonia Paul finally finds Titus and hears that the Corinthians have reacted favorably to the letter ( 2Co_7:9-10 ), yet problems still existed in Corinth ( 2Co_1:15-17 ; 2Co_10:9 ff; 2Co_11:1-33 ; 2Co_12:1-21 ; 2Co_13:1-14 ). In Macedonia, Paul will write the Second Corinthian letter, which will also serve to give the Corinthians additional time to prepare for the upcoming collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem ( 2Co_8:1-24 ; 2Co_9:1-15 ), as well as repent of the wrong attitudes and practices that still existed among some of them.
Act_20:2 "And when he had gone through those parts, and had given them much exhortation, he came into Greece"
"Gone through those parts": That is, gone through Macedonian territory. During this time, Paul not only wrote Second Corinthians, he also probably revisited the congregations in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea. Some commentators also have Paul preaching as far as Illyricum ( Rom_15:19 ), which was a Roman province in the Balkan Peninsula that stretched along the east coast of the Adriatic Sea from Italy to Macedonia. Stott notes, "It is likely also to have been during this period that Paul traveled further west along the Egnatian Way than he had previously gone, reaching even Illyricum on the Adriatic coast north of Macedonia" (p. 316). "Given them much exhortation": "Encouraging the people at length" (Mof). "Speaking frequently" (Rieu). "Paul is again following his usual custom of revisiting the churches he had planted, to give them further instruction in the Gospel ( Act_15:41 ; Act_18:23 ; Act_14:22 )" (Reese p. 728). The time period between Paul's exit from Ephesus and his arrival in Corinth has probably been around a year. The writing of Second Corinthians is then dated late summer or early fall of A.D. 56 or 57. "He came into Greece": The Roman province of Achaia. Perhaps he also visited brethren in Athens and Cenchrea at this time.
Act_20:3 "And when he had spent three months there, and a plot was laid against him by the Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he determined to return through Macedonia"
"Three months": These "were the winter months (January to March)" (Reese p. 728). ( Act_20:16 ) "Paul's three months in Corinth are likely to have been during the winter, while he waited for the spring weather to open up navigation on the high seas" (Stott p. 317). While in Corinth, Paul writes the letter to the Romans ( Rom_15:22-31 ; Rom_16:23 ). In addition, at Corinth the collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem is finally fully gathered and they are ready to take this contribution to Jerusalem ( 1Co_16:1-4 ). "A plot was laid against him by the Jews": The original plan was to sail directly from Corinth to Syria. "Very likely what happened was this: Often from foreign ports Jewish pilgrim ships left for Syria to take pilgrims to the Passover. Paul must have intended to sail on such a ship. On such a ship it would have been the easiest thing in the world for the fanatical Jews to arrange that Paul should disappear overboard and never be heard of again" (Barclay p. 161). "With a shipload of hostile Jews, it would be easy to find opportunity to murder Paul and dump his body overboard" (Stott p. 317).
This plot could also have been carried out on the road from Corinth to its eastern port, Cenchrea, or in the busy harbor at Cenchrea. At this time of year, the harbor would be very busy as the ships that had wintered there anxiously attempted to get under way and as Jewish pilgrims bound for Jerusalem packed the vicinity. "He determined to return through Macedonia": Thus throwing his enemies off-guard, and traveling in the opposite direction.
Act_20:4 "And there accompanied him as far as Asia, Sopater of Beroea, the son of Pyrrhus; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy; and of Asia, Tychicus and Trophimus"
"There accompanied him": Luke temporarily interrupts Paul's journey to tell us who was traveling with him. Primarily all these Christians were traveling with Paul, because they were the messengers of the congregations that were sending funds to Jerusalem ( 1Co_16:3 ). In selecting their own messengers, "Paul sought to avoid even the suspicion that he was only collecting the money to put it in his own pocket ( 2Co_8:20-21 ). Too, there were no such things as checks or paper currency, so that the money had to be carried in gold or silver coin on the persons of the messengers. It was important that no one be so loaded as to indicate the fact of the sharp eyes of would-be-robbers" (Reese p. 729). During this time, Paul is very concerned that this collection (from predominately Gentile Christians) will be accepted in the right spirit by the brethren in Jerusalem ( Rom_15:31 ). "As far as Asia": This expression is not found in certain MSS and is omitted in the NASV. We definitely know that Trophimus went with Paul all the way to Jerusalem ( Act_21:29 ), and men like Aristarchus (27:2), Tychicus ( Eph_6:21 ) and Timothy ( Php_1:1 ), went with Paul all the way to Rome. "Sopater": (SOW pa tur), may be the same man named Sosipater ( Rom_16:21 ). Pyrrhus": (PIR uhs). "Aristarchus": (air ihs TAR kus). "Secundus": (sih KUN duhs). "Gaius": (GAY US). "Tychicus": (TIKE ih kuhs). Later on this man will deliver the letter to the Ephesians ( Eph_6:21 ) and Colossians ( Col_4:7 ). Paul will send him to Crete ( Tit_3:12 ) and later on to Ephesus ( 2Ti_4:12 ). "Trophimus": (TROF ih muss) ( Act_21:28-29 ; 2Ti_4:20 ). Apparently, Tychicus and Trophimus were from Ephesus.
