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Bible Commentaries
Acts 20

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1. A Second Visit to Europe; or, Across the Ægean and Back (Acts 20:1-6).


2. A Communion Festival at Troas; or, the Story of the Young Man Eutychus (Acts 20:7-12).


3. Sailing past Ephesus; or, bound for Jerusalem (Acts 20:13-16).


4. A Halt at Miletus; or, a Farewell Address to the Elders of Ephesus (Acts 20:17-38).

Verses 1-6


Acts 20:1. After the uproar was ceased.—Soon after, but not necessarily because of the uproar. The best authorities insert and exhorted, παρακαλέσας, before and embraced or took leave of them—i.e., the disciples; the word ἀσπασάμενος referring to the farewell blessing and the farewell kiss (compare Acts 21:6). Departed for to go into Macedonia, viâ Troas (see 2 Corinthians 2:12-13), where be awaited for some time the coming of Titus, whom, however, he did not meet till be reached Macedonia (2 Corinthians 7:6).

Acts 20:2. The word for Greece, Ελλάς, stands for Achaia as distinguished from Macedonia (Acts 18:12, Acts 19:21).

Acts 20:3. And there abode three months.—Lit., having acted or worked there—viz. in Corinth (1 Corinthians 16:6), three months, a plot having been laid against him by the Jews, etc. ποιήσας, an anakolouthon, instead of ποιήσαντι. During this stay in Corinth the Epistle to the Romans was written (see Romans 16:22-23). He purposed to return through Macedonia.—Lit., there was to him an opinion, or intention—i.e., it was not by accident, but in accordance with deliberate counsel and determination that he, when on the eve of embarking for Syria, changed his route and proceeded northwards through Macedonia.

Acts 20:4. As far as Asia is omitted by many ancient authorities, possibly because Trophimus, in spite of 2 Timothy 4:20, appears in Paul’s company in Jerusalem (Acts 21:29), and Aristarchus sails with Paul from Cæsarea (Acts 27:2). The retention of the clause, however, does not necessarily imply that the persons here named proceeded with the Apostle no farther than to Asia The best MSS. also add to Sopater of Berœa the words “the son of Pyrrhus,” probably to distinguish him from Sosipater, Paul’s kinsman (Romans 16:21).

Acts 20:5. These (the seven) going before.—Rather, having gone before, most likely by ship from Corinth (Lewin), though some suppose by land through Macedonia and ship from Philippi (Alford, Hackett), tarried for us at Troas (see Acts 16:8). Why Paul stayed behind at Corinth or at Philippi is not recorded. Either he had work to do in Philippi or Corinth (Alford), or he may have wished to keep the days of unleavened bread (Meyer). The use of us (Acts 20:5) and we (Acts 20:6) shows that Luke rejoined the Apostle’s company at Philippi. Holtzmann thinks that Paul, accompanied by the seven, may have reached Troas by the land route, crossing over the Hellespont, and that Luke with some others followed after by sea from Philippi.

Acts 20:6. The days of unleavened bread meant the Passover week (compare Acts 12:3, Acts 27:9). The voyage from Philippi to Troas was accomplished in five days instead of three (Acts 16:11-12). The sojourn in the city extended over seven days, as afterwards at Tyre (Acts 21:4).HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Acts 20:1-6

A Second Visit to Europe; or, Across the Archipelago and Back

I. The point of departure.—Ephesus (see Acts 19:1).

1. When he left it. “After the uproar had ceased.” Not necessarily immediately, but soon after the disturbance recorded in the preceding chapter. If he stayed till Pentecost (1 Corinthians 16:8), then he probably left the city in the spring or summer of A.D. 57 or 58,

2. Why he left it. Not because of the just-mentioned disturbance, at least not wholly on its account, but in pursuance of a plan, already formed, to visit Macedonia (Acts 19:21).

3. How he left it. Neither hastily nor secretly, as he had formerly left Berœa (Acts 17:14) and Damascus (Acts 9:25), but deliberately and openly, after having convened, exhorted, and embraced, or saluted (with a farewell kiss) the disciples. “At the same time he was greatly dispirited by the strong opposition which had driven him prematurely from the city” (2 Corinthians 1:8 ff.) (Ramsay).

II. The place of destination.—Macedonia (see Acts 19:21, Acts 16:9-10).

1. How he reached it. By way of Troas (2 Corinthians 12:13), where he expected to meet Titus, whom he had sent to Corinth with or soon after his First Epistle to the Corinthians, where he stayed some considerable time—long enough to lay the foundations of a Christian Church (2 Corinthians 2:12)—and from which he broke up only because of the non-arrival of Titus 2:0. Who accompanied him. Luke omits to mention the companions of his voyage, but these most probably were Tychicus and Trophimus (Acts 20:4), since these again returned with him from Macedonia to Asia.

3. What he did there. He went through those parts, visited the Churches which had been established in them—the Churches of Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berœa, with perhaps others—and gave them much exhortation. Here also he wrote his Second Epistle to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 9:2; 2 Corinthians 9:4), and sent it by the hands of Titus (2 Corinthians 8:18).

III. The course of travel.—This led him into Greece—i.e., into Achaia (see Acts 19:21), and more particularly to Corinth (1 Corinthians 16:6).

1. The route by which Corinth was approached. Most likely “round about by Illyricum” (Romans 15:19). At least this appears the only place in Luke’s narrative where Paul’s evangelising tour in those parts can be inserted. On his first visit to Macedonia “he moved along the eastern side of the peninsula, and was kept at a distance from Illyricum. When he passed through Macedonia next (Acts 20:3) he had already written the Epistle to the Romans” (Hackett).

2. The time spent in Corinth. “Three months,” which probably carried him through the winter of A.D. 57 or 58 (see 1 Corinthians 16:6).

3. The work done in Corinth.

(1) The gospel was preached as before, and probably, as before, in the house of Justus, if by this time another place of meeting had not been obtained.

(2) The disorders of the Corinthian Church were composed. “He was returning to converts who had cast off the morality of the gospel, to friends who had forgotten his love, to enemies who disputed his Divine commission” (Conybeare and Howson), and with all these he doubtless had special dealings (see 2 Corinthians 10:2; 2 Corinthians 10:4; 2 Corinthians 10:6; 2 Corinthians 10:8; 2 Corinthians 13:2).

(3) The Epistle to the Galatians was written in consequence of bad news having come from Galatia, and the Epistle to the Romans “to pave the way for his” contemplated visit.
4. The date of leaving Corinth. When his Jewish adversaries had formed another plot against him. There is no reason to suppose that Paul’s departure was hastened by the discovery of this conspiracy, yet the machinations of the Jews were apparently the cause of his changing his route, and instead of sailing direct for Syria, journeying northwards through Macedonia, and embarking at Neapolis. “The style of this plot,” says Ramsay, (St. Paul, etc., p. 287) “can be easily imagined. Paul’s intention must have been to take a pilgrim ship carrying Achaian and Asian Jews to the Passover. With a ship load of hostile Jews it would be easy to find opportunity to murder Paul. He therefore abandoned the proposed voyage and sailed for Macedonia,”—rather as already suggested travelling to Macedonia by land.

IV. The journey towards home.—

1. The companions of the Apostle. Seven in number.

(1) Sopater of Berœa, the son of Pyrrhus—perhaps characterised so to distinguish him from Sosipater (Romans 16:21), and named first because Paul, in travelling viâ Macedonia, would pick him up first at Berœa.

(2) Aristarchus of Thessalonica, who was with Paul in Ephesus (see Acts 19:29), afterwards accompanied him to Rome (Acts 27:2), and shared his imprisonment in that city (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 1:24).

(3) Secundus, also of Thessalonica, but otherwise unknown.

(4) Gaius of Derbe, not the Gaius who attended Paul in Ephesus (Acts 19:29), but probably the individual of this name to whom John wrote his Third Epistle (3 John 1:1).

(5) Timothy, whose birthplace, Lystra (Acts 16:1), is passed over, presumably as well known.

(6) Tychicus of Asia, one of Paul’s most trusted associates (Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7; Titus 3:12) and the bearer of Paul’s Epistle to the Asiatic Churches (2 Timothy 4:12; Titus 3:12).

(7) Trophimus, a native of Ephesus (Acts 21:29), whom Paul left behind at Miletus sick (2 Timothy 4:20), but who subsequently followed the apostle to Jerusalem, where his presence in the temple led to the apostle’s apprehension. That they were seven in number has (but without reason) suggested the idea that they were intended to represent at Jerusalem the converted Gentile world (Baumgarten), or the seven deacons of chapter 6 (Plumptre).

2. The course they pursued. Leaving Corinth they travelled northwards through Macedonia to Berœa, Thessalonica, and Philippi, at the last of which towns they picked up Luke, the beloved physician (Acts 20:6). From Philippi the seven above named proceeded in advance to Troas, where they announced the coming and awaited the arrival of Paul and Luke, who did not leave Philippi till after the days of unleavened bread—i.e., the passover of A.D. 58 or 59—and, after a stormy passage of five days—i.e., two days longer than the voyage westward (Acts 16:11-12)—anchored in Troas, where they tarried seven days, obviously waiting for another vessel in which to prosecute their voyage, or, if the same vessel proceeded southwards, passing the time while it discharged and took in cargo.


