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Bible Commentaries
Acts 20

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

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Verses 1-38

Acts 20:4 . There accompanied him Sopater of Berea, the son of Pyrrhus, according to the Vulgate. He is called by Paul, Sosipater. Romans 16:21. Aristarchus, who accompanied him to Rome, and Secundus, both of Thessalonica: Acts 27:2. Gaius of Derbe, Timotheus of Lystra, of Asia Tychicus and Trophimus; all great and able ministers, and acquainted, in some sort, with Grecian literature. Like Clement and others they came into the church loaded with Egyptian gold, for the Greeks allow that they received letters from Phœnicia first, and then from Egypt. Thus the great Shepherd raised up faithful pastors to feed the flock.

Acts 20:7 . On the first day of the week; the sabbath being so appointed by “the Son of man, who is Lord also of the sabbath;” and it is thought to be the original sabbath in which God rested from all his works, as stated in Ezekiel 20:12-20.

They came to break bread. The Syriac reads, eucharist, or sacrament. The lovefeast was often celebrated at the same time, when the brethren “prophesied one by one.”

Paul continued his speech until midnight. He had eloquence ever flowing from inexhaustible treasures of wisdom and knowledge. GAUSSEN, being once asked, what was the best way of excelling in the eloquence of the pulpit, replied, “To love Christ with supreme affection: then a preacher is carried beyond himself, and can scarcely close his subject.” De arte concionandi: pp. 149-156.

Acts 20:10 . His life is in him. The Lord healed and restored this young man, lest it should add one loss to another, and occasion reproach among the wicked. Thus the calamity was turned to joy.

Acts 20:13 . Assos, a city near Troas.

Acts 20:14 . Mitylénè, capital of the island of Lesbos, a fine city and port, ravaged by the Athenians, and destroyed by the Romans, but rebuilt by Pompey. Prior to the turkish tyranny, it flourished as a seat of letters.

Acts 20:15 . Chios, an island between Samos and Lesbos. Miletus, a celebrated port of Ionia.

Acts 20:17 . The elders of the church. The Greek is presbyters; but in Acts 20:28, they are called bishops. These bishops were not collected from the neighbouring cities, for the apostle had no time. Hence Jerome makes a just remark, that presbyter and bishop were originally the same, the one being a title of age, the other of dignity. This agrees with St. Peter’s calling himself a presbyter, and calling the bishops, elders or presbyters. 1 Peter 5:1-2. It also agrees with St. Paul’s salutation of the bishops and deacons of the church of Philippi, making no mention of presbyters. Philippians 1:1. It likewise corresponds with his injunction to Titus to ordain elders, presbyters, or bishops in every new and little church, as St. Paul did in every such church. The truth is, that christianity was at first like a humble plant, or grain of mustard seed, rising out of the earth. Holiness was the great qualification for office, and the first converts who could read and pray, and teach, were ordained bishops or presbyters. But gradually, the oldest and most approved man was called the bishop, and every town had its bishop. Why then write so many volumes on the divine right of episcopasy? The office of a primitive bishop was holy and harmless; and when presbyters are many, they sometimes need the rod as well as the flock. Both these offices are derived from the synagogue. See note on Matthew 4:23.

Acts 20:21 . Testifying, witnessing, both to jews and greeks. Our preaching consists of reciting; theirs of testifying. They could say, like Isaiah, “I saw the Lord on a throne, high and lifted up.” Oh what superior power and confidence must those have had, who had seen the Lord and Saviour given back from the dead!

Acts 20:32 . I commend you to God, the Father who loves you. We go away, but he stays; we die, but he lives, the God alsufficient. And to the word of his grace, the fountain of felicity, which ever pours forth the living streams of life, and light, and love. The word of truth will edify and build you up to a living temple in the Lord, and afore prepare you for an inheritance among the sanctified. Those who sit under an edifying ministry know its value, and exclaim after storms and conflicts, “Thou shalt guide me by thy counsel, and afterwards receive me to glory.”

