Acts 20:22
And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there:
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(22) And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit.—The question meets us as before (see Note on Acts 19:21), whether the words refer to the direct action of the Holy Spirit or to the higher element of St. Paul’s own nature, as in 1Corinthians 5:3; 2Corinthians 2:13. On the whole, the latter seems the more probable, subject, as before, to the reservation that the word is used because it points to that part of his being which was most in communion with the Divine Spirit. (Comp. Romans 8:16.) He was going to Jerusalem regardless of results, under a constraint which virtually limited the freedom of his human will. As in 1Corinthians 9:16, a “necessity” was laid upon him.




Acts 20:22 - Acts 20:35

This parting address to the Ephesian elders is perfect in simplicity, pathos, and dignity. Love without weakness and fervent yet restrained self-devotion throb in every line. It is personal without egotism, and soars without effort. It is ‘Pauline’ through and through, and if Luke or some unknown second-century Christian made it, the world has lost the name of a great genius. In reading it, we have to remember the Apostle’s long stay in Ephesus, and his firm conviction that he was parting for ever from those over whom he had so long watched, and so long loved, as well as guided. Parting words should be tender and solemn, and these are both in the highest degree.

The prominence given to personal references is very marked and equally natural. The whole address down to Acts 20:22 is of that nature, and the same theme recurs in Acts 20:31, is caught up again in Acts 20:33, and continues thence to the end. That abundance of allusions to himself is characteristic of the Apostle, even in his letters; much more is it to be looked for in such an outpouring of his heart to trusted friends, seen for the last time. Few religious teachers have ever talked so much of themselves as Paul did, and yet been as free as he is from taint of display or self-absorption.

The personal references in Acts 20:22 - Acts 20:27 turn on two points-his heroic attitude in prospect of trials and possible martyrdom, and his solemn washing his hands of all responsibility for ‘the blood’ of those to whom he had declared all the counsel of God. He looks back, and his conscience witnesses that he has discharged his ministry; he looks forward, and is ready for all that may confront him in still discharging it, even to the bloody end.

Nothing tries a man’s mettle more than impending evil which is equally certain and undefined. Add that the moment of the sword’s falling is unknown, and you have a combination which might shake the firmest nerves. Such a combination fronted Paul now. He told the elders, what we do not otherwise know, that at every halting-place since setting his face towards Jerusalem he had been met by the same prophetic warnings of ‘bonds and afflictions’ waiting for him. The warnings were vague, and so the more impressive. Fear has a vivid imagination, and anticipates the worst.

Paul was not afraid, but he would not have been human if he had not recognised the short distance for him between a prison and a scaffold. But the prospect did not turn him a hairsbreadth from his course. True, he was ‘bound in the spirit,’ which may suggest that he was not so much going joyfully as impelled by a constraint felt to be irresistible. But whatever his feelings, his will was iron, and he went calmly forward on the road, though he knew that behind some turn of it lay in wait, like beasts of prey, dangers of unknown kinds.

And what nerved him thus to front death itself without a quiver? The supreme determination to do what Jesus had given him to do. He knew that his Lord had set him a task, and the one thing needful was to accomplish that. We have no such obstacles in our course as Paul had in his, but the same spirit must mark us if we are to do our work. Consciousness of a mission, fixed determination to carry it out, and consequent contempt of hindrances, belong to all noble lives, and especially to true Christian ones. Perils and hardships and possible evils should have no more power to divert us from the path which Christ marks for us than storms or tossing of the ship have to deflect the needle from pointing north.

It is easy to talk heroically when no foes are in sight; but Paul was looking dangers in the eyes, and felt their breath on his cheeks when he spoke. His longing was to ‘fulfil his course.’ ‘With joy’ is a weakening addition. It was not ‘joy,’ but the discharge of duty, which seemed to him infinitely desirable. What was aspiration at Miletus became fact when, in his last Epistle, he wrote, ‘I have finished my course.’

In Acts 20:25 - Acts 20:27 the Apostle looks back as well as forward. His anticipation that he was parting for ever from the Ephesian elders was probably mistaken, but it naturally leads him to think of the long ministry among them which was now, as he believed, closed. And his retrospect was very different from what most of us, who are teachers, feel that ours must be. It is a solemn thought that if we let either cowardice or love of ease and the good opinion of men hold us back from speaking out all that we know of God’s truth, our hands are reddened with the blood of souls.