1. That Christ’s servants should never flee from the post of duty simply on account of danger.
2. That faithful pastors should bestow much care on the edification and consolidation of the Church. 3. That so long as earnest ministers preach the gospel, they may lay their accounts with plots to hinder their work, if not to injure their persons.

4. That those who are engaged in the Lord’s service should keep themselves in life as long as they Song of Song of Solomon 5:0. That six or seven pious people with a Paul to lead them are “a formidable enemy to the devil” (Lindhammer, quoted by Besser).


Acts 20:2. How often did Paul visit Corinth? Twice, or thrice?

I. Twice.—In favour of this view is commonly urged:

1. That the Acts speak of only two visits (Acts 18:1; Acts 20:2-3).

2. That between Paul’s first visit and his first imprisonment at Rome his time is sufficiently accounted for.

3. That 2 Corinthians 13:1 does not necessarily imply that he had already been twice in Corinth, while 2 Corinthians 13:2 seems to say that his then contemplated visit would be his second.

4. That in 1 Corinthians 1:15 he distinctly speaks of his then contemplated visit as his second.

5. That 2 Corinthians 12:14 proves the sense of 2 Corinthians 13:1 to be that then was the third time Paul had been in readiness to visit them.

6. That the Alexandrian MS. in 2 Corinthians 13:1 reads, “This is the third time I am ready to come to you” (see Paley, Horæ Paulinæ, iv. 12).

II. Thrice.—This view is based on the following considerations:

1. That 2 Corinthians 13:1, according to the best texts, refers, not to a third intention, but to a third visit.

2. That 2 Corinthians 1:15-16 speaks, not of the benefit of a second visit, but of the advantage of being visited twice on the same tour.

3. That as Paul had been three times shipwrecked when he wrote the Second Epistle to the Corinthians (Acts 11:25), and as the only recorded voyages on which he could have been wrecked were those from Cæsarea to Tarsus (Acts 9:30) and from Ephesus to Macedonia (Acts 20:1), of both of which absolutely no account is given, in order to make the number three he must have undertaken another voyage, which most probably was from Ephesus to Corinth.

4. There were urgent reasons why he should have visited the Corinthian Church while residing at Ephesus.
5. Communication between the two cities was easy to obtain at any time.

6. Its omission by Luke is susceptible of explanation by remembering that occasionally long journeys are dismissed in a few words (see Acts 15:41; Acts 16:6; Acts 18:23; Acts 19:1; Acts 20:2-3), while several important events, such as the founding of the Syrian and Cilician Churches (Galatians 1:21), and the journey to Arabia (Galatians 1:17), are not mentioned at all, and by supposing that nothing remarkable occurred during this second visit to the commercial capital of Achaia.

Acts 20:1-6. The routine of a missionary’s life, as exemplified in that of Paul.

I. Bidding farewell to friends (Acts 20:1).—Earthly ties and gracious bonds have often to be broken by those who would follow the cross.

II. Exhorting the people of God (Acts 20:2).—Almost as hard a task as that of winning men to, is that of keeping men in the faith.

III. Evading the plots of enemies (Acts 20:3).—They that will live godly, and much more they that will propagate the cause of Christ, must lay their account with persecution.

IV. Enjoying the society of fellow-Christians (Acts 20:4).—Communion of kindred souls with each other forms one of the Christian’s sweetest solaces.

V. Unfurling the banner of the cross (Acts 20:6).—This the favourite occupation of a true minister or missionary.

Acts 20:4. Paul’s friends; or, the Sacred Circle of Seven.

I. Trophies of Paul’s gospel.
II. Companions on Paul’s Journey

III. Helpers in Paul’s work.
IV. Sharers in Paul’s renown.
Having found with him a place in the Inspired Record.

Verses 7-12


Acts 20:7. The first day of the week.—Lit., the first of the Sabbath, as in 1 Corinthians 16:2, meaning not on one of the Sabbaths or Jewish festivals, but on the first day of the week, the term “Sabbaths” being put for the period of seven days (compare Matthew 28:1).

Acts 20:8. Many lights.—Mentioned that all suspicion might be removed from the assembly (Calvin, Bengel); to account for the young man’s drowsiness (Alford); to show how his fall was observed (Meyer); but most likely to impart liveliness to the scene (Hackett).

Acts 20:9. In a window should be in the window of the upper chamber—i.e., on the seat of it. “The windows” of Oriental houses “had no glass. They were only latticed, and thus gave free passage to the air and admitted light, while birds and bats were excluded” (Kitto’s Cyclopædia: art. House). The third loft.—Or story. The middle classes usually lived in large houses in flats—the artizans in the third stories, just under the roofs—on the same plan as in some of our great cities (Stapfer, Palestine in the Time of Christ, pp. 172, 173). Taken up dead.—Not ὡσεὶ νεκρὸς (Mark 9:26) (Holtzmann), but νεκρός, dead.

Acts 20:10. Fell on him.—As formerly Elijah and Elisha acted in performing similar awakenings (1 Kings 17:17; 2 Kings 4:34). Trouble not yourselves.—Make ye no ado. Compare Christ’s words in Jairus’s house (Mark 5:39).

Acts 20:11. Broken (sc. the) bread.—Points to the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

Acts 20:12. Brought the young man alive.—The miracle is certainly a parallel to Tabitha’s awakening by Peter (Acts 9:36-40), but yet not on that account an invented story. According to Ramsay, who in this follows Blass, this verse shows “a very harsh change of subject,” the persons who brought the youth alive, not being those who were comforted. But this is surely unmeaning criticism. One would naturally conclude that they who brought the lad alive were Paul and those who assisted him; and that these were greatly comforted as well as the other Christians present.


A Communion Festival at Troas; or, the Story of the Young Man Eutychus

I. The crowded congregation.—

1. The persons composing it.

(1) The disciples at Troas (Acts 16:8), who must have been present in considerable numbers, since Eutychus could only obtain a seat in the window. The Troas Christians forsook not the assembling of themselves together (Hebrews 10:25).

(2) The apostle and his company (Acts 20:4) These, though parted at Corinth or Philippi had rejoined each other in Troas.

2. The time of meeting. On the first day of the week, the Lord’s day (Revelation 1:10), an intimation that thus early the practice of meeting for worship on Sunday was observed by the followers of Christ. In the evening, as is indicated by the “many lights” or lamps that are said to have been burning. The cessation of work on this day, though it may have been the custom with some, was manifestly not as yet common.

3. The place of assembly. Not the Jewish synagogue, which shows that a separation of the Christians from the Jewish community had here taken place. Not a public academy or school as in Ephesus (Acts 19:9), scarcely even a house of any pretensions like that of Justus at Corinth (Acts 18:7), which perhaps reveals that not many mighty or wise had been converted in Troas, but an upper chamber, doubtless a room in some obscure house, on the third story and next the roof (see Acts 1:18; Acts 9:37).

4. The business of the hour. Twofold.

(1) To break bread—i.e., to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, which consisted then, as now, in the breaking of bread and drinking of wine in remembrance of Christ, and was then, though not now, followed or accompanied by a lovefeast.

(2) To hear Paul preaching, or rather to hear the word discoursed by Paul, who doubtless sat at table while he talked, since the modern practice of formally orating on a text of Scripture had not then been introduced.

II. The protracted preaching.—Two things noticeable:

1. The preacher wearied not in speaking.

(1) A remarkable phenomenon. Though Paul appears to have commenced discoursing in the early hours of evening, midnight arrived, and still the stream of holy converse flowed on—yea, when the interruption which occurred through Eutychus’s death and resuscitation had passed, the talk was resumed and sustained through a sleepless night till dawn. As a mere physical effort it would have taxed the energies of a strong man; how much more then must it have tested the powers of one so infirm as the apostle! Besides, since a speaker like Paul cannot be supposed to have kept on repeating the same things over and over, what a demand must that midnight preaching have made on his mental resources! And if to this be added the tender emotions which constantly uprose within his bosom when he either spoke or wrote to his converts about his Lord and theirs, it will not be hard to see that the strain on the apostle’s body, soul, and spirit, must have been immense, must, in fact, have been almost unparalleled.

(2) A reasonable explanation. Three things must have contributed to enable Paul to undergo such a laborious performance. First, the circumstances in which he and his hearers were then assembled. It was a flying visit he had made to their town; it was the last time, probably, they would look each other in the face, it was a farewell sermon; and it was the most solemn of all occasions on which Christ’s people could meet. Second, the theme upon which he descanted to his hearers was one that inspired him with “thoughts that breathe and words that burn,” that drew him on from topic to topic with never-failing enthusiasm, that so lifted him out of himself that he never felt his weariness or weakness, and probably knew not whether he was in the body or out of the body (2 Corinthians 12:2). Thirdly, the grace of his glorified Master, which never failed him, would no doubt strongly support him that night, so that he could achieve what to common men would seem impossibilities (2 Corinthians 12:9; Philippians 4:13).

