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Bible Commentaries
Acts 20

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

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Verses 1-16


Acts 20:1-16

1And [But] after the uproar was [had] ceased, Paul called unto him the disciples1 , and embraced them [saluted them on parting], and departed for to go into [went out of the city (ἐξῆλθε) in order to travel to] Macedonia. 2And when he had gone over [through] those parts [regions], and had given them much exhortation [exhorted them with many words], he came into Greece, 3And there abode three months. And when [And after he had abode there three months, and] the Jews laid wait for him, as [when] he was about to sail into Syria, he purposed [resolved] to return through Macedonia. 4And there accompanied him into [as far as, ἄχρι,] Asia Sopater [the son of Pyrrhus2 ], of Berea; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timotheus; and [but] of Asia, Tychicus and Trophimus. 5These going before [went before and] tarried for us at Troas. 6And [But] we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days [by the fifth day]; where we abode seven days. 7And [But] upon the first day of the week, when the disciples [when we3] came together to break bread, Paul preached unto [discoursed with] them, ready [intending] to depart on the morrow [following day]; and continued his speech [prolonged the discourse, τὸν λόγον] until midnight. 8And [δὲ] there were many lights [lamps] in the upper chamber, where they [we4 ] were gathered together. 9And [But] there sat in a window a certain young man [a youth] named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching [long continued to speak], he sunk down with [was overcome by] sleep, and fell down from the third loft [story], and was taken [lifted] up dead. 10And [But] Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves [Be not distressed]; for his life [soul, ψυχὴ] is in him. 11When he therefore was come up again [Then (δὲ καὶ) he went up], and had broken [broke the5] bread, and eaten [ate something], and talked a long while [talked much with them], even till break of day, so he [and thus (οὕτως) he] departed. 12And [But] they brought the young man [lad, παῖδα] alive, and were not a little comforted. 13And [But] we went before to ship [in advance to the (τὸ) vessel], and sailed unto Assos, there [thence] intending to take in [up] Paul; for so had he appointed, minding [intending] himself to go afoot [by land]. 14And [But] when he met with us at Assos, we took him in [up], and came to Mitylene. 15And we sailed thence, and came the next day over against [opposite to] Chios; and the next day we arrived at [approached] Samos, and tarried at Trogyllium6 ; and the next day [on the following day] we came to Miletus. 16For Paul had determined [resolved]7 to sail by [past] Ephesus, because he would not spend the time [in order that it might not be necessary for him to delay] in Asia; for he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at [come to] Jerusalem [by] the day of Pentecost.


Acts 20:1. And after the uproar was ceased.—The departure of the apostle was not, (as Hug, Ewald and others suppose), occasioned or hastened by the tumult which had occurred, as if he fled because his life was still endangered. On the contrary, the first words of this chapter specify only the time, but not the motive, of his departure; they simply inform us that he waited until quiet was restored, and then commenced the journey which he had previously (Acts 19:21-22) resolved to make. [“Notices of this journey may be found 2 Corinthians 2:12-13; 2 Corinthians 7:5-6.” (Alf.).—Tr.]

Acts 20:2-3. And when he had gone over those parts.—Αὐτούς refers to the Christians in Macedonia, as the words μέρη ἐκεῖνα and Μακεδ. show. Ἑλλάς is not to be understood of Greece, exclusive of Achaia, and particularly of the Peloponnesus (Bengel); it here denotes the whole of Greece, to which Luke elsewhere applies the official name of Achaia, but which he now designates by the older and the popular name of Hellas. The participle ποιήσας is anacoluthic [comp. ἐπιγόντες, note 5 appended to text of Acts 19:21-41.—Tr.]; the very construction of the sentence exhibits the haste with which Luke, on this occasion, passes over the labors of the apostle in Europe. The insidious attempt of the Jews on the life of Paul was doubtless made at Corinth, from which point he had intended to proceed by water to Syria; it induced him to proceed thither by land. This route conducted him through Macedonia, but occupied so much more time than the other, that he was ultimately compelled to proceed with very great haste (Acts 20:16), if he desired to reach Jerusalem at the appointed time.

Acts 20:4-5. And there accompanied him.—Luke now refers to the attendants of the apostle, of whom he names not less than seven, while he himself, according to Acts 20:5 ff; Acts 13 ff., also belonged to the company. Three were natives of Macedonia, the other four, of Asia Minor. Sopater of Berea, who is otherwise unknown, is first named, as the apostle on his return passed through Berea, which lay further to the south, before he reached Thessalonica, to which city the two friends belonged, who are next mentioned. Of the latter, Secundus is not introduced elsewhere, whereas Aristarchus had already been in the company of the apostle at Ephesus, (Acts 19:29), at a later period attended him during his voyage to Rome (Acts 27:2), and also shared his imprisonment in that city (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 1:24). As Gaius was of Derbe, he was a different person from the Macedonian Gaius mentioned in Acts 19:29. The name of Timotheus occurs without any additional remark, as previous statements (Acts 16:1, etc.), had already made him sufficiently known. Tychicus was also with Paul in Rome at a later period. (Colossians 4:7-8; Ephesians 6:21), and carried letters of the apostle to congregations in Asia Minor; comp. 2 Timothy 4:12; Titus 3:12. Trophimus, as we are specially informed in the next chapter (Acts 21:29), was an Ephesian by birth. As a Gentile-Christian, he was the innocent cause of the tumult which occurred in Jerusalem, and of the arrest of the apostle. The words ἄχρι τ. Ἀσ. specify Asia proconsularis as the destination of the company, without, however, denying that any of the number, e. g., Aristarchus and Timotheus [Acts 21:29; Acts 27:2] remained with the apostle until he reached Jerusalem. All proceeded with the latter as far as Asia, but not further. The conjecture of Baumgarten that all the men accompanied Paul to Jerusalem, in order to be there presented not only to the believers, but also to all Israel as the seven representatives of the converted Gentile world, is not satisfactorily sustained by the considerations which have been advanced in its favor.

Acts 20:6. a. And we sailed away.—After the seven attendants had departed from Philippi, they were followed by Paul and Luke; for the latter again refers to himself in the word ἡμᾶς, Acts 20:5. The distinction between οὖτοι, Acts 20:5, (which also includes Timotheus, Acts 20:4) and ἡμεῖς, Acts 20:6, forbids us to assume [with several recent German authors.—Tr.] that Timotheus was the writer of those passages in which the pronoun “we” occurs. Luke had remained at Philippi, during Paul’s second missionary journey, Acts 16:14 [see Exeg. note on Acts 16:35-40. b. ult.—Tr.]; he now rejoins the apostle in the same city, Acts 20:6, on the return of the latter from his third missionary journey. At this point, accordingly, precise specifications of the time begin, as if a journal had been kept, in which the incidents of the journey were recorded.

b. After the days of unleavened bread, and of the Passover, Paul sailed with Luke from Philippi; the vessel did not, however, arrive at Troas, until the fifth day, whereas, according to Acts 16:11-12, the voyage from Troas to Philippi, on that occasion, required scarcely three days.

Acts 20:7-8. a. And upon the first day of the week.—Luke here relates, Acts 20:7-12, an event which occurred in Troas—the restoration to life of a youth, whose death had been occasioned by a fall, at the time when Paul was conducting religious services on the eve of his departure, namely, upon the first day of the week. According to the Hebraistic usus loquendi, peculiar both to the Gospels and the Acts [see Winer: Gram. § 37. 1.—Tr.], and also to the epistles of Paul (1 Corinthians 16:2), μία is used for πρώτη. Now, the first day of the week was our Sunday; and we here observe the first trace of the observance of Sunday, which the history of the church exhibits. It cannot be denied, it is true, that this assembly of the Christians for the purpose of breaking bread, i.e., for partaking of the bread in connection with the holy religious services—the Lord’s Supper,—and for hearing the word of God, might have accidentally occurred on the first day of the week, since Paul’s departure was to take place on the following day (Meyer). But this interpretation, at the same time, fails to explain Luke’s motive for mentioning this day in such express terms. His language plainly indicates that this day was precisely one that was kept holy and one on which assemblies for religious services were customarily held. With this view the circumstance most happily agrees, that the first mention of the observance of Sunday is made in connection with a Gentile-Christian congregation, since, according to the nature of the case, this custom was introduced at an earlier period and with more ease in Gentile-Christian, than in Judæo-Christian congregations. [See Conyb. and H., Life, etc., of St. Paul. Ch. 20. Vol. II. 212.—Tr.]

b. When they [we] were gathered together.—[For ἦμεν, Acts 20:8, instead of ἦσαν, see above, note 3, appended to the text, as well as for ἡμῶν, Acts 20:7, instead of τ. μαθ—Tr.]. The historian indicates by ἡμῶν, that he himself was present at this assembly; he appends, immediately afterwards, the words διελέγετο αὑτοῖς, as the discourse of the apostle was essentially a farewell sermon (μέλλων ἐξιέναι), addressed to those from whom he was parting, and not to his travelling companions, among whom was the historian. This circumstance was overlooked by many persons, particularly by transcribers, who, consequently, supposed that they ought to write τῶν μαθητῶν, instead of ἡμων. The lamps were many in number, on account of the solemnity of the occasion (not torches (Luther), but hand-lamps.). [“Lights, literally, lamps, but in a wider sense than that which we attach to it, including torches, candles, lanterns, etc., and therefore, both in etymology and usage, corresponding very nearly to the word used in the English version.” (Alex.).—Tr.]

Acts 20:9. There sat in a window a certain young man.—Eutychus was sitting on the window, i.e., on the ledge or bench of the opening, which, according to the ancient custom, was not furnished with glass, nor even, in this particular case, with a screen or with shutters; it was, literally, an open window. From this place, which was in the third story of the house, he fell down in his sleep. The construction with the four participles is the following: a young man sitting on the window, and falling into a deep sleep, while Paul long continued to speak, fell down, being overcome by sleep, etc. The article is prefixed when ὕπνος occurs the second time, as the latter had already been mentioned. Ἤρθη νεκρός simply means: he was dead when lifted up, i.e., not carried into the house, but found to be dead when the people attempted to raise him up. Neither this expression, nor the context in general, furnishes any reason for taking νεκρός in the sense of ὡς νεκρός (as de Wette, Olshausen and others do), as if the young man had been only apparently dead, or had fainted, etc.

Acts 20:10-12. And Paul … fell on him, etc.—The procedure of the apostle, who laid himself on the dead body, resembled that of Elisha in the case of the deceased son of the Shunammite (2 Kings 4:34), and that of Elijah in the case of the son of the widow of Zarephath [Sarepta, Luke 4:26] (1 Kings 17:21); it was his object to reanimate the lifeless body through the medium of bodily contact and vital warmth. After this act had been performed, Paul said to those who surrounded him, that they should not be disquieted nor distressed (θορυβεῖσθαι, in the middle voice, consternor, not merely: to cry aloud, as Luther and de Wette interpret the word, as this sense seems less suited to the context, than the other.). [“Do not lament, which, according to the Oriental habit and the import of the word, they were doing with loud and passionate outcry; comp. Matthew 9:23; Mark 5:39.” (Hackett).—Tr.]. “His soul is in him,” said Paul, not: “is again in him,” but as little: “is yet in him.” Paul could not say the latter, for the young man had been actually killed by the fall, and the former he would not say, as he did not desire to make an ostentatious display of himself and his miraculous power. Still, the whole statement is of such a nature as to show conclusively that the restoration of the deceased was effected by the miraculous operation of the apostle. Indeed, the words ἤγαγον—ζῶντα, Acts 20:12, as contradistinguished from ἤρθη νεκρός, Acts 20:9, plainly exhibit the meaning which Luke intended to convey. The statement that, after this incident, Paul broke the bread and ate (that is, performed the act which he had originally in view, according to Acts 20:11 compared with Acts 20:7), that he resumed his discourse, and that he continued even till break of day, implies that the design and the continuance of the meeting had not been seriously affected by an occurrence, the consequences of which might have been very painful. Κλᾷν ἄρτον, Acts 20:11, cannot be otherwise understood than as in Acts 20:7, although Grotius and Kuinoel allege that the expression refers in Acts 20:7 to a religious meal, but in Acts 20:11 merely to an early meal, of which the traveller partook when he departed.—Οὕτως before ἐξῆλθεν, implies that Paul commenced his journey without having found any repose during that whole night.

