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Clarke's Commentary on the Bible
Paul retires to Macedonia, Acts 20:1. He goes into Greece, where he tarries three months and, purposing to sail to Syria, he returns through Macedonia, Acts 20:2, Acts 20:3. Several persons accompany him into Asia, and then go before and tarry for him at Troas, Acts 20:4, Acts 20:5. Paul and Luke sail from Philippi, and in five days reach Troas, where they meet their brethren from Asia, and abide there seven days, Acts 20:6. On the first day of the week, the disciples coming together to break bread, Paul preaching to them, and continuing his speech till midnight, a young man of the name of Eutychus, being in a deep sleep, fell from the third loft and was killed, Acts 20:7-9. Paul restores him to life, resumes his discourse, and continuing it till daybreak, then departs, Acts 20:10-12. Luke and his companions come to Assos, whither Paul comes by land, Acts 20:13. He embarks with them at Assos, comes to Mitylene, Acts 20:14. Sails thence, and passes by Chios, arrives at Samos, tarries at Trogyllium, and comes to Miletus, Acts 20:15. Purposing to get as soon as possible to Jerusalem, he sends from Miletus, and calls the elders of the Church of Ephesus, to whom he preaches a most directing sermon, gives them the most solemn exhortations, kneels down and prays with them, takes a very affecting leave of them, and sets sail for Caesarea, in order to go to Jerusalem, vv. 16-38.
1And after the uproar was ceased, Paul called unto him the disciples, and embraced them, and departed for to go into Macedonia.
After the uproar was ceased - The tumult excited by Demetrius apparently induced Paul to leave Ephesus sooner than he had intended. He had written to the Corinthians that he should leave that place after pentecost, 1 Corinthians 16:8; but it is very probable that he left it sooner.
2And when he had gone over those parts, and had given them much exhortation, he came into Greece,
He came into Greece - Εις την Ἑλλαδα, Into Hellas, Greece properly so called, the regions between Thessaly and Propontis, and the country of Achaia. He did not, however, go there immediately: he passed through Macedonia, Acts 20:1, in which he informs us, 2 Corinthians 7:5-7, that he suffered much, both from believers and infidels; but was greatly comforted by the arrival of Titus, who gave him a very flattering account of the prosperous state of the Church at Corinth. A short time after this, being still in Macedonia, he sent Titus back to Corinth, 2 Corinthians 8:16, 2 Corinthians 8:17, and sent by him the second epistle which he wrote to that Church, as Theodoret and others suppose. Some time after, he visited Corinth himself, according to his promise, 1 Corinthians 16:5. This was his third voyage to that city, 2 Corinthians 12:14; 2 Corinthians 13:1. What he did there at this time cannot be distinctly known; but, according to St. Augustin, he ordered every thing relative to the holy eucharist, and the proper manner in which it was to be received. See Calmet.
3And there abode three months. And when the Jews laid wait for him, as he was about to sail into Syria, he purposed to return through Macedonia.
Abode three months - Partly, as we may suppose, at Corinth, at Athens, and in Achaia; from which place he is supposed to have sent his epistle to the Romans, because he continued longer here than at any other place, and mentions several of the Corinthians in his salutations to the believers of Rome.
When the Jesus laid wait for him - Paul had determined to go by sea to Syria, and from thence to Jerusalem. This was the first object of his journey; and this was the readiest road he could take; but, hearing that the Jews had laid wait for him, probably to attack his ship on the voyage, seize his person, sell him for a slave, and take the money which he was carrying to the poor saints at Jerusalem, he resolved to go as much of the journey as he conveniently could, by land. Therefore, he returned through Macedonia, and from thence to Troas, where he embarked to sail for Syria, on his way to Jerusalem. The whole of his journey is detailed in this and the following chapter. See also the map.
4And there accompanied him into Asia Sopater of Berea; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timotheus; and of Asia, Tychicus and Trophimus.
And there accompanied him - Rather, says Bishop Pearce, there followed him as far as to Asia; for they were not in his company till he set sail from Philippi, and came to them at Troas, in Asia, whither they had gone before, and where they tarried for him, Acts 20:5.
