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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Acts 20

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. XX.

Paul goeth to Macedonia: he celebrateth the Lord's supper, and preacheth. Eutychus, being killed by a fall, is raised to life. At Miletus he calleth the elders together, telleth them what shall befal to himself, committeth God's flock to them, warneth them of false teachers, commendeth them to God, prayeth with them, and goeth his way.

Anno Domini 60.


Verse 3

Acts 20:3. And there abode three months. It seems that St. Paul met with sacred business here and in other places, which detained him longer than he expected


Verse 4

Acts 20:4. There accompanied him—Sopater, &c.— The several persons mentioned in this verse are thought by some to have been joined with St. Paul, as messengers of the churches, in carrying their contributions to the poor brethren at Jerusalem. Compare 1 Corinthians 16:3-4 and 2 Corinthians 8:19-23. We know but few particulars of most of them. Sopater, who in most ancient manuscripts is called the son of Pyrrhus, is generally thought to be the same with Sosipater, whom St. Paul has mentioned as his kinsman, Romans 16:21. Aristarchus of Thessalonica is mentioned before as a Macedonian, ch. Acts 19:29. He attended St. Paul in his voyage to Rome, ch. Acts 27:2 and was his fellow-labourer, Philemon 1:24 and a fellow-prisoner with him, Colossians 4:10-11. Secundus is not mentioned any where but here. Gaius of Derbe (if he be not a differentperson of the same name,) is elsewhere mentioned as a man of Macedonia, ch. Acts 19:29 of which, as some suppose, he was a native; but descended of a family that came from Derbe: he was baptized by St. Paul at Corinth, 1 Corinthians 1:14 and entertained him as his host while he abode there, Romans 16:23 and afterwards St. John directs his third Epistle to him. Timothy was a native of Lystra, Acts 16:1 whom St. Paul particularly honoured with the appellation of his friend, and distinguished by his two epistles to him, as well as by joining his name with his own in the title of several other epistles. Tychicus of Asia was often employed on messages by St. Paul and is more than once recommended by him to the churches, as a beloved brother, a faithful minister and fellow-servant in the Lord; whom he employed not only to acquaint them with his own affairs, but for this purpose also, that he might know their state and comfort their hearts, Ephesians 6:21-22. Colossians 4:7-8. Trophimus of Ephesus appears to have been a Gentile convert, whom we find afterwards with St. Paul at Jerusalem, ch. Acts 21:29 and who attended him in other journeys, till he left him at Miletum sick, 2 Timothy 4:20. These two last are said to be Asiatics; and being distinguished here from Gaius and Timothy, who were of Derbe and Lystra, which lay in Asia Minor, it is plain that they are so called as being natives of the proconsular Asia.


Verse 6

Acts 20:6. Where we abode seven days. St. Paul might choose to do this so much the rather, as he had declined such great views of service as were open to him when he passed through it before, in his way to Macedonia, 2 Corinthians 2:12-13. Perhaps he might now lodge at the house of Carpus; but it seems to have been on a later journey, that he left there the books and other things to which he refers, 2 Timothy 4:13. It plainly appears, from the manner in which St. Luke speaks here, and all along afterwards, that he attended St. Paul in all this journey and voyage; though, by his altering the expression, he does not seem to have been with him since he was at Philippi, in his former progress. See ch. Acts 16:10; Acts 16:12.


Verse 7

Acts 20:7. The disciples came together to break bread, That is, to celebrate the eucharist. It is strange, that Barclay, in his Apology, (prop. 13: sect. 8.) should argue from Acts 20:11 that this was only a common meal, and not the Lord's supper. It is well known, that the primitive Christians administered the eucharist every Lord's day; and as that was the most solemn and appropriate as well as the concluding act of their worship, there is no wonder that it should be mentioned as the end of their assembly: whereas had nothing more than a common meal been intended, St. Luke would hardly have thought that worth mentioning; especially when, St. Paul being with them on a Lord's day, they would naturally have something far nobler and more important in view: in which accordingly we find them employed; and it is quite unreasonable to suppose that they spent their time in feasting, which neither the occasion nor the hour would well admit. The argument which some over-zealous Papists have drawn from this text, for denying the cup in the sacrament to the laity, was so solemnly given up in the council of Trent, that it is astonishing any who profess to believe the divine authority of that council, should ever have presumed to plead it again. See Father Paul's History, b. 3: p. 486.


