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Wednesday, May 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
Acts 20

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Verses 1-38


Acts 20:1

Having sent for and exhorted for called unto him, A.V. and T.R.; took leave of them, and departed for and embraced them, and departed, A.V. Departed for to go into Macedonia. This was St. Paul's purpose, as he had written to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 16:5) from Ephesus. He judged it wise, not only with a view to his own safety and that of his companions, but also for the rest and quiet of the Ephesian Church, to take advantage of the lull in the popular storm, and withdraw into quiet waters before any fresh outbreak occurred. Aquila and Priscilla seem to have left Ephesus about the same time, or soon after, since the Epistle to the Romans found them again at Rome (Romans 16:3, Romans 16:4); and, if the view mentioned in the note to Acts 19:40 is true—that in the riot they had saved St. Paul's life at the risk of their own—there were probably the same prudential motives for their leaving Ephesus as there were in the case of the apostle.

Acts 20:2

Through for over, A.V. When he had gone through (διελθών); see above, Acts 8:4, Acts 8:40; Acts 10:38; Acts 13:6; Acts 18:23, note, etc.; Luke 9:6. Those parts; μέρη, a word especially used of geographical districts: τὰ μέρη τῆς Γαλιλαίας: τὰ μέρη Τύρου καὶ Σιδῶνος (Matthew 2:22; Matthew 15:21; see too Acts 2:10; Acts 19:1). Greece (Ἑλλάδα, not Ἀχαΐαν, as Acts 19:21; Acts 18:12, and elsewhere). Macedonia and Achaia are always coupled together (see Tacit., 'Ann..' 1.76). as in Romans 15:26; 1Th 1:7, 1 Thessalonians 1:8. In the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, written from Macedonia, it is always Achaia (2 Corinthians 1:1, etc.). In fact, Ἑλλάς is found nowhere else in the New Testament, Achaia being the name of the Roman province. Bengel and others understand Hellas here of the country between Macedonia and the Peloponnesus, especially Attica; which would make it probable that St. Paul revisited Athens. But Meyer, Kuinoel, Alford, 'Speaker's Commentary,' etc., think it is synonymous with Achaia. There must, however, be some reason for this unusual use of Hellas instead of Achaia. None seems so likely as that it was meant to cover wider ground than Achaia would naturally indicate, namely Attica.

Acts 20:3

When he had spent … there for there abode, A.V.; a plot was laid against him by the Jews for when the Jews laid wait for him, A.V.; for for into, A.V.; determined for purposed, A.V. (ἐγένετο γνώμης, R.T.). When he had spent three months. For this use of ποιεῖν, see Acts 15:33; Act 18:1-28 :33. See also 2 Corinthians 11:25, where the R.V. varies the rendering, and seems to take ποιεῖν as a verb neuter, as the A.V. does here, the accusative (μῆνας τρεῖς) being taken as that of time how long. And a plot, etc. There is no "and" in the Greek. It is better to take the T.R., and to consider ποιήσας as a nominative pendens as ἐπιγνόντες is in Acts 19:34, according to the reading of Meyer, Alford, etc. A plot was laid against him by the Jews. It appears from this that Apollos had not succeeded in subduing the bigoted hatred of the Corinthian Jews. But probably the desperate measure of a plot against his life (ἐπιβουλή, as in Acts 9:23, Acts 9:24; Acts 9:19 of this chapter, and Acts 23:1-35. Acts 23:30) is an indication that many of their number had joined the Church; and that the unbelieving remnant, being foiled in argument, had recourse to violence. He determined; literally, according to the R.T., he was of opinion. But the T.R. has ἐγένετο γνώμη, "his opinion was," the construction of the sentence being changed. The three months were probably chiefly spent at Corinth, according to the intention expressed in 1 Corinthians 16:6, though it would seem that he had stayed a longer time in Macedonia than he anticipated. It was during his sojourn at Corinth that the Epistle to the Romans was written.

Acts 20:4

As far as for into, A.V.; Beraea for Berea, A.V.; the son of Pyrrhus is added in the R.T. and R.V.; Timothy for Timotheus, A.V. Accompanied; συνείπετο, peculiar to Luke in the New Testament, but common in medical writers. As far as Asia. If it were merely said, "there accompanied him," it might have been thought, with regard to the Macedonians Sopater, Aristarchus, and Secundus, that they had merely gone as far as their respective cities, Beraea and Thessalonica; it is therefore added (in most manuscripts, though not in B or the Codex Sinaiticus), "as far as Asia." It does not necessarily follow that they all went as fax as Jerusalem, though we know Trophimus and Aristarchus did. Sopater may probably be the same as Sosipater (Romans 16:21), whom St. Paul calls "his kinsman," though some think "the son of Pyrrhus" was added to distinguish him from him. The Thessalonian Aristarchus is doubtless the same as the person named in Acts 19:29; Acts 27:2; and so one would have thought Gaius must be the same as is named with Aristarchus in Acts 19:29, were it not that this Gaius is described as of Derbe, whereas the Gaius of Acts 19:29 was a man of Macedonia. Gaius of Derbe is here coupled with Timothy, who was of the neighboring city of Lystra (Acts 16:1), but was too well known to make it needful to specify his nationality. Secundus is not mentioned elsewhere. Compare Tertius and Quartus (Romans 16:22, Romans 16:23), and the common Roman names, Quinctus, Sextus, Septimus, Octavius, Decimus. Tychicus, of Asia, is mentioned in Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7; 2 Timothy 4:12; Titus 3:12; by which we learn that he continued to be in constant attendance on St. Paul, and have abundant confirmation of his being "of Asia." Trophimus is called "an Ephesian" (Acts 21:29), and is named again as a companion of St. Paul, and presumably "of Asia" (2 Timothy 4:20). It is not improbable that some at least of there followers were chosen by the Churches to carry their alms to Jerusalem (see 2 Corinthians 8:19-23; 2 Corinthians 9:12, 2Co 9:13; 1 Corinthians 16:3, 1 Corinthians 16:4; Romans 15:25-28).

Acts 20:5

But these had gone for these going, A.V. and T.R.; and were waiting for tarried, A.V. The narrative is so concise that the exact details are matters of conjecture. There is consequently much difference of opinion about them. Howson, with whom Farrar (vol. 2:274) apparently agrees, thinks that the whole party traveled together by land through Bercea and Thessalonica, to Philippi; that the party consisting of Sopater, Aristarchus and Secundus, Gains, Timothy, Tychicus, and Trophimus, went on at once from Philippi via Neapolis, to Troas, leaving St. Paul, who was now joined by St. Luke, at Philippi, to pass eight or nine days there during the Feast of the Passover. And this seems quite consistent with St. Luke's narrative. But Lewin thinks that only St. Paul (accompanied, as he supposes, by Luke, Titus, and Jason) went to Macedonia, and that the others sailed direct from Cenchreae to Troas. Renan, on the other hand, thinks they all sailed together from Cenchreae to Neapolis, whence Paul's party went to Philippi, and the others to Troas. There is no clue to the reason why the party thus separated.

Acts 20:6

Tarried for abode, A.V. We; distinctly marking that Luke, the author of the narrative, whom we left at Philippi (Acts 16:13, Acts 16:14), joined him again at the same place. Renan well remarks, "At Philippi Paul once more met the disciple who had guided him for the first time to Macedonia. He attached him to his company again, and thus secured as his companion in the voyage the historian who was to write an account of it, with such infinite charm of manner and such perfect truth." It may be noted that this passage is quite conclusive against the notion entertained by some, that Timothy was the writer of the Acts. From Philippi; i.e. from Neapolis, the port of Philippi. After the days of unleavened bread, which lasted eight days, including the day of eating the Passover. In five days. An unusually long voyage, owing, doubtless, to unfavorable winds. On the former occasion when he sailed from Troas to Neapolis he was only two days (Acts 16:11). Where we tarried seven days. As the last of these seven days was Sunday—" the first day of the week"—he must have arrived on the preceding Monday, and left Neapolis on the preceding Thursday. Some, however, reckon the days differently. It must be remembered that the apostle's movements were dependent upon the arrival and departure of the merchant ships by which he traveled.

Acts 20:7

We were gathered for the disciples came, A.V. and T.R.; discoursed with for preached unto, A.V.; intending for ready, A.V.; prolonged for continued, A.V. The first day of the week. This is an important evidence of the keeping of the Lord's day by the Church as a day for their Church assemblies (see Luke 24:1, Luke 24:30, Luke 24:35; John 20:19, John 20:26; 1 Corinthians 16:2). To break bread. This is also an important example of weekly communion as the practice of the first Christians. Comparing the phrase, "to break bread," with St. Luke's account of the institution of the Holy Eucharist (Luke 22:19) and the passages just quoted in Luke 24:1-53., and St. Paul's language (1 Corinthians 10:16; 1 Corinthians 11:24), it is impossible not to conclude that the breaking of bread in the celebration of the Lord's Supper is an essential part of the holy sacrament, which man may not for any specious reasons omit. Further, this passage seems to indicate that evening Communion, after the example of the first Lord's Supper, was at this time the practice of the Church. It was preceded (see Luke 24:11) by the preaching of the Word. The following description, given by Justin Martyr, in his second Apology to Antoninus Plus, of the Church assemblies in his day, not a hundred years after this time, is in exact agreement with it:—"On the day which is called Sunday, all (Christians) who dwell either in town or country come together to one place. The memoirs of the apostles and the writings of the prophets are read for a certain time, and then the president of the meeting, when the reader has stopped, makes a discourse, in which he instructs and exhorts the people to the imitation of the good deeds of which they have just heard. We then all rise up together, and address prayers (to God); and, when our prayers are ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president, to the best of his ability, offers up both prayers and thanksgivings, and the people assent, saving 'Amen.' And then the distribution of the bread and wine, over which the thanksgivings have been offered, is made to all present, and all partake of it." He adds that the elements are carried to the absent by the deacons, and that collections are made for poor widows, and orphans, and sick, and prisoners. Discoursed (διελέγετο); Acts 17:17, note. Prolonged (παρέτεινε). The word is found only here in the New Testament, but is of frequent use in medical writers.

Acts 20:8

We for they, A.V. and T.R. It is not obvious why St. Luke mentions the many lights. Some say to mark the solemnity of the first day of the week (Kuinoel); some, to remove all possible occasion of scandal as regards such midnight meetings (Bengel); some, to explain how the young man's fall was immediately perceived (Meyer); others, to account for the young man's drowsiness, which would be increased by the many lights, possibly making the room hot (Alford); for ornament (Olshausen). But possibly it is the mere mention by an eye-witness of a fact which struck him. It is obvious that the room must have been lit for a night meeting—only perhaps there were more lights than usual.

Acts 20:9

The for a, A.V.; borne down with for being fallen into a, A.V.; discoursed yet longer for was long preaching, A.V.; being borne down by his sleep he for he sunk down with sleep, and, A.V.; story for loft, A.V. In the window; or, on the window-seat. The window was merely the opening in the wall, without any glass or shutter. Borne down; καταφερόμενος, the proper word in connection with sleep, either, as here, when sleep is the agent, or, followed by εἰς ὕπνον, falling into sleep. Yet longer; rather, as in the A.V., long; i.e. longer than usual, somewhat or very long.

Acts 20:10

Make ye no ado for trouble not yourselves, A.V. Fell on him, and embracing him said; imitating the action of Elijah and Elisha (1 Kings 17:17-21; 2 Kings 4:34). Make ye no ado (μὴ θορυβεῖσθε). Θόρυβος and θορυβεῖσθαι are words especially used of the lamentations made for the dead. Thus when Jesus came to the house of Jairus, he found the multitude outside the house, θορυβούμενον, "making a tumult." This is still more clearly brought out in Mark 5:38, Mark 5:39, "He beholdeth a tumult (θόρυβον), and many weeping and wailing greatly. And … he saith unto them, Why make yea tumult (θορυβεῖσθε), and weep? The child is not dead, but sleepeth." In exactly the same way St. Paul here calms the rising sobs and wailings of the people standing round the body of Eutychus, by saying, Μὴ θορυβεῖσθε," Do not wail over him as dead, for his life is in him."

Acts 20:11

And when he was gone up for when he therefore was come up again, A.V.; the bread for bread, A.V. and T.R.; had talked with them for talked, A.V. Had broken the bread; i.e. the bread already prepared, and spoken of in Acts 20:7 (where see note), but which had not yet been broken in consequence of Paul's long discourse. And eaten. Γενσάμενος does not seem to mean "having eaten of the bread broken," for the word is never used of the sacramental eating of bread. That word is always φάγειν (1 Corinthians 11:20, 1 Corinthians 11:24) or ἐσθίειν (1 Corinthians 11:26, 1Co 11:27, 1 Corinthians 11:28, 1 Corinthians 11:29). But γευσάμενος seems rather to be taken absolutely, as in Acts 10:10, "having eaten," meant "having partaken" of the meal, the agape, which followed the Eucharist. Talked with them (ὁμιλήσας). Of familiar converse (Luke 24:14, Luke 24:15; Acts 24:26). Compare the use of ὁμιλία in 1 Corinthians 15:33; from whence, of course, comes the word" homily."

Acts 20:12

Lad for young man, A.V.

Acts 20:13

But for and, A.V.; going for went, A.V.; the ship for ship, A.V.; set sail for and sailed, A.V.; for for unto, A.V.; intending for minding, A.V.; by land for afoot, A.V. Assos. A seaport on the coast of Troas, twenty-four Roman miles from Troas. The town was built on a high and precipitous cliff. Luke does not tell us why on this occasion he was separated from Paul. Had he appointed. The passive διατεταγμένος ἧν is here used in an active sense, as in Died. Sic. (quoted by Kuinoel) and other Greek writers (see Steph., 'Thesaur.'). But some consider it as the middle voice (Meyer).

