Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, May 25th, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
We are taking food to Ukrainians still living near the front lines. You can help by getting your church involved.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries
Acts 20

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New TestamentSchaff's NT Commentary

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors


Excursus A.

On the Observance of the First Day of the Week by the Early Christians.

Neander well remarks: ‘Since the sufferings of Christ appeared as the central point of all religious experience and life, since His resurrection was considered as the foundation of all Christian joy and hope, it was natural that the communion of the Church should have specially distinguished the day with which the memory of that event had connected itself.’ Let us with great brevity trace the ‘story’ of the sacred Christian day. On the first day of the week our Lord rose from the dead, and in the course of the day, we know, appeared on five different occasions to His followers to Mary Magdalene, to the other women, to the two disciples on their road to Emmaus, to St. Peter separately, to the apostles collectively. After eight days, that is, according to the ordinary way of reckoning, on the first day of the week, He appeared to the eleven. We possess no account of His having appeared in the interval; not improbably this was done specially to render that day memorable to the apostles. In that year of the ‘resurrection,’ the day of Pentecost fell on the first day of the week, ‘when,’ as we read, ‘they were all with one-accord in one place.’ Thus, on the day already known as the day of the Lord’s resurrection, the disciples received from heaven their baptism of fire, and became in a new strange way indeed the Lord’s anointed. The first day of the week thus doubly became the birthday of the religion of Jesus Christ. About a quarter of a century later occurred the scene related in this 20th chapter of the ‘Acts.’ It would seem that at this period the ‘ first day ’ had become the ordinary and stated day of Christian assembling. It was evidently the usual day for the brethren of Troas to meet together to ‘break bread’ in commemoration of their Master, and to receive religious instruction. St. Paul’s words, written only a few months before this scene at Troas, from Ephesus to the Corinthian Church, in the same undesigned way refers to the first day of the week being well known as the day for the practice of special religious duties: ‘Upon the first day of the week, let every one of you lay by him in store as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come’ (1 Corinthians 16:1-2).

Many years later, St. John in his ‘Revelation,’ Acts 1:10, writes of himself as being ‘in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.’ By this name he could not have intended to speak of the ‘Sabbath,’ for the word ‘Sabbath’ was then universally used by Jews and Christians for the seventh day. He could only have been thinking of the one solemn day of the week, hallowed by the glorious memories of the first Easter and Pentecost, and which the reverent followers of Jesus had called after their Master. This name, as we shall see from the writings of the next century, became the common and usual designation of the Christian holy day. Passing from the inspired books to the writings of men who lived in the generation succeeding that of the apostles and their immediate disciples, we read in the Epistle of Barnabas (not the friend of Paul, but a teacher of Alexandria, who wrote in the first half of the second century), ‘We celebrated the eighth day, i.e. the first day of the week, with joy, on which Jesus rose from the dead.’ Justin Marty who flourished in the same period about A.D. 140, tells us that ‘on the day called Sunday was an assembly of all who lived either in cities or in rural districts, and the memoirs of the apostles and the writings of the apostles are read.’ He describes further the various details of the acts of these religious assemblies, their prayers, the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, and the collection of alms, and then gives us the reasons which induced Christians to meet together on the Sunday. The first is a singular one: ‘Because it is the first day of the seven on which God dispelled the darkness and the original state of things and formed the world;’ the second was, ‘Because Jesus Christ our Saviour rose from the dead upon it.’ A few years later, in a fragment of a letter of Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth, to Soter, Bishop of Rome (A.D. 170), occur these words: ‘Today was the Lord’s day and kept holy, and we read your letter, from the reading of which from time to time we shall be able to derive admonition, as we do from the former one written to us by the hand of Clement.’ Melito, Bishop of Sardis, a contemporary of Bishop Dionysius of Corinth, among other works which have long since been lost, is stated by Eusebius to have written a treatise on ‘the Lord’s day.’ A very little later, about A.D. 180, Irenæus, Bishop of Lyons in Gaul, alludes clearly and distinctly to the universal observance of the Lord’s day. Clement of Alexandria, A.D. 196, speaks of the Lord’s day as a well-known and customary festival Tertullian of Carthage, about A.D. 200, speaks often of the Lord’s day in such terms as, ‘We consider it wrong to fast on the Lord’s day,’ ‘Sunday we give to joy.’ In one passage he distinctly refers to the cessation from business on the part of the Christians on the Lord’s day. Origen, the great Alexandrian master, A.D. 230, says, ‘It is one of the marks of the perfect Christian to keep the Lord’s day.’ Other passages, in which mention is casually made of the solemn observance of the first day of the week by the Christians, usually under the name of the ‘Lord’s day,’ occur in the writings of Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, A.D. 250; Commodian, A.D. 270, and others (these are quoted at length in the learned and exhaustive history of ‘the Lord’s day,’ by Archdeacon Hessey, Bampton Lectures; ‘Sunday,’ 1860. See Lecture 2, and the notes at the end of the volume).

We have here adduced testimony dating from the days immediately succeeding the resurrection, A.D. 32 down to A.D. 270, shortly after which date Christianity became the recognised faith of the Roman world, and its practices of world-wide notoriety that the first day of the week was chosen and adopted by the early Christians, acting upon the direction of the apostles, as the special day on which the solemn weekly assemblies were to meet, the Holy Communion celebrated, and public instruction in the religion of the Lord Jesus given. At first the old Hebrew Sabbath was kept by the Jewish Christians with the old legal strictness; but as the Christian faith spread among Gentile nations, silently the old Sabbath observances seem to have been with common consent dispensed with, and in Gentile lands the sacred associations which surrounded the seventh day were transferred to the first day, which among all Christians was generally termed, in memory of the great event which happened on it, ‘the Lord’s day.’ But while the sacred character of the seventh day was thus transferred to the first day of the week, the burdensome restrictions which made the keeping of the old Hebrew Sabbath so difficult and painful to the stranger proselyte were laid aside for ever.

The teaching and the practice of the Christian Church in all ages has strictly maintained, if not the letter, most certainly the spirit of the Sinai charge of the Eternal, ‘Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.’

The following little table will show how the above-cited evidence for the practice of the primitive Christian Church in the matter of the ‘Lord’s day’ was drawn from all the principal centres of early Christianity:

Writer Date (A.D.) City Country St. Paul 57 Greece, Asia Minor St. John 90 Ephesus Asia Minor Barnabas 140 Alexandria Egypt Justin Martyr 140 Rome and Ephesus Italy, Asia Minor Dionysius 170 Corinth Greece Melito 170 Sardis Asia Minor Irenaeus 180 Lyons Gaul Clement 190 Alexandria Egypt Tertullian 200 Carthage North Africa Origen 230 Alexandria Egypt Cyprian 250 Carthage North Africa Excursus B.

Words of the Lord Jesus not quoted in the Four Gospels.

The saying of the Lord Jesus, quoted by St. Paul in the 35th verse of this 20th chapter, as we remarked, does not occur in the Gospels. It is one of the few ‘sayings’ of the Holy One which is preserved outside the ‘memoirs’ of the four.

