And after the uproar was ceased, Paul called unto him the disciples, and embraced them, and departed for to go into Macedonia.
I. Look, first, at the fact that a man was able to say of all the afflictions of life, "None of these things move me." There are three thoughts that stand out conspicuously in these words. (1) Calmness. Self-possession is a great secret of life; and I know no road to real self-possession but true religion. (2) Elevation. He looks down on "these things," and says "None of them move me." They are little things; they are down beneath me. Elevation—getting nearer to the grandnesses of eternity—makes the things of this little world seem what they really are. (3) Independence. The man who wishes to be independent of external circumstances must be dependent upon God. Depend somewhere this leaning heart of man must; and if you wish not to depend upon the creature, you must depend upon the Creator.
II. "Neither count I my life dear unto myself." To the natural man the external joys and sorrows of life are all, for he knows no other. But when, by union with the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit enters into a man's breast, and he begins another life, that life of Jesus within him becomes to his perception so predominant—it becomes so all-important to him—that the other gradually sinks away and away into a distant insignificance. He stands, as it were, on the margin of a river, and he rejoices to see it flowing out; he rejoices that that which separates him from the land beyond shall cease to be, because he looks for the time when he shall take his wing and fly away and be at rest; and when he contemplates all the affections and fellowships—the rest, the services, the pure, unsullied joys of that life—that which was once to him exceeding precious becomes a thing of little worth, and he can say, "None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself."
J. Vaughan, Sermons, 1865, p. 1.
References: Acts 20:24.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxix., No. 1734; J. S. Pearsall, Christian World Pulpit, vol. i., p. 251; Ibid., vol. v., p. 254; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vi., p. 14; G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 3; Homilist, 2nd series, vol. ii., p. 29. Acts 20:27.—W. Gresley, Practical Sermons, p. 1. Acts 20:26, Acts 20:27.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vi., No. 289.
Acts 20:28I. The flock is the true Church, the spiritual living family of God, and the charge given us concerning them is, "Feed that flock over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers." Then there is food provided? Most undoubtedly—abundant food, provision to meet all your requirements, all your possible wants and desires. The provision is absolutely and exclusively in the word of God. All the blessings that faith appropriates wherever the soul is sustained and fed are to be found in the word of God. It is all apprehended by faith, and there is no legitimate object on which faith is fixed but those that are presented to us by the teaching of the Spirit of God on the pages of God's holy word. It is exactly in proportion as the precious things of the word of the living God are brought forth and dealt out in all their richness and profusion in the ministrations of God's ambassadors that souls are fed and nourished and sustained and built up in faith.
II. Consider, next, wherein the qualification of ministers consists for feeding the flock. The qualification is a knowledge of the counsel of God. That was Paul's qualification, and by virtue of his teaching, and the communication by his instrumentality of such qualifications to the elders of the church at Ephesus, they were competent. What is wanted is plain, downright, dogmatical teaching of the word of God—the great and glorious doctrines put forth distinctly and positively, no attempting to reconcile what God does not reconcile, but the grand fundamental truths beginning with God's everlasting purpose and man's responsibility in connection therewith; a free, full, finished, present, and everlasting salvation proposed to every child of man willing to receive it; the certainty that God will keep His own and bring them to the haven where they would be; that there is food for every spiritual necessity and requirement,—these are things that are wanted in the pulpit. Then will our people be edified and built up, and become trees of God's own planting, bearing abundant fruit to His glory.
III. Look at the motive here assigned for feeding the flock. God hath bought the Church with His own blood. This shows us the value of the Church. It is one of the strongest conceivable motives why the elders of the Church and ministers should devote themselves to the work of the Lord.
C. Molyneux, Penny Pulpit, No. 390.
References: Acts 20:28.—Christian World Pulpit, vol. viii., p. 95 Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., pp. 100, 140, 243, 244. Acts 20:31.—J. H. Hitchens, Christian World Pulpit, vol. v., p. 20; B. Gregory, Ibid., vol. xviii., p. 81; J. Edmunds, Fifteen Sermons, p. 343. Acts 20:32.—A. Barry. Cheltenham College Sermons, p. 216; J. J. S. Perowne, Sermons, p. 120.
Acts 20:35I. These words are often interpreted in a very narrow spirit. They are supposed generally to be merely a reference to the giving of alms; so it is said that as an apostle Paul ministered unto his own necessities and to those that were with him—showed them all things—how he had to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." I think the Apostle himself is using this as a great general principle, and not a special application of it. I am not quite sure that it is always more blessed to give than to receive, if it is only a question of giving charitable dole. Sometimes giving blesses neither him that gives nor him that receives. But the point of the text is that the Christian man is to remember that what he does is not for himself, but for others. From him ever is to flow out a holy stream of influence, whereby he, denying himself and sacrificing himself, becomes good and does good to those who are around. The Church will only be strong as you exhibit this spirit. You will find it more blessed to give than to receive, for it will take you out of yourselves. Every member should remember that he is not for himself, but for the Church.