Into Asia - Αχρι της Ασιας; These words are wanting in two MSS., Erpen, the Ethiopic, Coptic, and Vulgate. Some think that they embarrass this place; for how these could accompany him into Asia, and go before him, and tarry for him at Troas, Acts 20:6, is not so very clear; unless we suppose, what I have glanced at in the table of contents, that they came with him to Asia, but, he tarrying a short time, they proceeded on their journey, and stopped for him at Troas, where he shortly after rejoined them. Mr. Wakefield gets rid of the difficulty by reading the verse thus: Now Sopater of Berea accompanied him; but Aristarchus and Secundus of Thessalonica, Gaius of Derbe, Timothy of Lystra, and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia, went before, and tarried for us at Troas.
Sopater of Berea - Sopater seems to be the same as Sosipater, whom St. Paul mentions as his kinsman, Romans 16:21. ADE, more than twenty others, with the Coptic, Armenian, later Syriac in the margin, Vulgate, Itala, Theophylact, Origen, and Bede, add Πυρῥου, Sopater the Son of Pyrrhus. Griesbach has received this into his text.
Aristarchus of Thessalonica - This person occurs in Acts 19:29, and is mentioned there as a Macedonian. He attended Paul in his journey to Rome, Acts 27:2, and was his fellow laborer, Plm 1:24, and his fellow prisoner, Colossians 4:10, Colossians 4:11. Secundus is mentioned nowhere but in this place.
Gaius of Derbe - This is supposed to be the same who is mentioned Acts 19:26, and who is there called a man of Macedonia, of which some suppose he was a native, but descended from a family that came from Derbe; but as Gaius, or Caius, was a very common name, these might have been two distinct persons. One of this name was baptized by St. Paul at Corinth, 1 Corinthians 1:14, and entertained him as his host while he abode there, Romans 16:23, and was probably the same to whom St. John directs his third epistle.
And Timotheus - Of Lystra, is added by the Syriac. This was the same person of whom mention is made, Acts 16:1, and to whom St. Paul wrote the two epistles which are still extant; and who was a native of Lystra, as we learn from the above place. It was on this evidence, probably that the ancient Syriac translator added, of Lystra, to the text. This reading is not supported by any MSS.
Tychicus - of Asia - This person was high in the confidence of St. Paul. He styles him a beloved brother, and faithful minister in the Lord, whom he sent to the Ephesians, that he might know their affairs, and comfort their hearts, Ephesians 6:21, Ephesians 6:22. He sent him for the same purpose, and with the same commendations, to the Colossians, Colossians 4:7, Colossians 4:8. Paul seems also to have designed him to superintend the Church at Crete in the absence of Titus; see Titus 3:12. He seems to have been the most intimate and confidential friend that Paul had.
Trophimus - Was an Ephesian; and both he and Tychicus are called Εφεσιοι, Ephesians, instead of Ασιανοι, Asiatics, in the Codex Bezae, both Greek and Latin, and in the Sahidic. He accompanied Paul from Ephesus into Greece, as we see here; and from thence to Jerusalem, Acts 21:29. He had, no doubt, traveled with him on other journeys, for we find, by 2 Timothy 4:20, that he was obliged to leave him sick at Miletus, being then, as it is likely, on his return to his own kindred at Ephesus.
5These going before tarried for us at Troas.
Tarried for us at Troas - See the preceding verse. Troas was a small town in Phrygia Minor, in the province called the Troad: see Acts 16:8.
6And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days; where we abode seven days.
Days of unleavened bread - The seven days of the passover, in which they ate unleavened bread. See the account of this festival in the notes on Exodus 12:1-51 (note). It is evident, from the manner in which St. Luke writes here, that he had not been with St. Paul since the time he accompanied him to Philippi, Acts 16:10-12; but he now embarks at Philippi with the apostle, and accompanies him to Troas, and continues with him through the rest of his journey.
To Troas in five days - So long they were making this voyage from Philippi, being obliged to keep always by the coast, and in sight of the land; for the magnetic needle was not yet known. See the situation of these places upon the map.
7And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.
Upon the first day of the week - What was called κυριακη, the Lord's day, the Christian Sabbath, in which they commemorated the resurrection of our Lord; and which, among all Christians, afterwards took the place of the Jewish Sabbath.
To break bread - To break eucaristia, the eucharist, as the Syriac has it; intimating, by this, that they were accustomed to receive the holy sacrament on each Lord's day. It is likely that, besides this, they received a common meal together. Some think the αγαπη, or love feast, is intended.