Verse 9

Acts 20:9. In a window The word θυρις, plainly signifies an open window, with a sort of wooden casement, a little door, which was set open that the room might not be over-heated with so much company and so many lamps. It is well known, that the ancients had not yetglass in their windows; norindeed are the windows glazed at this day in the east and many parts of Europe.


Verse 10

Acts 20:10. And Paul—fell on him, This expression probably signifies that St. Paul threw himself on the body, as Elijah and Elisha did on those whom they intended to raise by the power of God, 1 Kings 17:21. 2 Kings 4:34. The word Συμπεριλαβων, may either signify his embracing him at the same time, or his lifting him up in his arms with the assistance of some who stood near.


Verses 13-15

Acts 20:13-15. Assos, &c.— Assos was a principal town on the sea-coast of Asia, in Mysia. Mitylene, (Acts 20:14.) was a celebrated sea-port in the island of Lesbos. Chios (Acts 20:15.) was an island between Lesbos and Samos, famous for producing some of the finest Grecian wines. Samos was a celebrated island of the Archipelago, upon the court of Asia Minor. Trogyllium was a promontory of Iona, not far from Samos. Miletus was a town on the continent of Asia Minor, and in the province of Caria; memorable for being the birth-place of Thales, one of the seven wise men, and founder of the Ionic sect of philosophy: at present the place is called by the Turks Melas. Not far distant from it is the famous river Maeander, which, though it encircles the plains it runs through with innumerable mazes and windings, yet in some places rolls with a very rapid and impetuous current. St. Paul put into the mouth of this river in his course toward Miletus.


Verse 16

Acts 20:16. If it were possible—to be at Jerusalem This was, that he might have an opportunity of meeting a greater number of people from Judea and other parts, the days being then longer than at any other feast. In consequence of this, some journeys might perhaps be saved, and many prejudices against St. Paul's person and ministry obviated; and, which was particularly considerable, the readiest and best opportunity taken of distributing to those Jewish Christians who lived perhaps at some distance from Jerusalem, part of the alms with which he was charged. Yet, by a mysterious providence, this very circumstance of meeting so many strangers at the feast, was the occasion of his imprisonment. See ch. Acts 21:27, &c. and the note on ch. Acts 18:2


Verse 21

Acts 20:21. Testifying both to the Jews, &c.— The word rendered testifying sometimes means to prove a thing by testimony (ch. Acts 2:40, Acts 8:25.); and sometimes, from a conviction ofits truth and importance, to urge it with great earnestness; 1 Timothy 5:21. 2 Timothy 2:14. It is plain that we are to take it in the latter sense in this place, but both are included, Acts 20:24. Repentance toward God, implies our turning to him in sorrow and contrition, as he is infinitely offended by sin; and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ signifies the making Christ the grand object of our faith and confidence for the pardon of our sins, the sanctification of our souls—in short, as the meritorious cause of every blessing that we can possibly receive for time and eternity.


Verse 22

Acts 20:22. I go bound in the Spirit "Under the strong impulse of the Spirit of God upon my mind; intimating my duty to me in such a manner, that I can neither omit nor delay it, but am firmly resolved to proceed to Jerusalem."