We are all apt to get into grooves of favourite thoughts, and to teach but part of the whole Gospel. If we do not seek to widen our minds to take in, and our utterances to give forth, all the will of God as seen by us, our limitations and repetitions will repel some from the truth, who might have been won by a completer presentation of it, and their blood will be required at our hands. None of us can reach to the apprehension, in its full extent and due proportion of its parts, of that great gospel; but we may at least seek to come nearer the ideal completeness of a teacher, and try to remember that we are ‘pure from the blood of all men,’ only when we have not ‘shrunk from declaring all God’s counsel.’ We are not required to know it completely, but we are required not to shrink from declaring it as far as we know it.

Paul’s purpose in this retrospect was not only to vindicate himself, but to suggest to the elders their duty. Therefore he passes immediately to exhortation to them, and a forecast of the future of the Ephesian Church. ‘Take heed to yourselves.’ The care of one’s own soul comes first. He will be of little use to the Church whose own personal religion is not kept warm and deep. All preachers and teachers and men who influence their fellows need to lay to heart this exhortation, especially in these days when calls to outward service are so multiplied. The neglect of it undermines all real usefulness, and is a worm gnawing at the roots of the vines.

We note also the condensed weightiness of the following exhortation, in which solemn reasons are suggested for obeying it. The divine appointment to office, the inclusion of the ‘bishops’ in the flock, the divine ownership of the flock, and the cost of its purchase, are all focussed on the one point, ‘Take heed to all the flock.’ Of course a comparison with Acts 20:17 shows that elder and bishop were two designations for one officer; but the question of the primitive organisation of church offices, important as it is, is less important than the great thoughts as to the relation of the Church to God, and as to the dear price at which men have been won to be truly His.

We note the reading in the Acts 20:28 {margin}, ‘the flock of the Lord,’ but do not discuss it. The chief thought of the verse is that the Church is God’s flock, and that the death of Jesus has bought it for His, and that negligent under-shepherds are therefore guilty of grievous sin.

The Apostle had premonitions of the future for the Church as well as for himself, and the horizons were dark in both outlooks. He foresaw evils from two quarters, for ‘wolves’ would come from without, and perverse teachers would arise within, drawing the disciples after them and away from the Lord. The simile of wolves may be an echo of Christ’s warning in Matthew 7:15. How sadly Paul’s anticipations were fulfilled the Epistle to the Church in Ephesus {Revelation 2:1 - Revelation 2:29} shows too clearly. Unslumbering alertness, as of a sentry in front of the enemy, is needed if the slinking onset of the wolf is to be beaten back. Paul points to his own example, and that in no vainglorious spirit, but to stimulate and also to show how watchfulness is to be carried out. It must be unceasing, patient, tenderly solicitous, and grieving over the falls of others as over personal calamities. If there were more such ‘shepherds,’ there would be fewer stray sheep.

Anxious forebodings and earnest exhortations naturally end in turning to God and invoking His protecting care. The Apostle’s heart runs over in his last words {Acts 20:32 - Acts 20:35}. He falls back for himself, in the prospect of having to cease his care of the Church, on the thought that a better Guide will not leave it, and he would comfort the elders as well as himself by the remembrance of God’s power to keep them. So Jacob, dying, said, ‘I die, but God shall be with you.’ So Moses, dying, said, ‘The Lord hath said unto me, thou shalt not go over this Jordan. The Lord thy God, He will go before thee.’ Not even Paul is indispensable. The under-shepherds die, the Shepherd lives, and watches against wolves and dangers. Paul had laid the foundation, and the edifice would not stand unfinished, like some half-reared palace begun by a now dead king. The growth of the Church and of its individual members is sure. It is wrought by God.

His instrument is ‘the word of His grace.’ Therefore if we would grow, we must use that word. Christian progress is no more possible, if the word of God is not our food, than is an infant’s growth if it refuses milk. That building up or growth or advance {for all three metaphors are used, and mean the same thing} has but one natural end, the entrance of each redeemed soul into its own allotment in the true land of promise, the inheritance of those who are sanctified. If we faithfully use that word which tells of and brings God’s grace, that we may grow thereby, He will bring us at last to dwell among those who here have growingly been made saints. He is able to do these things. It is for us to yield to His power, and to observe the conditions on which it will work on us.

Even at the close Paul cannot refrain from personal references. He points to his example of absolute disinterestedness, and with a dramatic gesture holds out ‘these hands’ to show how they are hardened by work. Such a warning against doing God’s work for money would not have been his last word, at a time when all hearts were strung up to the highest pitch, unless the danger had been very real. And it is very real to-day. If once the suspicion of being influenced by greed of gain attaches to a Christian worker, his power ebbs away, and his words lose weight and impetus.

