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Acts 20

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Verses 1-6

Act 20:1-6


Acts 20:1-6

1 And after the uproar ceased,—There is no evidence that “the uproar” of the mob caused Paul to leave Ephesus; it might have hastened his departure. He had determined before that event to leave the city. (Acts 19:21-22.) Luke, the writer, is very brief here and passes over without a word an important period in Paul’s life. We are able to fill up the gap in the narrative from scattered references in Paul’s writings, especially from Second Corinthians. It seems that Paul left Ephesus by land and went by land to Troas; he waited there anxiously for Titus (2 Corinthians 2:13), whom he had sent to Corinth on a mission connected with the collection then being made by the Gentile churches for the relief of the poor saints in Jerusalem. For some cause Titus was delayed, and Paul sailed from Troas to Macedonia, where Titus met him with news from Corinth. (2 Corinthians 7:6.) Some think that Paul met Titus at Philippi, where he wrote the second Corinthian letter.

2 And when he had gone through those parts,—We do not know why Luke did not tell of Paul’s sojourn in Troas (2 Corinthians 2:12 f), nor of the meeting with Titus in Macedonia (2 Corinthians 2:13 to 2 Corinthians 7:16), nor of Paul’s visit to Illyricum (Romans 15:19 f.), to give time for the second letter to Corinth to do its work. Paul finally came into Greece or Achaia and came to Corinth, whither he had at last come again after repeated attempts, delays, and pauses. Paul followed his usual custom of visiting and conferring with the churches already established. (Acts 15:41 Acts 18:23.) We may know that Paul preached the gospel on his way to Corinth (2 Corinthians 10:16), and made excursions into the surrounding parts of Achaia, with Corinth as his headquarters.

3 And when he had spent three months there,—The historian Luke here briefly refers to Paul’s second residence in Corinth. Some think that this was his third visit to Corinth. (2 Corinthians 13:1.) He may have made a short trip to Corinth during his three years’ stay at Ephesus. He had been away from Corinth three years, and in that period many changes had taken place in the church. There were the disputes about the Lord’s Supper, the divisions into different partisan groups, the immoral lives of some of the members, and many other evils that needed to be corrected. During the three months of his stay at Corinth, Paul wrote the great epistle to the Romans. (Romans 15:25 Romans 16:1.) The Galatian letter was possibly written at this time also. A plot was laid against Paul by the Jews while he was there, as he was about to “set sail for Syria.” Paul, having heard of this plot, changed his course and, instead of sailing for Syria, he returned “through Macedonia.” We do not know what this plot was, but we do know that it caused Paul to make a circuitous route through Macedonia.

4 And there accompanied him as far as Asia,—Seven brethren accompanied Paul: Sopater of Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus of Thessalonica, Gaius of Derbe, Timothy and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia. We know nothing further of Sopater; Aristarchus has been mentioned before (Acts 19:29) ; he was on the ship with Paul on the way to Rome (Acts 27:2); and he is mentioned in Colossians 4:10 as Paul’s fellow prisoner. We know nothing further of Secundus; Gaius was probably a friend of Timothy, who was from Lystra, a neighboring city to Derbe. Tychicus is mentioned four times in Paul’s writings during his imprisonment at Rome. (Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7; 2 Timothy 4:12; Titus 3:12.) Trophimus was with Paul in Jerusalem (Acts 21:29), and is mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:20. Paul was carrying a contribution contributed by the Gentile churches; hence, these brethren could assist him and serve as a bodyguard to him.

5 But these had gone before,—It is probable that only the last two went before and were waiting for the company at Troas. Here the language of the narrative suddenly changes from the third person to the first; Luke has now joined Paul’s company. Paul and Luke were together from the time of the arrival of Paul at Troas (Acts 16:8); they crossed over together into Europe, but when Paul left Philippi (Acts 16:40), Luke was left behind, and, it has been supposed, made Philippi the center of his work for several years. Now again, after the lapse of five or six years, they meet. The remainder of the Acts is told by an eyewitness of the various events recorded; we conclude that from this time till Paul was entrusted to the charge of the soldiers at Rome Luke was continually with him. Many think that the seven brethren went before and waited for Paul and Luke to come to Troas.

6 And we sailed away from Philippi—Philippi was about ten or twelve miles from the seaport, Neapolis. They had come to Philippi by land. They remained there during “the days of unleavened bread.” This was the Passover. The Passover proper lasted only one day, the fourteenth day of the first month, but there followed the Passover seven days, known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread; hence the two feasts were united and one name included tba Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, or the Feast of Unleavened Bread included the Passover. Paul was a Jew and Luke was a Gentile. The passover was to be eaten in Jerusalem ; it may be that Paul remained here during this time to preach the gospel to Jews that might assemble. Again, the Feast of Unleavened Bread is mentioned as a chronological note of time; Paul did not tarry at Philippi to observe the Passover, but remained there that Luke might arrange and prepare for the journey. They set sail for Troas and arrived in “five days”; six years before this Paul had made the voyage in the opposite direction in two days. (Acts 16:11.) It may be that adverse winds delayed their sailing. They remained in Troas seven days.


