ACTS - CHAPTER 20
Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2001 James Melough
Before beginning our study
of this chapter it is necessary to note that the first six verses mention Paul’s
travels without giving any details of events that occurred to him during that time.
Since those events are recorded in 11 Corinthians, it is suggested that those
wishing to examine the details consult that Epistle; and since these six verses
contain little requiring exposition the comments here will be brief.
Paul appears to have been
satisfied that the church in Ephesus was now able to manage without further help from
him, so that he was free to move on to other places, Macedonia and Achaia being on
his mind, see 19:21. His intention was
to collect the money which the churches there had accumulated for the relief of the
saints in Jerusalem, and then having delivered that money in Jerusalem, to go and
visit Rome. On his way to Macedonia he
visited Troas where he had opportunity to preach the gospel, and where he hoped to
meet Timothy and learn how his (Paul’s) first letter to the Corinthian saints had
been received, 2 Cor 2:12-13. Not
finding Timothy in Troas, he went on to Macedonia, where he did find Timothy, and
learning of the Corinthian’s good reception of his letter, wrote II Corinthians in
response, from Philippi, it is generally believe.
He is believed to have written the Epistle to the Romans, and to the Galatians
also at this time while in Corinth.
“And after the uproar was ceased, Paul called unto him the disciples, and
embraced them, and departed for to go into Macedonia.”
The ungodly crowd scattered. There was no unifying bond. The
believers gathered around Paul, and he embraced them.
Love is the bond that unites believers. Scattering
is Satan’s work; gathering is God’s.
“And when he had gone over those parts, and had given them much exhortation,
he came into Greece.”
Paul the evangelist was also
Paul the teacher and exhorter. He seized
every opportunity to instruct his converts. So
“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.”
The enmity of the Jews was
relentless. Satan never gives up; but
Paul circumvented the plot by avoiding the sea passage, instead retracing his steps
“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.”
“into Asia” is not in
the better manuscripts. It is generally
accepted that the representatives of the Macedonian assemblies, went with Paul to
Jerusalem to deliver the gift sent by the Macedonian believers.
“These going before tarried for us at Troas.”
“us” indicates that Luke had rejoined Paul.
“And we sailed from Philippi, after the days of unleavened bread (Passover),
and came unto them to Troas in five days; where we abode seven days.”
As others have noted, until
AD 70 the Jewish believers adhered to the Levitical form of worship in addition to
the two Christian ordinances: baptism and the Lord’s Supper, Dr.
Willmington writing in the Liberty Bible Commentary, “The reference
to the keeping of the days of unleavened bread (vs.6) shows Paul’s adherence to his
Jewish past....” The same writer
reminds us that, “It seems clear from early custom that the Christians often met on
Saturday night as well as Sunday morning. Early
Jewish reckoning observed the beginning of the new day at sunset, continuing through
the night and the next day until sunset again.”
“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.”
Many have pointed out that
their remaining at Troas for seven days appears to have been for the specific purpose
of being there to “break bread” (eat the Lord’s supper) on the first day of the
week, see verse 7. That it is to be
eaten on the first day of the week is indicated in other Scriptures also. For
example, there is the typological
teaching of the tabernacle: the shewbread was to be eaten every sabbath, i.e., at an
interval of seven days, and few will question that the weekly ritual connected with
the shewbread is a type of the Lord’s Supper.
Those who contend for a
different time are under the necessity of producing Scripture for that time, for it
is certain that God hasn’t left a matter of such importance to the discretion of
It seems that in the
beginning the Lord’s supper was eaten in the evening, for the simple reason that
the Jewish sabbath (Saturday) was the observed day of rest, the first day of the week
(Sunday) being a regular work day. Some
of the believers were slaves, many were employees, so that they had no opportunity to
meet together until after work. Thus
Paul’s preaching until midnight doesn’t necessarily imply the many hours that
might at first be imagined.
While the day for the
observance of the Lord’s Supper is very clearly specified, it is to be noted that
the hour is not. This affords
opportunity for the selection of an hour that is best for the majority of those in
any local assembly.
It is generally accepted
also that in those days the Lord’s Supper was eaten in conjunction with a common
meal termed the love feast, see 1 Cor 11:20-22, furnishing further evidence against
an exceptionally long time of preaching by Paul.