2. The audience wearied not in hearing. How different from modern congregations of Christ’s professed followers, who, so far from listening to the preached gospel from evening until midnight, and from midnight until dawn, cannot, without impatience, endure a thirty minutes’ sermon, and would almost clap their hands with joy if the preacher’s discourse could be huddled through in ten minutes, or perhaps dispensed with altogether. No doubt modern congregations have not Pauls for preachers; but if they had it is to be questioned whether their behaviour would be different. The present-day outcry against long sermons—by which are meant discourses of half an hour—has its origin not in the small ability of the preachers, but in the lack of religious zeal on the part of the hearers.

III. The alarming accident.—

1. The sleeper in the window. Eutychus (concerning whose antecedents nothing is known) has often been held up—unjustly and unkindly—to reproach on account of his unseemly conduct (as it is called) of sleeping in the church. But there are times when it is wholly inexcusable to yield to the “drowsy god” when engaged in Divine worship; on the other hand, there are occasions when it may be justified, and this it may be reasonably maintained was one.

(1) Eutychus was obviously a youth to whom sleep, especially at midnight, was a natural right, a physical necessity, a heaven-prepared boon which he could not be blamed for accepting.
(3) The upper chamber was as manifestly crowded, and the hot breaths must have speedily produced such an atmosphere that the wonder is not that Eutychus dropped over into slumber, but that many more did not follow his example.
(3) The strain of listening to Paul’s preaching—in which it may be assumed Eutychus was interested—could not fail to exhaust the young man’s nervous energy, and cause him to drop off through sheer weariness into a sound sleep. All who have as satisfactory excuses as Eutychus may sleep in church with easy consciences.
2. The fall into the court. How it happened is not explained. The window, after the manner of the eastern houses, opened into the area below. Most likely the shutter was closed when the young man ensconced himself in the recess. Perhaps the fastening gave way while he leant upon the shutter, or wakening with a start from his deep sleep he may have unwittingly pressed against and burst it open. In any case he fell from the third flat to the ground, a distance probably of twenty feet, and was taken up, not as, but really—dead.

IV. The gracious miracle.—

1. The young man’s restoration.

(1) By whom it was effected. Really, of course, by God, but instrumentally by Paul.

(2) How it was effected. Though not so mentioned, doubtless by prayer. Paul went down and fell upon the young man as Elijah (1 Kings 17:21) and Elisha (2 Kings 4:34) did, using, it may be supposed, words borrowed from the former, “Lord! let this young man’s soul come into him again.”

2. The credibility of the story. Baur and his disciples find in this miracle only a counterpart of the raising of Dorcas by Peter (Acts 9:36-42), and accordingly pronounce it unauthentic. But the reality of the miracle was attested by those who saw the young man after he had been restored to life while the truthfulness of the account is vouched for by the extreme likeliness of the narration, and can only be disputed by those who are unwilling to believe in the supernatural.


1. The duty of Christians to assemble for worship on the Lord’s day.
2. The place assigned to both the preaching of the word and the administration of the sacraments in the edification of believers.
3. The justification accorded to long sermons, at least on special—e.g., sacramental occasions.

4. The danger of sleeping in church, since if not always sinful it may sometimes be hurtful.
5. The inferiority of modern preachers, who, if they excel Paul in the art of setting men to sleep, fall immeasurably below him in the power of working miracles.
6. The reality of the communion of saints.
7. The solemnity and sadness of earth’s farewells.


Acts 20:7. Light from Early Christian Practice.

I. On the sanctity of the Lord’s day.—That they kept the first day of the week as a memorial of Christ’s resurrection is apparent, though it is more than likely Jewish Christians, for a considerable time after, continued also to observe the seventh day as a day of rest. Gentile Christians may not have been able to devote the first day entirely to rest; the narrative shows they consecrated its evening hours to worship.

II. On the nature of Christian worship.—This consisted:

1. In the administration of the Lord’s Supper—which perhaps has not so high a place as properly belongs to it in modern Christian worship.

2. In listening to edifying discourse upon the gospel—which also in some modern Churches is not accorded the place to which it is entitled.

3. In the enjoyment of Christian fellowship—which, again, is largely overlooked in modem congregations of believers. Without reviving the love-feasts of those early times, that which they pointed to and promoted, the spirit of love and the sense of brotherhood, should be diligently cultivated.

III. On the length of gospel sermons.—These should be:

1. Neither so short as to admit no room for the utterance of any valuable doctrine, or the expression of any holy feeling.

2. Nor so long as to exhaust the physical, mental, and spiritual energies of either preacher or hearer.

3. But always suited to the audience and the occasion. Some audiences and occasions require long, and others short discourses.

The First Day of the Week

I. A solemn religions assembly.—

1. The time was the first day of the week.
2. The occasion was the observance of the Lord’s Supper.
3. The place was an upper room with many lights—obscure, but not secret.

II. The preacher.—

1. The preacher was Paul.
2. He preached a farewell sermon.
3. He preached a long sermon.

III. A careless hearer.—

1. His infirmity.
2. His death.
3. His restoration to life.—G. Brooks.

Acts 20:7-12. Communion at Troas.

I. The congregation.—The disciples at Troas. Who were:

1. Probably many. May be inferred from the fact that Paul had previously visited and preached in Troas.

2. Certainly poor. Their meeting place, an upper chamber or room in a top story, showed this.

3. Obviously eager. Longed to hear the word, not afraid of long sermons. Not a good sign when Christians are impatient of preaching.

4. Intensely sympathetic. Their hearts beat in unison with both the service and the preacher.

II. The preacher.—Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles. An object of interest from:

1. His personal character and history. A man of feeble body but of tremendous spiritual power.

2. His missionary labours and travels. No doubt full information about these would have been imparted during the week, if not by Paul himself, at least by his companions.

3. His previous visit and preaching. Most likely all regarded him in the light of an old friend, while many would behold in him their spiritual father.

III. The sermon.—About which many things were worth noting; as, e.g., that it was:

1. A spoken sermon. Not read, but delivered face to face. Read discourses neither unlawful nor unprofitable; but not the best for either preacher or hearer.

2. A farewell sermon. Therefore without doubt uttered with much tender and solemn feeling, and listened to with avidity. Compare farewell address to elders at Miletus (Acts 20:17).

3. A communion sermon. Whence the subject may be guessed. Not the story of his travels, but the story of the cross. Not himself the hero but Christ.

4. A long sermon. Probably three hours to begin with. And yet the Troans wearied not, but heard for three hours more. Short sermons may be often best; but occasions surely arise when long discourses are befitting.

IV. The miracle.—The raising of Eutychus.

1. The accident.

(1) The subject of it—a young man, Eutychus, otherwise unknown.
(2) The manner of it. Falling from a window (see “Critical Remarks”).
(3) The issue of it. Death. Sad that he should have met his death through attending Church; but better that he died so than in a drunken brawl.
(4) The effect of it. Produced great commotion in the meeting. Many lamentations over the poor boy’s untimely fate, and much sympathy for his mother if she was present.
2. The restoration.

(1) Effected by Paul, who, in recalling the lad to life, followed the example of Elijah and Elisha.
(2) Attested by the people, who witnessed the miracle, saw the young man alive again, and were comforted.

V. The communion.—

1. The solemn impressions under which it was celebrated. Those who took part in it had just been listening to a discourse about the risen Saviour, and had just witnessed a display of that Saviour’s power. What must have been their emotions when they returned to the upper room to celebrate their memorial feast?

2. The sacramental actions were unquestionably those of the Lord’s Supper. “Breaking of bread” alone mentioned; but “drinking of wine” implied. The narrative affords no countenance to the idea of Communion in one kind.

3. The post communion address was not omitted. Paul talked with his hearers a long while till break of day, about the significance of the meal, and its foreshadowing of heaven, about how they should live and walk in the world, and about their impending separation. And so the sacred service ended. With the dawning of the day the apostle departed.

Acts 20:8-12. The Night Service at Troas.

I. An admonitory example of Christian zeal for God’s word.—

1. On the part of the apostle, who wearies not of preaching.
2. On the part of the congregation, who grow not tired of hearing.

II. A warning example of human weakness and sloth.—The sleep and the fall of Eutychus. “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation.” “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

III A consolatory example of Divine grace and faithfulness.—The resuscitation of the young man, the comfort of the Church.—Gerok.

Acts 20:9. On sleeping in Church.

I. Pardonable.—When it results from physical causes, over which one has no control; such as:

1. Exhaustion through previous labour.
2. The imperative demands of nature which call for such repose as sleep gives.
3. The soporific atmosphere of the church through defective ventilation.
4. The weariness induced by a too constant strain upon the mental faculties in listening to the preacher.

II. Inexcusable.—When it springs either:

1. From indifference to the truth that is preached; or
2. From dislike to the preacher by whom it is spoken; or
3. From lack of interest in the object which the preacher by his preaching seeks to attain.

III. Hurtful.

1. It disconcerts and discourages the preacher.
2. It infects and contaminates the hearers. Sleeping in Church is contagious.
3. It inflicts loss and sometimes positive hurt upon the sleeper.

