Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
This section of the apostle's life, though peculiarly rich in material,
is related with great brevity in the History. Its details must be culled
from his own Epistles.
1, 2. departed--after Pentecost
to go into Macedonia--in pursuance of the first part of his plan
From his Epistles we learn; (1) That, as might have been expected from
its position on the coast, he revisited Troas
(2) That while on his former visit he appears to have done no
missionary work there, he now went expressly "to preach Christ's
Gospel," and found "a door opened unto him of the Lord" there, which he
entered so effectually as to lay the foundation of a church there
(Ac 20:6, 7).
(3) That he would have remained longer there but for his uneasiness at
the non-arrival of Titus, whom he had despatched to Corinth to finish
the collection for the poor saints at Jerusalem
(1Co 16:1, 2;
but still more, that he might bring him word what effect his first
Epistle to that church had produced. (He had probably arranged that
they should meet at Troas). (4) That in this state of mind, afraid of
something wrong, he "took leave" of the brethren at Troas, and went
from thence into Macedonia.
It was, no doubt, the city of PHILIPPI that he
came to (landing at Nicopolis, its seaport, see on
Ac 16:11, 12),
as appears by comparing
where "Macedonia" is named, with
where it appears that Philippi is meant. Here he found the brethren,
whom he had left on his former visit in circumstances of such deep
interest, a consolidated and thriving church, generous and warmly
attached to their father in Christ; under the superintendence,
probably, of our historian, "the beloved physician" (see on
All that is said by our historian of this Macedonian visit is that "he
went over those parts and gave them much exhortation." (5) Titus not
having reached Philippi as soon as the apostle, "his flesh had no rest,
but he was troubled on every side: without were fightings, within were
(6) At length Titus arrived, to the joy of the apostle, the bearer of
better tidings from Corinth than he had dared to expect
(2Co 7:6, 7, 13),
but checkered by painful intelligence of the efforts of a hostile party
to undermine his apostolic reputation there
(7) Under the mixed feelings which this produced, he wrote--from
Macedonia, and probably Philippi--his
EPISTLE TO THE
to Second Corinthians); despatching Titus with it, and along with him
two other unnamed deputies, expressly chosen to take up and bring their
collection for the poor saints at Jerusalem, and to whom he bears the
beautiful testimony, that they were "the glory of Christ"
(2Co 8:22, 23).
(8) It must have been at this time that he penetrated as far as to the
confines of "Illyricum," lying along the shores of the Adriatic
He would naturally wish that his second Letter to the Corinthians
should have some time to produce its proper effect ere he revisited
them, and this would appear a convenient opportunity for a northwestern
circuit, which would enable him to pay a passing visit to the churches
at Thessalonica and Berea, though of this we have no record. On his way
southward to Greece, he would preach the Gospel in the intermediate
regions of Epirus, Thessaly, and Boeotia (see
though of this we have no record.
2. he came into Greece--or Achaia, in pursuance of the
second part of his plan
3. And there abode three months--Though the province only is
here mentioned, it is the city of CORINTH that is
meant, as the province of "Macedonia"
meant the city of Philippi. Some rough work he anticipated on his
arrival at Corinth
(2Co 10:1-8, 11; 13:1-10)
though he had reason to expect satisfaction on the whole; and as we
know there were other churches in Achaia besides that at Corinth
(2Co 1:1; 11:10),
he would have time enough to pay them all a brief visit during the
three months of his stay there. This period was rendered further
memorable by the despatch of the
EPISTLE TO THE
written during his stay at Corinth and sent by "Phœbe, a servant
[deaconess] of the Church at Cenchrea" (see on
a lady apparently of some standing and substance, who was going thither
on private business. (See on
And when the Jews laid wait for him, as he was about to sail into
Syria--He had intended to embark, probably at Cenchrea, the eastern
harbor of the city, for Palestine, on his route to Jerusalem, the
third part of his plan
But having detected some conspiracy against his life by his bitter
Jewish enemies as at Damascus
(Ac 9:29, 30),
he changed his plan and determined "to return" as he had come, "through
Macedonia." As he was never more to return to Corinth, so this route
would bring him, for the last time, face to face with the attached
disciples of Berea, Thessalonica, and Philippi.
4, 5. there accompanied him into Asia--the province of Asia.
Sopater of Berea--The true reading, beyond doubt, is, "Sopater [the
son] of Pyrrhus of Berea." Some think this mention of his father was to
distinguish him from Sosipater (the same name in fuller form), mentioned
But that they were the same person seems more probable.
of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus--(See on
and Secundus--of whom nothing else is known.