Verse 24

Acts 20:24. But none of these things move me But I make no account of any of these things. It adds great beauty to this and all the other passages of scripture, in which the apostles express their contempt of the world, that they were not uttered by persons, like Seneca and Antoninus, in the full affluence of its enjoyments; but by men under the pressure of the greatest calamities, who were every day exposing their lives for the sake of God, and in the expectation of a happy immortality. To what has been observed respecting the word testify, on Acts 20:21 we add, that in heathen writers it is used in a forensic sense, for contesting by law, and pleading in a cause; and hence it signifies, earnestly to contend, or to persuade by arguments and threatenings. In the LXX in signifies to protest, to convince, to press earnestly, to persuade. It is most frequently used by St. Luke in a very intense signification, and is sometimes joined with exhorting or earnestly persuading to a thing, as in ch. Acts 18:5 where being pressed in the spirit, signifies intenseness and vehemency in testifying to them;—that he did vehemently endeavour to convince them; and it seems to be equivalent to the expression, Acts 20:28 where it is said, Apollos did mightily convince them. St. Paul uses this word in a most vehement sense, 1 Timothy 5:21. The word here, signifies not only St. Paul's bearing his testimony to the truth of the gospel, but his preaching, pressing, and persuading to the acceptance of it with the greatest earnestness.


Verse 25

Acts 20:25. I know that ye all, &c.— It appears evident that the apostle had received some particular revelation, that if he should even return to these parts of Asia again (as from Philemon 1:22 it seems likely he might), yet that he should not have an opportunityof calling at Ephesus, or of seeingthe ministers whom he now addressed.


Verse 27

Acts 20:27. I have not shunned to declare unto you The proper import of the word υποστελλω, here rendered shun, in such a connection, is to disguise any important truth, or, at least, to decline the open publication of it, for fear of displeasing those to whom it ought to be declared. "I have not declined to declare unto you, with the utmost freedom and integrity, all the counsel of God; but, on the contrary, have laid before you the whole system of divine truths, relating to our redemption by Christ, and the way to eternal happiness through and with him, in the most plain and faithful manner, whatever censure, contempt or opposition, I might incur by such a declaration."


Verse 28

Acts 20:28. Hath made you overseers, &c.— ' Επισκοπους, Inspectors, or bishops. The expression over which the Holy Ghost hath made, &c. applied to men who had been regularly set apart to the ministerial office, shews how absurd it is for any to reject the ministry in general, under a pretence that they have the Holy Ghost to teach them. This passage must be allowed as an incontestable proof, that the blood of Christ is here called the blood of God, as being the blood of that Man, who is God with us,—God manifested in the flesh; and who is over all, God blessed for ever.


Verse 29

Acts 20:29. Grievous wolves Some, thinking that the word βαρεις properly alludes to the strength of these animals, would render it oppressive; but there seems no reason to depart from our version. Their eager and overbearing temper made them, no doubt, grievous to the Christian church, though destitute of the secular power. The apostle evidently makes a distinction between the wolves, who were to break in upon them from without, and the perverse teachers, who were to arise from among themselves. Both may be interpreted of seducers who call themselves Christians, as false prophets are called by Christ wolves in sheep's clothing, Matthew 7:15. For St. Paul would not have spoken of Heathen persecutors, as to arise after his departure, considering what extremities from persons of that kind he had himself suffered in Asia, 2 Corinthians 1:8-10. It seems probable therefore, that, by the grievous wolves, he means: judaizing false apostles, who, though they had before this time done a great deal ofmischief at Corinth and elsewhere, had not yet got any footing at Ephesus; and by the perverse men arising from among themselves, he may mean such as Phygellus and Hermogenes, and some others who revived the exploded doctrine of Hymenaeus and Alexander; as also those who afterwards introduced the Nicolaitan principles and practices, of which Christ so awefully complains as prevailing here, as well as in the neighbouring city of Pergamos. See Revelation 6:14-15.


Verse 31

Acts 20:31. To warn every one night and day with tears. If this expression be taken in any other than a general sense for incessantly, or without intermission, it may probably intimate that the Christians sometimes assembled at nights, either about the time of the tumult, to avoid offence, or because many of the Christians, being poor, were obliged to spend great part of the day in secular labours. Compare Acts 20:7; Acts 20:34.