Was the love feast a good
idea? Obviously not, for clearly it led to abuses of the Lord’s
supper, see 1 Cor: 11:34 in which Paul instructed them to eat at home.
The atmosphere at even the most dignified meal is not conducive to the
self-examination enjoined upon participants at the Lord’s supper, nor does it
afford much opportunity for the meditation and prayer that spiritual believers find
essential for worship.
This is another indication
that there were things in the Apostolic age which are not the norm for the whole
“...ready to depart on the
morrow,” seems to confirm that they had purposely delayed their departure so as to
be able to eat the Lord’s supper on the first day of the week.
As noted correctly in the Wycliffe
Bible Commentary, “The first Christians, as Jews, probably continued to observe
the Sabbath as well as the first day of the week.”
“And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they (we) were
correct rendering is we instead of they.
“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.”
It seems that the many
lamps, and the number of people present, had made the air warm and oppressive, hence
this youth’s deep sleep.
Some have seen in Eutychus a
picture of the carnal believer, having as it were one foot in the kingdom, and the
other in the world. In his sleeping
while Paul preached they have seen what is invariably the concomitant of carnality -
lack of interest in the Word.
His being “taken up
dead” precludes the possibility of his being merely unconscious.
His restoration to life was a miracle. If
we continue to accept him as type of a carnal believer, his death may be the symbolic
announcement of the truth that carnality
causes us to be as good as dead, for it precludes the possibility of spiritual
fruitfulness. The carnal believer, just
the same as the spiritual, will be in heaven, but his life will prove to have been
time in which he might as well have been dead since it will have produced nothing
worthy of reward at the Bema.
“And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not
yourselves; for his life is in him.”
This may not be taken to
imply that he was just unconscious. When
it says that he was dead, that is exactly what it means.
He was dead, but had been restored to life.
“... his life is in him” means not that he hadn’t actually died, but
that as a result of resurrection his life was in him again.
Paul’s falling on him was similar to what Elisha had done in restoring to
life the son of the Shunammite, see 2 Ki 4:34.
Others observing the carnal
believer may have no reason to believe that there is spiritual life there at all. To them he is dead. But
God looks on the heart. He sees what man
can’t. Some believers have lived so
carnally that others have been unable to see any sign of spiritual life.
Then there has been the equivalent of the fall of Eutychus - a moral fall that
has seemed to confirm that the man was indeed spiritually dead.
But from that very fall, the man has been raised up to live for God’s glory,
manifesting that he was indeed one who possessed spiritual life. The fornicator in the Corinthian church is a case in point.
In Paul’s embracing the
young man God may intend us to see a picture of the activity of the spiritual man
seeking the restoration of one who has fallen, as it is written, “Brethren, if a
man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the
spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted,” Ga 6:1.
Paul’s embracing him
speaks of love and concern. The
preservation of holiness in the church requires that there be discipline, even to
expulsion from the fellowship, but it should be with prayer that it will produce
repentance and make restoration possible.
“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.”
“... had broken bread”
is understood by many competent scholars to have reference to the Lord’s Supper, a
conclusion which seems to be confirmed by the fact that in many translations the
article precedes “bread,” i.e., it is “the bread.”
“... and eaten” is
linked by some to the bread in the sense that he broke bread and ate it, that is
partook of an ordinary meal. By many
others, however, it is viewed as the description of a separate action meaning that
after Paul (and undoubtedly Eutychus) had come upstairs again, he and the others
joined in observing the Lord’s Supper, following which all of them partook of a
regular meal, a practice common in those early days, but one that had to be abandoned
because of abuses connected with it. I
believe this latter interpretation to be correct.
His talking till daybreak
appears to confirm that his earlier talk “until midnight” could scarcely have
been longer than an hour or two at most. It
is difficult to envisage his being able to talk for a whole day and night, and it is
even more difficult to envisage his audience staying awake.
Following that regular meal
Paul talked with the believers until dawn, after which he took leave of them and
departed from Troas.
“And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted.”
Most commentators take this
to mean that they took Eutychus to his home.
“... not a little
comforted” fails to convey adequately the extent of their joy at his return to
life. Their rejoicing was great, and if
we continue to follow the symbolic view already discussed, then their joy is typical
of that which should fill the hearts of all in the local assembly at the spiritual
recovery of every erring saint.
“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.”