Gaius of Derbe--Though the Gaius of
is said to be of "Macedonia," and this one "of Derbe," there is no
sufficient reason for supposing them different persons; on the
where there is hardly any reason to doubt that the same Gaius is
addressed) seems to show that though he spent an important part of his
Christian life away from his native Derbe, he had latterly retired to
some place not very far from it.
and Timotheus--not probably of Derbe, as one might suppose from
this verse, but of Lystra (see on
both being so associated in his early connection with the apostle that
the mention of the one in the previous clause would recall the other on
the mention of his name.
and of Asia, Tychicus and Trophimus--The latter was an Ephesian, and
probably the former also. They seem to have put themselves, from this
time forward, at the apostle's disposal, and to the very last been a
great comfort to him
(Eph 6:21, 22;
Col 4:7, 8;
2Ti 4:12, 20).
From the mention of the places to which each of these companions
belonged, and still more the order in which they occur, we are left to
conclude that they were deputies from their respective churches,
charged with taking up and bringing on the collection for the poor
saints at Jerusalem, first at Berea, next at Thessalonica, then at
where we gather that our historian himself rejoined the party
(from the resumption at
of the "us," dropped at
by whom the Philippian collection would naturally be brought on.
5, 6. These going before--perhaps to announce and prepare for the
tarried for us at Troas.
6. And we sailed . . . from Philippi after the days of
unleavened bread--(that is, the Passover). This, compared with
shows that the three months spent at Corinth
were the winter months.
came . . . to Troas--for the third and last time.
in the five days--As it might have been done in two days, the wind
must have been adverse. The vivid style of one now present will be here
where we abode seven days--that is, arriving on a Monday, they stayed
over the Jewish sabbath and the Lord's Day following; Paul occupying
himself, doubtless, in refreshing and strengthening fellowship with the
brethren during the interval.
7. upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came
together--This, compared with
and other similar allusions, plainly indicates that the Christian
observance of the day afterwards distinctly called "the Lord's Day,"
was already a fixed practice of the churches.
Paul preached--discoursed. The tense implies continued
8. there were many lights in the upper chamber--not a mere piece of
graphic detail by an eye-witness [HACKETT,
HOWSON], but mentioned,
probably, as increasing the heat and contributing to drowsiness
and WILKINSON], as the next clause seems to show.
9. in a--"the."
window--or window seat, or recess.
fell down from the third loft--"story."
and was taken up dead--"The window projected (according to the side
of the room where it was situated) either over the street or over the
interior court; so that in either case he fell on the hard earth or
10-12. Paul . . . fell on him--like Elisha
his life is in him--now restored; compare
11. broken bread and eaten--with what a mixture of awe and joy
after such an occurrence! "And eaten"--denoting a common repast, as
distinguished from the breaking of the eucharistic bread.
and talked a long while, even till break of day--How lifelike
this record of dear Christian fellowship, as free and gladsome as it
was solemn! (See
SENDS FOR THE
13, 14. we . . . sailed--from Troas.
unto Assos; there . . . to take in Paul: for so had he
appointed, minding himself to go afoot--"to go by land." (See on
In sailing southward from Troas to Assos, one has to round Cape
Lecture, and keeping due east to run along the northern shore of the
Gulf of Adramyttium, on which it lies. This is a sail of nearly forty
miles; whereas by land, cutting right across, in a southeasterly
direction, from sea to sea, by that excellent Roman road which then
existed, the distance was scarcely more than half. The one way Paul
wished his companions to take, while he himself, longing perhaps to
enjoy a period of solitude, took the other, joining the ship, by
appointment, at Assos.
14. came to Mitylene--the capital of the beautiful and classical
island of Lesbos, which lies opposite the eastern shore of the Ægean
Sea, about thirty miles south of Assos; in whose harbor they seem to
have lain for the night.
15, 16. came the next day over against Chios--now Scio: one of the
most beautiful of those islands between which and the coast the sail is
so charming. They appear not to have touched at it.
next day we arrived--"touched" or "put in."
at Samos--another island coming quite close to the mainland, and
about as far south of Chios as it is south of Lesbos.
tarried--for the night.
at Trogyllium--an anchorage on the projecting mainland, not more
than a mile from the southern extremity of the island of Samos.
next day we came to Miletus--on the mainland; the ancient capital
of Ionia, near the mouth of the Meander.