Verse 32

Acts 20:32. Which is able Who is able: for God is evidently the last person mentioned in the Greek, of the grace of him [ αυτου ] who is able: though the gospel may be said to be able to edify men, yet it seems harsh to say, that doctrines or writings can give us an inheritance.


Verse 35

Acts 20:35. To support the weak, &c.— To assist the infirm, The word ασθενουντων has exactly this signification; and, as Raphelius has shewn, may express either sickness or poverty; yet here undoubtedly it signifies such poor persons as were disabled by some means or other from maintaining themselves by their own labour. Compare Ephesians 4:28. The evangelists have assured us, that they neither intended to relate, nor have related, all that our Lord did and said; the latter clause therefore, quoted by St. Paul, was one of those which they omitted, and was probably a favourite saying of our Lord's.

Inferences.—What a mercy is it to see the servants of Christ get safe through the uproars that are at any time made against them, and to take our leave of them in peace! And how affectionately should they part with their Christian friends and brethren, who cannot but be grieved at the loss of their edifying company and ministrations; especially when they have reason to think that they shall never see their faces any more! But in the most afflictive and self-denying cases, it becomes us to say, The will of the Lord be done: however, since ministers must die as well as other men, how ready should we be to accompany them, as long as we can; in their services and sufferings, and to attend their holy ministrations, especially on the Lord's days, which are divinely set apart for the celebration of sacred ordinances, such as hearing the word, breaking of bread, and prayer! And whenever we are engaged in religious worship, how should we watch against drowsiness and sleep, lest we meet with a rebuke like Eutychus, who fell down dead; though God, for his own glory, and the comfort of his people, raised him to life again? How indefatigable was the great apostle in the service of his Lord! He sometimes laboured with his hands to supply his own and others' wants, as knowing that our Saviour himself said, It is more blessed to give than to receive; and at other times he laid himself out, by night and by day, for counselling, cautioning, establishing, and building up believers, and directing the pastors of churches, as well as for the conversion of sinners. What an excellent pattern has he set the ministers of the gospel! And how happy is it for them to be able, with a good conscience, and in view of a future judgment, to appeal to their hearers, at their last parting, as witnesses for them! With what prayers and tears, affectionate concern and holy zeal, humility, condescension, and contempt of this world, should they, like this great apostle, serve the Lord Jesus, amid the various trials that befal them! With what unbiassed and disinterested faithfulness and plainness should they declare the whole counsel of God, insisting especially on the most necessary and practical parts of it, such as repentance and faith, that the guilt of souls that perish may be chargeable upon their own stupidity and obstinacy, and not on any partiality or neglect of those that ministered to them! And how cheerfully should they follow the footsteps of Providence in their ministrations, whatever dangers it may expose them to! They should expect sufferings for the sake of Christ, and even despise their own lives, in comparison with finishing their course with joy, and fulfilling the trust which Christ has committed to them, for setting forth the excellencies of the gospel of the grace of God. O with what diligence should they look to themselves, and to the church of the dear Saviour, who is God, and by his own infinitely dignified blood has purchased it for himself! How, in love and duty to him, and to the Holy Ghost who has made them overseers, should they feed his people with sound doctrine, and watch over them in the Lord, that neither secret nor open enemies may seduce any of them! But, alas, who is sufficient for these things! And how much need have pastors, as well as their flocks, to be recommended by prayer, and to commit themselves by faith to Christ, and to the power and promises of God through him, to carry them on with an increase of gifts, graces, and success, and to give them a free admission at last to the eternal inheritance, which is to be enjoyed by none but holy souls!

REFLECTIONS.—1st, Soon after the uproar, which Demetrius raised, had ceased, St. Paul determined to proceed on his journey as he had before purposed.