The origin of the Gospels will always remain uncertain. We shall never know what determined the evangelists to select the sayings and teachings they have embodied in their four writings. They were, we know, guided by the Holy Spirit in their selection and rejection. St. John, in the close of his Gospel, alludes to many unwritten words and acts of his Master (Acts 21:25). It appears strange at first that so few of these have come down to us. The best explanation we can give, is to assume that the inspired four were directed by the ‘Holy Spirit’ to make an unerring choice of what was necessary for the teaching of the world; and when that choice had been made, the memory of the rest (partly, perhaps, from disuse) gradually faded away, and the next generation scarcely retained any record of word spoken or deed done by the Lord beyond those embodied in the narratives of the ‘four.’ The apostles’ preaching in the first days was based on those acts and words of their Master which seemed to these inspired men to possess the fullest significance for the exhibition of His Divine life. The apostles (certainly the greater number of them) remained in Jerusalem long enough in close communion to shape a common narrative. The Gospels of St. Matthew, St. Mark, and St. Luke were the result, then, of this apostolic preaching. St. John wrote later, and gave rather his own memories of his Lord than the united experiences of the Twelve. This is the opinion of Professor Westcott in his most able Introduction to the Study of the Gospels (chap, 3), and thoroughly commends itself to the minds of all thoughtful and devout students of the Holy Word. Now, outside the inspired memories of the Gospels, we possess the record of some twenty sayings of Jesus Christ which have floated down to us. They come from many centres in the East and West, from Rome, from centres like Alexandria, Ephesus, Smyrna, Cæsarea, and are preserved by the most famous and trustworthy of the oldest fathers of the Church. We may, I think, look on them as fragments containing some true and original memories of our Lord’s teaching, although, as has been well said in the case of not a few of them, ‘whatever nucleus of truth there was at first, has been encrusted over with mystic or fantastic imagination.’

The following collection is taken from Professor Westcott. It may be looked upon as containing all the original traditionary sayings of the Master, preserved in the most trustworthy authorities of the early Church (see Appendix C. of Dr. Westcott’s Introduction to the Gospels):

1. Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, It is more blessed to give then to receive (Acts 20:35; comp. 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 transgessor of the law (in Cod. D after Luke 6:4).

3. But ye seek to increase from little, and from greater to be less (Cod. D). It seems to be a genuine fragment.

4. The Son of God says, Let us resist all iniquity, and hold it in hatred (Barn. Ephesians 4:0).

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

6. Show yourselves tried money-changers (Orig. in Joann. 19). This is the most commonly-quoted of all apocryphal sayings, and seems to be genuine.

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(Gods) anger will not cease from you (Ev. Ebion. ap. Epiph. Har. 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 (Orig. de Oral, 2).

10. Our Lord Jesus Christ said, In whatsoever I may find you, in this will I also judge you (Clem. Al. Juisdives 40). Such as I may find thee, I will judge thee, saith the Lord (Nilus. ap. Anast. Sin. quest. 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. Horn, in Jerem. iiip. 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. ii. 8).

13. The Lord says, Keep the flesh pure and the soul unspotted, that we may receive eternal life, perhaps that 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. ii. 12).

15. Jesus says, For those that are sick I was sick, and for these that hunger I suffered hunger, and for those that thirst I suffered thirst (Orig. in Matt. torn. Matthew 13:2).

16. In the Hebrew Gospel we find the Lord saving to His disciples, Never be joyful except when ye shall look on your brother in love (Hieron. in Ephesians 5:3).

17. When the Lord came to Peter and the apostles (after His resurrection), He said to them, Take hold, handle me, and see that I am not an incorporeal spirit. And straightway they touched

Him and believed, being convinced by His flesh and by His Spirit (Ignat. ad Smyrn. Iii.).

18. Christ said, Good must needs come, but blessed is he through whom it comes (Clem. Horn. 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, v. 10-64).

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. Likewise also (He said), that a grain of wheat shall produce ten thousand ears of corn, and each grain ten pounds of fine pure flour; and so all other fruits and seeds and each herb according to its proper nature; and that all animals, using for food what is received from the earth, shall live in peace and concord with one another, subject to men with all subjection. And he (Papias) added, saying, Now these things are credible to them which believe. 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, cf. Iren. v. 5, 33, 53).

Verse 1

Paul’s Journey through Macedonia He remains at Corinth (probably) three months, and then returns by way of Philippi to Asia, 1-6.

Acts 20:1. And after the uproar was ceased, Paul called unto him the disciples, and embraced them, and departed for to go into Macedonia. There is no evidence to show that the apostle’s departure was caused, though it might have been hastened by the tumult which had taken place on account of the supposed slight shown by St. Paul and his friends to Artemis (Diana) of the Ephesians. He had already (see Acts 20:21-22 of preceding chapter) determined to leave Ephesus, and the words of the writer of the ‘Acts’ here simply tell us that he waited until quiet was restored in the city, and then set out on the journey which he had previously resolved to make. For some reason to us unknown, the compiler of this history is very brief here, and passes over without a word a very important period in St. Paul’s life. We are able, however, without difficulty to fill up the gap left in the narrative of the ‘Acts’ from scattered notices in the epistles, especially from the second letter to the Corinthians.

From Ephesus, St. Paul seems to have gone by land direct to Alexandria Troas; there he waited anxiously (2 Corinthians 2:12) for the arrival of Titus, whom he had sent to Corinth on a mission, partly connected with the great collection then being made by the Gentile churches for the relief of their suffering Hebrew brethren in the mother Church of Jerusalem, partly on account of the grave disorders which were then existing in the turbulent and powerful Corinthian brotherhood. But Titus’ coming was delayed, and the anxious apostle sailed to Europe in the hope of meeting him, and passed over from Troas to Macedonia. At Philippi, the old scene of his labours, then a flourishing and devoted Christian community, it is most probable (see Conybeare and Howson, St. Paul, chap. 17) he met at length his trusted disciple, and received much comfort from the news which Titus brought him from Corinth and its church.

The Second Epistle to the Corinthians was written evidently from Philippi. Charged with this letter, Titus was sent back again to Corinth. Freed from his pressing anxiety about the state of his loved Corinthian Church, St. Paul at once resumed his missionary labours, and besides visiting the cities on the western side of Macedonia on the shores of the Ægean, journeyed far in the East, on the Adriatic coast, and as we read in the Roman epistle, ‘fully preached the gospel of Christ round about unto Illyricum’ (Romans 15:19).

Verse 2

Acts 20:2. And when he had gone over those parts, and had given them much exhortation, he came into Greece. That is, when St. Paul had visited the cities Philippi, Berea, Thessalonica, etc., on the eastern or Ægean side of Northern Greece or Macedonia, and had preached his Master’s gospel on the eastern or Adriatic coast, roughly termed Illyricum, he came into the southern province, here termed ‘Hellas’ (Greece), that is to say, into the Roman province of Achaia; and here he at once sought out its principal city, his old home and scene of former labours, the great western centre of the Christianity of the first days, Corinth.

Verse 3

Acts 20:3. And there abode three months. With these few words the writer of the ‘Acts’ refers to this second and shorter residence of the apostle in his old Corinthian home. Much had happened in that restless, busy centre since his first long stay, when he laid the foundation stories of the church there. He had been absent some three years, and in that period in the Christian community at Corinth had taken place, as the church increased, the disputes concerning the Lord’s Supper; the heart-burnings excited by party attachments to one or other of the early Christian leaders, himself, Peter, and Apollos; the agitation occasioned by the immoral and impure lives lived by professing members of the brotherhood. The duty of relieving and assisting brothers and sisters unknown and living in far countries, but professing the same faith; and the general duty of almsgiving, and other questions connected with doctrine and life and ritual, which have in all the Christian ages agitated and often perplexed the Church of Christ, had been prominently brought before the Corinthian congregations. And on all these questions he had given them advice, exhortation, and warning, by messages despatched through true and trusty friends, such as Timothy and Titus; by grave and weighty letters written under the influence of the Holy Spirit, such as the First and Second Corinthian Epistles, letters which have served as handbooks to the practical Christian life for eighteen hundred years; and now he was come among them once more to watch the result of his work. During the ‘three months’ of his stay at Corinth, St. Paul wrote the great epistle to the Roman Church. The Galatian letter possibly was written, too, at this time; but it seems more likely that this shorter letter, in which the main arguments of the letter to the Church of Rome were first sketched out, was written during the stay at Ephesus in the course of the preceding year.

