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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Acts 20

 

 

Verse 1

3. Paul’s Departure for Southern Greece, and Return through Macedonia and Troas, Acts 20:1-12.

1. Uproar was ceased—With the close of this tumult closed Paul’s memorable ministry of three years (with perhaps some full vacations) in Ephesus. He had made preparations for departure before the disturbance, (Acts 19:22,) and he had fixed (1 Corinthians 16:8) the Pentecost of A.D. 57 as the limit of his stay. Assuming that this was the point of his departure, as he returned to Jerusalem to the Pentecost of 58, this his third missionary circuit, measured from Ephesus, filled a precise year.

Departed—As his route of departure is over old travelled ground, Luke dismisses it with few words; but the return route from Corinth is so pregnant with interest as to occupy a chapter and a half.

Into Macedonia—As he promised to the Corinthians, (1 Corinthians 16:5.) After writing his first epistle to the Corinthians he was so anxious as to its effect upon that Church that he sent Titus to Corinth to ascertain and report. Titus and his report he expected to receive at Troas, on his way to Macedonia. No Titus appeared, and in deep distress the apostle crossed over the Hellespont, and visited the Philippian Church. There he would meet Luke, whom he had left in Philippi six years before. And there too, to his joy, Titus came with a joyful report (2 Corinthians 7:6-7) from the Corinthian Church. That Church had expelled the immoral, and returned to its allegiance to Paul. Yet the Judaizers were at work, headed by a bold and talented, and yet to us unknown, leader, and this, in addition to the business of the collections for the poor saints at Jerusalem, called out

Paul’s Fourth Letter—THE SECOND EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS, from Macedonia, autumn, A.D. 57.

This epistle was sent by Titus, and a “brother” mentioned but not named in 2 Corinthians 8:18. whom we identify with Luke. For, 1. Luke was at this time at Philippi; 2. The words “whose praise in the Gospel is in all the Churches,” well describes one whose Gospel (probably published during his long residence in Antioch) was already in circulation among the Pauline Churches; 3. A few months afterward Paul, at Corinth, writing his epistle to Rome, named Luke (Lucius) as being at Corinth; 4. In this agree the ancient superscription at the end of the epistle, Origen, Jerome, Wetstein, Whitby, Wordsworth; and other high authorities. (See note on Acts 16:10.)


Verse 2

2. Gone over those parts—He travelled into, or at least as far as, Illyricum, (Romans 15:19.)

Greece—Southern Greece, distinguished, as was often the case, from Macedonia.


Verse 3

3. Jews laid wait—Probably at Cenchrea they plotted either to kidnap and slay him before he embarked, or, perhaps, embarking with him, to assassinate him at sea.


Verse 4

4. Accompanied—Seven persons now form Paul’s company, a retinue unprecedentedly large. They are said to have accompanied Paul to Asia; but as we find that both Aristarchus and Trophimus were with him at Jerusalem, it is probable the whole seven went thither. (See note on Acts 21:1.)


Verse 5

5. Tarried for us—Here at starting from Philippi, Luke suddenly recommences the “we passages.” (See note on Acts 16:10.)


Verse 6

6. The days of unleavened bread—The Passover. Paul purposed to be at Jerusalem by Pentecost, seven weeks afterward. He, doubtless, solemnly observed the Passover, or at any rate the Christian Easter or resurrection day. The result was that, owing probably to bad weather, he was five days instead of two in crossing the Hellespont to Troas. Assuming with most commentators that this journey took place in the year 58, we can with tolerable certainty name the days of each advance. The passover feast closed on April 3, which appears to have been on Tuesday; and Paul started from Neapolis, the port of Philippi, on Wednesday, April 4. The five days to Troas would terminate Saturday, April 8. After a week at Troas, he left on Monday, April 17.

Seven days—The Christian week.


Verse 7

7. First day of the week—This Church was founded the year before by Paul, and it seems by the phrase, when the disciples came together to, etc., that the practice of Sunday meetings was already established under Paul’s authority. The Roman philosopher Pliny, in a letter to the Emperor Trajan, from the near province of Bithynia, about fifty years after this period, well illustrates this fact in the following words: “They (the Christians) are accustomed to meet together on a stated day (stato die) before it is light, and sing among themselves alternately a hymn to Christ as God, and bind themselves by an oath (sacramento) not to the commission of any wickedness, but, on the contrary, not to be guilty of theft, or robbery, or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor to deny a pledge committed to them; and, when these things were ended, it was their custom to separate, and then to come together again to a meal, which they ate in common, without any disorder.”

It was, doubtless, at this second or evening meeting of Sunday night that Paul here preached, expecting to embark on Monday morning.

To break bread—Either the Lord’s supper, or the lovefeast, or both.

Speech— Rather, converse; implying an interchange of discourse.


Verses 7-12

Eutychus Raised from the Dead7-12.

All event divinely dispensed for the confirmation of the young Church at Troas.


Verse 8

8. Many lights—The whole scene, both of ministry and miracle, if not by daylight, took place under clear lamplight.

Upper chamber—(See note on Acts 1:13.)


Verse 9

9. In the window—On the window-sill, projecting out like a balcony; and the shutters were probably open to admit air.

Dead—Luke means to affirm complete death: for it is the miracle of the matter which forms the whole purpose of his narrating it.


Verse 10

10. Fell on him—Paul is now doubtless, conscious of the same miraculous power and impulse as inspired Elijah and Elisha to embrace the dead to redeem them from death, (1 Kings 17:21; 2 Kings 4:34.)

His life is in himLife or soul. It was not until after Paul’s miraculous embrace that it became true that his life was in him.


Verse 11

11. Come up again—From the ground to the third loft.

DepartedWent out, that is, from the upper room of the assemblage.


Verse 12

12. They brought—They presented the young man truly living before Paul and his companions, comforted alike by the restored life and by the miracle.


Verse 13

4. Paul’s Coast Voyage to Miletus, Acts 20:13-16.

13. To go afoot—By a short cut across the neck of the peninsula. Very probably Paul was accompanied by some of his converts of Troas desirous, apart from the ship’s company, to continue the converse in which they had beguiled the past night, as they never might see him more. A fine Roman road was open for his travel, lined by a celebrated forest of oaks, then, probably, in full foliage.


Verse 14

14. At Assos Paul is taken, in, and sails past “Mitylene the beautiful;” and Chios, birthplace of Homer, on Tuesday; and Samos, birthplace of AEsop, on Wednesday. Pensively must he have gazed toward Ephesus as he passed! One year ago Demetrius and his mob were plotting his life in the great theatre!


Verse 17

17. Miletus—Miletus, where Paul arrived on Thursday, April 20, was located on the southwestern point of the Latmian Gulf, near the emptying of the river Meander into the sea.

Sent to Ephesus—About thirty-six miles distance. Paul may have sent his message on Thursday, and the elders arriving on Saturday probably spent Sunday (the Lord’s day) at Miletus.

On Monday, April 24, Paul would leave Miletus.


Verses 17-38

Paul’s Charge to the Elders of Ephesus and Departure, Acts 20:17-38.

The first part of the address (Acts 20:18-27) refers to himself; the last half charges the elders in regard to their own future. In regard to himself, first, he reviews solemnly his past history, (Acts 20:18-21,) and then unfolds (Acts 20:22-27) his own probable future.

Paul expatiates upon himself, because the burden was upon him laid by Christ to be and to present himself to the Church as a living model. And a model must he be, so unqualified and unquestionable as that he may ever refer to it and plainly present it without any thought of its being gainsaid or any charge of immodesty. He must ever be able to say, Be as I am. And yet in this living model he claims most profoundly to be no original, but to be a follower of an original whom he cannot approach, and with whom his whole being is filled, namely, the Lord Christ. Nay, he is model in truly being utterly emptied of himself and dead, Christ being his entire life. And of all this so complete is his achievement that these elders, and all who come under his impress, feel that he is sole and singular; that he is wonderful and out of all comparison. No thought is there of his violating etiquette in requiring all to come at his call. And when there, no word of their do we hear; it is all Paul, and Christ in Paul.


Verse 18

18. Said unto them—This speech, in its difference from the style of Luke, and likeness both to the style and thought of Paul, furnishes strong proof of being a genuine and very accurate report. It abounds with passages breathing the spirit of the finest strains of his epistles. Compare Paul’s description of his pastoral faithfulness, Acts 20:18-21, with 1 Thessalonians 2:10, and 2 Corinthians 6:3-4; his appeals to his own example in this speech with 2 Corinthians 1:12; 1 Corinthians 11:1; and Philippians 3:15; his tears in Acts 20:31 with 2 Corinthians 2:4; the private teaching of Acts 20:20 with 1 Thessalonians 2:11, and 2 Timothy 4:2; the anticipation of persecution in Jerusalem, Acts 20:22, with Romans 15:31; his self-maintenance in Acts 20:33 with 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9; 1 Corinthians 4:12 and 1 Corinthians 9:12.


Verse 19

19. Humility… tears… temptations.—”Who is so broken a man, both individually—who so prostrated as Paul? His righteousness had become in his mind a sin, and the law, the highest glory of his nation, had become to him a sentence of condemnation.”—Baumgarten. (See Romans 9:1-5.)


Verse 21

21. Repentance… faith—This is the order of all true conversion. First, the renunciation of all sin, and the turning from Satan to God. But what avails repentance and there stopping? Faith must finish the work repentance commences.


Verse 22

22. Bound in spirit—As if the very cords of a stern necessity were bound around his spirit, must he go.


Verse 23

23. Holy Ghost witnesseth—The prophetic testimony of the Spirit within his own heart.


Verse 24

24. None… move me—The perpetual martyr can smile at martyrdom. Christians who enjoy life, and tremble at death, often wonder in its last hour that its fear has departed. How, then, should he be moved, the soles of whose feet have long trodden and walked upon the fear of death?


Verse 25

25. I know—The anticipation that he would never revisit Ephesus, a large body of critics hold to have been mistaken. They maintain that Paul at his first arraignment before Cesar’s tribunal was acquitted; that an interval of years intervened before a second arrest, arraignment, and execution. In this interval he wrote the epistles to Timothy and Titus, and performed labours and travels indicated in those epistles, including a return to Ephesus. That return, therefore, depends upon the question whether Paul had a first acquittal and a second arrest. The discussion of this question we postpone to the Introduction to the above-named epistles.

Those who affirm a revisitation maintain that this I know was simply the expression of one of his uninspired expectations, like the not knowing of Acts 20:22, or the strong confidence of Acts 26:27. Baumgarten’s deep suggestion is, that, owing to the prayers of Christians in Paul’s behalf, (like the prayer of Hezekiah in his own behalf,) the divine order was changed, and the period of Paul’s ministry on earth extended. And thus it was that Paul’s I know was subjectively true at the time; and yet the Roman tribunal was so withheld from execution that a sacred appendix was added to his life. (See notes on Acts 1:7; Acts 2:1.)


Verse 26

26. To record—To testify.

Blood—In its figurative application the death of the soul, the second death.


Verse 27

27. Counsel of God—Both in the Law and in the Gospel; both as Judge and as Saviour. His counsel was, collectively to cast off impenitent Judaism and to accept penitent Gentilism, and individually to deal with every man according to his works. (See note on Romans 9:19.)


Verse 28

28. Holy Ghost—Held to be, through the instrumentalities of the Church, the truer appointer of the ministry.

Overseers—The original Greek episcopos, from which our word bishop is in fact derived, (by clipping both ends,) is compounded of a preposition signifying over and a noun signifying seer, and is exactly synonymous with the word superintendent.

In post-apostolic times the word episcopos ascended (probably by the custom of one elder’s being president-presbyter of a number of presbyters) into a higher official meaning. The presidency or episcopate of one over a number of elders took place so early as to imply some apostolic concurrence. Strict ministerial equality of function in all cases cannot be clearly deduced from Scripture.

Church of God—Whether the word God or Lord here is the true reading has long been s subject of earnest controversy; specially earnest as it involves the question of the divinity of Christ. At the present time the probability is strongly in favour of God. 1. Internal evidence: (1.) From the fact that Church of the Lord is a phrase unknown to Scripture, while Church of God is the ordinary form, (2.) If God were the original reading it would be a strong trinitarian text, and therefore there would be temptation for anti-trinitarians to alter it: but not vice versa, for Church of the Lord would be no contradiction to Trinitarianism. 2. Patristic evidence, from the fact that the earliest Christian writers, Ignatius, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria, use the phrase “blood of God.” 3. Manuscript authority, which, since the readings of the Vatican and Sinaitic are found to be God, is strongly balanced in its favour. It must be fairly held to be the true reading.