IV. Preventable.—By removing its causes.

1. Providing comfortable and well-ventilated churches.
2. Preaching interesting and not too long sermons.
3. Preparing the heart by previous prayer and meditation, for the reception of the truth.

The young man Eutychus; an example to all the unsteadfast in the Church.

I. By his dangerous sleep.—In the midst of the assembled congregation, during the hearing of the divine word, the heart may be overpowered by the sleep of false security.

II. By his terrible fall.—From the third storey to the street pavement; an admonitory representation of the great fall from an imaginary height of faith to sin and perdition.

III. By his miraculous deliverance.—In the arms of a Paul, who penetrates him with his power of life and warmth of love, even the deeply fallen, he who is thought dead, may by the wonderful grace of God again become living.—Gerok.

The Accident at Troas. Thoughts suggested.

I. The uncertainty of life.—Even to the good, and the consequent necessity of preparing for death. Eutychus, a young man, full of life, hope, and promise, employed also at the best of work, and yet he died suddenly as the result of an accident.

II. The moral and spiritual uses of accidents.—This accident at Troas was fitted to remind the Christians there of the propriety and duty of exercising common prudence and foresight even when engaged about the things of religion and eternal life.

III. The power of a great calamity to open the flood-gates of human sympathy.—How deeply the congregation was moved by the young man’s death is revealed by the comfort they experienced in his resuscitation (Acts 20:12).

IV. The mission and the power of the gospel.—To quicken dead souls as Paul restored Eutychus to life. As God’s power flowing through Paul’s body reanimated the dead youth, so the might of God’s grace streaming through the gospel can revive dead souls.

Verses 13-16


Acts 20:13. To go afoot.—Or, by land. “A paved road extended from Troas to Assos; so that starting even as late as seven or eight A.M. Paul could have reached Assos, twenty miles distant, in the afternoon” (Hackett).

Acts 20:14. And when he met with us. Ramsay thinks the imperfect συνέβαλλεν (was meeting) may imply that Paul did not actually enter Assos, but was descried and taken in by boat, as he was nearing the city. Mitylene.—On the east coast of Lesbos, of which island it was the capital.

Acts 20:15. Having tarried at Trogyllium is omitted in the R.V. after the best MSS., but is supported by many ancient authorities.

Acts 20:16. For Paul had determined to sail past Ephesus. Alford thinks these words show that Paul had hired the ship at Philippi for the voyage to Patara. Ramsay thinks that had the ship been under Paul’s command he would have stopped at Ephesus instead of sending for the elders to Miletus. Because he would not spend the time in Asia. Lit., that it might not come to pass that he spent time in Asia, i.e., in Ephesus. The next clause supplies the reason.


Sailing past Ephesus; or, bound for Jerusalem

I. From Troas to Assos.—

1. When Paul and his companions left Troas. Obviously after the assembly spoken of in the preceding paragraph had broken up, on the morning of the tenth day of April, a Monday. Possibly Paul’s companions may have departed before the conclusion of the service, since they are said to have preceded him. Paul himself not only closed the meeting, but may have lingered an hour or two before setting out.

2. How Paul and his companions reached Assos.

(1) Paul’s companions went by ship from the harbour of Troas. Assos lay upon the Mysian coast, about twenty-four miles south of Troas by land, and forty by sea. The voyage would probably, with favourable winds, occupy four or five hours.
(2) Paul himself went the land way to Assos, and would most likely meet the ship on arrival. The road lay “through the southern gate, past the hot springs, and through the oak woods—then in full foliage—which cover all that shore with greenness and shade, and across the wild water-courses on the western side of Ida” (Conybeare and Howson, ii. 229).
3. Paul’s reasons for selecting the land route. These can only be conjectured. Perhaps he wished

(1) to visit friends on the way (Meyer, Wendt); or
(2) to enjoy the company of his Troas friends, who could convey him on the road but could not well obtain accommodation on the ship; or
(3) to recruit his health (Calvin); or
(4) to secure a brief interval of quiet for meditation and communion with heaven, after the exciting scenes and incidents of the week at Troas (Baumgarten, Ewald, Lange), though after all it is doubtful whether he would be allowed to make the journey alone (Zöckler).

II. From Assos to Mitylene.—

1. The voyagers. Paul, on reaching Assos, at once stepped on board the ship, which was probably lying to and waiting his arrival. The missionary company, with him at its head, was complete.

2. The voyage. As Mitylene was distant from Assos thirty miles, the entire voyage from Troas to Mitylene, seventy miles, might easily be accomplished in one day.

3. The port. Mitylene (the modern city being called Castro), where the ship appears to have anchored for the night “because it was the time of dark moon” (Conybeare and Howson), was the chief city of Lesbos (now Metilino or Metelin). “The beauty of the capital of Sappho’s island was celebrated by the architects, poets, and philosophers of Rome” (Conybeare and Howson).

III. From Mitylene to Miletus.—

1. First day’s (Tuesday’s) journey. From Mitylene to Chios, the modern Scio, one of the largest and most beautiful islands on the coast of Asia Minor. Chios, “whose green fields were the fabled birthplace of Homer” (Farrar), was celebrated both for its beauty and for its wines; in modern times the levity of its inhabitants appears to have passed into a proverb, “It is easier to find a green horse than a sober-minded Sciot” (Conybeare and Howson).

2. Second day’s (Wednesday’s) journey. From Chios to Samos, passing by Ephesus, and from Samos to Trogyllium. Samos, the island, was separated from the mainland by a narrow channel, at one point not more than a mile broad. Samos, the town, was in Paul’s day a free city. Here, however, the vessel did not anchor, but pushed on a mile further south to Trogyllium, a harbour on the mainland of Ionia, at the foot of Mount Mycale, and opposite the island where it is nearest the shore. In Trogyllium the ship lay to for the night.

3. Third day’s (Thursday’s) journey. From Trogyllium to Miletus, on the confines of Caria, and twenty eight miles south of Ephesus. Why the apostle passed by Ephesus is stated by Luke. It was not because he had not command of the ship, which he may have had (Hackett thinks he may have chartered it for himself and his friends; but see “Critical Remarks”), or because he did not long to revisit his Ephesian converts, or was afraid of the enemies he might encounter there (1 Corinthians 16:9); but because his desire to reach Jerusalem before Pentecost rendered every delay, whether voluntary or involuntary, dangerous. Why if he anchored at Trogyllium he did not summon the Ephesian elders thither must be left unanswered (see next Homily).


1. That persons who go on God’s business may travel by sea or land with easy minds.
2. That solitude and society are alike helpful to the religious life.
3. That the geographical accuracy of Luke’s narrative is an indirect argument in favour of its truthfulness.
4. That good men delight in the assemblies of the saints.


Acts 20:13. Paul alone on his Way to Assos; or, the Quiet Hours of a Much-employed Servant of God. As hours—

I. Of testing intercourse with himself.

II. Of holy communion with the Lord.

III. Of blessed rest from the tumult of the world.

IV. Of earnest collectedness for new conflicts.—Gerok.

Acts 20:16. Paul’s desire to be in Jerusalem at Pentecost. The motives for this were probably various.

I. For his Jewish brethren’s sake.—He knew that his presence at that feast would be acceptable to his stricter fellow-countrymen, and he was ready to become all things to all men to gain some.

II. For his own sake.—The feast of Pentecost would revive memories of the great birthday of the Christian Church, and so might perhaps inspire him with fresh zeal, since even he could not dispense without times of revival.

III. For the gospel’s sake.—The immense gathering of foreign Jews in Jerusalem at that feast would afford him ample opportunity for bringing the claims of the gospel before his countrymen; and Paul was not the man to forget to enter in by every open door.

IV. For the Gentile Churches’ sakes.—He may have wished to present the Gentile contributions for the poor saints in Jerusalem to the Church there, at a time when the spectacle of their liberality would be witnessed by vast numbers of his Jewish brethren, who, he may have hoped, would be favourably impressed thereby.

V. For his future plan’s sake.—As Paul was contemplating a journey to Syria and Rome after he had visited Jerusalem, he may have deemed it better not to wait till Tabernacles, but to repair to the metropolis at Pentecost.

Hastening to Jerusalem

I. A proof of Paul’s diligence.—The apostle was no idler, who had time to waste, but a busy worker, who improved every moment.

II. An evidence of Paul’s wisdom.—He wished to reach the capital at the best time for preaching the gospel—viz., when he could meet the largest number of his countrymen.

III. A mark of Paul’s love.—If, as there is reason to believe, he was carrying the Gentile contributions above referred to, he desired not to keep them from their destined recipients a moment longer than was necessary.

Verses 17-38


Acts 20:17. Miletus.—Thirty-six miles south of Ephesus, and on the south-west of the Latmian Gulf. “Now a desolation: then an emporium of trade with four ports or docks crowded with shipping” (Lewin). The stay at Miletus must have continued over three or four days.

Acts 20:19. Omit many before tears, and for lying in wait read plots.

Acts 20:22. Bound in the spirit.—I.e., his own spirit (Kuinoel, De Wette, Ewald, Holtzmann, Wendt, Hackett, Spence, and others), not the Holy Spirit (Calvin, Beza, Wordsworth, Zöckler).

