Acts 20:25
And now, behold, I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more.
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(25) I know that ye all . . . shall see my face no more.—It is clear from these words, as well as from Romans 15:23-24, that at this time St. Paul did not contemplate any further work in the Roman province of Asia, or in Greece. It is as clear, if we accept the Pastoral Epistles as genuine, that he did revisit Asia (2Timothy 1:15), and that that visit included Troas (2Timothy 4:13), Miletus (2Timothy 4:20), and, in all probability, Ephesus also (1Timothy 1:3). We need not be startled at this seeming discrepancy. The Apostle expressly disclaims foresight of his own future, and when he says, “I know,” he speaks after the manner of men who take the fulfilment of their purpose for granted. In one sense, perhaps, his words were true. When he returned to Asia, and all were turned away from him (2Timothy 1:15), how many of that company was he likely to have met again?




Acts 19:21 - Acts 19:34

Paul’s long residence in Ephesus indicates the importance of the position. The great wealthy city was the best possible centre for evangelising all the province of Asia, and that was to a large extent effected during the Apostle’s stay there. But he had a wider scheme in his mind. His settled policy was always to fly at the head, as it were. The most populous cities were his favourite fields, and already his thoughts were travelling towards the civilised world’s capital, the centre of empire-Rome. A blow struck there would echo through the world. Paul had his plan, and God had His, and Paul’s was not realised in the fashion he had meant, but it was realised in substance. He did not expect to enter Rome as a prisoner. God shaped the ends which Paul had only rough-hewn.

The programme in Acts 19:21 - Acts 19:22 was modified by circumstances, as some people would say; Paul would have said, by God. The riot hastened his departure from Ephesus. He did go to Jerusalem, and he did see Rome, but the chain of events that drew him there seemed to him, at first sight, the thwarting, rather than the fulfilment, of his long-cherished hope. Well it is for us to carry all our schemes to God, and to leave them in His hands.

The account of the riot is singularly vivid and lifelike. It reveals a new phase of antagonism to the Gospel, a kind of trades-union demonstration, quite unlike anything that has met us in the Acts. It gives a glimpse into the civic life of a great city, and shows demagogues and mob to be the same in Ephesus as in England. It has many points of interest for the commentator or scholar, and lessons for all. Luke tells the story with a certain dash of covert irony.

We have, first, the protest of the shrine-makers’ guild or trades-union, got up by the skilful manipulation of Demetrius. He was evidently an important man in the trade, probably well-to-do. As his speech shows, he knew exactly how to hit the average mind. The small shrines which he and his fellow-craftsmen made were of various materials, from humble pottery to silver, and were intended for ‘votaries to dedicate in the temple,’ and represented the goddess Artemis sitting in a niche with her lions beside her. Making these was a flourishing industry, and must have employed a large number of men and much capital. Trade was beginning to be slack, and sales were falling off. No doubt there is exaggeration in Demetrius’s rhetoric, but the meeting of the craft would not have been held unless a perceptible effect had been produced by Paul’s preaching. Probably Demetrius and the rest were more frightened than hurt; but men are very quick to take alarm when their pockets are threatened.

The speech is a perfect example of how self-interest masquerades in the garb of pure concern for lofty objects, and yet betrays itself. The danger to ‘our craft’ comes first, and the danger to the ‘magnificence’ of the goddess second; but the precedence given to the trade is salved over by a ‘not only,’ which tries to make the religious motive the chief. No doubt Demetrius was a devout worshipper of Artemis, and thought himself influenced by high motives in stirring up the craft. It is natural to be devout or moral or patriotic when it pays to be so. One would not expect a shrine-maker to be easily accessible to the conviction that ‘they be no gods which are made with hands.’

