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Bible Commentaries
Acts 20

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations

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Acts 20:1-6 Paul goeth to Macedonia, and having passed over divers countries cometh to Troas.

Acts 20:7-12 Where, as he preached long, Eutychus falleth out of a window, and is taken up dead: Paul restoreth him to life.

Acts 20:13-16 He continueth his travels.

Acts 20:17-35 At Miletus he calleth to him the elders of the church of Ephesus, and taketh a solemn and affectionate leave of them, exhorting them to look well to their charge, and commending them to God’s grace.

Acts 20:36-38 He prayeth with them and departeth.

Verse 1

Embraced them; took his farewell of them, and, as the manner of those countries was in meeting and parting with friends, he kissed them: as Luke 7:45, and far more anciently, Genesis 31:55. And this was the true ground of that kiss of peace, or the holy kiss, recommended Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12, and elsewhere, which was only a civility then in use.

Departed for to go into Macedonia; yielding to the present fury of Demetrius; not so much for his own safety, as for the good of the church, that it might not be further persecuted for his sake; and that elsewhere it might by his ministry be enlarged and built up.

Verse 2

Much exhortation; which after so great a stir and opposition against them, the disciples could not but stand in great need of, that they might not be offended at the cross of Christ: and also mingling consolations with his exhortations, as the word indifferently signifies, as the case would well bear, there being a special blessing promised unto such as are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, Matthew 5:10; 1 Peter 3:14.

Came into Greece; Attica, in which province Athens was: otherwise Macedonia was in Greece largely taken.

Verse 3

The Jews laid wait for him; some have thought that their laying in wait might be to rob him of the collections which he carried with him for the saints at Jerusalem; but most likely it was rather to take away his life, whom they hated for his zeal and diligence in the gospel.

He purposed to return; slunning their treachery and plotting against him. He would not tempt God by running into dangers, though his cause were never so good.

Through Macedonia; being the same way that he had come to Corinth.

Verse 4

There accompanied him into Asia; their names are set down, as being men called and known at that time in the churches, and that what they did for this holy apostle might be remembered in all ages.

Sopater; who is called also Sosipater, Romans 16:21. It is added in some copies, that he was the son of Pyrrhus; which in Greek is the same with Rufus in Latin.

Berea; a city of Macedonia, Acts 17:10.

Aristarchus; of whom, Acts 19:29, as also of the others, mention hath been formerly made.

Of Asia; of Ephesus, a city in Asia.

Tychicus; of whom, Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7; 2 Timothy 4:12; and of

Trophimus we read, Acts 21:29; 2 Timothy 4:20. These seem to have been the apostles or messengers of the churches, spoken of 2 Corinthians 8:23; in the number of whom St. Luke is to be reckoned, but being the penman of this book, he declines mentioning of himself by name; but his praise will be for ever in the gospel, 2 Corinthians 8:18,2 Corinthians 8:19.

Verse 5

Us; whereby it appears, that St. Luke was one of them that accompanied St. Paul, though neither here nor elsewhere doth he express his own name.

Troas; either the city of Troy, or the country thereabout so called.

Verse 6

From Philippi; where they embarked, and sailed on the river first, then on the sea.

After the days of unleavened bread; though St. Paul would not have the Gentile converts to be burdened with the ceremonial law, yet, that he might not offend the Jews, for a while he complied with their rites, Acts 18:21, they being indeed dead, but not yet deadly; and therefore he stays his journey all the time of the passover solemnity, instructing them in the mean while of the nature and use of such things.

Verse 7

The first day of the week; this was the day which the Lord had made, it being called from his resurrection, which was on this day, the Lord’s day, Revelation 1:10. On this day the disciples met, and Christ honoured them with his presence, John 20:19,John 20:26. And when he was ascended, this day was appointed for the Christians to meet in, 1 Corinthians 16:2; which must necessarily infer the abrogation of the Saturday, or Jewish sabbath: for it being part of the command, Six days shalt thou labour, they could not in ordinary have rested the last day of the week and the first day too, without sinning against the law of God.

To break bread; to take a meal in common together, which they called agapae, or the love feast, so great a harmony and natural love was manifested in it; which was concluded with celebrating the Lord’s supper; and this is chiefly, if not only, intended in this place. The love feasts being abused, were soon laid aside; but the other must continue until the Lord come, 1 Corinthians 11:26.

Continued his speech until midnight; a long sermon indeed, at least it would be now thought so; and yet we must have the same spirit, or we are not members of that catholic church.

Verse 8

There were many lights; there being many present; and it being in the night, because of the persecution that the Christians met with. Lest they should be reproached for doing any thing indecently, they by this means exposed themselves, and all that was done amongst them, to the common view and notice of all.