Act_20:5 "But these had gone before, and were waiting for us at Troas"
"But these had gone before": Evidently, these accompanying messengers went ahead of Paul to Troas. "Waiting for us": The word us indicates that Luke had rejoined Paul. "Since the Philippian church was planted nearly 5 years earlier, Luke has been working in that city" (Reese p. 732). It appears that Luke joins Paul, as Paul travels through the city of Philippi (20:6). "The remainder of the Acts is told by an eyewitness of the various events recorded" (Boles p. 317). "In most cases Luke note these men's home as well as their name in order both to identify them clearly and also (probably) to indicate how they represented the different regions which were taking part in the collection" (Stott p. 318).
Act_20:6 "And we sailed away from Phillipi after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days, where we tarried seven days"
"After the days of unleavened bread": "This was the Passover. The Passover probably lasted only one day, the 14th day of the month called Nisan, but there followed the seven days of unleavened bread" (Reese p. 732). "It lasted from April 7 to 14" (Bruce p. 406). Thus it has been almost a year since Paul had left Ephesus (19:41; 1Co_16:8 ). "In five days": Indicating they encountered some rough weather. The same journey from the opposite direction only took 2 days in Act_16:11 . "It was not long after the spring equinox, and at that season of the year there are storms, and prevailing winds are from the northeast; these coupled with the strong currents flowing out of the Dardanelles toward the southwest made sailing toward Troas a slow process" (Reese p. 732). "We tarried seven days": Indicating that Paul must have arrived on the preceding Monday and left Philippi on the preceding Thursday. Spending seven days in Troas not only enabled Paul to worship with the Christians in Troas (20:7) it also enabled him to preach in this city. A year previous he had passed up a wonderful opportunity to evangelize this area ( 2Co_2:12-13 ). Thus Paul (with his preaching companions) are probably trying to make up for lost time.
Act_20:7 "And upon the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul discoursed with them, intending to depart on the morrow; and prolonged his speech until midnight"
"Upon the first day of the week": "The regular Greek way of designating the day we call 'Sunday'" (Reese p. 733). See Mat_28:1 ; Luk_24:1 ; Mar_16:2 ; Mar_16:9 ; Joh_20:1 ; Joh_20:19 ; 1Co_16:2 . Various writers from time to time have attempted to argue that the above expression refers to the Sabbath day, but such an argument immediately breaks down when one asks the question, "If this was the Sabbath day, then why did not Luke call it such, because the same writer had mentioned the Sabbath previously (17:2)". Some speculate concerning whether the first day of the week was reckoned by Jewish time (sundown Saturday to sundown Sunday) or Roman time (midnight to midnight as we do today). Reese notes, "Troas was located in Gentile territory, and would schedule things according to Roman time" (p. 733). In addition, the Gospel writers, when mentioning the first day of the week, speak as we would speak today "as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week" ( Mat_28:1 ); "very early on the first day of the week... when the sun had risen" ( Mar_16:1 ; Mar_16:9 ). Added to all this evidence is the fact that the "daybreak" of 20:11 is already the "next day" (20:7). Previously to this we know that Christians had already been worshipping on the first day of the week ( 1Co_16:1-2 ). "When we were gathered together to break bread": The Lord's Supper ( 1Co_10:16 ) is always found in an assembly of Christians ( Act_2:42 ; 1Co_11:20 ).
The only "day" mentioned in connection with the Lord's Supper is the first day of the week, therefore offering communion on any other day would constitute an addition to the word of God ( 2Jn_1:9 ). Concerning the "frequency" of the Lord's Supper the text says the "first day of the week", and not the first day of the month or year. Christians were commanded to assemble ( Heb_10:25 ), they assembled on a weekly basis ( 1Co_16:2 "every"), and when they assembled they partook of communion ( 1Co_11:20 ). Therefore, they partook of the Lord's Supper every first day of the week. Reese makes a good point when he says, "Most congregations receive an offering each Lord's Day because of examples of this in Scripture. Now if one can find the few passages dealing with the offering sufficient to warrant a weekly place for it in the worship services today, then one must also keep the Lord's Supper weekly as a vital part of the worship service, for there are as many Scriptures teaching the weekly communion as there are teaching the weekly offering!" (p. 735). Thus any human argument against weekly communion (offering it weekly makes it less meaningful), could also be used as an argument against a weekly collection.