II. This principle is the grand bond of social union too. If everybody in the Church would be looking out for himself, I should very soon hear of a root of bitterness springing up to trouble him. God is ever giving, giving to all, giving without much gratitude. How many of us are guided constantly in our thoughts of giving by what we are to receive in return! We are always seeding, expecting the harvest. God is always seeding, and leaving the harvest for those who wish to gather it. You remember that old legend, which is told in some ancient rabbinical story, very touching and very beautiful, concerning Abraham. He was sitting at the door of his tent one day waiting to receive strangers; and there came up to him an old man a hundred years old, bowed with age and travel, who asked for refreshment and hospitality; and Abraham arose and welcomed the stranger to his tent, and set meat and bread before him, and waited upon the aged man; but he was surprised when he observed that the aged man began to eat without first giving God thanks. Abraham said, "Sir, you have taken your food without blessing God first: why is this?" And the man answered, "I do not believe in God. I worship the host of heaven." Whereupon, saith the story, Abraham grew zealously angry, and drove the man out, and would not receive him into his tent. Then God called Abraham and said, "I have borne with that man these hundred years or more, and he never regarded Me, and canst thou not bear with him a few minutes when he gives thee no trouble?" Whereupon Abraham rose, went out and fetched the stranger in, washed his feet, gave him food once more and good counsel. Abraham's God is our God, and the spirit of the Eternal One only receives fullest, completest illustration when we learn fully this blessed principle, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
L. D. Bevan, Penny Pulpit, No. 905.
Acts 20:35I. In the one word "blessed" the whole force of this sentence lies, What does "more blessed" mean? Is there any reference in it to enjoyment. Because if there is, all enjoyment being a reception of pleasure, the blessing will thus seem to mean, that he who gives shall receive more pleasure than he who merely receives, and so we shall have set before us the unworthy motive—giving for receiving's sake. Does our Lord mean this? Undoubtedly He does mean this; undoubtedly He does set before us as a motive, to give, for receiving's sake. There can be no blessing, in order to receive in this world. But when a man ardently desires to receive more of the joys of the future state he necessarily desires also to grow in grace and in the knowledge and obedience of Christ, to become free from sin in every form, and from every unworthy and degrading motive and act. An ardent longing for the joys of the next world is not greediness, is not selfishness, but leads a man in fact to the mortification of these very vices by their being incompatible with the object of his earnest endeavours. And this kind of happiness is evidently that contemplated by our Saviour in the text.
II. Why is it more blessed to give than to receive? (1) First, because the act itself is more salutary. The act and habit of giving reminds us ever why we were sent into the world; disperses our regard from self on others; keeps up a tender spirit, a wakeful conscience, an onward look of hope for more opportunity of good, an earnest endeavour to better society, to promoted happiness, to become a blessing to the world in the largest sense. (2) To give is more blessed than to receive, because it is more Christian—more the calling of the follower and imitator of Christ. (3) To give is more blessed, as being more in accordance with the teaching of the Holy Spirit. He is the Spirit of Love. (4) Again, it is more blessed as being more like the Father Himself, who giveth us all things freely to enjoy; who gave us His own Son, and through Him His unspeakable gift of the Holy Spirit. It is likeness to Him, partaking of the Divine nature by being lifted into the likeness of all His glorious attributes, that is the utmost perfection of created being.
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. ii., p. 1.
References: Acts 20:35.—C. Girdlestone, Twenty Parochial Sermons, p. 103; L. Campbell, Some Aspects of the Christian Ideal, p. 40; J. Keble, Sermons on Various Occasions, p. 298. Acts 20:36-38.—Church of England Pulpit, vol. xx., p. 25. Acts 20:38.—J. Ker, Three Hundred Outlines on the New Testament, p. 118. Acts 21:3.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 204. Acts 21:6.—J. Edmunds, Fifteen Sermons, p. 46. Acts 21:12-14.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. viii., p. 54. Acts 21:13.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 265; G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 355.
And when he had gone over those parts, and had given them much exhortation, he came into Greece,
And there abode three months. And when the Jews laid wait for him, as he was about to sail into Syria, he purposed to return through Macedonia.
And there accompanied him into Asia Sopater of Berea; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timotheus; and of Asia, Tychicus and Trophimus.
These going before tarried for us at Troas.
And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days; where we abode seven days.
And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.
And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together.
And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead.
And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him.
When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed.
And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted.
And we went before to ship, and sailed unto Assos, there intending to take in Paul: for so had he appointed, minding himself to go afoot.
And when he met with us at Assos, we took him in, and came to Mitylene.
And we sailed thence, and came the next day over against Chios; and the next day we arrived at Samos, and tarried at Trogyllium; and the next day we came to Miletus.
For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia: for he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost.
And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.
And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons,
Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews:
And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house,
Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there:
Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me.
But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.
And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more.
Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men.
For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.
Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.
And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.
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 shewed you all things, how that so labouring 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.
And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all.
And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck, and kissed him,
Sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship.