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Wednesday, May 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
Acts 20

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Verses 1-6

From Ephesus to Troas

After the uproar, Paul calls the disciples of Ephesus with him and exhorts them. He takes his leave of them and goes on a journey to Macedonia, as he had intended (Acts 19:21). There he writes his second letter to the Corinthians after hearing the good news from Titus about the reaction of the church in Corinth to his first letter to them. In a few words the journey through Macedonia is depicted, without place names or length of stay.

During his transit Paul did visit and speak to the believers each time. Although there is no mention of a long stay, he did not speak fleeting and superficial words. He admonished or encouraged the faithful intensively, with “much exhortation”. He has encouraged them, built them on their most holy faith.

Then he arrives in Greece, without any place being mentioned here either. In the three months that Paul is in Greece, he will certainly have visited the church in Corinth. In these three months he writes from Corinth his letter to the Romans. He renounces his plan to sail to Syria. He would have been happy to sail to Syria, because then he would have been able to go via Antioch to Jerusalem and carry out the first part of his intention. But an intention of the Jews prompted him to change his itinerary. They decided to launch another attack against him. This led him to decide to return by land through Macedonia. In this he was undoubtedly guided by the Spirit, but it is also connected with his own considerations how he should react to the plan of the Jews to kill him.

Luke then lists Paul’s travelling companions. There are seven of them. The list of names shows the interest that God has in people who accompany Paul and support his service. They come from different places where Paul proclaimed the gospel and taught the believers.

Sopater comes from Berea, where the believers have willingly accepted the Word that Paul brought, while examining daily the Scriptures to see if what Paul said corresponds to it (Acts 17:11). Such a willing believer, shaped by the Scriptures, would have been a great support for Paul. He is the son of Pyrrhus, which means ‘ardent’. Perhaps Sopater, like Apollos, is ‘ardent in spirit’.

Aristarchus and Secundus come from Thessalonica where Paul preached the Lord Jesus as King (Acts 17:7). They put themselves under His authority. Aristarchus is called by Paul his ‘fellow prisoner’ and his ‘fellow laborer’ (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 1:24). Secundus means ‘second’, a name that indicates that he takes the second place and that for him the Lord Jesus is the First.

Gaius comes from Derbe, where Timothy also comes from. Tychicus and Trophimus come from the province of Asia, and we know of Trophimus that he comes from Ephesus (Acts 21:29). Tychicus is called by Paul “the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord” and “fellow bond-servant in the Lord” (Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7). Trófimus did not completely go on this journey. He became ill and Paul had to leave him ill in Miletus (2 Tim 4:20).

These seven men travel ahead to Troas, where they wait for Paul and Luke. We can see from the use of the word “us” that Luke has now rejoined Paul. See the word “they” used in Acts 16 (Acts 16:40), after the word “we” also in Acts 16 (Acts 16:10). Paul and Luke sail after the days of Unleavened Bread from Philippi.

Incidentally, there is a period of six to seven years between the time when Paul leaves Philippi while Luke stays there, and the time when they meet here again. All this time, Luke has undoubtedly served the church. He says nothing about that. He figures himself away. What matters to him is God’s work by means of the vessel chosen by Him for that purpose.

Luke mentions as the time of sailing away from Philippi that it is “after the days of Unleavened Bread”. Until the day of Pentecost, when Paul wants to be in Jerusalem (Acts 20:16), there are only seven weeks left. Haste is needed. This haste does not lead to rush, because when Paul and Luke arrive in Troas, they stay there for seven days.

Verse 7

The First Day of the Week

The reason for the seven-day stay in Troas seems to be no other than to celebrate the Lord’s Supper in Troas (cf. Acts 21:4-Deuteronomy :; Acts 28:14). They do this on the evening of the first day of the week. The meeting is in the evening because Sunday is an ordinary working day. Paul and Luke therefore arrived on Monday. They do not organize a meeting on Monday or Tuesday to celebrate the Supper, but they wait until Sunday.

That is the appropriate day to celebrate the Lord’s Supper in the context of the local church (1 Corinthians 10:14-Song of Solomon :; 1 Corinthians 11:17-Nahum :). There is no mention of the celebration of the Lord’s Supper with his companions somewhere along the way apart from a local church. The whole group meets with the local believers on the first day of the week to break bread. Thereby Paul takes the same place as the youngest in the faith.