1. After an affectionate parting with the brethren, St. Paul set off for Macedonia to visit the churches that he had planted; and, having gone over those parts, and given them much exhortation to persevere, amidst all opposition, in the profession of the faith which they had embraced, he came to Greece,—into Achaia, where he abode three months, employed in the same profitable manner, confirming and strengthening the faithful; and thence was purposing to sail for Syria, in order to go directly to Jerusalem; but, by intelligence or inspiration, having learned that the Jews intended to way-lay and murder him, and carry off the collection which the churches had made for their poor brethren in Judea, he changed his route, and returned through Macedonia.

2. The companions of his travels into Asia were Sopater of Berea; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timotheus; and of Asia, Tychicus and Trophimus; and now Luke the historian, who had probably been left in those parts before, to carry on the work so prosperously begun, seems to have joined the apostle's train. The rest, going before, tarried for Paul and Luke, and those who accompanied them, at Troas; whither they followed immediately after the passover, sailing from Philippi; and in five days joined their companions at Troas, where they stayed seven days.

2nd, Seven days the apostle abode at Troas, desirous to spend one Lord's day with the disciples, before he went on his journey. And a blessed day, no doubt, it was to the church in that place.

1. According to their established custom, upon the first day of the week, which had succeeded to the Jewish sabbath, and, in memory of the Lord's resurrection and the descent of the Holy Ghost, was consecrated henceforward to God's more immediate service in all acts of religious worship and for the public administration of the ordinances, the disciples came together to break bread, commemorating, as they constantly did every week, the sacrifice and sufferings of their Lord. Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and, having much to say, and being probably not likely ever again to have another opportunity of speaking to them, his warm heart led him on, so that he continued his speech until midnight, unwearied in exhortation, and addressing himself to those who counted the longest of his discourses short. And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together; they were content to put up with this probably mean inconvenient place of meeting; and, as no deeds of darkness were found among them, they took care that the place should be well illuminated, to confute the malicious insinuations of their enemies. Note; According to the practice of the apostles and the primitive church, the first day of the week is appointed for the assemblies of the faithful disciples of Jesus, to join together in all acts of religious worship, hear his word, partake of his ordinances, and maintain communion with each other. They who neglect the assembling of themselves together, as the manner of some is, evidently shew that they have renounced Christianity, and have no part nor lot among the faithful in Christ Jesus.

2. A melancholy accident happened to a youth in the company, whose name was Eutychus. He sat in a window that was open; and, the apostle lengthening his sermon so much more than usual, sleep overtook the young man; and, falling backward through the window, which was three stories high, he was killed on the spot—a warning to those who sleep under sermons, where they have none of those things to plead which might be urged in his excuse.

3. St. Paul raises him again to life. It served for a momentary interruption to the assembly, but in the issue contributed to the furtherance of their faith and joy. The apostle immediately went down, and fell on him, and embracing him, as Elijah stretched himself on the dead corpse of the widow of Sarepta's son, 1 Kings 17:21 said, Trouble not yourselves, for his life is in him, restored by divine power. Then he returned to the room where they had assembled, and, after the administration of the Lord's supper, spent the remainder of the night, till break of day, in sweet communion and conversation; when, in the most affectionate manner, he took his leave. But, before they parted, they brought the young man alive into the assembly; and were not a little comforted, as some reproach might have been cast upon them, had he thus died; but now it tended to the credit of the gospel. Note; (1.) They who know the sweetness and profit of Christian conference, are glad to improve every moment while in the company of those faithful ministers, whose discourse so greatly tends to quicken and comfort them. (2.) Providences which appear at first view very afflictive, God can and often does overrule to the increase of our joy.

