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Acts 20:28

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Made you overseers - Εθετο επισκοπους, Appointed you bishops; for so we translate the original word in most places where it occurs: but overseers, or inspectors, is much more proper, from επι, over, and σκεπτομαι, I look. The persons who examine into the spiritual state of the flock of God, and take care to lead them in and out, and to find them pasture, are termed episcopoi, or superintendents. The office of a bishop is from God; a true pastor only can fulfill this office: it is an office of most awful responsibility; few there are who can fill it; and, of those who occupy this high and awful place, perhaps we may say there are fewer still who discharge the duties of it. There are, however, through the good providence of God, Christian bishops, who, while they are honored by the calling, do credit to the sacred function. And the annals of our Church can boast of at least as many of this class of men, who have served their God and their generation, as of any other order, in the proportion which this order bears to others in the Church of Christ. That bishop and presbyter, or elder, were at this time of the same order, and that the word was indifferently used of both, see noticed on Acts 20:17; (note).

Feed the Church of God - This verse has been the subject of much controversy, particularly in reference to the term Θεου, of God, in this place; and concerning it there is great dissension among the MSS. and versions. Three readings exist in them, in reference to which critics and commentators have been much divided; viz. εκκλησιαν του Θεου, the Church of God; του Κυριου, of the Lord; Κυριου και Θεου, of the Lord and God. From the collections of Wetstein and Griesbach, it appears that but few MSS., and none of them very ancient, have the word Θεου, of God; with these only the Vulgate, and the later Syriac in the text, agree. Κυριου, of the Lord, is the reading of ACDE, several others, the Sahidic, Coptic, later Syriac in the margin, Armenian, Ethiopia, and some of the fathers. Κυριου και Θεου, of the Lord and of God, is the reading of the great majority; though the most ancient are for Κυριου, of the Lord: on this ground Griesbach has admitted this reading into the text, and put Κυριου και Θεου in the margin, as being next in authority.

Mr. Wakefield, who was a professed and conscientious Unitarian, decides for του Θεου, of God, as the true reading; but, instead of translating του ιδιου αἱματος, with his own blood, he translates, by his own Son, and brings some passages from the Greek and Roman writers to show that αἱμα and sanguis are used to signify son, or near relative; and, were this the only place where purchasing with his own blood occurred, we might receive this saying; but, as the redemption of man is, throughout the New Testament, attributed to the sacrificial death of Christ, it is not likely that this very unusual meaning should apply here. At all events, we have here a proof that the Church was purchased by the blood of Christ; and, as to his Godhead, it is sufficiently established in many other places. When we grant that the greater evidence appears to be in favor of του Κυριου, feed the Church of the Lord, which he has purchased with his own blood, we must maintain that, had not this Lord been God, his blood could have been no purchase for the souls of a lost world.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Take heed, therefore - Attend to; be on your guard against the dangers which beset you, and seek to discharge your duty with fidelity.

Unto yourselves - To your own piety, opinions, and mode of life. This is the first duty of a minister; for without this all his preaching will be vain. Compare Colossians 4:17; 1 Timothy 4:14. Ministers are beset with unique dangers and temptations, and against them they should be on their guard. In addition to the temptations which they have in common with other people, they are exposed to those special to their office - arising from flattery, and ambition, and despondency, and worldly-mindedness. And just in proportion to the importance of their office is the importance of the injunction of Paul, to take heed to themselves.

And to all the flock - The church; the charge entrusted to them. The church of Christ is often compared to a flock. See the John 21:15-17 notes. The word “flock” here refers particularly to the church, and not to the congregation in general, for it is represented to be what was purchased with the blood of the atonement. The command here is:

(1) To take heed to the church; that is, to instruct, teach, and guide it; to guard it from enemies Acts 20:29, and to make it their special object to promote its welfare.