Such admixture of zeal for some great cause, with a shrewd eye to profit, is very common, and may deceive us if we are not always watchful. Jehu bragged about his ‘zeal for the Lord’ when it urged him to secure himself on the throne by murder; and he may have been quite honest in thinking that the impulse was pure, when it was really mingled. How many foremost men in public life everywhere pose as pure patriots, consumed with zeal for national progress, righteousness, etc., when all the while they are chiefly concerned about some private bit of log-rolling of their own! How often in churches there are men professing to be eager for the glory of God, who are, perhaps half-unconsciously, using it as a stalking-horse, behind which they may shoot game for their own larder! A drop of quicksilver oxidises and dims as soon as exposed to the air. The purest motives get a scum on them quickly unless we constantly keep them clear by communion with God.

Demetrius may teach us another lesson. His opposition to Paul was based on the plain fact that, if Paul’s teaching prevailed, no more shrines would be wanted. That was a new ground of opposition to the Gospel, resembled only by the motive for the action of the owners of the slave girl at Philippi; but it is a perennial source of antagonism to it. In our cities especially there are many trades which would be wiped out if Christ’s laws of life were universally adopted. So all the purveyors of commodities and pleasures which the Gospel forbids a Christian man to use are arrayed against it. We have to make up our minds to face and fight them. A liquor-seller, for instance, is not likely to look complacently on a religion which would bring his ‘trade into disrepute’; and there are other occupations which would be gone if Christ were King, and which therefore, by the instinct of self-preservation, are set against the Gospel, unless, so to speak, its teeth are drawn.

According to one reading, the shouts of the craftsmen which told that Demetrius had touched them in the tenderest part, their pockets, was an invocation, ‘Great Diana!’ not a profession of faith; and we have a more lively picture of an excited crowd if we adopt the alteration. It is easy to get a mob to yell out a watchword, whether religious or political; and the less they understand it, the louder are they likely to roar. In Athanasius’ days the rabble of Constantinople made the city ring with cries, degrading the subtlest questions as to the Trinity, and examples of the same sort have not been wanting nearer home. It is criminal to bring such incompetent judges into religious or political or social questions, it is cowardly to be influenced by them. ‘The voice of the people’ is not always ‘the voice of God.’ It is better to ‘be in the right with two or three’ than to swell the howl of Diana’s worshippers,

II. A various reading of Acts 19:28 gives an additional particular, which is of course implied in the received text, but makes the narrative more complete and vivid if inserted.

It adds that the craftsmen rushed ‘into the street,’ and there raised their wild cry, which naturally ‘filled’ the city with confusion. So the howling mob, growing larger and more excited every minute, swept through Ephesus, and made for the theatre, the common place of assembly.

On their road they seem to have come across two of Paul’s companions, whom they dragged with them. What they meant to do with the two they had probably not asked themselves. A mob has no plans, and its most savage acts are unpremeditated. Passion let loose is almost sure to end in bloodshed, and the lives of Gaius and Aristarchus hung by a thread. A gust of fury storming over the mob, and a hundred hands might have torn them to atoms, and no man have thought himself their murderer.

What a noble contrast to the raging crowd the silent submission, no doubt accompanied by trustful looks to Heaven and unspoken prayers, presents! And how grandly Paul comes out! He had not been found, probably had not been sought for, by the rioters, whose rage was too blind to search for him, but his brave soul could not bear to leave his friends in peril and not plant himself by their sides. So he ‘was minded to enter in unto the people,’ well knowing that there he had to face more ferocious ‘wild beasts’ than if a cageful of lions had been loosed on him. Faith in God and fellowship with Christ lift a soul above fear of death. The noblest kind of courage is not that born of flesh or temperament, or of the madness of battle, but that which springs from calm trust in and absolute surrender to Christ.

Not only did the disciples restrain Paul as feeling that if the shepherd were smitten the sheep would be scattered, but interested friends started up in an unlikely quarter. The ‘chief of Asia’ or Asiarchs, who sent to dissuade him, ‘were the heads of the imperial political-religious organisation of the province, in the worship of “Rome and the emperors”; and their friendly attitude is a proof both that the spirit of the imperial policy was not as yet hostile to the new teaching, and that the educated classes did not share the hostility of the superstitious vulgar’ {Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller, p. 281}. It is probable that, in that time of crumbling faith and religious unrest, the people who knew most about the inside of the established worship believed in it least, and in their hearts agreed with Paul that ‘they be no gods which are made with hands.’