And when the Jews laid wait for him, as he was about to sail into Syria. We are not informed as to the nature of this plot formed against St. Paul by his unhappy countrymen. All through his busy, anxious life their terrible and sleepless hostility dogged his footsteps. Their machinations usually took the form of intrigue with the local authorities or with the people of the city, where the apostle was working; but at times their intense hatred took a more active shape, and they made use of certain fanatics of their race, and attempted by violent means to cut short the detested career of him they persisted in looking upon as the bitterest foe to the Jewish traditions. See for other murderous attempts of this kind, chap. Acts 9:23-29, at Damascus and Jerusalem; and at a later period again at Jerusalem, chap, Acts 23:12. It was most likely that the Jews on this occasion, becoming aware of St. Paul’s intention to sail from Cenchrea, one of the ports of Corinth (Phœbe, Romans 16:1, the bearer of the epistle to the Roman Church, was a deaconess of the church of this place, which was in fact a seaside suburb of populous Corinth), watched the harbour in order to surprise him and kill him. There were many Jews resident in this seaside quarter of the great city engaged in commerce. It was to this harbour that most of the ships sailing between Greece and Asia belonged. Their occupation would give them peculiar influence over the captains and owners of all trading vessels, and from these they doubtless heard of the apostle’s intentions. But the plot was discovered, and St. Paul determined to proceed northwards by land, through Macedonia by way of Philippi.

Verse 4

Acts 20:4. And there accompanied him into Asia, Sopater of Berea; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gains of Derbe, and Timotheus; and of Asia, Tychicus and Trophimus. Of these companions of the apostles three were natives of Macedonia and four of Asia Minor. In the older MSS. Sopater is described as (the son) of Pyrrhus; this was possibly added to distinguish him from the Sosipater (the same name as Sopater) mentioned in Romans 16:21, a kinsman of St. Paul. Nothing is known of him further. The name, however, occurs in an inscription still existing in Saloniki (Thessalonica), probably of the date of Vespasian, as belonging to one of the politarchs of that city. Aristarchus had been associated with St. Paul at Ephesus (chap. Acts 19:29). Secundus is not mentioned elsewhere. Professor Plumptre ingeniously suggests that this Secundus, together with Tertius in Romans 16:22, and Quartus (Romans 16:23), were all three sons of a disciple who had adopted this plan of naming his children. Gaius of Derbe. So styled to distinguish him from another companion of St. Paul with the same name, who belonged to Macedonia (chap. Acts 19:29). Derbe was a small city of Lycaonia, in Asia Minor, near to Lystra (see chap. Acts 14:6). Timotheus. The well-known pupil and disciple of St. Paul, to whom in after days the two epistles bearing his name were addressed. It is not improbable that these two here named together, coming from the same neighbourhood, were friends and comrades. Tychicus. The name which means ‘fortunate’ is represented by the Latin ‘Felix.’ He was probably a native of Ephesus. We hear of him several times in early apostolic history. He was the bearer of the epistles to the Colossians and Ephesians from Paul, then a prisoner at Rome, to those distant churches (see Colossians 4:7-8; Ephesians 6:21-22), and he is styled ‘a beloved brother and a faithful minister of the Lord.’ In the last epistle of his brave, good life, St. Paul tells Timothy ‘he had sent Tychicus to Ephesus’ (2 Timothy 4:12). Tradition tells us he became Bishop of Chalcedon in Bithynia. Trophimus. The last-named of this company of St. Paul’s friends, we know, accompanied the apostle on this journey all the way to Jerusalem, and was the occasion there of his arrest (Acts 21:29). Trophimus, too, is mentioned in the Second Epistle to Timothy (chap. Acts 4:20), ‘Trophimus have I left at Miletus sick.’ Early tradition tells us this friend and associate of St. Paul had been one of the seventy disciples, and suffered martyrdom under Nero. It is, however, very doubtful if any of the ‘seventy’ belonged to an alien race, to which Trophimus, from the circumstance related in chap. Acts 21:27-30, certainly appears to have belonged. It has been asked why these seven companions of the apostle are so carefully enumerated in this case. The supposition that they acted as a bodyguard to St. Paul, and that they were seven in number, to correspond with the number of the deacons (chap. Acts 6:3-5), must be dismissed as purely fanciful. They were, no doubt, messengers of their several churches deputed to carry the contributions of the Gentile congregations to the poor saints of Jerusalem. St. Luke, the compiler of the history of the ‘Acts,’ as we shall see in the next verse, at this juncture rejoined the apostle, and the narrative now indicates from its minuteness that the writer was present at the scenes described. We can easily conceive that the names of the persons of this little company with which he found himself so intimately associated were graven on the mind of the compiler of the memoir.

Verse 5

Acts 20:5. These, going before, tarried for us at Troas. Here the language of the narrative (see remarks on the preceding verse) suddenly changes from the third person to the first. Briefly to recapitulate, the close personal connection of Luke and Paul appears to have dated from the years 51-52. They were together evidently from the time of the arrival of Paul at Troas (chap. Acts 16:8); they crossed over together into Europe, but when Paul left Philippi (Acts 16:40), the physician-friend of the great apostle was left behind in that city, and it has been supposed that the Evangelist made Philippi the centre of his work for several years. Here again at Philippi, after the lapse of some six or seven years, the beloved physician again joins his friend and master. The rest of the narrative of the ‘Acts’ is told us by an eye-witness of the various events recorded. We may therefore conclude with certainty that from this time, that is, from the arrival at Philippi (A.D. 57), till Paul was entrusted to the charge of the soldier at Rome (A.D. 62), Luke was never separated from his beloved master (see also note on Acts 16:10).

Two reasons have been, with much probability, suggested for Paul remaining at Philippi, while his companions went on before him to Troas. The first, that they should make all possible arrangements for the gathering of the disciples of Troas and the neighbourhood to meet the apostle; and the second, that Paul might keep the Passover feast with all quiet solemnity. We know he was ever anxious to conciliate his countrymen, and whenever he could do so without sacrifice of principle. The presence of his Gentile companions who went on before him into Asia (Troas), would have been an hindrance and a stumbling-block to him on this occasion, when he, no doubt, hoped to win some of his dearly-loved brother Jews to the side of his Master Christ. ‘For us,’ that is, for Luke and Paul.

Verse 6

Acts 20:6. And came unto them in Troas in five days. This lengthy voyage was, no doubt, owing to contrary winds, or perhaps to a calm. On a former occasion, we read of this voyage being made in two days (see Acts 16:11).

Verse 7

The Journey to Jerusalem The Communion Feast and Miracle at Troas, 7-12.

Acts 20:7. And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together. This was evidently no accidental coincidence, this meeting together of the disciples on the first day of the week, because Paul was about to depart on the morrow. The particular day ‘the first day of the week’ need not have been mentioned if it had only been a farewell gathering for the old teacher to share in. We have here an unmistakable allusion to the practice, which began evidently immediately after the resurrection of the Lord, of assembling on the first day of the week for religious purposes (see Excursus A., ‘On the Universal Observance of Sunday by the Early Christians,’ at the end of this chapter).