It is that danger which Paul is thinking of when he tells the elders that by ‘labouring’ they ‘ought to support the weak’; for by weak he means not the poor, but those imperfect disciples who might be repelled or made to stumble by the sight of greed in an elder. Shepherds who obviously cared more for wool than for the sheep have done as much harm as ‘grievous wolves.’

Paul quotes an else unrecorded saying of Christ’s which, like a sovereign’s seal, confirms the subject’s words. It gathers into a sentence the very essence of Christian morality. It reveals the inmost secret of the blessedness of the giving God. It is foolishness and paradox to the self-centred life of nature. It is blessedly true in the experience of all who, having received the ‘unspeakable gift,’ have thereby been enfranchised into the loftier life in which self is dead, and to which it is delight, kindred with God’s own blessedness, to impart.Acts 20:22-24. And behold I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem — Strongly impelled by the Spirit which intimates my duty to me in such a manner, that I can neither omit nor delay it. I am, therefore, fully resolved to proceed, being well assured that it is by a divine direction and influence that I am so, and not from any humour, fancy, or will of my own. Or, the expression may mean, “foreseeing by the Spirit that I shall be bound,” as it follows in the next verse. So Grotius and Whitby understand him. Not knowing — Particularly; the things that shall befall me there — What I shall suffer in that city, or what shall happen to me when I come thither; save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth — Namely, by other persons; (for it was God’s good pleasure to reveal these things to him, not immediately, but by the ministry of others;) in every city — Almost, through which I passed; saying — By the mouths of divinely-inspired prophets; that bonds and afflictions abide — Or await, me — This I know in the general, though the particulars of those sufferings I know not; such as, whence they shall spring, what shall be the occasion of them, what the circumstances, and to what degree they shall rise. These things God had not thought fit to reveal to him. Reader, it is for our good to be kept ignorant of future events, that we may be always waiting on God, and waiting for him. But none of these things more me — Greek, αλλουδενος λογον ποιουμαι, I make no account of any of those things; neither count I my life dear Τιμιαν, precious; to myself — On such an occasion. It adds a great force to this, and all the other passages of Scripture, in which the apostles express their contempt of the world, that they were not uttered by persons like Seneca and Antoninus, who talked elegantly of despising the world in the full affluence of all its enjoyments; but by men who daily underwent the greatest calamities, and exposed their lives in proof of the truth of their assertions. So that I might finish my course — Of duty and of suffering, as a Christian and an apostle; with joy — Arising from the testimony of my own conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity I have had my conversation in the world; from evidences of my having pleased God, and been accounted faithful by him, and from a lively expectation of being approved of by him in the day of final accounts, and of enjoying felicity and glory with him for ever; and the ministry — The infinitely-important ministry; which I have received of the Lord Jesus — With which he has graciously intrusted me; to testify the gospel of the grace of God — To which grace, free and abundant as it is, I am myself obliged beyond all expression, and beyond all the returns I can ever make by any labour or sufferings I may undergo in its service.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.Bound in the spirit - Strongly urged or constrained by the influences of the Holy Spirit on my mind. Not by any desire to see the place where my fathers worshipped, and not urged merely by reason, but by the convictions and mighty promptings of the Holy Spirit to do my duty in this case. The expression "bound in the spirit" δεδεμένος τῷ πνεύματι dedemenos tō pneumati is one of great strength and emphasis. The word δέω deō, "to bind," is usually applied to "confinement by cords, fetters, or bands" Matthew 13:30; Matthew 14:3; Matthew 21:2; and then it denotes "any strong obligation" Romans 7:2, or "anything that strongly urges or impels," Matthew 21:2. When we are strongly urged by the convictions of duty, by the influences of the Holy Spirit, we should not shrink from danger or from death. Duty is to be done at all hazards. It is ours to follow the directions of God; results we may safely and confidently leave with him.

Not knowing the things that shall befall me there - He knew that calamities and trials of some kind awaited him Acts 20:23, but he did not know:

(1) Of what particular kind they would be; nor,

(2) Their issue, whether it would be life or death.

We should commit our way unto God, not knowing what trials may be before us in life; but knowing that, if we are found faithful at the post of duty, we have nothing to fear in the result.

22, 23. And now, behold, I—"I" is emphatic here.

bound in the spirit—compare Ac 19:21. This internal pressure, unattended with any knowledge of "what was to befall him there," was the result of that higher guidance which shaped all his movements.

