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Leaving Ephesus, the apostle proceeds through Macedonia and Greece, staying three months at Corinth-Being prevented by plots against his life from proceeding by sea to Syria, on his route for Jerusalem, he returns, as he came, through Greece and Macedonia taking ship from Philippi to Troas (20:1-5)
This section of the apostle's life, though peculiarly rich in matter, is related with great brevity in the History. Its details must be culled from his own Epistles.
And after the uproar was ceased, Paul called unto him the disciples, and embraced them, and departed
- not driven out, but of deliberate purpose, and (as would appear from 1 Corinthians 16:8) not until after Pentecost;
For to go into Macedonia - in pursuance of the first part of his plan, as laid down in Acts 19:21. From his Epistles we gather the following most interesting particulars:
First, That, as might be expected from its position on the coast (see the note at Acts 16:8), he revisited Troas; and whereas on his former visit he appears to have done no missionary work there, he now went there expressly "to preach Christ's Gospel," and found 'a door opened unto him of the Lord' (Jesus) (2 Corinthians 2:12), which he entered so effectually as to lay the foundation of a church there (as appears from Acts 20:6-7, below).
Secondly, That he would have remained longer there, but for his uneasiness at the non-arrival of Titus, whom he had despatched to Corinth to finish the collection for the poor saints at Jerusalem, which Paul wished to take with him (1 Corinthians 16:1-2; 2 Corinthians 8:6); but still more, that he might bring him word what effect his first Epistle to that church had produced.
Thirdly, That in this state of mind, afraid of something wrong, he "took leave" of the brethren at Troas, and went from thence into Macedonia. No doubt it was the city of PHILIPPI that he came to-landing at Neapolis, its seaport (see the notes at Acts 16:11-12) - as appears by comparing 2 Corinthians 11:9, where "Macedonia" is named, with Philippians 4:15, where it appears that Philippi is meant. Here he found the brethren, whom he had left on his former visit in circumstances of such deep interest, a consolidated and thriving church, generous and warmly attached to their father in Christ, under the superintendence, probably, of our historian, "the beloved physician" (see the note at Acts 16:40). All that is said by our historian of this Macedonian visit is contained in the second verse of this chapter,-that he "went over those parts and gave them much exhortation."
Fourthly, Titus not having reached Philippi so soon as the apostle, "his flesh had no rest, but he was troubled on every side: without were fightings, and within were fears" (2 Corinthians 7:5).
Fifthly, At length Titus arrived, to the joy of the apostle, the bearer of better tidings from Corinth than he had dared to expect (2 Corinthians 7:6; 2 Corinthians 7:13), but chequered by painful intelligence of the efforts of a hostile party to undermine his apostolic reputation there (2 Corinthians 11:1-33, etc.)
Sixthly, Under the mixed feelings which this produced, he wrote (from Macedonia, and probably Philippi) his SECOND EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS (see Introduction to that Epistle), despatching Titus with it, and along with him two other unnamed deputies, expressly chosen to take up and bring their collection for the poor saints at Jerusalem, and to whom he bears the beautiful testimony, that they were "the glory of Christ" (2 Corinthians 8:22-23).
Seventhly, It must have been at this time that he penetrated as far as to the confines of "Illyricum," lying along the shores of the Adriatic (Romans 15:19). He would naturally wish that his second Letter to the Corinthians should have some time to produce its proper effect before he revisited them, and this would appear a convenient opportunity for a northwestern circuit, which would enable him to pay a passing visit to the churches at Thessalonica and Beroea, though of this we have no record. On his way southward to Greece, he would preach the Gospel in the inter mediate regions of Epirus, Thessaly, and Boeotia (see Romans 15:19), though of this we have no record. (For the collection and arrangement of these particulars we are chiefly indebted to Howson.)
And when he had gone over those parts, and had given them much exhortation, he came into Greece - meaning Greece at large. This fulfilled the second part of the apostle's plan, as laid down in Acts 19:21, where "Achaia," which he "purposed to pass through," means the same as "Greece" here; the latter word being the old name, and the former the then official name of the whole country.
And there abode three months. Though the province only is mentioned, it is evidently the city of CORINTH that is meant, just as in Acts 20:1 the province of "Macedonia" meant the city of Philippi. Some rough work he anticipated on his arrival at Corinth (2 Corinthians 10:1-8; 2 Corinthians 10:11; 2 Corinthians 13:1-10), though he had reason to expect satisfaction on the whole; and as we know there were other churches in Achaia besides that at Corinth (2 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 11:10), he would have time enough to pay them all a brief visit during the three months of his stay there. This period was rendered further memorable by the despatch of the EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS, written during his stay at Corinth, and sent by "Phoebe, a servant (or 'deaconess') of the church at Cenchreae (see the note at Acts 18:3), a lady apparently of some standing and substance, who was going there on private business, (see the note at Romans 16:1, and Introduction to Epistle to Rom.) And when the Jews laid wait for him, as he was about to sail into Syria. He had intended to embark-probably at Cenchreae, the eastern harbour of Corinth-for Palestine, on his route to Jerusalem; thus making out the third part of his plan, as laid down in Acts 19:21; But having detected some conspiracy against his life by his unrelenting Jewish adversaries-as at Damascus (Acts 9:22-25), and at Jerusalem (Acts 9:29-30) - he changed his plan, and so
He purposed (or 'resolved') to return (as he had come) through Macedonia. Since he was never more to return to Corinth, this route would bring him, for the last time, face to face with the attached disciples of Beraea, Thessalonica, and Philippi. But this land journey consumed so much more time than the voyage originally contemplated, that the apostle had to hasten at last in order to reach Jerusalem at the desired time (Acts 20:16).