To break bread. This solemn assembly of disciples met together evidently for no ordinary meal The ‘breaking bread’ can only signify the Lord’s Supper, the communion of the body and blood of Christ, which, in these early days, seems to have been generally united with the Agape or love-feast. Well-nigh all commentators, Protestant and Roman, are agreed that this is the signification of this expression. The ceremonial took place on the first day of the week, as Alford remarks, ‘in the evening, after the day’s work was ended; and at the end of the assembly, after the preaching of the word.’

Paul preached unto them. Thus, in this early period of the Church of the first days, the liturgical order was much the same as that developed and elaborate service which has come down to us after eighteen centuries. The disciples came together; and the especial object of their assembling was then, as now, the celebration of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper; then, as now, the prayers and sermon preceded the solemn breaking of bread.

And continued his speech until midnight. The assembly was held at night; this was the ordinary practice among the early Christians. The ‘breaking of bread’ in the Holy Communion followed, at this early period of the Church’s history, the ‘Agape’ meal. It seems that this brotherhood on ‘the Lord’s day,’ after the day’s work was ended, met together, partook of the simple evening meal, after which prayer and preaching of the word followed; and before they separated, each Christian shared in the solemn breaking of bread, in compliance with their dear Master’s last command the evening before His death on the Cross.

Verse 8

Acts 20:8. And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together. All the little details of this memorable scene are carefully recorded; the very appearance of the brilliantly-lighted upper chamber; the lateness of the hour; the length of Paul’s sermon. The writer, Luke, had just joined his loved master again, and naturally all the circumstances which accompanied the first remarkable event which took place after their reunion, stamped themselves on the ‘beloved physician’s mind. The many lamps mentioned had no special significance; the Jews were accustomed, on their festal days, brilliantly to light their rooms for any great solemnity. The fact is probably mentioned to account for the sleep of Eutychus, which, no doubt after the fatigue of a long working day, was induced by the heat of the crowded, lit-up room.

Verse 9

Acts 20:9. And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead. ‘The place was an upper room, with a recess or balcony projecting over the street or the court. The night was dark: three weeks had not elapsed since the Passover, and the moon only appeared as a faint crescent in the early part of the night. Many lamps were burning in the room where the congregation was assembled. The place was hot and crowded. St. Paul, with the feeling strongly impressed upon his mind that the next day was the day of his departure, and that souls might be lost by delay, was continuing in earnest discourse, and prolonging it even till midnight, when an occurrence suddenly took place which filled the assembly with alarm, though it was afterwards converted into an occasion of joy and thanksgiving. A young listener, whose name was Eutychus, was overcome by exhaustion, heat, and weariness, and sank into a deep slumber. He was seated or leaning in the balcony, and falling down in his sleep, was dashed upon the pavement below, and was taken up dead’ (Conybeare and Howson, St. Paul). It should be remembered that in the East the windows, which were usually closed only by lattice-work, are large, and mostly reach down to the floor, resembling rather a door than a window. This window was, doubtless on account of the heat, wide open. In the high, narrow streets of eastern towns, the upper storey is often used for social purposes, partly as removed from the noise of the street, partly as being more open to the air. Nothing further is known of this Eutychus; the name was by no means an uncommon one.

And was taken up dead. The words here are perfectly plain, and positively do not admit of any ‘watering down.’ The facts related are perfectly simple, and admit of no explanation but one. The young man fell from the great height of a third storey on to the hard ground, or more probably pavement, below, and was killed by the fall. The words of the apostle in the next (10th) verse, ‘Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him,’ may well be compared to the words of Paul’s Master, when He raised from the dead the little daughter of Jairus, of whose death no expositor has ever doubted: ‘Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth’ (Luke 8:52). To the Lord her death, though real, was yet but as a sleep, out of which He was come to awaken her; and the servant, in this case , was conscious of possessing for a moment the same strange power which belonged to his Divine Master .

Verse 10

Acts 20:10. And Paul went down, and fell on him, and, embracing him, said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him. The example here of Elijah when he restored to life the dead son of the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:21), and of Elisha when he raised from the dead the only child of his kind Shunammite hostess (2 Kings 4:34), is here closely imitated by this other favoured servant of the Eternal God. The accurate and vivid picture given us here by the compiler of the ‘Acts,’ tells us how lasting an impression the whole scene made upon the companion of Paul. Professor Plumptre strikingly calls attention to the unruffled composure of the apostle, sure of his prayer for power to restore life in this instance being granted, contrasted with the hurry and terrified confusion of the dismayed bystanders: ‘The whole scene is painted vividly by an eyewitness. We have to think of the cries of alarm, the rush of men down the staircase from the third floor with lamps and torches in their hands, the wail of sorrow ... the undisturbed calmness of the apostle, sure that his prayer was answered.’

Verse 11

Acts 20:11. When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten. The ‘breaking of bread,’ the solemn conclusion to the long service of prayer and exhortation, doubtless had been interrupted by the accident to Eutychus. The bread was, in these early ‘communions,’ literally broken. ‘The loaf, probably a long roll, was placed before the celebrant, and each piece was broken off as it was given to the communicant’ (Plumptre).

Verse 12

Acts 20:12. And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted. As in the case of the little daughter of Jairus, when the Lord commanded that something should be given to her to eat at once, so here evidently some special care and attention was given to the young man that nature might be recruited, and that the awful shock which the system had suffered might be recovered from. Stress should be laid on the word ‘alive,’ as standing with the word ‘dead’ in Acts 20:9. His friends and fellow-worshippers ‘were not a little comforted’ by the restoration to life again of one whom they were already mourning for as dead; but their joy was doubtless greatly increased by the powerful witness to the truth of their belief which such a notable miracle afforded. They felt, then, these Christians of Troas, in a way possibly they had never felt before, that, when two or three were gathered together, there the Lord was indeed in the midst.

Verse 13

St. Paul pursues his Journey to Jerusalem From Assos he sails along the Coasts of Asia On his Arrival at Miletus he sends for the Elders of the Church of Ephesus, 13-17.

Acts 20:13. And we went before to ship, and sailed unto Assos, there intending to take in Paul: for so he had appointed, minding himself to go afoot. Luke, the compiler of the ‘Acts,’ and the other companions of the apostle, on the day succeeding the memorable night spent in the upper chamber with the Christians of Troas, went on board and sailed for the south, Paul determining to join the ship at Assos, only some twenty miles distant by road from Troas, but the voyage round Cape Lectum was nearly twice as far. He wished, perhaps, to secure a few more hours with his disciples at Troas, and also a quiet, solitary time of meditation as he went alone by the road to the point where he had fixed to join the ship and his friends. He doubtless, in these solitary hours, pondered over the subjects of that famous farewell address he was about to deliver to his friends, the elders of the Ephesian congregation he loved so dearly. Assos is called by Pliny Apollonia; it was a seaport of Mysia, and thus was reckoned in Proconsular Asia. Its modern name is Beahrahm. Vast ruins still mark the site of the ancient city, and speak with silent eloquence of its bygone importance.

Verse 14

Acts 20:14. And when he met with us at Assos, we took him in, and came to Mitylene. Mitylene is about thirty miles from Assos, and is the capital of the island of Lesbos. Horace styles it ‘fair Mitylene’ (Epist. i. (1-17). It is famed for its beautiful situation and the magnificence of its buildings. It was the birthplace of Sappho and the poet Alcæus. The modern city on the same site is called Castro.