Continued his speech until midnight - At what time he began to preach we cannot tell, but we hear when he concluded. He preached during the whole night, for he did not leave off till the break of the next day, Acts 20:11, though about midnight his discourse was interrupted by the fall of Eutychus. As this was about the time of pentecost, and we may suppose about the beginning of May, as Troas was in about 40 degrees of north latitude, the sun set there at seven p.m. and rose at five a.m., so that the night was about eight hours long; and taking all the interruptions together, and they could not have amounted to more than two hours, and taking no account of the preceding day's work, Paul must have preached a sermon not less than six hours long. But it is likely that a good part of this time was employed in hearing and answering questions; for διελεγετο, and διαλεγομενου, may be thus understood.
8And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together.
Upper chamber - It was in an upper chamber in the temple that the primitive disciples were accustomed to meet: on that account, they might have preferred an upper chamber whenever they could meet with it. The pious Quesnel supposes that the smoke, issuing from the many lamps in this upper chamber, was the cause of Eutychus falling asleep; and this, he says, the apostle mentions, in charity, to excuse the young man's appearing negligent.
9And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead.
There sat in a window - This was probably an opening in the wall, to let in light and air, for there was no glazing at that time; and it is likely that Eutychus fell backward through it, down to the ground, on the outside; there being nothing to prevent his falling out, when he had once lost the power to take care of himself, by getting into a deep sleep.
10And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him.
And Paul - fell on him - Επεπεσεν αυτῳ, Stretched himself upon him, in the same manner as Elisha did on the Shunammite's son, 2 Kings 4:33-35; though the action of lying on him, in order to communicate warmth to the flesh, might not have been continued so long as in the above instance; nor indeed was it necessary, as the natural warmth had not yet left the body of Eutychus; but the son of the Shunammite had been some time dead.
11When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed.
Had broken bread - Had taken some refreshment, in order to their journey.
And talked a long while - Ὁμιλησας, Having familiarly conversed, for this is the import of the word, which is very different from the διελεγετο, of the seventh verse, and the διαλεγομενου, of the ninth; which imply solemn, grave discourse.
12And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted.
13And we went before to ship, and sailed unto Assos, there intending to take in Paul: for so had he appointed, minding himself to go afoot.
Sailed unto Assos - Assos, according to Pausanias, Eliac. ii. 4, and Pliny, Hist. Nat. xxxvi. 27, was a maritime town of Asia, in the Troad. Strabo and Stephanus place it in Mysia. It was also called Apollonia, according to Pliny, Ib. lib. Acts 20:30. The passage by sea to this place was much longer than by land; and therefore St. Paul chose to go by land, while the others went by sea.
Intending to take in Paul - Αναλαμβανειν, To take him in Again; for it appears he had already been aboard that same vessel: probably the same that had carried them from Philippi to Troas, Acts 20:6.
14And when he met with us at Assos, we took him in, and came to Mitylene.
Came to Mitylene - This was a seaport town in the isle of Lesbos: see its place in the map.
15And we sailed thence, and came the next day over against Chios; and the next day we arrived at Samos, and tarried at Trogyllium; and the next day we came to Miletus.
Over against Chios - This was a very celebrated island between Lesbos and Samos, famous in antiquity for its extraordinary wines. At this island the apostle did not touch.
Arrived at Samos - This was another island of the Aegean Sea, or Archipelago. It does not appear that they landed at Samos: they passed close by it, and anchored at Trogyllium. This was a promontory of Ionia, which gave name to some small islands in the vicinity of Samos: Της δε Τρωγιλιου προκειται νησιον ὁμωνυμον: before Trogyllium is situated an island of the same name. Strabo, lib. xiv. p. 635. Pliny also mentions this place, Hist. Nat. lib. v. cap. 31. Near this place was the mouth of the famous river Maeander.
Came to Miletus - A celebrated city in the province of Caria, about twelve or fifteen leagues from Ephesus, according to Calmet. Miletus is famous for being the birthplace of Thales, one of the seven wise men of Greece, and founder of the Ionic sect of philosophers. Anaximander was also born here, and several other eminent men. The Turks, who lately possessed it, call it Melas.
16For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia: for he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost.
To sail by Ephesus - Not to touch there at this time.
To be at Jerusalem the day of pentecost - That he might have the opportunity of preaching the kingdom of God to multitudes of Jews from different places, who would come up to Jerusalem at that feast; and then he no doubt expected to see there a renewal of that day of pentecost in which the Spirit was poured out on the disciples, and in consequence of which so many were converted to God.
