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Acts 20

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

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Acts 20:0


Paul's Journey to MacedoniaJourneys in GreeceThe Last Visit to GreeceTo Macedonia and AchaiaPaul Leaves Ephesus
Acts 20:1-6Acts 20:1-6Acts 20:1-6Acts 20:1-6Acts 20:1-6
Paul's Farewell Visit to TroasMinistering in TroasPaul's Return to Palestine(Acts 20:7-14)Paul's Last Visit to TroasTroas: Paul Raises a Dead Man to Life
Acts 20:7-12Acts 20:7-12Acts 20:7-12Acts 20:7-12Acts 20:7-12
The Voyage from Troas to MiletusFrom Troas to MiletusFrom Troas to MiletusFrom Troas to Miletus
Acts 20:13-16Acts 20:13-16Acts 20:13-16Acts 20:13-16Acts 20:13-16
Paul Speaks to the Ephesian EldersThe Ephesian Elders ExhortedPaul's Farewell Speech to the Elders of EphesusFarewell to the Elders of Ephesus
Acts 20:17-24Acts 20:17-38Acts 20:17-18aActs 20:17-24Acts 20:17-18a
Acts 20:18-24Acts 20:18-21
Acts 20:22-24
Acts 20:25-35Acts 20:25-35Acts 20:25-31Acts 20:25-27
Acts 20:28
Acts 20:29-32
Acts 20:32-35
Acts 20:33-35
Acts 20:36-38Acts 20:36-38Acts 20:36-38Acts 20:36-38

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one main subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. This is a very brief and, therefore, somewhat confusing summary of Paul's ministry in Macedonia and Greece on his third missionary journey.

B. The best way to sort out Paul's ministry in this area is to consult his letters, especially I and 2 Corinthians.

C. Luke attempts to detail Paul's movements by using time markers and place names, but its brevity causes confusion.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why was Paul traveling with so many men from different cities in Acts 20:4?

2. What is the theological purpose of Acts 20:7-10?

3. Why is Acts 20:13 so confusing?

4. Why does Paul defend himself to the Ephesian elders?

5. Why was Paul going to Jerusalem if prophets were warning him about the severe consequences of his visit? (Acts 20:22-23)

6. Why are false prophets common in every age and place? Are they redeemed? Are those who follow them redeemed? What is a false prophet?

7. Why should Acts 20:36-38 cause us to love and pray for our local leaders?

Verses 1-6

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Acts 20:1-6 1After the uproar had ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and when he had exhorted them and taken his leave of them, he left to go to Macedonia. 2When he had gone through those districts and had given them much exhortation, he came to Greece. 3And there he spent three months, and when a plot was formed against him by the Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia. 4And he was accompanied by Sopater of Berea, the son of Pyrrhus, and by Aristarchus and Secundus of the Thessalonians, and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia. 5But these had gone on ahead and were waiting for us at Troas. 6We sailed from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and came to them at Troas within five days; and there we stayed seven days.

Acts 20:1 "After the uproar had ceased" This phrase is ambiguous. It does not mean to imply that Paul left Ephesus immediately because of the riot started by Demetrius. Paul did not leave because of the riot, but because his evangelistic work was finished, as Demetrius' own statements made obvious (cf. Acts 19:26).

"Paul sent for the disciples and when he had exhorted them" Paul was concerned with both evangelism and discipleship (cf. Acts 20:2; Matthew 28:18-20). The gospel, although received individually, becomes a family to which service is due (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:7). The goal of local believers was a church!

Acts 20:2 "he had gone through those districts" This possibly refers (1) to Illyricum (cf. Romans 15:19) or (2) to the Macedonian cities of Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea.

"he came to Greece" Greece (Hellas) means the Roman Province of Achaia (cf. Acts 19:21). This refers mainly to the city of Corinth. Paul had an extended ministry in this area. During this time he wrote Romans. He was worried about the church in Corinth, as 1 Corinthians 16:5-9 and 2 Corinthians 2:12-13 clearly show.

Acts 20:3 This verse relates to Paul's travel plans. He often had to change them because of circumstances. In this instance Paul thought it unwise (i.e., a plot by Jews) to board a pilgrim ship heading toward Jerusalem, so he traveled by land.

"a plot was formed against him by the Jews as he was about to set sail" He was possibly planning to sail on a Pilgrim ship that stopped at all ports on the way taking Jewish pilgrims to the festivals in Jerusalem.

