Acts 20:19
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:
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(19) Serving the Lord with all humility of mind . . .—The participle exactly answers to the epithet of the “servant” or “slave” of Christ which St. Paul so often uses of himself (Romans 1:1; Galatians 1:10; Philippians 1:1; Titus 1:1). The “tears,” too, are characteristic of the Apostle, whose intense sensitiveness and sympathy had not been hardened into a Stoic apathy, and therefore found vent in a form which the Stoic would have scorned as unmanly. (Comp. Acts 20:31; 2Corinthians 2:4.) Epictetus (Enchirid. c. 2) barely allowed a follower of wisdom to mourn outwardly with those who mourned, and added the warning: “Take heed that thou mourn not inwardly.”

Temptations.—Better, trials—the word retaining its dominant meaning of troubles coming from without, rather than allurements to evil from within. The reference to the “lying in wait of the Jews” refers, of course, to something altogether distinct from the Demetrian tumult, and implies unrecorded sufferings. The Apostle’s life was never safe, and the air was thick with plots against it.

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.Serving the Lord - In the discharge of the appropriate duties of his apostolic office, and in private life. To discharge aright our duties in any vocation is serving the Lord. Religion is often represented in the Bible as a service rendered to the Lord.

With all humility - Without arrogance, pride, or a spirit of dictation; without a desire to "lord it over God's heritage"; without being elated with the authority of the apostolic office, the variety of the miracles which he was enabled to perform, or the success which attended his labors. What an admirable model for all who are in the ministry; for all who are endowed with talents and learning; for all who meet with remarkable success in their work! The proper effect of such success, and of such talent, will be to produce true humility. The greatest endowments are usually connected with the most simple and childlike humility.

And with many tears - Paul not infrequently gives evidence of the tenderness of his heart, of his regard for the souls of people, and of his deep solicitude for the salvation of sinners, Acts 20:31; Philippians 3:18; 2 Corinthians 2:4. The particular thing, however, here specified as producing weeping was the opposition of the Jews. But it cannot be supposed that those tears were shed from an apprehension of personal danger. It was rather because the opposition of the Jews impeded his work, and retarded his progress in winning souls to Christ. A minister of the gospel will:

(1) Feel, and deeply feel for the salvation of his people. He will weep over their condition when he sees theta going astray, and in danger of perishing. He will,

(2) Be specially affected with opposition, because it will retard his work, and prevent the progress and the triumph of the gospel. It is not because it is a personal concern, but because it is the cause of his Master.

And temptations - Trials arising from their opposition. We use the word "temptation" in a more limited sense, to denote inducements offered to one to lead him into sin. The word in the Scriptures most commonly denotes "trials" of any kind.

Which befell me - Which happened to me; which Iencountered.

By the lying in wait ... - By their snares and plots against my life. Compare Acts 20:3. Those snares and plans were designed to blast his reputation and to destroy his usefulness.

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.

Serving the Lord; in his apostleship or public ministry; of which, if any ever could, he might have gloried; yet in this office he clothes himself

with humility, as the most becoming garment for a minister of Jesus Christ: though so high, yet so low. We need not cry, (as one did, though ironically), Fie, St. Paul! but fie upon all such as pretend to succeed in his dignity, and do not at all imitate him in his humility.

With many tears; he shed tears of compassion over the ignorant and blind, hard and perverse. It grieved him to see how large a dominion the god of this world had, and what a little part was left for his dear Lord and Master, Christ Jesus.

Temptations; afflictions and troubles, which befell him for Christ and the gospel’s sake; which are so called, Jam 1:2 1 Peter 1:6.

