Acts 20:1-12 . PAUL FULFILS HIS PURPOSE OF PROCEEDING AGAIN TO MACEDONIA AND GREECE--RETURNING THENCE, ON HIS ROUTE FOR JERUSALEM, HE REVISITS PHILIPPI AND TROAS--HIS MINISTRATIONS AT TROAS.
This section of the apostle's life, though peculiarly rich in material, is related with great brevity in the History. Its details must be culled from his own Epistles.
1, 2. departed--after Pentecost ( 1 Corinthians 16:8 ).
to go into Macedonia--in pursuance of the first part of his plan ( Acts 19:21 ). From his Epistles we learn; (1) That, as might have been expected from its position on the coast, he revisited Troas ( 2 Corinthians 2:12 ; (2) That while on his former visit he appears to have done no missionary work there, he now went expressly "to preach Christ's Gospel," and found "a door opened unto him of the Lord" there, which he entered so effectually as to lay the foundation of a church there ( Acts 20:6 Acts 20:7 ). (3) That he would have remained longer there but for his uneasiness at the non-arrival of Titus, whom he had despatched to Corinth to finish the collection for the poor saints at Jerusalem ( 1 Corinthians 16:1 1 Corinthians 16:2 , 2 Corinthians 8:6 ), but still more, that he might bring him word what effect his first Epistle to that church had produced. (He had probably arranged that they should meet at Troas). (4) That in this state of mind, afraid of something wrong, he "took leave" of the brethren at Troas, and went from thence into Macedonia. It was, no doubt, the city of PHILIPPI that he came to (landing at Nicopolis, its as appears by comparing 2 Corinthians 11:9 , where "Macedonia" is named, with Philippians 4:15 , where it appears that Philippi is meant. Here he found the brethren, whom he had left on his former visit in circumstances of such deep interest, a consolidated and thriving church, generous and warmly attached to their father in Christ; under the superintendence, probably, of our historian, "the beloved physician" our historian of this Macedonian visit is that "he went over those parts and gave them much exhortation." (5) Titus not having reached Philippi as soon as the apostle, "his flesh had no rest, but he was troubled on every side: without were fightings, within were fears" ( 2 Corinthians 7:5 ). (6) At length Titus arrived, to the joy of the apostle, the bearer of better tidings from Corinth than he had dared to expect ( 2 Corinthians 7:6 2 Corinthians 7:7 2 Corinthians 7:13 ), but checkered by painful intelligence of the efforts of a hostile party to undermine his apostolic reputation there ( 2 Corinthians 10:1-18 ). (7) Under the mixed feelings which this produced, he wrote--from Macedonia, and probably Philippi--his SECOND EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS to Second Corinthians); despatching Titus with it, and along with him two other unnamed deputies, expressly chosen to take up and bring their collection for the poor saints at Jerusalem, and to whom he bears the beautiful testimony, that they were "the glory of Christ" ( 2 Corinthians 8:22 2 Corinthians 8:23 ). (8) It must have been at this time that he penetrated as far as to the confines of "Illyricum," lying along the shores of the Adriatic ( Romans 15:19 ). He would naturally wish that his second Letter to the Corinthians should have some time to produce its proper effect ere he revisited them, and this would appear a convenient opportunity for a northwestern circuit, which would enable him to pay a passing visit to the churches at Thessalonica and Berea, though of this we have no record. On his way southward to Greece, he would preach the Gospel in the intermediate regions of Epirus, Thessaly, and Boeotia (see Romans 15:19 ), though of this we have no record.
2. he came into Greece--or Achaia, in pursuance of the second part of his plan ( Acts 19:21 ).