Acts 20:14

Met for met with, A.V. Mitylene. The capital of the island of Lesbos, called by Horace "pulchra Mitylene" ('Epist.,' 1. 11.17). The harbor on the north-eastern coast is described by Strabo as "spacious and deep, and sheltered by a breakwater" (13. 2).

Acts 20:15

Sailing from for we sailed, A.V.; we came for and came, A.V.; following for next, A.V.; touched for arrived, A.V.; and the day after for and tarried at Trogyllium; and the next day, A.V. and T.R. Over against Chios. Their course would lie through the narrow strait between Chios on the west and the mainland on the east. Samos. The large island opposite Ephesus. There they touched, or put in (παρεβάλομεν). If the clause in the T.R. is genuine, they did not pass the night at Samos, but "made a short run from thence in the evening to Trogyllium (Alford), "the rocky extremity of the ridge of Mycale, on the Ionian coast, between which and the southern extremity of Samos the channel is barely a mile wide" ('Speaker's Commentary'). We came to Miletus. Anciently the chief city of Ionia, and a most powerful maritime and commercial place, about twenty-eight miles south of Ephesus; though in the time of Homer it was a Carian city. In St. Paul's time it was situated on the south-west coast of the Latmian gulf, just opposite the mouth of the Meander on the east. But since his time the whole gulf of Latmos has been filled up with soil brought down by the river, so that Miletus is no longer on the seacoast, and the new mouth of the Meander is to the west instead of to the east of Miletus, which lies about eight miles inland. Miletus was the scat of a bishopric in after times. As regards this visit to Miletus, some identify it with that mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:20. And it is certainly remarkable that so many of the same persons in connection with the same places are mentioned in both passages and in the pastoral Epistles generally. The identical persons are Paul, Timothy, Luke, Trophimus, Tychicus, and Apollos (Acts 20:4, Acts 20:5, compared with 2 Timothy 4:11, 2 Timothy 4:12, 2 Timothy 4:20); and the identical places are Corinth, Thessalonica, Troas, Ephesus, Miletus, and Crete. But the other circumstances do not agree well with the events of this journey, but seem to belong to a later period of St. Paul's life (see below, verse 25, note).

Acts 20:16

Past for by, A.V.; that he might not have to for because he would not, A.V.; time for the time, A.V.; was hastening for hasted, A.V. To spend time; χρονοτριβῆσαι, found only here in the New Testament, but used by Aristotle and others. It has rather the sense of wasting time, spending it needlessly. The day of Pentecost. The time of year is rims very distinctly marked. Paul was at Philippi at the time of the Passover, and hoped to reach Jerusalem by Pentecost.

Acts 20:17

Called to him for called, A.V. The R.V. gives the force of the middle voice μετεκαλέσατο. The elders of the Church; viz. of Ephesus. These are manifestly the same as are called ἐπισκόπους in Acts 20:28, "overseers," or bishops. The distinctive names and functions of Church officers were not yet fixed; and the apostles themselves, aided by degrees by such as Timothy and Titus, were what we now call bishops, exercising oversight over the elders themselves as well as over the whole flock (see 1 Timothy 3:1). The diocesan episcopate came in gradually as the apostles died off, and the necessity for a regular episcopate arose (see Acts 6:1-6; Acts 14:23, etc.).

Acts 20:18

Ye yourselves for ye, A.V.; set foot in for came into, A.V.; was for have been, A.V.; all the time for at all seasons, A.V.

Acts 20:19

Lowliness for humility, A.V.; tears for many tears, A.V. and T.R.; with trials for temptations, A.V.; plots for lying in wait, A.V. Plots (ἐπιβουλαῖς); comp. Acts 20:3, and note. There is no special account of Jewish plots in St. Luke's narrative of St. Paul's sojourn at Ephesus. But from Acts 19:9, Acts 19:13, and probably 33, we may gather how hostile the unbelieving Jews were to him.

Acts 20:20

How that I shrank not from declaring unto you anything for and how I kept back nothing, A.V.; profitable for profitable unto you, A.V; and teaching for but have showed you and have taught, A.V. I shrank not from declaring, etc. The R.V. seems to construe the phrase as if it were Ὡς ὑπεσταιλάμην τοῦ μὴ ἀναγγεῖλαι ὑμῖν οὐδὲν τῶν συμφερόντων, which is a very labored construction, of which the only advantage is that it gives exactly the same sense to ὑπεστειλάμην as it has in Acts 20:27. But it is much simpler to take οὐδὲν here as governed by ὑπεστειλάμην, and to take the verb in its very common sense of "keeping back," or "dissembling" (see the very similar passages quoted by Kuinoel from Demosthenes, Plato, Socrates, etc., Οὐδὲν ὑποστειλάμενος, μηδὲν ὑποστείλαμεμος κ.τ.λ.), and to take the τοῦ μὴ ἀναγγεῖλαι ὑμῖν καὶ διδάξαι as expressing what would have been the effect of such "keeping back," or "dissembling," the μὴ extending to both infinitives (Meyer), "so as not to declare and teach," etc. In Acts 20:27 the verb ὑπεστειλάμην must be taken in the equally common sense of "holding back," or "shrinking," under the influence of fear, or indolence, or what not. The difference of rendering is required by the fact that here you have οὐδὲν ὑπεστειλάμην, whereas in Acts 20:27 you have οὐκ ὑπεστειλάμην In several of the classical passages quoted above, and others in Schleusner, ὑποστέλλεσθαι is opposed to παρρησίαζεσθαι, or, μετὰ παρρησίας διαλεχθῆναι (comp. therefore for the sentiment, Acts 2:29; Acts 4:13, Acts 4:29, Acts 4:31; Acts 9:27; Acts 13:46; Acts 14:3; Acts 28:31, etc.; Ephesians 6:19, Ephesians 6:20).

Acts 20:21

To Jews and to Greeks for both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, A.V. (see Acts 19:10, Acts 19:17). Repentance, etc. The two cardinal points of gospel teaching, as they are the two necessary qualities for every Christian man. "Repentance whereby we forsake sin, and faith whereby we steadfastly believe the promises of God." There is no ground for the remarks of Kuinoel and others, that repentance is to be referred chiefly to the Gentiles, and faith to the Jews.

Acts 20:22

Bound in the spirit. Τῷ πνεύματι, may either mean "in my spirit" or "by the Spirit," i.e. the Holy Ghost. If the former, which is the most probable sense (as τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον follows in the next verse), is taken, the sense will be that St. Paul felt himself constrained to go to Jerusalem. A sense of absolute necessity was upon him, and he did not feel himself a free agent to go anywhere else. If the latter sense be taken, the meaning will be that the Holy Ghost was constraining him to go to Jerusalem.

Acts 20:23

Testifieth unto me for witnesseth, A.V. and T.R. The Holy Ghost, speaking by the prophets in the different Church assemblies, as the apostle journeyed from city to city. We have one instance of such prophesying recorded in Acts 21:10, Acts 21:11. The instances to which St. Paul here alluded were not mentioned in Luke's brief narrative.

Acts 20:24

I hold not my life of any account, as dear for none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear, A.V. and T.R.; may accomplish my course for might finish my course with joy, A.V. and T.R.; received for have received, A.V.; from for of, A.V. I hold not my life, etc. It is inconceivable that St. Paul should have uttered, or St. Luke have reported, such an unintelligible sentence as that of the R.T., when it was perfectly easy to express the meaning clearly. Neither does the mention of his life, in the first instance, tally with that of "bonds and afflictions." The T.R., which has considerable support, seems to be far preferable. The first clause, Οὐδενὸς λόγον ποιοῦμαι, means quite naturally," I take no account of anything;" I value nothing, neither liberty, nor ease, nor comfort. I am ready to suffer the loss of all things, and I do count them as dung (Philippians 3:7-9); and then he adds yet further, "Neither do I count my own life as precious, so as to accomplish my course," etc. This metaphor of running a race is a favorite one with St. Paul (1 Corinthians 9:24; Galatians 5:7; Philippians 3:13, Philippians 3:14; 2 Timothy 4:7). To testify the gospel of the grace of God. An invaluable epitome of the Christian ministry. The essential feature of the gospel is its declaration of God's free grace to a guilty world, forgiving sins, and imputing righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ. The distinctive work of the ministry is to declare that grace. So St. Paul describes his own ministry, and the record of his ministry in the Acts and in his Epistles exactly agrees with this description.

Acts 20:25

Went about for have gone, A.V.; kingdom for kingdom of God, A.V. and T.R. I know that ye all, etc. It is a very perplexing question whether St. Paul in this statement spake with prophetic, and therefore infallible, foreknowledge, or whether he merely expressed the strong present conviction of his own mind, that he should never return to Asia again. The question is an important one, as the authenticity of the pastoral Epistles is in a great measure bound up with it. For, in the apparent failure of all hypotheses to bring the writing of them within the time of St. Luke's narrative, prior to St. Paul's journey to Rome, we are driven to the theory which places the writing of them, and the circumstances to which they allude, to a time subsequent to St. Paul's imprisonment at Rome. But this involves the supposition that St. Paul returned to Ephesus after his release from his Roman imprisonment (1 Timothy 1:3; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:15,2 Timothy 1:18; 2 Timothy 4:9-14,2 Timothy 4:19; Titus 1:5), and consequently that St. Paul's anticipation, that he was in Asia for the last lime, was not realized. The question is well discussed by Alford, in the 'Prolegomena to the Pastoral Epistles,' and in Paley's 'Horae Paulinae,' Acts 11:1-30. But it can hardly be said to be definitively settled (see above, note to Acts 11:15). Bengel thinks the explanation may be that most of those present were dead or dispersed when Paul returned some years later.

Acts 20:26

Testify unto you for take you to record, A.V. The solemnity of this address is dependent upon the speaker's conviction that he was speaking to his hearers for the last time. Hence the force of the words, "this day" (ἐν τῇ σήμερον ἡμέρᾳ); "my last opportunity." I am pure, etc. (comp. Ezekiel 3:17-21; Ezekiel 33:2, Ezekiel 33:9; Hebrews 13:17). Note the peril of hiding or watering God's truth.

Acts 20:27

Shrank not from declaring for have not shunned to declare, A.V. (see Acts 20:20, note); the whole for all the, A.V. Counsel of God. His revealed will and purpose concerning man's salvation (Acts 2:23; Acts 4:28; Ephesians 1:11).

Acts 20:28

Take heed for take heed therefore, A.V. and T.R.; in for over, A.V.; bishops for overseers, A.V.; purchased for hath purchased, A.V. Take heed, etc.; προσέχετε ἑαυτοῖς, peculiar to Luke (Act 5:1-42 :53; Luke 12:1; Luke 17:3; Luke 21:34). Now follows the weighty charge of this great bishop to the clergy assembled at his visitation. With the true feeling of a chief pastor, he thinks of the whole flock, but deals with them chiefly through the under-shepherds. If he can awaken in these individually a deep concern for the souls committed to their charge, he will have done the best that can be done for the fleck at large. The first step to such concern for the flock is that each be thoroughly alive to the worth and the wants of his own soul. "Take heed unto yourselves." He that is careless about his own salvation will never lie careful about the souls of others. In the which the Holy Ghost, etc. Ἐν ᾧ, no doubt, does not strictly contain the idea of "over which;" but the idea of authoritative oversight is contained in the word ἐπίσκοπος, and therefore the rendering of the A.V., and of Alford's A.V. revised, is substantially correct. Perhaps the exact force of the ἐν ᾧ is "among which," like ἐν ἡμῖν (Acts 2:29, and elsewhere). The call and appointment to the ministry is the special function of the Holy Ghost (John 20:22, John 20:23; Acts 12:2; Ordination Service). To feed; ποιμαίνειν, the proper word for "tending" in relation to τὸ ποίμνιον, the flock, as ποιμήν, the pastor, or shepherd, is for him who so feeds the flock of Christ (see John 10:11, John 10:16; John 21:17; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 5:2, 1 Peter 5:3). St. Peter applies the titles of "Shepherd and Bishop of souls" to the Lord Jesus (1 Peter 2:25). St. Paul does not use the metaphor elsewhere, except indirectly, and in a different aspect (1 Corinthians 9:7). The Church of God; margin, Church of the Lord. There is, perhaps, no single passage in Scripture which has caused more controversy and evoked more difference of opinion than this. The T.R. has τοῦ Θεοῦ, but most uncials have τοῦ Κυρίου. Kuinoel asserts that the reading τοῦ Κυρίου rests on the authority, besides that of the oldest manuscripts, of the old versions, and of many el' the most ancient Fathers, and says that it is undoubtedly the true reading. Meyer, too, thinks that the external evidence for τοῦ Κυρίου is decisive, and that the internal evidence from the fact that ἐκκλησία τοῦ Κυρίου Occurs nowhere else in St. Paul's writings, is decisive also. But on the other hand, both the Codex Vaticanus (B) and the Codex Sinaitieus (א), the two oldest manuscripts, have Θεοῦ (Θυ). The Vulgate, too, and the Syriac have it; and such early Fathers as Ignatius (in his Epistle to the Ephesians) and Tertullian use the phrase, "the blood of God," which seems to have been derived from this passage. And Alford reasons powerfully in favor of Θεοῦ, dwelling upon the fact that the phrase ἐκκλησία τοῦ Θεοῦ occurs ten times in St. Paul's writings, that of ἐκκλησία τοῦ Κυρίου not once. The chief authorities on each side of the question are:

(1) in favor of τοῦ Κυρίου, Lachmann, Tischendorf, Bornemann, Lunge, Olshausen, Davidson, Meyer, Hackett, as also Grotius, Griesbaeh (doubtfully), Wetstein, Le Clerc, and others;

(2) in favor of τοῦ Θεοῦ, Bengel, Mill, Whitby, Wolf, Scholz, Knapp, Alford, Wordsworth, etc., and the R.T. It should be added that the evidence for τοῦ Θεοῦ has been much strengthened by the publication by Tischendorf, in 1563, of rite Codex Sinaiticus, and in 1867 of the Codex Vaticanus, from his own collation. The result is that τοῦ Θεοῦ seems to be the true reading (see the first of the two collects for the Ember weeks in the Book of Common Prayer. With regard to the difficulty that this reading seems to imply the unscriptural phrase, "the blood of God," and to savor of the Monophysite heresy, it is obvious to reply that there is a wide difference between the phrase as it stands and such a one as the direct "blood of God," which Athanasius and others objected to. The mental insertion of "the Lord" or "Christ," as the subject of the verb "purchased," is very easy, the transition from God the Father to God incarnate being one that might be made almost imperceptibly. Others (including the R.T.) take the reading of several good manuscripts, Διὰ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ ἰδίου, and understand τοῦ ἰδίου to be an ellipse for τοῦ ἰδίου υἱοῦ, the phrase used in Romans 8:32; and so render it "which he purchased by the blood of his own Son." Οἱ ἰδίοι, his own, is used without a substantive in John 1:11. This clause is added to enhance the preciousness of the flock, and the responsibility of those who have the oversight of it.