Acts 20:23. The Holy Ghost witnesseth.—Not in the apostle’s own spirit, but through the voices of prophets.

Acts 20:24. But none of these things move me.—Lit., I make account of nothing—i.e., which I may suffer, neither count I my life as dear unto myself.—Or, drawing the clauses together, but I hold not my life of any account as dear unto me (Tischendorf, Meyer, Holtzmann, Zöckler, R.V.). So that.—Is sometimes rendered, though wrongly, as a comparative, thus: “neither count I my life so dear to me as the finishing of my course,” etc. (Bengel).

Acts 20:25. Shall see my face no more.—Literally fulfilled, though perhaps not in the sense anticipated by the Apostle, who appears to have exacted an early death.

Acts 20:26. Pure from the blood of all men.—As in Acts 18:6.

Acts 20:28. Overseers.—Translated bishops (R.V.), were the same as “elders” (Acts 20:17). Not so much a term of office as a characterisation of function. The elder’s duty was to oversee the flock (John 21:15-17; 1 Peter 5:2). It has been suggested that Gentile Churches were governed by “bishops” and Jewish Churches by “elders” (Lindsay); but this seems a doubtful distinction in face of Paul’s use of the words here. The Church of God.—Or, according to many ancient authorities, of the Lordi.e., Christ. In favour of the former reading, ἐκκλησία τοῦ θεοῦ, stands the fact that this expression occurs in Paul’s epistles eleven times, and the reading, ἐκκλησία τοῦ κυρίου, never; in favour of the latter witness the preponderance of external testimony, the circumstance that the customary reading is more likely to have been substituted for an unusual one than vice versâ, and the expression “with His own blood,” which is confessedly more appropriately applied to Christ than to God. If the former reading be adopted then “God” must refer to Christ.

Acts 20:29. After my departing.—An ambiguous phrase, but probably signifying here, “after my death” (Alford, De Wette), rather than “after my leaving” (Hackett), or, “after my coming,” Primum venit Paulus, deinde venient lupi (Bengel, Hackett). Baur sees in the use of this phrase a proof the whole speech was a vatieinium post eventum put into the apostle’s mouth by the writer of the Acts!!

Acts 20:31. Watch.—That the apostle’s admonition was not in vain see Revelation 2:2-3.

Acts 20:32. The best MSS. omit brethren; and some read the Lord instead of God. Whether which should be read (Kuinoel) or who (Calvin, Bengel, De Wette, Meyer, Alford, Hackett, Holtzmann, and others) is debated, though the personal reference is the better. An should be the inheritance. Compare Ephesians 1:13.

Acts 20:33. I have coveted, better, I coveted no man’s silver, etc. (compare 1 Corinthians 9:4-18; 2 Corinthians 11:7-12; 2 Corinthians 12:14-18; 2 Thessalonians 3:8-9).

Acts 20:34. These hands.—Probably holding them up to view. Them that were with me meant Timothy, Erastus, Luke, and others. This allusion to Paul’s manual labour in Ephesus, though not mentioned by Luke (Acts 19:1), is rendered credible by what is recorded of his practice while in Corinth (Acts 18:3; 1 Corinthians 4:11-12).

Acts 20:35. The weak were not the feeble in faith, as in Romans 14:1; 1 Corinthians 8:9 (Calvin, Bengel, Neander, Meyer, Tholuck, Lechler, Holtzmann, Zöckler) but the poor in worldly estate, the necessitous in temporal means (Chrysostom. Kuinoel, Olshausen, De Wette, Hackett, Alford, Plumptre, and others). The words of the Lord Jesus were sayings, alluded to by Paul as familiar, which had not found a place in the gospel records but had been handed down by tradition. Many such must have been in existence daring the apostolic age. See “Hints.”


A Halt at Miletus; or, a Meeting with the Elders of Ephesus

I. Introductory notes.—

1. The parties summoned. The elders, presbyters, or overseers (Acts 20:28) of the Ephesian Church. That these were not bishops in the modern Anglican sense of diocesan prelates, but only in the ministerial sense of presiding over separate congregations, is generally conceded.

2. The place of meeting. Why Paul did not call them to Trogyllium, which lay considerably nearer to Ephesus than Miletus, can only be conjectured. Possibly the ship’s stay at Trogyllium was too short for such an interview as Paul contemplated. Perhaps the means of communication between Miletus and Ephesus were better than those between Trogyllium and Ephesus. Perhaps, according to the best text, the ship did not call at Trogyllium at all. But, in any case, Miletus, to which they were summoned, was in Paul’s day a seaport of considerable importance and a strong rival to Ephesus, being the political, as Ephesus was the religious, metropolis of Western Asia (Zöckler). The locality where they assembled, though not stated by the historian, was most likely “some solitary spot upon the shore.”

3. The messenger despatched. This also is left unrecorded, but may have been Luke himself, who, with becoming modesty, says nothing of any services performed by himself.

4. The arrival of the elders. The journey to Ephesus, a distance of from thirty to forty miles, would easily be accomplished in a day. If the messenger get out immediately on the ship’s arrival at Miletus, which might be at noon, the elders might reach Miletus on the second day after. If they hurried off at once, they would most probably come alone. If time were allowed for the news to spread, they might easily be attended by presbyters “from the neighbouring towns where churches had been established” (Hackett).

5. The person of the speaker. Paul, who had laboured for three years in the city of Ephesus as their honoured teacher and beloved friend, and who was now to look upon their faces for the last time. The emotion with which both speaker and hearers confronted each other can be better imagined than described.

II. The farewell address.—

1. An outline of its contents. Two main divisions.

(1) Relative to Paul himself. First, a retrospect of his past labours at Ephesus (Acts 20:18-21), setting forth the character of his ministry in that city as one that had been carried on (α) with whole-hearted consecration to the Lord—i.e., the glorified Christ (Acts 20:18); (β) with profound personal humility (Acts 20:18)—compare Ephesians 3:8; (γ) with fervent sympathy, amounting even to tears (Acts 20:18)—compare Acts 20:31; 2 Corinthians 2:4; Philippians 3:18; (δ) with great bodily risk, arising from the “temptations” or “trials” which befell him from the plots of the Jews (Acts 20:19)—compare 1 Corinthians 15:31-32; 1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 1:8-10; (ε) with unreserved fulness, which kept back nothing from his hearers which might be spiritually profitable unto them (Acts 20:20), not shunning to declare unto them the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27)—compare 2 Corinthians 4:2; Galatians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:4; (ζ) with unwearied diligence, which caused him to teach publicly in the synagogue first (Acts 19:8), and latterly in the school of Tyrannus (Acts 19:9), and privately from house to house or in private assemblies (Acts 20:20)—compare Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 15:19; (η) with unambiguous plainness, insisting on repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ as the only and the all-sufficient way of salvation (Acts 20:21)—compare Acts 17:30, Acts 26:20; Gil. Acts 2:20; 2 Timothy 1:12. Secondly, an outlook into his future career (Acts 20:22-27), declaring (α) his irrepressible conviction that trials and dangers, he knew not of what sort, perhaps amounting to death, lay before him, the Holy Ghost witnessing to him to that effect in every city (Acts 20:23), by means of prophetic communications through others, which, though not specified, may have been made to him at Philippi, Troas, and Assos, as afterwards they were at Tyre (Acts 21:4) and at Cæsarea (Acts 21:11); (β) his firm determination, notwithstanding, to proceed in the path of duty which pointed towards Jerusalem (Acts 20:22); (γ) his absolute willingness to lay down his life rather than fail in accomplishing the ministry he had received from the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24)—compare Philippians 2:17; 2 Timothy 4:6-8; (δ) his perfect knowledge that he and they “amongst whom he had gone preaching the kingdom” would see his face no more (Acts 20:25)—compare Acts 20:29, and see “Critical Remarks”; (ε) his clear consciousness of having faithfully performed his duty towards them as a minister, so that with unfaltering confidence he could call God to witness he had declared unto them the whole counsel of God, and so was “pure from their blood” (Acts 20:26-27)—compare Acts 18:6; Ezekiel 3:18.