So we have in these verses the central picture of calm Christian faith and patient courage, contrasted on the one hand with the ferocity and excitement of heathen fanatical devotees, and on the other with the prudent regard to their own safety of the Asiarchs, who had no such faith in Diana as to lead them to joining the rioters, nor such faith in Paul’s message as to lead them to oppose the tumult, or to stand by his side, but contented themselves with sending to warn him. Who can doubt that the courage of the Christians is infinitely nobler than the fury of the mob or the cowardice of the Asiarchs, kindly as they were? If they were his friends, why did they not do something to shield him? ‘A plague on such backing!’

III. The scene in the theatre, to which Luke returns in Acts 19:32, is described with a touch of scorn for the crowd, who mostly knew not what had brought them together.

One section of it kept characteristically cool and sharp-eyed for their own advantage. A number of Jews had mingled in it, probably intending to fan the flame against the Christians, if they could do it safely. As in so many other cases in Acts, common hatred brought Jew and Gentile together, each pocketing for the time his disgust with the other. The Jews saw their opportunity. Half a dozen cool heads, who know what they want, can often sway a mob as they will. Alexander, whom they ‘put forward,’ was no doubt going to make a speech disclaiming for the Jews settled in Ephesus any connection with the obnoxious Paul. We may be very sure that his ‘defence’ was of the former, not of the latter.

But the rioters were in no mood to listen to fine distinctions among the members of a race which they hated so heartily. Paul was a Jew, and this man was a Jew; that was enough. So the roar went up again to Great Diana, and for two long hours the crowd surged and shouted themselves hoarse, Gaius and Aristarchus standing silent all the while and expecting every moment to be their last. The scene reminds one of Baal’s priests shrieking to him on Carmel. It is but too true a representation of the wild orgies which stand for worship in all heathen religions. It is but too lively an example of what must always happen when excited crowds are ignorantly stirred by appeals to prejudice or self-interest.

The more democratic the form of government under which we live, the more needful is it to distinguish the voice of the people from the voice of the mob, and to beware of exciting, or being governed by, clamour however loud and long.Acts 20:25-27. I know that ye all — Though you may have letters from me; shall see my face no more — He wisely observes this, that what follows might make the deeper impression. It is probable the apostle had received some particular revelation, that if he should ever return to these parts of Asia again, (as from Philem. Acts 20:22 it seems likely he might,) yet that he should not have an opportunity of calling at Ephesus, or of seeing the elders whom he now addressed. Wherefore — Seeing my ministry is at an end with you, it concerns both you and me to reflect on our past conduct respecting it; and I take you to record — Greek, μαρτυρομαι υμιν, I testify to you, and affirm, and I dare appeal to yourselves concerning it; that I am pure from the blood of all men — From the guilt of destroying men’s souls; if any of you, or of me people under your care, perish, it will not be through my default, having faithfully showed you and them the way of life, and earnestly persuaded you all to walk in it. See notes on Ezekiel 3:19-21. For I have not shunned — Declined, or omitted; to declare unto you all the counsel of God — Respecting your salvation; God’s purpose finally to save all that believe in Christ with their hearts unto righteousness; or, the whole doctrine of Christianity, relating to our redemption and salvation by Christ, and the way to eternal happiness through him; and this I have done in the most plain and faithful manner, whatever censure, contempt, or opposition I might incur by so doing.20:17-27 The elders knew that Paul was no designing, self-seeking man. Those who would in any office serve the Lord acceptably, and profitably to others, must do it with humility. He was a plain preacher, one that spoke his message so as to be understood. He was a powerful preacher; he preached the gospel as a testimony to them if they received it; but as a testimony against them if they rejected it. He was a profitable preacher; one that aimed to inform their judgments, and reform their hearts and lives. He was a painful preacher, very industrious in his work. He was a faithful preacher; he did not keep back reproofs when necessary, nor keep back the preaching of the cross. He was a truly Christian, evangelical preacher; he did not preach notions or doubtful matters; nor affairs of state or the civil government; but he preached faith and repentance. A better summary of these things, without which there is no salvation, cannot be given: even repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, with their fruits and effects. Without these no sinner can escape, and with these none will come short of eternal life. Let them not think that Paul left Asia for fear of persecution; he was in full expectation of trouble, yet resolved to go on, well assured that it was by Divine direction. Thanks be to God that we know not the things which shall befall us during the year, the week, the day which has begun. It is enough for the child of God to know that his strength shall be equal to his day. He knows not, he would not know, what the day before him shall bring forth. The powerful influences of the Holy Spirit bind the true Christian to his duty. Even when he expects persecution and affliction, the love of Christ constrains him to proceed. None of these things moved Paul from his work; they did not deprive him of his comfort. It is the business of our life to provide for a joyful death. Believing that this was the last time they should see him, he appeals concerning his integrity. He had preached to them the whole counsel of God. As he had preached to them the gospel purely, so he had preached it to them entire; he faithfully did his work, whether men would bear or forbear.I know that ye all - Perhaps this means simply, "I have no expectation of seeing you again; I have every reason to suppose that this is my final interview with you." He expected to visit Ephesus no more. The journey to Jerusalem was dangerous. Trials and persecutions he knew awaited him. Besides, it is evident that he designed to turn his attention to other countries, and to visit Rome; and probably he had already formed the purpose of going into Spain. See Acts 19:21; compare Romans 15:23-28. From all these considerations it is evident that he had no expectation of being again at Ephesus. It is probable, however, that he did again return to that city. See the notes on Acts 28:31.