Acts 20:29

I know for, for I know this, A.V. and T.R.; grievous wolves shall for shall grievous wolves, A.V. After my departure (ἄφιξιν, not ἀνάλυσιν, as 2 Timothy 4:6). The word, which is only found here in the New Testament, usually means "arrival" in classical Greek, but it also means, as here, "departure." It is not to be taken in the sense of "departure from this life," but refers to that separation, which he thought was forever, which was about to take place. Grievous wolves; still keeping up the metaphor of the flock. The wolves denote the false teachers, principally Judaizers. See 2 Timothy 3:1-12, and 2 Timothy 3:13, "But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived." These came from Judaea.

Acts 20:30

And from among for also of, A.V.; the disciples for disciples, A.V. From among your own selves; as opposed to the strangers from Judaea in the preceding verse. So 2 Timothy 4:3, "The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears" (see, as instances, 2 Timothy 2:17, 2 Timothy 2:18; 2 Timothy 4:14). Speaking perverse things. So 2 Timothy 4:4, "They shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." To draw away the disciples, etc.; i.e. to induce Christians to leave the communion and doctrine of the Church, and join their heresy. The A.V., "to draw away disciples," is manifestly wrong; τοὺς μαθητὰς are Christ's disciples. For the general statement, see 2 Timothy 3:6, "They which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women;" and comp. Romans 16:17, Romans 16:18, which, according to Renan, was addressed to the Ephesians. For the rise of false teachers in Asia, see 1 Timothy 1:3, 1 Timothy 1:20; 1Ti 4:1-7; 1 Timothy 6:20, 1 Timothy 6:21; 2 Timothy 1:15; 2Ti 3:1-17.; 4.; 1 John 2:26; 1Jn 4:1, 1 John 4:3, 1 John 4:5; and through the whole Epistle; Revelation 2:1-7.

Acts 20:31

Wherefore watch ye for therefore watch, A.V.; remembering for and remember, A.V.; admonish for warn, A.V. By the space of three years (τριετίαν). The word is only found here in the New Testament; but it is used in the LXX. of Isaiah 15:5 and 2 Chronicles 31:16, and in classical Greek. We have here one of the few chronological data in the Acts. Three years includes the whole of his sojourn at Ephesus as his headquarters. There were first the three months during which he preached in the synagogue; then the two years which he spent in preaching in the school of Tyrannus, and which terminated with the incident of burning the books of magic (Acts 19:8, Acts 19:10, Acts 19:19). Then there was an indefinite time described in Acts 19:22 as "for a while" (αὐτὸς ἐπέσχε χρόνον), during which he was busy making plans, probably writing letters, sending off Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia, and perhaps making missionary expeditions in the neighborhood. This may have occupied three or four months longer, and made up a term of two years and six, seven, or eight months, which would quite justify the term τριετία. Every one. Each one separately, not merely the whole flock together. A weighty lesson for every one who has the cure of souls (comp. John 10:3). Night and day. The night is mentioned first, in accordance with Hebrew usage (Genesis 1:5, Genesis 1:8, Genesis 1:13, etc.; comp. the word νυχθήμερον in 2 Corinthians 11:25) St. Paul enforces the word "Watch," so appropriate to shepherds who watch over their flocks by night (Luke 2:8), by his own example of admonishing by night as well as day.

Acts 20:32

Now for now brethren, A.V. and T.R.; the inheritance for an inheritance, A.V. and T.R.; that for which, A.V. I commend you to God (παρατίθεμαι ὑμᾶς). A most beautiful and significant phrase! The apostle is leaving for ever the flock which he had fed with such devoted care and loved with such a fervent love. He was leaving them with a strong impression of the dangers to which they would be exposed. To whom could he entrust them? to what loving hands could he consign them? He gives them to God, to take watchful custody of them. He brings them to him in the prayer of faith. He commits to him the precious deposit (παραθήκη), to be preserved safe unto the day of Christ. So the Savior of the world, when dying on the cross, said, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit "(Luke 23:1-56. Luke 23:46), and then trustingly gave up the ghost (see too Acts 14:23). No less beautiful are the words which follow: And to the word of his grace. He was thinking of the grievous wolves, and of their pernicious doctrine; of the deceivers that should arise, and their soul-destroying heresies; and so he turns to the one source of safety "the Word of God's grace in Jesus Christ." If they are kept in that Word of truth, if they nourish their souls with that sincere milk, they will be safe. The gospel which he had preached would be their safety unto the end. It would build them up on the one Foundation which never can be moved; it would preserve them holy to take possession of the inheritance of the saints in light. The inheritance (τὴν κληρονομίαν); comp. Ephesians 1:14, Ephesians 1:18; Ephesians 5:5; and Ephesians 1:11, ἐκληρώθημεν. In Acts 26:18 it is κλῆρον (as in Colossians 1:12), and the ἡγιασμένοι are further defined by the addition of πίστει, τῇ εἰς ἐμέ, "by the faith which is in me" (for the use of ἀγιάζεσθαι, comp. Hebrews 10:10, Hebrews 10:14; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 1 Corinthians 6:11, etc.).

Acts 20:33

Coveted for have coveted, A V. Apparel. One of the items of an Oriental's treasure for the purpose of gifts (2 Kings 5:5, 2 Kings 5:22, 2Ki 5:23, 2 Kings 5:26; Genesis 45:22; Matthew 6:19, Matthew 6:2(1). St. Paul contrasts his own example in not seeking such gifts with the conduct of the false apostles who draw away disciples after them for gain.

Acts 20:34

Ye for yea ye, A.V. and T.R.; ministered for have ministered, A.V. These hands (see 1 Corinthians 4:12, written from Ephesus a few months before).

Acts 20:35

In all things I gave you an example for I have showed you all things, A.V.; help for support, A.V.; he himself for he, A.V. In all things (πάντα, for κατὰ πάντα, 1.q. πάντως); altogether, in all respects. Gave you an example. The common use of ὑποδείκνυμι is, as rendered in the A.V., "to show," "to teach," as in Acts 9:16; Luke 6:47; and repeatedly in the LXX. But perhaps its force here is equivalent to the phrase in John 13:15, ὑπόδειγμα ἒδωκα ὑμῖν, "I have given you an example that ye should do as I have done to you," as the R.V. takes it. So laboring; viz. as ye have seen me do. To help the weak. Meyer, following Bengel and others, understands this to mean the weak in faith," like ἀσθενής in 1 Corinthians 9:22. They say that St. Paul's self-denial in refusing the help he had a right to claim as an apostle, and supporting himself by his labor, was a great argument to convince the weak in faith of his disinterestedness and of the truth of his gospel, and so he recommends the elders of the Church to follow his example. But the word here is ἀσθενούντων, and ἀσθενεῖν and ἀσθενεία rather suggest the idea of bodily weakness (Matthew 25:36; Matthew 10:8, etc.; Luke 5:15, etc.), and the words of the Lord Jesus which follow suggest almsgiving to the needy. So that it is better to understand the word of the weakly and poor, those unable to work for themselves. Doubtless St. Paul, out of his scanty earnings, found something to give to the sick and needy. The sentiment in our text is thus exactly analogous to the precept in Ephesians 4:28. The very word there used, χερσίν, recalls the αἱ χεῖρες αὕται of verse 34. To remember the words of the Lord Jesus. This is a solitary instance era saying of our Lord's, not recorded in the Gospels, being referred to in Scripture. There are many alleged sayings of Christ recorded in apocryphal Gospels or in the writings of Fathers as Papias and others (Routh, 'Reliq. Sac.,' 1.9, 10, 12), some of which may be authentic; but this alone is warranted by Scripture. How it came to St Paul's knowledge, and that of the Ephesian elders to whom he seems to have taken for granted that it was familiar, it is impossible to say. But it seems likely that, in those very early days, some of the Lord's unwritten words may have floated in the memory of men, and been preserved by word of mouth. Clement (1 Corinthians it.) seems to refer to the saying when he writes in praise of the former character of the Corinthians, that they were then ἥδιον διδόντες ἢ λομβάνοντες. But he probably had it from the Acts of the Apostles, as had the author of the 'Apostol. Constitut.' (4. 3, 1). Similar apophthegms are quoted from heathen writers, as those cited by Kuinoel: Δωρεῖσθαι καὶ διδόναι κρεῖττον ἢ λαμβάνειν (Artemidor., 'Onirocr.,' 4, 3); Μᾶλλόν ἐστὶ τοῦ ἐλευθέρου τὸ διδόναι οἳς δεῖ ἠ λαμβάνειν ὕθεν δεῖ (Arist., 'Nieom.,' 4, 1), "It is more becoming to a free man to give to whom he ought to give, than to receive from whom he ought to receive."

Acts 20:38

The word which he had spoken for the words which he spake, A.V.; behold for see, A.V.; brought him on his way for accompanied him, A.V. Brought him on his way; προέπεμπον, as Acts 15:3; Acts 21:5. So too 1Co 16:6, 1 Corinthians 16:11; 2 Corinthians 1:16; Tit 3:13; 3 John 1:6. But the rendering accompanied gives the meaning of the two last passages in the Acts better than that of the R.V. It is impossible to part with this most touching narrative, of such exquisite simplicity and beauty, without a parting word of admiration and thankfulness to God for having preserved to his Church this record of apostolic wisdom and faithfulness on the one hand, and of loving devotion of the clergy to their great chief on the other. As long as the stones of the Church are bound together by such strong mortar, it can defy the attacks of its enemies from without.


Acts 20:1-12

"In labors more abundant."

The rapid succession and the unbroken continuance of St. Paul's labors is truly marvelous. Rest or recreation seem to be things unknown to him. The tension of spirit caused by imminent and pressing danger seems not to have produced in him, as it does in most men, the need of breathing-time to recover their usual tone. His one idea of the use of life, and of the various faculties of mind and body with which his life was equipped, was apparently to preach Jesus Christ to those who knew him not, and to confirm and establish those who knew him in the faith of the gospel. His energy never flagged and his courage never quailed. Most men's nerves would have been shaken by the terrible riot at Ephesus, when he had been "pressed out of measure, above strength," and had despaired of life. But no sooner was the uproar ceased than St. Paul started upon a new course of labor and danger. He went back to Philippi, where he had been before shamefully entreated, stripped, scourged, cast into a dungeon, and made fast in the stocks; to the other cities of Macedonia, from whence he had been forced to escape by night for fear of the violence of the Jews; to Corinth, where he had been dragged before the judgment-seat of Gallio, and where the bigotry of the Jews was ready to commence fresh plots against his life. And wherever he went, heart and mind, tongue and pen, were kept at full stretch in preaching and teaching the things concerning Jesus Christ. Such activity of mind and body is indeed wonderful. We see the same untiring spirit, the same inexhaustible love for souls, in the midnight preaching at Troas. Other men, on the eve of a long journey, would have sought repose. Not so St. Paul. The comfort and stability of the Church at Troas, the growth in grace and knowledge of the disciples there, were his one consideration, Here was an opportunity of preaching Christ to them, of advancing their spiritual life, of imparting to them more of the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ—an opportunity that might never recur, anti so he would make the most of it. Hence the whole night given to prayer and preaching and breaking of bread, to communion with God and fellowship with his saints. Such an example ought to be studied by every minister of the Word of God, with a view to following the apostle as he followed Christ. Indolence, self-indulgence, and indifference to the growth of the Church of God, must surely be put to shame in the presence of such abundance of labor. And every man's faith must be strengthened, and his love for Christ and for souls kindled into a flame, as he catches the warmth of the glowing love of this mighty worker in the kingdom of God.

Acts 20:13-38

The charge.

The previous section brought before us St. Paul's labors as a missionary and an evangelist. The present section sets him before us as the Christian bishop, delivering his solemn charge to the presbyters of the Church. The qualities brought out in the charge are a transparent integrity of character; a noble ingenuousness, which enables him to speak of himself without a particle of vanity; and a resoluteness of purpose to do what is right, which no persuasion could weaken and no dangers turn aside. And then, besides, there is the most tender care for the Church of God. We see a mind full of anxious thought for the future of the Church which he loved, and loved doubly because he knew that Christ loved it and had died for it. We see a prescience and a wisdom which looked at things as they really were, and not as he wished them to be; which took a true measure of cause and effect; and did all that could be done to provide an antidote to the coming evils which he foresaw. Foreseeing the rise of heresies and false teachers, and the rapid growth of false doctrine, which would make havoc among the flock, he threw the whole vigor of his intellect, and the whole warmth of his affection, into the address by which he hoped to raise up in the clergy before him an effectual barrier against the destruction which he feared. And certainly, if words have any effect; if the eloquent speech of one whose life is still more eloquent than his tongue, can move the hearts and stir the spirits of other men, albeit they be men of inferior mould, to virtue and energy of holy action; if prayer and blessing, bursting forth from the full heart of a chosen vessel of God's grace, have any influence and bear any fruit;—it must be that this eloquent charge, so simple, so forcible, so pathetic, so plainly stamped with the image of Paul's inner man, wrought powerfully upon the minds of the Ephesian presbyters. His words must have brought back the memory of his self-denying and superhuman labors; and many a resolution must have sprung up in their hearts to live for Christ, and to be steadfast unto death in defense of his precious truth. And when they rose up from that parting prayer, with streaming eyes and sobbing voice, surely they must have gone back to the oversight of their flocks with a devotion such as they had never felt before. So great is the influence of burning words, glowing with love and enforced by example, when they proceed from one whose office and whose character alike command reverence and respect. God grant that his Church may ever be "ordered and guided by faithful and true pastors, through Jesus Christ our Lord!"