The ship passage took them
around the coast, a journey of about forty miles, while Paul, for an undisclosed
reason, choose to walk across country, a distance of about 20 miles.
Some have assumed, probably correctly, that he simply wanted time to be alone
with God. Whether the assumption is
correct, the fact remains that such times are needful for all of us; and
unfortunately we often choose to “go by ship” with others, when we would do
better to choose the more difficult, but also more spiritually profitable walk alone
we confirms that Luke was with them.
“And when he met with us at Assos, we took him in, and came to Mitylene.”
“And 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
“... and tarried at
Trogyllium” is not in the better manuscripts.
In connection with Trophimus
and Miletus, we read in 2 Tim 4:20 that Trophimus became ill and was left behind
there, raising the question, Why since Paul had the gift of healing, did he not use
it to heal Trophimus? The simple
explanation is that it is not always God’s will to heal.
In His love and wisdom He knows that sickness rather than health will
sometimes better accomplish His purposes for our ultimate good.
When therefore we pray for the healing of the sick, it should include the
condition, “if it be Thy will.” This
is the language of submissive faith. To demand
that God heal is the language, not of strong faith, but of presumption.
“For 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
Expositors disagree as to
whether Paul was acting in self-will, or was being led by the Holy Spirit, in his
determination to go to Jerusalem. It is
my opinion that he was being led by the Holy Spirit, see 23:11, where God appears to
approve of what His servant had done. When
the Gospel was first preached on the day of Pentecost Paul was one of its bitterest
foes, but now, also on the same day, he too is impelled to testify to his countrymen
on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ. That
day was the one that would furnish the largest Jewish audience as Jews gathered from
all over the Roman world to keep the feast. Paul’s
going was not self-will, but rather the ordering of God, so that those assembled in
Jerusalem would be able to carry back to the rest of the world that Gospel of which
Paul was such an effective preacher. They
had heard the Gospel first on the day of Pentecost, and now, it seems, they were to
hear it again on another day of Pentecost, but this time from the lips of its former
In view of what is recorded
concerning Paul’s visit to Jerusalem at Pentecost there is strong reason to believe
that as a converted Jew he also desired to participate in the ritual connected with
that feast, for as has been noted already, it was by divine appointment that
converted Jews were to continue using that ritual in anticipation of the inauguration
of the millennial kingdom, in which it would be the universal order of worship.
“And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the
The Ephesian church figures
prominently in the NT record. Of the
seven churches addressed in Revelation 2 and 3, it is the only one whose beginning is
recorded, as it is also the only one having an epistle specially addressed to it
besides the one in Re 2. Here also
Paul’s warning to the Ephesian elders as recorded in verses 26-38 is one that was
never more needed than today.
“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,”
Paul’s life was such that
he could, without any reservation, invite others to follow his example, see e.g., 1
Cor 4:16; 11:1; Php 3:17. We would do
well to seek to live in such fashion as would enable us to extend the same invitation
It is interesting that
Samuel did exactly the same thing to the elders of Israel when they demanded a king,
and he their faithful judge was being rejected, 1 Sa 12:1-5.
The days of the Judges foreshadow the Church age after the passing of the
“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:”
He whose life is lived for
the Lord will be able to invite others to follow his example, and a
humble mind is a prerequisite of such a life, see, e.g., Php 2:5; Ro 12:2.
Pride has no place in a believer’s life.
Sorrow is more becoming the Christian life than the gay round of fun and
frolic that constitutes so much of Christian activity today. He could refer to his many tears and the trials that had attended
his way. This is a far cry from the
attitude of many preachers today, who having shed few tears and known little of such
trials and troubles as Paul suffered, seem anxious to relate instead the size of the
audiences they have addressed or the number of miles they have traveled in the course
of a year.
Much of Paul’s trouble
stemmed from the antagonism of the Jews, reminding us that organized religion is very
often the source of many of the godly believer’s troubles.
The reason we know so little of that antagonism is because we don’t provoke
it. The “gospel” if preached at all,
is presented within the walls of our
meeting places, and is of such a character as to arouse the emotions of no one.
The Lord’s command is “GO ye INTO ALL THE WORLD, and preach the gospel,”
“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.”
Paul faithfully preached the
good and the bad. If it was for their
good, he declared it, whether they liked it or not. Too
many today are willing to declare only what their audiences want to hear, 2 Tim 4:3.
His teaching was both public and private.
