Acts 20:28
Take heed therefore to yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost has made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he has purchased with his own blood.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(28) Over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers.—Better, in which the Holy Ghost set you as watchers. The word used is the same as that commonly translated bishops, but, as used here in connection with the idea of the flock, it requires a word less technically ecclesiastical. It will be noticed that the word is commonly used in the New Testament as associated with this imagery. So in 1Peter 2:25, we have “the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls,” and the corresponding verb in 1Peter 5:2, “feed the flock of God . . . taking the oversight thereof.” The appointment, as referred to the Holy Ghost, implies, probably, (1) the inward call, the impulse which drew the man to the office; (2) the attestation of that call by the voices of the prophets, as in Acts 13:2, 1Timothy 4:1; (3) the bestowal of gifts fitting them for the work.

To feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.—It is clear that the words as they stand in the text are of immense importance, as bearing their witness to the belief of the Apostolic Church at once in the absolute divinity of Christ and in the nature of His redemptive work. The MSS., however, vary in their readings. Some of the best uncials and versions give “God;” others, of almost equal authority, give “Lord;” others, again, combine the two “Lord and God.” The fact that elsewhere St. Paul invariably speaks of “the Church of God” (e.g., 1Corinthians 1:2; 2Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:13; 1Thessalonians 2:14, et al.), and never “the Church of the Lord,” may be allowed, from one point of view, some weight as internal evidence in favour of the Received reading; while from another it may be urged that it might have tempted a transcriber to substitute a familiar for an unfamiliar phrase. Accepting that reading, the words not only confirm the great truths of the Church’s creed, but give an implicit sanction to the language of theology or devotion, when it applies to the divine nature of our Lord predicates that belong strictly to the human nature which was associated with it. So Ignatius (Romans 6) spoke of “the passion of my God,” and Tertullian (Ad Uxor, ii. 3) and Clement of Alexandria (Quis dives, c. 34) use the very phrase “the blood of God” which this passage suggests, and the Eastern Church at the council of Ephesus gave to the Blessed Virgin the title of Theotŏkos Deipara, the mother of the very God. So in the liturgy which bears the name of St. James the brother of the Lord, he is described as Adelphotheos, the brother of God, and that name is still current among the Greek Christians of Jerusalem. The general drift of the language of the New Testament writers was, however, in the other direction, and predicated human acts and attributes of the man Christ Jesus, Divine acts and attributes of the eternal Son; and it is obvious that this tends at once to greater accuracy of thought, and is really more reverential than the other.

In the word “purchased” (or, more literally, acquired for himself), we recognise the idea, though not the word, of redemption. The same verb is used in 1Timothy 3:13. The thought seems to have been one which specially characterised the teaching of St. Paul at Ephesus (Ephesians 1:14 : “the redemption of the purchased possession”). Comp. also, “ye were bought with a price,” in 1Corinthians 6:20, which, it will be remembered, was written from that city. The same idea is expressed in the “peculiar people” of 1Peter 2:9; literally, a people for a purchased possession, and so, as it were, the peculium, or personal property of Him who had paid the purchase money.

Acts 20:28. Take heed therefore — I now devolve my care upon you; first, to yourselves — That you thoroughly understand all the doctrines, experience all the graces, enjoy all the blessing, and practise all the duties of genuine Christianity; and that you fully understand and faithfully execute every part of your important office. And to all the flock — That they may possess the same Christian knowledge and experience, may enjoy the same blessings, and perform the same duties; may be wise unto salvation, holy and useful; not living unto themselves, but unto him that died for them and rose again. Over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers — Greek, επισκοπους, bishops, or inspectors. It seems evident from every part of the New Testament, that there was no distinction, when the Acts and the Epistles were written, between elders, or presbyters, and bishops in the Christian Church. All the elders were bishops, inspectors, or overseers. Thus, (1 Peter 5:1-2,) The elders which are among you I exhort, feed the flock of God, taking the oversight thereof, Greek, επισκοπουντες, acting the part of bishops, or inspectors. It is probable, however, that when, in any city or district, the elders became numerous, it was found expedient to appoint some to take the oversight of the rest, and see that they did their duty. The apostle’s expression here, The Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, implies that no man, or number of men, can constitute an overseer, bishop, or any Christian minister. To do this is the peculiar work of the Holy Ghost; to feed the church of God — That is, the believing, loving, obedient, holy children of God, only such being true members of the church of Christ; which he hath purchased with his own blood — How precious is it then in his sight! Here the blood of Christ, the only begotten of the Father, is termed the blood of God; for it is the blood of the WORD, who was in the beginning with God, and was God, John 1:1. 20:28-38 If the Holy Ghost has made ministers overseers of the flock, that is, shepherds, they must be true to their trust. Let them consider their Master's concern for the flock committed to their charge. It is the church He has purchased with his own blood. The blood was his as Man; yet so close is the union between the Divine and human nature, that it is there called the blood of God, for it was the blood of Him who is God. This put such dignity and worth into it, as to ransom believers from all evil, and purchase all good. Paul spake about their souls with affection and concern. They were full of care what would become of them. Paul directs them to look up to God with faith, and commends them to the word of God's grace, not only as the foundation of their hope and the fountain of their joy, but as the rule of their walking. The most advanced Christians are capable of growing, and will find the word of grace help their growth. As those cannot be welcome guests to the holy God who are unsanctified; so heaven would be no heaven to them; but to all who are born again, and on whom the image of God is renewed, it is sure, as almighty power and eternal truth make it so. He recommends himself to them as an example of not caring as to things of the present world; this they would find help forward their comfortable passage through it. It might seem a hard saying, therefore Paul adds to it a saying of their Master's, which he would have them always remember; It is more blessed to give than to receive: it seems they were words often used to his disciples. The opinion of the children of this world, is contrary to this; they are afraid of giving, unless in hope of getting. Clear gain, is with them the most blessed thing that can be; but Christ tell us what is more blessed, more excellent. It makes us more like to God, who gives to all, and receives from none; and to the Lord Jesus, who went about doing good. This mind was in Christ Jesus, may it be in us also. It is good for friends, when they part, to part with prayer. Those who exhort and pray for one another, may have many weeping seasons and painful separations, but they will meet before the throne of God, to part no more. It was a comfort to all, that the presence of Christ both went with him and stayed with them.Take heed, therefore - Attend to; be on your guard against the dangers which beset you, and seek to discharge your duty with fidelity.