Acts 20:13-15. And sailed unto Assos.—Luke furnishes in these verses a detailed account of the journey from Troas to Miletus. The companions of Paul at first sailed without him, and proceeded along the coast from Troas to Assos in Mysia, opposite to the northern angle of Lesbos, while Paul went by land to the same point, the distance being nine [German] miles [twenty English miles, or, according to Sir C. Fellows, thirty miles (Conyb. and H. Vol. II. 213, 214).—Tr.]. Luke does not explain the motive of Paul for making this arrangement (ἧν διατεταγμένος, middle voice), and the various conjectures of commentators are alike unsupported by known facts, e. g., a regard for his health (Calvin); caution, in view of hostile movements on the part of the Jews (Michaelis); official labors in the intermediate region (Meyer); the desire to be alone (Baumgarten; Ewald).—From Assos, where the apostle embarked, the company proceeded in a southerly direction, so near to the coast, that they sailed between the islands of Lesbos (on the east side of which Mitylene was beautifully situated), Chios, Samos, and the western coast of Asia Minor.—Παραβάλλειν here may mean to touch at, rather than to pass over to, which the word undoubtedly also means.—They sailed, however, from Samos to the opposite coast of Ionia, and landed at the promontory and city of Trogyllium, at the foot of mount Mycale; the distance from Samos was forty stadia. They had already passed Ephesus before they touched at Samos. Luke informs us in Acts 20:16, of Paul’s motive for not landing at Ephesus. He apprehended, that if he visited the city, he would be unavoidably detained there; on the other hand, the time admitted of no delay, if he wished to reach Jerusalem at or before the festival of Pentecost. Hence he did not land until he reached Miletus, which was situated about nine [German] miles to the south [about 30 miles (“fifty,” Alf.) distant from Ephesus.—Tr.]; here he arrived on Saturday. [See Conyb. and H. Life, etc., of St. Paul, II. 220.—Tr.].


1. The observance of Sunday is, according to scriptural history and doctrine, not legal, but evangelical, in its character. It is here mentioned in a very unpretending manner; it might even seem to be accidental that the religious services of the assembly at Troas occurred precisely on a Sunday. The apostolical sanctification of the Sunday was a custom, not a precept, and corresponded to the Spirit of Jesus, as well as to the character of the apostle Paul. The Augsburg Confession accordingly testifies that Sunday is an ordinance which shall be observed for the sake of peace and love, but that it is not absolutely necessary to salvation [Augs. Conf. art. XVIII.].

2. In the procedure of the Christians at Troas, religious services are combined in an intimate and holy manner with the requisitions of Christian social life. The apostle Paul takes leave of those brethren; but his farewell discourse is, at the same time, founded on the word of God, and, conversely, his instructions concerning divine things also assume the form of an easy and social conversation (ὁμιλεῖν, διαλέγεσθαι). All had assembled for the purpose of breaking the bread; it was, on the one hand, a holy and sacramental Supper of the Lord, but also, on the other, a meal of brotherly fellowship. The Spirit, of Christ sanctifies the natural elements, and imparts to the bond which unites man to man, all its real strength, its lofty meaning, and its genuine and affectionate character. And the grace of God in Christ, the God-Man, is communicated to believers in visible signs and corporeal pledges. Thus the Human and the Divine, the Corporeal and the Spiritual, nature and grace, join hand to hand in Christianity.

3. The restoration of the young man to life was effected by means of the contact and embrace of the apostle. Paul placed his vital warmth in direct communication with the corpse which had scarcely become cold. The power to impart life to the dead, unquestionably did not depend on that personal contact; such an act can be performed solely by the almighty power of God. But when that power is exercised through the medium of a man filled with faith and the Spirit, it operates through corporeal and natural means. Such was usually the case with the miracles which Jesus wrought, or when the sick were healed by the imposition of hands, and here, too, when an individual was restored to life, whose death had been occasioned by a fall. But the unostentatious manner in which the apostle speaks of the act, is an evidence that, in a higher order of things, even the Supernatural becomes natural, and hence does not claim a striking or unusual character.


Acts 20:1. And after the uproar was ceased, Paul … embraced them.—Paul does not flee like a hireling who seeth the wolf coming [John 10:12], but takes leave after the battle is fought and peace is restored. (Rieger).—Even though the servants of God depart, they leave a blessing behind them—not only the blessing of the seed which they scattered, but also the blessing of their prayers, the blessing of their tears which God has seen, and the blessing of the promises which the Saviour has given them. It is truly a rich blessing which the servants of God bequeath. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 20:2. And when he had gone over, etc.—As a prudent householder is not only diligent in seeking large gains, but also careful in securing them, so, too, should the pastor not only seek to gain souls for Christ, but also diligently labor to retain them in His service. (Starke).—Paul always exhibits the same characteristic features. In prisons, in tumults, among the disciples, in the world, in journeys—in short, under all circumstances, he remained a servant of God, and never forgot, even when he walked in paths that were painful, to exhort, to comfort and to strengthen believers, wherever they could be found. How his example puts all those to shame, who lay aside their ecclesiastical character with the official robe, leaving it behind them at the church door, and who are least of all disposed to consecrate their journeys to the service of Jesus! (Ap. Past.).

Acts 20:3. And when the Jews laid wait for him … he purposed to return, etc.—Paul well knew that he could not much longer escape the snares of his enemies; still, he did not wish to avoid them until the hour of the Lord had come, John 7:30. (Williger).—He who said: “Fear not them which kill the body,” [Matthew 10:28], also said: “Beware of men” [Matthew 10:17]. (Rieger).

Acts 20:4. And there accompanied him, etc.—From what different points of view men behold the Christian! Some of them seek after his life; others, who love him, are willing to sacrifice their lives for him. (Rieger).—Our faithful God beheld, as it seems, with special favor the fellowship of these believers with the sufferings of Paul, for He has caused the names of all those who accompanied the apostle in his exile, to be carefully recorded. He thus declares that the trial of their faith and love deserves to be perpetually remembered. (Ap. Past.).—Six or seven devout persons, who are united together, are an army which Satan dreads, especially if a Paul is their leader. O Lord! Send thou such missionaries to the heathen! (Quesnel).

Acts 20:6. After the days of unleavened bread.—Paul paused in his labors during the holy Easter-week. Journeys, which admit of delay, should not be performed on festivals. (Lindheim).

Acts 20:7. And upon the first day of the week … came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them.—There is a happy correspondence between the bread of the divine word and the Lord’s Supper. The former is intended to prepare men for the latter—the latter creates an increased hunger for the former. (Starke).—And continued his speech until midnight.—The remark made in Acts 20:2, that Paul gave “much exhortation,” and the fact that he here prolonged his discourse till midnight, beautifully illustrate the fulness of grace and the ardor of spirit which distinguished him, even at the period when the end of his life was near at hand. Still, the example of Paul affords no excuse for sermons which are of immoderate length. Not every preacher is a Paul, whose word overflows with the Spirit, and whose heart overflows with grace. Neither is every sermon a farewell sermon, as in the present case, when Paul intended to depart on the next day. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 20:8. And there were many lights in the upper chamber.—The Gospel has consecrated all the hours of the day, and also those of the night, to its service. The evening hours, which devout assemblies of believers sanctify, are precisely those which exercise the greatest influence on the soul, as they so strikingly exhibit the Lord’s victory over all the powers of darkness. It is, at the same time, true, that the Adversary has already attempted, and not always without success, to introduce insidiously his own darkness into the evening assemblies of the children of light. (Williger).—The circumstance that there were many lights in the upper chamber, shows that believers were, at that time, very careful to avoid giving offence. (Rieger).

Acts 20:9. And there sat in a window a certain young man.—If this sleep at midnight exposed the young man to such danger, how can those be excused who sleep during the sermon in the day-time? And if bodily sleep exposes to danger, what is the situation of him whose soul is asleep in spiritual security? (Starke).—And how can those be excused, who never sleep in church, because they never enter it, but who, yielding to the deep sleep of security, do not indeed fall down from the third loft, but fall from God and heaven, into the abyss of sin and hell, and are entirely dead? (Gossner).—An accident which occurs during the performance of a lawful and holy act, is no evidence of divine displeasure. (Starke).

Acts 20:10. And Paul went down, and fell on him.—The act of extending the body over a corpse was performed, it is true, by Elijah and Elisha, but never by our blessed Saviour, and least of all by Peter, when he restored Tabitha to life [Acts 9:36 ff.]. There is a certain propriety which should characterize every act (Rieger).—Trouble not yourselves.—Loud demonstrations should always be avoided, when tokens of the presence of God are observed; this principle specially applies to cases in which a death occurs. We should, at such times, direct the attention of those who are present to the invisible world and to the ministry of the angels, as far as the Scriptures enable us to form conjectures on such subjects. (Rieger).

Acts 20:11. When he was … come up again, and had broken bread.—No other interruption occurred—a beautiful illustration of the calm and thoughtful spirit which pervaded the assembly. (Williger).

Acts 20:12. They brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted.—God can speak to us through the dead, as well as through those who live. (Starke).—The apostle restored him to the disciples alive, as a precious farewell gift. (Besser).

Acts 20:13. Minding himself to go afoot.—Without doubt Paul journeyed by land, and withdrew from the society of his beloved brethren, for the purpose of seeking a close and perfect communion with God. This witness, who was rapidly approaching the scene of his sufferings, probably felt the necessity more deeply than ever, of approaching the very presence of God by prayer, and of consecrating himself as a willing sacrifice to the holy and righteous will of God. Like Jesus, who withdrew even from his chosen disciples in Gethsemane, we separate, at such times, from all our brethren, in order to be alone with God. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 20:16. For he hasted, etc.—A teacher must have the same mind which was in his Lord and Master. Even as He voluntarily went forward and encountered sufferings and death, so Paul here hastens to be at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, although he knew that bonds and afflictions awaited him there, Acts 20:23. (Starke).


Acts 20:1.—The Lord bless you! We pray, I. That God may watch over your bodies and souls; II. That he may grant you grace, by the remission of sins, and adoption as his children; III. That he may give you peace—in the church and the state, in every family and every heart. (Lisco).

Acts 20:1-6. When they persecute you in one city, flee ye into another [Matthew 10:28]: I. Paul’s manner of following this counsel; II. The lessons which we thence learn, (id.).—Trials and persecutions, viewed as blessings to the servants of God: I. They are more perfectly fitted by these for performing their work; II. They are more closely united to one another in love. (id.).

