Acts Chapter Twenty
But let us return to the history of Paul.
After the uproar has ceased he sends for the disciples, embraces them, and departs for Macedonia; he visits that whole country, and comes into Greece. The beginning of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians gives the details of this part of his history. In Greece he remains three months; and when the Jews lay wait for him, he goes round by Macedonia, instead of sailing straight to Syria. At Troas (where a door had been opened to him on his way into Greece, but where his affection for the Corinthians had not allowed him to remain) he spends his Sunday, and even the whole week, in order to see the brethren. We perceive the usual object of their assembly: they "came together to break bread"; and the ordinary occasion of holding it-"the first day of the week." Paul avails himself of this to speak to them all night; but it was an extraordinary occasion. The presence and the exhortations of an apostle failed in keeping them all awake. It was not however an assembly held in secret or in the dark. There were many lamps to light the upper chamber in which they met. By the place in which they came together we see that the assemblies were not composed of very many persons. The upper room in Jerusalem received, perhaps, one hundred and twenty. It appears by different salutations, that they met in private houses-probably in several, if the number of believers required it; but there was only one assembly.
Eutychus pays the penalty of his inattention; but God bears testimony to His own goodness, and to the power with which He had endued the apostle, by raising him from a state of death. Paul says that his soul was yet in him: he had only to renew the connection between it and his physical organism. In other cases the soul had been recalled.
Paul chose to go alone from Troas to Assos. We see all through the history, that he arranged, by the power that the Spirit gave him over them, the willing services of his companions-not, doubtless, as their master, yet more absolutely than if he had been so. He is (under Christ) the centre of the system in which he labours, the centre of energy. Christ alone can be by right the centre of salvation and of faith. It was only as filled with the Spirit of God that Paul was the centre even of that energy; and it was, as we have seen, by not grieving Him, and by exercising himself to have a conscience void of offence both towards God and towards men.
Paul does not stop at Ephesus, because in so central a place he must have stayed some time. It is necessary to avoid that which has a certain moral claim upon us, if we would not and ought not to be detained by the obligation it imposes upon us.
It was no want of affection for the beloved Ephesians, nor any thought of neglecting them. He sends for the elders, and addresses a discourse to them, which we must examine a little, as setting before us the position of the assembly at that time, and the work of the gospel among the nations.
The assemblies were consolidated over a pretty large extent of country, and in divers places at least had taken the form of a regularly ordered institution. Elders were established and recognised. The apostle could send for them to come to him. His authority also was acknowledged on their part. He speaks of his ministry as a past thing-solemn thought! but he takes them to witness not only that he had preached the truth to them, but a truth that spoke to their conscience; setting them before God on the one hand, and on the other presenting to them Him in whom God made Himself known, and in whom He communicated all the fulness of grace on their behalf-Jesus, the object of their faith, the Saviour of their souls. He had done this through trouble and through difficulty, in face of the unprincipled opposition of the Jews who had rejected the Anointed One, but in accordance with the grace that rose above all this evil and declared salvation to the Jews, and going beyond these limits (because it was grace) addressed itself to the Gentiles, to all men, as sinners and responsible to God. Paul had done this, not with the pride of a teacher, but with the humility and the perseverance of love. He desired also to finish his ministry, and to fail in nothing that Jesus had committed to him. And now he was going to Jerusalem, feeling bound in spirit to do so, not knowing what would befall him, but warned by the Holy Ghost that bonds and afflictions awaited him. With regard to themselves, he knew his ministry was ended, and that he should see their face no more. Henceforth responsibility would specially rest upon them.
Thus what the Holy Ghost here sets before us is, that now, when the detail of his work among the Gentiles to plant the gospel is related as one entire scene among Jews and Gentiles, he bids adieu to the work; in order to leave those whom he had gathered together in a new position, and in a certain sense to themselves.  It is a discourse which marks the cessation of one phase of the assembly-that of apostolic labours-and the entrance into another-its responsibility to stand fast now that those labours had ceased, the service of the elders whom "the Holy Ghost had made overseers," and at the same time the dangers and difficulties that would attend the cessation of apostolic labour, and complicate the work of the elders on whom the responsibility would now more especially devolve.
The first remark that flows from the consideration of this discourse is, that apostolic succession is entirely denied by it. Owing to the absence of the apostle various difficulties would arise, and there would be no one in his place to meet or to prevent these difficulties. Successor therefore he had none. In the second place the fact appears that, this energy which bridled the spirit of evil, once away, devouring wolves from without, and teachers of perverse things from within, would lift up their heads and attack the simplicity and the happiness of the assembly, which would be harassed by the efforts of Satan without possessing apostolic energy to withstand them.