Acts 20:7-12

7 And upon the first day of the week,—This is the first time that we have mentioned services “upon the first day of the week.” Paul had written First Corinthians before this; in that letter he had designated that collections or contributions should be taken on the first day of the week. (1 Corinthians 16:2.) He tells us that he had given the same “order to the churches of Galatia.” (1 Corinthians 16:1.) This shows that it had become a well-established custom for the early Christians to meet on the first day of the week; this custom is now a command, or rather, there is a command for this collection to be taken on the first day of the week. They had met at Troas or gathered “together to break bread” on “the first day of the week.” “To break bread” is from the Greek “klasai arton,” which is the same as in Acts 2:42. This is used for the Lord’s Supper; hence, we have here the purpose of their gathering together on the first day of the week. Paul was present and “discoursed with them,” purposing to leave Troas on the following day. However, he “prolonged his speech until midnight.” Paul’s preaching was incidental, though instructive. Paul reasoned with them, and the conversation was used to solve doubts and clear away difficulties which might be in the way of some young Christians.

8 And there were many lights in the upper chamber—They were gathered in an “upper chamber” for the services. The upper room was used for devotional purposes; it was so located as to be retired and free from disturbance. It was located on the third story. The lights are mentioned by Luke to portray the scene, and it would at once be noticed if anyone absented himself from the audience.

9 And there sat in the window a certain young man named Eutychus,—Perhaps this young man sat on the window sill where the seats extended out over the street; the window was not of glass; hence, one could fall out the window very easily. This “certain young man” is called a “lad” in verse 12. Paul’s discourse continued until midnight and the young man was “borne down with deep sleep,” and while asleep, “he fell down from the third story, and was taken up dead.” Eutychus was not merely taken up for dead, but “was taken up dead.” This is recorded by Luke, the physician, who was present and knew all the particulars.

10 And Paul went down, and fell on him,—Paul went down the stairway, which was usually outside and led down to the street. Paul “fell on him” similar to what Elijah (1 Kings 17:21) and Elisha (2 Kings 4:34) did; Paul very likely placed his body upon the body of Eutychus as did Elijah and Elisha, and accompanied his action with prayer. Paul told the anxious ones who stood around that they should not make such ado, for the young man’s life was in him. This is similar to what Christ said at the house of Jairus. (Luke 8:52-53.) Paul did not say that Eutychus had not been dead, but that after his efforts life was there. Some had attempted to prove that Eutychus was not dead, but the language clearly implies that he was dead, but now is alive.

11 And when he was gone up, and had broken the bread,— Commentators are not agreed as to whether the Lord’s Supper was meant by “had broken the bread” or a common meal. If this was the Lord’s Supper, and if they counted the day from midnight to midnight as we count it, then they ate the Lord’s Supper on Monday ; if they ate the Lord’s Supper on Monday, they did not do what they met to do on the first day of the week; again, if this was the Lord’s Supper, and if they began counting time from sunset to sunset, then they ate the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week. If this does not refer to the Lord’s Supper, it refers to a common meal; this would mean that they had already eaten the Lord’s Supper, and now, since there had been an interruption in Paul’s discourse by the falling of Eutychus out of the window, Paul took nourishment and continued his speech. It seems better to conclude that this was not the Lord’s Supper, but that it was a common meal which Paul ate in preparation for his expected departure. It is mentioned with particular reference to Paul, not to the worshiping company; hence, we conclude that the Lord’s Supper had been observed at an earlier period of the meeting, and therefore, on the first day of the week, as they had met for that purpose on that day.

12 And they brought the lad alive,—The young man was brought into the assembly room in a normal condition; the word “brought,” not “carried,” shows that he was in a normal condition. The disciples were encouraged by Paul’s speech and comforted by the fact that the young man was alive and in a normal condition. Paul and his company departed as they had intended, and left the brethren further instructed and hopeful as the Lord’s people.

Verses 1-38

Act 20:1-38



Notes For Lesson Nineteen:

On the Way to Jerusalem

(Acts 20:1 to Acts 21:16)

As Paul’s latest missionary journey continued, he had already decided to head to Jerusalem. Before reaching Jerusalem, though, he made several more stops, and had some interesting experiences. The most well-known event of this part of his journey is probably his farewell to the elders of the church of Ephesus, who met him at Miletus as he was on his way to Judea.