(2) to take heed to all the flock the rich and the poor, the bond and the free, the old and the young. It is the duty of ministers to seek to promote the welfare of each individual of their charge not to pass by the poor because they are poor, and not to be afraid of the rich because they are rich. A shepherd regards the I interest of the tenderest of the fold as much as the strongest; and a faithful minister will seek to advance the interest of all. To do this he should know all his people; should be acquainted, as far as possible, with their unique needs, character, and dangers, and should devote himself to their welfare as his first and main employment.

Over the which the Holy Ghost - Though they had been appointed, doubtless, by the church, or by the apostles, yet it is here represented as having been done by the Holy Spirit. It was by him:

(1)Because he had called and qualified them for their work; and,

(2)Because they had been set apart in accordance with his direction and will.

Overseers - ἐπισκόπους episkopous“Bishops.” The word properly denotes those who are appointed “to oversee or inspect anything.” This passage proves that the name “bishop” was applicable to elders; that in the time of the apostles, the name “bishop” and “presbyter,” or “elder,” was given to the same class of officers, and, of course, that there was no distinction between them. One term was originally used to denote “office,” the other term denotes “age,” and both words were applied to the same persons in the congregation. The same thing occurs in Titus 1:5-7, where those who in Titus 1:5 are called “elders,” are in Titus 1:7 called “bishops.” See also 1 Timothy 3:1-10; Philemon 1:1.

To feed - ποιμαίνειν poimaineinThis word is properly applied to the care which a shepherd exercises over his flock. See the notes on John 21:15-16. It is applicable not only to the act of feeding a flock, but also to that of protecting, guiding, and guarding it. It here denotes not merely the “duty” of instructing the church, but also of “governing” it; of “securing” it from enemies Acts 20:29, and of “directing” its affairs so as to promote its edification and peace.

The church of God - This is one of three passages in the New Testament in regard to which there has been a long controversy among critics, which is not yet determined. The controversy is, whether is this the correct and genuine reading. The other two passages are, 1 Timothy 3:16, and 1 John 5:7. The mss. and versions here exhibit three readings: “the church of God” τοῦ Θεός tou Theosthe church of the Lord τοῦ Κυρίου tou Kuriouand the church of the Lord and God Κυρίος καὶ Θεός . The Latin Vulgate reads it “God.” The Syriac, “the Lord.” The Arabic, “the Lord God.” The Ethiopic, “the Christian family of God.” The reading which now occurs in our text is found in no ancient mss. except the Vatican Codex, and occurs nowhere among the writings of the fathers except in Athanasius, in regard to whom also there is a various reading.

It is retained, however, by Beza, Mill, and Whitby as the genuine reading. The most ancient mss., and the best, read “the church of the Lord,” and this probably was the genuine text. It has been adopted by Griesbach and Wetstein; and many important reasons may be given why it should be retained. See those reasons stated at length in Kuinoel “in loco”; see also Griesbach and Wetstein. It may be remarked, that a change from Lord to God might easily be made in the transcribing, for in ancient mss. the words are not written at length, but are abbreviated. Thus, the name Christ Χριστός Christosis written ChoS; the name God θεός theosis written ThoS; the name Lord κύριος kuriosis written KOS; and a mistake, therefore, of a single letter would lead to the variations observable in the manuscripts. Compare in this place the note of Mill in his Greek Testament. The authority for the name “God” is so doubtful that it should not be used as a proof text on the divinity of Christ, and is not necessary, as there are so many undisputed passages on that subject.

Which he hath purchased - The word used here περιεποιήσατο periepoiēsatooccurs but in one other place in the New Testament - 1 Timothy 3:13, “For they that have used the office of deacon well, purchase to themselves a good degree and great boldness in the faith.” The word properly means “to acquire or gain anything; to make it ours.” This may be done by a price, or by labor, etc. The noun ( περιποίησις peripoiēsis) derived from this verb is used several times in the New Testament, and denotes “acquisition:” 1 Thessalonians 5:9, God hath appointed us “to obtain” (unto the obtaining or acquisition of) salvation”; 2 Thessalonians 2:14, “Whereunto he called you by our gospel to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ”; 1 Peter 2:9; Titus 2:14; Ephesians 1:14. In this place it means that Christ had “acquired, gained, or procured,” the church for himself by paying his own life as the price. The church is often represented as having thus been bought with a price, 1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Corinthians 7:23; 2 Peter 2:1.