20:7 "Discoursed with them": The word discoursed is the same word translated "reasoned" in Act_17:2 , hence Paul preached God's word to them. "Intending to depart on the morrow": This tells us why on this occasion he prolonged his speech until midnight. "Prolonged his speech until midnight": Because Paul knew that he probably would never see some of these Christians again (in this life) ( Act_20:38 ). Thus Paul made good use of the time that he had with them.
Notice how Paul believed that giving people Divine instruction was a wise use of time when Christians are together. It appears that the Lord's Supper had already been observed before Paul started preaching, considering the order of 20:7, and the fact that when Paul started to preach, he could do so without interruption. Notice how God helps us to properly interpret the Bible. God does not require all sermons to last until or end at midnight, because Luke has already informed us why on this occasion Paul spoke for that long.
Act_20:8 "And there were many lights in the upper chamber where we were gathered together"
"Many lights": Probably little hand lamps. "Upper chamber": Which was on the third floor of this building (20:9). "The upper rooms were often larger than those on lower floors...and also would be further removed from the noise of the street" (Reese p. 736). Unfortunately, some professed Christians have erroneously concluded from this statement that Christians must always meet in an upper room when they gather together. Sadly, such people have never paid attention when reading about Christians meeting in Solomon's porch ( Act_5:12 ) (which was ground floor), and that Jesus indicated that no official place of worship would exist in the New Covenant ( Joh_4:21-24 ).
Act_20:9 "And there sat in the window a certain young man named Eutychus, borne down with deep sleep; and as Paul discoursed yet longer, being borne down by his sleep he fell down from the third story, and was taken up dead"
"In the window": Apparently he was sitting on the window ledge (NASV "on the window sill"). Their windows would have been devoid of glass and it appears that if it did have shutters, that they were open on this night. "The windows of an Eastern house are closed with lattice-work, and usually reach down to the floor, resembling a door rather than a window. They are usually kept open on account of the heat" (Vincent p. 558). "A certain young man": The expression young man was usually given to someone between the ages of 24-40. "Eutychus": This name is pronounced you tih cuss. Most commentators paint Eutychus in a positive light, that is, his sleep was not caused by boredom or laziness. Many speculate that he probably had worked hard all day, he had even sat in front of the window, which would enable him to enjoy fresh air and stay awake, but he finally could not stay awake any longer. "Borne down with deep sleep": "The verb tense indicates he was gradually becoming more and more sleepy" (Reese p. 736). "Gradually overcome with great drowsiness" (TCNT). "Sinking into a deep sleep" (NASV). "Being borne down by his sleep": "The verb tense here changes, and the two verbs taken together vividly present to us Eutychus' struggle to keep awake, and then all of a sudden (aorist tense, here) dropping off to sleep" (Reese p. 737). "Taken up dead": Which reveals that the expression in 20:10 "his life is in him" does not mean. "Do not worry, it didn't kill him", but rather "He is alive again". Consider the eyewitness "detail" that has been given in these verses. The third floor, a crowded room illuminated with many lamps, and a young man by the window, gradually fading and then suddenly dropping off to a deep sleep. Since Luke was a doctor, he would know whether or not the fall had killed the young man. "One can imagine the confusion which then took over, as everybody tried to run downstairs. Paul at once suspended his sermon and himself went down" (Stott p. 320).
Act_20:10 "And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Make ye no ado; for his life is in him"
"Fell on him, and embracing him": As Elijah ( 1Ki_17:19 ff) and Elisha ( 2Ki_4:32-33 ) did with certain deceased persons in the O.T. "Make ye no ado":
"Do not be troubled" (NASV). This probably includes the admonition to cease any mourning or wailing. Jesus had said the same thing at the house of Jairus ( Mar_5:39 ). "For his life is in him": It had been gone (20:9).