3. And there abode three months--Though the province only is here mentioned, it is the city of CORINTH that is meant, as the province of "Macedonia" ( Acts 20:1 ) meant the city of Philippi. Some rough work he anticipated on his arrival at Corinth ( 2 Corinthians 10:1-8 2 Corinthians 10:11 , 13:1-10 ) though he had reason to expect satisfaction on the whole; and as we know there were other churches in Achaia besides that at Corinth ( 2 Corinthians 1:1 , 11:10 ), he would have time enough to pay them all a brief visit during the three months of his stay there. This period was rendered further memorable by the despatch of the EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS, written during his stay at Corinth and sent by "Phoebe, a servant [deaconess] of the Church at Cenchrea" a lady apparently of some standing and substance, who was going thither on private business.
And when the Jews laid wait for him, as he was about to sail into Syria--He had intended to embark, probably at Cenchrea, the eastern harbor of the city, for Palestine, on his route to Jerusalem, the third part of his plan ( Acts 19:21 ). But having detected some conspiracy against his life by his bitter Jewish enemies as at Damascus ( Acts 9:22-25 ) and Jerusalem ( Acts 9:29 Acts 9:30 ), he changed his plan and determined "to return" as he had come, "through Macedonia." As he was never more to return to Corinth, so this route would bring him, for the last time, face to face with the attached disciples of Berea, Thessalonica, and Philippi.
4, 5. there accompanied him into Asia--the province of Asia.
Sopater of Berea--The true reading, beyond doubt, is, "Sopater [the son] of Pyrrhus of Berea." Some think this mention of his father was to distinguish him from Sosipater (the same name in fuller form), mentioned in Romans 16:21 . But that they were the same person seems more probable.
of the Thessalonians,
and Secundus--of whom nothing else is known.
Gaius of Derbe--Though the Gaius of Acts 19:29 is said to be of "Macedonia," and this one "of Derbe," there is no sufficient reason for supposing them different persons; on the contrary, Romans 16:23 (compare with 3 John 1:1 , where there is hardly any reason to doubt that the same Gaius is addressed) seems to show that though he spent an important part of his Christian life away from his native Derbe, he had latterly retired to some place not very far from it.
and Timotheus--not probably of Derbe, as one might suppose from this verse, but of Lystra associated in his early connection with the apostle that the mention of the one in the previous clause would recall the other on the mention of his name.
and of Asia, Tychicus and Trophimus--The latter was an Ephesian, and probably the former also. They seem to have put themselves, from this time forward, at the apostle's disposal, and to the very last been a great comfort to him ( Ephesians 6:21 Ephesians 6:22 , Colossians 4:7 Colossians 4:8 , Acts 21:29 , 2 Timothy 4:12 2 Timothy 4:20 ). From the mention of the places to which each of these companions belonged, and still more the order in which they occur, we are left to conclude that they were deputies from their respective churches, charged with taking up and bringing on the collection for the poor saints at Jerusalem, first at Berea, next at Thessalonica, then at Philippi [HOWSON], where we gather that our historian himself rejoined the party (from the resumption at Acts 20:5 of the "us," dropped at Acts 16:17 ), by whom the Philippian collection would naturally be brought on.
5, 6. These going before--perhaps to announce and prepare for the apostle's coming.
tarried for us at Troas.
6. And we sailed . . . from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread--(that is, the Passover). This, compared with 1 Corinthians 16:8 , shows that the three months spent at Corinth ( Acts 20:3 ) were the winter months.
came . . . to Troas--for the third and last time.
in the five days--As it might have been done in two days, the wind must have been adverse. The vivid style of one now present will be here again observed.
where we abode seven days--that is, arriving on a Monday, they stayed over the Jewish sabbath and the Lord's Day following; Paul occupying himself, doubtless, in refreshing and strengthening fellowship with the brethren during the interval.
7. upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together--This, compared with 1 Corinthians 16:2 , and other similar allusions, plainly indicates that the Christian observance of the day afterwards distinctly called "the Lord's Day," was already a fixed practice of the churches.
Paul preached--discoursed. The tense implies continued action--"kept discoursing."
8. there were many lights in the upper chamber--not a mere piece of graphic detail by an eye-witness [HACKETT, HOWSON], but mentioned, probably, as increasing the heat and contributing to drowsiness [WEBSTER and WILKINSON], as the next clause seems to show.
9. in a--"the."
window--or window seat, or recess.
fell down from the third loft--"story."
and was taken up dead--"The window projected (according to the side of the room where it was situated) either over the street or over the interior court; so that in either case he fell on the hard earth or pavement below."
11. broken bread and eaten--with what a mixture of awe and joy after such an occurrence! "And eaten"--denoting a common repast, as distinguished from the breaking of the eucharistic bread. and talked a long while, even till break of day. How lifelike this record of dear Christian fellowship, as free and gladsome as it was solemn! (See Ecclesiastes 9:7 ).
Acts 20:13-38 . CONTINUING HIS ROUTE TO JERUSALEM HE REACHES MILETUS, WHENCE HE SENDS FOR THE ELDERS OF EPHESUS--HIS FAREWELL ADDRESS TO THEM.
13, 14. we . . . sailed--from Troas.
unto Assos; there . . . to take in Paul: for so had he appointed, minding himself to go afoot--"to go by land." In sailing southward from Troas to Assos, one has to round Cape Lecture, and keeping due east to run along the northern shore of the Gulf of Adramyttium, on which it lies. This is a sail of nearly forty miles; whereas by land, cutting right across, in a southeasterly direction, from sea to sea, by that excellent Roman road which then existed, the distance was scarcely more than half. The one way Paul wished his companions to take, while he himself, longing perhaps to enjoy a period of solitude, took the other, joining the ship, by appointment, at Assos.
14. came to Mitylene--the capital of the beautiful and classical island of Lesbos, which lies opposite the eastern shore of the Ægean Sea, about thirty miles south of Assos; in whose harbor they seem to have lain for the night.
15, 16. came the next day over against Chios--now Scio: one of the most beautiful of those islands between which and the coast the sail is so charming. They appear not to have touched at it.
next day we arrived--"touched" or "put in."
at Samos--another island coming quite close to the mainland, and about as far south of Chios as it is south of Lesbos.
tarried--for the night.
at Trogyllium--an anchorage on the projecting mainland, not more than a mile from the southern extremity of the island of Samos.
next day we came to Miletus--on the mainland; the ancient capital of Ionia, near the mouth of the Meander.
16. For Paul had determined to sail by--or "sail past."
Ephesus--He was right opposite to it when approaching Chios.
because he would not spend time in Asia--the Asian province of which Ephesus was the chief city.
for he hasted, if . . . possible . . . to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost--as a suitable season for giving in the great collection from all the western churches, for keeping the feast, and clearing his apostolic position with the Church, then represented in large number at Jerusalem. The words imply that there was considerable ground to doubt if he would attain this object--for more than three of the seven weeks from Passover to Pentecost had already expired--and they are inserted evidently to explain why he did not once more visit Ephesus.
17. from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church--As he was now some forty miles south of Ephesus, we might think that more time would be lost by sending thus far for the elders to come to him, than by going at once to Ephesus itself, when so near it. But if unfavorable winds and stormy weather had overtaken them, his object could not have been attained, and perhaps he was unwilling to run the risk of detention at Ephesus by the state of the church and other causes. Those here called "elders" or "presbyters," are in Acts 20:28 called "bishops." The identity of presbyters and bishops in the New Testament is beyond all reasonable dispute.
18. Ye know . . . after what manner I have been with you at all seasons--For the Christian integrity and fidelity of his whole official intercourse with them he appeals to themselves.
19. Serving the Lord--Jesus.
with all humility . . . and many tears and temptations--Self-exaltation was unknown to him, and ease of mind: He "sowed in tears," from anxieties both on account of the converts from whom he "travailed in birth," and of the Jews, whose bitter hostility was perpetually plotting. against him, interrupting his work and endangering his life.
20. kept back--timidly withheld from fear of consequences.
nothing that was profitable--edification directing all.
have taught you publicly, and from house to house--Did an apostle, whose functions were of so wide a range, not feel satisfied without private as well as public ministrations? How then must pastors feel? [BENGEL].
21. Testifying both to Jews and . . . Greeks--laboring under a common malady, and recoverable only by a common treatment.
repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus REPENTANCE, as distinguished from faith, is that state of the "honest and good heart" which arises from a discovery of one's contrariety to the righteous demands of the divine law. This is said to be "toward God," because seeing Him to be the party dishonored by sin, it feels all its acknowledgments and compunctions to be properly due to Him, as the great Lawgiver, and directs them to Him accordingly; condemning, humbling itself, and grieving before Him, looking also to Him as its only Hope of deliverance. FAITH is said to be "toward our Lord Jesus Christ," because in that frame of mind just described it eagerly credits the testimony of relief divinely provided in Christ, gladly embraces the overtures of reconciliation in Him, and directs all its expectations of salvation, from its first stage to its last, to Him as the one appointed Medium of all grace from God to a sinful world. Thus we have here a brief summary of all Gospel preaching. And it is easy to see why repentance is here put before faith; for the former must of necessity precede the latter. There is a repentance subsequent to faith, the fruit of felt pardon and restoration. It was this which drew the tears with which the Saviour's feet were once so copiously moistened. ( Luke 7:37 Luke 7:38 Luke 7:47 ; and compare Ezekiel 16:63 ). But that is not the light in which it is here presented.
22, 23. And now, behold, I--"I" is emphatic here.
bound in the spirit--compare Acts 19:21 . This internal pressure, unattended with any knowledge of "what was to befall him there," was the result of that higher guidance which shaped all his movements.
23. Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, &c.--by prophetic utterances from city to city, as in Acts 11:4 , Acts 21:10 Acts 21:11 . Analogous premonitions of coming events are not unknown to the general method of God's providence. They would tend to season the apostle's spirit.
24. But none of these things move me, neither, &c.--In this noble expression of absolute dedication to the service of Christ and preparedness for the worst that could befall him in such a cause, note (1) his jealousy for the peculiar character of his mission, as immediately from Christ Himself on which all the charges against him turned; (2) the burden of that Gospel which he preached--GRACE; it was "the Gospel of the Grace of God."
25-27. I know that ye all . . . shall see my face no more--not an inspired prediction of what was certainly to be, but what the apostle, in his peculiar circumstances, fully expected. Whether, therefore, he ever did see them again, is a question to be decided purely on its own evidence.
27. For I have not shunned to declare . . . all the counsel of God--God's way of salvation, and His kingdom of souls saved by His Son Jesus Christ. See Luke 7:30 .
28. Take heed . . . unto yourselves--Compare 1 Timothy 3:2-7 , 4:16 , 6:11 .
and to all the flock--Compare Hebrews 13:17 . Observe here how the personal is put before the pastoral care.
over . . . which the Holy Ghost hath made you--Compare John 20:22 John 20:23 , Ephesians 4:8 Ephesians 4:11 Ephesians 4:12 , Revelation 3:1 . ( Acts 14:23 shows that the apostle did not mean to exclude human ordination).
overseers--or, as the same word is everywhere else rendered in our version, "bishops." The English Version has hardly dealt fair in this case with the sacred text, in rendering the word "overseers," whereas it ought here, as in all other places, to have been "bishops," in order that the fact of elders and bishops having been originally and apostolically synonymous, might be apparent to the ordinary English reader, which now it is not [ALFORD]. The distinction between these offices cannot be certainly traced till the second century, nor was it established till late in that century.