Verse 29

29. I know this—He might know this by the inspired witness of the Holy Ghost, as in Acts 20:23, or from his inferences from observed facts, as in Acts 20:25.

Departing—To Jerusalem. (See Revelation 2:1-6.)

Wolves—Not persecutors, but schismatics and heretics.

Not sparing the flock—Ready to rend it for doctrinal or selfish reasons.


Verse 30

30. Of your own selves—Internal heresiarchs, not merely from among the present elders, but from the Church they represent. Dr. Gloag says, “Mention is made of no fewer than six heresiarchs belonging to Ephesus: Hymeneus and Alexander, (1 Timothy 1:20,) Phygellus and Hermogenes, (2 Timothy 1:15,) Philetus, (2 Timothy 2:17,) and Diotrephes, (3 John 1:9.)” Here were the Nicolaitans, (Revelation 2:6, and note on Acts 6:5,) and here Cerinthus rose against the apostle John. (See our vol. ii, p. 224.)


Verse 31

31. Three years—In round numbers. Three months in the synagogue, (Acts 19:8,) two years in the school of Tyrannus, (Acts 10,) preceded by a brief visit, (Acts 18:21,) and followed, perhaps, by a short delay, (Acts 20:1.)


Verse 32

32. Commend—Commit, entrust.

Word of his grace—The promise of the Gospel.


Verse 33

33. No man’s silver—Cicero in very glowing terms describes the virtue of his brother, who was governor of an Asiatic province: “Wonderful it is that when you possessed absolute power for three years in Asia, no statuary, no picture, no vase, no garment, no slave, no beauty of any one, no inducement of money, could sway you from your integrity and purity.”


Verse 34

34. These hands—Doubtless presenting his hands, hard with the tokens of toil. Yet Dr. Hackett truly remarks: “It may be added that Paul, although he waived his own right to a maintenance from those to where he preached, was remarkable for the decision with which he asserted that eight in behalf of others. Compare Romans 15:27; 1 Corinthians 9:13-14; Galatians 6:6; 1 Timothy 5:17-18; see also the Saviour’s rule on this subject in Luke 10:7.”


Verse 35

35. The weak—The helpless.

Words—An unwritten saying of the Lord, for the record of which we are indebted to this speech of Paul’s.

More blessed—”Plutarch relates that Artaxerxes said, To bestow is more royal than to take away. And Aristotle says: It belongs to a freeman to give rather than to receive. Both of these sayings correspond in expression to the aristocratic views of antiquity. The former refers to the distinction which existed between rulers and the people; the latter to the ancient distinction between freemen and the slaves. Seneca, on the other hand, speaks in reference to the gods when he says: He who bestows benefits imitates the gods; he who takes, the usurers. There is, however, in all these classic sayings a certain aristocratic pride of sentiment, which cannot fail to be perceived. The saying of Christ, on the contrary, is founded on the fact that God is love.”—Lechler. It will, indeed, be generally found, on close examination, that passages of the Christian Scriptures which are paralleled by some heathen quotation are rooted in deeper and purer grounds, and infused with a higher life.


Verse 36

36. Kneeled down—At a moment of deep earnestness like this we may be sure of two things: that the heart would crave the humblest posture, and that a Paul would find no liturgy competent to express his depth and specialty of prayer.


Verse 37

37. Fell on Paul’s neck—Affectionately embracing his chest, and laying the head upon his neck and shoulder, after the Oriental fashion.


Verse 38

38. Face no more—Probably in a few moments the ship started, and, by the powerful northwest wind usually at that season prevailing, arrived in the afternoon of the same day, by a six hours’ sail, at Cos, “the garden of the AEgean,” the birthplace of the great physician Hippocrates, crowned with the temple of AEsculaplus, the god of medicine.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Acts 20:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/acts-20.html. 1874-1909.

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