Serving the Lord with all humility of mind,.... Meaning, in the ministration of the Gospel, being conscious to himself of his own weakness and insufficiency in himself for such service; no ways elated with those excellent and extraordinary gifts bestowed upon him; ascribing all his success to the power, grace, and Spirit of God; treating no man with contempt and disdain; nor lording it over God's heritage, or claiming a dominion over the faith of men; nor seeking honour nor riches for himself, nor even what he had a just right unto, a maintenance from the people; but laboured with his own hands, and to his own and the necessities of others:

and with many tears; at the obstinacy and unbelief of some, and at the distresses and afflictions of others, both corporeal and spiritual; as well as on account of the unbecoming walk of some professors:

and temptations which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews: who were hardened against his ministrations, and believed not the Gospel preached by him, but spoke evil of it, and lay in wait to take away his life; by reason of which, his afflictions, which he calls temptations, because they were trials of his faith and patience, were very great.

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:
Acts 20:19. δουλεύων: the word occurs six times in St. Paul’s Epistles of serving God, the Lord, Christ, 1 Thessalonians 1:9, Romans 12:11 (R., margin, τῷ καιρῷ), Acts 14:18, Acts 16:18, Ephesians 6:7, Colossians 3:24 (once in Matthew and Luke, of serving God, Matthew 6:24, Luke 16:13), and cf. St. Paul’s expression δοῦλος of himself, Romans 1:1, Galatians 1:10, Php 1:1, Titus 1:1.—μετὰ πάσης ταπεινοφ.: this use of πᾶς may be called eminently Pauline, cf. Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 1:8, Ephesians 4:2, Ephesians 6:18, 2 Corinthians 8:7; 2 Corinthians 12:12, 1 Timothy 3:4; 2 Timothy 4:2, Titus 2:15; Titus 3:2 (see Hackett’s note). ταπειν., a word which may justly be called Pauline, as out of seven places in the N.T. it is used five times by St. Paul in his Epistles, and once in his address in the passage before us; Ephesians 4:2, Php 2:3, Colossians 2:18; Colossians 2:23; Colossians 3:12 (elsewhere, only in 1 Peter 5:5). It will be noted that it finds a place in three Epistles of the First Captivity, although used once disparagingly, Colossians 3:18. In pagan ethics ταπεινός was for the most part a depreciatory characteristic, although some few notable exceptions may be quoted, Trench, Synonyms, i., 171 ff. In the LXX and Apocrypha it has a high moral significance and is opposed to ὕβρις in all its forms. The noun is not found either in LXX or Apocrypha, and the adjective ταπεινόφρων (1 Peter 3:8) and the verb ταπεινοφρονεῖν (not in N.T.), although each found in LXX once, the former in Proverbs 29:23 and the latter in Psalm 130:2 (cf. instances in Aquila and Symmachus, Hatch and Redpath), cannot be traced in classical Greek before the Christian era, and then not in a laudatory sense. The noun occurs in Jos., B. J., iv., 9, 2, but in the sense of pusillanimity, and also in Epictet., Diss., iii., 24, 56, but in a bad sense (Grimm-Thayer). But for St. Paul as for St. Peter the life of Christ had conferred a divine honour upon all forms of lowliness and service, and every Christian was bidden to an imitation of One Who had said: πραΰς εἰμι καὶ ταπεινὸς τῇ καρδίᾳ, Lightfoot on Php 2:3; “Ethics” (T. B. Strong), Hastings’ B.D., i., 786; Cremer, Wörterbuch, sub v. ταπεινος.—δακρύων, cf. Acts 20:31, 2 Corinthians 2:4, Php 3:18. “Lachrymæ sanctæ … cum his tamen consistit gaudium”: Bengel. St. Paul was no Stoic, for whom ἀπάθεια was a virtue, the accompaniment of wisdom and the passport to perfection; see Romans 12:15 : “in every age the Christian temper has shivered at the touch of Stoic apathy”. Here the word refers not to the Apostle’s outward trials which were rather a source of joy, but to his sorrow of heart for his brethren and for the world, ἔπασχε γὰρ ὑπὲρ τῶν ἀπολλυμένων, Chrysostom.—πειρασμῶν, cf. St. Paul’s own words, 1 Thessalonians 3:3, Php 1:27, 2 Corinthians 1:6; 2 Corinthians 6:4-10, 2 Corinthians 11:26, κινδύνοις ἐκ γενους (Galatians 4:14). In our Lord’s own life and ministry there had been “temptations,” Luke 4:13; Luke 22:28; and a beatitude rested upon the man who endured temptation, Jam 1:12; Jam 1:2. The noun is found no less than six times in St. Luke’s Gospel, but only here in Acts. It occurs four times in St. Paul’s Epistles, and may be fairly classed as Lucan-Pauline (Bethge). On its use in N.T. and LXX see Hatch, Essays in Biblical Greek, p. 71 ff., and compare Mayor, Epistle of St. James, Jam 1:2.—ἐπιβ. τῶν Ἰ.: evidently classed amongst the πειρασμῶν, Hatch, u. s., although we must not suppose that St. Luke tells us of all the Apostle’s dangers, trials and temptations here any more than elsewhere. Nothing of the kind is mentioned in connection definitely with the Ephesian Jews, “sed res minime dubia, Acts 21:27,” Blass. The noun has not been found in any classical author, but it occurs in Dioscorides, Præf., i., see Grimm, sub v., and several times in LXX, six times in Ecclus. and in 1Ma 2:52.

