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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary
New American Standard Version
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Nave's Topical Bible - Character; Courage; Ephesus; Gospel; Joy; Miletus; Minister, Christian; Paul; Prudence; Self-Denial; Zeal, Religious; Thompson Chain Reference - Completion; Gospel; Leaders; Life's Purpose; Ministers; Paul; Purpose; Religious; Right; Self-Sacrifice; Selfishness-Unselfishness; Seven; Spiritual; Stability; Steadfastness; Steadfastness-Instability; True Spirit; Work, Religious; Work-Workers, Religious; The Topic Concordance - Endurance; Torrey's Topical Textbook - Afflicted Saints; Afflictions; Apostles, the; Gospel, the; Grace; Joy; Life, Natural; Ministers; Self-Denial;
Verse Acts 20:24. None of these things move me — Ουδενος λογον ποιουμαι; I consider them as nothing; I value them not a straw; they weigh not with me.
Neither count I my life dear — I am not my own; my life and being are the Lord's; he requires me to employ them in his service; I act under his direction, and am not anxious about the issue.
Finish my course with joy — Τον δρομον μου, My ministerial function. We have already met with this word in application to the same subject, Acts 13:25, where see the note. And the apostle here adds, by way of explanation, και την διακονιαν, even that ministry which I have received of the Lord. The words μετα χαρας, with joy, are omitted by ABD, some others; the Syriac, Erpen, Coptic, Sahidic, AEthiopic, Vulgate, and some of the fathers. If we consider them as genuine they may imply thus much: that the apostle wished to fulfil his ministry in such a way as might meet with the Divine approbation; for nothing could give him joy that did not please and glorify God.
To testify — Διαμαρτυρασθαι, Earnestly, solemnly, and strenuously to assert, vindicate, and prove the Gospel of the grace of God, not only to be in itself what it professes to be, but to be also the power of God for salvation to every one that believes.
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Acts 20:24". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/acts-20.html. 1832.
To Jerusalem with the offering (20:13-21:16)
From Troas Paul went by land to Assos, where he rejoined the rest of the party and sailed to Miletus (13-16). Since Miletus was only about fifty kilometres from Ephesus, Paul took the opportunity to call the elders of the Ephesian church to come and meet him. He wanted to give them some final encouragement and pass on helpful warnings (17).
Paul’s opponents in Asia had probably been trying to turn the Christians against him. Therefore, he reminded the Ephesian elders of his tireless work in Ephesus and of the constant danger he faced from the Jews (18-24).
The Christians at Ephesus also were about to be shaken by serious troubles. Paul knew that, in spite of his preaching in Ephesus, people both from within the church and from outside would try to destroy the work of God in that city. The elders would need to be watchful, understanding, hard-working and strong if the church was to withstand Satan’s attacks (25-31). Paul reassured the elders that by God’s grace and through his Word they would be built up. He also reminded them that, like him, they were to sacrifice their rights and comforts for the sake of others, and never use their position of leadership for personal profit (32-38).
From Miletus Paul and his party sailed to Patara, where they changed ships and sailed across the Mediterranean to Phoenicia (21:1-3). They had fellowship with the Christians at Tyre, Ptolemais and Caesarea, where churches had been founded by those scattered after the killing of Stephen. One of those early evangelists, Philip, was still in Caesarea and Paul’s party stayed with him several days (4-9; cf. 8:4-5,40; 11:19). In Caesarea, as in Tyre, prophets warned Paul of the trouble that he would meet in Jerusalem, but he was determined to go on (10-14; see also v. 4).
Finally, Paul reached his destination, Jerusalem. There he stayed with Mnason, who was a Jewish Christian from Cyprus and an early member of the Jerusalem church. He was probably one of the few in Jerusalem who were fully in agreement with Paul’s work among the Gentiles (15-16).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Acts 20:24". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/acts-20.html. 2005.
But I hold not my life of any account as dear unto myself, so that I may accomplish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.
The unselfish devotion of Paul to the Christian gospel was too intense and fervent to be diminished by considerations of his personal safety. Not merely "living," but "accomplishing his course and ministry" was the dominant purpose of the dauntless apostle.
Gospel of the grace of God ... See under next verse.
Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Acts 20:24". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/acts-20.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
Move me - Alarm me, or deter me from my purpose. Greek: “I make an account of none of them.” I do not regard them as of any moment, or as worth consideration in the great purpose to which I have devoted my life.
Neither count I my life - I do not consider my life as so valuable as to be retained by turning away from bonds and persecutions. I am certain of bonds and afflictions; I am willing also, if it be necessary, to lay down my life in the prosecution of the same purpose.
Dear unto myself - So precious or valuable as to be retained at the sacrifice of duty. I am willing to sacrifice it if it be necessary. This was the spirit of the Saviour, and of all the early Christians. Duty is of more importance than life; and when either duty or life is to be sacrificed, life is to be cheerfully surrendered.
So that - This is my main object, to finish my course with joy. It is implied here:
(1) That this was the great purpose which Paul had in view.
(2) That if he should even lay down his life in this cause, it would be a finishing his course with joy. In the faithful discharge of duty, he had nothing to fear. Life would be ended with peace whenever God should require him to finish his course.
Finish my course - Close my career as an apostle and a Christian. Life is thus represented as a course, or race that is to be run, 2 Timothy 4:7; Hebrews 12:1; 1 Corinthians 9:24; Acts 13:25.
With joy - With the approbation of conscience and of God, with peace in the recollection of the past. Man should strive so to live that he will have nothing to regret when he lies on a bed of death. It is a glorious privilege to finish life with joy. It is most sad when the last hours are embittered with the reflection that life has been wasted. The only way in which life may be finished with joy is by meeting faithfully every duty, and encountering, as Paul did, every trial, with a constant desire to glorify God.
And the ministry - That I may fully discharge the duty of the apostolic office, the preaching of the gospel. In 2 Timothy 4:5, he charges Timothy to make full proof of his ministry. He here shows that this was the ruling principle of his own life.
Which I have received of the Lord Jesus - Which the Lord Jesus has committed to me, Acts 9:15-17. Paul regarded his ministry as an office entrusted to him by the Lord Jesus himself. On this account he deemed it to be especially sacred, and of high authority, Galatians 1:12. Every minister has been entrusted with an office by the Lord Jesus. He is not his own; and his great aim should be to discharge fully and entirely the duties of that office.
To testify the gospel - To bear witness to the good news of the favor of God. This is the great design of the ministry. It is to bear witness to a dying world of the good news that God is merciful, and that his favor may be made manifest to sinners. From this verse we may learn:
(1) That we all have a course to run, a duty to perform. Ministers have an allotted duty; and so have men in all ranks and professions.
(2) We should not be deterred by danger, or the fear of death, from the discharge of that duty. We are safe only when we are doing the will of God. We are really in danger only when we neglect our duty, and make the great God our enemy.
(3) We should so live as that the end of our course may be joy. It is, at best, a solemn thing to die; but death may be a scene of triumph and of joy.
(4) It matters little when, or where, or how we die if we die in the discharge of our duty to God. He will order the circumstances of our departure, and He can sustain us in the last conflict. Happy is that life which is spent in doing the will of God, and peaceful that death which closes a life of toil and trial in the service of the Lord Jesus.
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Acts 20:24". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/acts-20.html. 1870.
24. I care not. All the godly must be so framed in their minds, and chiefly the ministers of the Word, that, setting all things apart, they make haste to obey God. The life is, indeed, a more excellent gift than that it ought to be neglected; to wit, seeing we be therein created after the image of God, to the end we may think upon that blessed immortality which is laid up for us in heaven, in which the Lord doth now by diverse testimonies and tokens show himself to be our Father. −
But because it is ordained to be unto us as a race, we must always hasten unto the mark, and overcome all hindrances, lest any thing hinder or stay us in our course, For it is a filthy thing for us to be so holden with a blind desire to live, that we lose the causes of life for life itself; and this do the words of Paul express. For he doth not simply set light by his life; but he doth forget the respect thereof, that he may finish his course; that he may fulfill the ministry which he hath received of Christ, as if he should say that he is not desirous to live, save only that he may satisfy the calling of God; and that, therefore, it shall be no grief to him to lose his life, so that he may come by death unto the goal of the function prescribed to him by God. −
And we must note that which he saith, with joy, for his meaning is, that this is taken from the faithful by no sorrow or grief, but that they both. live and die to the Lord. For the joy of a good conscience is more deeply and surely laid up, than that it can be taken away by any external trouble, or any sorrow of the flesh; it triumpheth more joyfully than that it can be oppressed. Also, we must note the definition of his course; to wit, that it is the ministry received of the Lord. Paul doth indeed speak of himself; yet, by his own example, he teacheth that all those go astray who have not God to be the governor of their course. Whereupon it followeth that his calling is unto every one of us a rule of good life. Neither can we be otherwise persuaded that the Lord alloweth that which we do, unless our life be framed and ordered according to his will, which certainly is required, especially in the ministers of the word, that they take nothing in hand unless they have Christ for their author. Neither is it to be doubted but that Paul, in giving his apostleship this mark, (as he useth to do very often) doth confirm the credit thereof. He calleth it the gospel of the grace of God, of the effect or end, notwithstanding this is a title of rare commendation, that, by the gospel, salvation and the grace of God are brought unto us. For it is very expedient for us to know that God is found there to be merciful and favorable. −
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Acts 20:24". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/acts-20.html. 1840-57.
Last week we left Paul in Ephesus, in the midst of a near riot in town, as Demetrius the silversmith got together his companions in trade and pointed out how the preaching of Paul was about to put them out of business. Because these men made little likenesses of their goddess Diana, and Paul was going around telling everyone they weren't true gods. And so these silversmiths stirred up the city and they were gathered together in the arena crying, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians." Half the people didn't know what was going on. But it was quite an uproar, until finally the town clerk stood up and appeased the crowd telling Demetrius that there are courts of law, if he has any real case against Paul and all to bring it before the courts and let it be settled in a lawful matter. The Roman government was in danger; they were in danger of being called by the Roman government to answer for that uproar of which they really had no good answer. So he had then dismissed that crowd of people that had gathered in that town square.
So chapter 20.
And after the uproar ceased, Paul called unto him the disciples, and embraced them, and departed to Macedonia ( Acts 20:1 ).