This testimony of Paul's is of the highest importance with regard to the whole ecclesiastical system. The attention of the elders who are left in charge is directed elsewhere than to present apostolical care (as having no longer this resource, or anything that officially replaced it), in order that the assembly might be kept in peace and sheltered from evil. It was their part to care for the assembly in these circumstances. In the next place, that which was principally to be done for the hindrance of evil was to shepherd the flock, and to watch, whether over themselves or over the flock, for that purpose. He reminds them how he had himself exhorted them night and day with tears. Let them therefore watch. He then commends them, neither to Timothy, nor to a bishop, but-in a way that sets aside all official resource-to God, and to the word of His grace which was able to build them up and assure them of the inheritance. This was where he left the assembly; that which it did afterwards is not my subject here. If John came later to work in these parts, it was a great favour from God, but it changed nothing in the position officially. His labours (with the exception of the warnings to the seven assemblies in the Apocalypse, where judgment is in question) regarded the individual life, its character, and that which sustained it.
With deep and touching affection Paul parts from the assembly at Ephesus. Who filled the gap? At the same time he appealed to their consciences for the uprightness of his walk. The free labours of the apostle of the Gentiles were ended. Solemn and affecting thought! He had been the instrument chosen of God to communicate to the world His counsels respecting the assembly, and to establish in the midst of the world this precious object of His affections united to Christ at His right hand. What would become of it down here?
 If Paul was ever set free and returned to these parts (not necessarily to Ephesus) as Philippians and Philemon and perhaps 2 Timothy would lead us to suppose, we have no scriptural account of it.
── John Darby《Synopsis of Acts》
Paul's journeys. (1-6) Eutychus restored to life. (7-12) Paul travels towards Jerusalem. (13-16) Paul's discourse to the elders of Ephesus. (17-27) Their farewell. (28-38)
Commentary on Acts 20:1-6
(Read Acts 20:1-6)
Tumults or opposition may constrain a Christian to remove from his station or alter his purpose, but his work and his pleasure will be the same, wherever he goes. Paul thought it worth while to bestow five days in going to Troas, though it was but for seven days' stay there; but he knew, and so should we, how to redeem even journeying time, and to make it turn to some good account.
Commentary on Acts 20:7-12
(Read Acts 20:7-12)
Though the disciples read, and meditated, and prayed, and sung apart, and thereby kept up communion with God, yet they came together to worship God, and so kept up their communion with one another. They came together on the first day of the week, the Lord's day. It is to be religiously observed by all disciples of Christ. In the breaking of the bread, not only the breaking of Christ's body for us, to be a sacrifice for our sins, is remembered, but the breaking of Christ's body to us, to be food and a feast for our souls, is signified. In the early times it was the custom to receive the Lord's supper every Lord's day, thus celebrating the memorial of Christ's death. In this assembly Paul preached. The preaching of the gospel ought to go with the sacraments. They were willing to hear, he saw they were so, and continued his speech till midnight. Sleeping when hearing the word, is an evil thing, a sign of low esteem of the word of God. We must do what we can to prevent being sleepy; not put ourselves to sleep, but get our hearts affected with the word we hear, so as to drive sleep far away. Infirmity requires tenderness; but contempt requires severity. It interrupted the apostle's preaching; but was made to confirm his preaching. Eutychus was brought to life again. And as they knew not when they should have Paul's company again, they made the best use of it they could, and reckoned a night's sleep well lost for that purpose. How seldom are hours of repose broken for the purposes of devotion! but how often for mere amusement or sinful revelry! So hard is it for spiritual life to thrive in the heart of man! so naturally do carnal practices flourish there!
Commentary on Acts 20:13-16
(Read Acts 20:13-16)
Paul hastened to Jerusalem, but tried to do good by the way, when going from place to place, as every good man should do. In doing God's work, our own wills and those of our friends must often be crossed; we must not spend time with them when duty calls us another way.