And there accompanied him into Asia, [ achri (G891) tees (G3588) Asias (G773)] - 'as far as Asia.' The natural inference from this expression would be, that some, at least, of the seven persons about to be named went no further than the Asian province; but since we know that some of them went with him all the way to Jerusalem, the probability is that they all did so, as representatives to the mother-church at Jerusalem of uncircumcised believers, gathered from the chief regions of the apostle's missionary labours among the pagan, and bearers of the collection from all the Gentile churches to the poor saints of the circumcision.
Sopater of Berea. The true reading appears to be 'Sopater, son of Pyrrhus' (so Lachmann, Tischendorf, and Tregelles) There is no sufficient reason for supposing that this person's father is here mentioned to distinguish him from Sosipater (in Acts 16:21), which is but a fuller form of the same word. It seems quite as probable that they were the same person.
And of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus - (see the note at Acts 19:29,) His name re-appears in Acts 27:2; Colossians 4:10; Philemon 1:24.
And Secundus - of whom nothing else is known.
And Gaius of Derbe. (This is merely the Latin name 'Caius,' written in the Greek form.) Since we read of a Gaius of Macedonia (Acts 19:29), and here of a Gaius of Derbe, of a Gaius of Corinth, who was the apostle's "host" there (Romans 16:23), and of a Gaius to whom the beloved disciple addressed his Third Epistle-in which he calls him "his well-beloved Gaius, whom he loved in the truth" (3 John) - it is a question of some interest whether we have any means of reasonable conjecture as to the identity or difference of some or all of these persons. We have only internal evidence to guide us; and considering the different regions in which the residence in each case is fixed, and the extreme commonness of the name 'Caius,' it seems better (though at one time we judged otherwise) to conclude that more than one such at least is meant in the four places referred to; and this is the general opinion. And Timotheus. The phrase "of Derbe," in the previous clause, is evidently meant of Gaius alone, and not intended to include Timotheus-whose designation was not here required after what had been said of him in Acts 16:1-40.
And of (the province of) Asia, Tychicus, and Trophimus. Since Trophimus is expressly said to have been an Ephesian (Acts 21:29), the probability is that Tychicus was so also. They seem to have put themselves from this time forward at the apostle's disposal, and to have been to the very last a great comfort to him (see Ephesians 6:21-22; Colossians 4:7; Acts 21:29; 2 Timothy 4:12; 2 Timothy 4:20). We have here enumerated seven companions of the apostle in his final journey to Jerusalem. All of them were Gentile believers, Three were Europeans-Sopater, Aristarchus, and Secundus; and four were Asiatics-Gaius, Timotheus, Tychicus, and Trophimus. No doubt they were deputed by their respective churches, with all who were associated with them, to carry their contributions for the poor Jewish disciples of Palestine. From the next verse we learn that our historian was now of the party; and, although he is not named (probably as having originally come from Jerusalem, to which the others were strangers), Silas must have been of it too, as Paul's companion on this third missionary journey.
These going before (perhaps to announce and prepare for the apostle's coming) tarried for us at Troas.
It will be observed, from the resumption of the first person plural "us," that our historian had now rejoined the apostle, and his presence is indicated by a minuter specification of time and other particulars. Having been left at Philippi (see the note at Acts 16:40), he would now bring on the collection of that church.
And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread - (that is, after the Passover.) Comparing this with 1 Corinthians 16:8, we gather that the "three months" spent at Corinth (Acts 20:3) were the winter months.
And came unto them to Troas in five days - (see, for the time now taken, the note at Acts 16:11.) This was the apostle's third and last visit to Troas.
Where we abode seven days - that is, arriving on a Monday, they stayed over the next Jewish Sabbath and the Lord's day following; occupying themselves, doubtless, in refreshing and strengthening fellowship with the brethren during the interval. The vivid style of one who was himself present will here be observed. No doubt our historian kept a journal, more or less full, of which he now availed himself.
Meeting with the disciples at Troas-Paul's preaching protracted until midnight-Eutychus restored to life-The communion, the repast, and the parting at break of day (20:7-12)
And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together - rather, 'when we had come together,' according to the much better supported reading [ heemoon (G2257) for toon (G3588) matheetoon],
To break bread. This, when compared with 1 Corinthians 16:2, and other similar allusions, plainly indicates that the Christian observance the first day of the week-afterward emphatically termed 'The Lord's Day'-was already a fixed practice of the churches.
Paul preached, [ dielegeto (G1256)] - or 'discoursed,' the tense implying continued action; 'kept discoursing "unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight."
And there were many lights in the upper chamber. This not to be regarded as a mere piece of graphic detail by an eye-witness (as Howson and Hackett regard it), but rather as increasing the heat and contributing to drowsiness (as suggested by Webster and Wilkinson); and the next clause seems to confirm this.
Where they were gathered together - but the true reading beyond doubt is, 'where we were gathered together [ eesan (G2258) of the Received Text is supported only by some cursives and later writers; all the Uncials have eemen (G2252)].
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.
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 (or 'storey'). The window projected (according to the side of the room where it was situated) either over the street or over the interior court; so that in either case he fell on the hard earth or pavement below.
And was taken up dead. That DeWette should take this to mean, 'taken up for dead,' or 'apparently dead,' and appeal to the words of Acts 20:10, "Trouble not yourselves, for his life is in him" - as if that meant, 'his life is still in him,' or 'he is but apparently dead'-need surprise no one; but that Olshausen should so understand the words, is indeed surprising. The whole narrative, read in its natural sense, conveys the impression that the youth was taken up literally "dead."