3rdly, St. Paul now without delay hastened to Jerusalem. His companions went by ship before to Assos, where they were to take in the apostle, who, for some important reasons which we are not told, resolved to go thither on foot. There embarking, they all sailed for Mitylene, whence, without stropping, they proceeded the next day as far as the isle of Chios; and the next arriving at Samos, they made a short stay at Trogyllium: the following day they arrived at Miletus, sailing by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia; for he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem, the day of Pentecost; and he apprehended that the importunity of his Ephesian friends might have delayed him. Note; When the glory of God and the business of our station call for our attendance, pleasant and delightful as it is to enjoy the company of our dear friends, we must forego that satisfaction.

4thly, Though St. Paul would not call at Ephesus, he greatly desired to see the elders of the church, and therefore sent for them to Miletus. They attended him accordingly at Miletus, where he addressed to them such an affecting and solemn discourse, as can scarce, even now, be read by any gracious heart without a tear.

1. He begins with a noble appeal to them concerning his life and doctrine during the time he had sojourned among them.

[1.] As to his life. Ye know from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, how exemplary, holy, and unblamable his conversation had been; how uniform his conduct; how steady amidst all his trials; serving the Lord with all humility of mind. His master's service was his one business; and, amidst all the honours which the Lord had put upon him, he sought no glory nor applause; but, with the lowliest thoughts of himself, and deepest condescensions towards others, was ready to stoop to any service, even to the meanest, whereby the Saviour might be glorified, and the bodies or souls of men be benefited; and with many tears, in his prayers for them, and affectionate discourses to them, he watched over their spiritual welfare, deeply concerned for those who obstinately rejected the counsel of God against their own souls, tenderly sympathizing with the afflictions of the faithful, and lamenting over backsliders and apostates; and with many temptations, added he, which befel me, by the lying in wait of the Jews, ever contriving his destruction: in all which his approved fidelity had been abundantly manifested, and his example remained for their imitation.

[2.] As to his doctrine. Ye know how I kept back from you nothing that was profitable unto you, not shunning, with all simplicity and sincerity, to declare the whole counsel of God; unawed by fears, undismayed by difficulties, uninfluenced by any worldly motives; and have shewed you and have taught you publicly in the congregation, and privately from house to house, continually labouring to diffuse a sweet savour of Christ, and to communicate edification, encouragement, and consolation, wherever he went; testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, with the most earnest affection and concern, repentance toward God, the necessity and nature of it, as implying a deep and humbling sense of sin, its evil malignity, and danger; a genuine self-abhorrence in the view of its guilt and ingratitude, with an unfeigned and unreserved renunciation of it; and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, directing sinners to him as the great object of all their hopes, describing the fulness, freedom, and all-sufficiency of his salvation, and urging them to trust in his infinite merit and intercession for pardon, peace, adoption, glory. Note; (1.) What was St. Paul's doctrine must be ours, if ever we would approve ourselves to God, and profit men's souls; under the influence of the spirit desiring to lead them to a deep conviction of their ruin, and a humbling sense of their sins, and then pointing out the glorious remedy provided in a crucified Jesus. (2.) They who have the care of immortal souls lying upon them, can never be too diligent. Their private conversation must breathe the same spirit as their discourses in the pulpit; and every company where they are found, should be the wiser and better for them. (3.) No fear or shame should ever lead us to suppress a tittle of those glorious gospel truths which are so offensive to human pride; at least, it should be our labour to deliver our own souls, whether men will hear, or whether they will forbear.