Among whom I have gone preaching - Among whom I have preached. The parting of a minister and people is among the most tender and affecting of the separations that occur on earth.

The kingdom of God - Making known the nature of the reign of God on earth by the Messiah. See the notes on Matthew 3:2.

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. This is thought to have been spoken by St. Paul, as his present purpose and resolution only, as Romans 15:24.

The kingdom of God; the gospel, by which his kingdom is set up in the minds and hearts of men. And now behold,.... This is not only a note of asseveration, but of attention, stirring up to observe what is here asserted:

I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more; the sense is, that none of them should ever see him again, none of the churches of Asia, or the members of them; among whom he had been some years preaching the Gospel, the things concerning the Messiah, his kingdom and glory, and the meetness of the saints for, and their right unto the heavenly inheritance, prepared by God, and given by him to all that love him: Beza's ancient copy reads, "the kingdom of Jesus": this the apostle knew by divine revelation, by the same spirit in which he was going bound to Jerusalem, though he knew not whether he should die there or elsewhere; however, he knew, and was persuaded, he should visit these parts no more.

And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more.
points back to Acts 20:22, now representing the separation there announced, for which Acts 20:23-24 have prepared them, as one of perpetuity for the life in time

Acts 20:25 points back to Acts 20:22, now representing the separation there announced, for which Acts 20:23-24 have prepared them, as one of perpetuity for the life in time.

ἐγώ] emphatic, as in Acts 20:22, and with deep emotion.

The οἶδα, ὅτι οὐκέτι κ.τ.λ.,[112] rests, according to Acts 20:23, on the conviction which he has now (νῦν) obtained by the communications of the Holy Spirit received from city to city concerning the fate impending over him at Jerusalem, that the imprisonment and affliction there awaiting him would terminate only with his death. And he has not deceived himself! For the assumption that he was liberated from Rome and returned to the earlier sphere of his labours, is unhistorical; see on Rom. Introd. § 1. But precisely in connection with the unfolding of his destination to death here expressed by him with such certainty, there passed into fulfilment his saying pointing to Rome (Acts 19:21), however little he himself might be able at this time to discern this connection; and therefore, probably, the thought of Rome was again thrown temporarily into the background in his mind. The fact, that he at a later period in his imprisonment expected liberation and return to the scene of his earlier labours (Philemon 1:22; Php 2:24), cannot testify against the historical character of our speech (Baur, Zeller), since he does not refer his οἶδα in our passage to a divinely-imparted certainty, and therefore the expression of his individual conviction at this time, spoken, moreover, in the excited emotion of a deeply agitated moment, is only misused in support of critical prejudgments. With this certainty of his at this time,—which, moreover, he does not express as a sad foreboding or the like, but so undoubtingly as in Acts 20:29,—quite agrees the fact, that he hands over the church so entirely to the presbyters as he does in Acts 20:26 ff.; nor do we properly estimate the situation of the moment, if we only assume, with de Wette, that Luke has probably thus composed the speech from his later standpoint after the death of the apostle. According to Baumgarten, II. p. 85 ff., who compares the example of King Hezekiah, the οἶδα κ.τ.λ. was actually founded on objective certainty: God had actually resolved to let the apostle die in Jerusalem, but had then graciously listened to the praying and weeping of the Gentile churches. But in such passages as Philemon 1:22, there is implied no alteration of the divine resolution; this is a pure fancy.