And Paul went down, and fell on him - just as Elijah did upon the dead son of the woman of Sarepta (1 Kings 17:21), and Elisha upon the dead son of the Shunammite (2 Kings 4:34) - a strong confirmation of the natural sense of the statement that Eutychus was taken up quite dead.
And embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him - not, 'is still in him,' as if never out; but in the same sense in which our Lord said of Jairus' dead daughter, "Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth" (Mark 5:39) It was in him when Paul spoke, as having been restored to him, like the lives of the Zarephite's and Shunammite's sons-no otherwise. (But see further the note at Acts 20:12.)
When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten - literally, 'and had broken the bread [ ton (G3588) arton (G740) appears to be the true reading] and tasted' [ geusamenos (G1089)]. The former expression seems plainly to denote the celebration of the Lord's Supper; their intention to do so being expressed in Acts 20:7, but their actually doing it nowhere if not here. The latter expression, 'and had tasted,' is nowhere used of the celebration of the Supper, whereas in Acts 10:10 (Gr.) it is applied to taking a common meal; and since only the apostle himself is here said to have tasted, it must be meant to denote his taking some refreshment before setting out on his long foot-journey, which, as he had spent the whole night preaching and talking, would be indispensable to him.
And talked a long while, even until break of day, so he departed. How life-like is this record of dear Christian fellowship-as free and gladsome as, in such circumstances, it must have been peculiarly solemn! See Ecclesiastes 9:7.
And they brought the young man alive. There is a manifestly designed contrast between the statement 'taken up dead' (Acts 20:9) and 'brought alive' here, which leaves no reasonable ground to doubt that it was an extinct life which had been restored.
And were not a little comforted, [ parekleetheesan (G3870)] - including the additional idea of 'confirmed in the faith.'
Continuing Paul's Route to Jerusalem, He Reaches Miletus, whence He Sends for the Elders of Ephesus (20:13-17)
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, [ pezeuein (G3978)] - to go by land (see the note at Mark 6:33). In sailing southward from Troas to Assos, one has to round Cape Lectum, and keeping due east, to run along the northern shore of the Gulf of Adramyttium, on which it lies. This is a sail of nearly 40 miles; whereas by land, cutting right across in a southeasterly direction, from sea to sea, by that excellent Roman road which then existed, the distance was scarcely more than half. The one way Paul wished his companions to take, while he himself-longing perhaps to enjoy a period of solitude-took the other, joining the ship by appointment at Assos.
And when he met with us at Assos, we took him in, and came to Mitylene - the capital of the beautiful and classical island of Lesbos, which lies opposite the eastern shore of the AEgean Sea, about 30 miles south of Assos, in whose harbour they seem to have lain for the night.
And we sailed thence, and came the next day over against Chios - now Scio: one of the most beautiful of those islands between which and the coast the sail is so charming. They appear not to have touched at it.
Samos - another island coming quite close to the mainland, and about as far south of Chios as it is south of Lesbos.
And tarried at Trogyllium - an anchorage on the projecting mainland, not more than a mile from the southern extremity of the island of Samos.
And the next day we came to Miletus - on the mainland, the ancient capital of Ionia, near the mouth of the Maeander.
Because ... 'It appears (as Humphry remarks) from this, and from Acts 20:13, that in the voyage from Philippi to Patara (Acts 21:1), Paul was able to direct his own course, having perhaps hired a small coasting vessel:' at Patara he meets with a merchant-ship, in which he is conveyed across the sea to Tyre.
Because he would not spend the time, ([ hopoos (G3704 ) mee (G3361 ) geneetai (G1096 ) autoo (G846 ) chronotribeesai (G5551 )] - 'that he might not have to spend time,') in Asia - the Asian province, of which Ephesus was the chief city.
For he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost - as a suitable season for giving in the great collection from all the Western churches, for keeping the feast, and for clearing his apostolic position with the church, then represented in large number at Jerusalem. The words imply that there was considerable ground to doubt if he would attain this object-for more than three of the seven weeks from Passover to Pentecost had already expired-and they are inserted evidently to explain why he did not once more visit Ephesus.
And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. Since he was now some 40 miles south of Ephesus, we might think that more time would be lost by sending thus far for the elders to come to him, than by going at once to Ephesus itself, when so near it. But if unfavourable winds and stormy weather had overtaken them, his object could not have been attained, and perhaps he was unwilling to run the risk of detention at Ephesus by the state of the church and other causes. It will be observed that those here called "elders" or 'presbyters' [ presbuteroi (G4245)] are in Acts 20:28 called "overseers" or 'bishops;' but see the note there.
(1) In the light of the particulars enumerated by us at the outset of this section, how intense appears the apostle's activity in the diffusion of the Gospel, and how tremulous his anxiety lest the converts gained, and the churches formed by him should from any cause be hindered in their Christian progress, or poisoned by the enemies of the truth! No wonder that he stamped his noble impress so deeply upon the early churches, as his writings have done permanently upon all Christendom.