Verse 15

Acts 20:15. And we sailed thence, and came the next day over against Chios. Chios was an island off the coast of Ionia, celebrated for its wine. It was the scene of the massacre of the Greeks by the Turks in 1822. Chios was famous, even among these fairest regions of the earth, for its marvellous beauty. There was a modern Greek proverb which spoke of the modern Sciots in language akin to that used by Paul, when writing to Titus of the Cretes (Titus 1:12): ‘It were easier to find a green horse than a sober-minded Sciot.’

And the next day we arrived at Samos. This island was only separated from Lydia by a narrow channel.

And tarried at Trogyllium. This was the name of a city and a promontory between Ephesus and the mouth of the Meander, at the foot of Mount Mycale.

And the next day we came to Miletus. Miletus was one of the most famous names in remote history; it was more ancient than its modern rival Ephesus, which had, however, in Paul’s day, far outstripped it in wealth and grandeur. Homer writes of ‘Carian Miletus.’ It had sent out as many as eighty colonies. But for a long period before St. Paul visited it, it had been gradually sinking in importance, and then ranked only among the second-rate cities of that populous seaboard of Asia, It is now a swamp, with but few ruins to mark the site of the once-famed city. Miletus lay some thirty miles to the south of Ephesus.

Verse 16

Acts 20:16. For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia; for he hasted, if it were possible for him, to he at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost. The apostle had, when at Trogyllium, been much nearer Ephesus than he was when the ship anchored at Miletus; but the stay at Trogyllium had not exceeded a few hours, while at the more important harbour of Miletus, doubtless several days were spent. It must be borne in mind, that the great apostle and his companions were but humble passengers on board this trading vessel. He would not himself revisit the old scene of his ‘two years’ labour, lest the many friends and their pressing solicitations, and the varied questions they would of course have laid before him, should have delayed his voyage; and there was barely sufficient time before him to reach the Holy City in time for the Pentecost feast, so he sent the message to Ephesus which we read of in the next (17th) verse. There were several urgent reasons which prompted him to be present at Jerusalem during the coming festival. He knew such a mark of respect for the sacred Hebrew custom would be pleasing to the stricter Jewish Christians. He was also especially desirous to present the generous gifts contributed by the Gentile churches to their distressed brethren of the Holy City in presence of the vast concourse of foreign Jews who would, of course, be present at the great Pentecostal feast, and thus spread abroad in all lands the great fact that even the Gentile members of the new and suspected sect of Christians loved, with a deep love, their Jewish brethren who dwelt under the shadow of the temple on Mount Zion, and refused to separate themselves from them, although they were all the while too conscious that the chosen people grudged, with a strange unreasoning jealousy, the share in His eternal kingdom, which the risen Crucified Master had given to the dwellers in the isles of the Gentiles.

Verse 17

Acts 20:17. And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. The elders or presbyters here summoned to hear the parting address of their old master, probably represented several congregations of Ephesus and its neighbourhood. St. Paul had, we know, for a long period made Ephesus his headquarters, and no doubt at this time there were a large number of professing Christians in, the Church of this great and populous city. In Acts 20:28 of this chapter, these elders or presbyters are spoken of as episcopoi, bishops or overseers. It is quite clear that in the lifetime of Paul, the names episcopos , presbuteros , bishop and presbyter (or elder), were applied indifferently to the same person. This is quite evident from the language of the pastoral epistles of this same apostle. In the lifetime of St. Paul, no necessity had arisen in the constitution of the Church for the appointment of a special order of superintending presbyters. While Peter, and Paul, and John, and the majority of the apostolic body were still living, these filled the place of general superintendents of the churches. But, though this fact is indisputable, there is not a shadow of doubt but that the episcopal office, as we understand it, was constituted before the close of the first century, for very tarty in the second century we find this higher order widely established.

Professor Rothe of Heidelberg (quoted by Bishop Lightfoot of Durham in his Commentary on the Philippians) concludes that the Episcopate was established shortly after the deaths of St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. James, who suffered martyrdom nearly at the same time, all shortly before the fall of Jerusalem. The pillars of the Church being thus removed by death, and Jerusalem the visible centre of the Church being destroyed, there was an urgent need for some organization which should cement together the diverse elements of Christian society now so rapidly increasing, and preserve it from disintegration.

Out of this need the Catholic Church, in its Episcopal character, arose. From notices in Eusebius, Irenæus, and Clement of Rome, Professor Rothe (quoted by Lightfoot) concludes ‘that, immediately after the fall of Jerusalem (A.D. 70), a council of the surviving apostles and first teachers of the gospel was held to deliberate on the crisis, and to devise measures for the well-being of the Church. The centre of the system thus organized was Episcopacy, which at once secured the compact and harmonious working of each individual congregation, and, as the link of communication between the separate brotherhoods, formed the whole into one undivided Catholic Church. Recommended by this high authority, the new constitution was immediately and generally adopted.’

Verse 18

Acts 20:18. Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons. The words of Samuel to the people of Israel after the election of King Saul present a most striking parallel to this farewell speech of Paul (see 1 Samuel 12:2-5).

Verses 18-38

St. Paul’s Farewell Address to the Elders of the Church at Ephesus, 18-38.

In this short epitome of the discourse of the apostle on the occasion of his bidding farewell to his old Ephesian friends and fellow-workers, we have perhaps the most interesting of all the reported sermons and addresses of the ‘Acts.’ Whereas these, for the greater part, are largely occupied with allusions to the burning questions of the time, such as the relation between Judaism and that new development of the old sacred Hebrew religion, Christianity; the relation, again, between Christianity and Paganism; the foundations upon which the religion of Jesus Christ were based, the argument especially used to Jewish and Gentile peoples, this famous précis of the address, or at least of part of the address, uttered at Miletus by the loving founder of the Ephesian congregation to the elder officials of that church, deals with broad and general questions connected with the duties of a pastor to his flock not only in the age of Paul, but in all times and among all peoples. The references to his own history are few, and just enough to give a living personal interest to the exhortation; but they are quickly dismissed, and the words might have been addressed by a Christian minister to his people in our own days.

It may be styled a précis of part of the original discourse, for, in its present brief form, it cannot contain anything like the variety of subjects touched upon by the apostle. Nor can it be supposed, even of that portion of the original address which it represents, to reproduce anything more than a brief abstract. Still the inspired compiler of the ‘Acts,’ with rare skill, has woven into his report of Paul’s words here many of the apostle’s well-known phrases. We feel we are indeed reading here a resumé of one of Paul’s most earnest and impassioned sermons one, too, written down by a listener on the memorable occasion, on whose mind the wondrous thoughts uttered on that morning had left an impression never to be effaced.

The address falls easily into three divisions: (1) Treats very briefly of the speaker’s former connection with the Ephesian community, to whose representatives he was then speaking; to this he just adds a few words explanatory of his present hurried journey (Acts 20:18-24). (2) Contains very earnest warnings to his old flock, together with grave forebodings of their future perils (Acts 20:25-31). (3) The apostle dwells on his own self-sacrificing labours among them labours utterly unrequited, as they knew well. This is the spirit in which they, if they would be true pastors, should themselves work (Acts 20:32-35).

A Paraphrase of the Address to the Ephesian Elders.