Acts 20:7-17. The communion of saints in love: I. Manifested, by the feast of love and by the word which is willingly preached, and willingly heard; II. Tried by an alarming event, which, by the help of God, terminated in holy joy; III. Abounding in fruits—in united action, and patient endurance of common sufferings. (From Lisco).—Preaching, and the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7): I. Their nature; II. The relation in which they stand to each other; III. The blessings which they diffuse. (From Lisco).—Paul’s last missionary labors, or, “I must work while it is day, before the night cometh, wherein no man can work.” [John 9:4]. The evening of the apostle’s day is approaching; the end of his pilgrimage is at hand. But he unweariedly continues his labors: I. Blessing the brethren in love, Acts 20:1; II. Enduring persecution in humility, Acts 20:3; III. Preaching the Gospel in power, Acts 20:7; IV. Working miracles in faith, Acts 20:9-12; V. Pressing toward the mark [Philippians 3:14] in steadfast obedience.—The memorable evening service at Troas: I. An admonitory example of Christian zeal for the word of God; neither is the apostle weary of preaching, nor the congregation of listening, even until midnight, Acts 20:7. II. A warning example of human weakness and sloth; the sleep and fall of Eutychus, Acts 20:9. “Watch and pray, etc.” [Matthew 26:41]. III. A consolatory example of divine grace and faithfulness; the restoration of the young man, and the comfort of the disciples, Acts 20:10-12. “He that is our God, etc.” [Psalms 68:20].—Trouble not yourselves!—an affectionate admonition, addressed to every house of mourning, (Acts 20:10): I. Profane not the silent chamber of death, (a) by wild complaints against God; (b) by utter despair; (c) by an ostentatious funeral; (d) by unbrotherly contentions respecting the inheritance. II. Humbly submit to the Lord; (a) yield to his will with a patient spirit; (b) gratefully accept the consolations of his word; (c) confide with childlike faith in his gracious presence; (d) perform the offices of love with tenderness.—Paul alone, on the road to Assos, or, The value of the hours of solitude which a diligent servant of God finds; Acts 20:13-14. They are devoted, I. To self-examination; II. To holy communion with the Lord;. III. To happy repose, amid the tumult of the world; IV. To careful preparation for new conflicts.—[Acts 20:9; Proverbs 27:1. On sudden deaths: I. The causes: (a) immediate, b) remote; II. Divine purpose in permitting them: (a) partially hidden; (b) partially revealed; III. Effect which they produce: (a) often a deep and permanent impression; (b) often speedily forgotten; IV. Lessons which they teach: (a) respecting man’s true condition on earth; (b) respecting his duties to his own soul.—Tr.]


Acts 20:1; Acts 20:1. Lachmann inserts the words καὶ παρακαλέσας after ἀσπασἀμενος, in accordance with some manuscripts [viz., A. B. D. E.]; this reading, [omitted in text. rec. and by G. H.], like some others which are connected with it, seems to be spurious, and is cancelled by Tischendorf. [Alford, like Lach., inserts the two words with a comma after them. They are found also in Cod. Sin. Meyer supposes that they were a marginal gloss on ἀσπασ. borrowed from Acts 20:2, since no plausible reason can be assigned for the omission, if they are genuine; de Wette concurs with him.—Tr.]

Acts 20:4; Acts 20:4. IIύῤῥου, after Σωπ. is omitted in text. rec., but is sustained by four uncial manuscripts [A. B. D. E., and also by Cod. Sin.], by thirty minuscules, and by several ancient versions; it is omitted only in the two latest uncial manuscripts [G. H., also Syr. The printed text of the Vulg. omits the name, but Pyri occurs in Cod. Amiatinus; the Sixtine edition exhibited Sosipater.—Tr.]. The name was perhaps dropped on account of the similarity of sound, as it resembles Bεροιαῖος [IIυρ-, Bερ] which immediately follows. Lach. and Tisch. [also Alf. and later editors generally] have with great propriety, inserted this name.

Acts 20:7; Acts 20:7. The text. rec., which is followed by Griesbach and Scholz, exhibits τῶν μαθητῶν [after συνηγμένων, instead of ἡμῶν], in accordance with G. H.; but this reading is undoubtedly a later alteration [by copyists], in order to suit αὐτοῖς. [See below, Exeg. note on Acts 20:7-8. b.—Tr.]. The manuscripts A. B. D. E. [also Cod. Sin.], twenty minuscules, and most of the versions [Vulg.], read ἡμῶν.—Further, in Acts 20:8, only a few minuscules exhibit ῆ̓σαν [with text. rec., before (συνηγ, instead of which all the uncial manuscripts [A. B. D. E. G. H. also Cod. Sin., many minuscules, Vulg. etc.] sustain ἦμεν [Recent editors generally, depart here from the text. rec.—τοῦ before κλάσι. (Acts 20:7), of text. rec. from D., is omitted by recent editors in accordance with A. B. E. G. H. Cod. Sin.—Tr.]

Acts 20:8; Acts 20:8. [See the foregoing note for ̓̔͂ημεν.—Tr.]

Acts 20:11; Acts 20:11. τὸν before ἅρτον [omitted in text. rec.], is found in A. B. C. D (original), but is omitted in D (corrected). E. G. H. It was inconsiderately dropped [by copyists] to suit ἅρτον [without the article] in Acts 20:7. [Inserted by Lach., Tisch., Born., and Alf.—τὸν is found in Cod. Sin. (original), but Tisch. remarks concerning a later hand: “C improbavit.”—Tr.]

Acts 20:15; Acts 20:15. Lachmann cancels the words καὶ μείναντες ἐν Tρωγ. [and inserts δὲ before ἐχομ., all in accordance with A. B. C. E. and Cod. Sin., some minuscules, and Vulg.]. He then continues: τῆ δἐ ἐχ. But those words are found in D. G. H., and most of the minuscules, several versions, and fathers. They were probably omitted [by copyists] only because the context was not understood, which seemed [at first sight (Alf.)] to imply that Trogyllium was in Samos, whereas it was well known that this town was situated elsewhere [namely, on the Ionian coast. Meyer regards the clause as genuine, since nothing could have suggested the insertion of it at a later period.—Tr.]

Acts 20:16; Acts 20:16. The text. rec. [followed by Scholz] has ἕκρινε; but this reading is found only in the two latest uncial manuscripts [G. H.], and some fathers. Kεκρίκει, however, is far more strongly attested [viz., by A. B. C (orig.). D. E. Cod. Sin. Vulg.], was recommended by Griesbach, and has been adopted by Lach. and Tisch., [also by Born. and Alf. As an ecclesiastical portion or reading lesson began at Acts 20:16, the pluperfect was altered into the independent historic aorist. (Meyer; de Wette; Alf.).—Tr.]

Verses 17-38


Acts 20:17-38

17And [But] from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. 18And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, [how, πῶς] from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner [om. after what manner] I have been with you at all seasons [the whole time], 19Serving the Lord with all humility of mind [om. of mind], and with many [om. many8] tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait [the plots] of the Jews: 20And [om. And] how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you [om. unto you], but have shewed [proclaimed unto] you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house [in houses], 21Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. 22And now, behold, I go [journey] bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall [will] befall me there: 23Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth [to me9] in every city [from city to city], saying that bonds and afflictions abide [await] me.10 24But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself [But I esteem not my life as worthy of mention, as far as I am concerned11 ], so that I might [in order to] finish my course with joy, and the ministry [service], which I have received of [from] the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. 25And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God [om. of God12 ], shall [will] see my face no more. 26Wherefore I take you to record [I testify to you] this day, that I am13 pure from the blood of all men. 27For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the [For I have kept back (as in Acts 20:20) nothing, but have proclaimed unto you the whole] counsel of God. 28Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which [in which, ἐν ᾧ] the Holy Ghost hath made you [set you as, ἔθετο] overseers, to feed the church of God [of the Lord14 ], which he hath purchased with his own blood. 29For I know this, that [I know that15 ] after my departing [arrival] shall grievous [ravening] wolves enter in among you, not sparing [who will not spare] the flock. 30Also [out of the midst] of your own selves shall [will] men arise, speaking perverse [perverted] things, [in order] to draw away [the, τοὺς] disciples after them. 31Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of [that for] three years [night and day] I ceased not to warn [exhort] every one night and day [here om. night and day] with tears. 32And now, brethren [om. brethren16 ], I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which [who] is able to build17 you [om. you] up, and to give you [om. you18 ] an inheritance among all them which [who] are sanctified. 33I have coveted no man’s [desired of no one] silver, or gold, or apparel. 34Yea, [om. Yea19 ] ye [Ye] yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. 35I have shewed you [in] all things, how [om. how] that so laboring ye ought to support [sustain] the weak, and to remember the words20 of the Lord Jesus, how he [for he himself, ὅτι αὐτὸς] said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.

36And when he had thus spoken [had said this, ταῦτα], he kneeled down, and prayed with them all. 37And they all wept sore, and [And there was much weeping on the part of all, and they] fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him, 38Sorrowing most of all for the words [word, τῷ λόγῳ] which he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship.


Acts 20:17-21. And from Miletus.—It is obvious that the apostle addressed this memorable farewell discourse to the elders of the congregation of Ephesus, that is, to them alone, and not also to those of neighboring congregations (Irenæus: Adv. Haer. III. 14, 2). He reminded them, first of all, of the fidelity and conscientiousness with which he had labored among them. Although the words ἀπὸ πρώτης … Ἀσίαν precede πῶς … ἐγενόμην, they logically belong to the latter, and not to ἐπίστασθε. He describes his conduct in Acts 20:19-21, as that of a servant who was on all occasions sincere and faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ. Πᾶσα ταπεινοφρ. is a genuine Pauline expression, denoting every possible expression of humility. Ὡς, etc., in Acts 20:20, is an additional exposition of πῶς … ἐγενόμην in Acts 20:18. Ὑποστέλλεσθαι occurs also in classic writers, e. g., Demosthenes, Isocrates, Plutarch, as descriptive of the act of speaking with reserve, while οὐδὲν ὑποστ. indicates that of speaking openly and candidly. A phrase like τοῦ μὴ�. expresses design, only in consequence of the original import of the infinitive with the genitive of the article [Winer: Gram. § 44, 4, b. sqq.—Tr.]; here, however, and in many other places, it refers simply to the manner or form: quominus ea vobis annuntiarem. Διαμαρτύρεσθαι is here followed by the accusative of the object to which the testimony practically refers, and to which it urges men to give heed. Μετάνοια εἰς τ. θεόν is a change of mind, a turning back to God, and ought not, as Beza, Bengel and others suppose, to be restricted to the pagans, as if it were not necessary, in the view of Jesus and the apostles, that the Jews should be converted as well as the pagans, in order to be received into the kingdom of God.

Acts 20:22. And now, behold, I go bound, etc.—The apostle, who had hitherto spoken of the past, now refers to the future. Different interpretations have been given of the phrase δεδεμένος τῷ πνεύματι, both δεδεμ. and τῷ πνεύ. having been variously explained. The former has often been supposed to refer to bonds and fetters: spiritu jam alligatus, vincula præsentiens (Erasmus, Grotius, Bengel). But this interpretation by no means accords with the words τὰ … μὴ εἰδώς; hence δεδεμ. must be taken in the figurative sense of urged, compelled. Many interpreters, further, assume that πνεῦμα refers to the Holy Ghost, and suppose the sense to be, either, compelled by the Holy Ghost (Beza, Calvin), or, bound to, that is, depending on the Holy Ghost (Meyer, first edition), or else interpret: “By the impulse of the Holy Ghost I go bound” (Oecumenius). But as τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον is expressly mentioned in Acts 20:23, the word πνεῦμα, standing alone, Acts 20:22, cannot be Understood of the Spirit of God, but can refer only to the spirit of the apostle himself, in the following sense: “I go to Jerusalem, impelled in spirit, led by an internal necessity.” [This is the interpretation which Meyer gives in his third edition (1861), in which he expressly rejects the opinion which he had stated in the first, to which Lechler refers above.—Tr.]