To Greece & Back (Acts 20:1-12)

After the great riot in Ephesus, Paul decided to conclude his lengthy visit there, and to head back through Greece and Macedonia. Once again we see Paul’s emphasis on strengthening the churches he had previously helped to establish. After traveling through Macedonia and Greece, he came back through Macedonia, and then sailed to Troas in Asia, where he had an interesting experience that is not without a touch of humor.

After leaving Ephesus, Paul went back through many of the regions he had visited on his previous tour (Acts 20:1-6). The Acts account does not list the specific cities where he stayed this time, mentioning only that he went though Macedonia (which included Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea) and Greece proper (or Achaia, which included Athens and Corinth) . He apparently spent several months making this circuit, and then planned to sail east to Syria (where Antioch was located). It is usually assumed that his last stop before turning around was in Corinth, and we know from other evidence that it was in Corinth around this time that he wrote the epistle to the Romans. Before leaving for Antioch, yet another plot against Paul came to light, which caused him to change his plans, heading overland with a group of companions. Luke mentions Timothy and several of the other friends traveling with Paul, some of whom were from Macedonia and others from Asia. Several of these other persons are also mentioned in one or more of Paul’s epistles. They split up for a time, and then eventually they reached the port of Troas in Asia.

In Troas, an interesting and somewhat amusing episode took place (Acts 20:7-12) . When the Christians met on the first day of the week*, Paul spoke at such great length that a young man named Eutychus fell asleep. In itself, there may be nothing unusual in this, but Eutychus had made a tactically flawed choice in selecting a window-frame as his napping place. Suddenly the meeting was broken up by the shocking sight of the young man falling through the open window to his death below. Fortunately, Paul was able to use his gift of healing to raise the unfortunate believer, giving the story a happy ending. After this the Christians broke bread** and celebrated the lucky escape of Eutychus.

While all available information tells us that meeting ’on the first day of the week’ was a universal practice in the early church, there were two different methods used, depending on whether one reckoned time by the Jewish clock or the Roman clock. The Jewish clock started the day at sundown, and hence the first day of the week would start on what we would call Saturday evening. Early Jewish congregations of the church often chose this time for their Lord’s Day assemblies. The Roman clock, like our own, started the day at midnight, and Gentile churches usually worshipped either in the morning or evening of what we would call Sunday. Often they would meet early on Sunday morning, go to work, and re-assemble in the evening. Because Troas was a Gentile city, many commentators think that Acts 20:7-12 takes place late Sunday evening and early Monday morning, but this is uncertain. Note that throughout the Roman Empire, the first day of the week was a work day except for the idle upper classes. The Jews had their weekly holiday on the seventh day, the Sabbath day, but there was no ’weekend’ of even one day on the Roman calendar. Thus both Jewish and Gentile congregations had to work around this in observing worship on the first day. Not until the 4th century AD was the first day of the week a day off from work.

This expression was generally used to refer to the observance of the Lord’s Supper. But it could also be used to refer to taking meals together, making it somewhat ambiguous. In this context, it is generally understood that here it refers to the Lord’s Supper.

For Discussion or Study: Make a partial list of all the other believers whom we have seen traveling with Paul or sharing in his ministry. Why are so many of them mentioned? What does this suggest about the first century church and its ministries?

Farewell to the Elders of the Ephesian Church (Acts 20:13-38)

In one of the most well-known passages of the book of Acts, Paul made a stop in Miletus in order to have a last chance to meet with the elders of the church in Ephesus, where he had spent so much time. This was the only way in which he could be sure to see them once more, regardless of what was going to happen in Jerusalem. His message to them is personal, instructive, and memorable.

Having apparently avoided the plot that was discovered in Greece, Paul is now back on track for his visit to Jerusalem. But he decides to make this one special stop along the way (Acts 20:13-17). Paul’s plan called for him to sail past Ephesus and most of the rest of Asia without stopping. But in his long stay at Ephesus, he had apparently developed a special fondness for the congregation there, and could not bear the thought of passing by so closely without having any contact with them. Accordingly, he hit on the plan of making a stop at the port city of Miletus. farther down the Aegean coast from Ephesus, and having the elders of the Ephesian church meet him there.

Therefore Paul was able to have a last personal meeting with the elders from Ephesus (Acts 20:18-24). Many of the details recorded by Luke show us the mutual affection and esteem between Paul and these brothers, whom he probably had come to know quite well. Paul begins with a personal statement, in which he reminds them of his devotion to the gospel, the risks he was willing to take, and the hardships he was willing to undergo. He leaves them with this pattern of life as an example. Paul is keenly aware of the uncertainty in his future - he is convinced that it is God’s will for him to go to Jerusalem, but he does not know what will happen there - and there is no false confidence that he is invulnerable to attack. He wants them also to appreciate the importance of using everything in their lives to further "the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace".