Acts 20:1-12

Human life: lights and shadows.

In these verses we are reminded of—

I. THE SCANTY RECORD OF HUMAN LIFE. We have six verses of this valuable chronicle given to the unimportant incident of the accident which befell Eutychus (Acts 20:7-12), and only three to Paul's visit to Macedonia and Greece. We do not understand why Luke should thus apportion his space, but the fact that he did so reminds us how often most interesting and instructive scenes, or even precious and influential periods, of our life are left unreported. We should have liked to read a full description, in copious detail, of the apostle's visit to the Churches of Macedonia, and especially of his interview with the Church at Corinth. But we are not gratified. Doubtless some of the most heroic deeds have been wrought in secret, and no tongue has told the story; doubtless some of the most saintly sufferings have been endured unseen by mortal eye, and no pen has described the scene.

"If singing breath or echoing chord

To every hidden pang were given,

What endless melodies were poured,

As sad as earth, as sweet as heaven!"

Let it be enough that one eye sees and one heart enters into our struggles and our sorrows, and that "our record is on high."

II. THE PRICELESSNESS OF CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP. "After the uproar was ceased, Paul called unto him the disciples, and embraced them" (verse 1). After the storm was over, it was an intense relief to pour out their agitated hearts in mutual sympathy, congratulation, devotion. We know (2 Corinthians 2:13) that Paul found no rest in his spirit because he found not Titus his brother at Tress, and accordingly went on to Macedonia to seek him, and that he was greatly comforted by finding him there (2 Corinthians 7:6, 2 Corinthians 7:7). We read of the friends who "accompanied him into Asia" (verse 4), and throughout we feel how precious beyond all reckoning was the sympathy and succor which came to the wearied and buffeted apostle from true human hearts. Loyal Christian fellowship is one of those beneficent gifts from God which we should count among our chief treasures, for which we should render heartiest thanksgiving; it is also one of those ways in which we can render invaluable service to faithful men, and thus an appreciated service to Christ, the Lord.

III. THE PENALTY OF UNFLINCHING FAITHFULNESS. When Paul was about to return to Syria, he found the enmity of his countrymen ready to waylay him. "The Jews laid wait for him" (verse 3). He could not but speak as Christ, by his Spirit, taught him; and his preaching became more clear and distinct as to the non-necessity of the Law of Moses; his doctrine became less exclusive, more liberal, i.e. increasingly repugnant to the narrow-minded Jews; and the fierceness of their hostility found vent in plots against his life. Whoso will follow Christ in "bearing witness to the truth" must be ready to "take up his cross and follow him" along the path of the persecuted. To be quite true to our convictions, to be fearlessly faithful to the Lord who reveals to us his will, is to bear the penalty of the dislike, the hatred, the intrigues of men.

IV. THE OVERRULING PROVIDENCE OF GOD. His enemies schemed, but God thwarted their schemes; he "turned aside," and their murderous designs were defeated. Christ had more work for him to do, and the uplifted hand of the enemy must be arrested.

"Though destruction walk around us,

Though the arrows past us fly,

Angel-guards from thee surround us,

We are safe, if thou art nigh."

V. THE OVERFLOW OF SACRED ZEAL. Paul desired to use his opportunity at Troas, and "on the first day of the week" he preached, "ready to depart on the morrow" (verse 7). In the" multitude of his thoughts within him," or conscious that he was soon to leave and feeling that he might never return to them, disregarding the lateness of the hour and the condition of the chamber, he still preached on. He "continued his speech until midnight." That which would be unwise as a rule is allowable as an exception. If "anger hath a privilege," much more so has zeal. We admire the man whose fullness of soul makes him oblivious of all attendant circumstances. It is well to have a capacity for devotedness which will sometimes lift us far above the level of ordinary moods, and make us forget everything but our subject and our cause, or rather everything but the truth of God and the cause and kingdom of Jesus Christ.—C.

Acts 20:17, Acts 20:20, Acts 20:27, Acts 20:31, Acts 20:33-35

Paul at Miletus: the review which gratifies.

It has been truly said that our whole life is divisible into the past and the future. The present is a mere point which separates the two. And there is a certain time which must come, if it have not already arrived, when, instead of finding our satisfaction in looking forward to the earthly good which we are to partake of, we shall seek our comfort and our joy in looking back on the path we have trodden and the results we have achieved. Ill indeed will it be for those who will then have no future for which to hope, and no past which they can survey with grateful pleasure. It was well with Paul, for when he had to turn his eye backward on a ministry which had been fulfilled, he could regard it with pure and devout gratification. That we may stand in that enviable position in which he now stood, we must be able to remember—

I. LOWLY-MENDED CONSECRATION TO THE SERVICE OF GOD. "From the first day that I came in into Asia … I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind" (Acts 20:18, Acts 20:19). The man who spends his days in spiritual pride, or godless unconcern, or arrogant infidelity, will, if not in the later years of this life, from the other side of the grave, look back on his earthly course with bitterest shame, with fearful pangs of remorse. He who in old age can survey an entire life yielded, with a deep sense of dependence and obligation, to the living God and the loving Savior will have a cheering ray to light up his shaded path. Well may youthful lips take up the strain-

"'Twill please us to look back to see
That our whole lives were thine."

II. FIDELITY IN OUR SPECIAL SPHERE. Paul could feel that, as a minister of Jesus Christ, he had done his work thoroughly, conscientiously, faithfully, as in the eye of Christ himself. "I kept back nothing,… I have taught you publicly, and from house to house" (Acts 20:20); "I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God" (Acts 20:27); "I ceased not to warn every one … with tears" (Acts 20:31). He had thrown the utmost energy of his soul into his work; he had wrought good "with both hands earnestly." Whatever our vocation may be, it will be a sorry thing to have to recall to our memory duties hardly and punctiliously discharged, just gone through decently and creditably; still worse to have to remember duty left undone or miserably mismanaged. Pleasant and gratifying, on the other hand, to feel that we went to our work with agile step and eager spirit, went through it with conscientious care, and threw into it our utmost strength. Heartiness and zest today mean a harvest of refreshing memories for to-morrow.

III. ENDURANCE OF TRIAL. Paul reflected that he had served the Lord "with many tears and temptations [trials]" (Acts 20:19). These trials unto tears were hard to bear patiently at the hour of endurance, but it was a comfort and satisfaction to his spirit afterwards to think that they had never withdrawn him from his confidence in Christ or from his post of active service. The secure and strong position of manhood is all the more satisfactory for the yoke that was borne in youth; the quietude of age is the more acceptable and enjoyable for the struggle or burden of middle life; the rest and rejoicing of the future will be the sweeter and the keener for the toils and. the troubles of this present time. The evils that have been left behind, when taken meekly and acquiesced in nobly, materially enhance the blessedness of the hour of freedom and felicity.


(1) we should pay the debts which we have formally and deliberately incurred; but that

(2) in a world where we are daily receiving the benefit of the toils and sufferings of past ages and of our contemporaries, we are bound, in all honesty, to do something in return—something by which our fellows and, if possible, the future shall be enriched;

(3) where self-support is not positively demanded, it may be wisely rendered, in order (as with Paul) that there may be no reason for injurious suspicion; and

(4) we should strive to gain enough that we may spare something for the strengthless and dependent—so laboring that we "may support the weak," and know the greater blessedness of giving, according to the Word of our Lord (Acts 20:35; see Ephesians 4:28; Hebrews 13:16).—C.

Acts 20:21

Paul at Miletus; the substance of Christian doctrine.

Surely we have here an excellent summary of distinctive Christian doctrine. These two things are the essentials of Christian truth. Without repentance there can be no living faith; without faith there can be no real spiritual life; with both of these, a man is a recognized citizen of the kingdom of God, an inheritor of eternal life. There must be—

I. THE TURNING OF THE HEART AND LIFE UNTO GOD. This is what constitutes repentance. Repentance may include, but is not constituted by:

1. Strong feelings of sorrow and shame in view of past sin. It is possible and even common to produce very pungent and powerful feelings by means of energetic oratory; but these, if they are not real, profound convictions, will be temporary, if not even momentary; they are not the essential thing. Repentance will, at some time, include strong feeling of abhorrence of sin, but it may net commence with vivid and convulsive emotions, and is not to be identified with these.

2. Change of outward behavior. It is indeed true that, when really penitent, the idolater will abandon his idolatry, the thief his dishonesty, the drunkard his intemperance, the liar his falsehoods, the truculent man his violence, etc.; but it must be remembered that men sometimes change their habits for other reasons than those of religious conviction. Amendment in outward behavior, valuable and desirable as it is, does not constitute "repentance unto God;" it has also to be considered that there may be, and often is, the truest repentance where there is no alteration of conduct observable by man. The essence of repentance is the turning of the heart to God, and therefore of the life; it is that "change of mind" which consists in the soul turning from forgetfulness of God to thoughtfulness about him, from indifference to his claims to earnest consideration of them, from unwillingness to own his sway to a perfect readiness to yield everything to him, from the guilty retention of our powers for ourselves to a cheerful surrender of ourselves and our days to the living God, our Father and our Redeemer. Thence will follow all the compunction for sin and all the change of conduct which the past career of the soul will demand. Of this "Greek and Jew" alike have need: the Greek (the Gentile) has need to change his thought of God, and the Jew his also; whether from superstition, or from indifference, or from formality, all have to come into a different relation to God—that of humble subjection to his will and surrender to his service.

II. THE ACCEPTANCE OF JESUS CHRIST AS LORD AND SAVIOR. "And faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." The faith of which Paul testified to Greek and Jew was, we are sure, a living power. It was not a mere passive assent to a form of sound words. It was more than an intellectual acceptance of certain propositions. It was the cordial, hearty acceptance by the soul of a Divine Savior and Lord; it was the soul in all its need welcoming a Redeemer in all his strength to save and bless. It meant that acceptance of Jesus Christ in which the soul, conscious of sin and condemnation, flees to him as to the Rock in which it can hide; in which the heart, recognizing its rightful Lord, goes to him in glad self-surrender, and yields itself to him that he may

(1) guide it in his own paths,

(2) use it for his own glory, and

(3) conduct it to his own kingdom.—C.

Acts 20:22-32

Paul at Miletus: the forecast which exalts.

Paul had received intimations "in every city" (Acts 20:23) that "bonds and afflictions" were in store for him; he looked forward with absolute certainty to personal suffering of some kind; but this assurance was so far from daunting or depressing him that his spirit rose on strong and eager wing to the full height of such apostolic opportunity (Matthew 5:10-12). The anticipated future, with its bonds and its sufferings and possibly death itself, raised the soul of the man, exalted him; and he stands before us in the noblest stature to which even he ever attained. Loftier words never came from human lips than these (Acts 20:22-24). His spiritual exaltation included—

I. CHEERFUL ANTICIPATION OF PERSONAL SUFFERING. "I go bound in the spirit," etc. He felt as one who already wore the bonds and was happy in the bondage. He was already "the prisoner of the Lord," and was proud thus to esteem himself. So far from casting about to see whether there was any open door of escape, he gladly went forth to meet the trials that were in front.

II. SUBLIME INDIFFERENCE TO BODILY ESTATE. "None of these things move me" (Acts 20:24). He was not affected by considerations which are everything to most men; they did not make him wince; he could be poor or rich, hungry or full, confined or at liberty,—it mattered not to him so long as he was following and serving Christ. And here is the explanation of his nobility; it sprang from

III. ABSORPTION IN THE SAVIOR'S WORK. "Neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish," etc. (Acts 20:24). "To testify the gospel of the grace of God "—this was the commanding, all-controlling, all-consuming passion of his soul. It impressed everything else into the service; it burnt up everything that stood in the way. It was the dominating force under which every other power ranged itself obediently,

IV. CONFIDING PRAYER. "I commend you to God," etc. (Acts 20:32). Leaving these converts and, as he surely believed (Acts 20:25), to see their face no more, he left them in the hands of God; he trustfully committed them to almighty love, to Divine wisdom, to the "faithful Creator" A blessed thing it is for the departing minister, for the dying parent, to leave his people or his family to the tender care of him who wilt make good the kindest and fullest of his promises.

V. EXALTED HOPE. "An inheritance among all them which are sanctified" (Acts 20:32). Paul continually looked forward to the time when he and his converts should meet in the heavenly kingdom; this helped to sustain him under persecution and disappointment. He turned from the shame which was put upon him by man to the glory which waited to be revealed, and his heart was more than satisfied. This should be the result of our contemplation of the future; it should lead to inward exaltation. It should lead to

(1) such devotedness to the work we are doing for our Master that we shall rise above the fear of man, and even welcome the losses we endure for Christ's sake;

(2) the devout committing of ourselves and of our charge to the love and faithfulness of him who is unfailingly gracious and true;

(3) a sustaining, animating hope, in whose blessed radiance all earthly experiences are lighted up. But in order to this there is presupposed in us what there was in Paul

(4) an entire surrender of ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ himself.—C.

Acts 20:28-31

Paul at Miletus: the prospect which pains.

