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.
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.
Paul sometimes worked night and day, not only for his own support, but that he might assist his fellow laborers. He shared his earnings with Luke, and he helped Timothy. He even suffered hunger at times, that he might relieve the necessities of others. His was an unselfish life. Toward the close of his ministry, on the occasion of his farewell talk to the elders of Ephesus, at Miletus, he could lift up before them his toilworn hands, and say, “I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have showed you all things, how that so laboring 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.” Acts 20:33-35. AA 352.1
If ministers feel that they are suffering hardship and privation in the cause of Christ, let them in imagination visit the workshop where Paul labored. Let them bear in mind that while this chosen man of God is fashioning the canvas, he is working for bread which he has justly earned by his labors as an apostle. AA 352.2
Work is a blessing, not a curse. A spirit of indolence destroys godliness and grieves the Spirit of God. A stagnant pool is offensive, but a pure, flowing stream spreads health and gladness over the land. Paul knew that those who neglect physical work soon become enfeebled. He desired to teach young ministers that by working with their hands, by bringing into exercise their muscles and sinews, they would become strong to endure the toils and privations that awaited them in the gospel field. And he realized that his own teachings would lack vitality and force if he did not keep all parts of the system properly exercised. AA 352.3Read in context »
Sailing from Philippi, Paul and Luke reached their companions at Troas five days later, and remained for seven days with the believers in that place. AA 391.1
Upon the last evening of his stay the brethren “came together to break bread.” The fact that their beloved teacher was about to depart, had called together a larger company than usual. They assembled in an “upper chamber” on the third story. There, in the fervency of his love and solicitude for them, the apostle preached until midnight. AA 391.2
In one of the open windows sat a youth named Eutychus. In this perilous position he went to sleep and fell to the court below. At once all was alarm and confusion. The youth was taken up dead, and many gathered about him with cries and mourning. But Paul, passing through the frightened company, embraced him and offered up an earnest prayer that God would restore the dead to life. His petition was granted. Above the sound of mourning and lamentation the apostle's voice was heard, saying, “Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him.” With rejoicing the believers again assembled in the upper chamber. They partook of the Communion, and then Paul “talked a long while, even till break of day.” AA 391.3Read in context »
In many places self-supporting missionaries can work successfully. It was as a self-supporting missionary that the apostle Paul labored in spreading the knowledge of Christ throughout the world. While daily teaching the gospel in the great cities of Asia and Europe, he wrought at the trade of a craftsman to sustain himself and his companions. His parting words to the elders of Ephesus, showing his manner of labor, have precious lessons for every gospel worker: MH 154.1
“Ye know,” he said, “after what manner I have been with you at all seasons: ... and how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house.... I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have showed you all things, how that so laboring 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.” Acts 20:18-35. MH 154.2Read in context »
19. Value of the Books Sacrificed—When the books had been consumed, they proceeded to reckon up the value of the sacrifice. It was estimated at fifty thousand pieces of silver, equal to about ten thousand dollars (Sketches from the Life of Paul, 137). 6BC 1064.1Read in context »