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An Exposition Of The Acts Of The Apostles


He sets out for Macedonia and Greece, zealously preaching as he went along (1–4). He goes to Troas, where he raises a dead man to life (7–12). At Miletus he addresses an affecting, valedictory address to the Clergy of Ephesus (18–38).


1. “Took his leave,” in Greek, “having embraced them,” giving manifestations of holy friendship.

“Macedonia,” on his way to Jerusalem, whither he intended going (c. 19:21).

2. “These parts.” The countries of Macedon. Likely he made for Troas, where he expected to meet Titus (2 Cor. 2:12, 13).

His way. Not finding him, he returned to Greece, sometimes called, in official language, Achaia.

3. “Where,” Corinth chiefly, “three months” during which he wrote to the Romans.

“Jews laid wait,” &c. Probably, intending to assassinate him at Cenchrea, the port of departure.

The discovery of the plot caused him to travel by land—a more circuitous and slower route.

5. “Going before,” To get all things ready for his journey—“stayed for us,” viz., Paul, and Luke who now joined Paul, having been left at Philippi, at the house of Lydia. Why he did not accompany the Apostle to Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, &c., cannot be ascertained. He joined him on this occasion.

6. “Days of Azymes.” They celebrated the Pasch at Philippi. Likely, Luke mentions this to note the time. It took “five days” to come to Troas, across the Ægean. It is said (c. 16:2) that he crossed it before in two days. The winds may have not been so favourable now.

7. “First day of the week.” Sunday, termed the Lord’s Day.

“Assembled to break bread.” The phrase, “to break bread” is in some measure, a consecrated phrase, referring to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Its happening on the Lord’s Day, together with other circumstances would, probably, indicate this. Nothing to show, it was a profane banquet, no one would “sit on the window” (v. 9) at such a banquet. On the Lord’s Day, they assembled to celebrate the Holy Eucharist; and Paul, as he was about leaving them, delivered a discourse which continued up to midnight.

8. The lamps were intended for light, and, probably, also for greater solemnity. This circumstance may have been mentioned in answer to the slanders against the early Christians, that they carried on their sacred rites in darkness, thus perpetrating all kinds of iniquity; and also to show it was a place of public worship. Jews and Gentiles were wont to have lamps lighted in such places.

9. “And was taken up dead.” The common opinion is that he was not merely stunned; but really dead, miraculously resuscitated by St. Paul.

10. “Laid himself on him.” Elias acted similarly (3 Kings 17:24), and so did Elizeus (4 Kings 4:34).

“Soul is in him.” Through modesty he refrains from saying he himself resuscitated him.

11. Continuing the rite of celebrating the Eucharist, he discoursed until daylight. “Tasting,” may refer to the Agape celebrated in the early Church, in connection with the Eucharist; or; it may designate a repast which strengthened the Apostle to continue his lengthened discourse.

15. “Arrived at Samos.” To which is added in the Greek, “and tarried at Trogyllum, which is a promontory opposite Samos, having near it a small island called Trogyllum (Strabo, lib. 14). These words, however, are wanting in the best MSS., and omitted in the most recent critical editions.

16. “Sail by.” Sail past Ephesus, without calling there for fear of being delayed on his forward journey, which he wished to expedite. It would seem he had particular reasons to reach Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost.

17. Miletus was not far from Ephesus, about a day’s journey, forty miles or so.

“Ancients of the Church.” It is a subject of discussion among commentators whether this term refers to the clergy of the First order only, whom the Apostle calls, v. 28. Episcopi or bishops. Some Commentators say the Apostle summoned the several bishops from the surrounding districts of the Province of Ephesus, each having its own bishop; or, whether it refers to priests of the Second order only, as is maintained by some, who, however, admit the superiority of bishops over priests, defined as a point of faith (C. of Trent, ss. xxiii., c. 4, can. 7), some hold that it includes priests as well of the first as of the second order. The opinion which understands the term as common to bishops and priests, seems to be the one more generally adopted by Commentators and Ecclesiastical writers as more probable.