17And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.
He sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the Church - These are called επισκοποι, bishops, Acts 20:28. By the πρεσβυτεροι, presbyters or elders, here, we are to understand all that were in authority in the Church, whether they were επισκοποι, bishops or overseers, or seniors in years, knowledge, and experience. The πρεσβυτεροι, or elders, were probably the first order in the Church; an order which was not so properly constituted, but which rose out of the state of things. From these presbuteroi the episcopoi, overseers or superintendents, were selected. Those who were eldest in years, Christian knowledge, and experience, would naturally be preferred to all others, as overseers of the Church of Christ. From the Greek word πρεσβυτερος, comes the Latin presbyterus, the English presbyter, the French prestre, and our own term priest; and all, when traced up to their original, signify merely an elderly or aged person; though it soon became the name of an office, rather than of a state of years. Now, as these elders are called επισκοποι, bishops, in Acts 20:28, we may take it for granted that they were the same order; or, rather, that these superintendents of the Church were indifferently called either presbyters or bishops.
As he had not time to call at Ephesus, he thought it best to have a general convocation of the heads of that Church, to meet him at Miletus, that he might give them the instructions mentioned in the succeeding parts of this chapter.
18And 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,
After what manner I have been with you - The Codex Bezae adds here, for three years, and even more, which reading might have been borrowed from Acts 20:31, though the time assigned by it is too long.
19Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews:
Serving the Lord with all humility, etc. - This relates not only to his zealous and faithful performance of his apostolic functions, but also to his private walk as a Christian; and shows with what carefulness this apostle himself was obliged to walk, in order to have his calling and election, as a Christian, ratified and made firm.
20And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house,
I kept back nothing - Notwithstanding the dangers to which he was exposed, and the temptations he must have had to suppress those truths that were less acceptable to the unrenewed nature of man, or to the particular prejudices of the Jews and the Gentiles, he fully and faithfully, at all hazards, declared what he terms, Acts 20:27, the whole counsel of God. "Behold here," says the judicious and pious Calmet, "the model of a good shepherd - full of doctrine and zeal: he communicates with profusion, and yet with discretion, without jealousy and without fear, what God had put in his heart, and what charity inspires. A good shepherd, says St. Bernard, should always have abundance of bread in his scrip, and his dog under command. His dog is his zeal, which he must lead, order, and moderate; his scrip full of bread is his mind full of useful knowledge; and he should ever be in readiness to give nourishment to his flock." He who will quarrel with this sentiment, because of the uncouthness of the simile, needs pity, and deserves censure.
21Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
Testify both to - Jews and - Greeks - He always began with the Jews; and, in this case, he had preached to them alone for three months, Acts 19:8-10, and only left their synagogues when he found, through their obstinacy, he could do them no good.
Repentance toward God, etc. - As all had sinned against God, so all should humble themselves before him against whom they have sinned; but humiliation is no atonement for sin; therefore repentance is insufficient, unless faith in our Lord Jesus Christ accompany it. Repentance disposes and prepares the soul for pardoning mercy; but can never be considered as making compensation for past acts of transgression. This repentance and faith were necessary to the salvation both of Jews and Gentiles; for all had sinned, and come short of God's glory. The Jews must repent, who had sinned so much, and so long, against light and knowledge. The Gentiles must repent, whose scandalous lives were a reproach to man. Faith in Jesus Christ was also indispensably necessary; for a Jew might repent, be sorry for his sin, and suppose that, by a proper discharge of his religious duty, and bringing proper sacrifices, he could conciliate the favor of God: No, this will not do; nothing but faith in Jesus Christ, as the end of the law, and the great and only vicarious sacrifice, will do; hence he testified to them the necessity of faith in this Messiah. The Gentiles might repent of their profligate lives, turn to the true God, and renounce all idolatry: this is well, but it is not sufficient: they also have sinned, and their present amendment and faith can make no atonement for what is past; therefore, they also must believe on the Lord Jesus, who died for their sins, and rose again for their justification.