Acts 20:23. Save that the Holy Ghost.—Ὅτι after πλήν is still dependent on εἰδώς. The Holy Ghost witnessed, namely, through the mouth of Christian prophets; comp. Acts 13:2; Acts 21:4; Acts 10:11. Paul says that from city to city it is foretold to him that bonds and afflictions await him in Jerusalem. It is true that such predictions have not yet been mentioned, and none of that nature are introduced until Acts 21:4; Acts 21:11. But what evidence do we find that Luke, who, after Acts 20:2, merely gives a summary of the events that occurred, did not omit predictions of this class? It is only such evidence which would give force to the assertion that Luke here speaks proleptically (Schneckenburger: Zweck d. Apgsch. p. 135). The predictions of the prophets led the apostle to expect imprisonment and other tribulations in Jerusalem; still, he did not precisely know (Acts 20:22) what things would there befall him.

Acts 20:24. But none of these things, etc.—The reading οὐδενὸς λόγου ποιοῦμαι τ. ψυχὴν τιμίαν ἐμ., can scarcely be so construed (with Meyer) as to connect together the words οὐδενὸς λόγ. τίμιαν; for even if τίμιος occurs on one occasion (Plato, Soph. 216:100) with the genitive of value, it is nevertheless employed absolutely in far the greatest number of instances, particularly as ποιοῦμαι itself already involves the conception of valuing. Hence the literal meaning would be: “I esteem not my life as worthy of mention, as a life precious to myself.” The two other readings [see note 4 above, appended to the text,—Tr.], i.e., λόγον ἔχω and λόγ. ποιοῦμαι imply: “I have regard to nothing, and, further, do not count my life dear to myself.” Bengel takes ὡς τελειῶσαι comparatively, in the sense: “My life is not of so much importance or value to me as the finishing of my course.” This interpretation is marked by simplicity, in its grammatical aspects, but, logically, is less satisfactory than the former, as, if it were correct, we would necessarily expect: “finish my course with fidelity,” instead of “with joy.” [On the reading μετὰ χαρᾶς, see above, note 4, ult.—Tr.]. Accordingly, the infinitive with ὡς here expresses the design: “In order that I might finish my course with joy.” [Winer: Gram. § 44. 1.—Tr.]

Acts 20:25. And now, behold, I know.—The apostle did not know the things that would befall him in Jerusalem (Acts 20:22). But he declares that he positively knows that those who came from Ephesus, and, indeed, all the congregations in which he had preached the Gospel, would no more see his face. [Still, οἶδα, as in Acts 26:27, does not necessarily imply that Paul spoke from divine and unerring knowledge; it may simply express his own conviction of the certainty of that which he says. (Alf.).—Tr.]. The words ὑμεῖς πάντες assume, as it were, that the Ephesian elders are the representatives of all the Christian congregations which Paul had founded in Europe and Asia Minor. The words κηρύσσων τὴν βασιλείαν [omitting τοῦ θεοῦ, see note 5, appended to the text.—Tr.] with great force and brevity express Paul’s consciousness that he is the herald of a king and of His kingdom. He very decidedly utters a presentiment of his own death, but does not speak as if he had received a divine revelation on that point. It is true that at a later period he speaks in his Epistles written during his imprisonment in Rome, e. g., the Epistle to the Philippians [Acts 2:24; Philemon 1:22], as if he were not sure that he would not be set at liberty and again see his congregations. But as his liberation in Rome is, historically, very doubtful, his presentiment in this case did not deceive him. And the assertion [of some recent German writers,—Tr.] that Luke put these words in the mouth of Paul post eventum, cannot be defended, until it is demonstrated that Paul could not possibly have really used such language on that occasion.

Acts 20:26-27. Wherefore I take you to record [I testify to you] this day; the sense is: “I do so, because I now take leave of you, and shall never see nor address you again.” Bengel here takes μαρτύρομαι in the sense in which it frequently occurs in classical writers, namely: testem cito, in testimonium voco. This interpretation would be very satisfactory, if the dative ὑμῖν were not, here appended [as, e. g., Galatians 5:3, “I testify to,”—Tr.], whereas the word, when used in the sense which Bengel gives to it, is followed by the accusative. Acts 20:27 is identical with Acts 20:20 in the matter, and, to a certain extent, also in the words. The counsel of God is his counsel of redemption and grace; πᾶσα, that is, all that belongs to this counsel. [Καθαρος etc., that is: “I am not myself guilty, if any man perishes”; see Acts 18:6. Καθαρὸς ἁπό is not a Hebraism, נָקִי מִדָּם; καθαρὸς is sometimes found also in Greek writers in combination with ἀπό (Kypke, II. p. 108 f.), although it is generally followed by the genitive (Bernhardy, p. 174). (Meyer).—Tr.]

Acts 20:28. Take heed therefore unto yourselves.—The farewell exhortation, Acts 20:28 ff., is connected with the apostle’s testimony respecting his innocence. The sense is: “No guilt attaches to me; it could attach only to yourselves. Therefore (οὖν), perform your part faithfully, by caring alike for yourselves and for the whole flock.” The congregation is, as it were, a flock, which must be fed and protected against ravening wolves (ποίμνιον, ποιμαίνειν, λύκοι). Such services the elders are expected to render, as they are the appointed overseers. The word ἐπίσκοποι is, properly speaking, not here employed as an official title, but is intended to describe the task and duty of the elders, that is, to take the oversight [comp. 1 Peter 5:2] of the flock, and exhibit watchfulness and care. [The word “is here applied to the same persons who were before described as elders, proving clearly that the titles are convertible in this case, as they are in Titus 1:5-7; a conclusion strengthened by the otherwise inexplicable fact that both are never named together as distinct classes of church officers.” (Alex.). See Exeg. note on Acts 11:29, Acts 11:30. b.—Alford says, on Acts 20:17 : “The English Version has hardly dealt fairly in this case with the sacred text, in rendering ἐπισκόπους, Acts 20:28, ‘overseers,’ whereas it ought there as in all other places to have been ‘bishops,’ that the fact of elders and bishops having been originally and apostolically synonymous (terms) might be apparent to the ordinary English reader, which now it is not.”—Tr.]. The word πομαίνειν itself comprehends both the practical guidance and government of the flock, and the act of nourishing and furnishing it with the wholesome food of the word and all the means of grace. Περιποιεῖσθαι means to acquire, to make any thing one’s own property; see Doctr. and Eth. no. 7.

Acts 20:29-30. I know … grievous wolves.—Thoughtful pastoral fidelity and attention are the more necessary, since (γάρ) wolves and seducers will come; the wolves are βαρεῖς, that is, ravening and ferocious; the term describes persons who will deal in a pitiless manner with the congregation. They will come μετὰ τ. ἄφιξίν μου; these words refer, as most of the interpreters allege, to the departure or the decease of the apostle; ἄφιξις, however, never signifies departure, but always and only arrival, going to a place. [Still, the word occurs twice in Demosthenes, joined with οἴκαδε, in the sense of departure for home, p. 1463, ed. Reisk., (πέρι τ. ὁμον. Vol. 8. p. 497. Lond. 1828,) and p. 1484 (έπιστ. γ́.), that is, reditus domum. In 3Ma 7:18, ἄφιξιν—ἕως εἰς τὴν ἰδιάν οἰκίαν, the usual meaning of departure seems to be intended.—Tr.]. Hence, the words simply imply: “After I have come, persons of an entirely different character will also come.” Bengel says: primum venit Paulus, deinde venient lupi. But they come εἰς τ. ἐκκλ., and not ἐπὶ τ. ἐκκλ., that is, they come from without, and enter into the congregation. According to this view, Paul cannot refer to persecutors (Grotius: persecutio sub Nerone), but only to false teachers, who, however, will come from without. In Acts 20:30, on the other hand, seducers are indicated, who will proceed from the bosom of the church. The word ἀποσπᾷν implies that all who would attach themselves to these persons, would be guilty of apostasy from the truth, and from the true church of Christ.—When we consider the contests which the apostle had already at that time maintained with false teachers, as his Epistles show, and the accurate knowledge which he possessed of the state of affairs in Ephesus, and in Asia Minor in general, it cannot in the least surprise us, that, when he glances at the future, he should predict that the congregation at Ephesus would encounter internal and external dangers; and these he has, moreover, sketched only in their general outlines. We have, therefore, no reasonable ground for suspecting that we have here an anachronism, or a prediction made after the events had occurred, which the historian has put into the mouth of the apostle (as Baur and Zeller assume).

Acts 20:31. Therefore watch.—Διὸ γρηγ., that is, on account of the impending danger, a watchful oversight becomes the duty of the elders. According to Paul’s statement, as here recorded, he had resided three years at Ephesus. According to Acts 19:8-10, he had taught during three months in the synagogue, and, afterwards, two years longer in the school of Tyrannus. These two statements will not be found to be contradictory, when we remember that the narrative does not profess to furnish precise chronological dates, and that, besides, it would be out of place to expect such in the present connection. [See Exeg. note on Acts 19:9-10. b.—Tr.]

Acts 20:32. And now,—I commend you.—If the elders are to exhibit inviolable fidelity, they must themselves be firmly established in the grace and fellowship of God; hence Paul commends them to the mighty and faithful protection of God. For τῷ δυναμένῳ, etc., cannot, with Erasmus and others, be referred to λόγῳ [taken in the sense of word, doctrine, Tr.], and the interpretation according to which the personal [Johanneic (Meyer)] Logos is meant (Gomarus, Witsius), has no foundation whatever; the act of bestowing the eternal inheritance cannot possibly be ascribed to the word, but only to the personal God. Hence, τῷ δυναμ. must, with the Vulgate, Luther, Calvin, Grotius, Bengel, etc., be referred to θεῷ, so that the words καὶ τ. λόγῳ τ. χάριτος αὐτοῦ are parenthetically introduced [“a very natural hyperbaton occurs here” (Meyer).—Tr.].—God can build up, that is, bestow sound and enduring spiritual life; and He, too, is able to give an inheritance, that is, to grant a rightful and abiding share in the blessed kingdom, among all, that is, in fellowship with all, those who are consecrated to Him.

