Acts 20:23
Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me.
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(23) The Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city.—This can hardly refer to mere internal previsions of the future, but implies, like the analogous phraseology of 1Timothy 4:1, predictions uttered by the mouth of prophets, such as that which was afterwards spoken by Agabus (Acts 21:11). In every city, Corinth, Berœa, Thessalonica, Philippi, Troas, there had been like utterances, of which, though they are here implied, we have no separate record. There was a general dread as to the results of his journey, which led the disciples who loved him to dissuade him from attempting it. We may trace the influence of such predictions in the anxiety which he himself expresses when he asks for the prayers of his friends at Rome (Romans 15:30-31) that he may be delivered from those that did not believe in Judæa. The words are not without their value as throwing light on the nature and limits of inspiration. The prophets of whom St. Paul speaks were truly inspired, as far as their prevision of the future was concerned, and yet that inspiration did not make them infallible advisers, and the Apostle felt that he was right in acting on those convictions of his own in which he, too, recognised the promptings of the Holy Ghost.

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.Save that - Except that. This was all that he knew, that bonds and afflictions were to be his portion.

The Holy Ghost witnesseth - Either by direct revelation to him, or by the predictions of inspired men whom Paul might meet. An instance of the latter mode occurs in Acts 21:11. It is probable that the meaning here is that the Holy Spirit had deeply impressed the mind of Paul by his direct influences, and by his experience in every city, that bonds and trials were to be his portion. Such had been his experience in every city where he had preached the gospel by the direction of the Holy Spirit, that he regarded it as his certain portion that he was thus to be afflicted.

In every city - In almost every city where Paul had been, he had been subjected to these trials. He had been persecuted, stoned, and scourged. So uniform was this, so constant had been his experience in this way, that he regarded it as his certain portion to be thus afflicted, and he approached Jerusalem, and every other city, with a confident expectation that such trials awaited him there.

Saying - In his experience, by direct revelation, and by the mouth of prophets, Acts 21:11. When Paul was called to the apostleship it was predicted that he would suffer much, Acts 9:16.

Bonds - Chains. That I would be bound, as prisoners are who are confined.

Abide me - See the margin. They remain or wait for me; that is, I must expect to suffer them.

23. Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, &c.—by prophetic utterances from city to city, as in Ac 11:4; 21:10, 11. Analogous premonitions of coming events are not unknown to the general method of God's providence. They would tend to season the apostle's spirit.1. Those that were endued with the Spirit of prophecy, in every city, foretold his sufferings; as Acts 21:4,11.

2. He did suffer more or less in every city or place he came to; so great was the malice of the Jews against him.

Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city,.... As he passed along, where there was a church, or any number of saints: in the churches of those times there were prophets who foretold things to come, and by these the Holy Ghost testified to the apostle, as he travelled along, and called upon the churches in every city, what would befall him when he came to Jerusalem; this sense the natural order of the words requires, unless there should be a transposition of them, thus, "save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth, saying, that bonds and afflictions abide me, or wait for me in every city"; that is, this in general was only made known to him by the Spirit of God, that wherever he came, affliction and persecution would attend him, and he must expect bonds and imprisonment; these were ready for him, and be must prepare for them, as he did: and therefore, whenever they came, he was not surprised at them, they were no other than what he looked for; but the other sense seems best, for such a transposition is not very easy, and, besides, can by no means be admitted, if the sense is, as the words are read in Beza's ancient copy, and in others, and in the Vulgate Latin version, "that bonds and afflictions abide me at Jerusalem"; however, since the Holy Ghost testified before hand of the afflictions and bonds of the apostle, whether in every city or in Jerusalem, or both; it is no inconsiderable proof of the proper deity of the Spirit of God, and is an instance of his affectionate regard to the apostle, to give him previous notice of these things. Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me.
Acts 20:23. Πλὴν ὅτι] except that, only knowing that, Plat. Phaed. p. 57 B; Soph. El. 418.

τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον] namely, by prophets (comp. Acts 13:2, Acts 21:4; Acts 21:11), who made this known to me. This explanation, and not any reference to an internal intimation of the Spirit, is required by κατὰ πόλιν (city by city, at which I arrive on this journey). That Luke has not as yet mentioned any such communication, does not justify the supposition of an unhistorical prolepsis (Schneckenburger, p. 135), as he has related the journey, Acts 20:14 ff., only in a very summary manner.

Acts 20:23. πλὴν ὅτι: The collocation is found nowhere else in N.T. except in Php 1:18, only that (so Alford, Lightfoot, W.H[335], see Lightfoot, l. c., for parallels), i.e., knowing one thing only, etc., “I do not ask to see the distant scene; one step enough for me,” so from step to step κατὰ πόλιν, on his journey, St. Paul was warned and guided, cf. Acts 21:4; Acts 21:11.—κατὰ πόλιν, Lucan-Pauline; κατά used several times by Luke, alone amongst the synoptists, in his Gospel and in the Acts with this distributive force in connection with πόλις; Luke 8:1; Luke 8:4; Luke 13:22; cf. Luke 15:21; in the text, as also in Titus 1:5; the only other passage in which the collocation occurs in N.T., the phrase is adopted by St. Paul.—δεσμὰ καὶ θλίψεις: δεσμὰ in St. Luke; Luke 8:29, Acts 16:26, but it is noticeable that the two nouns are found together in Php 1:17, and in 2 Corinthians 1:8. θλίψις is used of the affliction which befel the Apostle in Asia, including that of public danger, as well as illness and mental distress. On the variation between masculine and neuter in δεσμός and in other nouns see Blass, Gram., p. 28.—μένουσιν: only twice in N.T., with accusative of the person, here and in Acts 20:5.

[335] Westcott and Hort’s The New Testament in Greek: Critical Text and Notes.

23. save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city] The oldest MSS. add “unto me.” Rev. Ver. “testifieth unto me.” The Holy Ghost had called him to the work (Acts 13:2) and moved the disciples (Acts 21:4) and Agabus (Acts 21:11) to warn him of the sufferings which were at hand. We may suppose too that such warnings came more frequently than St Luke has recorded them.

saying … abide me] The two nouns are combined in Php 1:16, “supposing to add affliction to my bonds,” where the sense is, as most likely here, mental grief in addition to bodily constraint. Such “afflictions” were harder to bear than the “bonds.”

Acts 20:23. [Πλὴν ὅτι, except that) In general terms, bonds and afflictions were indicated to Paul.—V. g.]—κατὰ πόλιν, in every city) It was for the good of all to know, and all profited in seeing the obedience of Paul, and in hearing him with the greater eagerness, as not being about to see him any more. Hence too was made evident the greatness of (his and their) afflictions. Those which appertained to Paul himself were indicated to Paul by others. [Comp. ch. Acts 21:4; Acts 21:11, Agabus’ prophecy, with the symbolical binding with Paul’s girdle.]

Verse 23. - Testifieth unto me for witnesseth, A.V. and T.R. The Holy Ghost, speaking by the prophets in the different Church assemblies, as the apostle journeyed from city to city. We have one instance of such prophesying recorded in Acts 21:10, 11. The instances to which St. Paul here alluded were not mentioned in Luke's brief narrative. Acts 20:23Testifieth (διαμαρτύρεται)

The compound verb signifies full, clear testimony. Not by internal intimations of the Spirit, but by prophetic declarations "in every city." Two of these are mentioned subsequently, at Tyre and Caesarea (Acts 21:4, Acts 21:11).

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