Acts 20:33 . I have coveted no man’s silver or gold. The first preachers subsisted by freewill-offerings, which Paul calls “a sweet savour to God.” Moses, when Korah and his company rebelled, could look to heaven and say, “I have not taken one ass from them.” Numbers 16:15. Samuel also could appeal to the elders when they asked a king, and say, “Whose ox, or whose ass have I taken?” 1 Samuel 12:5. What can be more ruinous to a minister than to have it whispered about that “he is hoarding up money, is deficient in charity, and greedy of filthy lucre?” Our best support is a firm belief in the coming and kingdom of the Lord; and when we are in straits with the wants of a family, we shall not be forsaken.


We here find the apostle moving on in a sphere of glory, in labours more abundant, and aiming at the conversion of the gentile world. In seven years he left Greece, loaded with laurels; and who can count the children born of God in so short a time. The churches were numerous as the cities. The shepherds were encreased in proportion to the flocks. What hath God wrought?

The charge to the elders of Ephesus is argumentative and impressive beyond example. It is a father speaking to his own children, who succeeded in the care of the flock. It is a noble appeal of Paul to his life and doctrine for the regulation of their future conduct and diligence. Whatever bishop or father in the church wants materials for a pastoral charge, here he may find an abundant supply.

St. Paul makes humility and piety the grand qualification for the ministry, and the first object of remark: he served the Lord at all seasons with humility of mind. He remembered that his Master took upon him the form of a servant, and scorned the sacerdotal pomp of manners and dress. He remembered the great trust which God reposed in his hands, and aimed at being a workman rather than a gentleman.

He wept often, but never flinched under his temptations and persecutions. The jews sought to hurt him in his person, in his reputation, and in his liberty; but his rising family being great, for three years in Ephesus and the province he persevered, and forsook them not till the children could walk alone.

In his ministry he was plenary and faithful. He kept back nothing that was profitable, and shunned not to declare the whole counsel of God. To the wicked jew and to the profligate gentile he preached repentance with the same impartiality; nor had he spared the judges, and the learned societies in the Areopagus of Athens; for what are mortals when they dare to insult the eternal laws of heaven. He was clear of every man’s blood; for none who had sat under him could plead ignorance. He taught from house to house; and great were the advantages of his domestic visits to the flock. Here he learned the effect of his ministry. Here he learned the state of the people, and gave them that particular advice which their various states required. Here he prayed with them, as we may gather from his doing it now on the beach; and gained their affections inconceivably; and he was comforted together with them by their mutual faith. Ministers should daily take a walk among the sick, and speak for God in every house.

St. Paul next charged the elders to follow his example, in feeding the flock or church of God which he had purchased with his own blood. No doubt he used some such words as in the charge to Timothy; and no language can possibly be more pertinent and sublime. Then, if we are to feed the flock, we should always consider what food the various classes of our hearers require, and never amuse them with trifles. When an audience is grasping at heaven, to obtrude insipid remarks is to betray our ignorance, and insult devotion. While the people are waiting upon God we should display his perfections, and the glory of Christ.

This apostle performed the double task of feeding and watching. Take heed therefore, he says, unto yourselves, and to your doctrine. We must be well grounded in piety and truth, to resist the approaches of heretical and wicked teachers. Some men have a tongue that can tell us the finest tales. They dazzle us at once by a display of pomp, and by a vast show of superior knowledge: whereas genuine worth has its consciousness in the sight of God; it goes on in his work, and its excellencies steal on the notice of men with blushes of celestial modesty. Let us therefore be wary in our attachment to teachers. Let us not be allured by the powers of speech, and a show of words. Let us mark whether they be pious men; whether they pay court to the rich, and shun the doors of the poor; whether they have a command of their own passions, and whether their eye be most fixed on worldly wealth, or on immortal souls. When we have once found a minister of Paul’s temper, let us value him as the best gift of God to his church, and let us stand by him in all his difficulties.

He closed his charge with prayer. They all kneeled down on the sea-shore, and wept while this precious servant of God opened heaven by his prayers; and at parting they fell on his neck and kissed him with final adieus. This is the love of primitive christianity. This is the fair flower of piety as it first bloomed, and before its tints were tarnished by an approximation to the world. Oh happy moment; oh sanctifying pledge of meeting in paradise! This was union not affected by distance of place, and lapse of ages. They loved the apostle in the Lord, and waited to be his crown of rejoicing in the day of the Lord Jesus.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Acts 20". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/acts-20.html. 1835.
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