Acts 20:20
And how I kept back nothing that was profitable to you, but have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(20) How I kept back nothing that was profitable.—The verb is one which belongs to the vocabulary of sailors, and was used for taking in or reefing sails. He, St. Paul seems to say of himself, had used no such reticence or reserve, but had gone on his course, as it were, before the wind, with all his canvas spread. It must be noted, however, that even here, as in the more limited range of teaching imparted to the Corinthians (1Corinthians 3:1-2), he confines his statement to the things that were “profitable.” In each case he considered what was required by the capacity of his disciples. That of Ephesus was wider than that of Corinth, and there, accordingly, he was able to set forth “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).

Publicly, and from house to house.—The first word points probably to the teaching in the synagogue and the lecture-room of Tyrannus (Acts 19:9), the second to the meetings of disciples which were held in private houses, such as that of Aquila and Priscilla (1Corinthians 16:19). It may, however, include even more personal and individual counsel.

Acts 20:20-21. How I kept back nothing that was profitable — Nothing that was calculated to instruct, renew, or comfort you — to render you wise and good, holy and happy; Greek, ουδεν υπεστειλαμην των συμφεροντων, του μη αναγγειλαι υμιν και διδαξαι, I have withheld nothing, or none, of the things advantageous to you; that is, which could be of any service to your edification; so as not to declare to you the whole gospel of Christ, and teach you all its truths, duties, privileges, and blessings; publicly — In worshipping assemblies; and from house to house — As God gave me opportunity; inculcating, in visits and in private meetings, the same great doctrines which I declared in the synagogue and other places of concourse and resort. Testifying — In the most serious and solemn manner, and with the greatest earnestness and affection; both to the Jews and also to the Greeks — To all descriptions of persons, the great importance and absolute necessity of repentance toward God — To be evidenced by fruits worthy of repentance, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ — As the only Saviour of lost sinners, the infallible Teacher, prevalent Mediator, and righteous Governor of his church and people, and the final Judge of all mankind; a faith living, cordial, and powerful. Observe, reader, if the apostle had neglected thus to act, if he had not taught from house to house, as well as publicly, he would not have been pure from the blood of these people. Even he, though an apostle, could not discharge his duty by public preaching only; how much less can an ordinary pastor!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 kept back nothing ... - No doctrine, no admonition, no labor. Whatever he judged would promote their salvation, he faithfully and fearlessly delivered. A minister of the gospel must be the judge of what will be profitable to the people of his charge. His aim should be to promote their real welfare to preach what will be profitable. His object will not be to please their fancy, to gratify their taste, to flatter their pride, or to promote his own popularity. "All Scripture is profitable" 2 Timothy 3:16; and it will be his aim to declare that only which will tend to promote their real welfare. Even if it be unpalatable; if it be the language of reproof and admonition; if it be doctrine to which the heart is by nature opposed; if it run counter to the native prejudices and passions of people; yet, by the grace of God, it should be, and will be delivered. No doctrine that will be profitable should be kept back; no labor that may promote the welfare of the flock should be withheld.

But have showed you - Have announced or declared to you. The word here used ἀναγγεῖλαι anangeilai is most commonly applied to "preaching in public assemblies, or in a public manner."

Have taught you publicly - In the public assembly; by public preaching.

And from house to house - Though Paul preached in public, and though his time was much occupied in manual labor for his own support Acts 20:34, yet he did not esteem his public preaching to be all that was required of him, nor his daily occupation to be an excuse for not visiting from house to house. We may observe here:

(1) That Paul's example is a warrant and an implied injunction for family visitation by a pastor. If proper in Ephesus, it is proper still. If practicable in that city, it is in other cities. If it was useful there, it will be elsewhere. If it furnished to him consolation in the retrospect when he came to look over his ministry, and if it was one of the things which enabled him to say, "I am pure from the blood of all men," it will be so in other cases.

(2) the design for which ministers should visit should be a religious design. Paul did not visit for mere ceremony; for idle gossip, or chit-chat; or to converse on the news or politics of the day. His aim was to show the way of salvation, and to teach in private what he taught in public.

(3) how much of this is to be done is, of course, to be left to the discretion of every minister. Paul, in private visiting, did not neglect public instruction. The latter he evidently considered to be his main or chief business. His high views of preaching are evinced in his life, and in his letters to Timothy and Titus. Yet, while public preaching is the main, the prime, the leading business of a minister, and while his first efforts should be directed to preparation for that, he may and should find time to enforce his public instructions by going from house to house; and often he will find that his most immediate and apparent success will result from such family instructions.