Unto yourselves - To your own piety, opinions, and mode of life. This is the first duty of a minister; for without this all his preaching will be vain. Compare Colossians 4:17; 1 Timothy 4:14. Ministers are beset with unique dangers and temptations, and against them they should be on their guard. In addition to the temptations which they have in common with other people, they are exposed to those special to their office - arising from flattery, and ambition, and despondency, and worldly-mindedness. And just in proportion to the importance of their office is the importance of the injunction of Paul, to take heed to themselves.

And to all the flock - The church; the charge entrusted to them. The church of Christ is often compared to a flock. See the John 10:1-20 notes; also John 21:15-17 notes. The word "flock" here refers particularly to the church, and not to the congregation in general, for it is represented to be what was purchased with the blood of the atonement. The command here is:

(1) To take heed to the church; that is, to instruct, teach, and guide it; to guard it from enemies Acts 20:29, and to make it their special object to promote its welfare.

(2) to take heed to all the flock the rich and the poor, the bond and the free, the old and the young. It is the duty of ministers to seek to promote the welfare of each individual of their charge not to pass by the poor because they are poor, and not to be afraid of the rich because they are rich. A shepherd regards the I interest of the tenderest of the fold as much as the strongest; and a faithful minister will seek to advance the interest of all. To do this he should know all his people; should be acquainted, as far as possible, with their unique needs, character, and dangers, and should devote himself to their welfare as his first and main employment.

Over the which the Holy Ghost - Though they had been appointed, doubtless, by the church, or by the apostles, yet it is here represented as having been done by the Holy Spirit. It was by him:

(1) Because he had called and qualified them for their work; and,

(2) Because they had been set apart in accordance with his direction and will.

Overseers - ἐπισκόπους episkopous. "Bishops." The word properly denotes those who are appointed "to oversee or inspect anything." This passage proves that the name "bishop" was applicable to elders; that in the time of the apostles, the name "bishop" and "presbyter," or "elder," was given to the same class of officers, and, of course, that there was no distinction between them. One term was originally used to denote "office," the other term denotes "age," and both words were applied to the same persons in the congregation. The same thing occurs in Titus 1:5-7, where those who in Titus 1:5 are called "elders," are in Titus 1:7 called "bishops." See also 1 Timothy 3:1-10; Philippians 1:1.

To feed - ποιμαίνειν poimainein. This word is properly applied to the care which a shepherd exercises over his flock. See the notes on John 21:15-16. It is applicable not only to the act of feeding a flock, but also to that of protecting, guiding, and guarding it. It here denotes not merely the "duty" of instructing the church, but also of "governing" it; of "securing" it from enemies Acts 20:29, and of "directing" its affairs so as to promote its edification and peace.

The church of God - This is one of three passages in the New Testament in regard to which there has been a long controversy among critics, which is not yet determined. The controversy is, whether is this the correct and genuine reading. The other two passages are, 1 Timothy 3:16, and 1 John 5:7. The mss. and versions here exhibit three readings: "the church of God" τοῦ Θεός tou Theos the church of the Lord τοῦ Κυρίου tou Kuriou; and the church of the Lord and God Κυρίος καὶ Θεός Kurios kai Theos. The Latin Vulgate reads it "God." The Syriac, "the Lord." The Arabic, "the Lord God." The Ethiopic, "the Christian family of God." The reading which now occurs in our text is found in no ancient mss. except the Vatican Codex, and occurs nowhere among the writings of the fathers except in Athanasius, in regard to whom also there is a various reading.