Macedonia, of course, was the northern area of Greece. Greece was divided after the death of Alexander the Great into four divisions. You have Greece, Macedonia, and then the Syria and Egypt. So then Paul, rather then causing any further, he'd been in Ephesus for three years, and his heart now is sort of stirring to go back to Jerusalem. But when he goes back to Jerusalem, he desires to take to the church in Jerusalem an offering from the Gentile churches. For the church in Jerusalem had become very poor. And so Paul was seeking to show the brotherhood of Christianity, and really the support of the . . . really he was trying to show the oneness of the body of Christ, where there is neither Jew nor Greek, one member suffers, they all suffer. So in Paul's Corinthian epistle he told them when they gathered together on the first day of the week that each man was to bring an offering as he purposed in his own heart. They should give willingly and not by pressure, for God loved a cheerful giver. So Paul wanted now to go through Macedonia and Greece and collect these offerings that he had asked them to take up for the poor saints in Jerusalem. In order as Paul returned to Jerusalem he could take the offerings for the poor brethren there from the Gentiles.
So he embraced those from Ephesus, and he sailed across again to Macedonia, where, of course, was the church of Philippi and Thessalonica and Berea.
And when he had gone over those parts, and had given them much exhortation, he came into Greece. And he stayed there about three months. And when [he found out that] the Jews were lying wait for him, as he was about to sail into Syria, he purposed to return through Macedonia ( Acts 20:2-3 ).
Now at that time it was the feast of the Passover and Paul was probably wanting to get back to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. But thousands of Jews would come for the feast of the Passover from all over. And there would be many chartered type ships coming from Greece, from Athens, from . . . to go to Jerusalem, they would be filled with Jews coming for the feast. And Paul, no doubt, got wind of a plot to throw him overboard from one of these ships filled with Jewish pilgrims that were coming back for their holy days. And so rather than getting on a ship and being thrown overboard in the middle of the night, Paul took the wise course and rather than coming by ship back to Syria to go to Jerusalem, he went up then again through Macedonia and he went by land on up again to Macedonia. And evidently, the churches there realized that there were real threats being made upon Paul's life, and so there were several brethren from the different churches that accompanied Paul, in order, no doubt, to afford him a certain amount of protection.
So there accompanied him to Asia Sopater of Berea; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe ( Acts 20:4 ),
Now that's a different Gaius than the one of Corinth.
and Timotheus of Derbe [and that is the Timothy that we know]; and of Asia, there was Tychicus and Trophimus [whom Paul mentions in some of his epistles as his companions]. And these going before waited for them at Troas ( Acts 20:4-5 ).
So these fellows went ahead across to Asia and waited there at Troas for Paul.
And so we ( Acts 20:6 )
The plural personal pronoun again showing that Luke is a companion of Paul once more.
We sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread ( Acts 20:6 ),
And so that was the feast of the Passover was now over because that was the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
and we came to them in Troas in five days; where we abode with them for seven days ( Acts 20:6 ).
Now the trip from Troas to Macedonia when Paul received his vision; saw the man of Macedonia saying come over and help us, and immediately they got a ship and sailed from Troas to Macedonia, that took them only two days. And so here a trip that had only taken Paul two days in the past, took them five days this time, evidently sailing against the wind and probably under adverse circumstances. And it could be some very rough seas and all. And so they came to Troas where they stayed for seven days.
Now upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the next day; and he continued his speech until midnight ( Acts 20:7 ).
Now I've been accused of being longwinded, but you haven't had to put up with anything like that.
It is interesting for me to note that it records that they had gathered together on the first day of the week to break bread. So often you will hear the Seventh Day Adventist or others such as Herbert W. Armstrong who believe in Sabbath day worship. You will hear them declare that worshipping on Sunday did not begin until Constantine and he was the one who introduced Sunday worship to the church. Not so. There seems to be indications that the Gentile church worshipped on Sunday, almost from the beginning. Here we find the Gentile church gathering together on Sunday, the first day of the week, to break bread. One of the early church fathers, Tertullian, said that in as much as Jesus rose on the first day of the week, they felt that was the only day really in which the church should break bread. I don't go along with Tertullian, but it seems that as early as the time of Tertullian, which was before Constantine, that the first day of the week was already a common practice in the gathering of the church.
Now it could be that there was a dispute over which day of the week you should worship the Lord in the early church because in two of Paul's epistles he makes mention of the fact that it really doesn't matter which day you worship the Lord. As he was writing to the Romans he said, "One man esteems one day, another man esteems another day. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind." In other words, it really doesn't matter. Some people esteem one day above another, some esteem another day above another, you know. Whatever, you know, pleases you.
When the church in Jerusalem sent to the Gentile believers concerning their relationship to the law, they mentioned nothing about the observance of the Sabbath day. In Exodus when God gave the Sabbath day law, God said it was a special covenant between Him and Israel. Even as was the right of circumcision a special covenant between God and Israel, but not something that was required of the Gentiles. When Paul was writing to the Colossian church, he said, "Don't let any man judge you in respect to the eating of meat or of Sabbath days, or new moons or holy days, which were all just a shadow of things to come." The real substance is Jesus. Therefore, Paul is saying that the Sabbath day was just a shadow. The Sabbath day was what? It was a day of rest where the people were to rest from there labor. As a shadow of the things to come, the substance being Christ, what is he saying? He is saying what Paul, or what the author of Hebrews said in chapter 4, that Jesus is our rest. So the Sabbath day was only a shadow of Jesus who was coming, who has become the rest for His people. And our rest is in Jesus Christ, and in His finished work. So Paul said one man esteems one day above another, another man esteems every day alike. Well that's me; I esteem every day the Lord's day. And every day to me is, I live unto the Lord no matter if it be a Saturday, a Sunday, Friday or whatever. I live every day unto the Lord, and so I esteem every day alike. Now my wife doesn't appreciate that. Because it goes for birthdays and anniversaries too. She says I do that on hers, but I really want special perks on mine. But uh, that's not so. We went to her favorite place to eat on my birthday.
So they gathered on the first day of the week to break bread. That is to have communion. And communion, it seems, was a very common practice in the early church. That reminder of the broken body of Jesus Christ and of His blood which was shed for our sins. And it was a very common practice in the early church. They did it, it would seem, once a week at least. They did not only though in church, but from house to house. It was a beautiful thing. Christians gathered together, "Let's break bread together, you know." It was just a beautiful thing. Now they also had on a weekly basis what they called the "love feasts" in which they also took communion at the end. The love feast is what we would call today a potluck dinner. Where the church would gather together one day a week for these love feasts and everybody would bring something to add to the common table and they would all eat together and then would conclude it with the communion. This love feast was especially significant for the slaves because it was probably the only good meal they had all week long. But in the church there was neither bond nor free, you know, they were all one in Christ. And so, they had weekly these love feasts and that beautiful fellowship.
Now there is a real value, I think, in eating together. There's just a closeness of communion. I love potlucks. And I love the eating together. You notice how when we go on tour to Israel together, how much closer we seem to get to one another. And I think it's because we eat together all the time. And there is something that just creates a closeness, a bond, eating together.
And so the early church here gathered in Troas, on the first day of the week Paul preached until midnight.
And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together. And there sat in the window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep ( Acts 20:8-9 ):
Now it could be that he had carbon monoxide poisoning. If he was sitting there in the window and there were all of these lights there which, of course, were candles burning; and you know the carbon monoxide going from the burnt candles and probably going out the window and sitting there in the window with all that smoke curling out, it could be that he just got deprived of the oxygen level. And he fell into a sleep,
sunk down with sleep, and he fell down from the third loft ( Acts 20:9 ),
Probably, now the windows there, of course, weren't glass windows, they were just openings, open windows; sitting there in the window he fell out the window into the patio below, three stories.
and he was taken up dead. And so Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him ( Acts 20:9-10 ).
So, again, a real miracle as God restored life to Eutychus.
It's interesting Paul fell on him embracing him. There's an interesting story in the Old Testament of the prophet Elisha and the Shunammite woman whose son died. And Elisha actually did a pulmonary resuscitation kind of a thing. He breathed into him and all, and doing it three times, the young boy revived. Now that doesn't take away from the fact that there was a definite miracle of God. And God brought life, because you can, you know, if you take a person who's been dead as long as that kid had been dead, there's no way any resuscitation is gonna bring him back. But the fact that he did that is interesting to me, in as much as we have discovered today, you know, this resuscitation and cardiac arrest and things of that nature. I'm not suggesting that that's what Elisha did to the young man, because this young man had been dead for hours. And God brought him back to life.
Here was Paul falling on him, embracing him, much as Elisha did to the Shunammite woman's son.
So when he was therefore come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, he continued to talk until the break of day ( Acts 20:11 ),
So a slight distraction, and yet, Paul went on talking to them 'til daybreak.
And they brought the young man alive, and they were not a little comforted ( Acts 20:12 ).
Now I am certain that the Lord has allowed at times the miracles of bringing back a person to life. We know that this happened in the ministry of Jesus. We know that it happened with the ministry of Peter when he went and brought back to life through prayer Dorcas. But I am also certain that the miracle of restoring life was never for the person but for the people around who were grieving because they were gone. Here it says, "And they were much comforted." It didn't say that Eutychus was. But the people that were there were comforted by the fact that he was brought back to life. And that miracle that God works in bringing a person back to life is really never for that person's benefit. But for the benefit of those that would be sorrowing. And I say that because if ever the Lord should see fit to take me and I am there reveling in His presence, and suddenly I feel my spirit returning to my body, and when my eyes flicker, and when I open them up and I see you with hands laid upon me praying, "Oh God, restore life to him," the first thing I'm gonna do is bust you in the mouth. We may pray that the Lord restore a person's life for our benefit, but it surely doesn't benefit them. "For to be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord." And so for the sake of the people, God performed this miracle on Eutychus.
"And they were not a little comforted." I mean, they were really comforted. Actually in the Orient, at death they start shrieking. And the women have a particularly shrill shriek at the time of death. And so when Eutychus fell out the window and they rushed down there and saw that he was dead, these Oriental women probably started their shrieking. And that's why Paul went down and said, "Oh hush, hush, hush, he's alright, his life is still in him," and as God restored life to Eutychus.
And so we went before to ship, and we sailed to Assos, and there we intended to take in Paul: because he had decided to go by foot ( Acts 20:13 ).
Now from Troas to Assos is twenty miles by land and thirty miles by sea. You have to go around the cape there. And Paul wanted to walk. You know, I think that walking is one of the greatest ways to meditate. I think it's a tremendous way to sort of collect your thoughts. When you have a decision to make, it's amazing how that in walking you can sort of sift things out. And I think Paul just had a lot of things to sift out in his mind. And so he said, "You guys just go ahead and go in the boat and I'll meet you over at Assos, I'll just walk." And so he walked that twenty miles as they went around by ship and met him then at Assos.