The first day of the week is the day of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus (Matthew 28:1-2 Samuel :). Twice on that day He appeared to His disciples as they came together (John 20:19; John 20:26). This day is also aptly called “the day of the Lord” (Revelation 1:10). It is the appropriate day to celebrate the “Supper of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:20).

It is significant that in both cases a word is used in Greek for the words “of the Lord” that only occurs in these two cases and that means “belonging to the Lord”. Surely here we have a strong clue to celebrate the Lord’s Supper on the day of the Lord. If we thereby take what we find here with the believers in Troas, where it is stated so emphatically that they come together on the first day of the week to break bread, then surely we have clear indications for the day on which Christians celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

The fact that no commandment is given, but that indications are given, is in keeping with Christendom. The search for alternative days generally means leaving the Christian position in order to return to Judaism connected with creation. Whoever does this, forgets that the seventh day of creation has given way to a new beginning from the dead. Instead of a rest after a week of work done, the life of the Christian begins with rest. We may express this in the Lord’s Supper.

When Paul has celebrated the Lord’s Supper with the believers, he speaks to the church. The first goal of the church meeting is to break bread even though the great apostle Paul is in their midst. After the breaking of bread, the church gives Paul the opportunity to bring to them the Word of God.

Verses 8-9

The Fall of Eutychus

Then Luke describes an event that has an important meaning within the context of Paul’s service. We see in what happens to Eutychus the danger that threatens every church and every individual believer. Luke first gives a description of the space in which the believers are together. It is an upper room, somewhere in an ordinary house on the third floor. Nowhere does Scripture mention a specially consecrated building in which Christians gather.

Apart from the fact that it is an upper room, Luke mentions that there are many lamps. It may be that he mentions this, so that we can imagine that it is quite warm, because oil lamps not only give light, but also warmth. The conclusion then is that this has contributed to Eutychus falling asleep. That could be the case. It does raise the question of how the others in the room were able to endure it. After all, Eutychus was sitting where he had the freshest air. Because of his position he even blocked the inflow of the much-needed fresh air into the undoubtedly full upper room. Therefore, it seems that the mention of the “many lamps” means more than indicating a natural cause of Eutychus’ fall.

Undoubtedly, this history contains a lesson for us. We see that Eutychus has taken a dangerous place. He sits in the window, which means on the border between two worlds. On one side there is the room with lots of light, on the other side he hears below him the amusement of the world. The word “overcome” indicates that he has not suddenly fallen asleep, but that he has slowly but surely fallen asleep.

It becomes his death sleep because he falls down and is picked up dead. He must be resurrected from his death sleep. That is what Paul does. It is an illustration of what Paul is saying to the believers in Ephesus. He tells them to wake up because they are asleep. They must wake up and rise from the dead (Ephesians 5:14). There is as little activity with the sleepers as there is with the dead.

The discussion whether Eutychus was really dead or whether his soul was still in him is not so important. It’s about a situation where there is no life visible anymore. We can end up in that situation if the light we have received is not connected to Christ. Life only becomes visible when Christ is over our light. Maybe we should ask ourselves the question: What really keeps me awake? Christians who are nodding off when the sermon lasts for an hour can stay up a whole night to catch some fish, or follow sports events, or attend concerts, or watch lengthy movies.

Eutychus was not inside and not outside. Perhaps he had come to see the great apostle once and hear him speak. In this way, even today young people can come to see big names without attending meetings as a custom. Maybe it was a bit disappointing after all and he gradually lost interest in what Paul said. Maybe he saw his friends or thought about them and the nice things he could have done with them, while sitting here in a dull room with dull people listening to a dull sermon.

Eutychus had to learn – and each of us has to learn – that it is not the preacher who makes the Word valuable, but the condition of the listener’s heart. Often a fall, a sinful act, is the result of slackening in spiritual things. Before Eutychus falls out of the window, he first falls asleep. In this way we too can fall asleep when we listen to Paul, that is, when we read his letters. The sleep in which the church has fallen and the dead or near-death condition as a result, is also because there is no longer any attention for what Paul has said.