Act_20:11 "And when he was gone up, and had broken the bread, and eaten, and had talked with them a long while, even till break of day, so he departed"
"Had broken the bread, and eaten": Various views exist concerning whether this expression refers to the Lord's Supper or some type of social meal. I think Reese has a good point when he says, "If this was the Lord's Supper, and if this was a Sunday night meeting, then the Lord's Supper was not celebrated until Monday, which means they did not do what they met to do on the first day of the week" (Reese p. 738). Others argue that this breaking of bread was a social meal. Various denominational writers assert that the early church connected the Lord's Supper to a social meal (called the Love Feast). But Paul had already clearly condemned connecting the Lord's Supper to a social meal ( 1Co_11:18 ff). The language of this verse indicates something that Paul did himself. "The verb says 'he broke the bread'" (Reese p. 738). Thus I find this expression referring to neither the Lord's Supper nor a congregational social meal, but rather, Paul himself had something to eat while he discussed various things with the brethren that remained. Carefully note that the language of 20:11 indicates something more casual. Since Luke already indicated that his sermon ended around midnight (20:7), the talking of 20:11 would indicate a more casual type of discussion. Thus if one is trying to argue that this verse provides a biblical precedence for a church kitchen or fellowship hall, then some major assumptions, without clear scriptural backing must be made: First, the upper room was purchased with church funds, and it wasn't the home of one of the members. Secondly, the whole congregation ate at this time and did so on a regular basis for purely social reasons. Thirdly, the commandment given to the Corinthians, only applied to them ( 1Co_11:18 ff). "Till break of day": "Sunrise at that time of the year being between 5 and 6 A.M." (Reese p. 740).
Act_20:12 "And they brought the lad alive, and were not a little comforted"
"Brought": Probably means they brought him to his own home. "Were not a little comforted": "Much to their relief" (Mof). "There was great rejoicing" (Rieu).
JOURNEY FROM TROAS TO MILETUS
Act_20:13 "But we going before to the ship set sail for Assos, there intending to take in Paul: for so had he appointed, intending himself to go by land"
"But we going before to the ship set sail for Assos": "But we, going ahead of the ship, set sail for Assos" (NASV). "When it left Troas, the ship had to round Cape Lectum to get to Assos. Paul waited at Troas a little longer, and then, taking the direct road by land to Assos, was able to get there in time to join his companions on board their ship" (Bruce pp. 409-410). "Assos": (AS ohs). By land it was 20 miles from Troas, 30 miles by sea. Reese notes, "Why did Paul choose, after spending a sleepless night in preaching and teaching, to still further tax his power of endurance by this walk of 20 miles?" (p. 741). Possibly, Paul wanted to spend this time in prayer. Many things were on Paul's mind. How would the saints in Jerusalem respond to this contribution ( Rom_15:31 )? And he also knew that persecution awaited him in Jerusalem ( Act_20:22-23 ). This situation is somewhat similar to when Jesus would spend time by Himself away from the disciples ( Mat_14:23 ).
Act_20:14 "And when he met us at Assos, we took him in, and came to Mitylene"
"Mitylene": (mit uh LEE neh). "The wealthy chief city of Lesbos, an island in the Aegean Sea off the western coast of Asia Minor" (Nelsons p. 719). "The ship evidently sailed each day and anchored each night. The reason, Ramsay explained, 'lies in the wind'. During the Aegean summer 'it generally blows from the north, beginning at a very early hour in the morning'. Then 'in the late afternoon it dies away' and 'at sunset there is a dead calm'" (Stott p. 322).
Act_20:15 "And sailing from thence, we came the following day over against Chios; and the next day we touched at Samos; and the day after we came to Miletus"
"Over against": "Anchored in a mainland port opposite the island" (Stott p. 322). "Chios": Which is pronounced kye ahs. "The island of Chios is separated from the mainland by a very picturesque channel which is about 5 miles wide" (Reese p. 741). "Samos": pronounced say muhs is an island about 50 miles SE of Chios, and west of Ephesus. "Miletus": my lee tuhs Was located 37 miles south of Ephesus, on the south side of the Latonian Gulf, at the mouth of the river Maeander. Apparently, the ship was to lie in harbor here for three or four days.
Act_20:16 "For Paul had determined to sail past Ephesus, that he might not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hastening, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost"
"He was hastening": "The imperfect tense verb hurrying expresses the desire for speed during the whole voyage" (Reese p. 742). "To be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost": "In chapter two it was suggested that Pentecost was the feast that attracted the most pilgrims to Jerusalem during any one year, and this would give Paul a great opportunity to witness for Christ" (Reese p. 742). Boles notes, "If Paul could get to Jerusalem by Pentecost he could present the gifts from the Gentile churches in the presence of the great crowd of foreign Jews who would assemble in Jerusalem and thus spread abroad in all lands the great fact that the Gentile Christians were one with their Jewish brethren; this would impress them that the disciples of the Lord were one body" (p. 321).