(2) It is a theory of the Tubingen school of criticism, and of some other too liberal critics, that what are called the "We" passages in the Acts-that is, all the portions of that book in which the writer uses the first person plural, "we" and "us" - were written by Timothy. Among other proofs of the untenableness of this position, this has been noticed as one, that after Timothy had been mentioned by the historian as one of seven companions who accompanied the apostle from Macedonia (Acts 20:4), he says, "These (seven, including Timotheus) going before tarried for us at Troas" (Acts 20:5); clearly showing that Timotheus could not have been one of the party tarried for, and could not have been the penman of this statement. (3) The first explicit intimation that the apostles taught the Christians to observe the first day of the week, as a day for the celebration of public worship and the participation of the Lord's Supper, is in this section, where it is expressly said that having stayed "seven days" at Troas, the apostle and his party met the Christians "on the first day of the week;" clearly implying, that they awaited the return of that as the sacred day for this purpose. 'And with this (says Lechler) the circumstance strikingly agrees, that the observance of the Sunday is first mentioned in a congregation of Gentile Christians, since, from the nature of the case, the custom would be introduced earlier and more easily among Gentile than amount Jewish Christian congregations.' We are very far, however, from agreeing with Lechler as to the light in which this institution is to be regarded by the Church.
(4) The length of the apostle's discourse on this occasion, and the protracting of the meeting until break of day, while they are no excuse for lengthened services and protracted night-meetings as a rule, do justify both-if justification were needed-in special circumstances; and those who condemn indiscriminately all religious services,which deviate greatly from the usual length, the usual seasons, and the usual modes-though occasioned by purely temporary circumstances, conducted in other respects unexceptionably, distinguished by nothing so much as the exaltation of Christ, and resulting in manifest and remarkable blessing-show that they set more store by the means than the end, and have little of the spirit of the great apostle, who himself acted on the maxim which he prescribed to Timothy, "in season, out of season" (2 Timothy 4:2). See the notes at Matthew 4:12-23, Remark 3, p. 23.
'The evidence furnished by this speech (says Alford excellently), as to the literal report in the Acts of the words spoken by Paul, is most important. It is a treasure-house of words, idioms, and sentiments peculiarly belonging to the apostle himself.' But this hinders not Baur and his Tubingen followers from insisting that it bears every mark of having been composed by the writer, The address consists of three parts: a retrospect of the past Acts 20:18-21; a glance into the future, w. Acts 20:22-27; and counsels to the Ephesian presbyters, Acts 20:28-35.
1. Retrospect of the Past (20:18-21)
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 - appealing to themselves as witnesses of the Christian integrity and fidelity of his whole official contact with them.
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:
Serving the Lord, [ douleuoon (G1398) too (G3588) Kurioo (G2962)] The word here used (as Alford notes) is employed six times by our apostle, but by no other New Testament writer (though twice it occurs in our Lords expression, "Ye cannot serve God and mammon," Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13).
With all humility of mind, and with [many] tears. The bracketed word "many" [ polloon (G4183)] is evidently a later addition ['Aleph (') A B D E wanting it, with the Vulgate, etc., while those which have it are, with the exception of C, and the Peshito Syriac, of inferior weight].
And temptations (or 'trials'), which befell me by the lying in wait (or 'the plots') of the Jews.
Self-exaltation was unknown to him, and ease of mind: He "sowed in tears," from anxieties both on account of the converts for whom he "travailed in birth," and of the Jews, whose bitter hostility was perpetually plotting against him, interrupting his work, and endangering his life.
And how I kept back (timidly withheld from fear of consequences) nothing that was profitable [unto you] - edification only dictating what he should communicate and what withhold;
But have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house. 'Did an apostle (asks Bengel) whose functions were of so wide a range not feel satisfied without private as well as public ministrations-how then should pastors act?'
Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
Testifying, [ diamarturomenos (G1263)] - the compound word implying the 'thorough,' complete character of the testimony,
Both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks - better, 'both to Jews and Greeks,' who, lying under a common malady, are recoverable only by a common treatment, Repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. Bengel and some other critics would restrict the word "repentance here to the change "toward God," which the Gentiles were required to undergo, and "faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ," to the change in their view of Him required of the Jews. But the majority of the best critics understand both terms-and with justice-to describe the two-fold change which passes upon everyone who comes under the saving power of the Gospel, whether Jew or Gentile. In this view of the words, "REPENTANCE" denotes that state of the soul which arises from a discovery of its contrariety to the righteous demands of the divine law. This is said to be "toward God," because seeing Him to be the Party dishonoured by sin, it feels all its acknowledgments and compunctions to be properly due to Him as the Great Lawgiver, and directs them to Him accordingly; condemning, humbling itself, and grieving before Him, looking also to Him as its only Hope of deliverance. "FAITH" is said to be "toward our Lord Jesus Christ," because, in the frame of mind just described it eagerly credits the testimony of relief divinely provided in Christ, gladly embraces the overtures of reconciliation in Him, and directs all its expectations of salvation, from its first stage to its last, to Him as the one appointed Medium of all grace from God to a sinful world. Thus we have here a brief summary of all Gospel preaching. And it is easy to see why Repentance is here put before Faith; for the former must of necessity precede the latter. There is, indeed a repentance subsequent to faith, the fruit of felt pardon and restoration-that which drew the tears with which the Saviour's feet were once so copiously moistened (see Luke 7:37-38; Luke 7:47; and Ezekiel 16:63). But that is not the light in which it is here presented.
Glance into the Future (20:22-25)
And now, behold, I go. The "I" is emphatic: q.d., 'As' for me, I go'
Bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem. This does not mean (as Erasmus, Grotius, and Bengel interpret it), 'knowing by the prophetic spirit that I am to be bound, and so feeling myself already bound, as a prisoner of Jesus Christ'-with which the following words do not all accord. Nor yet are we to take "the spirit" here to mean the Holy Spirit, as the Greek fathers and others generally understood it. The usual phraseology of the apostle leads us to take the expression in the simple sense of an 'internal pressure,' the result of that higher guidance which shaped all his movements, and which in the present case, while all-powerful in itself, left him in the dark as to what was to happen to him at Jerusalem, as expressed in the next clause.