It is retained, however, by Beza, Mill, and Whitby as the genuine reading. The most ancient mss., and the best, read "the church of the Lord," and this probably was the genuine text. It has been adopted by Griesbach and Wetstein; and many important reasons may be given why it should be retained. See those reasons stated at length in Kuinoel "in loco"; see also Griesbach and Wetstein. It may be remarked, that a change from Lord to God might easily be made in the transcribing, for in ancient mss. the words are not written at length, but are abbreviated. Thus, the name Christ Χριστός Christos is written ChoS; the name God θεός theos is written ThoS; the name Lord κύριος kurios is written KOS; and a mistake, therefore, of a single letter would lead to the variations observable in the manuscripts. Compare in this place the note of Mill in his Greek Testament. The authority for the name "God" is so doubtful that it should not be used as a proof text on the divinity of Christ, and is not necessary, as there are so many undisputed passages on that subject.

Which he hath purchased - The word used here περιεποιήσατο periepoiēsato occurs but in one other place in the New Testament - 1 Timothy 3:13, "For they that have used the office of deacon well, purchase to themselves a good degree and great boldness in the faith." The word properly means "to acquire or gain anything; to make it ours." This may be done by a price, or by labor, etc. The noun (περιποίησις peripoiēsis) derived from this verb is used several times in the New Testament, and denotes "acquisition:" 1 Thessalonians 5:9, God hath appointed us "to obtain" (unto the obtaining or acquisition of) salvation"; 2 Thessalonians 2:14, "Whereunto he called you by our gospel to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ"; 1 Peter 2:9; Titus 2:14; Ephesians 1:14. In this place it means that Christ had "acquired, gained, or procured," the church for himself by paying his own life as the price. The church is often represented as having thus been bought with a price, 1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Corinthians 7:23; 2 Peter 2:1.

With his own blood - With the sacrifice of his own life; for blood is often put for life, and to shed the blood is equivalent to faking the life. See the notes on Romans 3:25. The doctrines taught here are:

continued...

28. Take heed … unto yourselves—Compare 1Ti 3:2-7; 4:16; 6:11.

and to all the flock—Compare Heb 13:17. Observe here how the personal is put before the pastoral care.

over … which the Holy Ghost hath made you—Compare Joh 20:22, 23; Eph 4:8, 11, 12; Re 3:1. (Ac 14:23 shows that the apostle did not mean to exclude human ordination).

overseers—or, as the same word is everywhere else rendered in our version, "bishops." The English Version has hardly dealt fair in this case with the sacred text, in rendering the word "overseers," whereas it ought here, as in all other places, to have been "bishops," in order that the fact of elders and bishops having been originally and apostolically synonymous, might be apparent to the ordinary English reader, which now it is not [Alford]. The distinction between these offices cannot be certainly traced till the second century, nor was it established till late in that century.

to feed the church of God—or, "the Church of the Lord." Which of these two readings of the text is the true one, is a question which has divided the best critics. The evidence of manuscripts preponderates in favor of "THE Lord"; some of the most ancient Versions, though not all, so read; and Athanasius, the great champion of the supreme Divinity of Christ early in the fourth century, says the expression "Church of God" is unknown to the Scriptures. Which reading, then, does the internal evidence favor? As "Church of God" occurs nine times elsewhere in Paul's writings, and "Church of the Lord" nowhere, the probability, it is said, is that he used his wonted phraseology here also. But if he did, it is extremely difficult to see how so many early transcribers should have altered it into the quite unusual phrase, "Church of the Lord"; whereas, if the apostle did use this latter expression, and the historian wrote it so accordingly, it it easy to see how transcribers might, from being so accustomed to the usual phrase, write it "Church of God." On the whole, therefore, we accept the second reading as most probably the true one. But see what follows.

which he hath purchased—"made His own," "acquired."

with his own blood—"His own" is emphatic: "That glorified Lord who from the right hand of power in the heavens is gathering and ruling the Church, and by His Spirit, through human agency, hath set you over it, cannot be indifferent to its welfare in your hands, seeing He hath given for it His own most precious blood, thus making it His own by the dearest of all ties." The transcendent sacredness of the Church of Christ is thus made to rest on the dignity of its Lord and the consequent preciousness of that blood which He shed for it. And as the sacrificial atoning character of Christ's death is here plainly expressed, so His supreme dignity is implied as clearly by the second reading as it is expressed by the first. What a motive to pastoral fidelity is here furnished!

Take heed therefore unto yourselves; be mindful of your own salvation: for he that neglects his own, will not be careful of the salvation of another.

The Holy Ghost hath made you overseers;

1. By his choosing and nominating of them, which was then by a special instinct, or immediate warrant from the Spirit, Acts 1:24 13:2. Or:

2. Because they were constituted by the apostles, who were filled with the Spirit, enabling them to the choice of such persons, Acts 14:23. But also:

3. Whosoever is set apart to this office, according to the will of God, is made an overseer by the Holy Ghost; God owning his institutions, and concurring with them.

Overseers; the same who {Acts 20:17} are called elders; they were certainly such as had the government and care of the church committed unto them.

To feed; as a shepherd does, (for the apostle continues here the metaphor), Jeremiah 23:4 John 21:16,17.

The church of God; our Saviour is so called; for the Word was God, John 1:1.

Which he hath purchased; Christ by his bloody death hath redeemed his church, and obtained power to gather it, to rule over it, to protect and preserve it, Isaiah 53:10 Philippians 2:8-10.

