The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Acts 20

Act 20:1

Act 20: "The drama of the witnessing to the people by the apostle Paul continues in our readings for today. Paul's troubles were accentuated towards the close of his stay in Ephesus (cp 2Co 1:9-11). In Act 20 Luke records his experiences as (1) Three months in Greece: vv 1-6. (2) The company leaves for Jerusalem via Troas: vv 3-6. (3) A remarkable incident at Troas: vv 7-12. (4) From Troas to Miletus: vv 13-16. (5) Paul's farewell address to the elders at Ephesus: vv 17-35. (6) A tearful farewell: vv 36-38. Paul's message draws attention to the desperate condition of the Truth when attacked by the 'grievous wolves' and 'hirelings' (vv 29,30). Paul made no mistake about the nature of flesh. He recognized the ease with which error permeates the community. His identification of 'grievous wolves' describe the Judaizers who would enter the ecclesia under the guise of sheep to devour those weak in the faith. But more sadly, the apostle notes that even from their own ranks, errorists would arise to seek a hearing and to draw aside groups of followers. They would speak 'perverse things' (the word means that which is distorted, or twisted). Such are devious doctrines which seem to present the Truth, but contain elements that would cause a misunderstanding of it. The exhortation of the apostle is vital: to be strengthened by the 'word of His grace.' Let us elevate Truth above the personalities of individuals, and thereby protect our great heritage. It is vital that we 'stand for the things earnestly believed,' and not to countenance a change of emphasis in any respect. Then will we stand alongside the great apostle in the day of joy to come" (GEM).

V 1: In these days, Paul probably feared for the total collapse of the work there (2Co 1:8,9).

Act 20:3

THE JEWS MADE A PLOT AGAINST HIM: How did he learn of this plot?

Act 20:4

V 4: The representatives to accompany the gift of money to the Jerusalem ecclesia.

SOPATER: Probably the same person as the Sosipater of Rom 16:21 who sent greetings to the Romans with Paul.

ARISTARCHUS: Cp Acts 19:27.

GAIUS: There are four, and perhaps five, different men by this name in the NT.

TYCHICUS: One of the most frequently mentioned of Paul's companions and delegates (Acts 20:4; Eph 6:21; Col 4:7; 2Ti 4:12; Tit 3:12). He was an Asian (Ephesian?) who probably accompanied Paul as he carried the collection to the church in Jerusalem (1Co 16:1-4). High praise is given Tychicus by the apostle: "the beloved brother and faithful minister and fellowservant in the Lord" (Col 4:7; cf Eph 6:21). He was sent, together with Onesimus, from Paul (in prison) to the church at Colosse (and possibly to the one at Ephesus), to deliver the apostle's letters and to inform the believers of his state. According to Tit 3:12, Tychicus was a possible replacement for Titus in Crete, for Paul wanted Titus to join him during his stay in Nicopolis.

TROPHIMUS: Later he was seen with Paul in Jerusalem (Acts 21:29), and the Jews accused Paul of defiling the temple by bringing a Gentile into the court of Israel, an act forbidden by the temple authorities. A notice (written in Greek and Latin), now preserved in a museum in Istanbul, reads: "Let no foreigner enter within the screen and enclosure surrounding the sanctuary. Whosoever is taken so doing will be the cause that death overtaketh him." The resulting uproar led to Paul's being taken into custody by the Roman soldiers and ultimately being sent to Rome for trial. After Paul was released from his first Roman imprisonment, Trophimus was left by Paul in Miletus ill (2Ti 4:20), presumably shortly before Paul's final trip to Rome and his execution there.

Act 20:6

WE: Luke joins the company again here.

Act 20:7

The Lord's Supper: a memorial of Christ (Mat 26:26,27); a feast of remembrance (1Co 11:24); a banquet of victory (Act 20:7); a token of fellowship (1Co 10:16); and a confession of hope (1Co 11:26).

Act 20:8

MANY LAMPS: Rapidly consuming the available oxygen, and leading to stupor.

Act 20:9

Do we "fall asleep" on the "back row" because the "night" is long? See Article, Eutychus (Acts 20:9).

Act 20:11

AFTER TALKING UNTIL DAYLIGHT: "This is the only occasion we are told of an all-night vigil of this sort, but it is described with a certain matter-of-factness that makes me inclined to feel that it was not that rare an occurrence. They were so full of the things of God that they could not stop talking about them. Are we?" (PC).

Act 20:12

All things -- even a fatal fall from an upper window -- work together for good to them that love God (Rom 8:28).