He missed no opportunity to press home the truths of Scripture to saint and
sinner alike. We can expect to see
God’s blessing only where there is the same fearless declaration of, and obedience
to His Word.
“Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God,
and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul’s audience was the
world. Though he was the Apostle to the Gentiles, he never missed any
opportunity to declare God’s truth to the Jews also.
It is instructive to note
the emphasis placed upon the need of repentance.
This is a word that has virtually disappeared from the vocabulary of today’s
preachers, with the result that there are many professions, but few genuine
conversions, for until there is repentance there can be no conversion.
Repentance alone, however,
is useless. It must lead to faith in the
Lord Jesus Christ. One may repent, yet
die unsaved. Ahab wore sackcloth, and
walked softly, but he wasn’t saved (1 Ki 21:27).
Repentance is toward God
because He is the One Who has been offended; faith is toward Christ because He is the
One Who alone can save us.
“And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the
things that shall befall me there:”
“... bound in the
spirit” is literally “constrained, impelled, compelled by the spirit,” and in
spite of debate among scholars, it seems clear that he was going under the constraint
or impulse of the Holy Spirit, see 23:11. Nor
may his lack of knowledge as to the details of what awaited him in Jerusalem be taken as
evidence to the contrary. We are called
upon to walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor 5:7), following God a step at a time
without knowing the end from the beginning. Verses
24 and 25, however, make it clear that Paul knew he was on the last leg of his
earthly journey, though he didn’t know exactly where he would die.
All he knew was that he was to go to Jerusalem, where he would suffer for
Christ’s sake, as he had in virtually all the other places to which the Spirit had
“Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and
afflictions abide me.”
This confirms, that so far
from acting in self-will, he was in fact demonstrating his obedience, for he went
knowing only that bonds and afflictions awaited him.
It would have been self-will not to go.
The revelation of what lay
before him was a test of his obedience, not an indication of God’s displeasure. It was the same with the Lord Jesus Christ, except that He went
with a full knowledge of where and how His earthly path would end.
Paul walked in His Lord’s footsteps, and calls upon us to do the same (1 Cor
4:16; 11:1; Php 3:17).
“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.”
Paul would permit nothing to
turn him aside from the path of obedience. The
value he set upon his life was based on the fact that that life belonged to God, Who
might therefore do with it as He pleased, and Paul was content to accept God’s
will. The great objective of his life
was to finish his course with joy, and to complete his service, that service having
been committed to him by the Lord Himself. His
life’s work was to preach the Gospel, and though none has been as richly endowed as
he, it is that same work which has been given to every believer, each of us being
equipped by God to do that work according to the measure of ability given by Him, and
in the places to which He directs us.
The knowledge that
imprisonment and death were to end his ministry didn’t perturb him.
He had left his life in God’s hands since the moment of his conversion, and
he was content to leave the remaining time there also. The ability to look beyond circumstances, and to see only the God
Whose love and wisdom ordered or permitted those circumstances, is the secret of true
It is instructive to
consider how closely Paul’s life followed the pattern of Christ’s.
He too went where and when the Spirit led Him, and when the time of His
departure came He set His face also to go to Jerusalem, and would permit nothing to
turn Him aside even though He knew every detail of what awaited Him there.
“And it came to pass when the time came that he should be received up, he
stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem,” Lk 9:51.
How much more effective our own service would be if it were rendered with the
same determination to permit nothing to turn us aside from doing God’s will!
“And now, behold, I know that ye all among whom I have gone preaching the
kingdom of God, shall see my face no more,”
This use of the term “the
kingdom” (whether millennial or heavenly is unimportant) continues to indicate that
this was still the Jewish age in which the millennial kingdom was being offered to
Israel, though the time was fast approaching when that offer would be withdrawn until
a future day which is now also imminent. His
certainty relative to his own future, rules out the idea that he was acting in
“Wherefore I take you to record this day that I am pure from the blood of
“For I have not shunned to declare
unto you all the counsel of God.”
See Eze 3:16 where the
watchman was responsible to warn the people, and they, to heed the warning; his
failure to warn them making him guilty; their failure to heed the warning making them
guilty. It is the same regarding the
preaching of the gospel. The
faithfulness of Paul’s testimony rebukes the failure of our’s.
How many of us could dare to make the same claim?