22And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there:
I go bound in the spirit - Δεδεμενος τῳ πνευματι - Either meaning the strong influence of the Divine Spirit upon his mind, or the strong propensity in his own will, wish, and desire, to visit Jerusalem; and in this sense δεειν, to bind, is sometimes used. But it appears more consistent with the mind of the apostle, and with that influence under which we find that he constantly acted, to refer it to the influence of the Holy Ghost; ὑπο του πνευματος, being under the power of that Spirit; as if he had said: "I have now no choice - God has not left me either to the advices of friends, or to my own prudence: the Spirit of God obliges me to go to Jerusalem, and yet does not intimate to me what peculiar trials shall befall me there: I have only the general intimation that, in every city where I proclaim the Gospel, bonds and afflictions await me." This sense of the word Kypke has largely defended in his note here.
23Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me.
24But 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.
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, Ethiopic, Vulgate, and some of the fathers. If we consider them as genuine they may imply thus much: that the apostle wished to fulfill 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.
25And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more.
Ye all - shall see my face no more - This probably refers simply to the persons who were now present; concerning whom he might have had a Divine intimation, that they should not be found in life when he should come that way again. Or it may refer only to Ephesus and Miletus. From the dangers to which he was exposed, it was, humanly speaking, unlikely that he should ever return; and this may be all that is implied: but that he did revisit those parts, though probably not Miletus or Ephesus, appears likely from Philippians 1:25-27; Philippians 2:24; Plm 1:22; Hebrews 13:19-23. But in all these places he speaks with a measure of uncertainty: he had not an absolute evidence that he should not return; but, in his own mind, it was a matter of uncertainty. The Holy Spirit did not think proper to give him a direct revelation on this point.
26Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men.
I am pure from the blood of all - If any man, Jew or Gentile, perish in his sins, his blood shall be upon him; he, alone, shall be accessary to his own perdition. I am blameless, because I have fully shown to both the way to escape from every evil.
27For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.
I have not shunned to declare - Ου υπεϚιλαμην, I have not suppressed or concealed any thing, through fear or favor, that might be beneficial to your souls. This is properly the meaning of the original word. See the note on Acts 20:20.
All the counsel of God - All that God has determined and revealed concerning the salvation of man - the whole doctrine of Christ crucified, with repentance towards God, and faith in Jesus as the Messiah and great atoning Priest. In Isaiah 9:6, Jesus Christ is called the wonderful counsellor, פלא יועץ Pele Poets, which the Septuagint translate μεγαλης βουλης αγγελος· The messenger of the great counsel. To this the apostle may have referred, as we well know that this version was constantly under his eye. Declaring therefore to them the whole counsel of God, πασην την βουλην του Θεου, the whole of that counsel or design of God, was, in effect, declaring the whole that concerned the Lord Jesus, who was the messenger of this counsel.
28Take 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.
Made you overseers - Εθετο επισκοπους, Appointed you bishops; for so we translate the original word in most places where it occurs: but overseers, or inspectors, is much more proper, from επι, over, and σκεπτομαι, I look. The persons who examine into the spiritual state of the flock of God, and take care to lead them in and out, and to find them pasture, are termed episcopoi, or superintendents. The office of a bishop is from God; a true pastor only can fulfill this office: it is an office of most awful responsibility; few there are who can fill it; and, of those who occupy this high and awful place, perhaps we may say there are fewer still who discharge the duties of it. There are, however, through the good providence of God, Christian bishops, who, while they are honored by the calling, do credit to the sacred function. And the annals of our Church can boast of at least as many of this class of men, who have served their God and their generation, as of any other order, in the proportion which this order bears to others in the Church of Christ. That bishop and presbyter, or elder, were at this time of the same order, and that the word was indifferently used of both, see noticed on Acts 20:17 (note).
Feed the Church of God - This verse has been the subject of much controversy, particularly in reference to the term Θεου, of God, in this place; and concerning it there is great dissension among the MSS. and versions. Three readings exist in them, in reference to which critics and commentators have been much divided; viz. εκκλησιαν του Θεου, the Church of God; του Κυριου, of the Lord; Κυριου και Θεου, of the Lord and God. From the collections of Wetstein and Griesbach, it appears that but few MSS., and none of them very ancient, have the word Θεου, of God; with these only the Vulgate, and the later Syriac in the text, agree. Κυριου, of the Lord, is the reading of ACDE, several others, the Sahidic, Coptic, later Syriac in the margin, Armenian, Ethiopia, and some of the fathers. Κυριου και Θεου, of the Lord and of God, is the reading of the great majority; though the most ancient are for Κυριου, of the Lord: on this ground Griesbach has admitted this reading into the text, and put Κυριου και Θεου in the margin, as being next in authority.