"Sopater, Aristarchus, Secundus, Gaius, Timothy, Tychicus, Trophimus" These are probably men from various churches sent to accompany Paul's special monetary gift to the church in Jerusalem (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:1-3; 1 Corinthians 2:0 Cor. 8-9).

1. Sopater is possibly the Sosipater of Romans 16:21.

2. Aristarchus is mentioned in Acts 19:29; Acts 27:2 and Colossians 4:10.

3. Tychicus is mentioned in Ephesians 6:21-22; Colossians 4:7-8; 2 Timothy 4:12 and Titus 3:12.

4. Gaius is mentioned in Acts 19:29.

5. Trophimus is mentioned in Acts 21:29 and 2 Timothy 4:20.

The following is taken from my commentary on 1 Corinthians (see www.freebiblecommentary.org).

"the collection" Logia is a term which has been found in the Greek papyri in Egypt as a gift of money for a religious purpose, but not related to a regular tax (cf. Moulton, Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, p. 377). It is uncertain whether in this context it refers to a regular gift or extra gift to the church. Paul began this concern for the poor in Judea from a conversation with James, Peter, John, and Barnabas in Galatians 2:10; Galatians 6:10. This specific offering was begun by the church at Antioch where Paul and Barnabas served, Acts 11:27-30. This offering is mentioned in several NT books (cf. Romans 15:26; Romans 2:0 Cor. 8-9; 1 Corinthians 16:1). It was an attempt to seal the relationship between the Hebrew mother church and the Gentile churches.

Paul calls this one-time contribution by several names.

1. almsgiving, Acts 24:17

2. fellowship, Romans 15:26, Romans 15:27; 2 Corinthians 8:4; 2 Corinthians 9:13

3. an indebtedness, Romans 15:27

4. service, Romans 15:27; 2 Corinthians 9:12"

From 2 Corinthians 8:6, 2 Corinthians 8:16 it seems that Titus may have also been a church representative. It is so strange that Luke never mentions Titus in Acts. The theory has been that Titus was Luke's brother and that modesty caused him to omit his name. This may also explain the unnamed brother in 2 Corinthians 8:18, who many think was Luke (Origen recorded in Eusebius' His. Eccl. 6.25.6; A. T. Robertson's, Word Pictures in the New Testament, p. 245).

F. F. Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free, comments on Titus and Luke being brothers.

"One explanation of Luke's silence about one who was such a trusted lieutenant of Paul's is that Titus was Luke's brother; cf. W. M. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen (London, 1895), p. 390; Luke the Physician and Other Studies (London, 1908), pp. 17 f.; A. Souter, 'A Suggested Relationship between Titus and Luke', Expository Times 18 (1906-7), p. 285, and "The Relationship between Titus and Luke', ibid., pp. 335 f. But if this relationship is maintained, then the possibility that Luke is the 'brother' of 2 Corinthians 8:18 f. (see. p. 320) is ruled out: Paul's purpose in sending this 'brother' along with Titus was that he should be an independent guarantor of the probity of the administration of the relief fund, and this purpose would have been frustrated if critics had been given an opportunity to draw attention to a blood-relationship between the two. Nothing could have been better calculated to foster already existing suspicions" (p. 339 footnote #5).

Acts 20:5 "us" Luke begins again his eyewitness account, which was discontinued in Philippi (cf. Acts 16:0). The "we" sections are identified as Acts 16:10-17; Acts 20:5-15; Acts 21:1-18; and Acts 27:1-1b.

Acts 20:6 "the days of Unleavened Bread" This seven-day feast in mid-April was combined with the one-day Passover feast (cf. Exodus 13:0). Paul's Jewish background influenced the way he viewed the calendar. We know nothing of Jews or a synagogue at Philippi, so Paul did not keep this feast for witnessing purposes (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:19-23). Perhaps it is just mentioned because he was planning his travel to be in Jerusalem by Pentecost (cf. Acts 20:16).

Verses 7-12

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Acts 20:7-12 7On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight. 8There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered together. 9And there was a young man named Eutychus sitting on the window sill, sinking into a deep sleep; and as Paul kept on talking, he was overcome by sleep and fell down from the third floor and was picked up dead. 10But Paul went down and fell upon him, and after embracing him, he said, "Do not be troubled, for his life is in him." 11When he had gone back up and had broken the bread and eaten, he talked with them a long while until daybreak, and then left. 12They took away the boy alive, and were greatly comforted.