And he met us at Assos ( Acts 20:14 ),
Luke evidently went in the ship,
we took him in, and we came to Mitylene. And we sailed from there, and came the next day over against Chios; and in the next day we arrived at Samos, and we tarried at Trogyllium; and the next day we came to Miletus ( Acts 20:14-15 ).
Which is about thirty miles from Ephesus. And from there they sent messengers up to Ephesus to tell the elders at the church of Ephesus to come down and meet Paul at Miletus because he was in a hurry. He didn't want to go all the way up to Ephesus and back because he desired to get to Jerusalem in time to participate in the feast of Pentecost.
So from Miletus they sent to Ephesus, called the elders of the church. And when they were come to him, he said unto them, You know, that from the first day that I came to Asia, what manner of life I have lived among you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind, with many tears, and trials, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews ( Acts 20:17-19 ):
Paul said, "You know that how from the very first day when I came into Asia, the way I lived among you. For I have been serving the Lord with all humility of mind." Paul always saw himself as the servant of the Lord. And I think that that is an important mental attitude for everyone who is in the ministry to maintain. I am a servant of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, everything that I do, I must do to the glory of God. I should not be doing anything for the glory of man. For whatever I do, word or deed, do all to the glory of God. Not seeking to be a man pleaser, but seeking to please the Lord, knowing that of the Lord I am going to receive my rewards. And so Paul said, "You know that my attitude the whole while I've been with you is one of a servant of the Lord, serving Him in all humility of mind."
The man who has received a true vision of the Lord is a man who has humility of mind. That man who is proud has not had a true encounter with God. No man can have a true encounter with God and still maintain a prideful position. In seeing God, in really seeing God, I see myself. And I realize how nothing I am. Isaiah said, "In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord high and lifted up, sitting on the throne. And His glory filled the temple. Then said I, woe is me" ( Isaiah 6:1 , Isaiah 6:5 ). Hey, that's always what a man says when he really sees God, "Woe is me!" Peter, when he saw the Lord, said, "Depart from me, Lord! I'm an unclean man" ( Luke 5:8 ). Daniel, as he talked about his vision and all, he said "Then my beauty was turned into corruption" ( Daniel 10:8 ). Seeing God is an important thing. Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" ( Matthew 5:3 ). But that poverty of spirit always comes to the man who has had a true encounter with a living eternal God. You cannot stand in the consciousness of the true and the living God and still maintain that prideful state. And so, "I've been serving you," Paul said, "with all humility of mind, and with many tears. And in real trials, tribulations, because the Jews were always lying in wait to ambush me."
And how I've kept back nothing that was profitable unto you ( Acts 20:20 ),
Paul gave himself for the people because he was serving the Lord. You see, as a minister of Jesus Christ, He requires that I be the servant of the body. Jesus said that if any of you would be chief, then let him become the servant of all. He's talking about the ministry, talking to His disciples. So my serving the Lord involves my serving you. And Paul talks about his service to the men and the people there in Ephesus.
How I held back nothing that could [benefit you or be of] profit to you, but I have showed you, and taught you publicly, and from house to house ( Acts 20:20 ),
So both in the public gatherings there in the . . . where was it we studied it . . . that place in Ephesus where Paul was teaching . . . come on, someone help me . . . Tyrannus, yes, very good. You get an A. The school of Tyrannus publicly, but then also from house to house. Now notice Paul said, "I was showing you and teaching you." Sometimes the best lessons are object lessons. If our lives don't show it, the teaching becomes meaningless. As a minister, I have to not just proclaim, I must live by it. Showing you, demonstrating by my life, the lifestyle that I lived among you, as well as teaching you. And so that faithful minister.
Testifying both to the Jews, also to the Greeks, repentance towards God, faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ ( Acts 20:21 ).
So Paul was teaching their repentance, the necessity of repentance toward God and faith towards Jesus.
And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that are going to befall me there: except that the Holy Spirit is witnessing in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions are waiting for me ( Acts 20:22-23 ).
"I really don't know what's going to happen to me when I get to Jerusalem. All I know is that I am to be bound and I am to be imprisoned. The spirit is warning me this everywhere I go."
But none of these things disturb me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy ( Acts 20:24 ),
"My chief desire is to finish my course with joy. It doesn't bother me that I have to be imprisoned. It doesn't move me that I'm going to be bound. My chief desire is to just to finish my course." So Paul's great drive to finish that course that God had set before him. He finally wrote to Timothy and he said, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished the course." That was his last epistle just before being beheaded by Nero. "I fought a good fight, I finished the course. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, our righteousness judge, shall give. Not only to me, but to all those who do love His appearing" ( 2 Timothy 4:7-8 ).
It's just a shame that Paul didn't know the power of positive thinking, and positive confession. He could have escaped an awful lot of things. But, poor fellow, he was beheaded suffering for Jesus' sake. Because he didn't know that it was God's will that no one should suffer. That it's a lack of faith or commitment that anybody would suffer. Poor Paul. I trust you know that my tongue is in my cheek.
I love this. I love commitment. Give me some men who are stouthearted men who will fight for the right they adore. Start me with ten who are stouthearted men and I'll soon give you ten thousand more. I love Paul; he was a stouthearted man. I mean, he was committed to a cause, a cause of Jesus Christ. And hey, nothing was going to detour him or deter him from finishing that course with joy.
So, "Well, it's probably the last time I'll see you, but it doesn't bother me. I know I'm going to be thrown in jail. Beyond that I don't know. But I'm not worried by this. For I do not count my life dear unto myself. What I really desire is just to finish my course with joy,"
and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus ( Acts 20:24 ),
What is the ministry, Paul, you have received of the Lord Jesus?
to testify of the gospel of the grace of God ( Acts 20:24 ).
Testimony of the gospel of the grace of God. What is the gospel of the grace of God? God loves you, no matter how badly you failed. No matter how deeply you have sunk into sin, God loves you. But God hates sin because He loves you. And God knows what a destructive force sin is. And because God loves you so much, He doesn't like to see you being destroyed. And so He hates that which is destroying you. God loves the sinner. God hates the sin. Because He loves the sinner. And He sees what sin is doing. The blighting, damning influences of sin on a person's life. And so God hates the sin, because He loves the sinner. And so God has made provision to free a person from that power of sin, by sending Jesus Christ, His son, who took our sins and died in our place. That by our believing in Him we can be forgiven from whatever sins we may have ever committed. And through faith in Him can receive power over that bondage to corruption. And one day, as we are translated by the spirit into His presence, we will be freed from even the presence of sin. So that is the gospel of the grace of God. Not because I deserve it, not because I merit it, but just because God loves me.
It was necessary that Paul should testify of the gospel of the grace of God, because nature, though it reveals God to man, does not reveal the grace of God to man. There is no gospel of grace in nature. Nature testifies to the God of law; to the God of power; to the God of wisdom; to the God who loves beauty; to the God of orderliness. But there's no testimony in nature to the gospel of the grace of God, and that is why God has called men to bear testimony of the gospel of the grace of God. And this testimony began with Jesus Christ. For the law came by Moses, but grace and truth by Jesus Christ. And so Paul testifying the gospel of grace.
And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more ( Acts 20:25 ).
Now this is what Paul felt. He's talking out of his heart. There are indications from some of the secular historians or early church historians that Paul did get to see those in Ephesus once again. The book of Acts leaves Paul sort of imprisoned in Rome awaiting his trial before Nero. But according to church history, the early church historians, Paul's first appearance before Nero ended in an acquittal by Nero. And that Paul was released for a time, and just what happened during that period we don't know for sure. There are stories that he came back to the church of Ephesus for a time. And also stories that he went to Spain with the Gospel.
Secular history gives us something quite interesting. You remember Jesus told His disciples that, you know, that, "They're going to bring you before the judges and before magistrates and before the kings. And don't take any forethought what you're going to say in the hour that you're there the Holy Spirit will give you the words to say. And it will give you an opportunity to witness." Now Paul took this literally. Every time he was brought before a judge, a magistrate, or a king, Paul took the opportunity to witness. And the higher up the guy was, the heavier Paul laid on the witness. Because Paul, I think, always felt, "Man, if I can convert this guy, wow," you know. And so when he finally got before King Agrippa, I mean, he was really pushing, pushing hard. "Agrippa, do you believe the scriptures? I know you believe the scriptures," you know. And he said, "Wait a minute, wait a minute, back off, Paul. Wait a minute," you know. "Are you trying to convert me?" Paul said, "Oh, how I wish I could." Because I'm sure that Paul, and we'll get to that in a few chapters now, Paul's defenses were fabulous. I mean, Paul really was pressing. Because he, no doubt, thought, "Wow, if Agrippa would just accept Jesus Christ, what an influence this could have." Well, imagine when he got to Nero. I imagine that Paul really pressed the claims of Jesus Christ on Nero like nothing we have ever heard. I'm certain that Paul thought, "Wow, if I could just win Nero to Jesus Christ."
Now, as you follow secular history, you will find that Nero wasn't such a bad guy in his early reign of the Roman Empire. He did some good things. But there came a time in Nero's life where he had almost a total personality change. Where he became a beast. In fact, that's what they called him in those days, "the beast." It was as though he had a total change of personality, like a man who was almost demon possessed. And if you will study the secular history, you will find that this dramatic change came in Nero just about the time that Paul witnessed to him. I believe what happened is that Paul did lay on such a heavy witness to Nero, that it was a now-or-never situation for Nero's salvation. And in turning his back upon the Gospel, I believe he became possessed by an evil spirit. And that is why he became such a beast.
He released Paul on the first trial, but soon called Paul back from Ephesus and beheaded him, as he turned into that beast. So Paul is saying, "I don't think I'm going to see you again." It seems that maybe he did get to see them again.
Wherefore I call 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 ( Acts 20:26-27 ).
Paul felt it very important that he be up front with people as far as the Gospel is concerned. To declare the truth, the whole counsel of God to man so that he would not be accountable for them. "I'm free from the blood of all men because I haven't shunned to tell you everything, the whole counsel of God."
Now take heed therefore unto yourselves, and unto the flock, over which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, that you feed the church of God, which he has purchased with his own blood ( Acts 20:28 ).
And this is the charge and the responsibility that God has placed upon the ministers: to feed the flock of God. But it is so difficult to find pastors today who will really feed the flock of God. We get letters by the hundreds. The other night when I was in Indianapolis, scores of people afterwards said to me, "Would you please start a work here in Indianapolis? We've been praying for five years that God would establish a Calvary Chapel here in Indianapolis. We want a place where we can just go and be fed the Word of God." People are hungry to be fed the Word of God. And so Paul said to these overseers of the church of Ephesus, "Feed the flock of God." Peter in writing his epistle said, "Feed the flock of God which is among you." Jesus said to Peter, "Feed My sheep." I don't know why pastors don't realize that this is the most important function of a pastor is to feed the flock of God. We have those who are seeking to entertain the flock of God. And then God help us, unfortunately we have those who are seeking to fleece the flock of God. But how few are really feeding the flock of God.
Also of your own selves.
For I know this ( Acts 20:29 ),
The reason why to feed them is in that they might become strong. Because wolves are going to come in.
after I depart grievous wolves are going to enter in among you, not sparing the flock ( Acts 20:29 ).
Paul stocked them that would come in. Weird concept and ideas. Men who would try to draw groups after themselves. There's always that. God establishes a work, and then there are always those who try and come in. Even out of your own midst, there will come those who will try to break off a group, to bring them as after themselves. Sad and tragic. Paul when he was writing to the Ephesians said that God has placed in the church, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastor-teachers, for the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry. That's what we're here for. That you might be fed the Word of God, that you might be perfected for the work of the ministry. The building up of the body of Christ. Until we all come into the unity of the faith of the knowledge of the Son of God. Into that complete person. Unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of the image of Christ. That you be no more as babes who are tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine and slight cunning of men who lie in wait to deceive. The greatest burden on the heart of Paul, the greatest grief and sorrow were those men who would come in to prey upon the flock of God. To draw men after themselves. And so Paul said to these Ephesians, "I know that after I depart there are going to be grievous wolves that are going to enter in, not sparing the flock."
Also out of your own midst shall men arise, who will be speaking perverse things [not really teaching the word of God, teaching the concepts of man], who try to draw disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one of you night and day with tears ( Acts 20:30-31 ).
It doesn't make any difference. There are always those foolish little sheep that will go traipsing after any bell. And though Paul warned them three years night and day with tears that, "Hey, get sound in the Word, get founded in the Word." Yet I know that, you know, they're going to, you know, that they're going to rip some of you off.
And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and give you an inheritance among all them that are set apart by God ( Acts 20:32 ).
I commend you to God and the Word of His grace. Oh, it's that which is able to build you up and bring us into that glorious inheritance.
I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel ( Acts 20:33 ).
Oh, God, give us more Pauls.
Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me ( Acts 20:34 ).
"Hey, fellows, you've seen the calluses; I've worked with my own hands. I've took care of myself and those that were with me. I, you know, I earned my living. I didn't covet your silver or gold or apparel. I wasn't here to rip you off or to fleece you. I was here to minister and to feed you." Now he was telling them that because those false prophets are always seeking to fleece the sheep. Always some new gimmick to take a second offering or a third offering. Always the emphasis upon your giving to God rather than what God has given to you. Watch that one who is constantly emphasizing what you ought to be giving to God. The New Testament emphasizes what God has given to you.
I have showed you all things, how that so laboring you ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of our Lord Jesus, who said, It's more blessed to give than to receive ( Acts 20:35 ).
We just completed a conference with the worldwide distributors of Maranatha music. They've come in from all over the world: Africa, Singapore, Philippines, Hong Kong, Europe, distributors of Maranatha music. We had a farewell luncheon with them Friday in which these distributors got up and just sort of expressed themselves concerning the conference that they just had. And they said, "You know, been to a lot of conferences but never one like this. It seems that all the conferences we go to their always trying to get something from us, but when we came here, you've been ministering to us. It's like you're giving and trying to give to us rather than taking from us." And I said, "You have just stumbled on to the philosophy of Calvary Chapel. We exist to minister to people, not to be ministered to by people. That's our basic philosophy. We're here to give, not to receive. And that is why there is never an emphasis upon your giving. The emphasis is always upon what God has given to us. And we are here to give to you in the name of Jesus Christ."
And it is so blessed to be able to go onto the radio all over the United States, not to be ministered to by the people, "Now, friends, please send in your offerings this week. Because if we don't hear from you this week, we're so far behind in our bills and all, we've got to hear from you this week." Never, never, never. We are just there to minister God's Word to the people all over the country; to give. And thus, we send out the literature, we give away thousands upon thousands of tapes every year. Get the word out. We give away music albums. Get the music out, get the word out. People write and say, "Can we duplicate your tapes?" and we say, "Yes!"
I read in Christianity Today, someone wrote a letter into Christianity Today and they told how that they had problems their church was wanting to sing choruses. And so how they found out that they couldn't copy choruses on a little chorus sheet without infringing on the copyrights of those choruses. And so they wanted to print up these chorus sheets for their church and they sent to all of the publishers asking for permission and they all demanded a royalty. Just for these little, you know, mimeograph chorus sheets for the church. He said there was only one publisher who told us just go ahead, use it freely. He said it was Maranatha Music. And I said, "Praise God." "To give," Paul said, you know, "Our Lord told us it's more blessed to give than to receive."
Now, if we take that philosophy, God takes care of us. God takes care of the church. He more than supplies for our needs. But we never have to emphasize that side. God takes care of that side. Jesus said if you seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, all these other things will be added to you. But these poor unfortunate pastors who are striving to attain find themselves trapped. Because if you strive to attain, then you have to strive to maintain what you have attained. And you get in that position of constant pressure, constant striving. "Now what new gimmick can we include in our letter this week, you know to get the people to send more bucks to us, you know." You get in that trap and it seems there's no way out. If we would only learn, Jesus has established the principle, "It's more blessed to give than to receive." And if we give freely, even as we have received freely, God will take care of our needs. As He has proved, I believe that He has chosen to use Calvary Chapel more or less as a example of what God can and will do if we just follow His principles. And all over people look to us and say, "Well, Calvary Chapel is different." Sure it is, a whole different philosophy. We are here to minister rather than to be ministered to. We're here to give rather than to receive. And God takes care of the needs. More than takes care of the needs. He so blesses that we're able to sponsor "The Word for Today" all over the world. He is so good. Ah, when will people learn?
And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all ( Acts 20:36 ).
I can picture on the beach Paul the apostle; the ship is waiting off shore. There's a little dinghy there. And here are the elders of the church of Ephesus and Paul sitting on the beach there with them and he's talking and saying, "Hey, now feed the flock of God. Just take care of them. Because wolves are going to come in, and you know I've warned you with tears." I'm sure that Paul was crying now. And he said, "Watch over them. It's more blessed to give than to receive." And then I can see the circle of men kneeling as they join hands in prayer, not knowing what the future holds.
And they all of them began to weep, and they fell on Paul's neck, and they kissed him. Sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they would probably not see his face again. And they accompanied him unto the ship ( Acts 20:37-38 ).
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Acts 20:24". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/acts-20.html. 2014.
Paul’s address to the Ephesian elders 20:17-35
"Paul’s farewell address to the Ephesian elders is the nearest approximation to the Pauline letters in Acts. Its general content recalls how in his letters Paul encouraged, warned, and exhorted his converts. Moreover, its theological themes and vocabulary are distinctively Pauline. In his three missionary sermons (Acts 13:16-41; Acts 14:15-17; Acts 17:22-31) and five defenses (chs. 22-26), Paul addressed non-Christian audiences. But he was speaking to Christians here. It is significant that, in a situation similar to those he faced in many of his letters, this farewell to the Ephesian elders reads like a miniature letter of his. This becomes all the more significant when we recall that nowhere else in Acts is there any evidence for a close knowledge of Paul’s letters.
"The address is constructed in a way familiar to all readers of Paul’s letters. The body of it has three parts, which deal with (1) Paul’s past ministry at Ephesus (Acts 20:18-21), (2) Paul’s present plans in going to Jerusalem (Acts 20:22-24), and (3) the future of Paul himself and of the church at Ephesus (Acts 20:25-31). It concludes with a blessing (Acts 20:32) and then adds further words of exhortation that point the hearers to Paul’s example and the teachings of Jesus (Acts 20:33-35). Heading each section is an introductory formula: ’you know’ (hymeis epistasthe) at Acts 20:18; ’and now behold’ (kai nyn idou) at Acts 20:22; ’and now behold I know’ (kai nyn idou ego oida) at Acts 20:25; and ’and now’ (kai ta nyn) at Acts 20:32." [Note: Longenecker, pp. 511-12. See Witherington, p. 610, for a chart comparing terms and concepts Paul used in this address with similar ones he used in his epistles.]
This is probably one of the few speeches in Acts that Luke heard with his own ears. The Greek physician Galen wrote that his students took down his medical lectures in shorthand, so perhaps this is what Luke did on this occasion. [Note: Robertson, 3:346-47.]
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Acts 20:24". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/acts-20.html. 2012.
Paul’s "gospel of the grace of God" was a continuation of the good news Jesus preached but in a universal context. Thus he equated it with "preaching the kingdom" (Acts 20:25).
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Acts 20:24". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/acts-20.html. 2012.
But none of these things move me,.... From the hope of the Gospel, nor from the ministry of the word, nor from his journey to Jerusalem; they did not shake his faith, nor inject fear into him, nor cause him to alter his purpose and design:
neither count I my life dear unto myself: life is a very valuable thing, no outward or temporal enjoyment can be dearer to a man than life; all that he has he will give for his life: this therefore must not be understood in an absolute sense, as if the apostle despised his life, and esteemed of it meanly, when it was the gift of God, and had been not only so eminently preserved in providence, but had been so useful in a way of grace to so many valuable purposes; but it must be taken in a comparative sense, with respect to Christ and his Gospel, and when it should be called for to be laid down for him; and that, in such circumstances, and under such considerations, he made no account of it at all, but preferred Christ and his Gospel to it: this sense appears by what follows,
so that I might finish my course with joy; the course and race of his life, ending it by suffering cheerfully and joyfully for Christ; or his Christian course and race, which began at his conversion, ending that with a joyful prospect of being with Christ in an endless eternity; or else the course of his ministry, sealing that with his blood, and rejoicing that he was counted worthy to suffer for the name of Christ, and so he did finish his course, 2 Timothy 4:7
and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus; which seems to be explanative of the former, or of what is meant by his course, namely his ministry, the ministry of the Gospel: Beza's ancient copy, and the Vulgate Latin version read, "the ministry of the word"; this he had received from Christ, both the Gospel which he ministered, and gifts qualifying him for it, and a mission and commission to minister it; and which he was desirous of fulfilling in such a manner, as to give up his account with joy to him from whom he had received it, and to whom he was accountable; namely,
to testify the Gospel of the grace of God; to profess and preach it, to bear a constant and public testimony to it at death, as in life, and faithfully to declare it, and assert it to the last; which he calls not only the "Gospel", or good news of salvation by Christ; but the Gospel "of the grace" of God: which brings the account of the free grace, love, and mercy of God, displayed in the scheme of salvation of the grace of God the Father, in pitching his love upon any of the sons of men; not because they were better and more deserving of his favour, than others, but because of his sovereign will and pleasure, who will be gracious to whom he will be gracious; and in choosing them in Christ unto salvation, before they had done good or evil, and without any consideration or foresight of, or motive from good works hereafter done by them; in drawing the scheme and model of their salvation in Christ, appointing him to be the author of it; and in making a covenant of grace with him, stored with all the blessings and promises of grace; and in sending him, in the fulness of time, to suffer and die for them, not sparing him, but delivering him up for them all, and giving all things freely with him; and in accepting the sacrifice, satisfaction, and righteousness of his Son on their account, as if done by themselves. It also gives an account of the grace of Christ in undertaking the salvation of men; in assuming their nature, and becoming mean and low in it; in dying for their sins; in his intercession for them at the right hand of God; and in the care he takes of them in this world, until he has brought them safe home to himself. Likewise it gives an account of the grace of the Spirit in regeneration and sanctification; in working faith in the hearts of men; in being a comforter to them, a witnesser of their adoption, the earnest of their inheritance, and the sealer of them unto the day of redemption. And the Gospel may be so called, because all the doctrines of it are doctrines of grace; it asserts election to be of grace, and not of works; and ascribes the justification of a sinner to the free grace of God, through the righteousness of Christ, imputed without works and received by faith, which faith is the gift of God, and it denies it to be of the deeds of the law; it represents the pardon of sin to be according to the riches of God's grace, though it is through the blood of Christ, and not owing to humiliation, repentance, confession, and new obedience, as causes of it; it attributes regeneration and conversion to the abundant mercy, the free favour of God, and to the efficacy of his grace, and not to the will of the flesh, or the will of man; and in a word, as the great doctrine of it is salvation, whence it is called the Gospel of salvation, it declares that the whole of salvation, from first to last, is all of grace. And it may also bear this name, because it is a means of conveying grace unto, and implanting it in the hearts of men; regenerating grace comes this way; God begets men by the word of truth, they are born again of incorruptible seed by it; the Spirit of God, as a spirit of sanctification, is received through it, and faith comes by hearing it; and both that and hope, and every other grace, are quickened, encouraged, and drawn forth into exercise by it; all which is, when it is attended with the Spirit of God and power: and this being the nature and use of the Gospel, made it so precious and valuable to the apostle, and made him so intent upon testifying it, and fulfilling the ministry of it, and to prefer it to life and everything in this world; and it cannot but be highly valued and greatly desired by all those who have tasted that the Lord is gracious. Beza's ancient copy, and some others, read, "to testify to Jews and Greeks the Gospel of the grace of God".
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Gill, John. "Commentary on Acts 20:24". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/acts-20.html. 1999.
|Paul's Address to the Elders of Ephesus.|
17 And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. 18 And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, 19 Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews: 20 And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, 21 Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befal me there: 23 Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. 24 But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. 25 And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. 26 Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. 27 For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. 28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. 29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. 31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. 32 And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. 33 I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. 34 Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. 35 I have showed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.
It should seem the ship Paul and his companions were embarked in for Jerusalem attended him on purpose, and staid or moved as he pleased; for when he came to Miletus, he went ashore, and tarried thee so long as to send for the elders of Ephesus to come to him thither; for if he had gone up to Ephesus, he could never have got away from them. These elders, or presbyters, some think, were those twelve who received the Holy Ghost by Paul's hands, Acts 19:6; Acts 19:6. But, besides these, it is probable that Timothy had ordained other elders there for the service of that church, and the country about; these Paul sent for, that he might instruct and encourage them to go on in the work to which they had laid their hands. And what instructions he gave to them they would give to the people under their charge.
It is a very pathetic and practical discourse with Paul here takes leave of these elders, and has in it much of the excellent spirit of this good man.
I. He appeals to them concerning both his life and doctrine, all the time he had been in and about Ephesus (Acts 20:18; Acts 20:18): "You know after what manner I have been with you, and how I have done the work of an apostle among you." He mentions this as a confirmation of his commission and consequently of the doctrine he had preached among them. They all knew him to be a man of serious, gracious, heavenly spirit, that he was no designing self-seeking man, as seducers are; he could not have been carried on with so much evenness and constancy in his services and sufferings, but by the power of divine grace. The temper of his mind, and the tenour both of his preaching and conversation, were such as plainly proved that God was with him of a truth, and that he was actuated and animated by a better spirit than his own.--He likewise makes this reference to his own conduct as an instruction to them, in whose hands the work was now left, to follow his example: "You know after what manner I have been with you, how I have conducted myself as a minister; in like manner be you with those that are committed to your charge when I am gone (Philippians 4:9), what you have seen in me that is good do."
1. His spirit and conversation were excellent and exemplary; they knew after what manner he had been among them, and how he had had his conversation towards them, in simplicity and godly sincerity (2 Corinthians 1:12), how holily, justly, and unblamably he behaved himself, and how gentle he was towards them, 1 Thessalonians 2:7; 1 Thessalonians 2:10. (1.) He had conducted himself well all along, from the very first day that he came into Asia--at all seasons; the manner of his entering in among them was such as nobody could find fault with. He appeared from the first day they knew him to be a man that aimed not only to do well, but to do good, wherever he came. He was a man that was consistent with himself, and all of a piece; take him where you would he was the same at all seasons, he did not turn with the wind nor change with the weather, but was uniform like a die, which, throw it which way you will, lights on a square side. (2.) He had made it his business to serve the Lord, to promote the honour of God and the interest of Christ and his kingdom among them. He never served himself, nor made himself a servant of men, of their lusts and humours, nor was he a time-server; but he made it his business to serve the Lord. In his ministry, in his whole conversation, he proved himself what he wrote himself, Paul a servant of Jesus Christ,Romans 1:1. (3.) He had done his work with all humility of mind--meta pases tapeinophrosynes, that is, in all works of condescension, modesty, and self-abasement. Though he was one that God had put a great deal of honour upon, and done a great deal of good by, yet he never took state upon him, nor kept people at a distance, but conversed as freely and familiarly with the meanest, for their good, as if he had stood upon a level with them. He was willing to stoop to any service, and to make himself and his labours as cheap as they could desire. Note, Those that would in any office serve the Lord acceptably to him, and profitably to others, must do it with all humility of mind, Matthew 20:26; Matthew 20:27. (4.) He had always been very tender, affectionate, and compassionate, among them; he had served the Lord with many tears. Paul was herein like his Master; often in tears; in his praying, he wept and made supplication,Hosea 12:5. In his preaching, what he had told them before he told them again, even weeping,Philippians 3:18. In his concern for them, though his acquaintance with them was but of a late standing, yet so near did they lie to his heart that he wept with those that wept, and mingled his tears with theirs upon every occasion, which was very endearing. (5.) He had struggled with many difficulties among them. He went on in his work in the face of much opposition, many temptations, trials of his patience and courage, such discouragements as perhaps were sometimes temptations to him, as to Jeremiah in a like case to say, I will not speak any more in the name of the Lord,Jeremiah 20:8; Jeremiah 20:9. These befel him by the lying in wait of the Jews, who still were plotting some mischief or other against him. Note, Those are the faithful servants of the Lord that continue to serve him in the midst of troubles and perils, that care not what enemies they make, so that they can but approve themselves to their Master, and make him their friend. Paul's tears were owing to his temptations; his afflictions helped to excite his good affections.
2. His preaching was likewise such as it should be, Acts 20:20; Acts 20:21. He came to Ephesus to preach the gospel of Christ among them, and he had been faithful both to them and to him that appointed him. (1.) He was a plain preacher, and one that delivered his message so as to be understood. This is intimated in two words, I have shown you, and have taught you. He did not amuse them with nice speculations, nor lead them into, and then lose them in, the clouds of lofty notions and expressions; but he showed them the plain truths of the gospel, which were of the greatest consequence and importance, and taught them as children are taught. "I have shown you the right way to happiness, and taught you to go in it." (2.) He was a powerful preacher, which is intimated in his testifying to them; he preached as one upon oath, that was himself fully assured of the truth of what he preached and was desirous to convince them of it and to influence and govern them by it. He preached the gospel, not as a hawker proclaims news in the street (it is all one to him whether it be true or false), but as a conscientious witness gives in his evidence at the bar, with the utmost seriousness and concern. Paul preached the gospel as a testimony to them if they received it, but as a testimony against them if they rejected it. (3.) He was a profitable preacher, one that in all his preaching aimed at doing good to those he preached to; he studied that which was profitable unto them, which had a tendency to make them wise and good, wiser and better, to inform their judgments and reform their hearts and lives. He preached ta sympheronta, such things as brought with them divine light, and heat, and power to their souls. It is not enough not to preach that which is hurtful, which leads into error or hardens in sin, but we must preach that which is profitable. We do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying. Paul aimed to preach not that which was pleasing, but that which was profitable, and to please only in order to profit. God is said to teach his people to profit, Isaiah 48:17. Those teach for God that teach people to profit. (4.) He was a painstaking preacher, very industrious and indefatigable in his work; he preached publicly, and from house to house. He did not confine himself to a corner when he had opportunity of preaching in the great congregation; nor did he confine himself to the congregation when there was occasion for private and personal instruction. He was neither afraid nor ashamed to preach the gospel publicly, nor did he grudge to bestow his pains privately, among a few, when there was occasion for it. He preached publicly to the flock that came together into the green pastures, and went from house to house to seek those that were weak and had wandered, and did not think that the one would excuse him from the other. Ministers should in their private visits, and as they go from house to house, discourse of those things which they have taught publicly, repeat them, inculcate them, and explain them, if it be needful, asking, Have you understood all these things? And, especially, they should help persons to apply the truth to themselves and their own case. (5.) He was a faithful preacher. He not only preached that which was profitable, but he preached every thing that he thought might be profitable, and kept back nothing, though the preaching of it might either cost him more pains or be disobliging to some and expose him to their ill-will. He declined not preaching whatever he thought might be profitable, though it was not fashionable, nor to some acceptable. He did not keep back reproofs, when they were necessary and would be profitable, for fear of offending; nor did he keep back the preaching of the cross, though he knew it was to the Jews a stumbling-block and to the Greeks foolishness, as the Roman missionaries in China lately did. (6.) He was a catholic preacher. He testified both to the Jews and also to the Greeks. Though he was born and bred a Jew, and had an entire affection for that nation, and was trained up in their prejudices against the Gentiles, yet he did not therefore confine himself to the Jews and avoid the Gentiles; but preached as readily to them as to the Jews, and conversed as freely with them. And, on the other hand, though he was called to be the apostle of the Gentiles, and the Jews had an implacable enmity against him upon that score, had done him many an ill turn, and here at Ephesus were continually plotting against him, yet he did not therefore abandon them as reprobates, but continued to deal with them for their good. Ministers must preach the gospel with impartiality; for they are ministers of Christ for the universal church. (7.) He was a truly Christian evangelical preacher. He did not preach philosophical notions, or matters of doubtful disputation, nor did he preach politics, or intermeddle at all with affairs of state or the civil government; but he preached faith and repentance, the two great gospel graces, the nature and necessity of them; these he urged upon all occasions. [1.] Repentance towards God; that those who by sin had gone away from God, and were going further and further from him into a state of endless separation from him, should by true repentance look towards God, turn towards him, move towards him, and hasten to him. He preached repentance as God's great command (Acts 17:30; Acts 17:30), which we must obey--that men should repent, and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance (so he explains it, Acts 26:20; Acts 26:20); and he preached it as Christ's gift, in order to the remission of sins (Acts 5:31; Acts 5:31), and directed people to look up to him for it. [2.] Faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ. We must be repentance look towards God as our end; and by faith towards Christ as our way to God. Sin must by repentance be abandoned and forsaken, and then Christ must by faith be relied on for the pardon of sin. Our repentance towards God is not sufficient, we must have a true faith in Christ as our Redeemer and Saviour, consenting to him as our Lord and our God. For there is no coming to God, as penitent prodigals to a Father, but in the strength and righteousness of Jesus Christ as Mediator.
Such a preacher as this they all knew Paul had been; and, if they will carry on the same work, they must walk in the same spirit, in the same steps.
II. He declares his expectation of sufferings and afflictions in his present journey to Jerusalem, Acts 20:22-24; Acts 20:22-24. Let them not think that he quitted Asia now for fear of persecution; nor, he was so far from running away like a coward from the post of danger that he was now like a hero hastening to the high places of the field, where the battle was likely to be hottest: Now, behold, I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, which may be understood either, (1.) Of the certain foresight he had of trouble before him. Though he was not yet bound in body, he was bound in spirit; he was in full expectation of trouble, and made it his daily business to prepare for it. He was bound in spirit, as all good Christians are poor in spirit, endeavouring to accommodate themselves to the will of God if they should be reduced to poverty. Or, (2.) Of the strong impulse he was under from the Spirit of God working upon his spirit to go this journey: "I go bound in the spirit, that is, firmly resolved to proceed, and well assured that it is by a divine direction and influence that I am so, and not from any humour or design of my own. I go led by the Spirit, and bound to follow him wherever he leads me."
1. He does not know particularly the things that shall befal him at Jerusalem. Whence the trouble shall spring, what shall be the occasion of it, what the circumstances and to what degree it shall arise, God had not thought fit to reveal to him. It is good for us to be kept in the dark concerning future events, that we may be always waiting on God and waiting for him. When we go abroad, it should be with this thought, we know not the things that shall befal us, nor what a day, or a night, or an hour, may bring forth; and therefore must refer ourselves to God, let him do with us as seemeth good in his eyes, and study to stand complete in his whole will.
2. Yet he does know in general that thee is a storm before him; for the prophets in every city he passed through told him, by the Holy Ghost, that bonds and afflictions awaited him. Besides the common notice given to all Christians and ministers to expect and prepare for sufferings, Paul had particular intimations of an extraordinary trouble, greater and longer than any he had yet met with, that was now before him.
3. He fixes a brave and heroic resolution to go on with his work, notwithstanding. It was a melancholy peal that was rung in his ears in every city, that bonds and afflictions did abide him; it was a hard case for a poor man to labour continually to do good, and to be so ill treated for his pains. Now it is worth while to enquire how he bore it. He was flesh and blood as well as other men; he was so, and yet by the grace of God he was enabled to go on with his work, and to look with a gracious and generous contempt upon all the difficulties and discouragements he met with in it. Let us take it from his own mouth here (Acts 20:24; Acts 20:24), where he speaks not with obstinacy nor ostentation, but with a holy humble resolution: "None of these things move me; all my care is to proceed and to persevere in the way of my duty, and to finish well." Paul is here an example,
(1.) Of holy courage and resolution in our work, notwithstanding the difficulties and oppositions we meet with in it; he saw them before him, but he made nothing of them: None of these things move me; oudenos logon poioumai--I make no account of them. He did not lay these things to heart, Christ and heaven lay there. None of these things moved him. [1.] They did not drive him off from his work; he did not tack about, and go back again, when he saw the storm rise, but went on resolutely, preaching there, where he knew how dearly it would cost him. [2.] They did not deprive him of his comfort, nor make him drive on heavily in his work. In the midst of troubles he was as one unconcerned. In his patience he possessed his soul, and, when he was as sorrowful, yet he was always rejoicing, and in all things more than a conqueror. Those that have their conversation in heaven can look down, not only upon the common troubles of this earth but upon the threatening rage and malice of hell itself, and say that none of these things moved them, as knowing that none of these things can hurt them.
(2.) Of a holy contempt of life, and the continuance and comforts of it: Neither count I my life dear to myself. Life is sweet, and is naturally dear to us. All that a man has will he give for his life; but all that a man has, and life too, will he give who understands himself aright and his own interest, rather than lose the favour of God and hazard eternal life. Paul was of this mind. Though to an eye of nature life is superlatively valuable, yet to an eye of faith it is comparatively despicable; it is not so dear but it can be cheerfully parted with for Christ. This explains Luke 14:26, where we are required to hate our own lives, not in a hasty passion, as Job and Jeremiah, but in a holy submission to the will of God, and a resolution to die for Christ rather than to deny him.
(3.) Of a holy concern to go through with the work of life, which should be much more our care than to secure either the outward comforts of it or the countenance of it. Blessed Paul counts not his life dear in comparison with this, and resolves in the strength of Christ, non propter vitam vivendi perdere causas--that he never will, to save his life, lose the ends of living. He is willing to spend his life in labour, to hazard his life in dangerous services, to waste it in toilsome services; nay, to lay down his life in martyrdom, so that he may but answer the great intentions of his birth, of his baptism, and of his ordination to the apostleship. Two things this great and good man is in care about, and if he gain them it is no matter to him what becomes of life:-- [1.] That he may be found faithful to the trust reposed in him, that he may finish the ministry which he has received of the Lord Jesus, may do the work which he was sent into the world about, or, rather, which he was sent into the church about,--that he may complete the service of his generation, may make full proof of his ministry,--that he may go through the business of it, and others may reap the advantage of it, to the utmost of what was designed,--that he may, as is said of the two witnesses, finish his testimony (Revelation 11:7), and may not do his work by halves. Observe, First, The apostleship was a ministry both to Christ and to the souls of men; and those that were called to it considered more the ministry of it than the dignity or dominion of it; and, if the apostles did so, much more ought the pastors and teachers to do so, and to be in the church as those who serve. Secondly, This ministry was received from the Lord Jesus. He entrusted them with it, and from him they received their charge; for him they do their work, in his name, in his strength; and to him they must give up their account. It was Christ that put them into the ministry (1 Timothy 1:12); it is he that carries them on in their ministry, and from him they have strength to do their service and bear up under the hardships of it. Thirdly, The work of this ministry was to testify the gospel of the grace of God, to publish it to the world, to prove it, and to recommend it; and, being the gospel of the grace of God, it has enough in it to recommend itself. It is a proof of God's good-will to us, and a means of his good work in us; it shows him gracious towards us, and tends to make us gracious, and so is the gospel of the grace of God. Paul made it the business of his life to testify this, and desired not to live a day longer than he might be instrumental to spread the knowledge and savour and power of this gospel. [2.] That he may finish well. He cares not when the period of his life comes, nor how, be it ever so soon, ever so sudden, ever so sad, as to outward circumstances, so that he may but finish his course with joy. First, He looks upon his life as a course, a race, so the word is. Our life is a race set before us,Hebrews 12:1. This intimates that we have our labours appointed us, for we were not sent into the world to be idle; and our limits appointed us, for we were not sent into the world to be here always, but to pass through the world, nay, to run through it, and it is soon run through; I may add, to run the gauntlet through it. Secondly, He counts upon the finishing of his course, and speaks of it as sure and near, and that which he had his thoughts continually upon. Dying is the end of our race, when we come off either with honour or shame. Thirdly, He is full of care to finish it well, which implies a holy desire of obtaining and a holy fear of coming short. "Oh! that I may but finish my course with joy; and then all will be well, perfectly and eternally well." Fourthly, He thinks nothing too much to do, nor too hard to suffer, so that he may but finish well, finish with joy. We must look upon it as the business of our life to provide for a joyful death, that we may not only die safely, but die comfortably.
III. Counting upon it that this was the last time they should see him, he appeals to their consciences concerning his integrity, and demands of them a testimony to it.
1. He tells them that he was now taking his last leave of them (Acts 20:25; Acts 20:25): I know that you all, among whom I have been conversant preaching the kingdom of God, though you may have letters from me, shall never see my face again. When any of us part with our friends, we may say, and should say, "We know not that ever we shall see one another again: our friends may be removed, or we ourselves may." But Paul here speaks it with assurance, by the Spirit of prophecy, that these Ephesians should see his face no more; and we cannot think that he who spoke so doubtfully of that which he was not sure of (not knowing the things that shall befal me there,Acts 20:22; Acts 20:22) would speak this with so much confidence, especially when he foresaw what a trouble it would be to his friends here, unless he had had a special warrant from the Spirit to say it, to whom I think those do wrong who suppose that, notwithstanding this, Paul did afterwards come to Ephesus, and see them again. He would never have said thus solemnly, Now, behold, I know it, if he had not known it for certain. Not but that he foresaw that he had a great deal of time and work yet before him, but he foresaw that his work would be cut out for him in other places, and in these parts he had no more to do. Here he had for a great while gone about preaching the kingdom of God, preaching down the kingdom of sin and Satan, and preaching up the authority and dominion of God in Christ, preaching the kingdom of glory as the end and the kingdom of grace as the way. Many a time they had been glad to see his face in the pulpit, and saw it as it had been the face of an angel. If the feet of these messengers of peace were beautiful upon the mountains, what were their faces? But now they shall see his face no more. Note, We ought often to think of it, that those who now are preaching to us the kingdom of God will shortly be removed and we shall see their faces no more: the prophets, do they live for ever? Yet a little while is their light with us; it concerns us therefore to improve it while we have it, that when we shall see their faces no more on earth, yet we may hope to look them in the face with comfort in the great day.
2. He appeals to them concerning the faithful discharge of his ministry among them (Acts 20:26; Acts 20:26): "Wherefore, seeing my ministry is at an end with you, it concerns both you and me to reflect, and look back;" and, (1.) He challenges them to prove him unfaithful, or to have said or done any thing by which he had made himself accessory to the ruin of any precious soul: I am pure from the blood of all men, the blood of souls. This plainly refers to that of the prophet (Ezekiel 33:6), where the blood of him that perishes by the sword of the enemy is said to be required at the hand of the unfaithful watchman that did not give warning: "You cannot say but I have given warning, and therefore no man's blood can be laid at my door." If a minister has approved himself faithful, he may have this rejoicing in himself, I am pure from the blood of all men, and ought to have this testimony from others. (2.) He therefore leaves the blood of those that perish upon their own heads, because they had fair warning given them, but they would not take it. (3.) He charges these ministers to look to it that they took care and pains, as he had done: "I am pure from the blood of all men, see that you keep yourselves so too. I take you to record this day"--en te semeron hemera, "I call this day to witness to you:" so Streso. As sometimes the heaven and earth are appealed to, so here this day shall be a witness, this parting day.
3. He proves his own fidelity with this (Acts 20:27; Acts 20:27): For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. (1.) He had preached to them nothing but the counsel of God, and had not added any inventions of his own; "it was pure gospel, and nothing else, the will of God concerning your salvation." The gospel is the counsel of God; it is admirably contrived by his wisdom, it is unalterably determined by his will, and it is kindly designed by his grace for our glory, 1 Corinthians 2:7. This counsel of God it is the business of ministers to declare as it is revealed, and not otherwise nor any further. (2.) He had preached to them the whole counsel of God. As he had preached to them the whole counsel of God. As he had preached to them the gospel pure, so he had preached it to them entire; he had gone over a body of divinity among them, that, having the truths of the gospel opened to them methodically from first to last in order, they might the better understand them, by seeing them in their several connections with, and dependences upon, one another. (3.) He had not shunned to do it; had not wilfully nor designedly avoided the declaring of any part of the counsel of God. He had not, to save his own pains, declined preaching upon the most difficult parts of the gospel, nor, to save his own credit, declined preaching upon the most plain and easy parts of it; he had not shunned preaching those doctrines which he knew would be provoking to the watchful enemies of Christianity, or displeasing to the careless professors of it, but faithfully took his work before him, whether they would hear or forbear. And thus it was that he kept himself pure from the blood of all men.
IV. He charges them as ministers to be diligent and faithful in their work.
1. He commits the care of the church at Ephesus, that is, the saints, the Christians that were there and thereabouts (Ephesians 1:1), to them, who, though doubtless they were so numerous that they could not all meet in one place, but worshipped God in several congregations, under the conduct of several ministers, are yet called here one flock, because they not only agreed in one faith, as they did with all Christian churches, but in many instances they kept up communion one with another. To these elders or presbyters the apostle here, upon the actual foresight of his own final leaving them, commits the government of this church, and tells them that not he, but the Holy Ghost, had made them overseers, episkopous--bishops of the flock. "You that are presbyters are bishops of the Holy Ghost's making, that are to take the oversight of this part of the church of God," 1 Peter 5:1; 1 Peter 5:2; Titus 1:5; Titus 1:7. While Paul was present at Ephesus, he presided in all the affairs of that church, which made the elders loth to part with him; but now this eagle stirs up the nest, flutters over her young; now that they begin to be fledged they must learn to fly themselves, and to act without him, for the Holy Ghost had made them overseers. They took not this honour to themselves, nor was it conferred upon them by any prince or potentate, but the Holy Ghost in them qualified them for, and enriched them to, this great undertaking, the Holy Ghost fell upon them,Acts 19:6; Acts 19:6. The Holy Ghost also directed those that chose, and called, and ordained, them to this work in answer to prayer.
2. He commanded them to mind the work to which they were called. Dignity calls for duty; if the Holy Ghost has made them overseers of the flock, that is, shepherds, they must be true to their trust. (1.) They must take heed to themselves in the first place, must have a very jealous eye upon all the motions of their own souls, and upon all they said and did, must walk circumspectly, and know how to behave themselves aright in the house of God, in which they were now advanced to the office of stewards: "You have many eyes upon you, some to take example by you, others to pick quarrels with you, and therefore you ought to take heed to yourselves." Those are not likely to be skilful or faithful keepers of the vineyards of others that do not keep their own. (2.) "Take heed to the flock, to all the flock, some to one part of it, others to another, according as your call and opportunity are, but see that no part of it be neglected among you." Ministers must not only take heed to their own souls, but must have a constant regard to the souls of those who are under their charge, as shepherds have to their sheep, that they may receive no damage: "Take heed to all the flock, that none of them either of themselves wander from the fold or be seized by the beasts of prey; that none of them be missing, or miscarry, through your neglect." (3.) They must feed the church of God, must do all the parts of the shepherd's office, must lead the sheep of Christ into the green pastures, must lay meat before them, must do what they can to heal those that are distempered and have no appetite to their meat, must feed them with wholesome doctrine, with a tender evangelical discipline, and must see that nothing is wanting that is necessary in order to their being nourished up to eternal life. There is need of pastors, not only to gather the church of God by bringing in of those that are without, but to feed it by building up those that are within. (4.) They must watch (Acts 20:31; Acts 20:31), as shepherds keep watch over their flocks by night, must be awake and watchful, must not give way to spiritual sloth and slumber, but must stir up themselves to their business and closely attend it. Watch thou in all things (2 Timothy 4:5), watch against every thing that will be hurtful to the flock, and watch to every thing that will be advantageous to it; improve every opportunity of doing it a kindness.
3. He gives them several good reasons why they should mind the business of their ministry.
(1.) Let them consider the interest of their Master, and his concern for the flock that was committed to their charge, Acts 20:28; Acts 20:28. It is the church which he has purchased with his own blood. [1.] "It is his own; you are but his servants to take care of it for him. It is your honour that you are employed for God, who will own you in his service; but then your carelessness and treachery are so much the worse if you neglect your work, for you wrong God and are false to him. From him you received the trust, and to him you must give up your account, and therefore take heed to yourselves. And, if it be the church of God, he expects you should show your love to him by feeding his sheep and lambs." [2.] He has purchased it. The world is God's by right of creation, but the church is his by right of redemption, and therefore it ought to be dear to us, for it was dear to him, because it cost him dear, and we cannot better show it than by feeding his sheep and his lambs. [3.] This church of God is what he has purchased; not as Israel of old, when he gave men for them, and people for their life (Isaiah 43:3), but with his own blood. This proves that Christ is God, for he is called so here, where yet he is said to purchase the church with his own blood; the blood was his as man, yet so close is the union between the divine and human nature that it is here called the blood of God, for it was the blood of him who is God, and his being so put such dignity and worth into it as made it both a valuable ransom of us from evil, and a valuable purchase for us of all good, nay, a purchase of us to Christ, to be to him a peculiar people: Thine they were, and thou gavest them to me. In consideration of this, therefore, feed the church of God, because it is purchased at so dear a rate. Did Christ lay down his life to purchase it, and shall his ministers be wanting in any care and pains to feed it? Their neglect of its true interest is a contempt of his blood that purchased it.
(2.) Let them consider the danger that the flock was in of being made a prey to its adversaries, Acts 20:29; Acts 20:30. "If the flock be thus precious upon the account of its relation to God, and its redemption by Christ, then you are concerned to take heed both to yourselves and to it." Here are reasons for both. [1.] Take heed to the flock, for wolves are abroad, that seek to devour (Acts 20:29; Acts 20:29): I know this, that after my departure grievous wolves shall enter in among you. First, Some understand it of persecutors, that will inform against the Christians, and incense the magistrates against them, and will have no compassion on the flock. They thought, because, while Paul was with them, the rage of the Jews was most against him, that, when he had gone out of the country, they would be quiet: "No," says he, "after my departure you will find the persecuting spirit still working, therefore take heed to the flock, confirm them in the faith, comfort and encourage them, that they may not either leave Christ for fear of suffering or lose their peace and comfort in their sufferings." Ministers must take a more ordinary care of the flock in times of persecution. Secondly, It is rather to be understood of seducers and false teachers. Probably Paul has an eye to those of the circumcision, who preached up the ceremonial law; these he calls grievous wolves, for though they came in sheep's clothing, nay, in shepherds' clothing, they made mischief in the congregations of Christians, sowed discord among them, drew away many from the pure gospel of Christ, and did all they could to blemish and defame those that adhered to it; not sparing the most valuable members of the flock, stirring up those whom they could influence to bite and devour them (Galatians 5:15); therefore they are called dogs (Philippians 3:2), as here wolves. While Paul was at Ephesus, they kept away, for they durst not face him; but, when he was gone, then they entered in among them, and sowed their tares where he had sown the good seed. "Therefore take heed to the flock, and do all you can to establish them in the truth, and to arm them against the insinuations of the false teachers." [2.] Take heed to yourselves, for some shepherds will apostatise (Acts 20:30; Acts 20:30): "Also of your ownselves, among the members, nay, perhaps, among the ministers of your own church, among you that I am now speaking to (though I am willing to hope it does not go so far as that), shall men arise speaking perverse things, things contrary to the right rule of the gospel, and destructive of the great intentions of it. Nay, they will pervert some sayings of the gospel, and wrest them to make them patronize their errors, 2 Peter 3:16. Even those that were well thought of among you, and that you had confidence in, will grow proud, and conceited, and opinionative, and will refine upon the gospel, and will pretend with more nice and curious speculations to advance you to a higher form; but it is to draw away disciples after them, to make a party for themselves, that shall admire them, and be led by them, and pin their faith upon their sleeve." Some read it, to draw away disciples after them--those that are already disciples of Christ, draw them from him to follow them. "Therefore, take heed to yourselves; when you are told that some of you shall betray the gospel, you are each of you concerned to ask, Is it I? and to look well to yourselves." This was there fulfilled in Phygellus and Hermogenes, who turned away from Paul and the doctrine he had preached (2 Timothy 1:15), and in Hymeneus and Philetus, who concerning the truth erred, and overthrew the faith of some (2 Timothy 2:18), which explains the expression here. But, though there were some such seducers in the church of Ephesus, yet it should seem by Paul's Epistle to that church (wherein we do not find such complaints and reprehensions as we meet with in some other of his epistles) that that church was not so much infested with false teachers, at least not so much infected with their false doctrine, as some other churches were; but its peace and purity were preserved by the blessing of God on the pains and vigilance of these presbyters, to whom the apostle, in the actual foresight and consideration of the rise of heresies and schisms, as well as of his own death, committed the government of this church.