16. For Paul had determined to sail by--or "sail past."
Ephesus--He was right opposite to it when approaching Chios.
because he would not spend time in Asia--the Asian province of which
Ephesus was the chief city.
for he hasted, if . . . possible . . . to be at Jerusalem the day of
Pentecost--as a suitable season for giving in the great collection
from all the western churches, for keeping the feast, and clearing his
apostolic position with the Church, then represented in large number at
Jerusalem. The words imply that there was considerable ground to doubt
if he would attain this object--for more than three of the seven weeks
from Passover to Pentecost had already expired--and they are inserted
evidently to explain why he did not once more visit Ephesus.
17. from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the
church--As he was now some forty miles south of Ephesus, we might
think that more time would be lost by sending thus far for the elders to
come to him, than by going at once to Ephesus itself, when so near it.
But if unfavorable winds and stormy weather had overtaken them, his
object could not have been attained, and perhaps he was unwilling to run
the risk of detention at Ephesus by the state of the church and other
causes. Those here called "elders" or "presbyters," are in
called "bishops." (See on
The identity of presbyters and bishops in the New Testament is beyond
all reasonable dispute.
18. Ye know . . . after what manner I have been with you at all
seasons--For the Christian integrity and fidelity of his whole official
intercourse with them he appeals to themselves.
19. Serving the Lord--Jesus.
with all humility . . . and many tears and temptations--Self-exaltation
was unknown to him, and ease of mind: He "sowed in tears," from
anxieties both on account of the converts from whom he "travailed in
birth," and of the Jews, whose bitter hostility was perpetually
plotting against him, interrupting his work and endangering his life.
20. kept back--timidly withheld from fear of consequences.
nothing that was profitable--edification directing all.
have taught you publicly, and from house to house--Did an apostle,
whose functions were of so wide a range, not feel satisfied without
private as well as public ministrations? How then must pastors feel?
21. Testifying both to Jews and . . . Greeks--laboring under a common
malady, and recoverable only by a common treatment.
repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus
as distinguished from faith, is that state of the "honest and
good heart" which arises from a discovery of one's contrariety to the
righteous demands of the divine law. This is said to be "toward
God," because seeing Him to be the party dishonored by sin, it
feels all its acknowledgments and compunctions to be properly due to
Him, as the great Lawgiver, and directs them to Him accordingly;
condemning, humbling itself, and grieving before Him, looking also to
Him as its only Hope of deliverance. FAITH is said
to be "toward our Lord Jesus Christ," because in that frame of
mind just described it eagerly credits the testimony of relief divinely
provided in Christ, gladly embraces the overtures of reconciliation in
Him, and directs all its expectations of salvation, from its first
stage to its last, to Him as the one appointed Medium of all grace from
God to a sinful world. Thus we have here a brief summary of all Gospel
preaching. And it is easy to see why repentance is here put before
faith; for the former must of necessity precede the latter. There is a
repentance subsequent to faith, the fruit of felt pardon and
restoration. It was this which drew the tears with which the Saviour's
feet were once so copiously moistened.
(Lu 7:37, 38, 47;
But that is not the light in which it is here presented.
22, 23. And now, behold, I--"I" is emphatic here.
bound in the spirit--compare
This internal pressure, unattended with any knowledge of "what was to
befall him there," was the result of that higher guidance which shaped
all his movements.
23. Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, &c.--by
prophetic utterances from city to city, as in
Ac 11:4; 21:10, 11.
Analogous premonitions of coming events are not unknown to the general
method of God's providence. They would tend to season the apostle's
24. But none of these things move me, neither, &c.--In this noble
expression of absolute dedication to the service of Christ and
preparedness for the worst that could befall him in such a cause, note
(1) his jealousy for the peculiar character of his mission, as
immediately from Christ Himself on which all the charges against him
turned; (2) the burden of that Gospel which he preached--GRACE; it was
"the Gospel of the Grace of God."
25-27. I know that ye all . . . shall see my face no
more--not an inspired prediction of what was certainly to be, but
what the apostle, in his peculiar circumstances, fully expected.
Whether, therefore, he ever did see them again, is a question to be
decided purely on its own evidence.
26. I am pure from the blood of all men--
1Sa 12:3, 5;
Eze 3:17-21; 33:8, 9).