In the upper chamber; where it is supposed they did ordinarily meet; as Acts 1:13.

Verse 9

Preaching; discoursing and arguing; for it does not seem to have been a continued speech, by the word here used.

Fell down from the third loft; this fall is thought by some to have been caused by Satan, (through God’s permission), that he might the more disturb Paul, and hinder, or put an end to, his sermon; which by the ensuing miracle God turned to a quite contrary effect.

Verse 10

Fell on him; as Elijah on the widow of Zarephath’s dead son, 1 Kings 17:21, and Elisha on the Shunammite’s son, 2 Kings 4:34.

His life is in him; not but that he had been really dead, as Acts 19:9, but that upon the apostle’s prayer (which is to be understood, though it is not here expressed) God had restored the young man to life; or howsoever, because St. Paul knew infallibly he should presently be restored to life, even whilst he spake.

Verse 11

Had broken bread; either in the eucharist, as in Acts 20:7, or in taking his ordinary refection and breakfast.

Talked a long while, even till break of day; this was of long continuance, and speaks the patience and zeal of Christians in those times, and will rise up in judgment against a careless and negligent generation.

He departed; going that part of his journey on foot, as the rest of his company did go by sea, as Acts 20:13.

Verse 12

They rejoiced not only that the young man was restored to life, but that by this means the gospel was attested to, and many confirmed in the belief of it.

Verse 13

Assos; a city in Mysia, called also Apollonia, not far from Troas either by water or land.

Minding himself to go afoot; Paul’s going on foot might be the rather, that so he might have the better opportunity to scatter the seed of the gospel as he went, going through towns and villages, and conversing still with some or other, more than in sea journeys can be expected. So greedy of winning souls to Christ was this holy man, that he ordered every step, as near as he could, towards it. But St. Paul might desire to go alone thus on foot, that he might enjoy more free and full communion with God, having only God and his own soul to converse with.

Verse 14

An island, as also a city in it so called, in the Aegean Sea. Some think the island is called Lesbos, in which this Mitylene is.

Verse 15

Chios; a noted island betwixt Lesbos and Samos in the Aegean Sea.

Samos; in Ionia; for there are several other islands of this name.

Trogyllium; a promontory not far from Samos.

Miletus; a sea town upon the continent or firm land of Ionia.

Verse 16

Ephesus was not so far from Miletus; but lest he should hinder his journey, he would not go thither.

If it were possible for him; or, as Acts 18:21, if the Lord would; for his endeavour should not be wanting.

To be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost; not that he placed any religion in the observing this feast, which was abrogated and done away by being fulfilled, Acts 2:1-47; but because of the vast concourse of people at all those solemn feasts, when his opportunities to magnify Christ and his truths might be the greater.

Verse 17

The governors and pastors of it; elders being here a title not respecting their age, but their place; and they might be the twelve spoken of in Acts 19:7.

Verse 18

Asia; strictly and properly so called; or that part of the Lesser Asia whose metropolis was Ephesus.

After what manner I have been with you at all seasons; a singular form for a good man to use, if he must of necessity leave his charge or flock, when his conscience does not accuse him. St. Paul spake not this as boasting of what he had done, or how he had been amongst them; but setting his example before them and others, to be imitated, and calling them for to witness the truth of it.

Verse 19

Serving the Lord; in his apostleship or public ministry; of which, if any ever could, he might have gloried; yet in this office he clothes himself

with humility, as the most becoming garment for a minister of Jesus Christ: though so high, yet so low. We need not cry, (as one did, though ironically), Fie, St. Paul! but fie upon all such as pretend to succeed in his dignity, and do not at all imitate him in his humility.

With many tears; he shed tears of compassion over the ignorant and blind, hard and perverse. It grieved him to see how large a dominion the god of this world had, and what a little part was left for his dear Lord and Master, Christ Jesus.

Temptations; afflictions and troubles, which befell him for Christ and the gospel’s sake; which are so called, James 1:2; 1 Peter 1:6.

Verse 20

I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you; useful in order to eternal life to be known or hoped for, or to be done; shunning no labour or danger; concealing nothing out of fear or hope of advantage.

Taught you publicly; in the public synagogues and schools.

And from house to house; privately, as Acts 2:46; not only speaking publicly and in general, but secretly and particularly, as everyone’s condition did require, exhorting some, reproving others. And indeed a good shepherd will labour to understand the state of his flock, and to supply them with what is necessary and suitable for them. Jacob says, Genesis 31:39, that he bare the loss, and was fain to answer for all the sheep unto Laban. And of how much more value are the souls of men, to be sure, in God’s sight, who will require an account of them!