Acts 20:33-35. a. I have coveted no man’s silver or gold.—Finally, the apostle refers to his own disinterested course of conduct [comp. 1 Samuel 12:3], and exhorts the elders to adopt the same course, in accordance with the saying of the Redeemer. Πάντα emphatically commences the sentence, and signifies: in all things [comp. 1 Corinthians 10:33; Ephesians 4:15]; ὑπέδειξα, namely, by his own example. The words ἀντιλαμβ. τ. ἀσθενούντων can scarcely be understood in a literal sense, in which case they would refer to the care which should be taken of those who are sick and feeble in body. It is already a deviation from the original sense, when they are interpreted as referring to the support of the poor (Chrysostom; de Wette); for, although ἀσθενής unquestionably signifies “poor” in some passages of classic Greek writers, which Wetstein has collected, the verb ἀσθενεῖν and its participle never have this meaning. No other interpretation, therefore, remains, except that according to which ἀσθενοῦντες refers to those who are weak in faith and Christian sentiments or principles [comp. Romans 14:1; Romans 15:1; 1 Corinthians 9:22; 1 Thessalonians 5:14]. Ἀντιλαμβ is accordingly to be understood as descriptive of tender forbearance and of encouragement given to the weak, in so far as any demand [on the part of the elders, etc.] for money and pay, or even the mere acceptance of them might lead the minds of those who were not yet firmly established in the faith, to suspect that covetous feelings had prevailed, and might thus close every avenue to the truth; the absolute disinterestedness of a teacher, would, on the contrary, tend to encourage and strengthen them. [“It may be added, that Paul, although he waived his own right to a maintenance from those to whom he preached, was remarkable for the decision with which he asserted that right in behalf of others; comp. Romans 15:27; 1 Corinthians 9:13-14; Gal 6:6; 1 Timothy 5:17-18. See also the Saviour’s rule on this subject in Luke 10:7.” (Hackett).—Tr.].—Among the many words of Jesus referring to this point (λόγων), Paul quotes only one saying, which is not found in the four Gospels, but which he doubtless derived from oral tradition. We should assuredly, not so restrict the original meaning of this saying of Jesus, as if it merely taught that the act of giving rendered more happy than that of receiving. (Meyer). In its full and comprehensive sense it teaches that giving is a more blessed act than receiving, for it glances from God to man (of which an analogy may be found in Matthew 5:48, and other passages), and both the giving and the receiving embrace, in the widest sense of the terms, spiritual and bodily, temporal and eternal blessings. The application which Paul makes of the saying in this sense, is then the more appropriate. [“The special application of this general remark of Christ, as the apostle, according to the context, intended, is the following: The act of giving spiritual blessings, when compared with that of receiving temporal gains as pay, confers greater blessedness than the latter. The μακαριότης itself, is that of eternal life, in conformity to the conception of the Messianic mode of recompensing, Luke 6:20 ff. and Acts 20:38; Acts 14:14.” (Meyer, 3d ed.).—Tr.]

b. This address consists of three parts: I. A retrospective view of the past, Acts 20:18-21. Paul reminds the elders of the labors which he had performed in Ephesus. II. A glance at the future, and Paul’s announcement of his final separation, Acts 20:22-25. III. An exhortation to the elders respecting their duty to the congregation, in view of Paul’s own faithful and disinterested labors in its behalf, Acts 20:26-35. It is not necessary to enlarge upon the general character of this address, or to show how well it is adapted to the circumstances, when viewed as a farewell address of an upper shepherd, how impressive and affecting it is, how full of love and holy earnestness. And yet it has recently been represented as unhistorical, and as altogether the original production of the author of the Acts (Baur and Zeller). Tholuck has, on the other hand, demonstrated (in the Studien und Kritiken, 1839, p. 305 f.) that this address breathes the same spirit, and exhibits the same emotions of the heart, which we find in the Pauline Epistles. Moreover, as far as doctrinal points are concerned, the views which are peculiarly Pauline in their character, are here distinctly expressed; comp. Doctr. and Eth. no. 4 and no. 7.

Acts 20:36-38. And when he had thus spoken.—At the conclusion the apostle kneeled down, and, when all who were present had done the same, he closed his address to men by offering a prayer to God. [“The mention of his kneeling seems to imply that it was not his customary posture in public prayer, but one occasioned by the strength of his emotions. Long after, as we learn from Justin Martyr and others, it was the practice of the church to stand in public prayer upon the Lord’s Day, etc.” (Alexander).—Tr.]. Then each individual took leave of Paul by embracing and kissing him, amid many tears; the grief of his friends was, the deeper, as he announced that they would never see him again; θεωρεῖν graphically describes the scene. [“It suggests the idea of the interest and affection with which they looked upon that countenance for the last time.” (Hackett).—Tr.]. Paul himself had simply said: ὄψεσθε. (Meyer). Finally, they escorted him to the vessel, and then reluctantly parted from him.


1. Paul declares more than once in this address that he had taught the whole truth in Ephesus, and kept back nothing, Acts 20:20; Acts 20:27. He does not, therefore, lay a stress solely on the circumstance that he had taught the truth in its purity, that he had introduced no errors when he imparted a knowledge of the actual will and counsel of God (βουλῆ θεοῦ, Acts 20:27), and that he had communicated truths which were profitable to the souls of men (τὰ συμφέροντα, Acts 20:20), without mingling with them matter that was unprofitable, or even pernicious, and adapted to lead men astray. He expressly adds, for the purpose of justifying himself and of demonstrating that he was pure from the blood of all men, that he had kept back nothing. He had proclaimed the truth alike in its purity and in its fulness. The word of God is an organism, of which all the parts are closely connected, so that not a single member can be neglected or set aside, without inflicting an injury on the other members. God’s decree of redemption constitutes a whole, in which righteousness and grace, the realization and the appropriation of salvation, conversion and sanctification, the individual and the congregational, may certainly be distinguished, but which cannot be separated without guilt and loss. In God Himself and in His work of salvation, all is inseparably and eternally united. So, too, when the Gospel is proclaimed, and also when the science and doctrines of theology are taught, no part should be set aside and overlooked; the pure truth, and the full, entire truth, ought to be developed, and all the aspects and articles of the truth be exhibited in their actual temperamentum—in their natural harmony.

2. The apostle describes his labors as having been of a twofold character: public, and from house to house, Acts 20:20; he had directed his attention not only to the congregation, but also to every individual, Acts 20:31. He neglected neither of these, and neither should at any time be neglected. Christianity undoubtedly seeks the salvation of the individual soul through conversion and sanctification; it forms anew the ties of a living and blessed communion of man with God, which sin had severed, and continually adds to their strength during the process of man’s renewal. The Spirit of God is imparted to individuals, and constitutes them the children of God. But the individualism of Christianity is not unhealthy and anchoretical; conversion to the Lord, on the contrary, creates a social feeling even in those who had lived in solitude; the family, like the congregation and Christendom, is, by degrees, thoroughly pervaded by the spirit of Christianity. And this is a regeneration not only of the individual, but also of the human race (the second Adam, 1 Corinthians 15:45; 1 Corinthians 15:47), according to its various communities.

3. Paul testified both to the Jews and to the Gentiles, repentance and faith, Acts 20:21, that is, a change of mind or return to God, and faith in the Lord Jesus. He did not separate the one from the other; and such a course the truth in its fulness requires. Faith without repentance is superficial; the prominent feature of faith is a contrite heart; Christ came to call, not the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Repentance without faith is either destitute of comfort and hope, and ends in faintheartedness and despair, or is self-righteous, and ends in the effort to make redemption superfluous.

4. Paul twice terms in this address the Gospel the word of the grace of God: τὸ εὐαγγ. τ. χάριτος τ. θεου, Acts 20:24; ὁ λόγος τ. χάρ. αὐτοῦ, Acts 20:32. The peculiar and essential feature which distinguishes the revelation of God in Christ from that of the old covenant, is the manifestation of grace towards the sinner—redeeming, forgiving, sanctifying, and saving grace. But the apostle Paul was not enabled to exhibit this grace as the central point of the whole counsel of God in Christ, and to give it such a concise name, until he had been personally conducted to Christ, and the great work of his life among the Gentiles had imparted to him this knowledge. The fact that the Gospel is here designated by this name, is an evidence of the genuineness of the discourse.—The high value which the apostle assigns to the word of grace, also claims attention. The ministry which he had received from Christ, refers solely to the proclamation of the Gospel of the grace of God, Acts 20:24. Thus the word of grace acquires a lofty and noble character. This word of God’s grace is, accordingly, represented in Acts 20:32 as a power. It is true that the terms: τῷ δυναμένῳ οἰκοδ. καὶ δοῦναι κληρ. refer to God Himself, and not to His word. Still, the language in which the brethren are commended not only to God Himself, but also to His “word,” would be unmeaning, if the word of God were not in itself also powerful and efficient. Hence, it is a power (comp. Romans 1:16), which “strengthens, comforts, and aids us” (Catech. Maj. Præf.). [Luther’s preface to the Large Catechism, p. 394. ed. R.—Tr.]—it is a genuine means of grace.

5. Paul speaks with a sad presentiment of the things which shall befall him in Jerusalem; prophets, enlightened by the Holy Ghost, tell him that bonds and afflictions await him; he himself attaches no value to his life, and knows that the congregations which he had founded, shall see him no more, Acts 20:22-25. Such remarks are undoubtedly very significant. Still, they are not sufficient to produce in us the conviction that it had really been determined in the counsel of God that Paul should be allowed to die in Jerusalem as a martyr, but that God had graciously looked at the tears and intercessions in behalf of the apostle on the part of all the Gentile congregations, had, accordingly caused him, when condemned to death, to be rescued by the Romans (e. g., Acts 21:31), and had prolonged his life and ministry (Baumgarten, II. 2, 89 ff.). As long as no passage can be adduced which unequivocally expresses such views, it is by no means advisable to resort to such suppositions.

6. The office, and the Holy Ghost. The elders are set as overseers by the Holy Ghost, for the purpose of feeding the church of the Lord, Acts 20:28. We are not informed of the manner in which the elders at Ephesus obtained their office, but from analogy (Acts 6:2 ff; Acts 14:23), we may assume that they were chosen under the direction of the apostle, and not without the coöperation of the congregation, and that they were consecrated by the imposition of hands in connection with prayer. Such were the human and visible features of the case; the apostle, however, also directs attention to those which were invisible and divine. It was the Holy Ghost to whom the action is really to be ascribed; it was, in truth, He who had appointed and commissioned the individuals, and to whom they were bound and accountable. The apostle does not deny that men performed a certain, part, but he gives special prominence to the decisive action of the Holy Ghost, which it would be at least as erroneous and unjust to overlook as the former. As the Divine and the Human are one in the Redeemer, so, too, they are one in the church, which is, indeed, “the church of the Lord” (ἡ ἐκκλ. τ. κυριόυ). There is in so far a difference, that, in the church, the Spirit of the Father and the Son acts, and that the union of the divine and human is not personal and inseparable. But in all the appropriate transactions of the church, which refer to the kingdom of God, and are performed in dependence on God and His Anointed One, in conformity to the divine word, and with prayer, it is the Holy Ghost who administers the whole. Now if the Holy Ghost acts and decides, it follows that he dwells in the members of the church, and, consequently, the appointment by the Holy Ghost of the elders to their office as shepherds, rests on the common priesthood of believers as the antecedent, or presupposes the latter, and is not a hierarchical conception, as it might, at the first glance, seem to be.

7. The church, and the death of Christ on the cross.—In order to exhibit distinctly to the elders their pastoral duty to the church, and to awaken a deep sense of their responsibility, Paul testifies that the church itself belongs to the Lord, having been purchased with his own blood. The blood of Jesus Christ which he shed when he suffered a violent death, is, accordingly, the means by which he made the church his lawful property. Διὰ in the phrase διὰ τ. ἰδιόυ αἵματος can scarcely be assumed to indicate the purchase-money, with a strict application of the figure found in the word περιποιεῖσθαι. But it is true that the death of Jesus on the cross is exhibited as the means of appropriation, by which souls which would not be his own without his sufferings and death, have now become his property—objectively, in so far as he acquired a claim to them by the death which he suffered in their behalf, and, subjectively, in so far as the love of the Redeemer, which prompted him to expose himself to death, fills the soul with grateful love, and attracts it to him. And hence, not only is the most decisive influence in the work of redemption ascribed to the death of Jesus, but that death is also exhibited as the essential foundation on which the establishment of the church of Christ depends—a thought which, in itself, is of deep moment, and which is, at the same time, peculiarly Pauline in its character.