Verses 10-12

Recovery of Eutychus

It is wonderful and instructive how Paul deals with Eutychus. In the first place Paul descends to him. He descends to the level of the fallen young man, showing the attitude of the true shepherd. In the second place he falls upon him. He doesn’t shout from the third floor, from his own high position, all kinds of reproaches at the young man, for instance that he shouldn’t have been so stupid as to sit in the window, a place that asks for trouble. No stories about own guilt. That wouldn’t make any sense at all, because Eutychus didn’t hear anything anyway. We shouldn’t approach someone who has gone astray like that. It’s important to descend to his level and then speak to him. By falling upon the young man, Paul identifies himself with him as it were (cf. 1 Kings 17:21-Song of Solomon :; 2 Kings 4:34). In the third place, Paul embraces the young man. He makes him feel his love and acceptance instead of rejection.

In this way we can translate the three floors that Paul descends into three steps necessary to bring someone back into fellowship with Christ and the believers. First descend to his level. Then fall upon him, that is to identify with what he did and tell him from that attitude what he did. Finally, embrace him, that is to try to win him in love for Christ against Whom he has sinned.

To the others, Paul tells them not to be troubled. All sorts of excited situations about someone who has deviated help nothing. It is important to support pastoral work with believing prayer instead of just talking about the fall someone has made. Through the Spirit Paul gets the power to restore the functions of life. The bonds between soul and body are restored.

After Eutychus’ recovery, Paul goes back upstairs. He is not shocked or upset by what has happened. He did get hungry. That is why he breaks the bread and eats. Breaking the bread here is not the celebration of the Supper, as some interpreters assume. Breaking the bread by one person is an indication for starting an ordinary meal (cf. Acts 27:35). The celebration of the Lord’s Supper is not a personal act, but a communal event. The addition “and ate” makes it clear that Paul here eats food to strengthen his body. Then he talks with them for a long time, realizing that he will not see them again on earth. By daybreak it is time, not to go to bed, but to leave. Paul is a man with an unprecedented energy.

He leaves the believers in Troas with a large supply of teaching and a great comfort through the recovery of Eutychus. Paul’s words and what happened to Eutychus will have served as a powerful impulse for the faith life of the church in Troas for a long time.

Verses 13-16

From Troas to Miletus

Early in the morning of Monday the company left Troas. The next destination is Assos. That goal will be reached by ship, but Paul wants to go on foot to Assos, about forty kilometers from Troas. The fact that Paul takes this hike after a sleepless night makes once again clear that he possesses great willpower and also great body strength.

Luke doesn’t tell us why he wants to go on foot. Yet we can imagine that he does so in order to be alone and to talk to the Lord about His work. He wants to listen to Him, to be in His presence, without the presence of people who, unintentionally, often cause some ‘‘noise’’ in his interaction with the Lord. Every servant needs such a time once in a while, so that he can (re)view his work and the responsibilities it entails, as God sees them.

In Assos Paul joins them again. Luke and the others take him on board. They will have welcomed him warmly. They may have talked to each other about why Paul went on foot. After all, he was in such a hurry. It seems that they don’t ask him any questions and take him as he is. There is confidence in them that he is going his way with the Lord. This trust is of great significance in every situation in which someone goes a way that is different from the way we go. When we know that someone lives with the Lord, it is important to welcome such a person warmly when he comes to us.

From Assos the company sails to Mitylene. After a day of sailing they arrive at Chios. After another day of sailing they are at Samos. Another day later they arrive in one of the harbors of Miletus. They have passed Ephesus. Paul consciously did that. He knows that docking in Ephesus would cause a long delay. His plan is fixed and time is running out.

Verse 17

Paul Calls the Elders of Ephesus to Him

Although Paul cannot go to Ephesus due to lack of time, he still longs to have contact with the church. He cannot call the whole church to him, but he can call the people in charge of the church, the elders. That is why he uses the stop at Miletus to call these elders to him.

That he does this with an intention and not only from an emotional whim, is clear from his speech to them. Of his two earlier speeches, one was to the Jews (Acts 13:15-Mark :) and one to the Gentiles (Acts 17:22-Obadiah :). Here he addresses the elders of the church in Ephesus and in them the whole church there and over their heads then also to the worldwide church.

Elders are always mentioned in plural and are only connected to the local church. So there is no such thing as a reverend or a teaching elder. Elder and overseer is the same person. This is clear from Acts 20:28 where Paul calls this same group of elders overseers (cf. Titus 1:5; Titus 1:7).

Luke has again reserved a lot of space for this speech. This speech is not only important for the elders of Ephesus and the church there, but for the whole Christian church. It gives us an overview of Paul’s ministry. It is not so much about the impact of his ministry to the outside world, as it is about the results for others. It is mainly about the inner side of his ministry, what he himself has experienced and endured, the struggles and soul exercises that went with it, the tears, the care, the commitment with which he carried out his ministry. In this small company of those responsible he feels free to express his feelings, to share them with them as with friends.

His speech also has a prophetic meaning. He speaks about what the impact of his ministry will be in the history of the Christian church if he and the other apostles had passed away.

In his speech he looks
1. back (Acts 20:18-Ecclesiastes :),
2. to the present (Acts 20:22-Daniel :) and
3. to the future (Acts 20:28-Obadiah :).

He speaks of his ministry as
1. evangelist (Acts 20:21; Acts 20:24),
2. teacher (Acts 20:25; Acts 20:27),
3. prophet (Acts 20:29-Amos :) and
4. shepherd (Acts 20:31-Habakkuk :). As a shepherd he has an eye for the whole herd, mentioning his care for the weak specially (Acts 20:35).

We can divide his speech into four parts, with the words “and now” or “and now, behold” marking the different parts:
1. his example (Acts 20:18-Ecclesiastes :),
2. its way (Acts 20:22-Jeremiah :),
3. the developments after his passing (Acts 20:25-Obadiah :) and
4. his commendation (Acts 20:32-Habakkuk :).

Verses 18-21

Paul’s Service With the Ephesians

When the elders have come to him, Paul begins his impressive farewell speech. We can compare these with the speeches that Joshua and Samuel made at their farewell (Joshua 23:1-Nehemiah :; Joshua 24:1-Hosea :; 1 Samuel 12:1-Jeremiah :). It is clear from his speech that he is not calling for submission to his authority or to that of any successor, but that he is asking for following his example.

He begins his speech by reminding the elders of their first encounter. He did not come to them with the request to show him the city and visit all sorts of interesting places. He did not need time to familiarize himself or to explore things or to create a certain atmosphere for his message in a diplomatic way. From the very beginning he devoted himself to his task. They have seen that. His behavior among them has been transparent, there was no need to wonder what he was doing. He has been “with” them, that is to say, he has been one of them and not a preacher standing above them.

The first thing to which he remembers, therefore, is his ministry. Further on Paul gives an overview of his ministry:
1. testifying of repentance and faith (Acts 20:21),
2. testify of the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24),
3. preaching the kingdom (Acts 20:25) and
4. declaring the whole purpose of God (Acts 20:27).

He begins, however, by pointing out his mind. It is not only about what someone says, but also about who says it and how he says it. He has done it in humility. In this way he has served the believers. Yet he does not say that with those words. Here he says that he has served the Lord. Serving the believers is really serving the Lord and that service will be rewarded by Him as such (Matthew 25:40).

He served in humility and not as a celebrated highness who required others to serve him. He is a true follower of his Lord from Whom he has learned this humility (Matthew 11:29). Extra meaning was given to this humility by the tears that appeared during service. He did not serve coolly, from heights or from a distance. His tears expressed his compassion for the other. He was not ashamed of his tears (Acts 20:31; Acts 20:37; 2 Corinthians 2:4; Philippians 3:18). God counts these tears (Psalms 56:8) and He will soon wipe every tear from his eyes (Revelation 7:17).

That humility and those tears were not signs of weakness. They were accompanied by trials and attacks on his life from the side of the Jews. If you can resist them, you are not a weakling but a man of courage, strength, and determination.

He was guided by what was useful to the believers and not by his own preferences. He was always concerned about the Lord and because with the Lord the interests of others are always paramount. This was also the case with Paul, because he looked for what was useful for others, he did not withhold anything. He proclaimed everything that was entrusted to him for the church. Withholding something would mean that he was unfaithful to his Sender and that he did not share in the feelings of the Lord Jesus for His church. Paul had served the believers both “publicly”, that is in the synagogue and the school of Tyrannus, and in a smaller circle “from house to house”.

The first part of that service was to testify of repentance to God which inseparably attached the faith in the Lord Jesus. He gave this testimony, which is the basis of everything, to the Jews and Greeks – the Jews first and foremost. Repentance to God means that one sees oneself in the presence of God and then comes to total self-condemnation. In God’s presence everything is judged as it is in God’s eyes. We no longer apologize and we don’t want to.

The result is confession of sins before God through a conscience that feels itself in His presence (Hebrews 4:12). We justify God in our condemnation, while at the same time trusting in His grace, for He Who is light is also love. This brings us to faith in the Lord Jesus.

Faith in the Lord Jesus means that we trust in His work through which sins have been put away, because He died for our sins. Then He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:3). It is about His Person as the object of faith. He is also our righteousness before God. We are made pleasant in Him.

If true conversion has taken place in God’s presence and before Him, trust and peace come through faith in the Lord Jesus. Repentance and faith are both necessary and inseparable. Only when both aspects are present, does one become a child of God.

Verses 22-24

The Gospel of the Grace of God

Then Paul shares with the elders the purpose of his journey and the urge he feels to do so. For a long time, he was strongly pressed internally to go to Jerusalem. The fact that he says “bound by the spirit” – that is his own human spirit and not the Holy Spirit – could indicate that it was an obligation of love for his people that did not have its direct origin in a commission from God, although not necessarily against God’s will. It is like the wish he expressed to be separated from Christ with a curse for the sake of his brethren of the flesh (Romans 9:3).

These desires of Paul have nothing to do with the sinful flesh, but could, at most, be a zeal of the noblest motives. If it turns out to be a weakness, then any selfishness in this desire is alien to him. The only motive is his burning love for his own people. This love drives him, so to speak, into the lion’s den.

Paul is in fact a slave – which is included in the word ‘bound’ – of his own mind. He is forced in such a way that no other way is open to him. Although it is possible that Paul does not act under the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit, but from the weakness of his own mind because of his love for his relatives according to the flesh, the Lord will still use that for the honor of His Name. There is no self-deception with Paul.

We also see that in what the Holy Spirit expresses to him. Following the testimony of the Spirit, Paul could have sought a way out, but he does not. He knew what the Holy Spirit said to him and that could mean that he did not have to go. The Spirit did not directly tell him not to go, but only told him what was in store for him.

Paul consciously chose what was in store for him, out of love for the Lord Jesus and His earthly people, to save some of His people. He knew that God’s hand was in this. And we know that God would use his captivity to write letters with the highest Christian truths.

All suffering could not prevent Paul from conforming to the will of God. He had learned from his Master how suffering in a world full of sin and misery can have a glorifying effect for God. Paul carried the marks of that suffering in his body (Galatians 6:17).

Paul could count. On the one hand he calculated the value of his life for himself and on the other hand he calculated the value of his life in the service of his Lord. From that calculation it appeared that all profit lay with the Lord Jesus and the commission He had given him (cf. Philippians 3:7-1 Samuel :). He saw his life as God’s gift to him, with which God had a plan: a service to fulfill it to the fullest. He would indeed accomplish his course (2 Tim 4:6-7). Paul fills this out in such a way, that to accomplish his walk, he must also testify the gospel of God’s grace to his own people.

The gospel of the grace of God is the full gospel. The grace of God is more than repentance and faith. In repentance and faith, the emphasis is more on the need of the sinner. In the gospel of the grace of God, the emphasis is on the side of God, everything He has done by revealing His grace. We find this gospel in the letter to the Romans. Among other things we learn there that the believer stands in the grace of God and that he is justified by faith alone, on the basis of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus (Romans 5:1-Exodus :).

Verses 25-27

The Kingdom and Purpose of God

Paul announces his farewell. It will be a definitive farewell. He knows that they will not see each other again. Against the background of this announcement, he reminds the elders that he went around among all of them to preach the kingdom. The kingdom is mentioned here for the fifth time out of a total of seven times mentioned in Acts (Acts 1:3; Acts 8:12Acts 14:22; Acts 19:8Acts 20:25; Acts 28:23Acts 28:31).

Paul did not only speak about the kingdom in its future glorious form, as it will be when the Lord Jesus reigns on earth. He also proclaimed the meaning of the kingdom that it has in this day and age, in which it is not yet visible, but is present (Colossians 1:13; Romans 14:17). The believers are subjects of the Lord Jesus in that kingdom. Linked to the kingdom is the idea of dominion and service. Believers acknowledge the Lord Jesus as their Lord and serve Him. The kingdom has to do with our acknowledgment of the reign of the Lord Jesus in daily life and in every area of it.

Because they will no longer see his face, “therefore”, he declares on this day that he is innocent of the blood of all men. Earlier he said to unbelievers that he was clean of their blood (Acts 18:6), here he says that to believers. He knows that he is not in debt to them. After all, he told them everything he had to tell them. The word “for” indicates the reason for his being innocent of the blood of all men, not just the elders: he has not withheld anything from the whole purpose of God.

The proclamation of the purpose or counsel of God is the fourth part of his ministry. Later on he will record this counsel, especially in the letter to the Colossians and the letter to the Ephesians. It is the counsel of God that extends from eternity to eternity. His ministry concerning the counsel of God has come to an end, because he has communicated everything he had to communicate. No new things will be revealed after what has been entrusted to him (Colossians 1:25).

Verses 28-31


Thus he has accounted for his motives and his ministry. Now he turns to the elders. He calls upon them to be attentive to their own spiritual mindset in the first place. Only when this is in order can they also be on guard for the flock to provide it with what it needs (cf. 1 Timothy 4:16). As said, Paul speaks to this group of elders as overseers. He also reminds them of the origin of their service. No one less than the Holy Spirit has given them that place in the church in Ephesus.

There is no mention of any appointment of elders by the church or by any human institution. The Holy Spirit appoints them. If there is a human being involved, it is an apostle or his envoy. This is evident from the few times that there is talk about the appointment of elders (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5). Since there are no more apostles, the appointment by human beings ceases.

As mentioned before, elders and bishops are names for the same person. In the church this has been handled differently. The Greek word for elder is presbuteros. That has been corrupted to our word ‘priest’. The Greek word for ‘bishop’ is episkopos. That is corrupted to our word ‘bishop’. Soon in the Christian church a distinction was made between the priest and the bishop. That distinction does not exist in the New Testament. It indicates the same person, but with a different accent. With the elder it is more about age, wisdom and life experience; with the overseer it is more about the task, the supervision of the flock.

Elders or overseers perform their task in the local church. The local church is a miniature of the worldwide church. That whole church is the church of God. He has “purchased it with the blood of his own” (Acts 20:28, Darby Translation). It is the blood of Him Who is of Himself, i.e. of His Son. “The blood of his own” or “his own blood” is not the blood of God. That goes too far, Scripture does not speak that way anywhere. The blood is connected to the Lord Jesus, the Son of God Who became Man, to be able to give His blood as a purchase price for the church.

It is the church of God and not that of the elders or any other human being. It will happen unconsciously by some, but every pastor who speaks about ‘my church’ speaks pretentiously and steps into the rights of God. Only the Lord Jesus has the right to speak about “My church” (Matthew 16:18). No one has purchased that church; the Lord Jesus has done so. Therefore, it is wrong for a person to speak about ‘my church’ after all.

Then Paul speaks about the very near future. He speaks about ‘after my departure’. In the first place he foresees that savage wolves (cf. Matthew 7:15; John 10:12) will come in from outside to do their destructive work in the church. They can come in because the shepherds have not remained vigilant. We have an example of such people in John’s second letter, in which we also have the indication that such savage wolves should be denied entry (2 John 1:10-1 Kings :).

Secondly, people will rise up from the middle of the church who distort the truth. They do this to make themselves the center instead of Christ. Wanderers not only bring false doctrine, but also seek followers. They set themselves up as cult leaders. They are often more difficult to recognize than the savage wolves. In the third letter of John in the person of Diotrephes we have a telling and cautionary example of these dangers from within (3 John 1:9-2 Samuel :).