Act 20:13

ASSOS: Which was about 20 miles south of Troas. The ship would take a much longer route, around the peninsula, and would arrive about the same time as did Paul.

Act 20:16

HE WAS IN A HURRY TO REACH JERUSALEM, IF POSSIBLE, BY THE DAY OF PENTECOST: His purpose was to meet as many brethren as possible at one time and place (ie when assembled at Pentecost), and to show to them the Gentile converts.

Act 20:17

Acts 20;17.

Was Paul perhaps forbidden to return to Ephesus?

Act 20:20

I HAVE NOT HESITATED TO PREACH ANYTHING...: "The Apostle was driven by the need to warn men and women that he might be pure from the blood of all men, having faithfully discharged that commission which Ezekiel the prophet named when he said that the blood of those who perished would be upon his head if he should remain silent instead of witnessing. This is an individual responsibility. There are some, faithful and hard workers for the Lord. That is good. Many of us have failed; all of us fail in some respects. The reason that most of us fail is that we are too much part of the world and we cannot fulfil our responsibilities to the world if we are part of it" (John Roberts, Xd 117:93).

Act 20:23

PRISON AND HARDSHIPS ARE FACING ME: "So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God" (2Ti 1:8).

Act 20:24


Act 20:27

// Eze 3:8,20; 33:5,6.

Act 20:28

"The elders of Ephesus were exhorted by Paul to feed the ecclesia of God, the word feed in this text being the verb, poimaino, of which the word pastor (poimen) in Eph 4:11,12 is the noun. Many elders would therefore be teachers... Paul singled out for special honor those elders who labored in the word and doctrine. It is well today not to overlook the pastoral aspect of Christian teaching. The ideal is not so much to have pupils learning a set of doctrines, which may be more correct than nutritious, but to have them first realize their starving condition, then lead them to the Chief Pastor who said: 'I am the bread of life; he that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.' The true pastor does not lead his flock to rich grass on cliff edges, nor does he always keep them in one small field" (FCE 145).

WITH HIS OWN BLOOD: Or, "with the blood of His own" (RSV mg). In a special sense, it was God's blood (Xd 119:82).

Act 20:29

This great apostasy (falling away) from the truth began to happen in the first century. Internal and external sources would lead to error. This would be a great crisis to the early church: cp v 19. Cp 1Ti 4:1-4.

Apostasy prophesied: Rev 11:16-18; 1Ti 4:1,6; 2Ti 3:1; 4:3; Gal 1:6-9; 1Jo 4:3; Col 2:8; 2Th 2:3,8. Nations in darkness: Rev 17:2; 18:23; 1Co 1:21; Mat 7:14; Luk 18:8; 2Co 11:13.

Act 20:31

SO BE ON YOUR GUARD: They must have paid attention to Paul, because some years later, Jesus commends these elders for resisting the Nicolaitans (Rev 2:6).

WITH TEARS: Cp 2Ti 1:4.

Act 20:32

THE WORD OF HIS GRACE: The "Word" = Christ in Act 10:36,37; Joh 1:1,14; 1Jo 1:1,2; Rev 6:9; 19:13; Heb 4:12,13; Luk 1:2; 1Pe 1:23,25.

Act 20:34

Cp Act 18:3; 1Co 4:12; 9:3-18; 1Th 2:5,6,9; 2Th 3:8,9.

Act 20:35

Is Paul citing Mat 10:8; Luk 14:14? Or is he quoting a saying of Jesus not otherwise recorded?

IT IS MORE BLESSED TO GIVE THAN TO RECEIVE: "Be big. Most people are small: small-minded; small-hearted; small-thoughted. The children of God are called on to make the supreme effort to grow up from mankind's natural, infantile, self-centered smallness. Think eternity, not peanuts. Devote your life to giving, not getting. The getting will come in God's good time -- eternally: 'heaped up, pressed down, shaken together, running over' -- divine good measure. Relax into goodness and largeness of heart. Let the little minds burn themselves out in anxious seeking and fear of being shortchanged. Have no fear that you are going to lose something unless you constantly consider your self-interest and fret about your fair share. You cannot possibly lose if you are in track with God. He gives abundantly to all. He will see you do not lose -- eventually and eternally -- if you have the faith and the patience to wait" (GVG).

See Lesson, Giving (IC).

Act 20:36

HE KNELT DOWN WITH ALL OF THEM AND PRAYED: The same prayer as in Eph 3:14-21?

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