Paul, pursuing his path of self-sacrificing devotion, going on to he knew not what dangers ahead, looking a violent death in the face, was calm, tranquil, even joyful. But the apostle, looking forward to a distracted and injured Church, torn by false doctrine, laid waste by sinful men, was grieved at heart, and he uses the language of solemn adjuration and entreaty.

I. HUMAN APPREHENSION. We often go forward with painful apprehension that some ill is about to befall us; therefore with hesitating step, with trembling heart.

1. It has been that men had an intimation from God that evil was in store for them. This was not uncommon in Old Testament times, when the purpose of God was frequently revealed. It was the case with Paul now; it was revealed to him that dark days were ahead in the experience of the Church at Ephesus.

2. It may be the action of individual insight. By the use of a keen and penetrating judgment, a man can often perceive that events are leading up to a disaster.

3. It may be a simple and sound conclusion from the common heritage of man. It is certain that dark shadows must be across the path we tread, and that we shall be entering them before long.


1. Attack from without: "Grievous wolves entering in … not sparing the flock" (Acts 20:29).

2. Mischief from within: "Of your own selves shall men arise, etc. (Acts 20:30). This is what the Church of Christ has now to fear: the attacks of infidelity, the invitation to immorality, from without; and the subtler and more perilous dangers of spiritual decline, of the decay of faith, of injurious doctrines, of the breath of worldliness, within.

III. THE ATTITUDE OF THE RESPONSIBLE. (Acts 20:28-31.) Paul solemnly charged these elders, as those to whose care was committed the Church of God—that sacred body which the Lord had redeemed by his own blood—to do these three things.

1. To keep diligently their own hearts: "Take heed to yourselves" (see Proverbs 4:23).

2. To watch carefully the spirit and course of their people: "And to all the flock."

3. To sustain the life of the members by providing spiritual nourishment: "Feed the Church of God." If we would do what the Divine Head of the Church demands of us, and if we would follow in the footsteps of the most devoted of his servants (see Acts 20:31), we must

(1) cultivate a deep sense of our responsibility;

(2) exercise unremitting vigilance over ourselves and our charge;

(3) supply that kind and measure of sacred truth which is fitted to strengthen and to purify those whom we undertake to teach.—C.

Acts 20:35

Paul at Miletus: the greater blessedness.

We may well be thankful that this one word of the Lord Jesus, unrecorded in the "fourfold biography," has been preserved to us. It may be said to be Divine indeed. It gives the heavenly aspect of human life. It is the exact and perfect contravention of that which is low, worldly, evil. It breathes the air of the upper kingdom. It puts into language the very spirit of Jesus Christ. It is the life of the Savior in a sentence. To receive is quite on a low level. Any one and anything can do that; and the further we go down in the scale, the more we find recipiency common and supreme. The selfish man, the spoiled child, the ravenous animal,—these are remarkable for receiving. And although it may be said that there are truths which only the educated and inspired mind can receive, that there are inducements which only noble souls can receive, yet the act of receiving is one which is common to lower natures, and is one which ordinarily requires only the humbler, if not indeed the baser, faculties. To give is on the higher level; for—

I. IT IS ESSENTIALLY DIVINE. God lives to bless his universe. His Name is Love; in other words, that which is his distinguishing characteristic, underlying, interpenetrating, crowning all others, is his disposition to bless, his Divine habit of giving. He then most truly expresses his own nature, reveals his essential spirit, when he is giving light, love, truth, joy, life, unto his children. When we give forth of ourselves to others, we are living the life which is intrinsically Divine.

II. IT IS CHRIST-LIKE. He "went about doing good." He lived to enlighten, to comfort, to bestow, to redeem. It was little indeed that he received; it was simply everything that he gave to mankind.

III. IT IS ANGELIC. "Are they not all ministering spirits?"

IV. IT IS HEROIC. By living to expend ourselves for others, we take our stand with the best and noblest of our race. As the world grows wiser it has a diminishing regard for those "great" men who signalized their career by splendid surroundings, or by brilliant exploits, or by displays of muscular or intellectual strength; it is learning to reserve its admiration and its honor for those who generously spent their faculties and their possessions on behalf of others. These are our heroes and our heroines now; and they will be so more and more. If we would take our place—though it be a humble one—with the best and worthiest of our kind, we must be giving rather than receiving.

V. IT IS HUMAN, in the higher sense of the word. It may be human, as sin has unmade man, to be coveting, grasping, enjoying. But it is human, as God first wade man, and as Jesus Christ is renewing him, to think of others, to care for others, to strive and suffer for others, to give freely and self-denyingly to those who are in need.

VI. IT IS ELEVATING. To be constantly receiving is to be in danger of becoming selfish, of making our own poor self the central object of regard, of depending on continually fresh supplies for satisfaction; in a word, of moral and spiritual degeneracy. But to be giving—to be spending time, thought, sympathy, strength, money, on behalf of others,—is to be sowing in the soil of our souls the seeds of all that is sweetest and noblest; is to be building up in ourselves a character which our Divine Lord will delight to look upon. To receive is to be superficially and momentarily happy; to give is to be inwardly and abidingly blessed. It is far more blessed to give than to receive.



Acts 20:1-16

Scenes by the way.

I. FUGITIVE SERVICE. "When they persecute you in one city, flee into another," had said the Lord. But not as a hireling who sees the wolf coming; rather as a brave warrior who retreats fighting. The brave retreat may reflect more honor than the hopeless prolongation of warfare. We must know when to give way. There is a "wise passiveness" and a "masterly inactivity." If we can but gain our Christian point, we should suffer no scruple of vanity to stand in our way. And how much good may be done in this furtive way! The runner drops the seed as he goes. The greatest works have been done for God and the world by sufferers and in the midst of suffering. In the world the faithful apostle has tribulation, but peace in his heart; and it distils from his lips upon his brethren as he goes. Perfect ease is not to be coveted by the true servant of Christ. The pulpit is not an easy-chair. Men are goaded to their best by pain. They are perfected for teaching in the school of suffering. Sympathy and love are deepened by common experiences. Courage is truly learned; they that kill the body are not feared, but only they that injure the soul.


1. Exhibited in the feast of love and the common hearing of the Word. The one prepares for the other; together they explain each other and enrich each other. Here is the first trace of the Sunday observance in the history of the Church. Christian associations are engrafted upon old customs.

2. As disturbed by grief, and restored. Eutychus sleeps during the preaching, and falls down. He was taken up dead, or "for dead," as some expositors would interpret. Paul falls upon him, like Elisha in the case of the Shunammite's son (2 Kings 4:34), and Elijah with the widow's son at Sarepta (1 Kings 17:21); so that by vital warmth he may restore him to life. This striking coincidence of death in the midst of life, of life in the midst of death, must have powerfully reminded the disciples of him who is the Resurrection and the Life, of his promise; and so must have strengthened faith, and drawn the bonds of love closer together. "He that brought him back is here." Not small was the consolation of the brethren as the young man was restored.


1. The apostle. He is on his last mission journey. He "works while it is day;" preaching the Word with power; sealing his testimony with miracle, pursuing with constancy the end set before him.

2. The sleeper. A warning against weakness and idleness. "I say unto all, Watch!" "The spirit is willing, the flesh is weak."

3. The unsleeping Divine watchfulness and providence. "We have a God who helps, and the Lord God who saves from death."

4. The energy of the apostolic personality. He goes down in compassionate pity, falls upon Eutychus with earnest prayer, embraces him with urgent love.

5. The hush of the Divine presence. "Make no noise!" A lesson here for the chamber of the dead. God is here; his "finger touched him and he slept." Bow before his power and decree; collect the heart from distraction, in recollection of its consolations. "They are not dead, but sleep," may be said of our Christian friends. Amidst such humble and resigned silence angels pass through the house, with errands of ministry.—J.

Acts 20:17-38

Paul's farewell to the elders of Ephesus.


1. The spirit and conduct of the preacher himself; for this is inseparable from the preaching (Acts 20:18-20). He had lived with his flock. His life had been devoted to their service. He had entered the sphere of their life as the loving sharer in their joys and sorrows. He had presented to them a pattern of humility. He had borne them on his heart. He had been like a sower going forth weeping, to bear the precious seed. The life of the true pastor is a life of many tears—tears of self-doubt and weakness; tears of compassion and sorrow over others, like those of Jeremiah over Jerusalem's fall, of Jesus over her deeper fall. Bat this sowing of tears prepares for a harvest of joy. Suggestive was the word of Monica, Augustine's mother, "The child of so many tears cannot be lost." Good is verbal preaching; better the preaching of the life; and, perhaps, most impressive of all, the preaching of suffering and self-sacrifice for the truth.

2. The matter of his preaching. Repentance: a universal necessity. It includes knowledge of sin; remorse; desire for salvation. Repentance has been described as a ladder of sorrow by which we descend into the depths of the heart. Faith: this, on the other hand, the celestial ladder, by which we rise to God and to eternity. It includes the knowledge of a Savior; joy in the reception of him; and firm confidence in his reconciling, sanctifying, and blessing grace.

3. The self-devotion of the preacher. (Verses 22-35.) He should be cast in the heroic mould—that of the hero of the cross. The voice of the Almighty, "Upward and onward!" sounds in his ears evermore. He must be ready at any moment to say "Good-bye" to dearest friends, and uproot himself from fondest associations. Past battles have only trained his faith and courage for greater struggles. This heroic word—

"Theirs not to make reply; Theirs but to do or die"

was essentially the motto of the apostle. He must fulfill himself—cannot rest till he has striven to the end in the "noble contest," finished the race, attained the goal. In the heat of coming storm and darkness kindles the core of light; the Divine love has given all for him, and for it he will give all in return. Extremes meet in this suffering but triumphant man; bound by the irresistible command of his Lord, yet free in the joyous obedience of love.


1. Exhortation to faithfulness. They are solemnly adjured to this by the recollection of his own faithfulness to them. He is clear from responsibility in their regard; for he has not shunned to declare to them "the whole counsel of God." His ministry has been, not merely general, but particular, individual—to each man's heart and conscience. He has discharged himself of his burden; they must bear their own. To whom much has been given, of them much will be required. The duty of the faithful shepherd comprises two things—the feeding and tendance of the sheep, and the defense of the flock against its foes. The great word is "Watch "—over self, the spirit, teaching, and conversation; over the flock,—its Divine constitution does not exempt it from human weakness; and against the wolves, who would glide in, under false clothing, to ravage and devour.

2. Solemn commendatory prayer. "I commend you to God"—the best conclusion of every sermon, of every period of Christian labor. Prayer is the expression of evangelical love; it throws the arms of care and affection around the flock when one's own time of personal labor is past. It is the expression of lowliness: after all we have done, the issue must be left to God. He alone can turn the feeble service into a means of power, he alone give the increase to human sowing and watering. It is the expression of faith: there need be no fear on the part of the under-shepherd in leaving the flock in the hands of the almighty Shepherd himself. "God and the Word of his grace:" in these lies endless power. God and truth: in times of persecution or of unsettled belief, these forces go on upbuilding, reclaiming, converting, finishing, and fitting souls for eternal glory. We need not be anxious about the "reconstruction of theology;" God is ever reconstructing the new out of the old; and fulfilling himself in many ways. Our constructions break; but in him is the unbroken continuity of life itself.

3. Farewell reminder. Of his own example, and of all the lessons condensed into it. He had not been a seeker of personal gain; not of "theirs, but of them" (2 Corinthians 12:14). A mirror for all pastors. Happy for them if they can practically prove their disinterestedness by supporting themselves independently of the "altar" (1 Corinthians 9:13). But this may not always be desirable. At least they can show that they do not "preach to live" so much as "live to preach." To give is more blessed than to receive. God is the eternal Giver, forth-pouring himself in natural and spiritual bounty evermore. And the nearer we come to him, the happier we are. The more we take from God, the more we have to give; and again, the more we give, the more we have. To impart is to obtain release from self, from self-seeking, from the burden of superfluity. It is to reap love and. thanks, provided always that in imparting anything we truly impart ourselves.

4. The parting scene. It is of mingled joy and sorrow. There is the bitterness of orphanage and desolation of John 16:16; but the brightness of the hoped-for reunion. Reproaches of conscience at missed opportunities, but yet the sense that "now is the accepted time and the day of salvation." The pain of disruption; but the consciousness of abiding in Christ, and of the final recovery of all we have loved and lost—in him.—J.


Acts 20:1-6

Apostolic supervision of Church life.

From Ephesus through Macedonia, to Greece, returning through Macedonia by way of Philippi to Troas.

I. The cautious vigilance of Paul in superintending THE RISING SPIRITUAL LIFE of the infant Churches; a lesson in faithfulness and devotion to the interests of fellow-Christians, as well as in allegiance to Christ. It was not enough that the Churches had the truth. It was endangered by many difficulties and surrounding obstructive influences, both from Jews and heathen.

II. THE SELF-SACRIFICE involved in such journeys, not only in the great toil, but in danger to life.

III. THE INCREASING INFLUENCE of the apostle seen in his gathering so many round him as his fellow-travelers and fellow-laborers, a testimony to the hold which his teaching had upon the Churches, showing that the view of Christianity given in the Pauline Epistles, written about this time, was a fair representation of the current belief of the early Gentile Church. Nor could it have been widely different from that taught by the Jewish leaders; otherwise Paul could not have declared that he taught "the whole counsel of God."—R.

Acts 20:7-12

A legacy of Divine testimony.

The position of Troas such that any startling event would spread its influence East and West—to Asia and Europe. Paul leaving the scenes of his labors, never more to be seen in them. Some news of contentions in Corinth might disturb the Churches. Asiatic believers would especially need every support. The occasion very solemn. Eucharistic service. Paul's long discourse, interspersed probably with questions and answers. Many last words to be said. Enemies doubted the nature of Christian meetings. Many lights and open windows disproved the calumnies. Upper chamber, three stories from the ground; not large, and betokening the lowly character of the assembly. "Not many mighty, noble, and rich." Possibly even in Troas some popular opposition made such a place necessary.