Bound in the spirit; as powerfully persuaded by a Divine instinct, to undertake this journey, as if I were led or drawn to it by forcible means; being bound to obey God in all things, whom I take to be my God and Guide, my Sun and Shield: and I do not desire so much to act, as to be acted by him. This St. Paul says, not as if he was drawn unto this journey against his will, but lest any should attempt to dissuade him from it, or that he should seem to have slighted the predictions of the prophets, mentioned in Acts 21:11,12. Nay, he might say this, as being as certain of his bonds as if he felt them already. Such things as are foretold to such as know the veracity of God, they are as present. Howsoever, he was content to be bound, to suffer, nay, to die for Christ. And as he is poor in spirit who crucifies the world, and is willing to want, if God sees good; so he is bound in spirit, who is thus willing to be bound for the name of Christ. Howsoever, these words speak his firm resolution to take this journey upon him.

Not knowing the things that shall befall me there; what the event shall be, in what measure he should be bound, and how long; he left it unto God’s good will and pleasure. And now behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem,.... Not in his own spirit, though the Ethiopic version reads, "in my spirit"; as if he was pressed and straitened, and troubled within himself, at what afflictions and bonds he was to endure at Jerusalem; for this is not consistent with what he says in Acts 20:24 nor is the sense, that he was bound in conscience and duty to go to Jerusalem, to carry the collections of the churches made for the poor saints there, which the Gentile churches importuned him to take upon him, and which he undertook, and promised to perform, and so was under obligation to do it; but rather that he was resolved and determined in his own mind, within himself, or he purposed in his spirit, as in Acts 19:21 to go to Jerusalem: but it is best to understand it of the Spirit of God; as that either the apostle, by the revelation of the Spirit of God, knew that when he came to Jerusalem he should be laid in bonds, and under a deep impression of that upon his mind, he went thither, as though he was bound already; or rather that he was under such a strong impulse of the Spirit of God, by which he was moved to such a vehement desire to go thither, that the bonds and afflictions he saw waited for him there, could not deter him, and all the entreaties of his friends could not dissuade him from it:

not knowing the things that shall befall me there; that is, the particular things he should suffer there, nor how they would issue with respect to life or death; and if the latter, whether he should suffer death, there or elsewhere; these things were not as yet revealed to him; he only in general knew, that bonds and afflictions would be his lot and portion, and which therefore he excepts in the next verse: after this it was revealed to him by Agabus a prophet, in the name, and under the influence of the Holy Ghost, that he should be apprehended at Jerusalem, and should be bound and delivered to the Gentiles; which was signified by the prophet's taking his girdle and binding his hands and feet with it, but still he knew not whether he should die there or not, though he was ready for it, Acts 21:10 afterwards when he was come to Jerusalem, and had been bound, and was in prison, the Lord himself appeared to him, and told him that he must bear witness at Rome, as he had testified of him at Jerusalem, Acts 23:11 so that he was not to suffer death there, only bonds and imprisonment.

{7} And now, behold, I go {e} bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there:

(7) He testifies that he goes to his imprisonment by the commandment of God.

(e) He calls the guiding direction of the Holy Spirit, who forced him to take his journey to Jerusalem, the bond of the Sprit, whom he followed with all his heart.

Acts 20:22. Ἰδού] Singular, although addressed to several; see on Matthew 10:16.

ἐγώ] apostolic sense of personal significance in the consciousness of his important and momentous destiny.

δεδεμένος τῷ πνεύματι] cannot denote the shutting off of any inward glimpse into the future, which is first expressed afterwards and in plain terms (Hahn, Theol. d. N.T. I. p. 412). Since, moreover, the Holy Spirit first comes in at Acts 20:23, and. since the being fettered was first to befall the apostle in Jerusalem, Acts 20:23, those views are to be rejected, which explain τὸ πνεῦμα of the Holy Spirit and δεδεμένος of the being fettered. Accordingly, the words are neither to be taken as: bound to the Holy Spirit (Romans 7:2; 1 Corinthians 7:27), i.e. dependent on Him (my first edition); nor: constrained by the Holy Spirit (Beza, Calvin, Calovius, Kypke, and others); nor: fettered, i.e. already as good as fettered, I go at the instigation of the Holy Spirit (Oecumenius, Theophylact, who put the comma after δεδεμ.); nor yet: fettered (i.e. vincula praesentiens) in my spirit (Erasmus, Grotius, Wolf, Bengel, Morus); but Paul expresses his consciousness of internal binding: bound, i.e. compelled and urged in my spirit (dative of more precise limitation). He knows, that as regards his journey to Jerusalem, he follows a necessity present to his higher self-consciousness and binding its freedom,—an irresistible internal drawing of his higher personal life. Comp. Heinrichs, Kuinoel, de Wette, Lange, Ewald, Hackett. On δεδεμένος, comp. Plat. Rep. viii. p. 567 C, μακαρίᾳ ἄραἀνάγκῃ δέδεται, ἣ προστάττει αὐτῷ κ.τ.λ.