Mr. Wakefield, who was a professed and conscientious Unitarian, decides for του Θεου, of God, as the true reading; but, instead of translating του ιδιου αἱματος, with his own blood, he translates, by his own Son, and brings some passages from the Greek and Roman writers to show that αἱμα and sanguis are used to signify son, or near relative; and, were this the only place where purchasing with his own blood occurred, we might receive this saying; but, as the redemption of man is, throughout the New Testament, attributed to the sacrificial death of Christ, it is not likely that this very unusual meaning should apply here. At all events, we have here a proof that the Church was purchased by the blood of Christ; and, as to his Godhead, it is sufficiently established in many other places. When we grant that the greater evidence appears to be in favor of του Κυριου, feed the Church of the Lord, which he has purchased with his own blood, we must maintain that, had not this Lord been God, his blood could have been no purchase for the souls of a lost world.
29For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
After my departing - Referring, most likely, to his death; for few of these evils took place during his life.
Grievous wolves - Persons professing to be teachers; Judaizing Christians, who, instead of feeding the flock, would feed themselves, even to the oppression and ruin of the Church.
30Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
Also of your own selves, etc. - From out of your own assembly shall men arise, speaking perverse things, teaching for truth what is erroneous in itself, and perversive of the genuine doctrine of Christ crucified.
To draw away disciples - To make schisms or rents in the Church, in order to get a party to themselves. See, here, the cause of divisions in the Church:
1. The superintendents lose the life of God, neglect the souls of the people, become greedy of gain, and, by secular extortions, oppress the people.
2. The members of the Church, thus neglected, oppressed, and irritated, get their minds alienated from their rapacious pastors.
3. Men of sinister views take advantage of this state of distraction, foment discord, preach up the necessity of division, and thus the people become separated from the great body, and associate with those who profess to care for their souls, and who disclaim all secular views.
In this state of distraction, it is a high proof of God's love to his heritage, if one be found who, possessing the true apostolic doctrine and spirit, rises up to call men back to the primitive truth, and restore the primitive discipline. How soon the grievous wolves and perverse teachers arose in the Churches of Asia Minor, the first chapters of the Apocalypse inform us. The Nicolaitans had nearly ruined the Church of Ephesus, Revelation 1:2, Revelation 1:6. The same sect, with other false teachers, infested the Church of Pergamos, and preached there the doctrine of Balaam, Revelation 2:14, Revelation 2:15. A false prophetess seduced the Church of Thyatira, Revelation 2:20. All these Churches were in Asia Minor, and probably bishops or ministers from each were present at this convocation.
31Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.
Therefore watch, and remember - The only way to abide in the truth is to watch against evil, and for good; and to keep in mind the heavenly doctrines originally received. Unwatchfulness and forgetfulness are two grand inlets to apostasy.
By the space of three years - Τριετιαν. The Greek word here does not necessarily mean three whole years: it may be months more or less. In Acts 19:8, Acts 19:10, we have an account of his spending two years and three months among them; probably this is all that is intended. One MS., perceiving that the time of three years was not completed, inserts διετιαν, the space of two years.
32And 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.
I commend you to God - Instead of τῳ Θεῳ, to God, several MSS. have τῳ Κυριῳ, to the Lord; neither reading makes any difference in the sense.
And to the word of his grace - The doctrine of salvation by Christ Jesus.
Which is able to build you up - The foundation is Jesus Christ; God is the great master-builder; the doctrine of his grace, or mercy, points out the order and manner, as well as the extent, etc., of this building. Let us observe the order of these things: -
1. The soul of man, which was formerly the habitation of God, is now in a state of ruin.
2. The ruins of this soul must be repaired, that it may again become a habitation of God through the Spirit.
3. Jesus Christ is the only foundation on which this house can be rebuilded.
4. The doctrine of God's grace is the model, or plan, according to which the building can be raised.
5. When re-edified, each is to be a lively temple of the Lord, made inwardly pure and outwardly righteous, and thus prepared for a state of bliss.
6. Being made children of God, by faith in Christ Jesus, and sanctified by his Spirit, they have a right to the heavenly inheritance; for only the children of the family can possess the celestial estate.
Thus we find they must be saved by grace, and be made thereby children of God; be sanctified by his Spirit; and, then, being prepared for, they are removed, in due time, into the heavenly inheritance.