Paul then delivers some parting thoughts, both of a personal and a practical nature (Acts 20:25-38). He emphasizes the need for the elders to be on their guard, to keep watch over their flock, and he details the dangers of false teachers that he knew would always be a potential problem. He even warns them that false teachers could arise from within their own number, and as a counter-balance he shares his own perspective on ministry, his refusal to turn a profit on the gospel or to claim any other special rights. If they too can keep this attitude, it will guard their hearts against the temptations that can plague spiritual leaders. Finally, it was time to say good -bye. The moving scene that occurs, when they realize that this may be their last meeting, made an obvious impression on Luke* . It is a vivid example of the kind of close fellowship that can be built on the foundation of the gospel of grace.

Note that since Acts 20:5, Luke has resumed using "we" and "us" in describing Paul’s traveling party. It is likely that Luke had been left in Philippi after the events of Acts 16, and then rejoined Paul as he passed through.

For Discussion or Study: What does this episode reveal about Paul’s relationship with the church at Ephesus? What examples does it set that we can constructively follow?

The Last Part of the Journey (Acts 21:1-16)

Paul still had several more stops to make before he would arrive in Jerusalem. The closer that he got to Judea, the more concern he encountered from those who cared about him. The other believers knew the kind of opposition that awaited him, and begged him not to go, setting an increasingly ominous tone as he nears his destination. Yet Paul continues, having been persuaded that it was God’s will for him to go there.

From Miletus, Paul continued on his way to Judea in stages (Acts 21:1-6). Paul’s itinerary is a series of short trips, sailing from Miletus to the island of Cos, and then to the island Rhodes off the south coast of Asia (and the site of the Colossus, another of the ’Wonders of the Ancient World’), and then to the mainland port of Patara, on the south coast of present-day Turkey. From there they sailed to Phoenicia (the region just north of Judea) and landed at Tyre, barely 100 miles from Jerusalem. Here Paul and his companions stayed for a week, enjoying the company of the Christians there. Knowing Paul’s intentions, the believers at Tyre pleaded with him not to go to Jerusalem. When it was clear that he would proceed anyway, they offered their prayers for him. In a memorable picture, they joined together in prayer right on the beach as Paul prepared to sail away.

From Tyre, Paul sailed to Caesarea, about 50 miles down the coast from Tyre, making the trip in two days with a stop in Ptolemais (Acts 21:7-16). During his stay in Caesarea, he stayed at the home of Philip, who was one of the Seven and whose earlier activities were detailed in Acts 6 and Acts - Now, some 20 years later, Philip is known primarily as an evangelist, and has four daughters who have a prophetic ministry of their own*. The prophet Agabus, seen before in Acts 11, came at this time to Caesarea and predicted, using the kind of acted-out image that some of the Old Testament prophets used to employ, that when Paul went to Jerusalem he would be bound and arrested.

This does not necessarily mean that they predicted the future, although they could have. In the New Testament, prophecy was also used to refer to inspired teaching from or about God’s Word, an ability that in most cases is even more valuable spiritually than that of predicting the future.

After Agabus made his prediction, the Christians with Paul began yet another attempt to dissuade him from heading to Jerusalem, where such danger obviously awaited him. But Paul expresses in no unclear terms his determination to continue. Convinced that it is God’s will, he is ready to go there even if he dies as a result. Once the other Christians realize the depth of his resolve, some of them accompany him on the overland trip to Jerusalem, the last leg of the journey, and the last trip that Paul would make as a free man for some time to come.

For Discussion or Study: (i) Why does the Acts account include so much detail about Paul’s travel itinerary? What should we get out of reading it? (ii) Why was Paul so determined to go to Jerusalem? Did he really understand the risk he was taking? Could there be any situations for us that might hold basic parallels at some level?

- Mark W. Garner, July 2002

Verses 13-38

Act 20:13-38



Acts 20:13-38

13 But we, going before to the ship,—The company, including Luke, as the pronoun “we” shows, set sail from Troas for Assos; this town was in Mysia on the north shore of the Gulf of Adramyttium, about twenty miles from Troas by land, and about thirty miles by sea. Paul had gone by land and had instructed his company to meet him at Assos. Some think that Paul’s company had chartered a vessel and could make stops wherever ordered.

14 And when he met us at Assos,—The company came to Assos, where Paul joined them, and then came to Mitylene. Mitylene was the capital of Lesbos, and was about thirty miles from Assos. Mitylene was the birthplace of Sappho, the female poet, and the poet Alcaeus. It could be reached from Assos in one day’s journey.

