Acts 20 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Acts 20)

Verse 2

[2] 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.

Verse 3

[3] 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.

Verse 4

[4] 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.

To Asia — There some of them left him. But Trophimus went with him to Jerusalem, Acts 21:29. Aristarchus, even to Rome, Acts 27:2.

Verse 6

[6] 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.

Verse 7

[7] 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.

Verse 8

[8] 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.

Verse 9

[9] 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.

Verse 10

[10] 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.

Verse 11

[11] 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.

Verse 12

[12] 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!

Verse 13

[13] 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.

Verse 14

[14] 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.

Verse 17

[17] 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.

Verse 18

[18] 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.

Verse 19

[19] 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.

Verse 20

[20] 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!

Verse 21

[21] 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.

Verse 22

[22] 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.

Verse 23

[23] 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.

Verse 24

[24] 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.

Verse 25

[25] 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.

Verse 27

[27] 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.

Verse 28

[28] 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.

Verse 29

[29] 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.

Verse 30

[30] 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.

Verse 31

[31] 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?

Verse 32

[32] 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.

Verse 33

[33] 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.

Verse 34

[34] 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?

Verse 35

[35] 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.

Verse 37

[37] 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.

Verse 38

[38] 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!