The sad truth is that multitudes of family members, friends, neighbors, fellow
workers, employers, employees, tradespeople, doctors, dentists, etc., will stand at
the great white throne awaiting consignment to the eternal torment of the lake of
fire, and pointing to us, level the accusation, You never even attempted to warn me.
Consider, Would we have been saved had not someone warned us?
Who will warn these men and women who cross our paths, some of them daily, if
How will we feel when we
stand at the judgment seat of Christ, and we receive a meager reward, while another
receives the crown and reward we might have had but for our delinquency, and the Lord
says, I intended that crown, that abundant reward for you, but as My Word warned you
on earth, these things are reserved for those who have earned them?
Paul declared the unpleasant
as well as the pleasant. His sermons
weren’t tailored to suit the tastes, but the needs, of his audience.
“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.”
Those who would shepherd
God’s sheep must first “take heed” unto themselves.
A man’s own life must be in order before he undertakes to guide others,
i.e., he must be living in subjection to the Chief Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul didn’t envisage the
raising up of another Apostle. The
foundation of the Church is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the chief corner stone,
Eph 2:20, the doctrine of the apostles and prophets (not the men themselves)
completing that foundation. The
apostolic age ended with the completion of the canon of Scripture, and therefore with
the completion of the foundation of the Church.
Thereafter there was no need of apostles and prophets.
Their work was done. The
shepherding of the Church was henceforth to be in the hands of those men (the gift
isn’t given to women) whom the Holy Spirit had gifted and called to that work.
(Eph 4:11 makes it clear that the ability to shepherd God’s sheep is a
spiritual gift, and as with the gifts of evangelizing and teaching, the assembly
gradually becomes aware of the men who have been given those gifts as they exercise
them, being careful not to neglect them, but to stir them up).
There is no scriptural
warrant for existing elders to appoint other elders, or to invite them into what has
come to be called “the oversight.” It
is the Holy Spirit, and He alone Who appoints elders, their principle work being to
lead (not drive), guard, and teach the sheep committed to their care, that
guardianship being accomplished by sound teaching, for the well taught flock is the
one least likely to fall victim to the wiles of the adversary, their knowledge of the
Word preserving them from falling victim to wrong doctrine.
It is to be noted that Peter declares himself to be also an elder (1 Pe
5:1-2), and it is significant that he is the one who was specifically commanded three
times by the Lord to feed (teach) the lambs and sheep, Jn 21:15.
It is to be further noted
that Scripture knows nothing of the rule of just one elder, or of a head elder. There is to be a plurality of elders, all of whom stand on the
That the appointment of
elders is a divine prerogative which has been committed to no one else is also
declared in the OT, “And I will give you pastors (shepherds) according to mine
heart, which shall feed (teach) you with knowledge and understanding,” Jer 3:15. It is significant that in the OT feeding is very frequently
associated with the idea of teaching.
The responsibility of the
elders is emphasized in the final clause of this verse, “which he hath purchased
with his own blood.” The sheep are
very precious to the Chief Shepherd. He
has given His life for them, and He will hold the under shepherds responsible for the
care they take of His sheep, see 1 Pe 5:1-4. A
warning to shepherds lies in the fact that in Israel it was almost invariably their
rulers, who by their own evil example, led the common people away from God.
Elders are to lead by example as well as teaching, and their example will be
good only as they themselves walk in the footsteps of the Chief Shepherd.
“...which he hath
purchased with his own blood,” has created a problem for some, for it seems to
imply that it is the Father Who has shed His blood.
The problem is removed, however, by remembering that the Lord Jesus Christ is
also God, the wording here simply indicating the equality of the One with the Other.
The Church belongs to God -
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - having been purchased by the blood of the Lord Jesus
Christ, God the Son, when He in obedience to the will of the Father, offered Himself
without spot to God through the Holy Spirit, to make atonement for sin, and secure
redemption for sinners who would believe the gospel.
“For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in
among you, not sparing the flock.”
“... grievous” is also
translated “merciless, fierce, cruel, savage, evil, ferocious.”
The Lord Himself warned
believers to beware of spiritual wolves, declaring in Mt 7:15-16 “Beware of false
prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening
wolves.” Peter likewise warned, “But
there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false
teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the
Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction,” 2 Pe 2:1; and
in 2 Cor 11:13 Paul warned the saints in Corinth, “For such are false apostles,
deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the
ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.”
These are men from outside the local assembly, but this doesn’t preclude the
fact that they may be from another assembly, for until recently, the assemblies were
too well taught to accept ministry from those outside their own fellowships.
Unfortunately it is not so in many assemblies today.
The ministry of those occupying unscriptural positions, e.g., “clerics,”
is being accepted even though the clerical system is described by God as a thing
which He hates, see Re 2:15, it being generally recognized that Nicolaitanism is the
clerical system. The man occupying an
unscriptural position is thereby automatically disqualified from attempting to
minister to the needs of believers.
The question may be asked,
Why does God hate the clerical system since there are many good men among its
ministers? The answer is that wherever
it operates it automatically prevents the development of spiritual gift because the
hired cleric is paid to do virtually all the teaching and preaching.
It is a pernicious system which has maintained a stranglehold on Christendom
for almost two thousand years.
“... not sparing the
flock” warns us that the objective of these spiritual wolves is the destruction of
the flock. They are Satan’s
emissaries, no matter how they may seek to disguise it.
“Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw
away disciples after them.”
This points up the necessity
of care in regard to reception into the local fellowship.
Something should be known of the faith and doctrine of those received, for
failure to exercise such care simply facilitates the introduction of Satan’s tares
and wolves amongst God’s wheat and sheep. Once
an unbeliever, or a man unsound in doctrine, is received into the assembly there is
ample opportunity for subversion of scriptural order.
“... speaking perverse
things.” Here it is perversion or distortion of the truth, a form of
subversion often more difficult to detect than outright contradiction of the Word.
“... to draw away
disciples after them.” Such men are
self-seekers, attempting to disrupt the unity of the believers by indoctrinating the
unwary to follow them, thereby weakening the assembly.
We are to be wary of such, for it is to be remembered that genuine spiritual
gift is for the upbuilding of the Church.
Even in Paul’s day such
men were at work, see e.g., 1 Tim 1:20; 2 Tim 2:17; 2 Cor 11:13.
“Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased
not to warn every one night and day with tears.”
There is great need for
vigilance, not only in regard to our personal lives, but also in regard to our
corporate life, and there is equally great need to keep reminding ourselves and one
another of what we have been taught from God’s Word.
“... by the space of three
years” teaches us of Paul’s great care for the churches, and also that the NT
nowhere envisages the permanent ministry of anyone, except that of the elders, in
connection with a local church. The idea
of a permanent “pastor” is completely foreign to the teaching of Scripture.
“... night and day with
tears.” This reminds us of Paul’s unceasing care for God’s people; and
his tears remind us of the sincerity and love with which that care was exercised.
He was no hireling shepherd, but one, who like his Master, loved the sheep and
was willing to lay down his life for them. Such
men are greatly needed today, for it is the lack of such men that has brought the
assemblies into their present lamentable state.
“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
This emphasizes the
importance of the Word of God. Continual
study, meditation, and obedience, will keep us from all the evils of which Paul
warns, and which are rampant in the Church today.
Neglect of it is the very thing that brings these evils.
As has been noted already, the well-taught believer is in little danger of
falling prey to Satan’s wolves.
This description of the Word
as being “of his grace” is peculiar, but it is to remind us of the value of that
Word. Grace is the bestowal of
undeserved blessing. We no more deserved
to have been given the written Word than we did to have been given the living Word
Whom it presents. If we grasped more
fully the worth of the written Word we would be more eager to read and study it.
It is nothing less than the presentation of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the
amount of time we are willing to give to it is an accurate measure of the amount of
time we are willing to spend with Him. Our
love for the Word is the measure of our love for the Lord.
But love is linked with
obedience, “If ye love me, keep my commandments,” Jn 14:15.
See also Jn 15:14, “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.”
There cannot be obedience apart from the knowledge of God’s will, and that
knowledge is obtained only by continual study of His Word.
The disobedience of many professing Christians today is less that of
deliberate rebellion than of ignorance resulting from failure to study Scripture, for
while certainly there is much rebellion against God’s known will, there is also a
great deal that comes under the heading “sins of ignorance,” that ignorance being
the result of failure to read and study the Scriptures.
“... which is able to
build you up, and to give you an inheritance.”
That word “build up” is broad in its scope.
The diligent and obedient student of the Word enjoys the inward peace that
eludes the disobedient. But more, he
becomes a workman suitable for the Master’s use, and as he labors for the Lord, he
not only prospers in his own soul here on earth, but he makes himself eternally rich,
for he lays up treasure in heaven, the value of that treasure being in direct
proportion to his obedience while here on earth.
But someone may ask, Don’t
all believers have an inheritance? Yes,
we do; but it is to be remembered that the extent of our inheritance is governed by
the degree of our obedience. Every
believer will enter heaven, but only some will have “an abundant” entrance.
All will reign with Christ, but not all will occupy the same position in His
administration. As there are many ranks in earthly government, so are there also
in that which is heavenly.
“... among all them which
are sanctified.” Sanctified means to
be set apart for a purpose (usually the service of a god).
We forget all too often that we have been set apart for God, not just to enter
heaven when we die, but we have been left here on earth to serve Him while waiting
for that day when we shall stand in His presence.
Then the faithfulness of the service rendered on earth will measure the size
of the inheritance to be enjoyed for all eternity.
“I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel.”
Paul had his eye on better
things, for he saw the things of earth in the all-revealing light of heaven, a light
which revealed their utter worthlessness, as he himself declared, “But what things
were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the
knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord for whom I have suffered the loss of all things,
and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,” Php 3:7-8.
It is significant that this
is the same order in which these three things are so frequently mentioned in
Scripture. Silver represents redemption;
gold, glory; and raiment, righteousness. There
must be redemption before there can be glory; and on that day when we stand glorified
in heaven we will be clothed in the spotless robe of Christ’s righteousness,
purchased for us by His precious blood, and bestowed as His priceless gift the moment
we trusted Him as Savior.
“Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and
to them that were with me.”
When it was necessary, Paul
was not above working with his hands to supply his temporal needs; but more, he was
willing also to do that work to supply the same needs of those who were with him in
the great spiritual work given him and them by God.
We do well to note that word
“necessities.” There is a difference
- sometimes a very great one - between our necessities and our wants, and we do well
to learn to distinguish between them. God
has promised to supply all our needs, not necessarily all our wants.
“I have shewed you all things, how that so laboring 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.”
Paul’s ministry was never
mere theory. It was practical. It wasn’t simply intellectual theology. It embraced such things as working with one’s hands for the
necessities of life, a thing some lesser servants today consider beneath their
Undoubtedly the “all
things” included also the unpleasant as well as the pleasant.
His ministry wasn’t tailored to meet the tastes of his audience. It was fitted to their needs, however unwelcome some of it might
have been. Those who minister God’s
Word today ought to have the same care.
“... so laboring”
clearly refers to literal work, and was to remind them, and us, that the wages earned
by the work God enables us to do to obtain life’s necessities, are to be used also
to help meet the same needs of those too weak, physically or mentally, to also work.
We should never forget that but for His grace we could be the weak ones.
Nor should we forget that what remains after we have met our own needs is not
ours but God’s, we being simply stewards to whom He has entrusted that surplus. We
are responsible to minister to the needs (temporal as well as spiritual) of others,
see Ga 6:10, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men,
especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”
“It is more blessed to
give than to receive.” This is the
complete reversal of the world’s philosophy; but all that is of the world will
cease when the earthly life is over. For
the believer, his expectation goes beyond earth and time.
It takes him into heaven, into the eternal state, where not even a cup of cold
water given on earth for Christ’s sake, will go unrewarded, Mt 10:42, as it is
written, “And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of
cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise
lose his reward.” He counts what is
done unto His own as having been done unto Him, see Mt 25:40, “... inasmuch as ye
have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
Giving on earth is just another form of sowing for eternity, and as on earth,
the harvest is in proportion to the sowing, so will it be with spiritual things.
We are to give bountifully, and out of a willing heart, see 2 Cor 9.
“And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them
His kneeling indicates his
reverence for God, and reminds us that we ought to have the same care to show
reverence for Him in our speech and conduct.
“And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul’s neck, and kissed him,”
most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more.
And they accompanied him unto the ship.”
Those early believers were
marked by a love for God and for one another that is conspicuously absent today
amongst believers, and their tears remind us that we are not exempted from sorrow,
but even in it we are assured that we sorrow not as others who have no hope, 1 Th
4:13, “But I would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are
asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.” They knew they would see Paul again in heaven, but that didn’t
diminish their sorrow at knowing they would not see this much loved friend again on