Acts 20:7 "On the first day of the week when we were gathered together to break bread" This shows the early Church's procedure of meeting on Sundays (the first workday of the week) to have a communal fellowship meal (Acts 20:11) and the memorial supper ("breaking bread" is a NT idiom for the Lord's Supper). Jesus Himself set the precedent of Sunday worship by His three post-resurrection appearances (cf. John 20:19, John 20:26; John 21:1; Luke 24:36; 1 Corinthians 16:2).

The Helps for Translator series (The Acts of the Apostles by Newman and Nida, p. 384) says that Luke is referring to Jewish time and that this would have been Saturday evening (cf. TEV), but most translations are more literal, "the first day of the week." This is the only use of this phrase in Acts. Paul uses the phrase "first day of the week" only in 1 Corinthians 16:2, where it implies Sunday.

"prolonged his message" Paul wanted to teach and encourage as much as possible (cf. Acts 20:2, Acts 20:31).

"until midnight" The Jews began the day at twilight or evening because of Genesis 1:0, while the Romans began the day at midnight.

Acts 20:8 "There were many lamps" This must have been a hot, stuffy, even smokey, atmosphere. It almost seems Luke is trying to explain why Eutychus fell asleep.

Acts 20:9 "a young man" The term here denotes a man in the prime of life. A different term is used in Acts 20:12. It denotes a child. Eutychus was a young adult.

"Eutychus. . .was sinking into a deep sleep, and as Paul kept on talking" This present passive participle shows the biblical evidence both for long sermons and sleeping listeners!

"was picked up dead" Apparently he was dead! See verse Acts 20:12.

Acts 20:10 "fell on him and embraced him" Paul acted much like Elijah and Elisha in the OT, who also raised the dead in this same manner (cf. 1 Kings 17:21; 2 Kings 4:34). He tells his audience not to be troubled, but in point of fact, I feel sure Paul was distressed by this event!

"Do not be troubled" This is a present imperative with a negative article which usually means to stop an act already in process.

Acts 2:12

NASB, TEV"and were greatly comforted" NKJV, NRSV"they were not a little comforted" NJB"and were greatly encouraged"

The NKJV and NRSV are literal and show Luke's propensity for negated understatements (cf. Acts 12:18; Acts 15:2; Acts 19:11, Acts 19:23, Acts 19:24; Acts 20:12; Acts 26:19, Acts 26:26; Acts 27:20; Acts 28:2).

Verses 13-16

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Acts 20:13-16 13But we, going ahead to the ship, set sail for Assos, intending from there to take Paul on board; for so he had arranged it, intending himself to go by land. 14And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and came to Mitylene. 15Sailing from there, we arrived the following day opposite Chios; and the next day we crossed over to Samos; and the day following we came to Miletus. 16For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus so that he would not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be in Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost.

Acts 20:13 "the ship" Paul's travel plans had to be changed because of a plot against his life, which had been planned to occur at sea (cf. Acts 20:3). Perhaps Paul wanted to know who was on this ship before he boarded. Paul went overland from Troas to Assos, where he would be picked up by the ship from Troas. All of the people mentioned in Acts 20:4 were already on this ship.

Acts 20:14 "came to Mitylene" This is the chief city of the island of Lesbos. It is the largest island off the coast of Asia Minor (western Turkey).

Acts 20:15-16 It is amazing how much Luke knew about sailing. He uses many technical sailing terms in his accounts ("we" sections) of Acts. Several of the "we" sections involve sea travel. Obviously he was a well educated man who traveled extensively.

Acts 20:15 "Chios" This is another island in the Aegean Sea. It is a long, narrow island very near the coast.

"Samos" This is yet another island off the west coast of Asia Minor, close to Ephesus.

"Miletus" This was once a large and important maritime city on the southern coast of Ephesus at the mouth of the Maeander River. Paul landed here and sent for the church leaders at Ephesus. It was about a thirty-mile trip.

Acts 20:16 "Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus" This seems to imply that Paul had some volitional control over the ship. If so, then either (1) they had hired a ship all to themselves or (2) they picked a ship that did not stop at Ephesus.

"if" This is a fourth class conditional (ei with optative mood), which expresses a wish.

"Pentecost" This was the Jewish feast fifty days after Passover. Paul missed Passover Feast because of verse Acts 20:3.