Div. I. Act 20:18-24 . ‘For a long period of time, as you know, have I lived among you, building up the Christian brotherhood of Ephesus, all the time serving the Lord with all humility, often sorely afflicted and bitterly tempted, the afflictions and temptations both coming to me through the instrumentality of my own countrymen the Jews. But I never shrank from encountering these trials, no dread of man ever hindered me from working for the salvation of the Christian brotherhood. In my teaching you will remember how I laid as the foundation stories of a Christian life the two guiding principles of my Master’s religion a change of heart and thus a return to God, joined with faith in the Lord Jesus. The dear brotherhood of Ephesus I am prevented now from personally visiting, for I am constrained by an overpowering sense of duty to go up at once to Jerusalem a visit full of grave danger to me, I know for certain, because solemn warnings from the Spirit of the Lord have been lately constantly telling me of the deadly perils which await me there. But I feel I must go; my duty to my Master calls me there, and obeying that high summons I can afford to disregard my life, which I thus put, I am well aware, in extreme peril. A soldier of Christ must be ready to risk life and everything in his Lord’s service, that is, if he would finish his course with joy and win his crown.’

Div. II. Act 20:25-31 . ‘I am very urgent then in pressing home to you, the elders of those congregations to whom I have so long preached the kingdom of God, not to forget the example I have set you of brave, disinterested, devoted love, for I feel I shall never look on your faces again. Remember I have done my part, I am innocent of the blood of these men of Ephesus if the punishments denounced upon the unrepentant sinner fall on any member of our flock. Take heed lest the guilt of neglect fall on you you, the guides and pastors now. Remember how for my part I have never shrunk from declaring the purpose and the will of God.

‘This grave responsibility of warning and guiding now passes to you elders; see then that your lives are pure, and watch well over the lives of that flock whose teachers you are. A precious charge indeed are these sheep of whom you are the appointed shepherds. They belong to that Church of the Living God which He purchased O awful mystery! with the tremendous ransom of His own blood.

‘Yes, take heed and watch these poor sheep well, for I foresee, only too surely, after I am removed from the scene, teachers of a different school, more like ravening wolves than shepherds, coming from other cities, will take my place in my flock of Ephesus; and even among yourselves in after days will some arise perverse teachers who will attract many from the right way. Ay, watch well yourselves and those committed to your charge, that dear flock for which I watched with such intense solicitude with many a secret tear during three long, anxious years.’

Div. III. Act 20:32-35 . ‘Now, brothers, I commend you and your church a precious deposit indeed to God and to His Word, who is able to raise you from strength to strength, and in the glad end to give you each your share in the Redeemed One’s glory.

‘ Follow my example. I have coveted no man’s silver or gold or apparel. See these toil-worn hands of mine; they have kept me; yes, and have helped many others too. How often have I told you in words and shown you by my life that God’s ministers ought with their own hands ever to help the weaker! Did not the Master once say, “ It is more blessed to give than to receive”?’

Verse 19

Acts 20:19. Serving the Lord .... with many tears. Three times in this short report of Paul’s farewell words at Miletus are ‘tears’ referred to: tears of suffering and pain (Acts 20:19); tears of pastoral solicitude (Acts 20:31); tears of natural affection and friendship (Acts 20:37. See also 2 Timothy 1:4; 2 Corinthians 2:4; Philippians 3:18; and also Acts 21:13). The intense sympathy and love among the early Christians is most noteworthy. It was something strange and fresh in the old selfish world, and this sweet spirit which seemed after the crucifixion to have taken up its abode in the hearts of men and women, was no doubt one of the most powerful agents in the rapid spread of the new doctrines. The revelation that God could so care for men as to weep (John 11:33-35) for them, taught men the glorious beauty of mutual sympathy. Paul’s intense sorrow for ‘souls that will not be redeemed’ has been imitated and copied faithfully by many a noble heart in the long eventful story of Christianity.

Ages before, the sore need of this sympathy had been felt and dimly groped after, but never found, and therefore never imitated. See, for instance, in that moving scene which closes the Hippolytus of Euripides. In the midst of his extreme suffering, Hippolytus addresses Artemis (Diana) with

‘(Divine) Mistress, do you see me, how wretched I am?’

And the goddess answers,

‘I do; but it is wrong for these eyes of mine to shed a tear.’ Hippolytus of Euripides, 1395, 1396, edit. Dindorf.

A God who could ‘weep with those that weep’ was a sublime conception to which the old heathen world was never able to attain.

Lucretius, who lived some three-quarters of a century before the Christian era, coldly though very grandly expressed the same view of the disregard of the immortals for human woes and sufferings (see, for instance, De Rerum Natura, Book i. 57-62); while in Juvenal, who wrote after the Son of man had come and had begun to change the whole tone of thought even of the heathen world, we see, or perhaps rather feel, the dawn of the new day (see, for instance, Juvenal, Satire xv.).

Which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews. There is no special mention of a plot against the life and liberty of the apostle during the Ephesian residence; their hostility is, however, alluded to in Acts 19:9. No doubt at Ephesus, as at Corinth, Thessalonica, Antioch in Pisidia, and Jerusalem, the same sleepless, relentless hostility on the part of a section of his countrymen marred and hindered his work.

Verse 20

Acts 20:20. Have taught you publicly. Three months, we read, he taught openly in the synagogue, and two years in the school (an open and no doubt well-known lecture hall) of Tyrannus.

Verse 21

Acts 20:21. Repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. These two make up the sum of all Christian doctrine a change of heart, and then a return to God and faith in the Lord Jesus.

The one cannot be separated from the other. True faith cannot exist without the sorrowful heart. Again, repentance without faith in Christ is without comfort or hope, and ends too surely in faint-heartedness and despair. All efforts at self-redemption have been found again and again utterly useless.

Verse 22

Acts 20:22. And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things which shall befall me there. Some commentators have understood these words as though Paul was constrained by the ‘Holy Spirit’ to journey to Jerusalem, in other words, ‘was going to Jerusalem on the impulse of the Holy Spirit.’ It is better, however, to refer the words ‘in the Spirit’ to Paul’s own spirit; for in the following verse we have the word πνεῡμα , spirit, apparently distinguished from ‘spirit’ in this verse by the epithet τὸ ἅγιον , the holy, in the English Version rendered ‘Holy Ghost.’ The meaning here without doubt is, ‘Urged by an intense sense of duty, Paul was going up to the Holy City.’ He was so persuaded that this was right, that no prospect of danger deterred him, no urgent affectionate entreaties moved him from his purpose.

He was ignorant what the dangers were which too surely would meet him. He only knew that some terrible trial certainly awaited him in that city. The Holy Ghost in some mysterious way had forewarned him of this.

Verse 23

Acts 20:23. Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. Such warnings as these here referred to as having happened in the past, do not seem to have been unfrequent in these early days of Christianity. ‘The gift of prophecy’ appears to have been no uncommon possession in the days of the apostles. Like other miraculous powers, it gradually seems to have passed away from the Church. These powers were evidently of rare occurrence during the lives of the generation which immediately succeeded the men who had looked on the face of Jesus, and after a comparatively brief interval, contemporaneous history is silent altogether on the subject the power had passed away from men. For similar instances of such warning prophetic voices at Tyre and at Cæsarea, see Acts 21:4; Acts 21:10-11.

The voice of the Holy Ghost, which apparently came to the prophets of the Church of Antioch on the occasion of the dedication of Barnabas and Saul (Acts 13:1-4), was another instance of this prophetic work on the part of the Holy Ghost. Paley (Horae Paulinae, Romans) calls attention to Romans 15:30, where the apostle beseeches the Roman Christians to strive together in their prayer for him, that he might be delivered from them who do not believe in Judæa. Such a sorrowful foreboding was probably written down in Corinth after one of those prophetic intimations here referred to: ‘The Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city.

Verse 24

Acts 20:24. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself. ‘We note the parallelism with Luther’s famous declaration when warned by his friends not to go to Worms, “ I will go thither, though there should be devils on every house-top ”’ (Professor Plumptre).