(3.) Let them consider the great pains that Paul had taken in planting this church (Acts 20:31; Acts 20:31): "Remember that for the space of three years" (for so long he had been preaching in Ephesus, and the parts adjacent) "I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears; and be not you negligent in building upon that foundation which I was so diligent to lay." [1.] Paul, like a faithful watchman, had warned them, and, by the warnings he gave men of the danger of their continuing in their Judaism and heathenism, he prevailed with them to embrace Christianity. [2.] He warned every one; besides the public warnings he gave in his preaching, he applied himself to particular persons according as he saw their case called for it, which he had something to say peculiar to. [3.] He was constant in giving warning; he warned night and day; his time was filled up with his work. In the night, when he should have been reposing himself, he was dealing with those he could not get to speak with in the day about their souls. [4.] He was indefatigable in it; he ceased not to warn. Though they were ever so obstinate against his warnings, yet he did not cease to warn, not knowing but that at length they might, by the grace of God, be overcome; though they were ever so pliable to his warnings, yet he did not think this would be a sufficient excuse for him to desist, but still he warned those that were righteous as not to turn from their righteousness, as he had warned them when they were wicked to turn from their wickedness, Ezekiel 3:18-21. [5.] He spoke to them about their souls with a great deal of affection and concern: he warned them with tears. As he had served the Lord, so he had served them, with many tears,Acts 20:19; Acts 20:19. He warned them with tears of compassion, thereby showing how much he was himself affected with their misery and danger in a sinful state and way, that he might affect them with it. Thus Paul had begun the good work at Ephesus, thus free had he been of his pains; and why then should they be sparing of their pains in carrying it on?
V. He recommends them to divine direction and influence (Acts 20:32; Acts 20:32): "And now, brethren, having given you this solemn charge and caution, I commend you to God. Now that I have said what I have to say, The Lord be with you; I must leave you, but I leave you in good hands." They were in care what would become of them, how they should go on in their work, break through their difficulties, and what provision would be made for them and their families. In answer to all these perplexities, Paul directs them to look up to God with an eye of faith, and beseeches God to look down on them with an eye of favour.
1. See here to whom he commends them. He calls them brethren, not only as Christians, but as ministers, and thereby encourages them to hope in God, as he had done; for they and he were brethren. (1.) He commends them to God, begs of God to provide for them, to take care of them, and to supply all their needs, and encourages them to cast all their care upon him, with an assurance that he cared for them: "Whatever you want, go to God, let your eye be ever towards him, and your dependence upon him, in all your straits and difficulties; and let this be your comfort, that you have a God to go to, a God all sufficient." I commend you to God, that is, to his providence, and to the protection and care of that. It is enough that, from whomsoever we are separated, still we have God nigh unto us, 1 Peter 4:19. (2.) He commends them to the word of his grace, by which some understand Christ: he is the word (John 1:1), the word of life, because life is treasured up for us in him (1 John 1:1), and in the same sense he is here called the word of God's grace, because from his fulness we receive grace for grace. He commends them to Christ, puts them into his hand, as being his servants, whom he would in a particular manner take care of. Paul commends them not only to God and to his providence, but to Christ and his grace as Christ himself did his disciples when he was leaving them: You believe in God, believe also in me. It comes to much the same thing, if by the word of his grace we understand the gospel of Christ, for it is Christ in the word that is nigh unto us for our support and encouragement, and his word is spirit and life: "You will find much relief by acting faith on the providence of God, but much more by acting faith on the promises of the gospel." He commends them to the word of Christ's grace, which he spoke to his disciples when he sent them forth, the commission he gave them, with assurance that he would be with them always to the end of the world: "Take hold of that word, and God give you the benefit and comfort of it, and you need no more." He commends them to the word of God's grace, not only as the foundation of their hope and the fountain of their joy, but as the rule of their walking: "I commend you to God, as your Master, whom you are to serve, and I have found him a good Master, and to the word of his grace, as cutting you out your work, and by which you are to govern yourselves; observe the precepts of this word, and then live upon the promises of it."
2. See here what he commends them to the word of God's grace for, not so much for a protection from their enemies, or a provision for their families, as for the spiritual blessings which they most needed and ought most to value. They had received the gospel of the grace of God, and were entrusted to preach it. Now he recommends them to that, (1.) For their edification: "It is able (the Spirit of grace working with it and by it) to build you up, and you may depend upon this, while you keep close to it, and are deriving daily from it. Though you are already furnished with good gifts, yet this is able to build you up; there is that in it with which you need to be better acquainted and more affected." Note, Ministers, in preaching the word of grace, must aim at their own edification as well as at the edification of others. The most advanced Christians, while they are in this world, are capable of growing, and they will find the word of grace to have still more and more in it to contribute to their growth. It is still able to build them up. (2.) For their glorification: It is able to give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. The word of God's grace gives it, not only as it gives the knowledge of it (for life and immortality are brought to light by the gospel), but as it gives the promise of it, the promise of a God that cannot lie, and which is yea and amen in Christ; and by the word, as the ordinary vehicle, the Spirit of grace is given (Acts 10:44; Acts 10:44), to be the seal of the promise, and the earnest of the eternal life promised; and thus it is the word of God's grace that gives us the inheritance. Note, [1.] Heaven is an inheritance which gives an indefeasible right to all the heirs; it is an inheritance like that of the Israelites in Canaan, which was by promise and yet by lot, but was sure to all the seed. [2.] This inheritance is entailed upon and secured to all those, and those only, that are sanctified; for as those cannot be welcome guests to the holy God, or the holy society above, that are unsanctified, so really heaven would be no heaven to them; but to all that are sanctified, that are born again, and on whom the image of God is renewed, it is as sure as almighty power and eternal truth can make it. Those therefore that would make out a title to that inheritance must make it sure that they are among the sanctified, are joined to them and incorporated with them, and partake of the same image and nature; for we cannot expect to be among the glorified hereafter unless we be among the sanctified here.
VI. He recommends himself to them as an example of indifference to this world, and to every thing in it, which, if they would walk in the same spirit and in the same steps, they would find to contribute greatly to their easy and comfortable passage through it. He had recommended them to God, and to the word of his grace, for spiritual blessings, which, without doubt, are the best blessings; but what shall they do for food for their families, an agreeable subsistence for themselves, and portions for their children? "As to these," Paul says, "do as I did;" and how was that? He here tells them,
1. That he never aimed at worldly wealth (Acts 20:33; Acts 20:33): "I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel; nor do you, and then you will be easy." There were many in Ephesus, and many of those that had embraced the Christian faith, who were rich, had a great deal of money, and plate, and rich furniture, and wore very good clothes, and made a very good appearance. Now, (1.) Paul was not ambitious to live like them. We may take it in this sense: "I never coveted to have so much silver and gold at command as I see others have, nor to wear such rich clothes as I see others wear. I neither condemn them nor envy them. I can live comfortably and usefully without living great." The false apostles desired to make a fair show in the flesh (Galatians 6:12), to make a figure in the world; but Paul did not do so. He knew how to want and how to be abased. (2.) He was not greedy to receive from them, silver, or gold, or apparel; so far from being always craving that he was not so much as coveting, nor desired them to allow him so and so for his pains among them, but was content with such things as he had; he never made a gain of them,2 Corinthians 12:17. He could not only say with Moses (Numbers 16:15), and with Samuel (1 Samuel 12:3; 1 Samuel 12:5), Whose ox have I taken? Or whom have I defrauded? But, "Whose kindness have I coveted, or asked? Or to whom have I been burdensome?" He protests against desiring a gift, Philippians 4:17.
2. That he had worked for his living, and taken a great deal of pains to get bread (Acts 20:34; Acts 20:34) "Yea, you yourselves know, and have been eye-witnesses of it, that these hands of mine have ministered to my necessities, and to those that were with me; you have seen me busy early and late, cutting out tents and making them up;" and, they being commonly made of leather, it was very hard work. Observe, (1.) Paul was sometimes reduced to necessities, and the want of the common supports of life, though he was so great a favourite of Heaven and so great a blessing to this earth. What an unthinking, unkind, and ungrateful world is this, that could let such a man as Paul be poor in it! (2.) He desired no more than to have his necessities supplied; he did not work at his calling to enrich himself, but to maintain himself with food and raiment. (3.) When he was to earn his bread, he did it by a manual occupation. Paul had a head and a tongue that he might have got money by, but they were these hands, saith he, that ministered to my necessities. What a pity was it that those hands by the laying on of which the Holy Ghost had been so often conferred, those hands by which God had wrought special miracles, and both these at Ephesus too (Acts 19:6; Acts 19:11), should there be obliged to lay themselves to the needle and shears, the awl and tacking-end, in tent-making, purely to get bread! Paul puts these presbyters (and others in them) in mind of this, that they may not think it strange if they be thus neglected, and yet to go on in their work, and make the best shift they can to live; the less encouragement they have from men, the more they shall have from God. (4.) He worked not only for himself, but for the support of those also that were with him. This was hard indeed. It had better become them to have worked for him (to maintain him as their tutor) than he for them. But so it is; those that are willing to take the labouring oar will find those about them willing they should have it. If Paul will work for the maintenance of his companions, he is welcome to do it.
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Acts 20:24". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/acts-20.html. 1706.
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12