With his own blood; the blood of Christ, called truly the blood of God, there being in Christ two natures in one person, and a communion of the properties of each nature. If Christ had not been man, he could have had no blood to shed: had he not been God, the blood which he shed could not have been a sufficient price of redemption. Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God, who found out such a ransom; and the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of the love of Christ, who paid this ransom for us! Romans 11:33 Ephesians 3:18,19. Take heed therefore unto yourselves,.... Since the blood of men may be required of those, who are negligent or partial in their office, and shun to declare the whole counsel of God: this exhortation is given them not merely as men, to take care of their bodily health, the outward concerns of life, and provide for themselves and families; nor merely as Christians, but as ministers of the Gospel; that they would take heed to their gifts, to use and improve them, and not neglect them; to their time, that they spend it aright, and not squander it away; and to their spirit, temper, and passions, that they are not governed by them; and to their lives and conversations, that they be exemplary to those who are under their care; and to their doctrine, that it be according to the Scriptures; that it be the doctrine of Christ, and the same with the apostles; that it be according to godliness, and that it tends to edification; that it be sound and incorrupt, pure and unmixed, and all of a piece and consistent with itself; and that they be not infected and carried away with errors and heresies:

and to all the flock; the church and all the members of it, which are compared to a flock of sheep, which are to be looked after and watched over by the ministers of the word, who are as shepherds to them, lest they should be infected, or any damage done them. The people of God are compared to sheep on many accounts; before conversion, for their going astray, when they are as lost sheep; after conversion, for their meek and inoffensive carriage and behaviour, and for their patience in bearing sufferings, to which they are exposed: and a church of Christ is compared to a flock of them, being in Gospel order, folded together and feeding in the same pasture, attending the word and ordinances, under the care of shepherds appointed by Christ the chief shepherd; whose business it is to take heed unto them, and care of them, to learn to know their state and condition, to watch over them, and to feed them with knowledge and with understanding, for which they are qualified by Christ; and they are to take heed unto everyone in the flock, the poor of the flock as well as others, the lambs as well as the sheep, and the sick and the diseased, the torn, and straying, and driven away, as well as the fat and the strong: and this flock, though a little flock, is a holy and beautiful one, a flock of men, and of the souls of men dear to God, to Christ and the blessed Spirit; and a special regard should be had unto them, and that for reasons following:

over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers; or "bishops"; this is said to the elders of the church, Acts 20:17 which shows that the office of an elder and a bishop is one and the same office; and this contains in it more than one argument why they should take heed to the flock; as because they are the overseers of it, who have the care and oversight of the flock, that is under their inspection, and is their proper province, and office; and this they were put into by the Holy Ghost, who gave them gifts to qualify them for it, and called, and inclined them to undertake it, as well as moved the people to make choice of them for this purpose; and since, therefore, this was an affair in which the Holy Ghost was so much concerned, it became them very diligently to attend it:

to feed the church of God; with knowledge and understanding; and discharge the whole office of faithful shepherds to the flock, by feeding the flock and not themselves, strengthening the diseased, healing the sick, binding up the broken, bringing again that which was driven away, and seeking up that which was lost: and here is another argument suggested, to stir up to a diligent performance of this work; and that is, that this flock is the church of God, a set of men whom God has chosen for himself, and called by his grace out of the world, and separated for his own use and glory, and among whom he dwells; and therefore to be fed with the faithful word, with the finest of the wheat, and not with the chaff of human schemes, and with the wind of false doctrine, nor with anything that is vain, trifling, and deceitful; but with the solid doctrines of the Gospel, with the words of faith and good doctrine, with the wholesome words of Christ Jesus, which have in them milk for babes and meat for strong men, and with and by the ordinances of the Gospel, which are the green pastures they are to be guided into, and abide in; and in all they are to be directed to Christ, the sum of the word and ordinances, who is the bread of life, and food of faith; and that the church should be thus fed, is the will of Christ, who has appointed and ordered his ministers to feed his lambs and sheep, and has furnished them with what is necessary for this work; this is the design of the ministry of the Gospel, and the administration of ordinances; and the churches of Christ are placed where food may be had, where the word is faithfully preached, and the ordinances truly administered: some copies read, "the church of the Lord"; and others, and so the Complutensian edition, "the church of the Lord and God":

which he hath purchased with his own blood; which being the blood not only of a pure and innocent man, but of one that is truly and properly God as well as man, was a sufficient ransom price to redeem the church and people of God from sin, the law, its curse and condemnation: so that this is no inconsiderable proof of the true and proper deity of Christ; and contains a fresh argument, or reason, why the flock of God and "church of Christ", as the Syriac version reads; or "the church of the Lord and God", as in five of Beza's exemplars: or "of the Lord God", as the Arabic version, should be taken heed unto and fed; because it must needs be dear to God and Christ, and precious to them, since so great a price has been paid for it. The purchaser is God, Christ who is God over all, blessed for ever, not a creature; that could never have made such a purchase, it could not have purchased a single sheep or lamb in this flock, no man can redeem his brother, or give to God a ransom for him, much less the whole flock; but Christ being God, was able to make such a purchase, and he has actually made it, and given a sufficient price for it; not to Satan, with whom these sheep were a prey, and from whom they are taken in virtue of the ransom given; but to God, from whom they strayed, against whom they sinned, and whose law they broke; and this price was not silver and gold, nor men, nor people: but Christ himself, his life and blood; and which were his "own", the human nature, the blood of which was shed, and its life given being in union with his divine person, and was in such sense his own, the property of the Son of God, as the life and blood of no mere man are theirs: and this purchase now being made in this way, and by such means, is a very proper one; it is not made without price, but with an invaluable one; and it is a legal purchase, a valuable consideration being given for it, perfectly equivalent to it; and therefore is a complete one, there is nothing wanting to make it more firm, it is a finished purchase; and it is a very peculiar one, it is a peculiar people that are purchased, called the purchased possession, Ephesians 1:14 and a peculiar price which is paid for it; there is no other of the same kind, nor any thing like it, and it is made by a peculiar person, one that is God and man in one person.

Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to {g} feed the church of God, which {h} he hath purchased with {i} his own blood.

(g) To keep it, to feed and govern it.

(h) A notable sentence for Christ's Godhead: which shows plainly in his person, how that by reason of the joining together of the two natures in his own person, that which is proper to one is spoken of the other, being taken as deriving from one another, and not in the original: which in old time the godly fathers termed a communicating or fellowship of properties or attributes, that is to say, a making common of that to two, which belongs but to one.

(i) The words his own show forth the excellency of that blood.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 20:28. Οὖν] Therefore, since I am innocent, and thus the blame would be chargeable on you.

ἑαυτοῖς κ. π. τ. ποιμνίῳ] in order that as well ye yourselves, as the whole church (Luke 12:32; John 10:1 ff.), may persevere in the pure truth of the gospel. See Acts 20:29-30. On the prefixing of ἑαυτοῖς comp. 1 Timothy 4:16.

τὸ πν. τ. ἅγ. ἔθετο] This was designed to make them sensible of the whole sacredness and responsibility of their office. The Holy Spirit ruling in the church has Himself appointed the persons of the presbyters, not merely by the bestowal of His gifts on those concerned, but also by His effective influence upon the recognition and appreciation of the gifts so bestowed at the elections (see on Acts 14:23). Comp. Acts 13:2; Acts 13:4.

ἐπισκόπους (also very common with classical writers), as overseers, as stewards,[113] denotes the official function of the presbyters (Acts 20:17), and is here chosen (not πρεσβυτέρους) because in its literal meaning it significantly corresponds to the ποιμαίνειν. “Ipso nomine admonet velut in specula locatos esse,” etc., Galvin.[114] The figurative (Isaiah 40:11; Jeremiah 2:8; Ezekiel 34:2; John 10:14; John 21:15; and see Dissen, ad Pind. Ol. x. 9, p. 124) ποιμαίνειν comprehends the two elements, of official activity in teaching (further specially designated in Ephesians 4:11; comp. 1 Timothy 3:2), and of the oversight and conduct of the discipline and organization of the church. For the two together exhaust the ἐπισκοπεῖν (1 Peter 5:2).

On τ. ἐκκλησ. τοῦ Κυρίου (see the critical remarks), comp. Romans 16:16; Matthew 16:18. With the reading τοῦ Θεοῦ this passage was a peculiarly important locus for the doctrine of the divinity of Christ and the communicatio idiomatum against the Socinians. See especially Calovius.

ἣν περιεποιήσατο κ.τ.λ.] which He has acquired (for His possession, Ephesians 1:14; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:9) by His own blood, by the shedding of which He has redeemed believers from the dominion of the devil and acquired them for Himself as heirs of His eternal salvation. “Hic ergo grex est pretiosissimus,” Bengel. Comp. on Ephesians 1:14; 1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Corinthians 7:23; 1 Peter 1:7; 1 Peter 1:19.

[113] The comparison of the Athenian ἐπίσχοποι in dependent cities, with a view to explain this official name (Rothe, p. 219 f.; see on these also Hermann, Staatsalterth. § 157. 8), introduces something heterogeneous.

[114] How little ground this passage gives for the hierarchical conception of the spiritual office, see on Ephesians 4:11; Höfling, Kirchenverf. p. 269 f.Acts 20:28. προσέχετεἑαυτοῖς (cf. 1 Timothy 4:16), Luke 17:3; Luke 21:34, Acts 5:35; Acts 8:6. In LXX with ἐμαυτῷ, Genesis 24:6, Exodus 10:28, Deuteronomy 4:9. “Non tantum jubet eos gregi attendere, sed primum sibi ipsis; neque enim aliorum salutem sedulo unquam curabit, qui suam negliget … cum sit ipse pars gregis,” Calvin, in loco, and also Chrys. (Bethge, p. 144).—ποιμνίῳ: the figure was common in the O.T. and it is found in St.Luke, Luke 12:32, in St. John, in St. Peter, but it is said that St. Paul does not use it, cf. however Ephesians 4:11, where, and nowhere else, he writes καὶ αὐτὸς ἔδωκετοὺς δὲ ποιμένας.—ἐνᾧ: “in the which,” R.V., not “over which”.—ὑμᾶς is again emphatic, but the presbyters were still part of the flock, see Calvin, u. s.ἔθετο, cf. 1 Corinthians 12:28, 1 Timothy 1:12; 1 Timothy 2:7, 2 Timothy 1:11. There is no ground whatever for supposing that the ἐπισκόποι here mentioned were not ordained, as the words τὸ Π. τὸ Ἅγ. ἔθετο may be used without any reference whatever to the actual mode of appointment. Dr. Hort allows that here the precedent of Acts 6:3-6 may have been followed, and the appointment of the elders may have been sealed, so to speak, by the Apostle’s prayers and laying-on-of-hands, Ecclesia, pp. 99, 100. The thought of appointment by the Holy Spirit, although not excluding the ordination of Apostles, may well be emphasised here for the sake of solemnly reminding the Presbyters of their responsibility to a divine Person, and that they stand in danger of losing the divine gifts imparted to them in so far as they are unfaithful to their office.—ποιμαίνειν: “to tend” as distinct from βόσκειν “to feed,” although the act of feeding as well as of governing is associated also with the former word; see on John 21:16. The figurative pastoral language in this passage was probably not unknown as applied to Jewish elders, Edersheim, Jewish Social Life, p. 282; Hort, Ecclesia, p. 101.—ἐπισκόπους: the word, which occurs five times in the N.T., is applied four times to officers of the Christian Church: in this passage, again at Ephesus in 1 Timothy 3:2, at Philippi in Php 1:1, at Crete in Titus 1:7; and once to our Lord Himself, 1 Peter 2:25 (cf. the significant passage, Wis 1:6, where it is applied to God). In the LXX it is used in various senses, e.g., of the overseers of Josiah, 2 Chronicles 34:12; 2 Chronicles 34:17; of task-masters or exactors, Isaiah 60:17; of minor officers, Nehemiah 11:9; Nehemiah 11:14; of officers over the house of the Lord, 2 Kings 11:18; and in 1Ma 1:51 of overseers or local commissioners of Antiochus Epiphanes to enforce idolatry, cf. Jos., Ant., xii., 5, 4. In classical Greek the word is also used with varied associations. Thus in Attic Greek it was used of a commissioner sent to regulate a new colony or subject city like a Spartan “harmost,” cf. Arist., Av., 1032, and Boeckh, Inscr., 73 (in the Roman period ἐπίμεληταί); but it was by no means confined to Attic usage. In another inscription found at Thera in the Macedonian period mention is made of two ἐπίσκοποι receiving money and putting it out at interest, and again at Rhodes, in the second century B.C., ἐπίσ. are mentioned in inscriptions, but we do not know their functions, although Deissmann claims that in one inscription, I. M. A. e., 731, the title is used of a sacred office in the Temple of Apollo, but he declines to commit himself to any statement as to the duties of the office: cf. also Loening, Die Gemeindeverfassung des Urchristenthums, pp. 21, 22; Gibson, “Bishop,” B.D.2; Gwatkin, “Bishop,” Hastings’ B.D.; Deissmann, Neue Bibelstudien, p. 57; Lightfoot, Philippians, p. 95. M. Waddington has collected several instances of the title in inscriptions found in the Haurân, i.e., the south-eastern district of the ancient Bashan (see the references to Le Bas—Waddington in Loening, u. s., p. 22, note, and Gore, Church and the Ministry, p. 402), but none of these give us precise and definite information as to the functions of the ἐπίσκοποι. But it is important to note that M. Waddington is of opinion that the comparative frequency of the title in the Haurân points to the derivation of the Christian use of the word from Syria or Palestine rather than from the organisation of the Greek municipality (Expositor, p. 99, 1887). It has been urged that the officers of administration and finance in the contemporary non-Christian associations, the clubs and guilds so common in the Roman empire, were chiefly known by one or other of two names, ἐπιμελητής or ἐπίσκοπος, Hatch, B.L., p. 36, and hence the inference has been drawn that the primary function of the primitive ἐπίσκοποι in the Christian Church was the administration of finance; but Dr. Hatch himself has denied that he laid any special stress upon the financial character of the ἐπίσκοποι, although he still apparently retained the description of them as “officers of administration and finance,” see Expositor, u. s., p. 99, note, thus adopting a position like that of Professor Harnack, who would extend the administration duties beyond finance to all the functions of the community. But however this may be (see below), there is certainly no ground for believing that the title ἐπίσκοπος in the Christian Church was ever limited to the care of finance (see the judgment of Loening on this view, u. s., p. 22), or that such a limitation was justified by the secular use of the term. If indeed we can point to any definite influence which connects itself with the introduction of the title into the Christian Church, it is at least as likely, one might say more likely when we consider that the Apostles were above all things Jews, that the influence lies in the previous use in the LXX of ἐπίσκοπος and ἐπισκοπή, and the direct appeal of St. Clement of Rome, Cor[340], 42:5, to Isaiah (LXX) Isaiah 60:17 in support of the Christian offices of ἐπίσκοποι and διάκονοι may be fairly quoted as pointing to such an influence. But whatever influences were at work in the adoption of the term by the early believers, it became, as it were, baptised into the Christian Church, and received a Christian and a higher spiritual meaning. This one passage in Acts 20:28 is sufficient to show that those who bore the name were responsible for the spiritual care of the Church of Christ, and that they were to feed His flock with the bread of life (see the striking and impressive remarks of Dr. Moberly, Ministerial Priesthood, p. 266). This one passage is also sufficient to show that the “presbyter” and “bishop” were at first practically identical, cf. Acts 20:17; Acts 20:28, Steinmetz, Die zweite römische Gefangenschaft des Apostels Paulus, p. 173, 1897, and that there is no room for the separation made by Harnack between the two, see his Analecta zu Hatch, p. 231, or for his division between the “patriarchal” office of the πρεσβύτεροι and the “administrative” office of the ἐπίσκοποι (Loening, u. s., pp. 23–27; Sanday, Expositor, u. s., pp. 12, 104; Gwatkin, u. s., p. 302). In the Pastoral Epistles the identity between the two is even more clearly marked, although Harnack cannot accept Titus 1:5-7 as a valid proof, because he believes that Acts 20:7-9 were interpolated into the received text by a redactor; cf. also for proof of the same 1 Timothy 3:1-13; 1 Timothy 5:17-19; 1 Peter 5:1-2, although in this last passage Harnack rejects the reading ἐπισκοποῦντες (and it must be admitted that it is not found in [341] [342], and that it is omitted by Tisch. and W. H.), whilst he still relegates the passages in the Pastoral Epistles relating to bishops, deacons and Church organisation to the second quarter of the second century, Chron., i., p. 483, note. In St. Clement of Rome, Cor[343], xlii., 4, xliv. 1, 4, 5, the terms are still synonymous, and by implication in Didaché, xv., 1 (Gwatkin, u. s., p. 302, and Gore, u. s., p. 409, note). But if we may say with Bishop Lightfoot that a new phraseology began with the opening of a new century, and that in St. Ignatius the two terms are used in their more modern sense, it should be borne in mind that the transition period between Acts and St. Ignatius is exactly marked by the Pastoral Epistles, and that this fact is in itself no small proof of their genuineness. In these Epistles Timothy and Titus exercise not only the functions of the ordinary presbyteral office, but also functions which are pre-eminent over those of the ordinary presbyter, although there is no trace of any special title for these Apostolic delegates, as they may be fairly called. The circumstances may have been temporary or tentative, but it is sufficiently plain that Timothy and Titus were to exercise not only a general discipline, but also a jurisdiction over the other ministers of the Church, and that to them was committed not only the selection, but also the ordination of presbyters (Moberly, Ministerial Priesthood, p. 151 ff.; Bright, Some Aspects of Primitive Church Life, p. 28 ff., 1898; Church Quarterly Review, xlii., pp. 265–302).—τὴν ἐκκ. τοῦ Θεοῦ, see critical note.—περιεποιήσατο, cf. Psalm 74:2. It has been thought that St. Paul adopts and adapts the language of this Psalm; in comparing his language with that of the LXX we can see how by the use of the word ἐκκλησία instead of συναγωγή in the Psalm he connects the new Christian Society with the ancient ἐκκλησία of Israel, whilst in employing περιεποιήσατο instead of ἐκτήσω (LXX), and retaining the force of ἐλυτρώσω, LXX, by reference to the λύτρον of the new Covenant, a deeper significance is given to the Psalmist’s language: a greater redemption than that of Israel from the old Egyptian bondage had been wrought for the Christian Ecclesia (Hort, Ecclesia, pp. 14 and 102). The verb περιποιεῖσθαι only in St. Luke and St. Paul in N.T., but in a different sense in the former, Luke 17:33. In 1 Timothy 3:13 (1Ma 6:44) it is found in the sense of “gaining for oneself,” so in classical Greek. But it is to be noted that the cognate noun περιποίησις is associated by St. Paul in his Ephesian letter with the thought of redemption, εἰς ἀπολύτρωσιν τῆς περιποίησεως “unto the redemption of God’s own possession,” R.V.—τοῦ ἰδ. τοῦ αἵμ., see critical note.