Commentary on Acts 20:17-27
(Read Acts 20:17-27)
The elders knew that Paul was no designing, self-seeking man. Those who would in any office serve the Lord acceptably, and profitably to others, must do it with humility. He was a plain preacher, one that spoke his message so as to be understood. He was a powerful preacher; he preached the gospel as a testimony to them if they received it; but as a testimony against them if they rejected it. He was a profitable preacher; one that aimed to inform their judgments, and reform their hearts and lives. He was a painful preacher, very industrious in his work. He was a faithful preacher; he did not keep back reproofs when necessary, nor keep back the preaching of the cross. He was a truly Christian, evangelical preacher; he did not preach notions or doubtful matters; nor affairs of state or the civil government; but he preached faith and repentance. A better summary of these things, without which there is no salvation, cannot be given: even repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, with their fruits and effects. Without these no sinner can escape, and with these none will come short of eternal life. Let them not think that Paul left Asia for fear of persecution; he was in full expectation of trouble, yet resolved to go on, well assured that it was by Divine direction. Thanks be to God that we know not the things which shall befall us during the year, the week, the day which has begun. It is enough for the child of God to know that his strength shall be equal to his day. He knows not, he would not know, what the day before him shall bring forth. The powerful influences of the Holy Spirit bind the true Christian to his duty. Even when he expects persecution and affliction, the love of Christ constrains him to proceed. None of these things moved Paul from his work; they did not deprive him of his comfort. It is the business of our life to provide for a joyful death. Believing that this was the last time they should see him, he appeals concerning his integrity. He had preached to them the whole counsel of God. As he had preached to them the gospel purely, so he had preached it to them entire; he faithfully did his work, whether men would bear or forbear.
Commentary on Acts 20:28-38
(Read Acts 20:28-38)
If the Holy Ghost has made ministers overseers of the flock, that is, shepherds, they must be true to their trust. Let them consider their Master's concern for the flock committed to their charge. It is the church He has purchased 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 there called the blood of God, for it was the blood of Him who is God. This put such dignity and worth into it, as to ransom believers from all evil, and purchase all good. Paul spake about their souls with affection and concern. They were full of care what would become of them. Paul directs them to look up to God with faith, and 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. The most advanced Christians are capable of growing, and will find the word of grace help their growth. As those cannot be welcome guests to the holy God who are unsanctified; so heaven would be no heaven to them; but to all who are born again, and on whom the image of God is renewed, it is sure, as almighty power and eternal truth make it so. He recommends himself to them as an example of not caring as to things of the present world; this they would find help forward their comfortable passage through it. It might seem a hard saying, therefore Paul adds to it a saying of their Master's, which he would have them always remember; "It is more blessed to give than to receive:" it seems they were words often used to his disciples. The opinion of the children of this world, is contrary to this; they are afraid of giving, unless in hope of getting. Clear gain, is with them the most blessed thing that can be; but Christ tell us what is more blessed, more excellent. It makes us more like to God, who gives to all, and receives from none; and to the Lord Jesus, who went about doing good. This mind was in Christ Jesus, may it be in us also. It is good for friends, when they part, to part with prayer. Those who exhort and pray for one another, may have many weeping seasons and painful separations, but they will meet before the throne of God, to part no more. It was a comfort to all, that the presence of Christ both went with him and stayed with them.
── Matthew Henry《Concise Commentary on Acts》
 And when he had gone over those parts, and had given them much exhortation, he came into Greece,
He came into Greece — That part of it which lay between Macedonia and Achaia.
 And 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.
An ambush being laid for him — In his way to the ship.
 And 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 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.
We set sail — St. Luke was now with St. Paul again, as we learn from his manner of expressing himself.
 And 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.
To break bread — That is, to celebrate the Lord's Supper; continued his discourse - Through uncommon fervour of spirit.
 And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together.
There were many lamps in the room where they were assembled — To prevent any possible scandal.
 And 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.
In the window — Doubtless kept open, to prevent heat, both from the lamps and the number of people.
 And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him.
Paul fell or him — It is observable, our Lord never used this gesture. But Elijah and Elisha did as well as Paul.
His life is in him — He is alive again.
 When 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.
So departed — Without taking any rest at all.
 And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted.
And they brought the young man alive — But alas! How many of those who have allowed themselves to sleep under sermons, or as it were to dream awake, have slept the sleep of eternal death, and fallen to rise no more!
 And 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.
Being himself to go on foot — That he might enjoy the company of his Christian brethren a little longer, although he had passed the night without sleep, and though Assos was of difficult and dangerous access by land.
 And when he met with us at Assos, we took him in, and came to Mitylene.
Mitylene — Was a city and part of the isle of Lesbos, about seven miles distant from the Asiatic coast. `16.
For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus — Which lay on the other side of the bay.
He hasted to be at Jerusalem on the day of pentecost — Because then was the greatest concourse of people.
 And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.
Sending to Ephesus, he called the elders of the Church — These are called bishops in the 28th verse, Acts 20:28 (rendered overseers in our translation.) Perhaps elders and bishops were then the same; or no otherwise different than are the rector of a parish and his curates.