(2) Relative to his hearers, the elders of Ephesus. First, a solemn caution (Acts 20:28-31), in which are expounded—(a) the exalted character of the Church to which they belonged and in which they were office-bearers, as the Church of God—i.e., of Jesus Christ—who was thus expressly by Paul declared to be Divine (see “Critical Remarks”), as a Church which had been purchased for Himself as a possession by His own blood, and as a Church which was superintended and governed by the Holy Ghost (Acts 20:28); (β) the important relation in which they as office-bearers stood towards the Church and its members, being bishops, overseers, or (under) shepherds of the flock, whose great (Hebrews 13:20) or chief (1 Peter 5:4) Shepherd Christ is (John 10:14; John 10:16), and holding their appointment not from the flock, but from the Holy Ghost or Divine personal representative of Christ; (γ) the specific duties they were expected to perform towards the flock, not to act as lords over it (1 Peter 5:3), but to feed it with spiritual nourishment (John 21:15-17; 1 Peter 5:2), the tender lambs or babes in Christ with the sincere milk of the word (1 Peter 2:2; Hebrews 5:13), those of mature age with the strong meat of Christian doctrine (Hebrews 5:14); (δ) the constant watchfulness they would require to exercise over both themselves and their flock (compare1 Timothy 4:16; 1 Timothy 4:16), lest either they or their flock should grow remiss in Christian duty, and so decline from Christian faith; (ε) the impending peril which would render necessary such faithful superintendence of themselves and those committed to their charge—viz., the certainty that subsequent to his departure, first after his sailing from them, and next after his decease, which he believed to be not distant, false teachers, whom he designated “grievous wolves” (compare Matthew 7:15), would intrude themselves from without into the fold, not sparing but devouring the flock (compare2 Timothy 3:1-8; 2 Timothy 3:1-8), and would even arise from within (1 Timothy 1:19-20; 2 Timothy 1:15; 2 Timothy 2:17-18), speaking perverse things and drawing away disciples after them (Acts 20:29-30); (ζ) the touching argument by which he hoped to incite them to watchfulness, the recollection of his own anxious ministry among them for three years, during which he “ceased not to admonish every one night and day with tears” (Acts 20:31). Secondly, a fervent commendation, in which the elders and those over whom they presided were (a) committed to the care of God and the word of His grace (see “Critical Remarks”), which (or who) was able to build them up (compareEphesians 2:20-21; Ephesians 2:20-21; Ephesians 4:12; Ephesians 4:16; Ephesians 4:29), and give them an inheritance among them who were sanctified (compareActs 26:18; Acts 26:18; Ephesians 1:18); and (β) encouraged to eschew the sin of covetousness in discharging their sacred duties (compare1 Timothy 3:3; 1 Timothy 3:3; 1 Timothy 6:11; Titus 1:11; 1 Peter 5:2), by recalling the example of himself (Paul), who coveted no man’s silver or gold or apparel, but whose own hands ministered to his necessities and those of his fellow-labourers (Acts 18:3; 1 Corinthians 4:12; 2 Thessalonians 3:8), and to practise the Christian virtue of liberality, the strong labouring to help the weak (Ephesians 4:28), by remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, of which perhaps he (Paul) had been wont to speak (in his preachings), how He said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (compare Matthew 5:42; Luke 6:38).

2. A proof of its genuineness. That this address to the elders of Miletus was not historical, but manufactured by the writer of the Acts and put into the mouth of Paul, has been argued (Baur, Zeller, Weizsäcker, and others) chiefly on the ground that it closely corresponds in thought and language to the pastoral epistles, which it is assumed (without satisfactory evidence) were of a later date than Paul. But if, on other grounds, the Pauline origin of this speech can be established, the harmony between it and the pastoral epistles will contribute an important element in proof of the authenticity of these. Now, that this speech was actually delivered by Paul may be inferred from the following considerations: its perfect agreement with the situation as well as with the history, character, doctrine, and style of Paul, as these are set forth in the Acts and Epistles.

(1) It is precisely such an address as Paul might have been expected to deliver to the elders of a Christian Church whom he had summoned to a farewell interview, and accordingly is different from all his previous addresses which were spoken in the hearing either of Jews (Acts 13:16-41) or of Greeks (Acts 17:22-31).

(2) It agrees with the history of Paul, which represents him as having laboured for nearly three years in Ephesus, teaching in the synagogue and in the school of Tyralnus, and working with his own hands for his support (Acts 18:3, Acts 19:8-10; 1 Corinthians 4:12; 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12).

(3) It harmonises with the character of Paul, manifesting the same tender solicitude as he was ever accustomed to show towards his converts (2 Corinthians 1:14; 2 Corinthians 1:24; 2 Corinthians 6:11; 2 Corinthians 11:21; Philippians 1:8; Galatians 4:19; Colossians 1:29) and the same care to give no offence that the ministry might not be blamed (2 Corinthians 6:3).

(4) It accords with the Pauline doctrines of salvation by grace through faith and unto holiness (Ephesians 1:4-6; Ephesians 2:8-10), of redemption by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 1:7), and of sanctification through the truth (Ephesians 5:26; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:6).

(5) It bears the stamp of Paul’s style, as the following examples show: “Serving the Lord” (Acts 20:19), found six times in Paul, occurs elsewhere only in Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:13; “Lowliness of mind” (Acts 20:19), five times in Paul, once only elsewhere, in 1 Peter 5:5; “Kept back” in Acts 20:20; Acts 20:27, and again in Galatians 2:12; “That was profitable” (Acts 20:20), once in Hebrews 12:20, and three times in 1 Cor.; “I take you to record,” or “I testify” (Acts 20:26), also in Galatians 5:3 and Ephesians 4:17; “Remember” (Acts 20:31), seven times in Paul; “Watch” (Acts 20:31), elsewhere only in 1 Corinthians 16:13.

III. The closing scene.—

1. The last prayer. Kneeling down upon the sea-beach (compareActs 21:5; Acts 21:5), he prayed with them all, in words which Luke appears to have felt too sacred to report. Kneeling “was the attitude in prayer which prevailed among the early Christians, except on the Sabbath and during the seven weeks before Pentecost, when they generally stood” (Hackett).

2. The parting embrace. They all fell upon the apostle’s neck, as Joseph did on that of Benjamin his brother (Genesis 45:14) and of Jacob his father (Genesis 46:29), shedding tears of holy grief and kissing him tenderly again and again, with mingled love and anguish, sorrowing most of all for the word he had spoken that they should see his face no more.

3. The final separation. Unwilling to be parted from him till the last moment, they accompanied him to the ship (compareActs 21:5; Acts 21:5), which soon after weighed anchor and bore him from their anxious gaze.


1. The care which a true shepherd ever takes of his flock.
2. The fidelity with which a true preacher should declare the counsel of God.
3. The affection which Christian people should ever manifest towards their teachers.
4. The grief which ever arises when true pastors are separated from their flocks.


Acts 20:17. The Elders of the Church.

I. Their designations.—Presbyters. So called, because usually selected from the elder brethren.

II. Their functions.

1. Primarily to rule, superintend the flock, and generally guard the spiritual interests of the believing community.
2. Secondarily, to teach—more especially when and where the services of the apostles, prophets, and teachers of the early Church were not available.

III. Their election.—By the people. In this respect they differed essentially from the above-named apostles, prophets, and teachers who were both qualified for and called to their offices by the Holy Ghost.

IV. Their ordination.—By the apostles originally, afterwards by the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery (1 Timothy 4:14).

“Originally there were in the separate communities only a multiplicity of chosen office-bearers, who were promiscuously designated as Ἐπίσκοποι (overseers) and πρεσβύτεροι (presbyters or elders), as bearers of one and the same office. This office is not a branch of the apostolic teaching office, since for this had the oldest communities along with the apostles other teachers, and the work of teaching was free to all believers (later certainly the office of teaching was combined with that of bishop or presbyter), but it consisted primarily in the disciplinary oversight of the community (or congregation), in the administration of the community’s goods, and the conducting of the (community’s) regular worship. This community office, but not a Church constitution, did the apostles ordain.” (Sell. Forschungen der Gegenwart über Begriff und Entstehung der Kirche, Zeitschrift fur Theologie und Kirche, 1894, p. 357). “Hatch finds that the later Church constitution, bishop, college of presbyters and deacons, as distinguished from the people, is not to be explained out of an original office of community superintendence like that of presbyter-bishop, but that this organisation arose through a combination of a number of equally original institutions which had been developed according to previously existing analogies. Communities in which care of the poor, public Divine worship, and mutual fellowship of the brotherhood played a great roll, possessed administration officers, finance officers, who along with their assistants, after the analogy of the club treasurers of antiquity, looked after the important business of administering the society’s goods. These officials were the Ἐπίσκοποι (overseers) and διάκονοι (deacons), who were also divided into different classes, the old, the mature, or middle aged, and the young; while for the determination of questions of manners and customs, for Church discipline, for the decision of legal controversies, and afterwards for admonition, a special order in the community—viz., the presbyters” (Ibid., pp. 359, 360) “Harnack, in his edition of the Teaching of the Twelve, has drawn attention to this, that in the oldest believing communities, along with the bishops, deacons, and presbyters, there were other charismatically endowed persons—viz., apostles, prophets, and teachers, who, as servants, belonged not to individual congregations, but to the whole Church of Christ, and who were not chosen, but ordained by the Holy Ghost” (Ibid., p. 360).

Acts 20:18-35. Paul’s Address to the Elders at Miletus. “This, the third long speech attributed to Paul in the Acts, was certainly from a pastoral theological point of view the most important, as that in Athens was, dogmatically and apologetically considered, and that in Antioch of Pisidia when regarded in an evangelistic or missionary light. It divides itself into four sections of almost equal length:—

I. A reminiscence of the Apostle’s long continued and self-sacrificing labour among the Ephesians (Acts 20:18-21).

II. An expression of prophetic anticipation as to tribulation and danger awaiting him in Jerusalem (Acts 20:22-27).

III. An admonition to the elders or overseers to faithful shepherding and courageous protection of the flock (Acts 20:28-31); and

IV. An exhortation to unselfish exercise of their office, after Paul’s example and in accordance with the Lord’s word (Acts 20:32-35). Zöckler, Die Apostelgeschichte, p. 246.)