Verse 21

Testifying to all sorts and conditions of men, for there is no difference with God, that repentance would be accepted from them by God, and that he was ready to give repentance unto them, as Acts 11:18; and that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ was the true saving faith, there being no other name given whereby we may be saved. Upon these two depends the whole gospel, and our salvation by it.

Verse 22

Bound in the spirit; as powerfully persuaded by a Divine instinct, to undertake this journey, as if I were led or drawn to it by forcible means; being bound to obey God in all things, whom I take to be my God and Guide, my Sun and Shield: and I do not desire so much to act, as to be acted by him. This St. Paul says, not as if he was drawn unto this journey against his will, but lest any should attempt to dissuade him from it, or that he should seem to have slighted the predictions of the prophets, mentioned in Acts 21:11,Acts 21:12. Nay, he might say this, as being as certain of his bonds as if he felt them already. Such things as are foretold to such as know the veracity of God, they are as present. Howsoever, he was content to be bound, to suffer, nay, to die for Christ. And as he is poor in spirit who crucifies the world, and is willing to want, if God sees good; so he is bound in spirit, who is thus willing to be bound for the name of Christ. Howsoever, these words speak his firm resolution to take this journey upon him.

Not knowing the things that shall befall me there; what the event shall be, in what measure he should be bound, and how long; he left it unto God’s good will and pleasure.

Verse 23

1. Those that were endued with the Spirit of prophecy, in every city, foretold his sufferings; as Acts 21:4,Acts 21:11.

2. He did suffer more or less in every city or place he came to; so great was the malice of the Jews against him.

Verse 24

None of these things move me; they cannot deter me from my duty.

Neither count I my life before dear unto myself; I am so far from fearing bonds, that I would not fear death itself. He is said to account his life precious, or dear, that spares it; as 2 Kings 1:13,2 Kings 1:14.

My course; his general course of Christianity, or the special course of his ministry; in either of which there is a race to be run, and a prize to be got, 2 Timothy 4:7. It implies the great and constant labour that all Christians must take in their general calling, and especially ministers in their particular calling, 1 Corinthians 9:24.

With joy; which ariseth from the testimony of a good conscience, which only is true joy; the other is madness, Ecclesiastes 2:2.

The ministry; his apostleship, so called, Acts 1:25; Acts 6:4.

The gospel of the grace of God; so the gospel is called, because bestowed upon any nation or people by God’s mere grace only. And also it declares the grace of God in Christ Jesus to repenting and believing sinners.

Verse 25

This is thought to have been spoken by St. Paul, as his present purpose and resolution only, as Romans 15:24.

The kingdom of God; the gospel, by which his kingdom is set up in the minds and hearts of men.

Verse 26

I take you to record; I testify and affirm unto you; and I dare appeal unto yourselves concerning it.

I am pure from the blood of all men; from the guilt of destroying their souls; none of them have perished through my fault, having faithfully showed unto them the way of life, and earnestly persuaded them to walk in it. Thus, according as the Lord told Ezekiel, Ezekiel 3:19, the prophet that hath warned the wicked man, hath delivered his own soul.

Verse 27

God’s decree, to save all that believe in Christ; or the whole doctrine of Christianity, as it directs to a holy life; whatsoever God requires of any one in order to a blessed eternity. This is that which the Pharisees rejected, Luke 7:30; and so do all wicked and ungodly men, who refuse to take God’s counsel, or to obey his command.

Verse 28

Take heed therefore unto yourselves; be mindful of your own salvation: for he that neglects his own, will not be careful of the salvation of another.

The Holy Ghost hath made you overseers;

1. By his choosing and nominating of them, which was then by a special instinct, or immediate warrant from the Spirit, Acts 1:24; Acts 13:2. Or:

2. Because they were constituted by the apostles, who were filled with the Spirit, enabling them to the choice of such persons, Acts 14:23. But also:

3. Whosoever is set apart to this office, according to the will of God, is made an overseer by the Holy Ghost; God owning his institutions, and concurring with them.

Overseers; the same who {Acts 20:17} are called elders; they were certainly such as had the government and care of the church committed unto them.

To feed; as a shepherd does, (for the apostle continues here the metaphor), Jeremiah 23:4; John 21:16,John 21:17.

The church of God; our Saviour is so called; for the Word was God, John 1:1.

Which he hath purchased; Christ by his bloody death hath redeemed his church, and obtained power to gather it, to rule over it, to protect and preserve it, Isaiah 53:10; Philippians 2:8-10.

With his own blood; the blood of Christ, called truly the blood of God, there being in Christ two natures in one person, and a communion of the properties of each nature. If Christ had not been man, he could have had no blood to shed: had he not been God, the blood which he shed could not have been a sufficient price of redemption. Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God, who found out such a ransom; and the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of the love of Christ, who paid this ransom for us! Romans 11:33; Ephesians 3:18,Ephesians 3:19.