8. The false teachers.—The apostle distinguishes two classes of them, in these prophetic words, Acts 20:29 : first, those who would come from without, and who would, like wild beasts, ravage the church without mercy, and, secondly, those who Would arise in the bosom of the church itself, and attempt to gain adherents. They are described as λαλοῦντες διεστραμμένα. Paul purposely avoids the use of the word διδάσκειν, which would do too much honor to the perverted and distorted things which they will advance. As a limb of the body may be dislocated, and, by a violent movement, be placed in an unnatural position, so truths may be perverted, be placed in false relations to each other, be distorted by exaggeration, and be converted into caricatures of that which they originally represented. Such is the nature of false doctrine. Error is simply a perversion of the truth; there is a truth lying at the bottom of every false doctrine, but it has been perverted and disfigured by the fault of men.

9. An inheritance among all them which are sanctified, Acts 20:32.—The blessed inheritance consists not only in a perfect communion with God, but also in a communion with all those who are sanctified. The rich inheritance of the invisible Canaan lies in the midst of all who have, by the grace of God in Christ, been redeemed from sin, and sanctified by the Spirit. It is remarkable that precisely in the Epistle which, if not originally intended for the Ephesian congregation exclusively, was at least specially addressed to it, the same thought occurs: ἡ κληρονομία αὐτοὺ ἐν τοῖς ἁγίοις, Ephesians 1:18. It is, indeed, the widely extended communion with all those who are sanctified, that exalts the glory of the inheritance, and the blessedness of the world to come.

10. It is more blessed to give than to receive, Acts 20:35.—The natural man, under the influence of egotism, reverses the terms of this saying; its truth is, however, recognized by every one whose moral state is more favorable, and who is governed by sounder and purer principles. Plutarch relates that Artaxerxes said ὅτι τὸ προςθεῖναι τοῦ�. And Aristotle says: μᾶλλόν ἐστι τοῦ ἐλευθερίου τὸ διδόναι ᾥ δεῖ ἤ λαμβάνειν ὅθεν δεῖ, Eth. Nicom. IV. I. Both of these sayings correspond in expression to the aristocratic views of antiquity. The former refers to the distinction which existed between rulers and the people, the latter to the ancient distinction between free men and slaves. Seneca, on the other hand, speaks in reference to the gods, when he says: Qui dat beneficia, Deos imitatur; qui recipit, foeneratores There is, however, in all these classic sayings a certain aristocratic pride of sentiment, which cannot fail to be perceived. The saying of Christ, on the contrary, is founded on the fact that God is love; and the use which the apostle here makes of it, is sustained by his own experience of the redeeming and compassionate love of God in his Son, as well as by his desire to see all men enjoy the blessedness of loving and giving.


Acts 20:17. And from Miletus he sent … and called the elders of the church.—When Paul was at Miletus, lie was induced to send for the Ephesian elders not only by his remembrance of the divine blessing which he had experienced in their city, amid all his conflicts and trials, but also by his earnest desire to see the brethren personally, and impart to them, and, through them, to the whole congregation, an abiding blessing. (Leonh. and Sp.).—Superintendents and inspectors [whose office, duties, etc., are described in Herzog: Encyk. XV. p. 256–262.—Tr.] should imitate the example of Paul in their conduct towards those over whom they are placed, by conferring with them, exhorting, and encouraging them; for benefits conferred on pastors are in reality conferred on entire congregations. The servants of the Lord, on the other hand, should gladly avail themselves of such opportunities for receiving the wholesome admonitions of their inspectors, and of eminent theologians, and actively sustain them in their good work. (Starke).

Acts 20:18. And when they were come to him, he said.—Paul’s address to the elders is an admirable compend of practical Pastoral Theology, according to the principles which the apostles observed; it is a mirror which causes us to blush, when we survey our own dissimilar features. It usually furnishes texts for introductory and farewell sermons, but the Lord knows how often it has been abused on such occasions! (Ap. Past.).—ye know, from the first day … after what manner I have been with you at all seasons.—“Ye know!” Happy is he who can begin his discourse in such terms, and to whom the conscience of the hearer bears a favorable testimony! (Bengel).—Paul appeals solely to the conscience of his hearers, and asks for no flattering reply. It is not his object to obtain letters of commendation from men; he desires to see the fruit of his labors, and to promote the cause of the truth. (Ap. Past.).—He had served the Lord in Ephesus “from the first day.” The unconverted man who assumes the sacred office, loses this blessing. He may be subsequently converted, it is true; still, he has grievously failed in many respects. This consideration should urge all candidates for the ministry to adopt such a course that God may grant them the necessary qualifications at the earliest period, (ib.).

Acts 20:19. Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations.—Pastors shed many tears—tears of love, tears of grief, and tears of joy. O Lord! Send us many Pauls! (Starke).—The ministry of the word does not furnish happy days alone, for Paul mentions not them, but his “tears.” Give heed to this circumstance, ye candidates for the ministry, and be prepared for it! (id.).—What noble qualifications of a faithful teacher! Humility before God; patience in affliction; candor and fidelity; unwearied efforts to feed the flock; thorough knowledge of the matter and manner which are essential to edifying discourses; undaunted courage when persecution begins; zeal and diligence in walking in the way of the Lord, alike in public and in private life; sincere love to the church; a confident mind and holy boldness in speaking the truth to every one according to his necessities; a high estimate of the value of souls that are bought with a price; prudent measures in view of coming trials; contentment in temporal things, and a hatred of covetousness (1 Corinthians 15:9); perseverance and ardor in prayer. (id.).—The dignity of his office, in the view of the upright apostle, primarily consists in his own consistent and humble walk. But in our day there is usually a reference made to the honos ordinis, orthodoxiae, etc. (Ap. Past.).—An old pastor of our church prayed to God that the blessing which should attend his office might consist also in gratia lacrimarum.—A faithful servant of Jesus may appeal also to his past afflictions, for they are a seed of tears, and are honorable to him. (ib.).—When we are without temptations, we learn nothing, and make no progress; they are the warfare and the exercise of Christians; they are our theology—a theology not very easily nor quickly learned. (Luther).—Paul speaks of his “tears,” for he was a Christian, not a Stoic. His whole office was a ministry of tears; his cup was full of bitterness; but, nevertheless, he looked for that glorious reward of which the Psalmist speaks: “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.” [Psalms 126:5.]. By the power of his faith he anticipates the joys of harvest; he triumphs even when he weeps; still, he does not weep the less because he triumphs. He weeps, when at midnight he sings praises unto God in the prison of Philippi. He weeps, when he writes to the Thessalonians: “Rejoice evermore.” He weeps, when at Miletus he declares: “I finish my course with joy.” He weeps, when at Rome he writes his last words: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”—We cannot wonder that Paul so often recurs to the sorrows which he had endured; his remarks were dictated not by egotism, but by his earnest desire to gain men for the truth; he had been so taught in the school of his Lord. If the sufferings of Jesus appeal to the Father, and beseech Him to grant mercy to sinners, they also appeal to men and beseech them to accept the doctrine of their redeeming God. (A. Monod.).

Acts 20:20. How I kept back nothing that was profitable.—That is, only that which is profitable, but, also, all that is profitable; and hence, not that which is learned, or novel, or beautiful, or sublime, or unusual, etc., but that which is really good to the use of edifying [Ephesians 4:29]. Such were, briefly, the contents of the sermons of the apostle. Mark this well, ye “pulpit orators.” (Ap. Past.).—To proclaim that which is profitable, without being deterred by the fear of men, and to refrain from all that merely gratifies itching ears, or is only adapted to please men, have at all times been prominent characteristics of a faithful steward of God. (Rieger).—Publicly, and from house to house.—Accordingly, a faithful teacher serves the Lord, and His church, not only in the pulpit, but also in private houses, not only by preaching, but also by pastoral labors, not only in public, but also at private interviews with individuals. Two temptations are to be overcome by a holy sense of official duty: the fear of men, and carnal sloth.

Acts 20:21. Testifying—repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.—We have here a concise and faithful description of that way of salvation, of which every sermon should treat. It is the general impost which the messengers of God are commissioned to demand of all men over the whole earth. They do not engage in other matters. (Gossner).

Acts 20:22. I go bound in the spirit—not knowing the things that shall befall me.—Faith does not desire to know and see all things, but obeys God and the impulse of His Spirit, as with blindfolded eyes. Faithful teachers, specially, are not their own masters, but are bound in heart and mind, on account of their office, to do and to forbear, not as they choose, but as God directs. Jeremiah 10:23. (Starke).

Acts 20:23. Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth.—The Holy Ghost is a prophet of afflictions, but also a comforter in afflictions. (Quesnel).

Acts 20:24. But none of these things move me, etc.—“Fear not them, etc.” Matthew 10:28. (Starke).—The children and servants of God look not so much to danger as to duty; but the children of the world adopt the opposite course. (Quesnel).—And the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus.—Paul’s ministry was consecrated not only by his tears, but also by his blood. And by what additional tears, sufferings and blood, was it not subsequently consesecrated, before we received it! Should not our reflections on the army of holy witnesses and martyrs of former times, cause us to blush on account of the indifference with which we defend the truth to which our fathers bore witness with their blood? (Williger).—No one should force himself into the sacred office, nor acquire it by purchase, marriage, or private solicitations, and thus run and preach without a divine mission and call, but should wait until he receives it, and is sent. But an ordinary call is attended by the divine power and blessing, when it is received in the fear of God. He whom God sends, is endowed with the necessary qualifications, Jeremiah 1:9-10. (Starke).—To testify the gospel of the grace of God.—Paul proclaims grace—the Gospel, with his latest breath—not the law, not mere morality. For millions of moral discourses and folios written on morals cannot accomplish in a thousand years that which this despised word: “Grace—the Gospel” accomplishes, when it is received in faith, and takes possession of the heart. (Gossner).

Acts 20:25. I know that ye all … shall see my face no more.—Thoughts on death increase the zeal of preachers. He who at all times says to himself: “This is perhaps my last sermon; my hearers will see my face no more,” will the more earnestly entreat them: “Be ye reconciled to God!”—The hearers may indeed pass away from the sight of a faithful preacher, but never from his thoughts. (Starke).

Acts 20:26-27. Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men.—Many would gladly imitate the apostle, and, like him, testify in their farewell sermons, that they are pure from the blood of all men, but that joyful consciousness is the fruit only of long-continued humility, of trials, and of tears. (Rieger).—A preacher’s declaration that he is pure from the blood of all men, assumes that many duties have been performed. He must have set forth all the counsel of God, and kept back nothing, Acts 20:27; he must have addressed all, both from the pulpit and during his pastoral labors, Acts 20:20; he must have taught in every possible way, not only by his sermons, but also by his example, having lived and suffered as a Christian, Acts 20:18-20. Alas! how many omissions of duty weigh on our conscience; instead of joyfully declaring: “I am pure from your blood,” we are rather constrained, in grief and pain, to utter the petition: “Cleanse me, O Lord, with thy blood!”