The term, Presbyter, according to Etymology, means, one advanced in age. Episcopus or Bishop, an overseer, or superintendent. But, according Ecclesiastical and Scriptual usage, Presbyter designates, a sacred minister or priest; Episcopus or Bishop, one who holds the first place in a church, oversees things and exercises jurisdiction over others. The term, Episcopus, while strictly denoting bishops, priests of the first order, to whom it is confined, and the high office they exercise, may also, to a certain extent, designate priests of the second order, who participate in the sacred office which the bishops exercise in its plenitude, in virtue of which they delegate a portion of their power, as also care and duty of superintendence to the clergy of the second order (see Ep. ad Philip 1; Titus 1:5; 1 Tim. 3:8, Commentary on).

18. This valedictory address contains much in praise of the Apostle. It proceeded, however, not from vain glory, but from a sincere desire to point out to the pastors the line of conduct they should pursue, and the great zeal they should display, after his example.

He speaks only of what they knew already regarding his life, labours, and sufferings.

19. “Serving the Lord” by the faithful discharge of the duties of his high Apostolic office.

“With all humility,” not puffed up; humbly referring all his success to God.

“With tears” caused by the perverse conduct of his persecutors. “And temptations,” trials, arising from the snares and murderous designs of the Jews, and their plots against his life (v. 3).

20. “Nothing profitable.” Whether palatable or otherwise, provided he saw it would ultimately prove of service to them.

21. “Testifying,” inculcating and urging, by all means, on all, “Jews and Gentiles,” the necessity of doing penance for their sins against God, and of “faith in our Lord,” &c., by whose blood they were redeemed.

22. “Bound in the spirit.” Some understand “spirit” of the Holy Ghost, impelling, constraining him by his influences, to go forward, heedless of personal risks. In the next verse, however, he speaks of the “Holy Ghost.” Hence, others understand it of his own will, which, under a sense strong of duty, not, however, without the superintending guidance of God’s spirit, urges him forward.

“Not knowing,” having no clear or distinct knowledge in detail, as to their issue, or what particular kinds of persecutions await me, or if the issue of them be death.

23. “Save that.” Excepting that “in every city” through which I passed, “the Holy Ghost,” either by direct revelation or through the Prophets, whom he inspired in each of these places—of this we have an example (21:4–11) “witnesseth,” testifies, “that at Jerusalem, bands,” &c. “Jerusalem,” is wanting in almost all Greek copies.

24. “More precious,” &c. I don’t value life more than my eternal salvation; so that no risks or perils can turn me aside from “consummating my course” as a faithful Apostle, and from discharging the duties of the ministry confided to me by no other than “the Lord Jesus” himself (Acts 9:15–17).

“To testify the Gospel,” &c. To bear witness to the joyous message of the grace which God, as a merciful Father, is prepared to confer on mankind. This is the direct design of the ministry confided on me—

The reading in the Greek is somewhat different, but substantially the same, “neither do I count my life dear unto myself, that I may consummate my course,” &c. I look upon it, as a fixed idea, that my life is to be accounted by me for nothing, and all dangers regarded as nought, in attaining the object of my ministry, &c.

25. “I know,” I have the firmest conviction, &c. This he adds to fix their attention on the admonitions he was about giving them, for the last time.

“All of you,” &c. None of you shall see me again. “Among whom,” &c. Very likely, there came together the priests and bishops from the districts round Ephesus. Possibly, on hearing of Paul’s transit, they may have come of their own accord.

26. He appeals to themselves as witnesses of his fidelity, so that if any of them die the second death in mortal sin, “their-blood,” be they Jew or Gentile, their eternal loss will be chargeable to themselves and not to him. Hence, it is inferred, that the pastor, who neglects his duty is guilty of the “blood,” the eternal loss of his people.

27. “For”—a reason why he is not answerable—“not spared,” shrunk from any motives or influences, whether of fear or selfishness, from fully “declaring” and making known to them “all the counsel of God,” the entire will of God in regard to the salvation of men. He fearlessly threw open to them, the full economy of God, in the work of redemption, the Faith to be believed and professed, the morals and deeds of virtue to be practised to gain eternal life; and the vices and crimes to be shuned, to escape eternal torments.

28. “Take heed to yourselves.” The first and chief thing for pastors if they wish to have their labours successful and abiding, is to attend first to the work of their own sanctification. This St. Paul inculcates (Tim. 4:16), attende Tibi and doctrinæ. See Commentary on.