ὙΜΕῖς ΠΆΝΤΕς, ἘΝ ΟἿς ΔΙῆΛΘΟΝ] all ye, among whom I passed through. In his deep emotion he extends his view; with this address he embraces not merely those assembled around him, nor merely the Ephesians in general, but, at the same time, all Christians, among whom hitherto he had been the itinerant herald of the kingdom. In Acts 20:26 the address again limits itself solely to those present.

[112] He does not say: that I shall not see you, but he says: that you shall not see me. He has not his own interest in view, but theirs.Acts 20:25. καὶ νῦν, see on Acts 20:22.—οἶδα: no infallible presentiment or prophetic inspiration, but a personal conviction based on human probabilities, which was overruled by subsequent events. The word cannot fairly be taken to mean more than this, for in the same context the Apostle himself had distinctly disclaimed a full knowledge of the future, Acts 20:23. And if οἶδα is to be pressed here into a claim of infallible knowledge, it is difficult to see why it should not be also so pressed in Php 1:25, where the Apostle expresses his sure conviction πεποιθώς οἶδα of a release from his Roman imprisonment, cf. Acts 26:27 where Paul uses the same verb in expressing his firm persuasion of Agrippa’s belief, but surely not any infallible knowledge of Agrippa’s heart. For a full discussion of the word see amongst recent writers Steinmetz, Die zweite römische Gefangenschaft des Apostels Paulus, p. 14 ff. (1897); Zahn, Einleitung, i., p. 436.—οὐκέτι ὄψεσθε: “shall no longer see,” see Rendall, whereas A. and R.V. rendering “no more,” οὐκέτι, give the impression that St. Paul definitely affirms that he would never return. Rendall compares Romans 15:23, but on the other hand Acts 8:39 seems to justify the usual rendering. The Apostle’s increasing anxiety is quite natural when we remember how even in Corinth he had thought of his journey to Jerusalem with apprehension, Romans 15:30, Paley, Horæ Paulinæ, ii., 5. On the inference drawn by Blass from this passage as to the early date of Acts, see his remarks in loco, and Proleg., p. 3, and to the same effect, Salmon, Introd., p. 407, fifth edition.—διῆλθον: the word taken in the sense of a missionary tour, see Acts 13:6, indicates that representatives not only of Ephesus but of other Churches were present, hence ὑμεῖς πάντες, διῆλθον κηρύσσων, coalescing into a single idea; the Apostle could not say διῆλθον ὑμᾶς, and so we have ἐν ὑμῖν substituted. If the word is Lucan it is also Pauline, and that too in this particular sense, cf. 1 Corinthians 16:5.—κηρ. τὴν βασ.: if Lucan, also Pauline—cf. Colossians 4:11. As our Lord had sent His first disciples to preach (κηρύσσειν) the kingdom of God, and as He Himself had done the same, Luke 8:1; Luke 9:2, we cannot doubt that St. Paul would lay claim to the same duty and privilege; in his first Epistle, 1 Thessalonians 2:12, as in his latest, 2 Timothy 4:18, the kingdom of God, its present and its future realisation, is present to his thoughts; in his first journey, Acts 14:22, no less than in his third it finds a place in his teaching and exhortation; in his first Epistle, 1 Thessalonians 2:9, as in his latest, 2 Timothy 1:11; 2 Timothy 4:17, he does the work of a herald, κῆρυξ. No less than five times in 1 Corinthians, one of the Epistles written during his stay at Ephesus, the phrase βασιλεία Θεοῦ occurs (it is not found at all in 2 Corinthians).25. And … ye all] We cannot be sure that the Apostle never again came to Ephesus. For we learn from Philemon 1:22 that, toward the close of his imprisonment at Rome, he had hopes and the intention of visiting Philemon, who was at Colossæ, and we can hardly think that if he went to Colossæ he would fail on the way to stay at Ephesus. Some have therefore been inclined to lay a great stress on the word “all” in this clause, as though the Apostle only meant that they were sure some of them to be dead before he paid their city another visit. It seems better to take the words as the conviction of the Apostle’s mind at the moment. He was impressed with the belief that he would never come back. We have seen, however, just above that the Spirit did not give him definite knowledge of what would befall him in every place. And the sense that he was to be seized and imprisoned might make him sufficiently alive to the chances of his martyrdom for Christ to warrant the words which he here uses.