Acts 20:28. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock.—A preacher must guard against two errors: either that of being too much occupied with himself, and thus neglecting the flock, or that of being so devoted to the flock as to neglect the care of his own salvation. (Quesnel).—We must ourselves first be cleansed, and then cleanse others—be instructed, and then instruct others—be enlightened, and then enlighten others—be conducted to God, and then conduct others to him. (Gregory Naz.).—An evangelical preacher takes heed to himself, when his own soul is fed by the gospel of the grace of God; his personal experience of the value and power of sound doctrine, will secure him from going astray and adopting false doctrines. Continue to be one of the sheep of the Good Shepherd, and then thou wilt not become a faithless shepherd. (Besser).—Can the blind lead the blind? It is a fearful thing when an unconverted man is a professor of religion, but it is a far more fearful thing when such an one attempts to preach the Gospel. Do ye not tremble, when ye open the Bible, lest ye might there read the sentence of your own condemnation? Do ye not think of it, that when ye are penning your sermons, ye are drawing up indictments against your own souls? (Baxter’s Reformed Pastor).—Over the which [in which] the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.—What a powerful admonition to be faithful we have in the fact that we are appointed to feed a flock which God has purchased with His own blood! (Starke).—Paul does not here repeat his instructions respecting the manner in which they should feed the church; he does not intend to instruct, but to exhort. He wishes, in that sacred hour, to pronounce an imperishable word, which may make an indelible impression, and furnish a lasting impulse to his hearers. He pronounces a single word which expresses all, and relieves him from the task of addressing further admonitions; his hearers are so deeply impressed with the grandeur and holy character of their work, that no human eloquence could have produced the result which followed the utterance of this one word of truth. He terms the church “the church of God,”—His possession, in a still higher sense than that in which the people of the old covenant, whom He bare on eagles’ wings, were His peculiar treasure, Exodus 19:3-6—His possession purchased with the blood of His own Son. (Menken).—The poorest village is a church of God, purchased with the blood of Jesus. Its pastor is, therefore, not appointed to be a gatherer of gold, a luminary in the learned world, an antiquarian, a gardener, a drone; he is called to be a shepherd of Jesus, who is the Chief Shepherd. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 20:29. After my departing shall grievous wolves enter in.—False teachers say in their hearts: “Let there only he peace whilst I live;” but an apostolical teacher endeavors also to prevent evils that might arise even after his death. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 20:30. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things.—The enemies to whom the apostle’s warning refers, are described, on the one hand, as ravening wolves, that is, as men who are obviously seducers and murderers of souls, and, on the other, as false brethren who arise in the church itself, and who, with specious words, teach false and dangerous doctrines. The apostle earnestly warns his hearers against both of these classes of men. The former may be easily recognized; the latter are more insidious and more dangerous enemies. (Ap. Past.).—And here the elders, like the disciples on an earlier occasion [Matthew 26:22], might have each asked, in sorrow and dread: “Lord, is I?”

Acts 20:31. Therefore watch, and remember that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.—The language which evil-minded men represent as that of self-praise, is not always really of that description. It was love which constrained the humility of Paul to reveal to us his tears. (Starke).

Acts 20:32-33. And now, … I commend you to God, etc.—Here take a view of the heart of a faithful shepherd. He commends his flock to God and to the word of his grace, in accordance with his Master’s example, John 17:6; John 17:9. When pastors have taught, refuted, exhorted, rebuked, and comforted, they should still submit the whole matter to God, and humbly ask for his guidance and aid. (Starke).—Such apostolic sayings abundantly comfort our souls; it is a salutation addressed by the apostolic age to the distracted church of our times. Those fathers assure the church, even in her deepest affliction, that she is the true church of God, and that the gates of hell shall not prevail against her. (Williger).

Acts 20:33. I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel.—“I seek not yours, but you.” 2 Corinthians 12:14. Although the preachers of the Gospel do not, like Paul, work at a trade, but “live of the things of the temple” (1 Corinthians 9:13), these words, nevertheless, furnish them with a valuable lesson. They ought to demonstrate by their self-denial and personal efforts, (which should comprehend far more than the ordinary official duties,) and by their entire freedom from avarice, that the world very unjustly accuses them of performing the least amount of work, and of receiving for it a disproportionately large amount of wages. (Williger).

Acts 20:35. It is more blessed to give than to receive.—This word of the Lord, which the Holy Spirit has preserved for us independently of the Gospels, should be the motto of every true disciple of Christ; for He came into the world not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many [Matthew 20:28]; even when seated on the throne of glory, He imparts Himself, in the fulness of His divine grace, to His church on earth, and His blessedness consists in thus freely imparting Himself to His people. (Leonh. and Sp.).—It is more blessed to give than to receive; for the nearer we approach to God, the more blessed we are. God does not receive—He gives. He derives His name from His goodness, and it is the nature of that which is good to impart itself. The more we give, the more we possess. When we bless others, we bless ourselves. Let no heart depart without consolation from thy door, and God will not dismiss thee from his presence without consolation. (Henry Müller).—It is true, that with respect to God, we may, and indeed should, receive from His fulness, grace for grace. The more we receive of Him, the more blessed we are ourselves, and the more we can impart to others. An unwillingness to receive from Him, is, in truth, the height of misery. (Fr. Arndt.).

Acts 20:36. And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all.—Kneeling down at prayer is a privilege of the children of God. Others are ashamed of it. The act should therefore be performed only in the closet, or in the presence of those who rightly understand its nature, and should not unnecessarily be exposed to the mockery of the world. (Williger).—We often accomplish more by praying than by preaching. (Ap. Past.).—When Christian friends thus part from one another with prayer to God, they become the more intimately united in God. (Starke).

Acts 20:37. And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul’s neck, and kissed him.—Christians are not Stoics, who professed to be unconscious of strong emotions. Their love is a fountain from which tears often flow.—We too should fall on Paul’s neck, and endeavor to retain him with us; and this is done when we receive his doctrine and believe the Gospel which he preached; 1 Thessalonians 2:13. (Starke).

Acts 20:38. Sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more.—If it pains us that we shall no more see here below the faces of those whom we love, how much more painful would it be, if we should be eternally deprived of the sight of God, of the angels, and of the elect! When we therefore part on earth, may it be our earnest expectation and our hope that we shall meet again in the heavenly Jerusalem. (Leonh. and Sp.).

ON THE WHOLE SECTION, Acts 20:17-38.—The true relation between the shepherds and the flocks of Christ: it really exists, and abides in time and in eternity, when it is sustained, I. By union in the true doctrine; II. By union in sincere love; III. By union in believing prayer. (Harless).

Paul’s farewell address to the elders of Ephesus: I. When he appeals to his apostolical labors, he describes the principal features of the evangelical ministry of the word, Acts 20:17-21. II. When he expresses his willingness to suffer, he exhibits to them the courage which faith imparts, and which is connected with a self-denying love to Christ, Acts 20:22-25. III. When he refers to the glory of the church of God, he exhorts them to be faithful in discharging the duties of their sacred office. IV. When he prays, on parting from them, he conducts them to the source of all strength and joyfulness in seasons of affliction, Acts 20:32. (Leonh. and Sp.).

By what means may the pain of parting from our friends be alleviated? I. By the consciousness that we have faithfully fulfilled our duty; II. By submission to the clearly understood will of God; III. By the conviction, strengthened by prayer, that God guides and protects us. (ib.).

The farewell address of Paul at Miletus: I. His testimony respecting his labors in the congregations, Acts 20:18-21; (a) respecting the discharge of the duties of his ministry—his humility and fidelity, even amid temptations; (b) respecting the subjects of his preaching—he had declared all the counsel of God, specially, repentance and faith. II. His announcement that he took leave of them forever, Acts 20:22-25; (a) referring to the trials that may await him, and to Jerusalem, as the point to which he was proceeding—the afflictions which he expected to endure; (b) referring to his willingness to sacrifice his life—his conviction that he would suffer a violent death. III. His final directions to the elders, Acts 20:26-38; (a) an exhortation that they should be faithful to their duty—the special reasons for which fidelity on their part was necessary;(b) the commendation of the elders to the grace of God—the conduct which they should observe, (Lisco).

Two things which all men need: I. Repentance, Acts 20:20-21; we descend by three steps into the depths of our hearts; (a) the knowledge of sin; (b) sorrow for it; (c) the desire for salvation. II. Faith, Acts 20:21; we ascend by three steps to God and eternity: (a) the knowledge that the Redeemer has come; (b) holy joy that he has taken up his abode with us too; (c) unshaken confidence in his reconciling, sanctifying, and saving grace, Acts 20:19; Acts 20:22-27. (id.).

The glory and comfort of a Christian preacher (a farewell discourse): I. His glory: (a) nothing that is external, neither riches nor honor, Acts 20:19; (b) not even temptations and misrepresentation, Acts 20:19; (c) but the glory of having endured with his congregation in joy and in sorrow, Acts 20:18, of having kept back no part of the wholesome doctrine of the Gospel, Acts 20:20, and, especially, of having preached its two chief points, repentance and faith, Acts 20:21. II. His comfort: (a) the hour of parting has arrived, and now duty calls to new and greater conflicts, Acts 20:22-23; (b) the preacher does not regard this fact, since the fulfilment of the duties of his office is his only care, Acts 20:24; (c) although the parting is painful, he knows that he is pure from the blood of all men, and he commends his flock to faithful successors and to the Chief Shepherd, Acts 20:26. (From Lisco).

Paul, in the discharge of his official duties at Ephesus, a model for the evangelical pastor: he teaches us, I. To serve the Lord with all humility, Acts 20:19; II. To feed the flock with undivided love, Acts 20:20-21; Acts 20:26-27; III. To resist the enemy with entire fidelity, Acts 20:19; Acts 20:29-31; IV. To look forward to the separation from the flock with confidence and holy joy, Acts 20:22-25; Acts 20:32-36.

The best discourse which we can address to our congregation: I. It is good when we preach the word of the Gospel, Acts 20:20-21; Acts 20:27; II. It is still better when we preach by our evangelical walk, Acts 20:18; Acts 20:33-35; III. It is the best of all when we preach by our evangelical sufferings, Acts 20:19; Acts 20:22-25.

How may a servant of God, in this vale of tears, finish his course with joy? (Acts 20:24). I. When he enjoys true peace of conscience, sincerely believes that he has fulfilled his duty, and has an assurance of the grace of God, Acts 20:18-20; Acts 20:26-27. II. When he leaves behind him the seed of the kingdom of God, which will grow up over his grave through the labors of his faithful successors, Acts 20:28, and the faithfulness of the eternal God, Acts 20:32. III. When he can hope that he will receive in heaven the reward of his labors, and be eternally blessed, Acts 20:24.

When are we pure from the blood of all those whose souls the Lord has intrusted to our care? (Acts 20:26). I. When we have preached all that the Lord has commanded, and have kept back no part of the counsel of God, Acts 20:20; Acts 20:27. II. When we have taken an interest in the welfare of all who were accessible to us, both in public and in private, Acts 20:20—Jews and Greeks, Acts 20:21. III. When we have done all that lay in our power in order to open an avenue for our word, by our evangelical walk and conduct—in obedience, humility, love, patience, self-denial. IV. When we have washed away everything of which our conscience accuses us before the Lord, in the blood of Jesus Christ, without which neither we nor our hearers can be cleansed and reconciled, Acts 20:24; Acts 20:36.