So that I might finish my course with joy. The same words and the same thought re-occur in the Second Epistle to Timothy, only there the goal was in sight, and Paul wrote, ‘I have finished my course’ (2 Timothy 4:7).

An interesting thought has been suggested by Acts 20:22-24. It must be remembered, however, that it is only a supposition. Paul has been speaking with a sad presentiment of the things which shall befall him in Jerusalem; prophets enlightened by the Holy Ghost tell him that bonds and afflictions await him; he himself attaches no value to his life, and knows that the congregation which he has founded shall see him no more. It seems as though it had been determined in the counsels of God that Paul should be allowed to die in Jerusalem as a martyr, but that God had graciously looked at the tears and intercessions in behalf of the apostle on the part of all the Gentile congregations, and in compliance with their many earnest prayers had allowed him to be rescued by the Romans with a view to several years more of life and ministry.

Verse 25

Acts 20:25. And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. Here Paul expresses his own conviction that he will no more look in life on the faces of his Ephesian brothers in the faith. But it is almost certain that after his liberation from the Roman imprisonment spoken of in Acts 28:0, the apostle did revisit the Asian churches (see the notices and greetings and directions in 2 Timothy 4:0 and in Titus 1:5, especially the words, ‘Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick,’ 2 Timothy 4:20). We must, however, by no means suppose that even an apostle was gifted at all times with Divine and unerring knowledge. Here it is almost certain he was mistaken in his foreboding.

To give another instance of this partial ignorance on the part of men of apostolic dignity, there is no doubt but that Paul and others of the same sacred company looked for the coming of the Lord in their own lifetime. We can even trace the gradual fading away of these fond hopes of the Christians of the first day, who only came gradually to see that the return of the Master in judgment was no event of the immediate future, but that the time of His coming was hid in the dim far future.

Verse 26

Acts 20:26. Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. The thought and language here was one familiar to Paul. He derived it from the well-known words of the prophet Ezekiel, ‘When I say unto the wicked, They shall surely die; and thou givest him not warnings nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand’ (Ezekiel 3:18). He, Paul, as they well knew, was innocent of all neglect. His ceaseless, self-denying labours among the people at Ephesus would at least free him from that blood-guiltiness. If any man perishes, I am not myself guilty.

Verse 27

Acts 20:27. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. The counsel of God is His counsel of redemption and grace, and the universality of His redeeming work; and all this he had not only declared in his teaching, but also by his example and life. It has been suggested with considerable probability that the words ‘all the counsel of God’ point to a greater degree of receptivity for Divine truth than had been found elsewhere; so he points out in the Epistle to the Ephesians. He speaks to them as able to understand his knowledge in the mystery of Christ, and the brotherhood of mankind in the common Fatherhood of God.

Verse 28

Acts 20:28. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers. ‘So be watchful,’ Paul went on to say. ‘My part is done. For the future the grave responsibility of guiding this precious flock will be yours, elders of the Church of Ephesus yours the care of providing that it be kept from error; and first I press home to you to take heed to your own lives, to the example you set, to the influence you exert.’ The Greek word rendered here ‘overseers’ ( ε ̓ πισκο ́ πους ) is usually rendered ‘bishops,’ as, for instance, the same word in the singular in 1 Peter 2:25, ‘Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.’ The Holy Ghost as in Acts 13:2, when the same Holy Spirit directed the prophets and teachers of Antioch to choose Barnabas and Saul for the mission work in Gentile countries had probably guided Paul in the first instance in his selection of these pastors. In this reference to the work of the Holy Ghost also the inward call is referred to, that secret impulse which first drew the man to the holy work and office of an ordained minister in the Church.

To feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. In this most important doctrinal statement a grave variation in the reading in the original Greek of the most ancient authorities exists. For ‘the Church of God,’ some MSS. of great weight read ‘the Church of the Lord.’ This would water down the immense importance of the doctrinal assertion here. But later research has now decidedly inclined the balance in favour of the reading of the received text, ‘the Church of God.’

The words of Dr. Scrivener, the most distinguished living English critic, on this point are most weighty. ‘The reading of the received text,’ he says, ‘though different from that of the majority of copies, is pretty sure to be correct. It is upheld by the Sinaitic and Vatican MSS., Codices א and B, by all the known MSS. and editions of the Vulgate (except the Complutensian). Patristic testimony also slightly inclines to the same reading, the “Church of God.” Foremost among these come the words of Ignatius (A.D. 107), who speaks in his Epistle to the Ephesians, chap, 1, of the “blood of God.”

The same Ignatius ( Epistle to Romans , 6) also uses the expression, ‘the Passion of my God.’ In Clement of Alexandria, too, we have the very phrase, ‘Blood of God.’ Tertullian (Ad Uxorem, Acts 2:3) also uses these same words.

We therefore unhesitatingly adopt the words of our English Authorised Version as the correct translation of the original Greek words, and possess in these words a distinct expression of the belief of the Apostolic Church in the absolute Divinity of the Son and of the nature of His work as Redeemer; in other words, Paul authoritatively taught here that, ‘As for the Church of God, God purchased it with His own blood.’

Verse 29

Acts 20:29. For I know this, that after my departure shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. ‘Primum venit Paulus; deinde venient lupi’ (Bengel). Two distinct classes of teachers who should arise after his departure are alluded to by Paul the ‘grievous wolves’ who would come to Ephesus from other cities, and the ‘speakers of perverse things’ who would arise from within.

It has been suggested with great probability that the apostle foresaw that his bitterest enemies would be the Judaizing teachers who came from a distance, and that they, who had injured him and his cause in past times, are hinted at here.

He seems to press home to them what he foresaw would surely come to pass, that after he had gone, other teachers of an entirely different character would come among them. The sad words of St. Paul in the last epistle of his life, some six years after these words were spoken, show how mournfully the prediction contained in these solemn warning words was verified: ‘This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me’ (2 Timothy 1:15).

Verse 30

Acts 20:30. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. The Church of Ephesus singularly enough became notorious in after days as a famous seat of the great and widespread Gnostic heresy. Even in the New Testament writings, no fewer than six of the pioneers of these fatal teachers of error are mentioned as belonging to Ephesus. In the First Epistle to Timothy we hear of Hymenæus and Alexander (chap. Acts 1:20). In the Second Epistle to the same chief presbyter of Ephesus, mention is made of Phygellus and Hermogenes (chap. Acts 1:15), and of Philetus (chap, Acts 2:17). These Epistles were written in A.D. 65-66. In the Third Epistle of John, who lived at Ephesus, written about A.D. 90, Acts 20:9, we read of another of these false teachers, Diotrephes.

In the Apocalypse, written A.D. 80-90, in the Epistle addressed to the angel of the Church in this same city of Ephesus, it is said that there were among them those who held the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes (chap. Acts 2:6), ‘which I also hate.’ Church history (Eusebius, H. E. iv. 14) recounts, too, how the Apostle John met with the heresiarch Cerinthus during his residence at Ephesus. ‘Ephesus,’ observes Creuzer (quoted by Gloag), ‘was above all others the place where oriental views were in various ways combined with the mythology and philosophy of Greece; in truth, this city was a complete storehouse of magical arts and deceptions’ (see Acts 19:19; Acts 19:35).

Verse 31

Acts 20:31. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. We have the statement in Acts 19:8-10 that Paul disputed in the Ephesian synagogue three months, and for two years taught publicly in the school of Tyrannus; added to this there is the undefined time which elapsed after the ‘Diana’ tumult and his first departure. This would amply justify him in representing his ministry as extending over three years. The approving words to the angel to the Church of Ephesus, written about a quarter of a century after these warnings of St. Paul, tell us that the earnest wishes and the affectionate pleadings of the apostle were not in vain: ‘I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: and hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted’ (Revelation 2:2-3).