2. He lets them know what a series of sufferings was before him. He left them not to avoid the cross, but was about to encounter greater persecutions than ever. And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, led thither by the mighty constrainings of the Holy Ghost, and fully determined in my own soul to follow his guidance and direction; not knowing the things that shall befal me there; the particular sufferings to which he should be exposed, God had not revealed to him; save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying, that bonds and afflictions abide me; either in general he had this notice given him, or, in every city he passed through, the divinely-inspired prophets foretold the sufferings which awaited him: but none of these things move me, to terrify him from his duty, or shake his constant mind; neither count I my life dear unto myself; valuable as it was, he paid no regard to it, when the cause of Christ called him to death or danger, content to suffer whatever the Lord pleased to permit; so that I might finish my course with joy, accomplishing his blessed Master's work, and reaching the prize of his high calling; and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God, freely and openly publishing the unsearchable riches of Christ, and proving by the fullest evidence, the truth that he declared; displaying in the most reviving manner the unmerited and boundless love and grace of God, manifested in the gospel of his dear son towards sinners. Note; (1.) If our hearts are truly fixed on God, and our conversation in heaven, we shall look down upon the malice of men and devils as unable to hurt us, and fearless put our lives in our hands, when Christ calls for them. (2.) Life is our race, and death the goal; our one concern is to finish our course with joy; and that by persevering fidelity approving ourselves to God, we may receive the crown of life and glory which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give to all his faithful servants. (3.) Our ministry is received from the Lord; and to him must we shortly render up the solemn account. (4.) The grand subject of all discourses, if we would fulfil that ministry we have received of the Lord, must be the gospel of the grace of God, in opposition to all the pride of self-sufficiency, labouring to make lost sinners know the necessity of a free justification through the merit and intercession of a Redeemer, and, from a view of their utter impotence and corruption, to lead them to those supplies of grace and strength which can only be derived from him.

3. He informs them that he is now taking his last leave of them, and appeals to God for his freedom from the blood of all men. And now, behold, I know, that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, the doctrines, privileges, and duties thereof, shall see my face no more, nor ever again enjoy my personal ministry among you. Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men; for I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. He appeals therefore to them in the presence of God for his fidelity: the whole truth of the gospel, so far as God had revealed it to him, he had declared; and now, if any souls among them perished, their blood was on their own heads; he was free. Note; (1.) It is a singular satisfaction, when we can make such an appeal to God, and to those to whom we have ministered, for our simplicity and faithfulness in the discharge of our sacred trust. (2.) The whole counsel of God, without reserve, must be declared; the truths of God need no concealment: and they shew their ignorance of the spirit of the gospel, who mention its glorious privileges with timidity, pretending fear, lest the free and boundless grace of God should be perverted to licentiousness. We must declare it: let men abuse it at their peril.

4. He gives them a solemn parting charge. Take heed unto yourselves, that your own conversation may be exemplary, and your souls influenced by that gospel which you preach to others; and to all the flock committed to your charge, for whom you must give an aweful account shortly before the great Shepherd and Bishop of souls; over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, appointing you to your office, and furnishing you with gifts for the discharge of it; to feed the church of God with knowledge and understanding, and to preside over them with wisdom and meekness; which he hath purchased with his own blood; the inestimable value of their souls therefore is evident, when he who is very God, became incarnate, and submitted to the death of the cross, to make atonement for their sins, and to purchase them for his own. Did Jesus bleed to redeem them, and can we, if called to the ministry of the gospel, be his servants, and not desire to spend and be spent in the service of their faith? Surely a negligent minister, beyond all others, tramples under foot the blood of the Son of God.

5. He warns them of the dangers against which they would be called to contend, and exhorts them to be watchful. For I know this, by revelation, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you; both persecutors will ravage, and false teachers more terribly seek to corrupt the faith, and ruin the souls of the people, not sparing the flock, using every vile art to seduce, ensnare, and destroy them. Also of your ownselves shall men arise, of those who now perhaps make a fair profession, and in whom you place confidence; speaking perverse things, departing from the simplicity of the gospel, disseminating pernicious heresies, and introducing dangerous innovations, to draw away disciples after them, and erect themselves into heads of parties. (See 2 Timothy 1:15; 2 Timothy 2:18. ) Therefore watch, the greatest vigilance would be necessary; and, being forewarned, they were fore-armed, and should with indefatigable diligence endeavour to confirm the disciples' faith, and caution them against those deluders; that they may not by them be moved away from the hope of the gospel: and remember the example which I have set you, which you are called to imitate; that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears; so fervently and affectionately had he been concerned for them, carefully observing the first efforts of deceivers, jealous over the least appearances of a declension from the purity of the faith and the simplicity of the gospel, lamenting with deepest sorrow when any staggered or fainted in their mind, and declined from their holy profession: and ceaseless in his admonitions, he endeavoured to recover the fallen, and to warn others to be more watchful, taught by their sad examples. Oh that we, who are put in trust with the gospel, may be enabled to shew such zeal, fidelity, and affectionate concern toward the souls of our people!

6. He solemnly commends them to the divine care and keeping. And now, brethren, having admonished you of the dangers you must encounter, and knowing that more than mortal wisdom and strength are needful for you that you may approve your fidelity to Christ, I commend you to God, to his power to protect, his wisdom to guide, his spirit to comfort you; and to the word of his grace, to his written and revealed word, for your conduct and direction, or to the essential word Christ Jesus, out of whose fulness alone they must receive grace for grace, and by him be preserved and kept steadfast amidst all the wiles of deceivers, and the opposition of persecutors; which is able to build you up, in faith, hope, and holiness, to establish you unto the end, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified, preparing you for that kingdom which he hath prepared for his faithful saints in light and glory everlasting. Note; (1.) None may hope for a part among God's saints in heaven, who are not partakers of their grace upon earth, and sanctified by the Holy Ghost. (2.) The gospel is the great means of producing, through the power of divine grace, true sanctification.

7. He particularly reminds them of the deadness which he had shewn to this world, and of his labours, that he might not be beholden to any man for a provision, while he freely preached the gospel. I have coveted no man's silver or gold, or apparel, content with what he could obtain from his own industry, and burdensome to none of them for a maintenance. Yea, you yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities; entitled as he was to a liberal provision, he chose for the sake of the gospel to wave his right, and to work at his trade, by which he was enabled not only to earn a subsistence for himself, but also to help them that were with him, who were less able to provide for themselves: and this he did with a view particularly to the false teachers, that he might remove every shadow of objection which they would have been glad to urge against him. Thus, by my example, I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring as I have done, ye ought to support the weak, assisting the necessitous, and relieving their wants; and removing, as far as possible, every prejudice which the deceivers might seek to instil into the minds of the weak brethren, as if they laboured for mercenary ends. And to encourage them hereunto, he begs them to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive; it is more godlike, a mark of a more noble Christian spirit, to relieve the wants of others, and lay out ourselves for their good without a recompence, than to be burdensome to them for a maintenance.

5thly, Having finished this most affecting discourse,

1. He kneeled down, and prayed with them all, commending them solemnly to the Lord Jesus, and begging, no doubt, that they might be enabled faithfully to discharge the solemn trust committed to them, and observe the good counsel which he had delivered, Note; (1.) Ministers must water with their prayers the word sown, that God may give the increase. (2.)

Friends will do well to part in prayer, that if it please God they may meet here again in peace; and, if not, that they may together shortly unite their never ending praises before the throne of God and of the Lamb.

2. They parted with floods of tears and the most affectionate embraces. They all wept sore, deeply affected with his discourse, his prayer, and his departure from them; and fell on Paul's neck, and kissed him, taking their last farewel of their dear pastor, with hearts full of love, and swelling with grief; sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. To part was bitter; to part for a long while, would have been yet more irksome; but to part, without the hope of ever meeting again among the living here below—this added peculiar anguish to the separation, and antedated the funeral sorrows: it was a kind of living burial. And they accompanied him unto the ship, willing to enjoy his company to the last moment, and testify their deep respect and fervent love towards him; Note; Though our friends may be separated from us, so that we can see their faces no more upon earth, it is our consolation, if we are united in Jesus, and perseveringly cleave to him, that we shall assuredly meet in a better world, never to part again.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Acts 20:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/acts-20.html. 1801-1803.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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