15 And sailing from thence,—It was a day’s journey from Mitylene to Chios. The island of Chios is about five miles distant from the mainland; it was in the Aegean Sea. The next day the vessel “touched at Samos.” The island of Samos lies off that part of the coast of Asia Minor, where the ancient Ionia joined on to Caria; it has been famous both in ancient Greek and modern European history. On the mainland opposite, at the termination of the ridge of Mycale, lay Trogyllium, for which the apostle’s vessel made without stopping in Samos. The next day the vessel sailed to Miletus. Miletus had been a most famous seaport in earlier Greek history, but in the days of Paul its fame was eclipsed by Ephesus. It seems that they arrived at Miletus the fourth day after leaving Troas. Miletus was about twenty-eight miles south of Ephesus by land, and lay near the mouth of the Meander; it was one day’s sail from Trogyllium.

16 For Paul had determined to sail past Ephesus,—Paul sought to evade stopping at Ephesus; at this time he did not wish to revisit the church there, lest the many friends and their pressing solicitations should delay his voyage. He did not have any time to spare, as he wanted to reach Jerusalem in time to be there at the Feast of Pentecost. If Paul could get to Jerusalem by Pentecost he could present the gifts of the Gentile churches in the presence of the great crowd of foreign Jews who would assemble in Jerusalem at the Pentecostal feast, and thus spread abroad in all lands the great fact that the Gentile Christians were one with their Jewish brethren; this would impress them that the disciples of the Lord were one body.

17 And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus,—Some think that had the ship been entirely at Paul’s disposal he would have asked the elders at Ephesus to meet him at Trogyllium, which is very near Ephesus. Had he gone to Ephesus he would probably have been compelled to stay longer than he wished to stay. It would take more than one day for Paul to send his messenger to Ephesus and summon those whom he wished to see. If they came to him on the next day that would be consumed in their conference, and the voyage could hardly be begun again till the third day at the earliest. He sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church to meet him. The term “elders” here is from the Greek “presbuterous,” from which we get our term “presbytor.” The first term “elder” applied to a disciple of Christ is found in Acts 11:30, and then again Acts 15:4 Acts 15:6 Acts 15:22. The “elders” are not “apostles,” but are “bishops.” (Philippians 1:1.) The “elders” in this verse are called “bishops” in verse 28. The duties of the elders are the ministration of the affairs of the church, conducting public worship, preaching the gospel to sinners, and edifying the membership.

18 And when they were come to him,—It is difficult to analyze Paul’s address to the elders of the church of Ephesus at this time; it is full of personality, instruction, and persuasion. He first appealed to their knowledge of his manner of life among them; it had been about four years since he began his work at Ephesus. In fact, most of his work in Asia was done in Ephesus; these elders knew his work at Ephesus and had heard of his labors elsewhere in Asia. They knew Paul’s manner of life and could vindicate him against any of the reports circulated to his injury.

19 serving the Lord with all lowliness of mind,—Paul was not puffed up; he did not boast of what he had done or what he could do; he served the Lord with “all lowliness of mind.” Paul was clothed with humility and had a humble mind as he taught the people and preached a crucified Lord. He preached with ‘‘tears.” He wrote to the church at Corinth “with many tears.” (2 Corinthians 2:4.) In writing the church at Philippi he rehearsed some things to the church there, and then said that he now told them “even weeping” at the time he wrote the Philippian letter. (Philippians 3:18.) This shows how earnestly and sincerely Paul engaged in the work of the Lord. They knew the trials and plots that endangered Paul’s life. Though the Jews had at first desired him to return to them, they soon fell into the same hostility of others. The Jews who rejected the gospel became Paul’s worst enemies.

20 how I shrank not from declaring unto you anything—Amidst all the plots and hostilities to which Paul was subjected he did not keep back “anything that was profitable” to them. Everything that pertained to life and godliness had been declared by Paul. He preached the gospel publicly in the synagogue of the Jews and in the public assembly of the Gentiles; he preached the gospel in private “from house to house”; he preached Christ publicly and in private circles, in the church or place of worship, and in the dwellings. Paul, the great apostle to the Gentiles, set the example of teaching the word of God, both publicly and privately.

21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks repentance toward God,—Paul testified of all the things that were profitable to their salvation; “testifying” is from the Greek “diamarturomenos,” and was used by Peter in Acts 2:40, where Luke used the same word to describe Peter’s preaching. Again Luke uses “Jews and to Greeks,” thus including both as Paul did in Romans 1:16. He preached “repentance toward God” and “faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” Repentance is required of Jews and Greeks, and faith is needed by the Jews as well as the Greeks. Faith and repentance go together; to the alien they cannot be separated. John the Baptist came to make ready a people prepared for Christ by preaching repentance toward God; Christ preached repentance toward God, and Paul, in preaching to the Athenians, first presented to them the true God, then called on them to repent of their idolatries which had dishonored God; after that he presented Christ as the crucified and risen Lord. (Acts 17:29-31.) All sin is against God; hence, repentance must be toward God. The writer here does not mean to say that repentance to the alien precedes faith. Such a position would teach that men repent toward God before they believe in God, and repent toward Christ before they believe in him.

22-23 And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit—Here Paul mentions his journey to Jerusalem; he was now on his way and could not go to Ephesus and tarry there, as he was hastening on to Jerusalem. “Bound in the spirit” means that he was bound in his own spirit; it is the same as in Acts 19:21, where he “purposed in the spirit.” However, some have interpreted these words to mean that Paul was constrained by the Holy Spirit to make the journey to Jerusalem; the context seems to indicate that it is Paul’s spirit. He did not know what would befall him; he was not concerned about the persecutions that would come upon him, as he was willing to die for Christ. The Holy Spirit testified that “bonds and afflic-tions” awaited him in every city where he went. The Holy Spirit had called Paul to the work (Acts 13:2), and had moved the disciples (Acts 21:4) and Agabus (Acts 21:11) to warn Paul of the sufferings which were at hand. Perhaps many other warnings came to Paul that Luke does not record.

24 But I hold not my life of any account as dear unto myself,—Paul had given his life to Christ; it was not held as dear to himself, and he was willing to spend and be spent in order to further the cause of Christ. Paul glorified in tribulations (2 Corinthians 12:10 f); he did not regard his life as valuable in comparison with his joyfully completing his career and attaining the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Paul is determined to run the race to the end and to preach the gospel of the grace of God to all who would hear him. The race with Paul will last as long as life lasts; he will not faint in the middle of sufferings which awaited him. Later Paul said: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7.) The gospel is here called “the gospel of the grace of God” because it was given by the grace of God. Grace means the free favor of God.

25 And now, behold, I know that ye all,—We do not know that Paul ever saw Ephesus again; it seems that Paul did not expect to see these elders again. Paul had preached “the kingdom” at Ephesus. Daniel had prophesied (Daniel 2:44) that God would set up his kingdom; John the Baptist, Christ, and his apostles before Pentecost preached that it was “at hand”; after Pentecost the apostles preached that the kingdom was in existence and that Christians were citizens in the kingdom; so here we find that Paul went about preaching the kingdom.

26 Wherefore I testify unto you this day,—Paul is very personal ; he is speaking face to face with the elders of the church at Ephesus; he could call them to witness that he was stating the truth to them. He had kept nothing back that pertained to the redemption of souls. He had taught them what to do to become Christians, and had taught them how to live the Christian life, and now he could declare “that I am pure from the blood of all men.” He had taught them the will of God and had warned them of the doom of those who would not obey the gospel. As a watchman standing on the wall, he had warned all; hence, he was not chargeable with their destruction; his skirts.were clear from the blood of all, as he had faithfully warned all of their duty and of the coming wrath. (Ezekiel 3:18-21.) Paul had declared the whole counsel of God here as he had at Corinth. (Acts 18:6.)

27 For I shrank not from declaring unto you—He had not withheld anything from them that was needful for them to know or do for their own salvation. “The whole counsel of God” means all the counsel of God that concerned Paul’s work as a preacher of the gospel and an apostle of Christ. Paul had not suppressed anything that pertained to the salvation of souls. The one who suppresses what he ought to declare is guilty of the blood of those who are lost. Paul had found great comfort in the Ephesian church, more power to declare the “mystery” of the gospel. (Ephesians 3:4.) God had revealed to Paul all things concerning Christ, salvation, the kingdom of God, and its relation to men; Paul had declared all that had been revealed unto him.

The first duty belonging to elders is to take heed to themselves; they are to be “ensamples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:3.) They have the responsibility of setting an example before others; they must take heed that they are worthy examples. Another phase of their responsibility is to look after the flock. The church is here represented as “the flock.” They are to look after “all the flock,” not just a few of the members. “Flock” is from the Greek “poimnioi,” which is contracted from “poimenion.” (John 10:16.) The Holy Spirit had made them bishops; the Holy Spirit had made them bishops by describing the qualifications and through the church had called them to be “bishops.” “Bishops” here is from the Greek “episkopous,” and is the same as “elders” in verse 17; hence, elders and bishops are just different terms applied to the same men. All who are elders today in a scriptural sense have been made elders by the Holy Spirit. “To feed the church” is a duty imposed upon the elders; as shepherds they are to see that the flock receives proper nourishment. The “elders” were to watch over the flocks as “bishops” and to tend and feed as “shepherds.” Here the church is called “the church of the Lord,” because the Lord had “purchased with his own blood” this institution. Every member of the church has been brought with the price of the blood of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:20); the church is composed of members; hence, the church has been purchased with the blood of Christ.

29 I know that after my departing—Paul, with the Holy Spirit, knew what would take place. After his departing, not his death, but his leaving them, “grievous wolves” would “enter in among” them, “not sparing the flock.” Paul keeps up the figure of a flock, with shepherds, and ferocious wolves destroying the flock. “Grievous wolves” means those that are savage, harsh, and rapacious. Jesus had described false teachers as “ravening wolves.” (Matthew 7:15.) These false teachers would destroy the faith of the members; here Paul makes reference to teachers of dangerous doctrines, whether Judaizers or heathen theosophists such as the Gnostics.

30 and from among your own selves shall men arise,—Paul further predicts that false teachers should arise “from among your own selves” who would disturb the church. False teachers would arise among the elders of the church at Ephesus. The church at Ephesus became notorious in after days as a seat of a great Gnostic heresy; even in the New Testament writings, not fewer than six of the pioneers of these false teachers are mentioned as belonging to Ephesus; they are: Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Timothy 1:20), Phygelus and Hermogenes (2 Timothy 1:15), and Philetus. In 3 John 1:9 we read of Diotrephes who lived at Ephesus. The church at Ephesus is condemned for its false teachers later by John. (Revelation 2:2.)

31 Wherefore watch ye,—Paul not only warned these elders and the church at Ephesus, but put them on their guard and asked them to watch carefully. This was one phase of the duties of elders. He had held himself up as an example to them, and now he warned them. He calls to their attention that “by the space of here declares his solemn motives in preaching the gospel to them. One of the slanders against Paul was that he was raising the collection for himself and not for the poor. He includes “apparel” because much of the wealth in that eastern country consisted largely in fine apparel. (Genesis 24:53; 2 Kings 5:5; Psalms 45:13 f.)

"three years I ceased not to admonish every one night and day with tears.” Paul did not cease admonishing them night and day with all the earnestness of his soul to be on their guard and watch themselves and the flock over which they were to preside. Paul did not mean to be exact as to time. It was about three years; two of these he taught publicly in the school at Tyrannus (Acts 19:10) ; three months preceding he had taught in the Jewish synagogue (Acts 19:8); and previously he had been in Ephesus with Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:19). It was usual among the Jews to reckon a part of a day for a whole one, and so a part of a year might, in a general statement, be reckoned for a whole year. He warned them “with tears”; this shows how deep and tender was his solicitude for the welfare of the church.

32 And now I commend you to God,—As he is about to leave them he can do no better than to commend them to God; the apostle who had preached the gospel to them, and who had instructed them in living the Christian life, now commends them to God who is able to build them up and to give them an inheritance “among all them that are sanctified.” The precious truths of God are here spoken of as the “word of his grace”; as grace and truth came through Christ (John 1:17), so the words that came through Jesus may be called the words of grace. God’s people today have nothing else to guide them but “the word of his grace.” Those who are in Christ are sanctified; they have been sanctified by the truth. (John 17:17.) God alone can give an inheritance in heaven; hence, he has promised all who are faithful to him the crown of life. (Revelation 2:10.)

33 I coveted no man’s silver,—Paul did not preach for money; he was conscious of having been actuated by no personal or worldly considerations. He did not preach for the love of money, nor display of talent, nor to gratify a selfish ambition; he had only a simple and sincere desire to serve his Lord and his church. He here declares his solemn motives in preaching the gospel to them. One of the slanders against Paul was that he was raising the collection for himself and not for the poor. He includes “apparel” because much of the wealth in that eastern country consisted largely in fine apparel. (Genesis 24:53; 2 Kings 5:5; Psalms 45:13 f.)

34 Ye yourselves know that these hands—Paul needed no further proof or evidence; he could appeal to their own knowledge as to how he had worked with his hands and earned the necessities of life. He not only worked to support himself, but helped to support those who were with him. (1 Corinthians 9:12 1 Corinthians 9:15.) Paul could hold up his hands in their sight as witnesses that he had worked and had honestly provided his own support. We have learned that Paul was a tentmaker, and that he frequently ministered to others. He said to the church at Corinth, while he was in Ephesus, that “we toil, working with our own hands.” (1 Corinthians 4:12.)

35 In all things I gave you an example,—Not only did he give them an example as to how to live, but he gave them an example that they should work with their own hands to support themselves and to help support those that preach the gospel. He toiled not only for himself, but for others. Here he quotes one of the unwritten sayings of our Lord: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” These words were well known and quite familiar to his listeners, yet they are not found in any of the four writers of the gospel. They enforce with solemn distinctness the duty of liberality to the poor; they possess a far deeper meaning, for they assert as an eternal truth the higher blessedness of giving as compared with receiving. It may be that the full truth of this statement of our Lord in all its length and breadth and depth and height will never be fully understood by any but the redeemed, and not by them till they enter the city of the Lamb of God.