to feed the church of God--or, "the Church of the Lord." Which of these two readings of the text is the true one, is a question which has divided the best critics. The evidence of manuscripts preponderates in favor of "THE LORD"; some of the most ancient Versions, though not all, so read; and ATHANASIUS, the great champion of the supreme Divinity of Christ early in the fourth century, says the expression "Church of God" is unknown to the Scriptures. Which reading, then, does the internal evidence favor? As "Church of God" occurs nine times elsewhere in Paul's writings, and "Church of the Lord" nowhere, the probability, it is said, is that he used his wonted phraseology here also. But if he did, it is extremely difficult to see how so many early transcribers should have altered it into the quite unusual phrase, "Church of the Lord"; whereas, if the apostle did use this latter expression, and the historian wrote it so accordingly, it it easy to see how transcribers might, from being so accustomed to the usual phrase, write it "Church of God." On the whole, therefore, we accept the second reading as most probably the true one. But see what follows.
which he hath purchased--"made His own," "acquired."
with his own blood--"His own" is emphatic: "That glorified Lord who from the right hand of power in the heavens is gathering and ruling the Church, and by His Spirit, through human agency, hath set you over it, cannot be indifferent to its welfare in your hands, seeing He hath given for it His own most precious blood, thus making it His own by the dearest of all ties." The transcendent sacredness of the Church of Christ is thus made to rest on the dignity of its Lord and the consequent preciousness of that blood which He shed for it. And as the sacrificial atoning character of Christ's death is here plainly expressed, so His supreme dignity is implied as clearly by the second reading as it is expressed by the first. What a motive to pastoral fidelity is here furnished!
29, 30. after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you--Two classes of coming enemies are here announced, the one more external to themselves, the other bred in the bosom of their own community; both were to be teachers, but the one, "grievous wolves," not sparing, that is, making a prey of the flock; the other ( Acts 20:30 ), simply sectarian "perverters" of the truth, with the view of drawing a party after them. Perhaps the one pointed to that subtle poison of Oriental Gnosticism which we know to have very early infected the Asiatic churches; the other to such Judaizing tendencies as we know to have troubled nearly all the early churches. See the Epistles to the Ephesians, Colossians, and Timothy, also those to the seven churches of Asia (Revelation 2:1-3:22'). But watchfulness against all that tends to injure and corrupt the Church is the duty of its pastors in every age.
31. by the space of three years--speaking in round numbers; for it was nearer three than two years.
I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears--What an appeal to be able to make! "And if this was an apostle's part, how much more a pastor's!" [BENGEL].
32-35. I commend you to God--the almighty Conservator of His people.
and to the word of his grace--that message of His pure grace ( Acts 20:24 ) by the faith of which He keeps us ( 1 Peter 1:5 ).
which--that is, God.
is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance, &c.--Observe how salvation--not only in its initial stages of pardon and regeneration, but in all its subsequent stages of "up-building," even to its consummation in the final inheritance--is here ascribed to the "ability" of God to bestow it, as in Romans 16:25 , Ephesians 3:20 ; particularly Jude 1:24 ; and compare 2 Timothy 1:12 , where the same thing is ascribed to Christ.
among all them which are sanctified--Sanctification is here viewed as the final character and condition of the heirs of glory, regarded as one saved company.
34. these hands--doubtless holding them up, as before Agrippa in chains ( Acts 26:29 ).
have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me--See Acts 18:3 , 1 Corinthians 4:12 , 9:6 , written from Ephesus; also 1 Thessalonians 2:9 .
35. that so labouring--as I have done for others as well as myself.
ye ought to support the weak to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he--"how Himself."
said, It is more blessed to give than to receive--This golden saying, snatched from oblivion, and here added to the Church's abiding treasures, is apt to beget the wish that more of what issued from those Lips which "dropped as an honeycomb," had been preserved to us. But
36-38. he kneeled down and prayed with them all, &c.--Nothing can be more touching than these three concluding verses, leaving an indelible impression of rare ministerial fidelity and affection on the apostle's part, and of warm admiration and attachment on the part of these Ephesian presbyters. Would to God that such scenes were more frequent in the Church!