Verse 29

My departing; either out of this country, or out of this life.

Grievous wolves; so false teachers and persecutors are called, the one destroying the body, the other the soul. In this the metaphor is persisted in; the disciples of Christ being as sheep or lambs, their enemies are by our Saviour himself called wolves. Matthew 7:15.

Verse 30

Of your own selves shall men arise; whilst Paul yet lived, and was only departed from that place. Several seducers may be reckoned up, as Nicolas the deacon, (from whom it is thought the sect of the Nicolaitanes came, Revelation 2:6), Hymenaeus, Alexander, Phygellus, and Hermogenes, 1 Timothy 1:20; 2 Timothy 1:15.

Speaking perverse things; perverting Scripture; establishing their false doctrines by Scripture, which they wrest to their purpose.

To draw away disciples; as members are forcibly plucked from their body; which speak the cruelty and violence of these heretics, and the tenderness of the church towards her members, being loth to part from them.

After them; thus false teachers gain indeed disciples to themselves, but not unto the Lord.

Verse 31

Watch; take heed yourselves, and warn others to take heed.

By the space of three years; from St. Paul’s first coming to Ephesus it was three years current, and now almost complete, Acts 19:8,Acts 19:10; Acts 20:3.

With tears; a great, and no feigned παθος; as Christ wept over Jerusalem, Luke 19:41, so St. Paul over the unbelieving Jews; it went to his heart to think that they could not be saved. See how St. Paul loved souls, and pitied souls.

Verse 32

I commend you to God; it being so hard a matter to escape so many snares and dangers, the apostle prays to God for them, who is able to keep them by his power, through faith, unto salvation, 1 Peter 1:5; and it is in vain to look after any meaner defence.

The word of his grace; the gospel, which leads us to the rock upon which we must build, if we would not be moved when the storm comes.

Build you up; increasing the number of believers, and augmenting their graces. God is said to build, and so is his word, both concurring: the gospel builds, as a means appointed by God; and God builds, who blesses that means. Hence he is called the God of all grace, 1 Peter 5:10.

An inheritance; heaven is called an inheritance, because we have it only by adoption, and it is given only unto children, Romans 8:17; as also, because it is a firm and lasting possession, not for a term of years, or a certain time, but for ever and ever.

Which are sanctified; for without holiness none shall see God, Hebrews 12:14.

Verse 33

Having spoken of the heavenly inheritance, he tells them how willing he was to have his reward hereafter, and to waive receiving his wages here. In this, St. Paul imitates Moses, Numbers 16:15, and Samuel, 1 Samuel 12:3,1 Samuel 12:5.

Verse 34

St. Paul working hard (as they all knew) for a livelihood, Acts 18:3; 1 Corinthians 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 2:9; which he gives an account of, 2 Thessalonians 3:8, to have been done only that in such a juncture, they being poor, and the false teachers watching all advantages against him, he might not then be chargeable to them.

Verse 35

I have showed you all things; as in Acts 20:27.

So labouring; with more than ordinary pains and constancy.

To support; that they do not fall; or, being fallen, that they may rise again. The word imports the stretching out of the hand to retain any that are going away, or to hold up any that are falling.

The weak; in knowledge, faith, or any other grace.

The words of the Lord Jesus; Paul might have these words by the relation of others who heard them spoken by our Savionr; for all things that he said or did could not be written, John 20:30.

It is more blessed to give than to receive; not so much in that giving speaks abundance and affluence, but as it shows our charity and goodness, in which we resemble and imitate God. The substance of these words which are attributed to our Saviour, though not the terms, may be found in divers places, as Luke 6:38; Luke 16:9.

Verse 36

He kneeled down; a posture of great humility, becoming prayer, and frequently used on such occasions, especially in a time of great trouble and distress. Although bodily exercise alone do not profit, 1 Timothy 4:8, yet we may, and must on occasion, in prayer bow the knee, lift up the hand and eye;

1. Because it is a reasonable thing to give our bodies in his service to God that made them.

2. By this we may show that we are not ashamed to serve and own God before men. And:

3. These outward signs do sometimes stir up our own and others’ devotion.

Verse 37

As they used to do their friends when they took their leave of them: see Genesis 45:14,Genesis 45:15.

Verse 38

The loss of a faithful and painful minister is a public loss, and many are concerned in it; besides, they had found great benefit by his ministry, and could not but be sensible of their missing of it. Add to this, Paul’s gracious and humble conversation, and the sense of many good offices done by him, could not but have endeared him unto them.

They accompanied him unto the ship; enjoying him as long and as far as they could, and expressing their last and utmost kindness unto him.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Acts 20". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/acts-20.html. 1685.
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