33I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel.
I have coveted no man's silver, etc. - And from this circumstance they would be able to discover the grievous wolves, and the perverters; for these had nothing but their own interests in view; whereas the genuine disciples of Christ neither coveted nor had worldly possessions. St. Paul's account of his own disinterestedness is very similar to that given by Samuel of his, 1 Samuel 12:3-5.
34Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me.
These hands have ministered, etc. - It was neither "sin nor discredit" for the apostle to work to maintain himself, when the circumstances of the Church were such that it could not support him. Still many eminent ministers of God are obliged to support themselves and their families, at least in part, in the same way, while indefatigably testifying the Gospel of the grace of God. Whatever it may be to the people, it is no cause of reproach to the minister, to be obliged thus to employ himself.
35I have shewed 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.
I have showed you all things - The preposition κατα is to be understood before παντα; and the clause should be read thus - I have showed you In all things, etc.
It is more blessed to give than to receive - That is, the giver is more happy than the receiver. Where, or on what occasion, our Lord spake these words we know not, as they do not exist in any of the four evangelists. But that our Lord did speak them, St. Paul's evidence is quite sufficient to prove. The sentiment is worthy of Christ. A truly generous mind, in affluence, rejoices in opportunities to do good, and feels happy in having such opportunities. A man of an independent spirit, when reduced to poverty, finds it a severe trial to be obliged to live on the bounty of another, and feels pain in receiving what the other feels a happiness in communicating. Let, therefore, the man who is able to give feel himself the obliged person, and think how much pain the feeling heart of his supplicant must endure, in being obliged to forego his native independence, in soliciting and receiving the bounty of another. I am not speaking of common beggars; these have got their minds already depraved, and their native independence reduced, by sin and idleness, to servility.
36And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all.
He kneeled down and prayed - Kneeling is the proper posture of a supplicant, it argues at once both humility and submission; and he who prays to God should endeavor to feel the utmost measures of both.
37And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck, and kissed him,
Fell on Paul's neck - Leaned their heads against his shoulders, and kissed his neck. This was not an unusual custom in the east.
38Sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship.
That they should see his face no more - This was a most solemn meeting, and a most affecting parting. The man who had first pointed out to them the Lord Jesus Christ, by whom they had been brought into so glorious a state of salvation, is now going away, in all likelihood, to be seen no more till the day in which the quick and dead shall stand before the throne of judgment. Such a scene, and its correspondent feelings, are more easily imagined than described.
1. As the disciples are stated to have come together on the first day of the week, we may learn from this that, ever since the apostolic times, the Lord's day, now the Christian Sabbath, was set apart for religious exercises; such as the preaching of God's holy word, and celebrating the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. Besides its being the day on which our blessed Lord rose from the dead, the practice of the apostles and the primitive Church is an additional reason why we should religiously celebrate this first day of the week. They who, professing the Christian religion, still prefer the Jewish Sabbath, have little to support them in the New Testament. How prone is man to affect to be wise above what is written, while he is, in almost every respect, below the teaching so plainly laid down in the Divine word.
2. The charge of St. Paul to the pastors of the Church of Christ at Ephesus and Miletus contains much that is interesting to every Christian minister:
1. If he be sent of God at all, he is sent to feed the flock.
2. But, in order to feed them, he must have the bread of life.
3. This bread he must distribute in its due season, that each may have that portion that is suitable to time, place, and state.
4. While he is feeding others, he should take care to have his own soul fed: it is possible for a minister to be the instrument of feeding others, and yet starve himself.
5. If Jesus Christ intrust to his care the souls he has bought by his own blood, what an awful account will he have to give in the day of judgment, if any of them perish through his neglect! Though the sinner, dying in his sins, has his own blood upon his head, yet, if the watchman has not faithfully warned him, his blood will be required at the watchman's hand. Let him who is concerned read Ezekiel, Ezekiel 33:3-5, and think of the account which he is shortly to give unto God.
3. Tenderness and sympathy are not inconsistent with the highest state of grace. Paul warns his hearers day and night with tears. His hearers now weep sore at the departure of their beloved pastor. They who can give up a Christian minister with indifference, have either profited little under that ministry, or they have backslidden from the grace of God. The pastors should love as fathers, the converts as children; and all feel themselves one family, under that great head, Christ Jesus.