Not knowing the things that shall befall me there:
Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me.
Save that the Holy Spirit witnesseth - `witnesseth to me,' is undoubtedly the true reading;
In every city - probably, by prophetic utterances on the subject, from city to city; as in Acts 21:10-11. Analogous premonitions of coming events-especially to distinguished servants of Christ, and in critical circumstances-are not unknown to the general methods of God's providence; and those here alluded to could not fail to season and brace the apostle's spirit for whatever might occur.
Saying that bonds and afflictions abide (or 'await') me.
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.
But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course. Alford notes this as a similitude peculiarly Pauline (see Acts 13:25; 2 Timothy 4:7; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Philippians 3:14). Another very ancient reading is, 'But I count my life of no account, nor is it so precious to myself as to finish,' etc.; but the text of this reading is somewhat confused, and the sense is pretty much the same.
With joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify, [ diamarturasthai (G1263)] - 'to testify thoroughly' (see for this word the note at Acts 20:21).
The gospel of the grace of God. In this noble expression of entire devotion to the service of Christ and preparedness for the worst that could befall him in such a cause, note, first, his jealousy for the special character of his mission, as immediately from Christ Himself, on which all the charges against him turned; next, the Burden of that Gospel which he preached-GRACE: it was "the Gospel of the Grace of God."
And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom [of God]. (The bracketed words are of very doubtful authority.)
Shall see my face no more. As he had just said that he was going to Jerusalem, not knowing what was to befall him there (Acts 20:22), we are not to regard this as a prophetic utterance of an undoubted fact, but as what the apostle in his special circumstances fully expected. Whether, therefore, he ever did see them again must be decided purely on its own evidence. That he did again visit that region, after a first imprisonment, there is reason to think; but even if he did, we may very well believe that he never saw again the very persons now addressed.
Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men - a deeply solemn way of expressing conscious freedom from guilt, in respect both of the subjects brought before them and the faithfulness with which these were pressed upon them. (See Acts 18:6; and compare 1 Samuel 12:3; 1 Samuel 12:5; Ezekiel 3:17-21; Ezekiel 33:8-9.
For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel (or 'purpose') of God - God's gracious design of saving souls by His Son Jesus Christ, and erecting a kingdom of such saved souls on the earth (cf. Luke 7:30).
Counsels to the Ephesian Presbyters (20:28-35)
Take heed therefore unto yourselves - a caution reminding us of the apostle's warning style to Timothy (2 Tim., passim).
And to all the flock. Observe here how the personal is put before the pastoral care. Over the which the Holy Spirit hath made you, 'We are not informed (to use the words of Lechler) how the elders at Ephesus were ordained to the ministry; but from analogy (Acts 6:2-6; Acts 14:23) it is to be supposed that they were chosen under the apostle's direction, and not without the church's cooperation, and were set apart by prayer and the imposition of hands. This was the human and visible side of the transaction; but the apostle draws attention to the invisible and divine side. It was the Holy Spirit who acted. He properly appointed and commissioned the persons; they were bound and responsible to Him ... And if He works and decides, so must He dwell in the members of the Church who act; accordingly the appointment of elders to the pastoral office by the Holy Spirit rests on the universal priesthood of believers as a presupposition, instead of being, as it might at first sight appear, a hierarchical idea.'
Overseers, [ episkopous (G1985)] - or 'bishops.' This word-which occurs five times in the New Testament (here, and Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:7; 1 Peter 2:25) - is in every, other place rendered by our translator, a 'bishops:' here only they have rendered it "overseers." Why? Beyond doubt to avoid the obvious inference that the same persons are here called "elders" (Acts 20:17) and "bishops." So early did the hierarchical views of the clergy find this passage to be in their way, that Irenaeus (in the second century) says that Paul on this occasion 'convened the bishops and presbyters;' and since only, one class is mentioned in the text, Irenaeus adds, 'who were from Ephesus and from the other neighbouring towns' (Adv. Haer. 2: 14. 2). 'Here (says Alford candidly) we see, first, the two distinguished-bishops and presbyters-as if both were sent for, in order that the titles might not seem to belong to the same persons; and, second, other neighbouring churches brought in, in order that there may not seem to be "bishops" in one church only.
That neither of these was the case is clearly shown by the plain words of this verse, "he sent to Ephesus and summoned the elders of the church." So early did interested and disingenuous interpretations begin to cloud the light which Scripture might have thrown on ecclesiastical questions. The English version has hardly dealt fairly in this case with the sacred text, in rendering by the word "overseers," what is rendered in all other places (and ought to have been here) "bishops," that the fact of elders and bishops having been originally and apostolically synonymous might be apparent to the ordinary English reader, which now it is not.' To the same effect speak all other candid writers. Whether, consistently with these admissions, an episcopal superiority of one presbyter over several others can he shown to have apostolic sanction, this is not the place to inquire. Enough it is hero to insist that not a vestige of it is to be found in this place, and that the plain sense of Scripture shall not be tampered with to meet the requirements of any system, either of doctrine or of ecclesiastical polity.
To feed, [ poimainein (G4165)] - a word denoting the whole pastoral care (see the note at Matthew 2:6, and at John 21:16),
The church of God - or, 'the Church of the Lord.'