In connection with what is about to happen, Paul warns to be on the alert. He binds their own responsibility upon them. They must always remember what he has told them to keep them on the right path and also how he has done it. Incessantly, night and day (cf. Genesis 31:38-Matthew :; 1 Samuel 25:16), he has been doing this, for three years. Each time tears appeared; thus he was moved by the fate of his beloved Ephesians. His message is soaked with tears. Such words must reach purpose in hearts in which true care for the church is present.

Verse 32

God and the Word of His Grace

Paul has spoken about his service, both in terms of his mind and behavior and in terms of its contents. He also reminded them of their responsibility in view of the upcoming developments. Now he commends them to God and to His grace as expressed in His Word. Paul and the other apostles have not placed their authority in human hands. There is no apostolic succession whatsoever. What remains when the apostles disappear is God and the Word of His grace.

The Word has always remained. From that source the believer can draw in all times the strength to know God’s thoughts about the Lord Jesus and to live to His honor. But also the attacks have remained that are aimed that the people of God will not draw their strength from it. Attempts are being made to add new revelations to the Word, both in the form of traditions and in the form of people who say that God has shown them certain things. In the history of the church, traditions have determined the explanation early on. Today, the authority of the Word is challenged and criticized.

All these attacks can only be turned down if we give the Word its full authority over our lives and if we are aware that the grace of God wants to help us in this. Then the Word not only offers protection, but builds it up, establishes and comforts us and encourages us and brings us into the inheritance. We already have a share in the inheritance of the saints in the light (Colossians 1:12) and we will actually participate when we reign with Christ (Ephesians 1:10-2 Chronicles :).

“Among all those who are sanctified” means in the midst of all the saints, together with them. The saints are a group of people set apart by God to own this inheritance together. To belong to the saints is a great privilege and is exclusively due to God and the Word of His grace.

Verses 33-35

Paul Again Points to His Example

Paul left not only his teachings with them, but also his example. Doctrine and practice belong together. Passing on the doctrine must go hand in hand with setting a good example. For some Christian leaders, money is the driving force of their work. They see religion as a source of income (1 Timothy 6:5). This was not the case with Paul. He wanted to be completely independent of them. He also did not feel too good to just work with his hands. He showed the elders his furrowed, callous hands. By doing so he had not only worked for himself, but also for those who were with him.

What an unbridled dedication this man showed and all that for the benefit of others. He especially cared about the fate of the poor. We should not take advantage of the weak, but rather dedicate ourselves to them. How easily we only want to dedicate ourselves to people we enjoy ourselves or because of the advantage it gives us. Then we do not resemble the Lord Jesus. That is exactly what Paul wanted and that is what he presents to the elders and to us.

To underline the importance of working like this, Paul quotes a word that the Lord Jesus spoke. If we read the Gospels, we will not encounter that statement. But does this statement not show the whole tenor of the Lord’s life and does it not correspond to the teaching He has given about ‘giving’ (Luke 14:14)?

Verses 36-38

The Farewell

Paul is not waiting for an answer. He spoke from his heart to those he loved. What remains is to add the deed to the word and to commend them to God and to the Word of His grace. Therefore, he kneels down and prays with them all. Whether or not they have prayed is not clear. What we do read, however, is that they burst out in loud weeping. What Paul said made a deep impression. That also has certainly to do with the contents of his words concerning future events. What makes them most sad, however, is that Paul has said that they will not see his face again.

By this subtle remark, the Holy Spirit perhaps wants to tell us that they did not quite understand the seriousness of what Paul has said. Would they otherwise not have wept more about the imminent dangers that Paul has announced than about his departure? We know that already in those days the church was threatened by great dangers (1 Timothy 1:3-Numbers :; cf. Revelation 2:1-Deuteronomy :).

Be that as it may, they loved him wholeheartedly. Their grief about his departure was sincere. Their expressions of love were intense. If we have ever seen someone who has meant a lot to us fall away, and what impression that has made on us, then we can also somewhat imagine that his final departure gives them great sadness. After the heart moving scene of weeping, embracing and kissing, they accompany Paul to the ship.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Acts 20". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/acts-20.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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