I. A great SIGN OF DIVINE POWER accompanying Paul's preaching. Had he not been approved of God, he could not have wrought such a miracle. It spoke:

1. To the world, testifying to the nearness of the kingdom of God; to the merciful and restoring grace of the gospel, which came not to destroy men's lives, but to save them.

2. To the Church; stamping Pauline teaching with authority; lifting up the courage and hope of disciples. The same Divine power ever with the Church always to the end.

II. A SOLEMN ASSOCIATION with a great and important occasion. Eutyehus could scarcely be without blame. The people would never forget that it was the Lord's Supper, and that those who partake in such a service should watch against human infirmities. The wonderful recovery of the lad seemed to shed a new light on the whole service. What glorious power was set forth in that little society! They were comforted for Eutychus and for themselves and for the whole Church. Jesus is life from the dead.—R.

Acts 20:13-16

Troas to Miletus.

A glimpse into the activity of Paul's life.

I. His extraordinary ENERGY. Walking probably some twenty miles to Assos to meet the vessel. His independence of character. Although a man of strong affections, he loved to be alone sometimes. His purposes were maturely formed and resolutely carried out.

II. His spiritual life was sustained by FELLOWSHIP WITH BRETHREN. The long voyages made in those days in sailing-vessels of only moderate speed would afford time for conversation with Luke and others, for a narrative of the past labor to be at least laid up in Luke's memory. Possibly prepared under the apostle's direction.

III. The movements of the messenger of Christ were not capricious and arbitrary, but under the SPECIAL GUIDANCE OF THE SPIRIT. He passed by Ephesus because the Spirit urged him on towards Jerusalem. He was lifted above all thought of self and offered as a sacrifice in spirit. An example of Christ-like devotion.—R.

Acts 20:17-38

Last words.

The scene at Miletus representative.

I. Of the relations between the apostolic leaders and the Churches.

1. Affectionate.

2. Founded on a common faith in the gospel of the grace of God.

3. Absolutely free from all sordid and worldly entanglements.

4. While recognizing the eminence o! the leaders, still not dependent on individual men. Sorrowing separation was not overwhelming despair.

II. Of the character of primitive Christianity as exemplified in the words of the apostle and in the elders of Ephesus.

1. Simplicity of the faith.

2. Confidence in the final victory of the truth as it is in Jesus, notwithstanding the inroads of error.

3. Dependence on the Holy Spirit.

4. Brotherhood; helping the weak and ministering to the needy. The love felt towards the apostle an example of the kind of feeling prevailing at Ephesus and in the early Church, so different from the formal and conventional Church life now seen, which is content with a very superficial recognition of brotherly sympathy. The heroism of Paul a fruit of the Spirit.—R.

Acts 20:21

The ambassador's message.

"Testifying both to the Jews," etc.


1. The temptations of Jews and Greeks, by which they were hindered from repenting and believing—formalism; self-righteousness; ritualism; ignorance. Both in the synagogue and in the heathen temple need of such a proclamation.

2. The blessedness of the change which such a message would effect, The Jewish and Gentile characters, though very different, both requiring an entire renovation. Helplessness apart from the gospel. The message worked wonders in families. Contrast of the new life of the Christian Church with the old life of Judaism and paganism. The same message the substance of all Christian teaching, both in our own populations and in heathen lands.

II. THE FIRM FOUNDATION OF MINISTERIAL SUCCESS. The testimony was clear and undoubted; public and private. Repentance and faith.

1. Apostolic preaching aimed at personal conversion. It was not merely intellectual, or sentimental, or doubtful in doctrine, or perfunctory and cold.

2. The foundation on which the truth was placed was the firm one of the gospel facts. Repentance looked towards God who had spoken in the Old Testament, and faith looked towards Christ whose life, death, resurrection, and ascension Paul testified. Mere change of life is not all, but spiritual renovation through Christ.

3. A clear announcement from the pulpit must be accompanied by a faithful testimony from house to house. The private ministry is as important as the public.

4. Such a testimony of repentance and faith involves all who listen to it in immeasurable responsibility. Let each ere add to his seal by personal repentance and personal faith.—R.

Acts 20:24

The missionary spirit.

"But none of these things move me," etc.

I. A DIVINE CREATION. "Received of the Lord Jesus."

1. After the pattern of Christ's own mission.

2. By the inspiration of the Divine Spirit. Not by education or any lower means. Not influenced by worldly motives.

3. In the spirit of a witness, simply declaring the gospel; recognizing that "the gospel of the grace of God" is "the power of God" to men's salvation.


1. Victory over fear and selfish calculation.

2. Endurance in toil. The work of the ministry never finished while there are souls to be saved.

3. Superiority to the influence of lower types of character in the Church of Christ. A true man will not be swayed by opinion. The spiritual hero must reckon with the world's spirit of compromise and the Church's lack of sympathy; he must be sometimes misunderstood and maligned.

4. Lively expectation of the future. Paul constantly animated by the prospect of the whole world the kingdom of Christ. The true missionary must lay hold of the future by faith. The missionary spirit in the Church is very different from mere visionary optimism, or speculative scheming for mankind. It is not like the socialistic spirit which easily becomes revolutionary, or the spirit of religious fanaticism which easily becomes cruel and self-destructive; it is based on distinct promises, and it lifts up the whole nature into the light of God. It is the true enthusiasm of humanity (see Isaac Taylor's 'Lectures on Spiritual Christianity').—R.

Acts 20:24

"The gospel of the grace of God."

The world requires a gospel. Not theories about religion, not theological dogmas, not philosophical speculation, not dreamy sentimentality, but the glad tidings of a Divine work actually achieved on our behalf.

I. THE GRACE OF GOD IS THE SUBSTANCE OF THE MESSAGE, Not a new law, seeing that the old Law cannot be fulfilled, but a proclamation of Divine forgiveness and life in One set forth as a Propitiation, whose righteousness is unto all and upon all them that believe.


1. Individually. The glad tidings of reconciliation. The creation of a new principle of life in the soul.

2. Socially. The kingdom of grace. Tidings for the home; for the state; for the community of nations; for all sorts and conditions of men. All other gospels set up in vain as rivals to this. Preach it in Paul's spirit, and let all who have themselves heard it become evangelists, "pure from the blood of all men."—R.

Acts 20:28

The true Church.

"The Church of God which he hath purchased with his own blood." Significance of this passage in view of Church history and present controversies.

I. THE SPIRITUALITY OF THE CHURCH. "Purchased with his own blood." Therefore neither an external organism nor a mere idea, but composed of living souls, whose salvation is secured by the merit of his blood. Not a mixed multitude, united by a formal rite, but, professedly at least, these who are partakers of Christ, The admixture of the evil with the good is the work of the "enemy" who sows the tares, not of the original formation of the Church.


1. On those who "feed the Church," helping them to take heed to themselves and their flocks.

2. On the individual members of the Church, in the assurance of Divine grace, in the maintenance of vigilance.

3. On the world, both in "warning" away these who would defile the Church, and in inviting those who would enter in at the open gate into eternal life. The apostle's words regarded as prophetic. The greatest dangers of the Church have always arisen from lowering the conception of what the Church is. In our proneness to error, let us turn "to the Law and to the testimony."—R.

Acts 20:35

The Divine secret of a blessed life.

"Remember the words of the Lord Jesus," etc. Interest of the saying as not found in ore' Gospels. The life of Jesus said it. Possibly preserved traditionally. Summary of many recorded sayings. Christ his own interpreter.

I. AN INSIGHT INTO THE NATURE OF TRUE BLESSEDNESS. Not in external things, not in a passive state, either intellectually or morally. As we give out from ourselves, we grow in knowledge and enjoyment. Especially true of the active efforts of Christians for the world. To teach is to be taught. To comfort is to be comforted. To sacrifice self is to be rewarded with inward peace and strength.


1. Remember Christ's care of the poor. The Church an organization for the help of mankind. The poor should see that Christianity is on their side.

2. Remember Christ's zeal for the house of God. The passive state unworthy of God's children. Scanty giving a great discouragement to zealous workers; a great hindrance to the progress of the gospel.

3. Remember the claims of the world. The example of the Lord Jesus in laying down life, not to be remembered only by missionaries, hut to teach all his disciples to "count all things but loss for his sake."—R.


Acts 20:6-12

The seven days' halt at the gateway between Europe and Asia.

This seven days' stay at Troas may be safely presumed to have had points of special interest about it. The seven (Acts 20:4) who accompanied Paul into Asia were here found awaiting him and Silas and the historian. These ten, beside any others possibly with them, must have been the welcomed visitors of the disciples at Troas. Memory dwelt upon Troas, for it was the place where, in the vision of the night (Acts 16:9), Paul had received his call into Europe by the man of Macedonia. And after this visit how many fresh memories would cluster around the place and the people and that seven days' halt! We may, amid the exceeding brevity of record here, be nevertheless reminded—

I. HOW TO THE HARDEST LIFE THE MASTER DOES NOT FORGET TO GIVE SOME NEEDFUL INTERVAL OF REPOSE AND REFRESHMENT. No life is more wearing than that which men live who think for nothing, care for nothing, but making wealth. This life often kills the best of the heart, the best of the mind, and the best of even the bodily constitution. In this sense, men work themselves harder and more mercilessly than ever God works them. God never works us mercilessly. But in the hardest work he gives, he mingles much mercy. Yet his work in a healthy sense is hard, will match any for hardness, nor probably did the hardest-worked slave of self or Satan ever work harder than Paul did. But now, so far as we can see, the seven days at Troas, undisturbed by persecution from without or dissuasion from within, must have been days of happy converse and of peaceful rest. How much this party of ten would have to say to one another, to hear of the people at Troas and to tell to them!

II. HOW THE HOLIEST SERVICE ON EARTH MAY BE EXPOSED TO THE INTERRUPTION OF APPARENT ACCIDENT, ANYWAY TO INTERRUPTION WELCOME TO NO ONE. The cause of the interruption on this occasion probably infers a very minimum of blame to Eutychus. Some one has spoken to this effect—that hours of sleep are rarely broken by devotion, often enough for light causes. But it may be added that hours of sleep are rarely forfeited, indeed, for hours of devotion, but hours of professed devotion are often broken by sleep, or by what in the long run is even more disastrous—by sleepiness. But as we are told more than once that Eutychus was "overpowered" by sleepiness, and that there were even physical reasons separate from his individual self to increase the tendency, it is not necessary to fix any blame on him. Nor on Paul. Who did not wish him to prolong last words? What a spirit moved him! What a message he had, and how much for years to come, for the souls of not a few, and for the collected disciples there, might depend on his not omitting to say, and to say at leisure, and to say touchingly, the word given him! Yes; we would think nothing of the small hours being reached, and the many lights in the upper chamber fading before the return of the sun, were it the converse of merely human affection that detained us—men and women anti families together. The people at Troas had learnt the superior power and "o'er mastering attraction" of Divine affection and Divine discourse.

III. HOW WITH SOVEREIGN EASE CHRIST TRANSMUTES THE MOST INOPPORTUNE CALAMITY INTO MERCY'S CHOICE MEMORIALS. The calamity no doubt seemed inopportune. The disciples had already learned, of their own grateful will, to come together for religious exercises on "the first day of the week," and to "break bread" together. Paul and probably some of his companions, if not all of them (Acts 20:13), had desired to stay with the believers for the service of praise and prayer, of exhortation and of the communion, and perhaps had strained a point to stay over that "first day of the week." And hearts were full that evening. There was not any general weariness. And Paul was speaking that same hour what the Spirit gave him to speak. Had he spoken less, it would have been "the Spirit's course" that he was restraining, not his own vanity, not his own inconsiderateness. The confusion in that natural but solemn assembly, the disturbance to thought, and the pain of mind especially to some,—these were quite enough to unhinge the occasion. The peaceful stream of holy thought and of deep-flowing joy was checked. Yes; but not long. The Master is again present, and "by the hands" of Paul works, all things considered, a "special miracle." And the service goes on. Thought sinks deeper, faith triumphs more proudly, and in many a glowing heart great was the joy. The meeting gathers impulse from its pause, and, a bright morning dawning upon it, offered a dim type of the morning, brightest of the bright, when the calamity of the present life and the broken service of the lower Church, and even the deepest, fullest, purest joy of the now redeemed heart shall give way to a safety which no foe can surprise, a service that shall ask no rest, and a joy that shall be supreme.—B.

Acts 20:17-36

Mingled fidelity and tenderness: an example for Christian ministers.

Perhaps there is no other place in which we have so much of the nature of personal detail respecting Paul from his own lips. For the most part in his Epistles, there is a singular abstinence on his part from personal references. They seem to abound here. Without doubting their bare justification, we desiderate some other and higher account of them. May not this be found in a twofold consideration?—

(1) that Paul has designedly and probably also of Divine design treated Ephesus as the center from which the light and truth of Christ and the typical order of his Church were to spread throughout a very wide district; and

(2) that Paul is divinely directed here to leave a forcible and a touching example to later generations. He examples the extent to which the fidelity and love of apostles, and of all spiritual successors of apostles, ought to be on the look out, and the limits within which also they ought to be restrained, in respect of those portions of the Church over which men may have had the leading oversight. The modern Church surely cries out for admonition, in these very senses supplied by this long passage—whether on the part of its members or of its ministers. The most sacred, most responsible love on earth is too often regarded as a relationship that may be lightly entered upon, and is treated as one that may be, not only lightly broken, but when broken perfunctorily forgotten. The study of this passage must help to inspire very different views. From this farewell address of Paul to those whom he had specially invited to meet him, lest it should be the last time, the chief impressions left on us are these.

I. PAUL'S UNMOVED CONFIDENCE IN HIS MISSION. All that is spoken personal to himself, and all that is spoken personal to the Ephesian elders, is spoken for the honor and glory and prospects of the gospel off Christ. The "ministry … of testifying the gospel of the grace of God" is his steadfast supreme thought. It appears in and through all.