Verse 32

Acts 20:32. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace. In conclusion, Paul commends these brethren of his who are entrusted with the carrying on of his great work, who are charged with the solemn duty of keeping burning in Ephesus the torch of Divine truth to the mighty and faithful protection of God. He places, so to speak, these elders of his dear Ephesian Church under the solemn guardianship of the Almighty wings. He commends them not only to God, but to the Word of His grace. Most commentators understand by the ‘Word of His grace’ not the personal Word, the Logos, but the doctrine of God, and suppose that these words are parenthetically introduced, thus: ‘I commend you to God’ (and the word of His grace, i.e. the doctrine contained in His word), ‘to God who is able,’ etc.; but such an interpretation seems in a high degree unsatisfactory and strained. It is surely better to adopt the obvious meaning, thus: ‘I commend you to God and to the Word of His grace,’ the Word (Logos) the Second Person of the blessed Trinity.

Though the expression ‘Logos or Word’ as used by St. John is not found in any other passage of the ‘Acts’ or in the Gospel of St. Luke, it would not on this ground be right to distort this passage from its obvious meaning. The expression was known, no doubt, to St. Luke, though perhaps not in common use among Christians until St. John adopted it in his Gospel.

Which is able to build you up. ‘We cannot pass over the word “build” without noting the occurrence of the same thought and word in St. Paul’s Epistle to the same Church of Ephesus’ (Acts 2:20-21, Acts 4:12; Acts 4:16; Acts 4:29). ‘The figure was a natural one anywhere’ (comp. 1 Corinthians 3:10; 1 Corinthians 3:10), ‘but it would gain additional vividness from the stately architecture of Ephesus’ (Plumptre).

And to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. The inheritance is glorious for two reasons; it consists in ‘communion with God,’ and also in a ‘blessed communion with all God’s saints,’ who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb. The same striking and beautiful thought almost in these very words occurs in the Ephesian Epistle, ‘that ye may know what’ (are) ‘the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints’ (Ephesians 1:18; see, too, Ephesians 1:14; Ephesians 5:5).

It is the thought of the vast crowd of the redeemed, that ‘multitude whom no man can number’ of all peoples and nations and tongues, that broadly extended communion of saints, which constitutes one great feature in the glory of the inheritance, and which increases unspeakably the blessedness of the world to come.

Verse 33

Acts 20:33. I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel. In other words, ‘I seek not yours, but you.’ Even in those early days of the Faith, covetousness, the love of gold and wealth, and the things gold and wealth can purchase, was after all the greatest temptation in a minister’s life. Then as now, now as then! How earnestly Paul strove against even the very shadow of appearance of evil in this matter, we have constant and ample testimony. Rather than even receive gifts which would supply him with the necessaries of life, this scholar, teacher, and missionary would work for himself in the workshop of an Aquila at the rough haircloths used for tents. See, for instance, the statement in the next verse, and such references as 2Th 3:10-12 ; 1 Corinthians 4:11-12; Acts 18:3. The same grave warning was given some years later to his loved disciple Timothy, himself subsequently the chief presbyter in this same Church of Ephesus, when, after having in strong, vigorous language told his friend of the temptations of the rich, and the lusts, foolish and hurtful, these fell into, ‘for the love of money was the root of all evil,’ he turns to Timothy with the noble, simple appeal: ‘But thou, O man of God, flee these things.’ Be thou above coveting these dangerous, soul-destroying riches. ‘Apparel’ is here added to gold and silver, because in all times rich and costly apparel has formed a conspicuous part of the wealth and possessions of an opulent oriental household. Eastern people were in the habit of trafficking in and also of keeping in store these costly garments; hence the allusion in Matthew 6:19 to the power not only of rust, but of the moth (see, too, James 5:2). The Ephesians, we read, were celebrated for their luxurious apparel ( Athenaeus, quoted by Gloag).

Verse 34

Acts 20:34. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands. No doubt here holding up his toil-worn, work-scarred hands. See the reference to St. Paul’s custom of working with his own hands in the note above on the preceding (Acts 20:33) verse.

Verse 35

Acts 20:35. I have showed you all things, how, etc. ‘All things’ here signifies ‘in all ways,’ by teaching and by life. Not only have I told you in words what is the duty of a Christ-loving man, but I tried to live the life before you which I told you of.

That so labouring ye ought to support the weak. So labouring as I have done, ye ought to help and succour not here the ‘weak in faith,’ the anxious, the doubter, the sceptic, but the sick, the feeble, the poor, who are unable to help themselves. It is a beautiful and touching reminder not only to these elders of Ephesus, but to all who say they love the Lord Jesus, to exercise self-denial in various ways, that they may possess some means wherewith to help those poorer, weaker, more helpless than themselves (Ephesians 4:28). It is evident from the quotation of the words of the Master which follow, that this is the meaning of ‘the weak’ here.

And to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. These beautiful words of the Master, Paul quoted as evidently well known, and as quite familiar to his listeners, yet they are not found in the four Gospels in any form. They are evidently a memory, a loved memory, of one of the Master’s favourite sayings; and although they enforce with the solemn distinctness of a command of God the duty of liberality and kindness to the poor and helpless, they possess a far deeper meaning, for they assert as an eternal truth, the higher blessedness of giving than receiving. Perhaps the full truth of this Divine saying of the Holy One and Blessed, in all its length and breadth, and depth and height, will never be grasped by any but the redeemed, and not by them till they enter the city of the Lamb. Do they not foreshadow in some way the occupation of the blessed in heaven? Will they not all then be ministering spirits?

The whole question concerning the ‘traditional sayings’ of the Lord is discussed at some length in Excursus B., which follows this chapter.

Verse 36

The Last Prayer and the Farewell Paul leaves Miletus, 36-38.

Acts 20:36. And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down. We are acquainted with the attitude which prevailed among Christians in very early times. They were in the habit of kneeling in prayer on ordinary occasions, but they considered standing in prayer the posture most fitting for praise and thanksgiving; so usually on the first day of the week the Lord’s day they prayed ‘standing.’ This posture in prayer was also adopted during the seven weeks which intervened between Passover and Pentecost, roughly speaking, the ‘forty days,’ as they considered this a period of joy and thanksgiving.

And prayed with them all. Professor Plumptre writes ‘that the historian, who has recorded what we may call this charge of St. Paul, shrinks with a natural reverence from reporting his prayer. Ephesians 3:14-21 will enable the thoughtful reader to represent to himself its substance, perhaps even its very thoughts and words.’

Verse 37

Acts 20:37. And fell on Paul’s neck, and kissed him. These demonstrative expressions of affection are in accordance with eastern customs (see Genesis 45:14; Genesis 46:29). The word is a strong one, and might be rendered, ‘kept tenderly kissing him.’ The Greek word here used we find in the description of the traitor Judas kissing the Lord in Gethsemane, where it describes the affected earnestness of the fatal kiss.

Verse 38

Acts 20:38. That they should see his face no more. In this both Paul and his companions in work the elders of Ephesus were no doubt wrong. St. Paul most probably did revisit these shores, and no doubt Ephesus and its church, after his liberation from the Roman imprisonment. See the note on Acts 20:25, where this is discussed at some length.

Bibliographical Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Acts 20". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/scn/acts-20.html. 1879-90.
Ads FreeProfile