A. There is an element of self defense in this passage, as if some were continuing to attack Paul personally (cf. Acts 20:33).

B. This is the only example in Acts of Paul preaching to believers. In Acts 13:16ff he is addressing Jews, while in Acts 14:15ff and Acts 17:22ff he is addressing pagan Greeks.

C. This message has many parallels to Paul's letters, as one would expect. Paul's unique vocabulary is readily reflected in this farewell admonition. This shows Luke's faithfulness in recording the testimonies of others.

Verses 17-18

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Acts 20:17-18a 17From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church. 18And when they had come to him, he said to them,

Acts 20:17 "Miletus" This port was about 30 miles south of Ephesus.

"elders" From this word (presbuteros) we get "Presbyter" or "Presbyterian." Because of Acts 20:17, Acts 20:28 and Titus 1:5, Titus 1:7 the terms "elders" (presbuteroi) and "bishops" (episcopoi) are synonymous with the term "pastor" (poimenos, cf. Ephesians 4:11). The term "elder" had a Jewish background (Jewish tribal leaders) and "bishop" or "overseer" had a Greek city-state political/administrative background.

There are only two groups of local church leaders mentioned in the NTpastors and deacons (cf. Philippians 1:1). There may be three groups listed in 1 Timothy 3:0, which includes the widows' role or deaconesses (cf. Romans 16:1).

Notice that the term is plural. This probably refers to house-church leaders (cf. Acts 11:30; Acts 14:23; Acts 15:2, Acts 15:4, Acts 15:6, Acts 15:22-23; Acts 16:4; Acts 21:18; 1 Timothy 5:17, 1 Timothy 5:19; Titus 1:5; James 5:14; 1 Peter 5:1).

"the church" This Greek term (ekklesia) is the word used for a town assembly (cf Acts 19:39). However, it was used to translate the OT phrase "the congregation (qahal) of Israel" in the Septuagint. The early church chose it to describe the new body of believers because it identified them with the OT people of God. The NT church saw themselves as the true fulfillment of the OT promise because Jesus of Nazareth was the true Messiah. See Special Topic at Acts 5:11.

Verses 18-24

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Acts 20:18-24 18"You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, 19serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews; 20how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, 21solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 22And now, behold, bound in spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me. 24But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God."

Acts 20:18 "You yourselves know. . .how I was with you the whole time" Paul's walk and talk confirmed his relationship with Christ. The fact that Paul states this so strongly in Acts 20:18-19 shows the presence of critics.

Acts 20:19 "serving the Lord with all humility" This term begins a list of Christian virtues which produces unity (cf. Ephesians 4:2-3). "Humility" is a uniquely Christian virtue which was not included in the Greek moralists' (Stoics) list of virtues. Both Moses (cf. Numbers 12:3) and Jesus (cf. Matthew 11:29) are described by this term. Paul uses it several times (cf. Ephesians 4:2; Philippians 2:3; Colossians 2:18, Colossians 2:23; Colossians 3:12).


"with tears and with trials" Paul lists the physical and emotional things that he faced as the Apostle to the Gentiles in 2 Corinthians 4:7-12; 2 Corinthians 6:3-10; 2 Corinthians 11:24-28. Ministry costs!

"through the plots of the Jews" There are several examples of these "plots" in Acts (cf. Acts 9:24; Acts 13:45, Acts 13:50; Acts 14:2, Acts 14:4, Acts 14:5, Acts 14:19; Acts 17:5, Acts 17:13; Acts 18:12; Acts 20:3; Acts 21:27; Acts 23:12, Acts 23:27, Acts 23:30; Acts 24:5-9, Acts 24:18-19).

Acts 20:20 "did not shrink" This is a sailing term (cf. Acts 20:27, an aorist middle indicative) for striking the sails when a ship approaches the dock.

"anything that was profitable" Paul taught them everything related to the gospel: how to receive it, how to live it, how to defend it, and how to promote it.

"teaching you publicly and from house to house" This probably means that not only did Paul teach in open public group meetings (not secret meetings), but also within individual houses (or possibly separate house churches). The point is they knew quite well how Paul acted among them and also what Paul said.

Paul must have been attacked by some local group. This was his way of deflecting the criticism

Acts 20:21 "testifying to both Jews and Greeks" There is one message for both groups. Often the presentation is varied but the content is the same, as the sermons in Acts (kerygma, see Special Topic at Acts 2:14) show. Paul made it a priority to present the gospel to the Jews first (cf. Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 1:18, 1 Corinthians 1:24).

"repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ" Repentance is a change of mind (Greek word), followed by a change of action (Hebrew word). It is one of at least two requirements for salvation. The other is faith in our Lord Jesus (cf. Mark 1:15; Acts 3:16, Acts 3:19; see Special Topic at Acts 3:16). One is negative (turning from self and sin). One is positive (turning to embrace Jesus and His atonement of our behalf). Both are required. I have come to believe that there are several NT requirements: certainly initial repentance and faith and continuing repentance and faith, but also obedience and perseverance.

There are some variants in the ancient Greek texts about "our Lord Jesus Christ." The title "Christ" is omitted in manuscript B (Vaticanus), but it is present in P74, א, A, and C. Like the vast majority of these variants, they do not change the sense of the text. The UBS4 Greek text believes the shorter reading is "almost certain" because there is no reason why any scribe would delete it, but there is evidence of them expanding parallel phrasing to the expected full phrasing (see Appendix Two: Textual Criticism).

Acts 20:22

NASB"bound in the spirit" NKJV"bound in the spirit" NRSV"a captive of the Spirit" TEV"in obedience to the Holy Spirit" NJB"in captivity to the Spirit"

This is a perfect passive participle. It shows Paul's sense of divine leadership (cf. Acts 18:21; Acts 19:21; Acts 20:23; 1 Corinthians 4:19; 1 Corinthians 7:40; 1 Corinthians 16:7). See SPECIAL TOPIC: SPIRIT (PNEUMA) IN THE NEW TESTAMENT at Acts 2:2 and the note at Acts 19:21. The Holy Spirit is mentioned in Acts 20:23.

Acts 20:23 "the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying the bonds and afflictions await me" This was probably done through different prophets being used by the Holy Spirit to warn Paul (cf. Acts 9:16; Acts 21:4, Acts 21:10-12). Often God sends and uses what seems negative, in purposeful, positive ways (cf. Isaiah 55:8-11). Paul was not detoured by personal hardship as long as he believed it served God's purposes.

Acts 20:24 "I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself" This type of thinking is the opposite of fallen human self-centered thinking. Christians have a different world view. They have died to self and sin and are alive to God (cf. Romans 6:0; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15; Galatians 2:20; 1 John 3:16). Death to the tyranny of self brings the freedom of selfless service.

"finish my course" This is an athletic term for running a race. Paul loves to use athletic metaphors. He often speaks of his life as an athletic event (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Galatians 2:2; Galatians 5:7; Philippians 2:16; Philippians 3:14; 2 Timothy 2:5; 2 Timothy 4:7). Paul believed God had a specific will, plan, purpose for his life.

"the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus" Paul received his call on the Damascus road (cf. Acts 9:0). All believers are called and gifted ministers (cf. Ephesians 4:11-12). This realization, this worldview will change the way we live (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:18-20). We are men and women on mission! We are saved to serve. We are all stewards of the gospel and the gift!

"the gospel of the grace of God" Fallen mankind's only hope is in the unchanging, gracious mercy of God. The Triune God has provided everything we need for abundant life. Our hope is in who He is and what He has done.

It is surprising how seldom Luke uses the noun "gospel" (not at all in Luke and only twice in Acts, Acts 15:7; Acts 20:24), but he uses the verb many, many times in both of his books.

Verses 25-35

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Acts 20:25-35 25"And now, behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will no longer see my face. 26Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. 28Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. 32And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33I have coveted no one's silver or gold or clothes. 34You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me. 35In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"

Acts 20:25 "I know that all of you. . .will see my face no more" He was planning to go to Spain (cf. Romans 15:24, Romans 15:28), but this possibly contextually refers to his upcoming, predicted imprisonment and possible death at Jerusalem. If the Pastoral Epistles describe Paul's fourth missionary journey then he did return to this very area again.

1. Ephesus, 1 Timothy 1:3; 1 Timothy 3:14; 1 Timothy 4:13

2. Miletus, 2 Timothy 4:20

3. Possibly even Troas, 2 Timothy 4:13.

Paul lived by faith in God's leadership. He did not know the specific future.

"preaching the kingdom" See note at Acts 2:34.

Acts 20:26 "I am innocent of the blood of all men" This is a Jewish idiom, like Acts 18:6, or more specifically, Ezekiel 3:16ff and 33:1ff. Paul had faithfully presented the gospel (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:17). Now those who responded and those who rejected bear the burden of their own decision. One to service, the other to destruction (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:15-16).

Acts 20:27 "I did not shrink" See note at Acts 20:20.

"the whole purpose of God" We must always proclaim God's full message, not just our favorite part! This may be an allusion to the Judaizers who claimed that Paul left out part of the message (i.e., Mosaic Law-Judaism) or to the charismatics of 2 Corinthians 12:0 who thought Paul was devoid of spiritual experiences. God's purpose is that humans be restored to full fellowship with Himself, which was the purpose of creation (cf. Genesis 1:26, Genesis 1:27; Genesis 3:8; Genesis 12:3).

Acts 20:28 "Be on guard for yourselves" This is a present active imperative. This admonition is also in 1 Corinthians 16:13; Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:10. The Christian life has both a divine and a human aspect. God always takes the initiative and sets the agenda, but believers must respond and continue to respond. In one sense we are responsible for our spiritual lives (cf. Philippians 2:12-13). What is true of individual believers, is true for church leaders (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:0).

"and for all the flock" This is a metaphor for the people of God (cf. Psalms 23:0; Luke 12:32; John 21:15-17). It is also the origin of the term "pastor." See note at Acts 20:17. Church leaders are responsible to God for themselves and their churches (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:0).

"the Holy Spirit has made you" This shows the divine call of God in choosing church leaders.

"overseers" See note at Acts 20:17.

"the church of God" "God" is found in the ancient Greek manuscripts P74, A, C, D, and E, while "Lord" is found in MSS א and B. Paul uses the phrase "church of God" often, but never the phrase "church of the Lord." The context supports "the church of the Lord" because the next phrase, "with His own blood," which surely refers to Christ. However, this is just the kind of editorial scribal change that one would expect (see Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary, pp. 480-482). Therefore the UBS4 Greek text retains "God," but gives it a "C" rating. "Lord" would be the most unusual and difficult reading (see Appendix Two: Textual Criticism).

This text serves as a good example of how scribes changed texts for theological reasons. A good discussion is found in Bart D. Ehrman's The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, pp. 87-89. Scribes altered texts to make them stronger doctrinally against the Christological heresies of their day. Acts 20:28 offers a variety of changes probably related to internal historical/theological tensions.

Before we throw up our hands in despair, we must remember that the New Testament has a superior textual tradition, far better than any other ancient writing. Although we cannot be absolutely sure of the exact wording of the original autographs, we still have a trustworthy and accurate text! The original words are in the variants. These variants do not affect any major doctrines!! See Rethinking New Testament Textual Criticism ed. David Alan Black.

"He purchased with His own blood" This reflects the OT concept of sacrificial substitution (cf. Leviticus 1-7; Isaiah 53:0). This emphasis is surprisingly not mentioned much in the kerygma of Acts (see James D. G. Dunn, Unity and Diversity in the NT, pp. 17-18). It is also possibly a strong reference to Jesus' deity (i.e., "church of God"). Paul often uses phrases which point to this truth (cf. Romans 9:5; Colossians 2:9; Titus 2:13).

It is also possible to translate this Greek phrase as "through His own," meaning near relative (i.e., His Son Jesus). F. F. Bruce, Commentary on the book of the Acts, p. 416 #59, says this phrase should be translated "by means of the blood of His own one," which he asserts is well attested in the Egyptian Koine papyri literature.

Acts 20:29 "savage wolves will come in among you" This is a metaphor based on the previously used metaphors of "flock" and "shepherd." This accentuates the problem of the false teachers, both from without (Acts 20:29) and within (Acts 20:30). They both came in sheep's clothing (cf. Matthew 7:15-23; Luke 10:3; John 10:12, also in interbiblical apocalyptic literature, I Enoch 89:10-27; IV Ezra 5:18). Believers must test those who claim to speak for God (cf. 1 John 4:1). Test them by their faithfulness to the gospel, both in word and deed (cf. Acts 20:18-24; Matthew 7:0; Romans 16:17-18).

Acts 20:30 "speaking perverse things" "Speaking" is a present active participle, while "perverse things" is a perfect passive participle, used as a substantive (direct object). Its basic meaning is "to twist." It is used to describe human society (cf. Luke 9:41; Philippians 2:15). This activity is described (different term) in 2 Peter 3:15-16.