27. For I have not shunned to declare . . . all the counsel of God--God's way of salvation, and His kingdom of
souls saved by His Son Jesus
28. Take heed . . . unto yourselves--Compare
1Ti 3:2-7; 4:16; 6:11.
and to all the flock--Compare
Observe here how the personal is put before the pastoral
over . . . which the Holy Ghost hath made you--Compare
Joh 20:22, 23;
Eph 4:8, 11, 12;
shows that the apostle did not mean to exclude human
overseers--or, as the same word is everywhere else rendered in
our version, "bishops." The English Version has hardly dealt fair in
this case with the sacred text, in rendering the word "overseers,"
whereas it ought here, as in all other places, to have been "bishops,"
in order that the fact of elders and bishops having been originally and
apostolically synonymous, might be apparent to the ordinary English
reader, which now it is not
[ALFORD]. The distinction between these
offices cannot be certainly traced till the second century, nor was it
established till late in that century.
to feed the church of God--or, "the Church of the Lord." Which of
these two readings of the text is the true one, is a question which has
divided the best critics. The evidence of manuscripts preponderates in
favor of "THE LORD"; some of the most ancient Versions, though not all,
so read; and ATHANASIUS, the great champion of the supreme Divinity
of Christ early in the fourth century, says the expression "Church of
God" is unknown to the Scriptures. Which reading, then, does the
internal evidence favor? As "Church of God" occurs nine times
elsewhere in Paul's writings, and "Church of the Lord" nowhere, the
probability, it is said, is that he used his wonted phraseology here
also. But if he did, it is extremely difficult to see how so many early
transcribers should have altered it into the quite unusual phrase,
"Church of the Lord"; whereas, if the apostle did use this latter
expression, and the historian wrote it so accordingly, it it easy to see
how transcribers might, from being so accustomed to the usual phrase,
write it "Church of God." On the whole, therefore, we accept the
second reading as most probably the true one. But see what follows.
which he hath purchased--"made His own," "acquired."
with his own blood--"His own" is emphatic: "That glorified Lord who
from the right hand of power in the heavens is gathering and ruling the
Church, and by His Spirit, through human agency, hath set you over it,
cannot be indifferent to its welfare in your hands, seeing He hath given
for it His own most precious blood, thus making it His own by the
dearest of all ties." The transcendent sacredness of the Church of
Christ is thus made to rest on the dignity of its Lord and the
consequent preciousness of that blood which He shed for it. And as the
sacrificial atoning character of Christ's death is here plainly
expressed, so His supreme dignity is implied as clearly by the
second reading as it is expressed by the first. What a motive to
pastoral fidelity is here furnished!
29, 30. after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among
you--Two classes of coming enemies are here announced, the one more
external to themselves, the other bred in the bosom of their own
community; both were to be teachers, but the one, "grievous wolves,"
not sparing, that is, making a prey of the flock; the other
simply sectarian "perverters" of the truth, with the view of drawing a
party after them. Perhaps the one pointed to that subtle poison of
Oriental Gnosticism which we know to have very early infected the
Asiatic churches; the other to such Judaizing tendencies as we know to
have troubled nearly all the early churches. See the Epistles to the
Ephesians, Colossians, and Timothy, also those to the
seven churches of Asia
But watchfulness against all that tends to injure and corrupt
the Church is the duty of its pastors in every age.
31. by the space of three years--speaking in round numbers; for it
was nearer three than two years.
I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears--What an appeal
to be able to make! "And if this was an apostle's part, how much more a
32-35. I commend you to God--the almighty Conservator of His people.
and to the word of his grace--that message of His pure grace
by the faith of which He keeps us
which--that is, God.
is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance, &c.--Observe
how salvation--not only in its initial stages of pardon and
regeneration, but in all its subsequent stages of "up-building,"
even to its consummation in the final inheritance--is here ascribed
to the "ability" of God to bestow it, as in
where the same thing is ascribed to Christ.
among all them which are sanctified--Sanctification is here viewed
as the final character and condition of the heirs of glory, regarded as
one saved company.
34. these hands--doubtless holding them up, as before Agrippa in
have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me--See
1Co 4:12; 9:6,
written from Ephesus; also
35. that so labouring--as I have done for others as well as myself.
ye ought to support the weak to remember the words of the Lord Jesus,
how he--"how Himself."
said, It is more blessed to give than to receive--This golden
saying, snatched from oblivion, and here added to the Church's abiding
treasures, is apt to beget the wish that more of what issued from those
Lips which "dropped as an honeycomb," had been preserved to us. But
36-38. he kneeled down and prayed with them all, &c.--Nothing can be
more touching than these three concluding verses, leaving an indelible
impression of rare ministerial fidelity and affection on the apostle's
part, and of warm admiration and attachment on the part of these
Ephesian presbyters. Would to God that such scenes were more frequent in