Which of these two very important readings [ tou (G3588) Theou (G2316), or tou (G3588) Kuriou (G2962)] is the true one, is a question of great difficulty, which has long divided, and still divides, the best critics. The external evidence in favour of both readings is pretty nearly equal, though perhaps slightly preponderating in favour of 'the Church of the Lord,' ['Aleph (') and B, with about 20 cursive manuscripts, have tou (G3588) Theou (G2316), supported by the Vulgate, in all its undoubted copies, the Peshito Syriac, and the Philoxenian Syriac in the text. Of Patristic authorities, Ignatius, about 107 AD (if we can depend on the genuineness of the Epistle) uses the phrase, 'the blood of God.' and several of the fathers must have so read. On the other hand, A C (of the first hand) D E, and 14 or 15 cursives have tou (G3588) Kuriou (G2962), supported by the margin of the Philoxenian Syriac, the two Egyptian versions (the Memphitic and Thebaic), and some later versions. Of the fathers, Athanasius, the great champion of the proper divinity of Christ in the fourth century (if the reading hitherto acquiesced in be the true one), says that the Scriptures, as we have them, have by no means transmitted the expression, 'the blood of God' (contra Apollinar.); and even though another reading of these words of Athanasius should neutralize it as a testimony against the received reading of our text, it is hardly credible that that father could have read as we do, 'the blood of God,' without using it in controversy with the Arians, or rather (as the Arians themselves would very likely urge it as in favour of their views) repelling the argument against the supreme divinity of Christ which it might seem to furnish. In Chrysostom the readings fluctuate; nor is the genuineness of the commentary on Acts by any means beyond doubt.]
Since, then, the external evidence is so nearly balanced, the decision must rest on the internal evidence. And how does that stand? In favour of 'the Church of God' it is pleaded, first, that Paul never uses the phrase 'Church of the Lord,' but ten times the phrase "Church of God;" and next, that "the Church of God, which He purchased with His own blood." is an idea so startling that it was much more likely to be afterward softened into 'Church of the Lord,' than this smooth expression to be thrust out of the text (supposing it genuine), in favour of the much more harsh one of our Received Text. There is certainly great force in these considerations. But, on the other hand it is argued, that the very frequency with which the apostle uses the phrase, "Church of God," was just the thing which would lead transcribers to conclude, if they found 'Church of the Lord' in this one place, that it must be a copyist's mistake, and so to change it into the familiar one, "Church of God." So that if it is alleged that the 'purchase of the Church with the blood of God' was so very unusual an expression that it was not likely ever to get into the text if not genuine, it may just as well be affirmed that 'the Church of the Lord' was with Paul so unusual a phrase that it was not likely to get into the text here if not genuine.
Thus, the internal evidence seems to us to be about as equally balanced as the external; at all events, we can see no ground for the dogmatic confidence with which Scrivener pronounces in favour of the one, and Lechler for the other. (Lachmann and Tregelles, who usually follow the Vulgate, decide in this case against it, and in favour of 'Church of the Lord,' and so does Tischendorf. Griesbach approves of a reading evidently made up of both-`the Church of the Lord and God'-which, though the later external authority for it is tolerable, has no pretensions to equality with the one or the other of the two naked terms. And though Scrivener thinks that all the copies which have this double reading are testimonies in favour of the received one, we may just as well argue that they are testimonies in behalf of the other reading. Bengel decides in favour of "Church of God;" and so Alford now, though formerly his view was the reverse.
Scrivener says the received reading, though, different from that of the majority of copies, 'is pretty sure to be correct;' and after fairly stating the whole evidence, he concludes by saying that when all is weighed, 'there will remain little room for hesitation.' Lechler, on the other hand, considers 'Church of the Lord' to be certainly the true reading;` as do Olshausen, Meyer, and DeWette, who consider the blood of God' an expression quite foreign to the New Testament. No doubt it is, if this passage be excepted; but to conclude against it here on that ground would oblige us to stand in doubt of whatever happens to be but once expressed. On the whole, though we slightly incline to 'the Church of the Lord' as the true reading, we find it extremely difficult to decide in favour of either of the two against the other, and should prefer to see them both printed in the text as alternative readings: thus training the general reader to know that in certain cases it is almost impossible to decide with certainty which of two readings was the original one. The bearing of each of them on the Person and Work of Christ will be seen presently.
Which he hath purchased, [ peripoieesato (G4047)]. The word (in the middle voice) signifies, not strictly to buy [= agorazesthai (G59), 1 Corinthians 6:20; 2 Peter 2:1; Revelation 5:9 ], but anyhow to 'acquire for one's self,' to 'gain possession of,' as one's own.
With his own blood. "His own" is emphatic; but it is even more so in the true reading [not dia (G1223) tou (G3588) idiou (G2398) haimatos (G129), but dia (G1223) tou (G3588) haimatos (G129) tou (G3588) idiou (G2398), which is read by 'Aleph (') A B C D E, etc.] - q.d., 'That glorified Lord who from the right hand of power in the heavens is gathering and ruling the Church, and by His Spirit, through human agency, hath act you over it, cannot be indifferent to its welfare in your hands, seeing He hath given for it His own most precious blood, thus making it His own by the dearest of all ties.' The transcendent sacredness of the Church of Christ is thus made to rest on the dignity of its Lord and the consequent preciousness of that blood which He shed for it. And as the sacrificial, atoning character of Christ's death is here plainly expressed, so His supreme dignity is implied as clearly by the second reading as it is expressed by the first. What a motive to pastoral fidelity here furnished!
For I knew this - or, more simply (according to another good reading) 'I know.'
That after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse (or crooked') things. 'As a member of the body may be strained (says Lechler), and by violent bending put into a distorted position, so also truths may be perverted, placed in false relations to each other, distorted by exaggeration, changed into caricatures of that which they originally represented. And this is the nature of all false doctrine, Error is only a misrepresentation of truth; every false doctrine has some truth at bottom, which is misrepresented by the fault of men.'
After them. Two classes of coming enemies are here announced: the one more external to themselves, the other bred in the bosom of their own community: both were to be teachers; but the one class are called "grievous wolves," not sparing, that is, making a prey of, the flock; the other, simply sectarian 'perverters' of the truth with the view of drawing a party after them. Perhaps the one pointed to that subtle poison of Oriental Gnosticism which we know to have very early infected the Asiatic churches; the other to such Judaizing tendencies as we know to have troubled nearly all the early churches. (See the Epistles to the Ephesians, Colossians, and Timothy; also those to the seven churches of Asia, Revelation 2:1-29; Revelation 3:1-22.) The remedy against this, and all that tends to injure and corrupt the Church, now follows.
Therefore watch. This great duty of pastors applies to every age of the Church.
And remember - keep in view, as a model which ye will do well to copy, how
That by the space of three years - speaking in round numbers, it being more than two years,
I ceased not to warn - [ nouthetoon (G3560), a word, as Alford notes, used in the New Testament only by our apostle, and by him seven times besides this.]
Everyone night and day with tears. What an appeal to be able to make; and if (as Bengel says) this was an apostle's part, how much more a pastor's!
And now, [brethren] (this bracketed word has hardly sufficient authority),
I commend you to God - as the Almighty Conservator of His people,
And to the word of his grace (see the note at Acts 20:24 ), which ('who`) is able to build you up, [the simple verb oikodomeesai (G3618) is preferable to the compound epoikodomeesai, which Tischendorf inconsistently approves],
And to give you an inheritance. Observe how salvation-not only in its initial stages of pardon and regeneration, but in all its subsequent stages of 'up-building,' even to its consummation in the final inheritance-is here ascribed to the 'ability' of God to bestow it, as in Romans 16:25; Ephesians 3:20; particularly Jude 1:24
, and compare 2 Timothy 1:12
.tsirhC ot debircsa si gniht emas eht erehw ,
- Among all them which are sanctified. It is remarkable that the only other place wher is used is in the speech of our apostle before Agrippa ( Acts 26:18 ), confirming the impression which this whole address conveys to the reader, that it is here recorded as delivered. And if it should be said (as the Tubingen school scruple not to do) that this only proves that both speeches proceeded from one pen-not that they were the words of Paul-then another coincidence, quite as striking, will tend to fix the Pauline authorship of both addresses: in one only of our apostle's Epistles does a phrase precisely like this occur, and that is just in his Epistle to these same Ephesians (Acts 1:18 ), "That ye may know what is ... the riches of the glory of His inheritance among the saints" ( en ( G1722 ) tois (G3588 ) hagiois ( G40)). It will be observed that sanctification is here viewed as the final character and condition of the heirs of glory, considered as one saved company.
I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel.
I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. Compare 2 Corinthians 12:14, "I seek not yours, but you."
Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me.
Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands - doubtless, holding them up before them, as he afterward did before Agrippa-though the force of the act there consisted in their being in chains ( Acts 26:29);
Have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. See Acts 18:3; and 1 Corinthians 4:12; 1 Corinthians 9:6 (written from Ephesus); also 1 Thessalonians 2:9.
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 showed you all things, how that so labouring - that labouring, as I myself have done, for others as well as myself,
Ye ought to support the weak (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:14) and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he, [hoti Ye ought to support the weak (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:14) and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he, [hoti (G3754) autos (G846), ('how Himself') said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. This golden saying, snatched from oblivion, and here added to the Church's abiding treasures, is apt to beget the wish that more of what issued from those lips which "dropped as an honeycomb," had been preserved to us. But see the note at John 21:25.
The Parting (20:36-38)
No JFB commentary on these verses.
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.
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. Nothing can be more touching than these three concluding verses, leaving an indelible impression of rare ministerial fidelity and affection on the apostle's part, and of warm admiration and attachment on the part of these Ephesian presbyters. Would to God that such scenes were more frequent in the Church!
(1) We have had occasion before to remark in the great apostle a combination of qualities rarely found in the same person, but where found in any strength constituting a principal element of true greatness. In this address, for example, what a breadth of view, combined with the minutest attention to the ordinary interests of life, is observable; the one so far from begetting indifference to the other, that each seemed the complement and strength of the other. Observe, too, the tenacity with which, in 'all humility of mind, and tears, and trials, through the plots of the Jews, 'he maintained his ministerial fidelity; keeping back from the Ephesian church nothing which was profitable, teaching publicly and from house to house and, in this thorough-going way of indoctrinating them in the truth, making it his great object to establish them in the two cardinal principles of Repentance toward God, and Faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
See next, his fearless determination to go to the Jewish capital, as divinely directed, regardless of predicted and expected bonds and imprisonment; and-if he could but finish his course with joy, and his testimony to the grace of the Gospel-ready to yield up even his life in the cause of his adorable Lord Jesus. And what a protestation to be able to make to these presbyters, after so lengthened a sojourn among them and incessant ministrations to them, that he was "pure from the blood of all" among them, inasmuch as he "had not shunned to declare to them the whole counsel of God." No claim, of course, is here advanced to faultless perfection in the discharge of his ministerial duties; but he does claim to be free from conscious and willful unfaithfulness to any soul in the course of this long ministry. Notice further, his holy jealousy for the prosperity of this Ephesian community of believers after his departure, and in particular-anticipating both the entrance of grievous wolves in sheep's clothing from without, and the upspringing from within themselves of schismatic, sectarian, selfish, and sinister persons, who would seek to alienate the disciples from their fellowship, and so break up their beautiful church-anticipating these sore evils, see how he enjoins the presbyters to take heed first to themselves and then to the flock-at once purchased by the blood of God's own Son and placed by the Holy Spirit under their care-to keep watch, and to do as he had done who, for three years, had not ceased to warn everyone night and day with tears.