36 And when he had thus spoken,—As he finished his address to these elders, Paul “kneeled down and prayed with them all.” The early Christians were in the habit of “kneeling” in prayer on ordinary occasions. We read that Stephen, while they were stoning him to death, kneeled in prayer. (Acts 7:60.) Such a posture is a fitting attitude in prayer; this was the posture that Jesus took. (Luke 22:41.)

37 And they all wept sore,—Paul had a tender feeling for these brethren; he knew their weakness, and he knew their responsibilities. He wept with them. They “fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him.” “Kissed” is from the Greek “katephiloun,” and means a repetition of the act; they kept on kissing or kissed repeatedly ; some think that one after the other fell on his neck and kissed him by turns. They held Paul in high esteem, and had great affection for him.

38 sorrowing most of all for the word—The greatest cause of their grief was the thought that they would probably see Paul no more. He had said to them that they should see his “face no more” (verse 25), and this was the chief source of their sorrowing. Some think that Paul and the elders were wrong in this; they think that Paul revisited Ephesus after his first imprisonment in Rome; however, this is not clear. There is no statement that we can correctly interpret that he ever visited Ephesus again. His address had made a solemn impression on them, and his deep affection for them bound him to them, and their affection for Paul bound them to him.

Acts 20:1

After the mob had been quieted, Paul at once left Ephesus to go into Macedonia again. We have an account of but one visit to Macedonia, yet in 2 Corinthians 12:14 Paul says that this is the “third time I am ready to come to you.” (See also 2 Corinthians 13:1). This letter was writ­ten just previous to this last visit. This was his last visit to Ephesus. On his return from Corinth to Jerusalem he stopped at Miletus, the seaport of Ephesus, and sent for the elders (verse 17); but this was the final farewell to the church at Ephesus.

Questions on Acts

By E.M. Zerr

Acts Chapter 20

  • · How does the writer designate the previous event?

  • · After this whom did Paul call?

  • · To what parts did he start?

  • · What service did he render in Macedonia?

  • · Where did he next go?

  • · Had he ever been here before?

  • · How long did he remain in Greece?

  • · What caused him to retrace his journey?

  • · Did he go alone?

  • · Who make up the "us" verse five?

  • · What makes this place noted?

  • · At what place did Paul embark?

  • · What was the season of the year?

  • · On what day did he sail?

  • · What day of the week did he land at Troas?

  • · On what day did the disciples come together?

  • · For what purpose?

  • · What did Paul do?

  • · Why did he preach so long?

  • · Describe the miracle.

  • · What did Paul say about the young man’s life?

  • · After what act did he say this?

  • · How often did they break bread here?

  • · Where was the party rejoined in the journey?

  • · Why did Paul determine to sail by Ephesus?

  • · State what interest he could have in Pentecost.

  • · At what city must it be observed?

  • · Where did Paul pause in his journey?

  • · At this place whom did he call?

  • · Of what did he remind them as to his conduct?

  • · From whence did the temptations come to him?

  • · What had he not kept back from them?

  • · In what places had he taught them?

  • · To what classes had he testified?

  • · Why repentance mentioned before faith?

  • · Under what obligation is he now acting?

  • · By what person was he thus bound?

  • · Of what was he unaware?

  • · Tell of what he was aware.

  • · How did Paul feel about it?

  • · At what part of his course was he to have joy?

  • · What ministry had he received of the Lord Jesus?

  • · Of what sad fact did he also have knowledge?

  • · On what ground was he pure from bleed?

  • · What must the Elders take?

  • · How had the Holy Ghost made them overseers?

  • · By whose blood was the church purchased?

  • · By what was the flock endangered?

  • · What internal danger was threatened?

  • · Name another duty of Elders beside lead.

  • · What warning had they received before?

  • · State Paul’s commendation to them.

  • · How had he cared for himself?

  • · Repeat the quotation from Jesus.

  • · What religious service did they have new?

  • · State the chief cause of their sorrow.

Acts Chapter Twenty

Ralph Starling

When the uproar in Ephesus had ceased

Paul spent three months preaching in Greece.

When he learned the Jews laid wait for him to pass,

He sent his friends on ahead to Troas.

When Paul arrived in Troas they all agreed

On the first day of the week they would be

To eat the “Lord’s supper” to remember His death,

And to honor Him who had made the request.

While they were there Paul made a long speech.

At midnight Eutychus fell asleep.

He fell from the third loft and was taken up dead.

Paul talked awhile, raised him, and then departed.

After several cities He came to Miletus.

He called the Ephesian elders—matters to discuss!

After a period of reminiscing and visits

Paul turned to the matter of real business.

He urged the Elders—Take heed to yourselves and the flock,

For “grievous wolves” could destroy the whole flock.

With other words for them to recall,

He knelt down and prayed with them all.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Acts 20". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/acts-20.html.
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