among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God] The oldest MSS. omit “of God.” The verb is more fully rendered by the Rev. Ver.I went about.” Though speaking to the Ephesians only the memory of the Apostle recalls those missionary visits throughout Proconsular Asia which we may feel sure that he made during his “three years’ residence at Ephesus.” For the use of “kingdom” alone = kingdom of God, cp. Matthew 4:23; Matthew 9:35, &c.Acts 20:25. Οὐκέτι ὄψεσθε, shall see no more) Paul wisely inserts this now in this place. For so the other things which he has to say the more impressively affect the minds of his hearers.—ὑμεῖς, ye) The explanation of this word follows, viz. all, etc. The apostle returned from Rome to Asia several years after: but in the interim almost all these persons died or removed elsewhere. At all events the sense is this: I know that such things are about to befall me as, without a peculiar Divine guidance, and that a miraculous one, must cut off from you the power (opportunity) of seeing me. A Metalepsis (as in ch. Acts 21:4). [A double trope. Ex. gr. here, there is a double METONYMY of the Consequent for the Antecedent: 1) Such things are about to befall me, as that I am hardly, and not even hardly (scarcely is there in the case the possibility expressed by “hardly”), likely to return: 2) If even I were ever so sure of returning, yet you yourselves, after so long an interval of time, will almost all be either dead or removed elsewhere. Instead of these two Antecedents the Consequent is put: Ye shall not see my face.—Append.]Verse 25. - Went about for have gone, A.V.; kingdom for kingdom of God, A.V. and T.R. I know that ye all, etc. It is a very perplexing question whether St. Paul in this statement spake with prophetic, and therefore infallible, foreknowledge, or whether he merely expressed the strong present conviction of his own mind, that he should never return to Asia again. The question is an important one, as the authenticity of the pastoral Epistles is in a great measure bound up with it. For, in the apparent failure of all hypotheses to bring the writing of them within the time of St. Luke's narrative, prior to St. Paul's journey to Rome, we are driven to the theory which places the writing of them, and the circumstances to which they allude, to a time subsequent to St. Paul's imprisonment at Rome. But this involves the supposition that St. Paul returned to Ephesus after his release from his Roman imprisonment (1 Timothy 1:3; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:15, 18; 2 Timothy 4:9-14, 19; Titus 1:5), and consequently that St. Paul's anticipation, that he was in Asia for the last lime, was not realized. The question is well discussed by Alford, in the 'Prolegomena to the Pastoral Epistles,' and in Paley's 'Horae Paulinae,' Acts 11. But it can hardly be said to be definitively settled (see above, note to ver. 15). Bengel thinks the explanation may be that most of those present were dead or dispersed when Paul returned some years later. Iknow

The I is emphatic: I know through these special revelations to myself (Acts 20:23).

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