II. PAUL'S UNMOVED CONFIDENCE AS TO WHEREIN CONSISTS ITS EXACT OPERATION UPON MEN. If it is his last exposition of the saving message of his "ministry," it shall be thus summarized and thus repeated: "Repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." These two articles constitute the Christian magna charta. They clear the past, they give the key for the future and for all its hope and unfolding promise. "Repentance toward God" clears the very sky of human life, and with a glorious sky indeed over vaults the heart itself. While "faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" will secure all else that can be wanted till the time comes for faith to turn to sight.

III. PAUL'S ANXIOUS OUTLOOKTHE OUTLOOK OF SPIRITUAL LOVE. He is not the man to feel he has done his work, and may leave all the rest. He feels he can't leave all the rest. Care and anxiety for the morrow, not of earthly good and personal gain, possess him, but for the morrow of the spiritual career and the very souls of those he had called and testified to and led by his example at Ephesus. That a people see this and feel this genuinely present in their spiritual teacher and pastor, is an influence of great effect upon them. And there is another way in which it acts to great advantage. As time flows on, and the hour of trial and temptation and darkness may come, men are wonderfully helped when they can recall the voice and look and earnestness of one who "told them of these things before they came to pass."

IV. PAUL'S FAITH IN EXAMPLE AND HIS RESPECTFUL REGARD FOR THE "WITNESS" OF THOSE AMONG WHOM HE HAD LABORED. Pride and priestly superciliousness never give expression to this side of the question. That the priest's eye is on the people is their haughty doctrine, and the so genuinely true other side of the matter, that the people's eyes are on the priest, to which Paul gives here such humble and kindly expression, is pushed into coldest shade by them. Without doubt, we are justified in thus regarding all that Paul here says of himself that might seem to be said in a self-commendatory style; there is in very truth nothing of this in his spirit. He does but speak facts, and can say "ye know" (Acts 20:18, Acts 20:34) about them. If the elders of Ephesus do not know them, or know them to be not as Paul says, he has courted contradiction, not hidden himself away from it. Of what incalculable consequence example ever is! Of what thrilling consequence it is in the career of the Christian minister and pastor! What quiet rebuke it is, free from bitterness of tongue! What choicest stimulus and suggestion it is, full of life and movement as it is! The leading items of conduct and example, in which the Ephesian elders had been able to take witness of Paul, are interesting to follow.

1. They had witnessed a long stretch of time and variety of state and temper.

2. They had witnessed an humility of mind that bended itself to circumstances, and endured aright what caused tears not idle and jeopardy of life many a time.

3. They had witnessed frankness of relations, plainness of speech, constancy of ministry, in public and in private.

4. They had witnessed a three years' continued impartial "warning of every one night and day with tears."

5. They had not witnessed any self-seeking, any desire of "silver, or gold, or apparel."

6. They had, on the contrary, witnessed their chief pastor at manual labor, to supply his own temporal needs and to help his companions. And in reminding the Ephesian elders of these things, Paul has enshrined for all generations one of the sweetest words of Jesus, unrecorded elsewhere. Yes; and whatever might come to be, there was no doubt that Paul had, by all these uncontradicted methods, become unspeakably endeared to those whom he now addresses.

V. PAUL'S USE OF APPEAL. Direct practical appeal is evidently one of the recognized gospel forces. The preacher is not to forget it (Acts 20:28, Acts 20:31).

VI. PAUL'S FINAL RESORT TO PRAYER. The particularity with which even this testimony of Paul to prayer is recorded is worthy of remark, "And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all." Prayer is the renunciation of self-confidence. Prayer is the authorized summons for higher help. Prayer is the sure signal of the approach of strength to weakness, continuance to uncertainty, and power to prevail in place of the temptation by which men should fall.

VII. LASTLY, PAUL'S MOVING TENDERNESS OF SPIRIT IN ALL. This tenderness and highly moved state of soul is betokened at every turn. If Paul speak of the relations that had subsisted between the Ephesians and himself (verses 18-20); if he speak of his own future (verses 22-25) or allude to his own past (verses 31-35); if he introduce the names of the Lord Jesus (verses 24, 35), of the Holy Ghost, and the Church (verse 28), of God (verse 32);—the touch is of the tenderest, the tone is of the warmest, and softest, the suggestion is sure to be of the most solemn and pathetic in equal proportions. And in every one of these respects it must be maintained that Paul is an example for all Christian teachers and pastors, for all time. Whatever can be obtained by human instrumentality out of the mysterious mass of humanity will be best obtained thus. No force, no authority, no policy, will obtain souls. Nor will care, and love, and tenderness, and foresight, and faithful "warning" keep all that they shall seem to obtain. The "grievous wolves will enter in;" "men out of" that very number who listened and wept, and were both wept and prayed over, "will arise, speaking perverse things," and, drawn away themselves, "they will draw away others after them." "Offences will come!" But it is to be said that when Paul and the successors of Paul have done and said what Paul now did and said, and something in the same manner, the solemn damning "woe," wherever it fall, will not fall on one of them. They have saved their souls, and they are "pure from the blood of all men."—B.

Acts 20:37, Acts 20:38

Sure springs of affection.

The great regard of the Ephesian elders to Paul was genuinely spoken in their great regret as now manifested. Farewells have a pathos all their own, and share it with nothing else. They legitimately exhibit what has been long years, perhaps, as legitimately concealed. They are often acts of pardon, and ought always to be such. They bring out better qualities than have been seen before or even suspected of existing. And sometimes they are the inauguration of a far higher love than all that had been, when love of the personal presence is superseded by the love of souls. The farewells of an average human life, could their added effect be calculated, would in many instances be found to have constituted some of its most potent and its highest influences. Notice some of the leading causes of the deep affection recorded in this place.



III. THE ACQUAINTANCE HAD BEEN ONE FAR REMOVED FROM ALL NARROWNESS OR LIMITEDNESS OF AIM: IT HAD BEEN STAMPED WITH USEFULNESS. The behavior of the sabbath and even of the Lord's day is far more easily taught than the behavior of all life's "common days," and to teach this it is abundantly plain Paul did not disdain.



Acts 20:7

The Lord's day sabbath.

This is the first allusion to distinctively Christian meetings as held on the first day of the week, the day which commemorates the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. The grounds on which it pleased God to separate a regular, and a frequently recurring, portion of time from common worldly labor may be pointed out. Two things especially require notice.

1. Such a recurring period of rest is practically proved to be necessary for man's physical well-being. It is more and more clearly shown, that the recovering and restoring power of nightly sleep is not sufficient, and that the weekly prolonged rest is essential to the continued maintenance of the bodily powers.

2. A man is not chiefly a body. He is a composite being; but he is, in the truest conception of him, a soul, having a body for his use. And it is of the first importance that the soul should have its due and adequate opportunities of culture. For the securing of such opportunities, the tension of bodily claims must be at times relieved. The change of the day kept as the sabbath, from the seventh to the first of the week, does not seem to have taken place by any revelation or any distinct apostolic arrangement. It came about in the natural course of events. Probably at first the Jewish Christian disciples kept the Jewish sabbath in the usual way, and also had some special meeting of their own, in remembrance of the Lord's resurrection, on the evening of the first day of the week. As the gospel won its way among the Gentiles, the distinctively Christian meetings would grow in importance; and when St. Paul separated the disciples from the synagogue, Jewish customs and rules ceased to have authority over them. As Judaism faded away, the Christian day of rest took the place of the older sabbath; and the Christian forms of worship superseded the temple and the synagogue ordinances. We dwell on two points.

I. THE CHRISTIAN SABBATH WAS A RETENTION, IN SPIRIT, OF THE OLDER JEWISH SABBATH. What was essential in the original institution was the devotement to God of one day in seven. No importance attached to its being the first, or fourth, or seventh, as men may arbitrarily reckon the days of the week. The division of time into weeks is not a natural division, dependent on movements of earth or of moon. It is an arrangement made entirely in view of man's physical and spiritual interests. And the change of the precise day teaches us the important lesson that God cares for the essence of obedience, for the spirit of service; and while this finds its proper expression in minute and careful observance of his requirements, God is not limited by the mere formality of his commands, but graciously leaves the times, seasons, and modes of our obedience to our good will and judgment. Wherever there is the spirit of obedience, there need be little fear as to the finding of right modes. All that is essential in the Jewish sabbath holy souls jealously preserve in the Christian Sunday.

II. THE CHRISTIAN SABBATH IS A PRECISE SANCTIFYING OF ONE DAY IN SEVEN TO THE REMEMBRANCE OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. We are to "keep the sabbath day holy;" that is, we are to fill it fully up with thoughts of God and work for God. But to us God has been "manifest in the flesh;" "he was made flesh and dwelt among us." As with us here in our humanity, Jesus was the "Brightness of the Father's glory, and the express Image of his person." And so the keeping the Christian Sunday holy is filling it fully up with thoughts of Christ and work for him. And that they might be helped to such remembrances, the early disciples, every Sunday evening, broke bread together, this being the appointed means for recalling to their minds their Lord's broken body and shed blood. For our soul's life, the Sunday is a day for communion with Christ. For the world's salvation, Sunday is a day for witnessing of Christ and working for him. We may learn, then, in what lies the very essence of the rightly kept Christian sabbath. It must have two things always in it.

1. Conscious communion with Christ.

2. Active co-operation with him in his sublime purpose to redeem and save the world.—R.T.

Acts 20:9, Acts 20:10

Sleepy Eutychus.

Explain precisely what happened. The window was a lattice opening, and, for the sake of air to the crowded room, the lattices were put aside. How crowded the house was is intimated by the presence of some people in this third story. There they would be sure to feel oppressed by the heat of the house. Eutychus may have fallen into the street, but it is more likely that he fell into the hard paved courtyard. For a similar fall, see the account of the death of Ahaziah, King of Israel (2 Kings 1:2, 2 Kings 1:17). The word that is translated "young man" implies that Eutychus was quite a youth, and not likely to be very directly interested in St. Paul's address. He very probably was a child of the house where the meeting was held. While the narrative does not positively say that Eutychus was killed by the fall, and indeed leaves it possible for us to assume that he was only badly stunned, the simplest reading of it—without prejudice in relation to the miraculous—certainly leaves the impression of a real death and restoration. We bend attention to the conduct of St. Paul in relation to the matter, and inquire why he took the trouble thus to recover the fallen and dead youth. Dismissing, with a brief mention, the interest he would feel in such a calamity affecting the people of the house, and seeking for explanations having a more general application, we notice—

I. ST. PAUL FELT THAW EUTYCHUS WAS NOT TO BLAME. If any one was to blame, it was the apostle himself, who had been led on to talk so long and keep the meeting to unreasonable hours for young folk. Long services make too great a demand on the physical strength of young people. They are trying even to the elder Christians, but their awakened spiritual interest will enable them to bear such fatigue of body. It was not wrong for Eutychus to sleep. He was simply overborne by the heat of the place and the lateness of the hour. And still we need to distinguish between failings, which come out of human frailties, and sins that come out of human willfulness. Too often the young are punished for what is merely due to the influence of surrounding circumstances and the undeveloped bodily conditions. The relation of public services to the young needs careful and judicious treatment.

1. Services for them are advisable and necessary.

2. Their share in the general service of the Church is important.

3. Such services may exert a gracious influence apart from the actual mental comprehension of what is said and done.

4. Such services need not be unduly limited or too easily altered in character for the sake of the young.

5. Such services should take into due account, and deal considerately with, the physical infirmities of the young. It is possible, by securing variety in forms of worship, changing attitudes, and efficient illustration in preaching, to successfully resist the infirmities of the children. If we find our public services uninteresting, we may question whether we are not, like the apostle, ourselves to blame.

II. ST. PAUL FELT THAT THE DEATH OF EUTYCHUS WOULD BE MISUNDERSTOOD. Too easily the company would take up the notion that this was a judgment on inattention, and such an idea must be at once and fully corrected. In such a case as that of Ananias and Sapphira, no apostle would feel impelled to put forth miraculous power; the judgment of God on sin must stand. But the case of Eutychus belonged to what may fairly be called "accidents." A conjunction of circumstances brought it about—heat, sleepiness, the position in which Eutychus sat, the open window, etc.; and this St. Paul may deal with in a way of miracle, just as Elijah and Elisha had done in cases of sudden death from disease (see 1 Kings 17:21; 2 Kings 4:34). It is quite true that Christianity makes great demands on self-control and self-denial. It expects the spirit to master the body; but it makes its demands of the full-grown "man in Christ;" and, only in appropriate measures and degrees, on those who are young in years and young in the faith. The restoration of Eutychus may be regarded as a prominent and interesting illustration of the "sweet reasonableness" of Christianity.—R.T.

Acts 20:9-11

Earnestness in preaching and hearing.

The subject is suggested by the conversation, or the address, being lengthened out by the mutual affection of St. Paul and his audience. They were unwilling for him to cease; he was unwilling to keep back anything that might be a help and a blessing to them. That night there were just the conditions that made "long preaching" advisable, and prevented its being thought a weariness. The impulse of the preacher is such an audience; the joy of the audience is such a preacher. Tell of the associations of St. Paul with Troas, and give illustrative instances of his singular power to draw out towards himself the affection of those whom he served for Christ's sake. A feeling of oppression and anxiety at this time rested on the apostle—he felt that his missionary labors were almost done, and this gave a peculiar urgency and tenderness and pathos to his preachings. They had the characteristics of "last utterances" and "farewells."

I. THE IMPORTANCE OF OUR HAVING PERSONAL CONFIDENCE IN, AND GLOWING AFFECTION FOE, OUR TEACHERS. So far as mere truth is concerned, a stranger with competent knowledge can instruct us; but truth, in its personal relations with us, can only be taught by those who know us; and our ability to receive such influence depends largely on our love for those who give it. Press the importance of settled ministries, of regular attendance at the same worship, and of coming into such relations with our "pastors and teachers" as may bring on us the power of their personal characters. Apply the principle, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend;" and our pastors should be felt such friends that we can receive both reproof and comfort and instruction from them.