I know that we shall soon finally part, (Acts 20:25) —a thought which solemnly admonishes, I. The teacher; II. The hearers. Take heed therefore unto yourselves! —an impressive official admonition addressed to all shepherds of souls, in the church and in the family, (Acts 20:28): I. Take heed to yourselves—to your doctrine and your walk. II. Take heed to the flock—to its divine dignity, and to its human infirmity. III. Take heed to the wolves—to those who come from without in a threatening form, Acts 20:29, and to those in the bosom of the church, who are concealed in sheep’s clothing, Acts 20:30.

And now, brethren, I commend you to God’—the most appropriate farewell address of an evangelical pastor (Acts 20:32): I. It expresses evangelical love, which extends its care even beyond the speaker’s own period of labor. II. It expresses evangelical humility, which, even after faithful labors, is conscious that man can accomplish nothing by his own strength. III. It expresses evangelical faith, which relies on the power and faithfulness of the Great Shepherd of souls and Guardian of men.

The apostle’s farewell discourse at Miletus: I. A model sermon, exhibiting an apostle’s fidelity of love, and the power of his faith; II. A consolatory sermon, intended to alleviate the pain of parting and the anxiety of love; III. An awakening sermon, exposing our official sins and neglect of duty, as compared with out great Predecessor in office.

Why is it more blessed to give than to receive? (Acts 20:35). I. Because the former delivers us from the dominion of self—from the bonds of self-love, from the cares connected with superfluous possessions, from the burden of dependence; II. Because it unites us with the brethren—through their sincere attachment, their active gratitude, their prayers in our behalf; III. Because it brings us nearer to our God—we thus resemble Him who is merciful to all, partake of the happiness of Him who loves all, and may hope for the gracious reward which He who recompenses men will bestow.

The farewell words of love:A little while, and ye shall see me no more” (Acts 20:38, compared with John 16:16): I. The grief which they occasion; (a) the painful feeling of loneliness; (b) reproaches of conscience, if we have neglected the season of gracious visitation. II. The comfort which they impart; (a) we remain united in the Lord; (b) we hope for a future reunion in the presence of the Lord.

[The pastor’s farewell address (see Exeg. note, Acts 20:33-35. b.): I. Glances at the past, (Acts 20:18-21; Acts 20:26-27); (a) the external history of the congregation (additions, losses, etc.); (b) the doctrines and duties taught by the pastor; (c) the past and present spiritual condition of the congregation. II. Glances at the future, (Acts 20:22-25; Acts 20:29-30); (a) the pastor’s future lot uncertain (divine Providence); (b) the dangers to which the congregation (young and old) may be exposed (external—internal); (c) the hopes which the congregation may entertain. III. The Pastor’s parting counsels, in view of the past and the future (Acts 20:31-35); respecting (a) watchfulness—on the part of church officers and private members; (b) the duties of Christian love; (c) the exercise of Christian faith and hope.—Tr.]


Acts 20:19; Acts 20:19. πολλῶν before δακρὐων is a later addition; it is wanting in the majority of the uncial manuscripts [A. B. D E., also Cod. Sin.], and in many versions [e. g., Vulg.; but it is found in C. G. H. It is dropped by recent editors generally “probably an interpolation; see 2 Corinthians 2:4.” (Alf.; Meyer.).—Tr.]

Acts 20:23; Acts 20:23. a. The five oldest manuscripts [A. B. C. D. E., and also Cod. Sin.] insert μοι after διαμαρτὐρτὐρεται, which the text. rec. has inaccurately omitted in accordance with the two latest manuscripts [G. H.; it is reproduced in the Vulgate (mihi), and inserted by recent editors generally.—Tr.]

Acts 20:23; Acts 20:23. b. [Instead of abide me (Wiclif, Tynd., Cranmer, Geneva, Rheims), the margin of the Engl. version offers wait for me; the original με—μἐνουσιν may be rendered await me.—Tr.]

Acts 20:24; Acts 20:24. The most difficult reading undoubtedly here claims the preference; it is supported by four manuscripts of the highest rank (Vatic. [B.]; Ephraemi, rescr. [C.]; Cambr. [D. (corrected).; Cantabrigiensis, or, Bezæ]; and Codex Sinaiticus); it is the following: ἀλλ̓ οὐδενὸς λόγου ποιοῦμαι τὴν ψυχἠν τιμίαν ὲμαυτῷ [this is the reading adopted by Tisch. and Alf.]; the text. rec., on the other band, reads [with E. G. H.]; ἀλλ, υὐδενὸς λόγου ποιοῦμαι οὐδὲ ἕχω τ. ψ.μου τιμίαν. Lachmann reads: οὐδενὸς λόγον ἕχω οὐδὲ ποιοῦμαι τ. ψ. τιμ. ἐμ. The two latter are obviously alterations of the original text, intended to furnish an easier reading. [The variations in the manuscripts are very numerous. D (original), exhibits: οὐδ. λόγον ἕχω μοι οὐδὲ ποι. τ. ψ. μου τιμ. ἐμαυτοῦ. A later hand, C, corrected the original text of Cod. Sin., as given above, thus; λογον εχω ουδε ποι. The vulg. has: Sed nihil horum vereor, nec facio animam meam pretiosiorem quam me. Bornemann agrees mainly with Lach. but inserts μοι after ἕχω and μου after ψυχην. Meyer agrees with Tisch., and with him thinks that the reading of text. rec., and that of Lach (from A. D (original), and minuscules), are corrections of the original, which was not understood by copyists.—The words μετὰ χαρᾶς of text. rec. from C. E. G. H,. are omitted in A. B. D. Cod. Sin. Vulg., etc., and are dropped by Lach., Tisch., and Alf., but retained by Scholz.—Tr.]

Acts 20:25; Acts 20:25. τοῦ θεοῦ after βασιλείαν is an explanatory addition, not found in the three most important uncial manuscripts [A. B. C.], and some other authorities, and would unquestionably not have been omitted, if it had originally belonged to the text. [The two words are found in E. G. H. Vulg. (Dei); D. has τοῦ Iῃσοῦ. They are not found in Cod. Sin., and are omitted by Lach., Tisch, and Alf.—Tr.]

Acts 20:26; Acts 20:26. [Instead of ἕγώ, as in text. rec., without a verb, Lach. and Tisch. read εἰμι. The former reading is found in A. G. H.; the latter in B. C. D. E. Cod. Sin. Vulg. (sum). Alford retains ἐγὼ, and, adopting Meyer’s view, says that εἰμι was taken from the margin, and substituted for the original ἐγὼ.—Tr.]

Acts 20:28; Acts 20:28. We have here a variation in the reading of the text, which is one of the most important, in a doctrinal point of view, of all those that occur in the New Test., namely τ. ἐκκλησἰαν τοῦ κυρίου, and τ. ἐκ. τ. θεοῦ. The latter is the reading of the text. rec.; the former, however, is decidedly sustained by external evidence, and is undoubtedly the original reading. For four of the uncial manuscripts (Alex. [A.]; Cod. Ephraemi [C (original).]; the Cambridge MS. [D.], and Cod. Laudianus [E.]), fourteen minuscules, several oriental versions, and all the earlier church fathers exhibit κυρίου. There is only one uncial manuscript, the Vatican [B], in which θεοῦ occurs; but it is also found, according to Tischendorf’s Notitia editionis codicis bibliorum Sinaitici, 1860, in the Sinaitic codex recently discovered by him, and belonging to the fourth century; [In the edition of 1863, Lipsiae, Tisch. does not indicate that any later hand altered the original, θεοῦ]; it is, besides, found in several minuscules and in the Vulgate, but not in the writings of any one of the church fathers who flourished previously to the fourth century and the Arian controversies. Some manuscripts combine both readings, κυρίου and θεοῦ, in some cases with καί [as C (second correction). G. H.], in others, without it.—With regard to internal evidence, the very fact which Bengel adduces in favor of the reading of the text. rec. i. e., θεοῦ decides against it: Paul never employs in his Epistles the expression ἐκκλησία τοῦ κυρίου, but eleven times the other expression ἐκκλ. τ. θεοῦ. [Once αἱ ἐκκλ. τοῦ Χριστού, Romans 16:16.—Tr.]. On this account certain copyists placed on the margin the Pauline terminus, and this circumstance led, in some cases, to the combination of κυρίου and θεοῦ, and, in others, to the alteration of κυρίου to θεοῦ. And, independently of this circumstance, the expression αἵμα τοῦ θεοῦ corresponded very fully to the doctrinal tendencies of the fourth and fifth centuries. [The reading θεοῦ is adopted by Mill; Wolf; Bengel; Matthaei; Knapp; Scholz; Rinck; Stier; Alf.; etc.; κυρίου, by Grotius: Le Clerc; Wetst.; Griesb.; Kuin.; de Wette; Meyer; Lach.; Tisch.; Bornemann, etc.—οῦ̔ν after προςἐχετε, of text. rec., from C. E. G. H., is omitted in A. B. D. Cod. Sin. Vulg. It was dropped by copyists or writers of the lectionaria, as an ecclesiastical reading lesson began with προςέχετε (de Wette; Alf.) It is accordingly retained by Alf., although omitted by Lach. and Tisch.—Tr.]

Acts 20:29; Acts 20:29. The original reading is οῖ̓δα, and not γὰρ τοῦτο, as Tischendorf alleges; he adopts the reading of the text. rec., but is sustained only by some of the later manuscripts [C (second correction). E. G, H.]. The words γὰρ and τοῦτο are favorite amplifications of the text. They are not found in A. B. C (original) D. Cod. Sin.; the Vulgate has simply scio. They are rejected by recent editors generally.—Cod. Sin. (original) reads: εγω οιδα οτι ειςε.; a later hand, C, inserted δε before οιδα.—Tr.]

Acts 20:32; Acts 20:32. a. αδελφοὶ after ὑμᾶς is unquestionably also a later addition; it is wanting in A. B. D., and six ancient versions. [It occurs in C. E. G. H., but not in Cod. Sin., nor in Syr., Vulg., etc., and is dropped by Lach., Tisch., Born. and Alf.—Tr.]

Acts 20:32; Acts 20:32. b. οἰκοδομῆσαι is the original reading. Tischendorf has erroneously adopted the compound ἐποικοδ. [of text. rec.] on the authority of the two latest uncial manuscripts [G. H.], whereas the simple form is sustained by the other five uncial manuscripts [A. B. C. D. E., and also Cod. Sin.—Lach and Alf. adopt the latter.—Tr.]

Acts 20:32; Acts 20:32. c. [The text. rec. inserts ὑμῖν after δοῦναι, with C. G. H. It is omitted in A. B. D. E., Cod. Sin, Vulg., and dropped by Lach., Tisch., and Alf.—There is no pronoun in the Greek, corresponding to “you” after “build” in the Engl. version.—Tr.]

Acts 20:34; Acts 20:34. [The text. rec. inserts δὲ after αὐτοὶ, on doubtful authority; the particle is omitted in A. B. C. D. E. G. H., Cod. Sin., and is dropped by recent editors generally.—Tr.]

Acts 20:35; Acts 20:35. The Gen. plur. τῶν λόγων [of text. rec.] is undoubtedly the original reading; neither τὸν λόγον [in G., and some minuscules; Vulg. verbi], nor τοῦ λογου [in other minuscules], is sufficiently supported by external evidence; the two readings were merely suggested by the fact that only one saying of Jesus is here quoted.

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Acts 20". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/acts-20.html. 1857-84.
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