 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,
Ye know — Happy is he who can thus appeal to the conscience of his hearers.
 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:
Serving — See the picture of a faithful servant! The Lord - Whose the church is, with all humility, and with tears, and trials - These are the concomicants of it. The service itself is described more particularly in the following verse. This humility he recommends to the Ephesians themselves, Ephesians 4:2. His tears are mentioned again, Acts 20:31, as also 2 Corinthians 2:4; Philippians 3:18. These passages laid together supply us with the genuine character of St. Paul. Holy tears, from those who seldom weep on account of natural occurrences, are no mean specimen of the efficacy and proof of the truth of Christianity. Yet joy is well consistent therewith, Acts 20:24. The same person may be sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.
 And 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 have preached — Publicly; and taught - From house to house. Else he had not been pure from their blood. For even an apostle could not discharge his duty by public preaching only. How much less can an ordinary pastor!
 Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
Repentance toward God — The very first motion of the soul toward God is a kind of repentance.
 And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there:
Bound by the Spirit — Strongly impelled by him.
 Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me.
Save that — Only this I know in general; the Holy Ghost witnesseth - By other persons. Such was God's good pleasure to reveal these things to him, not immediately, but by the ministry of others.
 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.
Nor do I count my life precious — It adds great force to this and all the other passages of Scripture, in which the apostles express their contempt of the world, that they were not uttered by persons like Seneca and Antoninus, who talked elegantly of despising the world in the full affluence of all its enjoyments; but by men who daily underwent the greatest calamities, and exposed their lives in proof of their assertions.
 And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more.
Ye shall see my face no more — He wisely inserts this, that what follows might make the deeper impression.
 For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.
For I have not shunned — Otherwise if any had perished, their blood would have been on his head.
 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.
Take heed therefore — I now devolve my care upon you; first to yourselves; then to the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers - For no man, or number of men upon earth, can constitute an overseer, bishop, or any other Christian minister. To do this is the peculiar work of the Holy Ghost: to feed the Church of God - That is, the believing, loving, holy children of God; which he hath purchased - How precious is it then in his sight! with his own blood - For it is the blood of the only begotten Son of God, 1 John 1:7.
 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
Grievous wolves — From without, namely, false apostles. They had, not yet broke in on the Church at Ephesus.
 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
Yea, from among yourselves men will arise — Such were the Nicolaitans, of whom Christ complains, Revelation 2:6; to draw away disciples - From the purity of the Gospel and the unity of the body.
 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.
I ceased not to warn every one night and day — This was watching indeed! Who copies after this example?
 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.
The word of his grace — It is the grand channel of it, to believers as well as unbelievers.
Who is able to build you up — To confirm and increase your faith, love, holiness. God can thus build us up, without any instrument. But he does build us up by them. O beware of dreaming that you have less need of human teachers after you know Christ than before! And to give you an inheritance - Of eternal glory, among them that are sanctified - And so made meet for it. A large number of these Paul doubtless knew, and remembered before God.
 I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel.
I have coveted — Here the apostle begins the other branch of his farewell discourse, like old Samuel, 1 Samuel 12:3, taking his leave of the children of Israel.
 Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me.
These hands — Callous, as you see, with labour. Who is he that envies such a bishop or archbishop as this?
 I 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 — Bishops, by my example, all things - And this among the rest; that thus labouring - So far as the labours of your office allow you time; ye ought to help the weak - Those who are disabled by sickness, or any bodily infirmity, from maintaining themselves by their own labour.
And to remember — Effectually, so as to follow it; the word which he himself said - Without doubt his disciples remembered many of his words which are not recorded.
It is happier to give — To imitate God, and have him, as it were, indebted to us.
 And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck, and kissed him,
They all wept — Of old, men, yea, the best and bravest of men, were easily melted into tears; a thousand instances of which might be produced from profane as well as sacred writers. But now, notwithstanding the effeminacy which almost universally prevails, we leave those tears to women and children.
 Sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship.
Sorrowing most for that word which he spake, that they should see his face no more — What sorrow will be in the great day, when God shall speak that word to all who are found on the left hand, that they shall see his face no more!
── John Wesley《Explanatory Notes on Acts》
Chapter 20. continue Missionary Travelling
Sail by Ship
Paul Himself Goes on Foot
I. Meeting in Troas
II. Encourage the Elders of Ephesus
III. Kneel to Pray at Parting
── Chih-Hsin Chang《An Outline of The New Testament》