II. THE DEMANDS WHICH TRUST AND AFFECTION MAKE UPON OUR TEACHERS. These people would not let St. Paul go; they kept him talking all night. He was compelled to respond to such love, and to pour forth his best treasures of knowledge and experience for their help. Trust and love still make the highest demands on our teachers, demands sometimes so great that ministers feel overwhelmed with the tremendous responsibility. Nothing draws out the best in a man like trusting him and loving him. Money can never buy a man's best; duty can never compel a man's best; love can always win a man's best, just as a pure love makes a man noble, and a babe's love calls a mother to sublime self-denials. The one condition of receiving the best spiritual blessings from a Christian teacher is that you must trust and love him as his disciples did St. Paul. His relations with his disciples are models, and happy are they who can give a like joy to their teacher and can win like blessings from him. In conclusion, deal practically with those things which constitute fitting preparation of hearers for receiving the best spiritual blessings through their teachers. Such preparations are:

1. General bearing upon good worshipping habits; right relations with Church life; and personal knowledge of, and affection for, the teacher.

2. Special to each particular occasion of intercourse or of worshipping; the value of all services depending directly upon a man's mood of soul, as won by home culture. The profit of a hearer depends first and chiefly upon himself.—R.T.

Acts 20:21, Acts 20:24

Paul's testimony.

"Testifying … repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." "To testify the gospel of the grace of God." The main lines of the apostle's work are nowhere given more simply or more clearly than in these sentences. Dean Plumptre suggestively says, "These," viz. repentance and faith, "under all varieties of form, formed the substance of the apostle's teaching. It is obvious, however, that out of these might be developed a whole system of theology; why repentance was needed, and what it was, and how it should show itself; what was involved in the statement that Jesus was the Christ, and why men should believe in him, and what works were the proper fruit of faith. All these were questions which had to be answered before even the most elementary truths could be rightly apprehended." St. Paul's ministry consisted in this, bearing witness, "especially as a living example of its power (1 Timothy 1:12-16), of the good tidings that God was not a harsh Judge, but a gracious Father, willing all men to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4), that was the truth to the proclamation of which his life was to be devoted." As the subjects are familiar, only an outline of treatment is necessary. We take the latter expression first, as being the more general one.

I. GOD'S GRACE UNTO FORGIVENESS. The gospel is precisely a message concerning God. It is:

1. A corrective message. God is not as men have thought.

2. A revealing message, bringing to light the fact that, by a sublime act of self-sacrifice, he has declared himself to be love, and has shown his grace.

3. A practical message, bearing directly on our sins, and giving assurance of forgiveness.

II. GOD'S CONDITIONS FOR THE MANIFESTATION OF HIS GRACE UNTO FORGIVENESS. Without conditions we should set no value on the grace, the gift, or the forgiveness. The conditions are reasonable and necessary. They are:

1. Repentance. If we are not troubled about out' sin, we shall not care about forgiveness.

2. Faith. If we do not open our hearts to God, he cannot work his good work in us. These are gospel foundations; but how much we have to build thereon!—R.T.

Acts 20:22-24

The cheerful acceptance of a hard lot.

Give illustrations showing how severe, trying, and anxious St. Paul's missionary life had been and was likely to be to the end, taking as a basis his own account given in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28. Additional "hardness" came out of St. Paul's peculiarly nervous and sensitive temperament. He felt both joys and sorrows so keenly. With the apostle's life compare that of our Lord Jesus Christ. Both were divided into two parts:

(1) a working part, in which God was served by active labors;

(2) a suffering part, in which God was served by bearing and enduring afflictions, persecutions, and troubles. By both doing and bearing God may still be served; and in both ways God tests the faithfulness of his people in our times. St. Paul was taught "how great things he must suffer for Christ's Name's sake;" and in the passage before us we see him learning this lesson, and giving some expression to his feeling in regard to it. The Spirit said in St. Paul that the time was now near when a special testimony for Christ amid scenes of suffering would be required of him; and the apostle received the revelation, not only calmly, but cheerfully, like the older apostles, counting it all joy that he was thought worthy to suffer for his Master's sake.

I. EXACTLY WHAT HIS LOT WAS TO BE HE DID NOT KNOW. The Spirit was only pleased to give general indications. Complete knowledge of what is about to happen can never be good for man, because

(1) it takes away the simplicity and naturalness of his conduct;

(2) it prevents the proper exercise of his will upon due consideration of circumstances that arise;

(3) it stops the process of moral and spiritual culture; and

(4) it takes from him the call to a living, daily trust in God. The feeling that all is settled and known tends to prevent faith from keeping up a daily dependence. We cannot too thankfully rejoice that our future is wholly unknown to us, and that we are cast entirely upon the promise of" grace for the day," and upon the assurance that the "Lord will provide." "I'd rather walk in the dark with God than go alone in the light." We know nothing. Nay, we know everything if we know our ever-present Guide.

II. ST. PAUL WAS AS TRULY MOVED TO GO FORWARD TO SUFFERING AS HE HAD BEEN TO GO FORWARD TO WORK. Recall the previous scene at (Acts 16:1-40.), when the man of Macedonia called the apostle to begin missionary labors' in Europe. He had no doubt then that he was following the Divine lead; and he had no more doubt now that he was called to Jerusalem to suffer. We might think that God gave him notice of coming troubles only to warn him and guard him against them; but we must understand that God may in this way test faithfulness. A plain path of duty may be before us, but we may come to know that suffering lies that way; then we are tested whether we will do the duty or shrink back on account of the suffering. The apostle clearly knew his duty, so matters of personal suffering could be no serious concern to him.

III. HIS LOYALTY AND LOVE TO CHRIST MADE HIM WILLING TO SERVE HIM IN WHATSOEVER WAY HE WILLED. Service to Christ, under the inspiration of his love, was St. Paul's simple and sublime idea. "To him to live was Christ." The place, or time, or way of service it was for his Master to settle; and what had to be borne in rendering the service he was willing to let his Master wholly arrange. He set before himself this aim, that he "might finish his course with joy." "It is required of stewards that they be found faithful." Apply to some of the suffering lots now given to God's people. They are spheres of service for Christ, and they lose all their "hardness" when they can be thus regarded.

IV. HIS CHEERFUL OBEDIENCE MADE TRIUMPH OVER HIS AFFLICTIONS AN EASY THING. So much depends on the spirit in which our lot in life is taken up. The apostle is a beautiful example of cheerfulness and hopefulness. He will not let circumstances crush him, or opposition and adversity overwhelm him. He will not lose heart or hope. He sings in his own soul the song with which he has cheered thousands of the saints through the long Christian ages. "All things work together for good to them that love God. So the trials cannot hurt him. He is more than conqueror. He even finds how to look upon a "hard lot" as an opportunity for rendering fuller and heartier witness for the Lord whom he serves.—R.T.

Acts 20:27

God's whole counsel.

St. Paul is stating a fact which

(1) was to the honor of the Ephesian elders, for they must have been receptive and willing hearers if the apostle found that he might even teach them the mysteries of the gospel; and which

(2) was to the honor of St. Paul as a teacher, who was so skilful in dividing the Word of truth that he could make the very mysteries plain. Compare his language in Ephesians 3:4, where he speaks of their 'being' "able to understand his knowledge, in the mystery of Christ." It is right to declare the whole counsel of God; but it is wise only to declare it to those who are prepared to receive it. Compare St. Peter's counsel and reference to St. Paul in 2 Peter 3:15, 2 Peter 3:16. The "whole counsel of God" may be regarded as including—


(1) the Divine revelations made in different ages;

(2) in different forms;

(3) to different individuals.

While the complete circle may be regarded as contained in the Old and New Testament Scriptures, we may not absolutely limit Divine revelation to the written Word. The Spirit of God has full and free access to the minds and hearts of men, and can reveal his will directly to them if it shall please him so to do. To this circle there is a center, but the repetition of this cannot be the Divine idea of "preaching the gospel." Every truth within the circle must be held by, and filled with the spirit of, the central truth. Everything within the circle is the gospel. Ministers may not, and they need not, shun to declare to men the very "mysteries" of revelation, since by the consideration of such the higher culture of the soul is gained. Infants take the milk of first principles; strong men need to feed upon strong meat of difficult and advanced truth.

II. THE TRUTH IN ITS ANTAGONISTIC PHASES. This side of the truth may not be left untouched by any teacher, but its treatment calls for much care and wisdom. There are times when we are required to show how truth opposes error; but usually it is far better to preach the positive truth, and let it by its own force gradually root out and destroy error. Three points may here be illustrated.

1. Christ's truth seemed opposed to Judaism. It was not really opposed to the system as given by God to Moses. It was the natural and necessary outgrowth and completion of it. It was opposed to the corrupt Judaism of the rabbis—a formal and ceremonial system out of which all spiritual life had gone.

2. Christ's truth was opposed to paganism, both in its theories, principles, and practices.

3. Christ's truth is made to appear opposed to science, but only by the undue assumptions and prejudiced bias of some who really misrepresent science.

4. Christ's truth is always opposed to worldly maxims, because it demands the whole soul for God, while the world wants the whole soul for self.

III. THE TRUTH IN ITS PRACTICAL PHASES. Illustrate from the Epistles how directly it bears:

1. On individual habits; teaching us how to possess the vessels of our bodies in sanctification and honor.

2. On family relations; culturing good fatherhood and motherhood, and requiring honorable obedience from children, and service from dependents.

3. On social fellowships; binding man to man in a gracious brotherhood of common helpfulness.

IV. THE TRUTH WITH THE PERSONAL STAMP ON IT. When uttered with the force of a man's own experience, persuasion, and conviction, the truth gains a new power; but we must also recognize that it comes under limitations by getting apprehension and expression only through limited minds—limited by capacity and limited by education. Individuality is on one side power, but on the other side weakness. Conclude by fully unfolding what now may be thought of as included in the "whole counsel of God," especially pointing out that, while the field of revelation is the same that St Paul had, the field of speculation has marvelously grown and enlarged. But still, what men have to preach to their fellow-men is not their speculation, but God's revelation.—R.T.

Acts 20:28

Blood purchased.

This figure of speech is directly connected with a reference to the Church as a flock; to the officers as overseers, or shepherds; and to their duty as feeding the flock. It is important to inquire how far the shepherd and sheep figure will explain the scriptural allusions to redemption, or salvation by blood. The figure as used by our Lord in John 10:1-42. should be compared with the expression in our text, "which he hath purchased with his own blood." The question which we have to consider is—How does a shepherd purchase his sheep with his blood? The answer takes two possible forms.

I. THE SHEPHERD PUTS HIS LIFE IN PERIL IN DEFENDING HIS SHEEP. This is the characteristic feature of the good shepherd as opposed to the hireling. The good shepherd purchases their safety every day by his willingness to shed his blood in their defense. So a mother may be said to purchase the health of a sick child by her willingness to give her life for his, imperiling her own life by her anxious watching and care.

II. THE SHEPHERD MAY ACTUALLY GIVE HIS LIFE IN FIGHTING AND KILLING THE WOLVES. If he kills the wolves he saves the sheep, though he may himself die of his wounds; and then he plainly purchases the safety of the flock with his blood. These figures may be applied to the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. He imperiled his life for our defense. He met our great foe in conflict. He overcame sin and death, and plucked death's sting away. He died indeed in the struggle, but he set us free; and so he has purchased us by his own blood. He has won, by his great act of self-sacrifice, our love and life forever. Compare the figure as employed by St. Peter (1 Peter 1:18, 1 Peter 1:19).—R.T.

Acts 20:35

The blessedness of giving.

We have no other record of these words as uttered by Christ. They must have been treasured in the memory of the apostles, and have been often mentioned by them, but never written down. There must be a great deal of Christ's teaching not preserved for us; but we may be assured that the unrecorded was like the recorded, and we may gratefully receive what the Divine Spirit has been pleased to preserve for us. The truth of this statement that it is "more blessed to give than to receive," is affirmed and illustrated by:

1. St. Paul's own life.

2. Christ's teaching.

3. Christ's own life of giving.

4. All human experience.

One of the best things said by the late George Peabody is this, spoken at a reunion at his native town: "It is sometimes hard for one who has devoted the best part of his life to the accumulation of money to spend it for others; but practice it, and keep on practicing it, and I assure you it comes to be a pleasure." It was a saying of Julius Caesar that no music was so charming in his ears as the requests of his friends, and the supplications of those in want of his assistance. Our Lord did not say that there was no blessedness in receiving, only that it is more blessed to give. We may feel how true are his words in relation to—

I. GIVING PRESENTS. These not only win and keep our friends, but they greatly increase our love for them by finding it expression.

II. GIVING SYMPATHY. This so greatly blesses us, because we have to fetch up the very best in us if we are to sympathize with sufferers and sinners. We want our holiest power.

III. GIVING KNOWLEDGE. We cannot clear and complete our own knowledge better than by making the effort to impart it to others.

IV. GIVING LOVE. It is very precious to be loved, but it is surely more precious to love, to give our love to another; it is so ennobling and inspiring that we give our love to Christ.

V. GIVING PRAYERS. Intercessory prayers are the holiest kind, and the most directly and abundantly fruitful in blessings to ourselves. Let us bear in mind that the blessedness of giving we all can win. All of us can give, and we all can give in the various possible ways of giving above referred to. Those even that seem to have nothing yet can give, if a comprehensive view of giving be taken. A poor widow who had only two mites could give. Our Lord himself, though he had nothing, could give. Peter and John could say, "Silver and gold have we none, but such as we have we give thee." There are better things to give away than money; and it is in such things that we find the best blessedness of giving.—R.T.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Acts 20". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/acts-20.html. 1897.
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