"to draw away the disciples after them" The theological question is, "Are those drawn away, spiritually lost or confused?" (cf. Matthew 24:24). It is impossible to be dogmatic, but true faith continues! (cf. 1 John 2:18).


Acts 20:31 "be on the alert" This is a present active imperative (cf. Mark 13:35), which is parallel to Acts 20:28, "Be on guard for yourselves" (present active imperative). God's leaders and God's church must be on constant watch for false teachersnot those who disregard our personal preferences, but those who disregard the gospel and its lifestyle implications.

"for three years" This refers to Paul's stay in Ephesus. This time indication includes all of Paul's activity in the area. He stayed longer with these believers than with any other city, church, or area. They knew the gospel. Now they must protect it and spread it!

Acts 20:32 "commend you to God" This means "entrust to" (cf. Acts 14:23). We are responsible to God for the gospel we have been entrusted with (cf. 1 Timothy 1:18). We are responsible to pass it on to others who will pass it on (cf. 2 Timothy 2:2).

The name "God" is found in MSS P74, א, A, C, D, and E. The term "Lord" is found in MS B. UBS4 gives Theos a "B" rating (almost certain).

"and to the word of His grace" This is a synonymous phrase for "the gospel." See note at Acts 20:24.

"able to build you up" Notice that it is the person and truth of God (the gospel) that leads to maturity (cf. Acts 9:31). Paul uses this metaphor often. This Greek word can be translated both "build up" or "edify" (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:0). This is the goal of the gospel, not just the maturity of the individual believer, but of the whole church.


"and to give you the inheritance" In the OT God was the inheritance of the Levites and Priests. In the NT God is all believers' inheritance because believers are God's children through the person and work of Christ (cf. Romans 8:15, Romans 8:17; Galatians 4:1-7; Colossians 1:12).

NT believers, like the OT Israelites, are priests (cf. 1 Peter 2:5, 1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6). We are meant to minister to the lost world.

"among all those who are sanctified" This is a perfect passive participle. See SPECIAL TOPIC: NEW TESTAMENT HOLINESS/SANCTIFICATION at Acts 9:32.

Acts 20:33 "silver or gold or clothes" These were items of wealth. Paul is defending his actions and motives. In the NT greed and sexual exhortation are often hallmarks of false teachers (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:10-17).

Acts 20:34 "ministered to my own needs" Paul refused to take help from the churches he currently served because of the constant accusation by the false teachers concerning his motives. Paul supported himself (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:12; 1 Corinthians 9:3-7; 2 Corinthians 11:7-12; 2 Corinthians 12:13; 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13). Also Paul, being a trained rabbi, would have personal qualms about accepting money for teaching. However, he asserts that ministers of the gospel should be paid (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:3-18; 1 Timothy 5:17-18).

There is an excellent brief history of the first century Mediterranean world by James S. Jeffers, The Greco-Roman World of the New Testament Era. It mentions that Paul alludes to working with his own hands to provide his physical needs in all three missionary journeys (cf. p. 28).

1. First journey, 1 Corinthians 4:12; 1 Corinthians 9:6; 1 Thessalonians 2:9

2. Second journey, Acts 18:3

3. Third journey, Acts 19:11-12; Acts 20:34; 2 Corinthians 12:14

Acts 20:35 Notice that the believers' hard labor is not for personal gain or luxury, but for the sake of others in need in Christ's name (cf. 2 Corinthians 9:8-11). Paul's quote from Jesus is not found in any of the Gospels. Therefore, it must be an oral tradition.

This "weak" is not used here in the sense of over scrupulous Christians (cf. Romans 14:1; Romans 15:1; 1 Corinthians 8:9-13; 1 Corinthians 9:22), but physically needy. Paul worked to support himself and other believers in need.

Verses 36-38

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Acts 20:36-38 36When he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37And they began to weep aloud and embraced Paul, and repeatedly kissed him, 38grieving especially over the word which he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they were accompanying him to the ship.

Acts 20:36 "knelt down" This was not the usual posture of prayer from Paul's Jewish background. This was possibly a special commitment ritual (cf. Acts 20:32; Acts 21:5).

Acts 20:37 "embraced Paul" The NKJV is more literal, "fell on Paul's neck." Thank God for church leaders who come to help us!

Acts 20:38 "grieving especially over the word which he had spoken" This refers to Acts 20:25.

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Acts 20". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/acts-20.html. 2021.
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