Act_20:17 "And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called to him the elders of the church": Ephesus was 30 miles distance from Miletus, so assuming that it took one day for the messenger to arrive and one day for the elders to travel to Paul, he probably only had one day with them before the ship sailed. "As the crow flies, Ephesus was only thirty miles north of Miletus, but the rather circuitous road was longer" (Stott p. 323). "Elders of the church": The office or work of "elders" did not evolve in the early church, because we find elders early in the history of Christianity ( Act_11:30 ; Act_14:23 ). Each congregation did not choose it's own method of governing itself or its own organizational structure, rather the pattern for congregational leadership and organization is clear ( Act_20:28 ; Php_1:1 ; 1Ti_3:1 ff; Tit_1:5 ff; 1Pe_5:1-3 ). The titles, "elders", "bishops" or "overseers", and "shepherds" or "pastors", all refer to the same office. Compare Act_20:17 with 20:28; Tit_1:5 with 1:6; and 1Pe_5:1-3 .
PAUL'S SPEECH TO THE ELDERS
Stott reminds us that this is the only speech in the book of Acts that is addressed solely to Christians.
Act_20:18 "And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, after what manner I was with you all the time"
"Ye yourselves know": "There is emphasis on you as though someone somewhere had attacked Paul, and so Paul appeals to these men's own personal experience of Paul they would know the truth" (Reese p. 744). This is the same type of language that Paul uses in 1Th_2:1 ff. "From the first day": "To know about all of Paul's ministry in Asia, from its earliest days these men who are now elders must have been among the first fruits of the gospel in Ephesus" (Reese p. 744). "I was with you all the time": Indicating that Paul was very accessible to the Christians in Ephesus. This suggests an intimate and close relationship with the brethren in that city. The same truth can be inferred from Act_19:10 .
Act_20:19 "serving the Lord with all lowliness of mind, and with tears, and with trials which befell me by the plots of the Jews"
"With all lowliness of mind": Or, in a very humble manner. This statement reveals that even though Paul was an Apostle, he was neither arrogant nor self-righteous. "He did not exhibit a puffed up conceit, or boast of what he had done" (Reese p. 744). "With tears": Tears caused by those who rejected the gospel and Christians who went back into the world. This expression reveals that Paul was emotionally involved with the people whom he was trying to save ( 2Co_11:28-29 ; Rom_9:1-3 ). "With trials which befell me by the plots of the Jews": Including such things as the persecution from the synagogue in Act_19:9 . The 2 Corinthian letter was written shortly after Paul's three-year stay in Ephesus and chapter 1:8-10 suggests that Paul had endured a very serious threat to his life in Asia. The plural "trials" reveals that many unrecorded sufferings and plots took place while Paul was in Ephesus.
Act_20:20 "how I shrank not from declaring unto you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly, and from house to house"
"I shrank not": "To withdraw oneself, to cower, to shrink, or to conceal. Heb_10:38 " (Robertson p. 349). "Anything that was profitable": Even though Paul's life was often in danger while in Ephesus, he refused to tone down or water down the message. Clearly, Paul did not believe in situation ethics, that is, you are justified in watering down the message, if that saves your life. Reese notes, "This statement presents Paul in striking contrast with the time-servers so abundant in our modern pulpits, who never rebuke sin except at a long distance; who speak none but smooth words about corruption in the church; and whose whole study is personal popularity" (p. 745). "Teaching you publicly": As in the school of Tyrannus ( Act_19:9 ). "From house to house": Personal home bible studies. Carefully note that these are not "house calls". The work of an evangelistic is not to entertain or make social calls, rather, he is to teach the Word of God ( 2Ti_4:2 ).
Act_20:21 "testifying both to Jews and to Greeks repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ"
"Testifying": As Peter did ( Act_2:40 ). "Stressing" (Rieu). "I insisted on" (NEB). "Repentance toward God": See Act_17:29-31 . Notice that the gospel Paul preached included repentance, a Christianity that pats people on the head, tells them they are OK, even while they are in sin, or that one's personal life can be separated from their faith, is not the Christianity found in the N.T. "Faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ": Faith must be expressed towards the proper object in order to please God. Faith in Mohammed or Buddha does not save and neither does faith in self ( Rom_10:9-10 ). The fact that Luke puts repentance prior to faith in this verse has confused some people, but remember that Paul often spoke to a Jewish audience. Since Jews already believed in God, they needed to repent (admit their sins), which would put them in a better mind to have faith in Jesus Christ. McGarvey notes, "because, if they are brought to repentance toward God in whom they already believe, they are in a better frame of mind for hearing the gospel of Christ" (p. 187).
Act_20:22 "And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there"
"Bound in the spirit": "Under spiritual constraint" (TCNT). Since the Holy Spirit was not overriding Paul's freewill, it seems that the expression bound in the spirit, primarily refers to his own spirit. "There was the constraint of an overpowering sense of duty, in spite of the dangers" (Reese p. 747).
Act_20:23 "save that the Holy Spirit testifieth unto me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me": The Holy Spirit was probably testifying through various Christians who had the gift of prophecy. We find one such "testimony" mentioned in Act_21:11 , but from the above passage, obviously Paul was continually hearing many other similar warnings. The word abide in the above passage means to await.