(4) if it is his duty to visit, it is the duty of is people to receive him as becomes an ambassador of Christ. They should be willing to listen to his instructions; to treat him with kindness, and to aid his endeavours in bringing a family under the influence of religion.

20. kept back—timidly withheld from fear of consequences.

nothing that was profitable—edification directing all.

have taught you publicly, and from house to house—Did an apostle, whose functions were of so wide a range, not feel satisfied without private as well as public ministrations? How then must pastors feel? [Bengel].

I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you; useful in order to eternal life to be known or hoped for, or to be done; shunning no labour or danger; concealing nothing out of fear or hope of advantage.

Taught you publicly; in the public synagogues and schools.

And from house to house; privately, as Acts 2:46; not only speaking publicly and in general, but secretly and particularly, as everyone’s condition did require, exhorting some, reproving others. And indeed a good shepherd will labour to understand the state of his flock, and to supply them with what is necessary and suitable for them. Jacob says, Genesis 31:39, that he bare the loss, and was fain to answer for all the sheep unto Laban. And of how much more value are the souls of men, to be sure, in God’s sight, who will require an account of them! And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you,.... The Syriac version supplies, "to your souls"; to lead them into a true knowledge of the doctrines of the Gospel, and to confirm them in the same, and to preserve them from errors in principle, and immoralities in practice, and to encourage the exercise of every grace, and to instruct them in every branch of duty; nothing of this kind, or which had this tendency, did the apostle dissemble, conceal, or drop, either through sloth and indolence, or through fear of men, or for the sake of reputation, wealth, and friends. The things the apostle may have chiefly in view are the truths of the Gospel, which are very profitable to the souls of men; such as relate to the knowledge of God, his being, perfections, and persons; as that there are three persons in the Godhead, Father, Son, and Spirit, which is profitable to be known, in order to understand the economy of salvation, in which each person has his distinct concern; and that both the Son and Spirit are equally God with the Father, which accounts for the virtue and efficacy of the blood, righteousness, and sacrifice of Christ, and how safely he may be depended upon for salvation, and how equal the Holy Spirit is to his work and office; likewise such doctrines as relate to the sin of Adam and his posterity in him, to the imputation of the guilt of that sin unto them, and the derivation of a corrupt nature from him, and which respect the impurity and impotence of human nature; all which is profitable, since it accounts for the origin of moral evil, and many of the dispensations of providence in involving those that do not know the right hand from their left in public calamities; and since it shows the necessity of regenerating grace, tends to the humiliation of men, and makes for the magnifying the riches of God's grace: also such doctrines as express the grace of God in man's salvation as the doctrines of God's everlasting love, of election, redemption, justification, pardon, reconciliation, union to Christ, and final perseverance; all which are exceeding profitable, for the peace, comfort, and refreshment of the souls of God's people. Moreover, the ordinances of the Gospel, baptism, and the Lord's supper, which are the privileges of believers, and the means of their spiritual profit, may be included, together with all the duties of religion; which though not profitable by way of merit, yet contribute to the peace and pleasure of the mind; and none of these things did the apostle withhold from the elders and church at Ephesus, as his epistle to that church does abundantly show, in which, doctrines, ordinances, and duties are taken notice of: now to keep back these, is either to keep them back wholly, to say nothing of any of them, but in the room of them to deliver out morality and legal righteousness; or in part, to mix the truths of the Gospel with the doctrines of men, and not give out the sincere milk of the word; or to draw and fetch back what has been delivered through the fear of men, and in order to gain reputation and applause: but so did not the apostle, nor should any minister of the Gospel; and that for the reason in the words, because they are profitable; as also because they are the counsel of God; and because it is the will of Christ that nothing should be hid, but everything should be published, which he has signified to his servants; and this is enforced by his own example, who whatever he heard of his Father, he made known to his disciples; and for the ministers of Christ to do otherwise, would argue unfaithfulness in them both to Christ and to the souls of men:

but have showed you; all the doctrines of the Gospel, and pointed to every path of duty, and declared, as he says hereafter, the whole counsel of God:

and have taught you publicly; first in the Jewish synagogue, then in the school of Tyrannus, Acts 19:8 and in whatsoever place the church, when formed, might meet together for public worship; there the apostle taught them the truths of the Gospel openly, and without any reserve, before all the people, as Christ ordered his apostles to do, and as he himself did, Matthew 10:27

and from house to house: as he visited the saints at their own houses, to know their personal cases, and the state of their souls, he instructed them privately and personally one by one; he taught the same publicly as privately, and privately as publicly: and took every opportunity of instilling Gospel truths into them, and of enriching them with a larger knowledge of them; which shows his affection and zeal, his laboriousness, industry, and indefatigableness in the ministry.