Finally, how touching, and even sublime, is the appeal which he was able to make to the unselfishness with which he had from first to last gone in and out among them; how, instead of coveting any man's silver, or gold, or apparel, those hands of his had worked-no doubt over night, when his ministerial labours might rather have called for rest-to support not himself only, but his companions; and how he had taught them that, labouring in the same spirit, they also should support the weak, and act ever upon the golden maxim of their common Lord, "It is more blessed to give (not money only, but whatever one has to give to them that need) than to receive." And, as if to crown all, what a picture is presented to us in his kneeling down with them all on the sea shore, and pouring out his heart in prayer with them, in the sore weeping of all of them, the falling of each on his neck and kissing him-showing the tender familiarity of their affection-and that word which completed the pungency of their sorrow at parting with him, "that they should see his face no more"! Where shall we find in all the Church's records such a combination of greatness and tenderness of soul-such a union of ministerial humility, fidelity, purity, and self-sacrifice-such unweaned prosecution, amid tears, of one object, the grandest that man can undertake, relieved only by manual labour for the support of himself and his companions? O ye servants of Christ, study this model; on your knees drink in the spirit of it, and enter into its every detail: so shall its impress be stamped upon you as ye are able to take it on, and then shall it not have been here presented to us in vain.
(2) If there be one characteristic of the theology of Paul which is more Pauline than another, it is his doctrine of GRACE, as the spring of all the divine procedure toward fallen man from everlasting, the principle of the whole scheme of salvation, the secret of every step in the believer's recovery from sin and all its effects, and in his eventual experience of life eternal. In this address that characteristic is strikingly brought out, both when he describes himself as set "to testify the glad tidings of THE GRACE OF GOD" (Acts 20:24), and when he "commends" the Ephesian presbyters "to God and to THE WORD OF HIS GRACE" (Acts 20:32) - as if that "word" had but one burden-the Grace of God. By this the soundness of all preaching should tested. Occasional concessions to this doctrine are no evidence of conformity to the preaching of Paul. That preaching only is Pauline the soul of which is the doctrine of Grace. considered as the prime element in all salvation.
(3) If the received reading of Acts 20:28 be the genuine one, what a view does it give of "the Church of God" as "purchased with His own blood." Nor need such language repel us as altogether incongruous. For analogous expressions are certainly found elsewhere in the New Testament, particularly in the writings of this apostle.
Thus, when he says that God "spared not His own Son, but delivered him up for us all" (Romans 8:32 ) - alluding beyond all doubt to Abraham's sacrifice of paternal feeling in being prepared to surrender to death "his son, his only son Isaac, whom he loved" - he certainly means to ascribe to God in the surrender of His Son to death a sacrifice of Paternal feeling, which, however transcending all that man experiences in such an act, the apostle was unable to express except in language derived from what men experience in such cases. Compare, too, Romans 5:7-8, "Scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Besides, if the humanity of the Lord Jesus was that of God's own Son, "the blood of Jesus," which the beloved, disciple calls "the blood of God's own Son" ( 1 John 1:7), was the blood of "the Word made flesh," of Him who "was with God" and "was God" (John 1:1; John 1:14).
There is thus strict doctrinal truth in such language; and though expressed in this strong form nowhere else-from which we may well infer that such phraseology should not become too familiar-the sweeping condemnation of it as intolerable, may reasonably be suspected to spring from secret dislike to the truth which it expresses, that the blood shed for the Church had a strictly DIVINE VALUE, arising from the transcendent Dignity of the Victim. If, on the other hand, the true reading of this verse be, "the Church of the Lord, which He hath purchased with His own blood" in what a light does it hold forth the Lord Jesus, by the shedding of whose blood on the cross God is here expressly said to have made the Church His own property! Of a mere man, however highly endowed-of any creature, however exalted-is it conceivable that such a statement should have been made? And thus, whichever reading of this verse is preferred, the supreme Dignity of Him whose blood it speaks of stands out in the strongest light.
(4) The efficacy of Christ's death, as expressed in this verse, should not be overlooked. While in the language of the sacrificial economy it is constantly represented as expiatory; with reference to lawful captivity, as a ransom-price; in the light of an inheritance, as the testator's death, securing all to the legatee; and of alienated property, as a purchase-price: here, without any allusion to the previous condition of the Church-whether as alienated, or lost, or anything else-God is said to have gained rightful possession of the Church, or made it His own, by the blood of Jesus Christ. Explain this as we may-when all the representations of it are put together, and all that is special to each is combined into one general idea-what is that idea but (in the language, of our apostle himself) that God "made peace" with the guilty "through the blood of the cross," and that Christ is "a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare God's righteousness for the remission of sins, that He might be just and the Justifier of him that believeth in Jesus." In times like these-when this the most characteristic element of the death of Christ is refined away, and nothing is held up to the sin-sick soul but the self-abnegation of Christ in enduring so patiently the ill treatment of men, and God's love in sending Him to exhibit such a character-it is of vital importance to show how inadequate such representations are to convey the import of passages like this before us, and to cling to the substitution of Christ, "the Just for the unjust," as that which alone can meet the crushing sense of our own deserts as sinners before God.
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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Acts 20". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany