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.
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!