With his own blood - With the sacrifice of his own life; for blood is often put for life, and to shed the blood is equivalent to faking the life. See the notes on Romans 3:25. The doctrines taught here are:

(1) That the death of Christ was an atoning sacrifice; that he offered himself to purchase a people to his own service.

(2) that the church is, therefore, of special value a value to be estimated by the price paid for it. Compare 1 Peter 1:18-19.

(3) that this fact should make the purity and salvation of the church an object of special solicitude with ministers of the gospel. They should be deeply affected in view of that blood which has been shed for the church; and they should guard and defend it as having been bought with the highest price in the universe. The chief consideration that will make ministers faithful and self-denying is, that the church has been bought with a price. If the Lord Jesus so loved it; if he gave himself for it, they should be willing to deny themselves; to watch, and toil, and pray, that the great object of his death the purity and the salvation of that church - may be obtained.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
If the Holy Ghost has made ministers overseers of the flock, that is, shepherds, they must be true to their trust. Let them consider their Master's concern for the flock committed to their charge. It is the church He has purchased with his own blood. The blood was his as Man; yet so close is the union between the Divine and human nature, that it is there called the blood of God, for it was the blood of Him who is God. This put such dignity and worth into it, as to ransom believers from all evil, and purchase all good. Paul spake about their souls with affection and concern. They were full of care what would become of them. Paul directs them to look up to God with faith, and commends them to the word of God's grace, not only as the foundation of their hope and the fountain of their joy, but as the rule of their walking. The most advanced Christians are capable of growing, and will find the word of grace help their growth. As those cannot be welcome guests to the holy God who are unsanctified; so heaven would be no heaven to them; but to all who are born again, and on whom the image of God is renewed, it is sure, as almighty power and eternal truth make it so. He recommends himself to them as an example of not caring as to things of the present world; this they would find help forward their comfortable passage through it. It might seem a hard saying, therefore Paul adds to it a saying of their Master's, which he would have them always remember; "It is more blessed to give than to receive:" it seems they were words often used to his disciples. The opinion of the children of this world, is contrary to this; they are afraid of giving, unless in hope of getting. Clear gain, is with them the most blessed thing that can be; but Christ tell us what is more blessed, more excellent. It makes us more like to God, who gives to all, and receives from none; and to the Lord Jesus, who went about doing good. This mind was in Christ Jesus, may it be in us also. It is good for friends, when they part, to part with prayer. Those who exhort and pray for one another, may have many weeping seasons and painful separations, but they will meet before the throne of God, to part no more. It was a comfort to all, that the presence of Christ both went with him and stayed with them.
Ellen G. White
Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 282

Let the teachers learn daily lessons in the school of Christ. “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me,” He says; “for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Matthew 11:29. There is altogether too little of Christ and too much of self. But those who are under the dictation of the Spirit of God, under the rule of Christ, will be ensamples to the flock. When the Chief Shepherd shall appear, these will receive the crown of life that fadeth not away. CT 282.1

“Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.” 1 Peter 5:5, 6. CT 282.2

All self-uplifting works out the natural result—making character of which God cannot approve. Work and teach; work in Christ's lines, and then you will never work in your own weak ability, but will have the co-operation of the divine. CT 283.1

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, 618-9

I never realized more than I do today the exalted character of the work, its sacredness and holiness, and the importance of our being fitted for it. I see the need in myself. I must have a new fitting up, a holy unction, or I cannot go any further to instruct others. I must know that I am walking with God. I must know that I understand the mystery of godliness. I must know that the grace of God is in my own heart, that my own life is in accordance with His will, that I am walking in His footsteps. Then my words will be true and my actions right. 2T 618.1