19. serving … humility of mind] The Rev. Ver. here has “lowliness of mind,” as the word is rendered Php 2:3, but the version is not consistent, for the same rendering is not kept (Colossians 3:12) where it might just as well have been. Probably the translators of 1611 did not like the collocation all lowliness. St Paul is careful to point out that the service in which he spent himself was done unto the Lord as His Apostle.

and with many tears] The oldest authorities omit “many.” The adjective is a comment from the statement in Acts 20:31. In 2 Corinthians 2:4 St Paul says “I wrote unto you with many tears.”

and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews] The old sense of “temptation” is lost. Read (with Rev. Ver.) “and with trialsby the plots of the Jews. We could only see in the account of the tumult at Ephesus that there were some indications that the Jewish population were anxious to make it plain that they had no sympathy with the Apostle who was so obnoxious to the Gentiles. Here we have an express declaration made before those who knew all the circumstances that plots had been laid against Paul’s life by the Jews. It did not fall in with St Luke’s purpose to tell us of them, but he manifestly knew about them, for he feels no difficulty in recording the Apostle’s own mention of them here, nor has he a thought that his narrative will be held for other than true, though men may point out here an allusion to events of which he had made no mention before. We cannot too often bear in mind that the book is not meant for a history of either one or other Apostle, but a record of how the course of the Gospel was guided according to Christ’s injunction, “beginning at Jerusalem” and ending when an Apostle had proclaimed Christ in the Imperial capital.

Acts 20:19. Δουλεύων, serving) A noble idea of the servant of the Lord.—τῶ Κυρίῳ) the Lord, whose is the Church.—μετὰ, with) Humility of mind, tears, and temptations, are the concomitants (of service): the act of serving itself is described in the foll. verse.—ταπεινοφροσύνης, humility of mind) This he recommends to the Ephesians also in Ephesians 4:2, “with all lowliness,” ταπεινοφροσύνης.—δακρύων, tears) Acts 20:31; 2 Corinthians 2:4; Php 3:18. A characteristic trait of Paul. Holy tears shed by men and heroes, who seldom if ever weep for things in the ordinary course of nature, furnish a specimen of the efficacy, and an argument for the truth, of Christianity. Yet joy is compatible with these tears: Acts 20:24. Add the note, Acts 20:37.—πειρασμῶν, temptations) The plots of the Jews in various ways truly tried and exercised the mind of Paul.—τῶν Ἰουδαίων, of the Jews) The apostle of the Gentiles speaks of them now as if they were alien (foreigners) to him.

Verse 19. - Lowliness for humility, A.V.; tears for many tears, A.V. and T.R.; with trials for temptations, A.V.; plots for lying in wait, A.V. Plots (ἐπιβουλαῖς); comp. ver. 3, and note. There is no special account of Jewish plots in St. Luke's narrative of St. Paul's sojourn at Ephesus. But from Acts 19:9, 13, and probably 33, we may gather how hostile the unbelieving Jews were to him. Acts 20:19
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