Act_20:24 "But I hold not my life of any account as dear unto myself, so that I may accomplish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God"
"I hold not my life of any account as dear unto myself": "But my life does not matter" (Gspd). Consider the courageous attitude of Paul. It is one thing to endure unexpected suffering, but it is quite another thing to walk right into suffering, to continue to preach the exact same message, knowing full well that such preaching will get you into serious trouble. Probably these prophetic warnings were why Paul requested the prayers from the Christians in Rome ( Rom_15:30-31 ). Consider the underlying attitude that enabled Paul to be successful, in spite of trials, his own life was not the consuming and overriding preoccupation of his thoughts. Paul could get his mind off himself and his comfort because he had already completely given his life to Jesus ( Gal_2:20 ; 2Co_5:14 ). The person who really understands the true depth of their sins and the love of God that is responsible for their salvation, understands that their Christian life is an undeserved second chance. It is a life that is now wholly dedicated to the cause of Christ. I can sacrifice my time and talents for Christ, because dying with Christ in baptism ( Rom_6:3 ff) means that I also died to doing things "my way". When I realize that every moment after my baptism is undeserved "time", "borrowed time", "time that I should be spending in hell for my sins", then it is easy to use much of that time to serve God. "So that I may accomplish my course": Paul often speaks of the Christian life as a race to be run ( 1Co_9:24 ff; Php_2:16 ; 2Ti_4:7 ). To Paul, getting the job done right was more important than self-preservation. "His overriding concern is not at all costs to survive, but rather that he may finish the race and complete his Christ-given task" (Stott p. 326). "And the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus": The word ministry means service. Jesus had given Paul an area of "service" in His cause, and Paul was determined to finish the task, at all cost ( Act_9:15-17 ). "To testify the gospel of the grace of God": The message that informs people concerning God's grace ( Tit_2:11-12 ).
The grace of God cannot be obtained by ignoring the gospel message. The gospel is the only message that properly informs people concerning how they can receive God's grace or obtain the benefits of the sacrifice of Christ. Notice Paul's sense of honor and loyalty to Jesus Christ. Paul would rather die than fail the One who has died for him. In our modern society we might not be physically persecuted for being a Christian, but I see Christians placing their own comfort ahead of the cause of Christ. When we are reluctant about sharing the gospel with others, or talking to a Christian who is manifesting spiritual weakness, we are placing our own lives ahead of the mission that God has given us. We will never be the Christian we can be, and we will fail God, as long as we place our own personal comfort as a greater priority than doing the will of God.
Act_20:25 "And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, shall see my face no more"
"Preaching the kingdom": Paul preached that the kingdom of God was in existence and Christians had been added to it ( Col_1:12-14 ). "Shall see my face no more": "At this point, it looked to Paul very much as if his missionary activities would take him to other areas of the world so that he would not see the brethren from Ephesus again" (Reese p. 748). However circumstances turned out differently than Paul expected and he would be able to visit these brethren one more time ( 1Ti_1:3 ; 1Ti_4:13 ; 2Ti_4:13 ; 2Ti_4:20 ).
Act_20:26 "Wherefore I testify unto you this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men": "My conscience is clear in regard to the fate of any of you" (TCNT). "Should any of you perish, the responsibility is not mine" (Wey). "No man's fate can be laid at my door" (NEB). Compare with Eze_3:18-21 ; Act_18:6 .
Act_20:27 "For I shrank not from declaring unto you the whole counsel of God"
"For": The reason why he was not responsible for those who ended up lost. "I shrank not": To withhold, to cower, to conceal, shun or draw back. "The whole counsel of God": "All the will of God" (Lam). "The complete will of God" (Phi). Paul knew that the church needs to preach on biblical topics including those that are controversial. A preacher who desires a clear conscience will preach on every topic that Christians and non-Christians need to hear. Stott notes, "We are frequently told always to be positive in our teaching and never negative. But those who say this have either not read the New Testament, or, having read it, they disagree with it. For the Lord Jesus and his apostles refuted error themselves and urged us to do the same" (pp. 328-329). See Eph_5:11 ; Tit_1:9-11 . This verse infers that the whole counsel of God (and especially everything written in the N.T.) can be understood by Christians. Believing part of what the Bible teaches is not enough. The idea is false that we only have to agree on about five essential doctrines to have unity. Everything written by the apostles is essential for the Christian to believe. We cannot divide the New Testament up into categories of things we must believe for salvation and doctrines not essential to believe for salvation.
Act_20:28 "Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit hath made you bishops, to feed the church of the Lord which he purchased with his own blood"
"Take heed": "Give attention to" (Bas). "Keep a watchful eye on" (Rieu). "Unto yourselves": What an important concept. An elder must first make sure that he is right with God, before he can adequately oversee the souls of others. "Any leader has temptations peculiar to his position, and connected with the duties of his office" (Reese p. 750). This verse reveals that elders cannot do anything they want or believe what they want to believe. "We note that the Ephesian elders must first keep watch over themselves, and only then over the flock, for they cannot care adequately for others if they neglect the care and culture of their own souls" (Stott p. 326). "To all the flock": That is, the local congregation in which they themselves are members ( 1Pe_5:2 ). Carefully note that the oversight of the elders in Ephesus was only over the congregation in Ephesus. Elders overseeing a congregation in which they are not members, or overseeing more than one congregation constitutes an addition to God's word ( 2Jn_1:9 ). "In which the Holy Spirit hath made you bishops": The qualifications for elders were given by the Holy Spirit ( 1Ti_3:1 ff; Tit_1:6 ff). Those men that meet these divinely given qualifications are thus the quality of men that God wants overseeing the souls of His people ( Heb_13:17 ). At times people complain about the specific qualifications for this work but we forget that these qualifications are telling us that our spiritual welfare is very important. God values our souls! Our souls are so important, and so much is at stake, that it requires that the task of overseeing those souls must be reserved for men of the highest caliber. "To feed": It is from this word "feed" that the word "pastor" is connected. The elders are the pastors of the flock ( 1Pe_5:2 ). Note that we always find congregations having a plurality of elders, thus the concept of a congregation being overseen by a single "pastor" does not fit the biblical pattern. The word "feed" includes the ideas of teaching, guarding, protecting, and governing ( Heb_13:17 ; 1Ti_5:17 ; Tit_1:9 ). In many religious bodies today, and even in some churches of Christ, elders are viewed more as administrators, executives, and financial planners. Many people have forgotten that their real task is to oversee the spiritual condition of the Christians under their care.
From the fact that God in His wisdom designed the church to be overseen, infers that Christians do need someone watching out for them. Sometimes Christians do act like sheep, and they wander off and make foolish decisions and choices. Wolves (false teachers) are always looking for an opening to spread their errors among God's people.
20:28 "The church of the Lord": We always need to be reminded that the church belongs to Christ. The flock that elders oversee does not belong to them. They are called upon to tend, no other than the people that God has purchased for Himself. "Which He purchased with His own blood": Therefore the church is an essential relationship! How can some religious people claim that one does not have to be a member of the church to be saved or that the church is not essential to one's salvation? The church is the same relationship known as the kingdom of God ( Act_20:28 ; Rev_1:5-6 ). Those who are baptized are automatically added to the church ( Act_2:41 ; Act_2:47 ). Therefore, baptism puts one into contact with the blood of Christ ( Act_20:28 ; Act_2:38 ). The church is the saved and Jesus will only save those who are part of the church ( Eph_5:23 ).
Act_20:29 "I know that after my departing grievous wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock"
"I know": Apparently the influence of false teachers was already being felt in Ephesus. "Grievous": "Violent, rapacious" (Vincent p. 562). "Wolves": False teachers ( Mat_7:15 ). "Not sparing the flock": Having no mercy upon Christians. We can never downplay false teaching. God calls those who spread religious error, "grievous wolves", because they cause a tremendous amount of serious damage among God's people. False doctrine will cause people to end up lost ( Mat_7:21-23 ). False doctrine can never be placed in the category of matters of moral indifference or neutrality. See Tit_1:10-11 ; 2Ti_2:17 . The elders need to remain diligent because the world in which Christians live will never be free from false teachers ( 2Pe_2:1 ff; 1Jn_4:1 )
Act_20:30 "and from among your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them"
"From among your own selves": So much for the doctrine of once saved, always saved. Even elders are not immune from going astray. Note, these elders are at this time faithful and sincere, but one who is faithful and sincere can become a false teacher. "Shall men arise": They need to be prepared for this, for this will happen. This verse reveals that even studied, learned, aged and experienced men can never be viewed as the "standard" of truth, because even elders can become the promoters of false doctrine. Here we also need to remind ourselves that there is no position or work in the church which places one over the Bible instead of under its teaching. "Perverse": The word "perverse" infers that the Word of God contains one true meaning which can be twisted by those with less than godly motives. If every verse in the Bible meant anything and everything (no absolute truth), then there could be no such thing as false doctrine, or a false teacher. Some 8 years later when Paul writes to Timothy, who is preaching in Ephesus, we find that false teachers have plagued this congregation ( 1Ti_1:3 ; 1Ti_1:20 ; 2Ti_2:17 ). "To draw away the disciples after them": Notice the motive. Unfortunately, there is money to be made in religion, and people who desire the center stage (instead of pointing men and women to Jesus Christ), will always find people willing to follow them. At this juncture let us remind ourselves that what Paul said here and in other places ( 1Ti_4:1-3 ; 2Ti_4:2-3 ), concerning a coming apostasy, happened. From reading the above verses the true student of the Scriptures should not be surprised when they realize that the vast majority of religious bodies that claim to be Christian--do not follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. Paul did not believe that every person who professed to be a Christian was one or was going to heaven, neither did he teach that one church is as good as another or that we are all just taking different roads to heaven. Notice carefully that Paul taught that teaching the wrong doctrine--places you in the wrong!