τὰ ἐν αὐτῇεἰδώς] The relation to Acts 20:23 is as follows: Paul knew not specially what was to befall him at Jerusalem, but only in general it was testified to him by the Holy Spirit in every city, that bonds and afflictions were awaiting him there.Acts 20:22. καὶ νῦν ἰδού: the exact phrase occurs again in Acts 20:25, and only once elsewhere in words ascribed to Paul, Acts 13:11 (ἰδού νῦν, twice in Paul only, 2 Corinthians 6:2).—δεδεμένος τῷ πνεύματι: “bound in the spirit,” compulsus animo, Blass; so δέω in classical Greek, Xen., Cyr., viii., 1, 12; Plato, Rep., viii., p. 567 e, cf. Acts 19:21, Acts 18:25, 1 Corinthians 5:3. The fact that the Holy Spirit is specifically so called in Acts 20:23 seems to decide for the above rendering in this verse; but see Weiss on Acts 20:23; Ramsay also renders “constrained by the Spirit”. Possibly πνεῦμα is named as that part of the man in closest union with the Spirit of God, cf. Romans 8:16, so that the sense is not affected. If we compare with Acts 19:21 the expression presents an advance in the Apostle’s thought—his purpose becomes plainer, and the obligation more definite, as the Spirit witnesses with his spirit. The expression may mean that the Apostle regarded himself as already bound in the spirit, i.e., although not outwardly bound, he yet knows and feels himself as one bound. For St. Paul’s frequent use of πνεῦμα cf. Romans 1:9; Romans 8:16; Romans 12:11, 1 Corinthians 2:11; 1 Corinthians 5:3-4; 1 Corinthians 14:14, etc. Oecumenius and Theophylact take πνεύματι with πορεύομαι, i.e., bound, as good as bound, I go by the leading of the Spirit to Jerusalem; but this seems forced. Paley, Horæ Paulinæ, ii., 5, remarks on the undesigned coincidence with Romans 15:30.—συναντήσοντά μοι: the verb is found only in Luke in N.T. (except Hebrews 7:10 as a quotation, Genesis 14:17), and only here in this sense, cf. Ecclesiastes 2:14; Ecclesiastes 9:11, also Plut., Sulla, 2; Polyb., xx., 7, 14; middle, τὰ συναντώμενα. On the rarity of the future participle in Greek, and its use in this passage “an exception which proves the rule,” see Simcox, Language of the N. T., p. 126.22. And now … Jerusalem] The Apostle refers to his own spirit, the constraint which in his own mind was laid upon him. Some therefore to make this plain would render “in my spirit.” The verb implies that he felt there was no freeing himself from the impulse to go, but it has no such sense as that he already regards himself as a prisoner, that he will be seized and deprived of his liberty when he arrives at Jerusalem.

not knowing … there] This shews that the Holy Ghost had not given to the Apostle more than a general sense that in all places he would be called on to suffer for Christ.Acts 20:22. Καὶ νῦν ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ, and now behold I) These words are weightily repeated by Anaphora, in Acts 20:25 [See Append. on Anaphora, the frequent repetition of words to mark beginnings].—δεδεμένος τῷ πνεύματι, bound in spirit) Paul knew that he was about to be bound: and now already he was so affected in mind as one who is bound, nor could he induce his mind to think anything else but that he would be bound.—μὴ εἰδὼς, not knowing) We ought not to suppose that the apostles were omniscient. They depended by faith on the Divine guidance. Paul knew concerning others, Acts 20:25; Acts 20:29; concerning himself he was obliged to exercise implicit faith.Verse 22. - Bound in the spirit. Τῷ πνεύματι, may either mean "in my spirit" or "by the Spirit," i.e. the Holy Ghost. If the former, which is the most probable sense (as τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον follows in the next verse), is taken, the sense will be that St. Paul felt himself constrained to go to Jerusalem. A sense of absolute necessity was upon him, and he did not feel himself a free agent to go anywhere else. If the latter sense be taken, the meaning will be that the Holy Ghost was constraining him to go to Jerusalem. Bound in the spirit

In his own spirit. Constrained by an invincible sense of duty. Not by the Holy Spirit, which is mentioned in the next verse and distinguished by the epithet the Holy.

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