Acts 20:19. Minister’s tears. These may be either—

1. Tears of love (Acts 20:31);

2. Tears of sorrow (Philippians 3:18); or

3. Tears of joy; or thus;

Minister’s tears:

1. A painful tax of human weakness.
2. A precious ornament of holy souls.
3. A fruitful seed for a harvest of joy (Gerok).

Acts 20:19-21. Marks of a True Minister of Jesus Christ.

I. Devotion to Christ whom he serves.

II. Humility with regard to himself.

III. Sympathy with those he desires to teach.

IV. Fortitude in face of foes from without.

V. Fidelity to the truth he preaches.

VI. Diligence in the work he undertakes.

VII. Authority in the message he proclaims.

Acts 20:20. Precepts for Preachers.

I. The theme of their preaching.—

1. What it should not be. It should never be only what is new, or learned, or beautiful, or sublime, or rare. These certainly, if they can be made subservient to the highest ends of the ministry. But never these if they interfere with this.

2. What it should be. Only what is profitable for the hearers—for their conviction and conversion, for their edification and instruction in righteousness, for their reproof or correction, for their enlightenment and growth in grace.

II. The manner of their preaching.—

1. With personal humility, counting themselves less than the least of all saints (Ephesians 3:8).

2. With tenderness of speech, addressing their hearers with melting tones and moving them with tears (Philippians 3:18).

3. With holy courage, fearing not the face of man or the opposition of the world (Ephesians 6:19-20).

4. With absolute fidelity, keeping back nothing (Acts 20:20) but declaring the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27), so as to be free from the blood of all men (Acts 20:26).

III. The place of their preaching.—

1. In the public assembly, wherever men congregate, in the church from the pulpit, or in the hall from the platform.

2. In private houses, by a due discharge of the pastoral office.

Acts 20:21. The Substance of the Faith.

I. Repentance toward God.—Implies—

1. Acknowledgment of sin against God. 2 Humility of heart before God.
3. Submission of soul to God.
4. Hope of the Spirit in God.

II. Faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.—Involves—

1. Belief in the supreme divinity of His person.
2. Trust in the atoning efficacy of His work.
3. Confidence in the steadfastness of His promised word.

III. The relations between the two.—

1. Faith without repentance is like a house without a foundation, and like a tree without either root or fruit. Faith of a saving sort springs from a sense of guilt and sin, and leads to godly sorrow and heart contrition. “The pupil of faith is a broken heart.”
2. “Repentance without faith is either inconsolable and ends in despair, or self-righteous and ends in making redemption superfluous.”

Acts 20:22. Bound in the Spirit; or, the True Preacher’s “Necessity” (1 Corinthians 9:16).

I. To go wherever the Spirit of Christ directs (Acts 20:22).

II. To leave the future in the hands of his heavenly Master (Acts 20:22).

III. To confront all sorts of peril, even death itself, in the discharge of his ministry (Acts 20:23).

IV. To be faithful unto death, in testifying the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24).

Acts 20:24. The Gospel of the Grace of God.—The grace of God is—

I. The fountain whence the gospel flows.

II. The burden of the gospel message.

III. The blessing which the gospel bestows.

IV. The end at which the gospel aims. All for the glory of His grace (Ephesians 1:6).

The Gospel of the Grace of God.

I. The gospel as the gospel of the grace of God.—

1. There is grace in the method by which its blessings are secured. The substitution and sacrifice of Christ.
2. There is grace in the influence by which its blessings are applied. The influence of the Holy Spirit in the principle and in the mode of His operation.
3. There is grace in the nature of its blessings. The privileges of the righteous.
4. There is grace in the extent to which its blessings are diffused. It is fitted and designed to be a universal religion.

II. Our duty in reference to it.—

1. We should cordially believe it. It is revealed not for speculation but for belief, and it is authenticated by the most conclusive evidence.
2. We should steadily adhere to it. Let us strenuously resist all who deny, or modify, or philosophise, or explain away the doctrines of grace.
3. We should zealously propagate it. Every Christian should be a missionary.—G. Brooks.

The Office of the Ministry.

I. From whom it is received.—The Lord Jesus. Not only is it in general of Christ’s appointment (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11), but in every separate instance it is of His bestowal. No man should take this office upon himself, but wait until He receives it from Christ, who will intimate His will by

(1) the inward prompting of the Spirit in the individual’s heart,
(2) by imparting the requisite qualifications for the office, and
(3) by sending him the call of his brethen to undertake the office. “No one should force himself, purchase himself, marry himself, or beg himself into the ministry and thus run and preach without a divine mission and call, but wait until he receives it and is sent” (Starke, quoted in Lange).

II. For what it is appointed.—To testify the gospel of the grace of God. Not to teach morals, science, or philosophy, but to publish to sinful men the glad tidings of salvation from sin and death—salvation proceeding from the grace of God, through the obedience unto death of Jesus Christ and the sanctifying influence of the Holy Ghost. “Millions of moral sermons, and folios of moral books will not, in a thousand years, bring you so far as this despised little word ‘grace’ will bring you in one minute, when faith understands and the heart embraces it” (Gossner, in Lange).

III. How it should be executed.—

1. With self-sacrificing devotion that counts not life itself dear in order to fulfil it faithfully and truly.
2. With persevering resolution that will not slack in the sacred work till life itself ends.

3. With solemn earnestness, as realising the immediate neighbourhood of death (Acts 20:25).

IV. How it will be rewarded.—

1. With a sentence of acquittal, declaring the faithful preacher free from the blood of all men (Acts 20:26).

2. With an influx of heavenly joy, when the Master says, “Well done! good and faithful servant: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”

Acts 20:28. Take heed; or, Words of Warning for Christian Ministers.

I. The minister’s relation to his people.—

1. That of a shepherd towards his master’s flock. The image of a flock which had been employed in Old Testament to describe Israel was selected by Christ to designate His Church (Matthew 26:31; Luke 12:32; John 21:15-17), and from Him adopted by both Peter (1 Peter 5:2) and by Paul. As of this flock Christ was the good (John 10:14), the chief (1 Peter 5:4), and the great (Hebrews 11:20) Shepherd, so were the elders, or bishops, or presbyters undershepherds.

2. That of an overseer over his master’s property. Christ’s proprietor ship in the Church rests on the fact that He has purchased it with His own blood (compareEphesians 1:14; Ephesians 1:14); hence elders, bishops, presbyters, and ministers generally cannot be owners of the flock, but only its keepers; or lords of the congregation (1 Peter 5:3), but only its overseers.

II. The minister’s duty to his people.—

1. To take heed unto himself (1 Timothy 4:16). Since Otherwise he cannot take heed unto them. In order to properly discharge his duty as a shepherd and an overseer, the minister must see

(1) to his own personal relation to the Master whom he serves;
(2) to the liveliness of his own faith;
(3) to the extent and correctness of his own knowledge in religion;
(4) to the purity of his own heart and life,
(5) to the sincerity and uprightness of his own motives. A true minister takes heed to himself when he nourishes his own soul by sound doctrine, purifies his own heart by loving obedience to the truth, strengthens his own spirit by habitual devotion, and generally lives in inward communion and fellowship with Jesus Christ.
2. To take heed unto his flock—in which at least three things are comprised:

(1) feeding the flock (John 21:15-17; 1 Peter 5:2)—i.e., nourishing them up in sound doctrine (1 Timothy 4:6), instructing them with “wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ,” and with “the doctrine which is according to godliness” (1 Timothy 6:3), exhorting them with sound speech that cannot be condemned” (Titus 2:8);

(2) tending the flock, or taking the oversight of it (1 Peter 5:2), watching over the character and deportment of its several members, and administering such discipline as may serve to promote their religious welfare (1 Corinthians 5:4-5; 2 Corinthians 2:6; Galatians 6:1; 2 Thessalonians 3:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15; 1 Timothy 5:1; 2 Timothy 4:2; Titus 1:13; Titus 3:10;

(3) guarding the flock against the entrance of “grievous wolves” or false teachers (Acts 20:29), who by promulgating erroneous doctrine should subvert the faith of the ignorant and unwary (1 Timothy 1:3-4; 1 Timothy 1:6-7; 1 Timothy 1:19; 1 Timothy 4:1; 1 Timothy 6:5; 2 Timothy 2:18; 2 Timothy 3:6; Titus 1:10; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 1 John 4:1).

Take heed to yourselves.”—A sermon for ministers.

I. How?—

1. Lest you should be void of that saving grace which you offer to others and be strangers to the effectual workings of that gospel which you preach. 2. Lest you live in those actual sins which you preach against in others.
3. Lest you be unfit for the great employment you have undertaken, since he must not be a babe in knowledge that will teach men all those mysterious things that are to be known in order to salvation.
4. Lost your example contradict your doctrine and you lay such stumbling blocks before the blind as may be the occasion of their ruin.

II. Why?—Because—

1. “You have heaven to win or lose for yourselves, and souls that must be happy or miserable for ever.
2. You have a depraved nature and sinful inclinations as well as others.
3. Such works as yours do put men on greater use and trial of their graces, and have greater temptations than most other men.
4. The tempter will make his first and sharpest onset upon you.
5. There are many eyes upon you, and therefore there will be many observers of your fall.
6. Your sins have more heinous aggravations than those of other men.
7. The honour of your Lord and Master, and of His holy truth and ways, doth lie more on you than on other men.
8. The souls of your hearers, and the success of your labours, do very much depend on your taking heed unto yourselves” (Baxter, The Reformed Pastor, chap. I.).

A Pastor’s Duty towards his Flock.

I. To feed the flock by diligent preaching of the word.—A work requiring—

1. Spiritual wisdom and understanding in the mysteries of the gospel (1 Corinthians 2:4-7; Ephesians 3:8-11).

2. Experience of the power of the truth (John 3:11; 2 Corinthians 4:13).

3. Skill to divide the word aright (2 Timothy 2:15).

4. A prudent consideration of the state of the flock.
5. Zeal for the glory of God and compassion for the souls of men.

II. To continue in fervent prayer for the flock (Acts 6:4).—

1. For the success of the word among its members.
2. For their protection against those temptations to which they are generally exposed.
3. For the especial state and condition of individuals, as these become known to him.
4. For the presence of Christ in the assemblies of the Church.

III. To administer the seals of the covenanti.e., the sacraments.

1. At suitable times.
2. According to Christ’s appointment.
3. Unto those only who are meet and worthy.

IV. To preserve the truth or doctrine of the gospel received and professed in the Church, and to defend it against all opposition (Philippians 1:17; 1 Timothy 1:3-4; 1 Timothy 4:6-7; 1 Timothy 4:16; 1 Timothy 6:20; 2 Timothy 1:14; 2 Timothy 2:25; 2 Timothy 3:14-17).

V. To labour for the conversion of souls unto God.—To enlarge the kingdom of Christ, to diffuse the light and savour of the gospel, to be subservient unto the calling of the elect, or gathering all the sheep of Christ unto His fold, are things that God designs by His Churches in the world.—From Owen., vol. xvi., chap. v.

Acts 20:28-30. Characteristics of the Church.

I. Owned by God.

II. Redeemed by Jesus Christ.

III. Ruled by the Holy Ghost.

IV. Served by Christian elders.

V. Assailed by false teachers.

VI. Betrayed by insincere friends.

Acts 20:28-29. Three Things of which Christian Pastors should take heed.

I. Of themselves.—

1. Lest preaching to others they should themselves be castaways (1 Corinthians 9:27).

2. Lest while preaching they should publish another gospel which is not another (Galatians 1:6-9).

II. Of the flock.—

1. Lest any of them should be lost.

2. Lest any of them should be sickly or weak (1 Corinthians 11:30).

III. Of the wolves.—

1. Lest any should arise within the fold.
2. Lest any should break into it from without.

Acts 20:32. A Pastor’s Farewell.

I. His affectionate regard for his people.—Designating them as his brethren, which they are in a double sense.

1. By nature, as being partakers of the same flesh and blood (Acts 17:29): and

2. By grace, as being members of the same houshold of faith (Galatians 6:10).

II. His fervent desire for his people.—

1. That they should be edified or built up in faith, love, and holiness (Ephesians 4:16; Jude 1:20).

2. That they should at last obtain an inheritance among the sanctified, i.e., among the spirits of just men made perfect (Hebrews 12:23).

III. His solemn commendation of his people.; or

1. To God.

(1) To whom they rightly belong, being His children by creation and regeneration;
(2) because He alone is able to build them up and bring them to the heavenly inheritance; and

(3) has graciously promised to preserve and perfect all that trust in Him and believe upon His Song of Song of Solomon 2:0. To the word of His grace. Meaning not the personal word, but the truth of the gospel, and signifying that he, Paul, prayed that his brethren might be enlightened by, and sanctified through that truth, since through that alone does God advance His gracious work in the souls of His people (John 17:17).

Acts 20:35. The Duty of the Strong towards the Weak.

I. Its nature.—To extend material aid to the poor.

II. Its imperativeness.—Ye ought. The relief of poorer brethren is not optional, but obligatory on Christians.

III. Its motive.—Obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ.

IV. Its blessedness.—It is more blessed to give than to receive.

More Blessed to Give than to Receive.

I. Because it delivers us from ourselves.—

1. From the bonds of selfishness.
2. From the cares of superfluity.
3. From the burden of dependence.

II. Because it unites us to the brethren.—

1. By their friendly attachment.
2. By their active gratitude.
3. By their blessed intercession.

III. Because it brings us nearer to God.—Making us

1. Imitators of God, the All Good.
2. Sharers in the delight of the All Loving.
3. Expectants of the reward of the Eternal Rewarder.—FromGerok.”

The Unrecorded Words of Jesus.—Of these Dr. Westcott (Introduction to the Gospels, Appendix C.) gives the following list:

1. Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, How He said. It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35; compare Luke 6:30)

2. On the same day, having seen one working on the Sabbath, He said to him, O man, if indeed thou knowest what thou doest, thou art blessed; but if thou knowest not, thou art cursed and art a transgressor of the law (Cod. D.; after Luke 6:4).

3. But ye seek to increase from little, and from greater to be less (Cod. D.)

4. The Son of God says: Let us resist all iniquity and hold it in hatred (Epistle of Barnabas, 4).

5. Thus He (Christ) saith, They who wish to see Me and to lay hold on My kingdom must receive Me by suffering and affliction (Epistle of Barnabas, 7).

6. Shew yourselves tried money-changers (Origen in Joann. xix).

7. He that wonders shall reign; and he that reigns shall rest (Ex. Ev. Hebr. Ap. Clem. Al., Strom). Look with wonder at that which is before you (Ap. Clem. Al., Strom., ii. 9, 45.

8. I came to put an end to sacrifices, and unless ye cease from sacrificing (God’s) anger will not cease from you (Ev. Ebion. Ap. Epiph. Hær., xxx. 16).

9. Jesus said to His disciples, Ask great things and the small shall be added unto you; and ask heavenly things and the earthly shall be added unto you (Origen, de Orat., 2).

10. Our Lord Jesus Christ said, In whatsoever I may find you in this I also will judge you (Clem. Al., Juisdives, 40). Such as I may find thee, I will judge thee, saith the Lord (Nilus., Ap. Anast. Sin., Quæst., 3).

11. The Saviour himself says, He who is near Me is near the fire; he who is far from Me is far from the kingdom (Orig., Hom. in Jeremiah 3:0., p. 778; Didymus in Psalms 88:8).

12. The Lord says in the gospel, If ye kept not that which is small, who will give you that which is great? For I say unto you, that he that is faithful in very little, is faithful also in much (Clem. Rom., Ep., 2:8)

13. The Lord says, Keep the flesh pure, and the soul unspotted, that we (perhaps ye) may receive eternal life (Clem. Rom., Cop., ii. 8).

14. The Lord himself having been asked by some one when His kingdom will come, saith, When the two shall be one, and that which is without as that which is within, and the male with the female, neither male nor female (Clem. Rom., Ep., 2:12).

15. Jesus says, For those that are sick, I was sick, and for those that hunger I suffered hunger, and for those that thirst I suffered thirst (Orig. in Matt., tom. xiii. 2).

16. In the Hebrew gospel, the Lord says to His disciples, Never be joyful except when ye shall look on your brother in love (Hieron. in Ephes., 5:3).

17. After the Resurrection Christ said to Peter and the apostles, Take hold, handle Me, and see that I am not an incorporeal spirit (Ignat., ad Smyrn. 3).

18. Christ said, Good must needs come, but blessed is he through whom it comes (Clem., Hom., xii. 29).

19. It was not through unwillingness to impart His blessings that the Lord announced in some gospel or other, My mystery is for Me and for the sons of My house. We remember our Lord and Master, how He said to us, Keep My mysteries for Me and for the sons of My house (Clem. Alex., Strom., Acts 20:10-38).

20. I will select to myself these things: very very excellent are those whom My Father who is in heaven has given to Me (Eusebius, Theophania, iv. 13)

21. The Lord taught of those days (of His future kingdom on earth) and said, The days will come in which vines shall spring up, each having ten thousand stocks, and on each stock ten thousand branches, and on each branch ten thousand shoots, and on each shoot ten thousand bunches, and on each bunch ten thousand grapes, and each grape when pressed shall give five-and-twenty measures of wine. And when any saint shall have seized one bunch another shall cry, I am a better bunch; take me; through me bless the Lord.… And when Judas the traitor believed not and asked, How then shall such productions proceed from the Lord? The Lord said, They shall see who shall come to these times (Papias; compare Irenæus, 5:5, 33, 53). Concerning some of these it is practically certain that they were not uttered by Christ; it is extremely doubtful if any one of them was except the first, which has been recorded by Luke.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Acts 20". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/acts-20.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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