And how I kept {d} back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house,

(d) I did not refrain form speaking, neither did I conceal my motives in any way at all, either for fear or for wicked gain.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 20:20-21. Ὡς οὐδὲν κ.τ.λ.] sets forth more precisely the πῶς.

τοῦ μὴ ἀναγγ.] contains the design which would have been present in the ὑπεστ.: how I have held back (dissimulavi) nothing of what was profitable, in order not to preach and to teach it to you, etc. So also Acts 20:27 : for I have not been holding back, in order not, etc. The μή extends to both infinitives. That dissimulare might have taken place from the fear of men, or in order to please men. But see Galatians 2:14; Galatians 1:10; Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 4:3, al.

On οὐδὲν ὑπεστειλάμην, comp. Dem. 54, ult.: πάνθʼ ἁπλῶς, οὐδὲν ὑποστειλάμενος πεπαῤῥησίασμαι, and 980. 22 : μηδὲν ὑποστελλόμενον μηδʼ αἰσχυνόμενον, also 415. 2 : μετὰ παῤῥησίας διαλεχθῆναι μηδὲν ὑποστελλόμενον (according to Becker). Isocr. p. 134 C; Diod. Sic. xiii. 70; also Plat. Ap. Socr. p. 24 A; and Stallb. in loc; Krebs, Obss. p. 241.

τῶν συμφερόντων] “Haec docenda sunt; reliqua praecidenda,” Bengel. Comp. 1 Corinthians 7:35; 1 Corinthians 12:7.

τὴν εἰς τ. θεὸν μετάν.] the repentance, by which we turn to God. Comp. Acts 3:19, Acts 8:22, Acts 26:20. It is not, with Beza, Bengel, Heinrichs, Kuinoel, to be referred only to the Gentiles (and πιστιν κ.τ.λ. to the Jews); for the call to this μετάνοια was addressed also to the Jews, inasmuch as they were unfaithful to God, not indeed by idolatry, but by immorality and hypocrisy (Romans 2:3). Comp. Mark 1:15. Bengel, moreover, aptly remarks: Repentance and faith are the “summa eorum quae utilia sunt.”Acts 20:20. ὑπεστειλάμην: “how that I shrank not from declaring unto you anything that was profitable,” R.V., cf. Acts 20:27, where βουλήν follows the same verb ἀναγγέλλειν, here followed by οὐδέν; on the construction see Page’s note, in loco. The verb means to draw or shrink back from, out of fear or regard for another. In the same sense in classical Greek with οὐδέν or μηδέν: “locutio Demosthenica.” Blass and Wendt, cf. also Jos., B. J., i., 20, 21; Vita, 54; in LXX, Deuteronomy 1:17, Exodus 23:21, Job 13:8, Wis 6:7, Habakkuk 2:4; see Westcott on Hebrews 10:38. It is used once in Galatians 2:12 by Paul himself. It is possible that the verb may have been used metaphorically by St. Paul from its use in the active voice as a nautical term to reef or lower sail, and there would be perhaps a special appropriateness in the metaphor, as St. Paul had just landed, and the sails of the ship may have been before his eyes in speaking, to say nothing of the fact that the word would become familiar to him day by day on the voyage (see Humphry, Plumptre, Farrar); but it is not well to press this special metaphorical usage too far here, especially as the word is frequently used elsewhere of military rather than nautical matters (see Lightfoot’s note on Galatians 2:12, and the use of the verb in Polybius).—τῶν συμφ., cf. 1 Corinthians 7:35; 1 Corinthians 10:33; Pauline: “the things profitable for their salvation,” a message not always agreeable, but which nevertheless the Apostle spoke with the same παῤῥησία (ὑποστέλλεσθαι is the opposite of παῤῥησιάζεσθαι, Page) which characterised him. Blass compares also the whole phrase ὑποστείλασθαι περὶ ὧν ὑμῖν συμφέρειν ἡγοῦμαι, Dem., i., 16.—δημ. καὶ κατʼ οἴκους: publice et privatim, another and a further glimpse of the Apostle’s work at Ephesus: publicly in the synagogue and in the school of Tyrannus, privately as in the Church in the house of Aquila and Priscilla, 1 Corinthians 16:19.20. and how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you] The Rev. Ver. makes of these clauses, in which there is nothing for “and” or “but,” only one, rendering “How that I shrank not from declaring unto you anything that was profitable.” The form of the sentence corresponds with Acts 20:27 below. The word “how” takes up the “after what manner” of Acts 20:18. The first verb implies the wrapping up of something to keep it out of sight, or out of the way, and is used of “furling” sails. Hence the metaphorical sense of “wrapping up” or “cloaking” what ought to be spoken out. The Apostle declares that he had never from any fear or under any circumstances done this. What he means by “that which was profitable,” we may learn from his own expression (1 Corinthians 10:33) “the profit of many, that they may be saved.” This would call for rebuke as well as encouragement, and would not always be a congenial work, however necessary.

and have taught you publickly, and from house to house] To connect with what has gone before, read “and teaching you, &c.” Here we are afforded another glimpse into the zealous character of St Paul’s work. It was not only in the school of Tyrannus that he waited for and taught those who came to hear, but he also went about among the people, seeking to impress any who would listen.Acts 20:20. Οὐδὲν ὑπεστειλάμην, I have withheld or kept back) Acts 20:27. There were considerations, which might have induced others to keep back many things, or at least some things; fear, the favour of men, etc.—τῶν συμφερόντων, of things profitable) These are to be taught: the other things are to be avoided (cut off).—ἀναγγεῖλαι, but have announced or showed) To this refer the δημοσίᾳ, publicly.—δίδαξαι, have taught you) To this refer the κατʼ οἴκους [“from house to house”], throughout your houses, privately. Not even the apostolical office, widely extended as it was in its sphere of operations, had its duties fully discharged by merely public preaching. What then ought pastors to do?Verse 20. - How that I shrank not from declaring unto you anything for and how I kept back nothing, A.V.; profitable for profitable unto you, A.V; and teaching for but have showed you and have taught, A.V. I shrank not from declaring, etc. The R.V. seems to construe the phrase as if it were Ὡς ὑπεσταιλάμην τοῦ μὴ ἀναγγεῖλαι ὑμῖν οὐδὲν τῶν συμφερόντων, which is a very labored construction, of which the only advantage is that it gives exactly the same sense to ὑπεστειλάμην as it has in ver. 27. But it is much simpler to take οὐδὲν here as governed by ὑπεστειλάμην, and to take the verb in its very common sense of "keeping back," or "dissembling" (see the very similar passages quoted by Kuinoel from Demosthenes, Plato, Socrates, etc., Οὐδὲν ὑποστειλάμενος, μηδὲν ὑποστείλαμεμος κ.τ.λ.), and to take the τοῦ μὴ ἀναγγεῖλαι ὑμῖν καὶ διδάξαι as expressing what would have been the effect of such "keeping back," or "dissembling," the μὴ extending to both infinitives (Meyer), "so as not to declare and teach," etc. In ver. 27 the verb ὑπεστειλάμην must be taken in the equally common sense of "holding back," or "shrinking," under the influence of fear, or indolence, or what not. The difference of rendering is required by the fact that here you have οὐδὲν ὑπεστειλάμην, whereas in ver. 27 you have οὐκ ὑπεστειλάμην In several of the classical passages quoted above, and others in Schleusner, ὑποστέλλεσθαι is opposed to παρρησίαζεσθαι, or, μετὰ παρρησίας διαλεχθῆναι (comp. therefore for the sentiment, Acts 2:29; Acts 4:13, 29, 31; Acts 9:27; Acts 13:46; Acts 14:3; Acts 28:31, etc.; Ephesians 6:19, 20). Kept back (ὑπεστειλάμην)

A picturesque word. Originally, to draw in or contract. Used of furling sails, and of closing the fingers; of drawing back for shelter; of keeping back one's real thoughts; by physicians, of withholding food from patients. It is rather straining a point to say, as Canon Farrar, that Paul is using a nautical metaphor suggested by his constantly hearing the word for furling sail used during his voyage. Paul's metaphors lie mainly on the lines of military life, architecture, agriculture, and the Grecian games. The statement of Canon Farrar, that he "constantly draws his metaphors from the sights and circumstances immediately around him," is rather at variance with his remark that, with one exception, he "cannot find a single word which shows that Paul had even the smallest susceptibility for the works of nature" ("Paul," i., 19). Nautical metaphors are, to say the least, not common in Paul's writings. I believe there are but three instances: Ephesians 4:14; 1 Timothy 1:19; 1 Timothy 6:9. Paul means here that he suppressed nothing of the truth through fear of giving offence. Compare Galatians 2:12; Hebrews 10:38.

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