“And the whole flock.” Our Lord himself is fond of using a pastoral image or metaphor, when speaking of his people, whom he often represents under the image of a flock, cared by shepherds, of whom he is himself the chief and head.

“Wherein.” That portion of the universal church over which “the Holy Ghost has placed you bishops.” The word “bishop” means overscer, superintendent, with power communicated by the spirit of fortitude and strength, to oversee all, priests and people. No doubt, several bishops were present, as also some priests. The designation “bishops” marks their office of superintending and ruling priests and people, and of conducting them in the way of salvation.

“To rule.” The Greek word—ποιμαινειν—a pastoral term—means to rule, guide, govern and direct. This is specially addressed to such of the audience as were bishops or priests of the first order, of whom some, no doubt, came together from the outlying districts, bordering on Ephesus.

“The Church of God.” There is a diversity of reading here, some MSS. have the Church of the Lord, others, the “Church of the Lord and God.” The Vulgate reading is best sustained by the testimony of the Fathers. The Vulgate reading is more in accordance with the language of St. Paul, who, frequently in his writings, speaks of the “Church of God;” never, “of our Lord.” These words furnish an unanswerable proof of our Lord’s Divinity. He who purchased the Church is called “God.” It was our Lord Jesus Christ that, with the blood of His humanity hypostatically united to His Divinity, purchased the Church. It is said here, it was “God” that purchased the Church. Hence, our Lord is “God.” It was through His humanity he purchased it, by the effusion of His blood. It was His Divine Person that imparted an infinite value to all the works performed through His human nature.

29. They should attend to their flock now more diligently, on account of the dangers they were exposed to from without, from the Judaizers after his departure.

“Ravening wolves.” In Greek heavy, destructive wolves, false teachers, hypocrites.

30. Also from within. Heretics who sprung forth from the bosom of the Church, in which Gnosticism soon appeared. In his Epistles to Timothy, whom the Apostle appointed bishop of Ephesus, he refers to several false teachers (1 Tim. 1:20; 2 Tim. 1:15; 2:17).

31. Surrounded with such dangers, they should “watch,” be ever on the alert to meet these heretics. They should also gratefully remember the zeal and burning charity he himself displayed in admonishing all, both by night and by day. The fruit of such zeal among the people should not be allowed to be lost through their fault.

“For three years” or thereabouts. He was only two years teaching in the school of Tyrannus (19:8–10), and about three months more in the synagogue, “three years” more or less.

32. “Now” about to leave them for ever, he commends them to God.

“The word of His grace,” viz., the word of the Gospel to which, provided it be faithfully believed and its precepts carried out in practice, is attached the grace of salvation, and all the particular graces that conduct thereto.

“Build up.” Make them advance in Christian life and the work of sanctification.

“And to give you an inheritance,” make you His heirs and partakers with all God’s saints in the inheritance in store for them.

33, 34. He concludes this magnificent, valedictory address by inculcating disinterestedness, of which he gave so noble an example. They all knew his disinterestedness, free from not alone the stain, but the very suspicion of sordid avarice, or any desire to become possessed of any of their worldly goods. All he sought for was, not their worldly substance; but, their immortal souls. By labouring hard and with the work of his hands, he supported himself and those who were with him.

35. “Showed” by word and example, “all things,” in regard to all things appertaining to the apostolic and pastoral mode of life. “How you ought,” by labouring, after my example, “to support the weak,” by administering to the corporal wants of the needy too weak to labour for themselves; or, it more likely means the infirm in faith. By thus labouring to procure a livelihood, we would accommodate ourselves to the weakness of our infirm brethren, who might be scandalized by seeing us receive temporal remuneration and support for having laboured spiritually in the cause of the Gospel. By thus labouring for our own sustenance, we would support and stretch to them a helping hand, so that they would not be scandalized at our seeming selfishness, and be saved from the temptation of abandoning the faith.

“And to remember … it is a more blessed thing,” &c. This saying of our Lord is found no where in the Gospels, which, however, do not claim to record all his sayings (John 16:15). St. Paul supposes it to be well known to those whom he addresses. He learned it from some of our Lord’s disciples. It has reference to temporal matters. By renouncing their just claim to temporal support, the Apostles would have fulfilled in themselves and realized this adage. In preaching the Gospel gratuitously, they give of their own to others.

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