PLUS Resource: 6 Prayers for When You Are Fighting Anxiety

Acts 20

SUMMARY.--Paul Departs to Macedonia. And to Greece. Paul at Troas. The Meeting on the First Day of the Week to Break Bread. The Meeting with the Elders of the Church at Ephesus. Paul's Affectionate Warnings. The Sorrowful Farewell.

      17-27. Called the elders of the church. No mention has been made before of their appointment, but it was Paul's custom to "ordain elders in every church" ( 14:23 ). These elders were also called "bishops" (see verse 28 , Revision). In apostolic days there was a plurality of elders in every church; these elders were "bishops," or overseers. There was no distinct episcopal order. This is admitted even by the advocates of an episcopate. Dean Howson, of the Church of England, declares (Acts, p. 475) that no special order of bishops was created in the lifetime of Paul, or the apostles, but he dates their origin about the close of the first or beginning of the second century. Prof. Rothe, of Heidelberg (quoted by Lightfoot on Philippians), supposes that after the martyrdom of Paul, Peter and James the necessity was felt for a general supervision, and that this gave rise to the appointment of diocesan bishops. By the admission of all scholars, the episcopal order is post-apostolic. Ye know. This is a pastoral address, worthy of the closest study by all pastors and elders. First, the apostle calls attention to his own example. Every elder ought to be an example. Taught you publicly. Three months in the synagogue at Ephesus; two years in the school of Tyrannus, besides his teaching in the church assemblies. Repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord. These items embrace the sum of Christian doctrine. Repentance of our sins against our Creator, the resolve to turn from them; then faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior, by trust in his grace and obedience to his will. Now I go bound in the spirit. Urged by a sense of duty, yet knowing from the premonitions of the Holy Spirit that bonds and afflictions awaited him at Jerusalem. Ye shall see my face no more. Paul does not state this as a revelation, but as his conviction. He then thought it not improbable that he would soon die for Christ. Many think that he was released from his first imprisonment in Rome. Dean Howson says: "It is almost certain that Paul, after his liberation from the imprisonment spoken of in Acts XXVIII. Acts 28:16 Acts 28:30 , did revisit the Asian churches (see notices and greetings and directions in 2 Timothy 4:10-12 2 Timothy 4:20 2 Timothy 4:21 2 Tim. IV. and in Tit. 1:5 , especially the words, 'Trophimus I have left at Miletum sick')." Pure from the blood of all men. Not responsible, if they are lost, for he had declared "the whole counsel of God."

      28-31. Take heed. Here begin the special admonitions to the elders. To yourselves. Their own lives must be the first subject of watchfulness. No man can be so exalted that he does not need to watch and pray. The flock. The church, the fold of the Good Shepherd, of whom they were under-shepherds, or pastors. To feed the church. "On the sincere milk of the word, that it may grow thereby." Grievous wolves. The figure of the flock is still kept up. The "grievous wolves" were false teachers, and the special reference is to the Judaizing teachers, who taught that the Gentile Christians must keep the Jewish law. Paul's ministry was a long battle with the schismatics. See 1 Timothy 1:3 1 Timothy 1:4 1 Timothy 1:20 2 Timothy 1:15 2 Timothy 2:17 ; also John's Third Epistle 3 John 1:9 3 John 1:10 . By turning to these references the names of some six of these "grievous wolves" will be found. Also in Rev. 2:6 we learn that there were false teachers at Ephesus.

      32-35. I commend you to God. In their weighty responsibility he commends them to God. And to the word of his grace. The word will be a guide in all their difficulties and is able to build them up and give them an inheritance among the sanctified. If it is followed, they cannot stray. Sanctified. All Christians are spoken of as sanctified. See 1 Corinthians 1:2 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 . I have coveted no man's silver. No motives of self-interest could induce him to labor in the work to which he was called. It offered no earthly emoluments. We have found that at Corinth he worked with his own hands for support. We here learn that he did the same thing at Ephesus. See Acts 18:3 Acts 18:2 Th 3:10-12 Th 3:1 Co 4:11 Co 4:12 . He also warns Timothy to flee from the love of money as hurtful, an admonition that should never be forgotten. It is more blessed to give than to receive. These words, quoted by Paul, as well known are not found in any one of the four Gospels, but are none the less genuine. They only preserve a fragment of the sayings and doings of our Lord ( John 21:25 ). Giving, even here, secures more real happiness than receiving, and besides, is Godlike and blesses forever.

      36-38. He kneeled down, and prayed. This was the most appropriate parting for these ancient men of God. Fell on Paul's neck, and kissed him. An Eastern custom of exhibiting great affection. That they should see his face no more. This thought caused their greatest sorrow, but we have seen that it is probable that they did see him again. It was not, however, until after Acts was written. See note on verse 25.

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