Act_20:31 "Wherefore watch ye, remembering that by the space of three years I ceased not to admonish every one night and day with tears"
"Watch ye": Because these things will happen. "Remembering that by the space of three years": Paul's diligence in the three years that he was with them should motivate the elders here to show the same type of watchfulness. "Admonish": To caution, admonish and warn. "Night and day": Indicating a continual diligence. "With tears": The following popular false doctrines makes these tears irrelevant: Once saved, always saved. Sincere people outside of Jesus Christ will go to heaven. Doctrine doesn't matter. Everyone will be given a second chance to accept Jesus at the Judgment. Hell doesn't exist. God will save everyone.
Act_20:32 "And now I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you the inheritance among all them that are sanctified"
"I commend you": "I entrust you to God" (Mof). "The word of His grace": The message that reveals His favor and how to enter into His favor. That is, how to be saved by grace. "Which is able to build you up": The church of Ephesus will no longer have the benefit of having Paul around to answer their questions or refute the false teachers, but carefully note that a congregation does not need an apostle in their presence to be successful in serving God. This verse infers that God's word is sufficient, and we need no other message for spiritual growth ( 2Ti_3:16-17 ). God's word is understandable and can be properly interpreted by those who are not inspired ( Eph_3:3-5 ). God's word can enable any Christian to resist, expose, and refute any false doctrine ( Tit_1:9-11 ). "And to give you the inheritance among all them that are sanctified": Which infers that the word of God is so understandable that anyone can read it and know exactly what to do to become a Christian and thereafter render service to God that results in a home in heaven ( 1Pe_1:4 ).
Act_20:33 "I coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel"
"I coveted": "Never asked for" (Knox). "I have not wanted anyone's" (NEB). What a refreshing attitude. Paul was not motivated by the material benefits of preaching. He was not into it for the money, and the elders he addresses need to have the same pure motives ( 1Pe_5:3 ). "He did not preach for the love of money, nor display of talent, nor to gratify a selfish ambition" (Boles p. 328). This is a great verse for those individuals who believe that there is no such thing as a sincere person, or that every Christian has an ulterior motive for serving God. "Silver, or gold, or apparel": This is what constituted riches in the ancient world. "Oriental wealth consisted largely in fine apparel (not old worn out clothes). See Gen_24:53 ; 2Ki_5:5 ; Mat_6:19 )" (Robertson pp. 355-356).
Act_20:34 "Ye yourselves know that these hands ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me"
"These hands ministered unto necessities": Indicating that while Paul was in Ephesus he supported himself with his trade, as he had done in Corinth ( Act_18:3 ). "To them that were with me": Paul also helped provide for the needs of those traveling with him. Reese notes, "the thing Paul is warning against is the desire to be ministered to. That's the wrong motive" (p. 755) Too many people become a Christian primarily from the motive of "what this will do for me". Such people need to ask themselves, "What more do you want than eternal life?" What needs to motivate me is what can I now do so that others can find this wonderful salvation!
Act_20:35 "In all things I gave you an example, that so laboring ye ought to help the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that he himself said, It is more blessed to give than to receive"
"In all things I gave you an example": This is a great ethic to live by, in whatever we do - be an example. "Laboring": This means to feel fatigue, to work hard, to be wearied, indicating that the Christian life is not for the selfish or the lazy. Serving God properly will involve hard work. "Help the weak": Paul was presently engaged in doing that very thing, for he was taking an offering for the poor saints that were in Jerusalem. This is another verse that reminds us, we are our brother's keeper ( Gal_6:1 ). "Remember the words of the Lord Jesus": Paul quotes something that Jesus said, which is not recorded in the Gospels. The command to "remember" indicates that this expression was well known among Christians, and it indicates that in the absence of a completed New Testament (at this time), many of the sayings of Jesus were widely known.
Act_20:36-36 "And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down and prayed with them all . And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck and kissed him": To weep sore means to weep much or freely. The tense indicates that they kissed him repeatedly, probably one after the other falling on his neck.
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Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Acts 20". "Dunagan's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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