But there is another point that I had almost forgotten. It is the influence which the preacher should exert in his ministry. His work is not merely to stand in the desk. It is but just begun there. He should enter the different families, and carry Christ there, carry his sermons there, carry them out in his actions and his words. As he visits a family he should inquire into their condition. Is he the shepherd of the flock? The work of a shepherd is not all done in the desk. He should talk with all the members of the flock, with the parents to learn their standing, and with the children to learn theirs. A minister should feed the flock over which God has made him overseer. It would be agreeable to go into the house and study; but if you do this to the neglect of the work which God has commissioned you to perform, you do wrong. Never enter a family without inviting them together, and bowing down and praying with them before you leave. Inquire into the health of their souls. What does a skillful physician do? He inquires into the particulars of the case, then seeks to administer remedies. Just so the physician of the soul should inquire into the spiritual maladies with which the members of his flock are afflicted, then go to work to administer the proper remedies, and ask the Great Physician to come to his aid. Give them the help that they need. Such ministers will receive all that respect and honor which is due them as ministers of Christ. And in doing for others their own souls will be kept alive. They must be drawing strength from God in order to impart strength to those to whom they shall minister. 2T 618.2

May the Lord help us to seek Him with all the heart; I want to know that I daily gather the divine rays from glory, that emanate from the throne of God and shine from the face of Jesus Christ, and scatter them in the pathway around me. I want to be all light in the Lord. 2T 619.1

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Ellen G. White
Spiritual Gifts, vol. 3, 124-5

Says Paul, “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind. Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” 3SG 124.1

All those professing to be shepherds, who feel that to minister in word and doctrine, and bear the burdens, and have the care which every faithful shepherd should have is a disagreeable task, are reproved by faithful Paul, “Not by constraint, but willingly, not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind.” All such unfaithful shepherds, the chief Shepherd would willingly release. The church of God is purchased with the blood of Christ, and every shepherd should realize that the sheep under their care cost a priceless sum. They should be diligent in their labor, and persevering in their efforts to keep the flock in a healthy, flourishing condition. They should consider the sheep intrusted to their care of the highest value, and realize that they will be called to render a strict account of their ministry. And if they are found faithful they will receive a rich reward. “And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” 3SG 125.1

Jacob says, “Thus have I been twenty years in thy house. I served thee fourteen years for thy two daughters, and six years for thy cattle, and thou hast changed my wages ten times. Except the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac had been with me, surely thou hadst sent me away now empty. God hath seen mine affliction, and the labor of my hands, and rebuked thee yesternight.” 3SG 125.2

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 18

At the time of the organization of the General Conference in 1863, a General Conference Committee of three men was chosen. The major interests of the church consisted of the several state conferences and a publishing house located at Battle Creek, Michigan. In the evangelistic field, increasing success came to Seventh-day Adventist ministers. Their work consisted mainly in preaching the distinctive truths of the gospel message, including the Sabbath, the state of the dead, the second advent, and the sanctuary. Many of the men were drawn into discussions and debates involving the law of God and other vital Bible truths. Imperceptibly, not a few of those who engaged in such discussions became self-reliant, and there developed in their hearts a spirit of sureness, self-dependence, and argumentativeness. In time this bore unwholesome fruit. TM xviii.1

Institutional development followed quickly on the heels of the organization of the General Cnference. In the vision given to Ellen White in December, 1865, a medical institution was called for, and in response the leaders opened a small health institute in Battle Creek in September, 1866. Less than a decade later, in the messages which came from the pen of Ellen White, a school was called for. In 1874, Battle Creek College was built. Thus three major institutional developments forged ahead in Battle Creek, drawing an ever-enlarging number of Seventh-day Adventists into a rapidly growing denominational center. Men of business experience were called in to care for the business interests of the institutions. As the business interests expanded and developed and prospered, some of these men came to trust more in their business acumen than in God's messages of guidance. To them, business was business. TM xviii.2

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