[340] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[341] Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.

[342] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[343] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.28. Take heed therefore unto yourselves] The best MSS. omit “therefore.” The Apostle now resigns into their hands a charge which before had been his own, and the form of his language would remind them that the discharge of their duty after his example would be the means of saving both themselves and those over whom they were placed.

and to all the flock] He commits to them, as Christ had at first to St Peter, the charge to feed both lambs and sheep, in the name, and with the word, of the “good Shepherd” himself.

over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers] These men who are called “elders,” i.e. “presbyters” before (Acts 20:17) he now calls “overseers,” i.e. “bishops,” (see note there). The Rev. Ver. gives “In the which, &c.… bishops.” We have no information how these “elders” had been chosen or appointed, but we can see from this verse that there had been some solemn setting apart of the men for their office. The Church, as in Acts 13:2, had recognised some indication that they were to be placed over the church. By reminding them from whence their appointment came, St Paul would enforce on them the solemnity of their position. Though they be “in the flock” they are not as others, more has been given unto them, and so more will be required.

to feed the church of God] Perhaps no text in the New Testament has been more discussed than these words. “Many ancient authorities (says Rev. Ver. in a note,) read the Lord” instead of “God.” The Revisers have kept “God” in the text, and that reading is accepted as of most authority by Westcott and Hort. The variation, which has much support from MSS., has been discussed and the evidence for it most fully stated by Dr Ezra Abbott, of Harvard University. The text as it stands asserts most strongly the Divinity of our Blessed Lord, but the form of the sentence implies, from what follows, the use of such a phrase as “the blood of God” which is not like the New Testament mode of expression, though it is found in the Epp. of Ignatius, who perhaps derived it from this passage. Because in other places where “the Church of God” is used “God” cannot be taken, as it must here, to mean Christ, some have given a strong force to the word own, which follows, and have explained “His own blood,” i.e. “the blood of His own Son.” And as the Greek text, which has been accepted, as of most authority, by Westcott and Hort, reads αἵματος τοῦ ἰδίου, it has been suggested that after this peculiar collocation of words, υἵου has fallen away in very early times. This would make all easy, rendering “with the blood of his own Son.” But there is no evidence that the word “Son” was ever there, and though the death of Christ is in Scripture spoken of as something “given up” by the Father “for us all” (Romans 8:32), yet the price paid and the purchase made are as definitely (1 Corinthians 7:22-23) referred to Christ. The direct assertion of Christ’s Godhead has been the occasion of the questioning of this text, and may in early times have led to the various readings. That doctrine does not stand or fall by this verse, but as the authority of MSS. is in favour of the reading “God” we gladly accept it, and feel that to the first readers the harshness of the expression “blood of God” was not much regarded, as the words are not so written, but only suggested by the close of the verse.

which he hath purchased … blood] Better, as the price was paid once for all, “which he purchased.” The verb implies the “making of what is bought peculiarly one’s own.” It is not the usual word for “buying.”Acts 20:28. Προσέχετε, take heed) This care I devolve from myself on you, Acts 20:31.—ἑαυτοῖς) first to yourselves, then to the flock.—τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ Ἅγιον, the Holy Ghost) The Holy Spirit mediately, through the instrumentality of Paul, appointed them. Comp. ch. Acts 14:23. But a call which has not been given by the Holy Spirit really, does not deserve to be termed even a mediate call.—ἐπισκόπους, overseers or bishops) At this time the appellation, “bishops,” was not yet the customary and peculiar one (applied to those subsequently bearing that name): but here it has the meaning which the force of its etymological derivation requires, and is applicable to all presbyters, whose title (“Presbyter”) was a more customary one, owing to its existence in the Jewish Church. Afterwards Timothy and Titus, whom the apostles had set over the presbyters in a certain peculiar manner, were entitled bishops: and yet the bishops also did not cease to be entitled presbyters: Titus 1:7; Titus 1:5, where he who is called a bishop in Acts 20:7, is called an elder in Acts 20:5; 1 Peter 5:2; 1 Peter 5:1; Php 1:1.—τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τοῦ Θεοῦ, the Church of God) Others read τὴν ἐκκλησίαν Κυρίου; many, with the Slavonic Version, τὴν ἐκκλησίαν Κυρίου καἰ Θεοῦ. Paul often uses the appellation, the Church of God, in the Ep. to the Thess. Cor. Gal. Tim., never the Church of the Lord. Nor does he use the expression at all, Lord and God, interposing the particle and between. Therefore it remains that we read the Church of GOD: although, if in this passage Paul used the expression, Church of the Lord, according to the parallelism of the Old Testament it would be the Church of Jehovah.[123]—ἣν περιεποιήσατο, which He hath purchased) This therefore is a most precious flock [as having cost so dearly].—ἰδίου, His own) For it is the blood of the Son of GOD: 1 John 1:7, “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.”

[123] Τοῦ Θεοῦ is supported by B Vulg. (oldest MSS.), Harclean Syriac, Cyril of Alexandria, Epiphanius. Τοῦ Κυρίου is read by ACDEde Memph. Theb. Iren. (Latin) 201, Eusebius, Lucifer 226, Jerome. Τοῦ Κυρίου καὶ Θεοῦ, the common reading of MSS., is supported by none of the oldest authorities: the Slavonic Version of the 9th cent. is no good authority. Τοῦ Θεοῦ, in connection with “blood,” is the more difficult reading, and therefore so far less likely to be an interpolation. But ἡ ἐκκλησία τοῦ Κυρίου is a still less likely reading to be interpolated, as the phrase is found nowhere else in the N. Test., so that a transcriber would readily change it into τοῦ Θεοῦ, as in 1 Corinthians 1:2 : and 1 Peter 5:2, ποίμνιον τοῦ Θεοῦ, might also suggest the change. Even if the preponderance of testimony lead to the reading Κυρίου, still the infinite value of Christ’s own blood, as alone equal to meet the justice of an infinite God, is clearly brought out. B, the oldest MS. is weighty authority for τοῦ Θεοῦ. Alford shows that there was greater reason for Arians to change the text to Κυρίου, than for the orthodox to change it to τοῦ Θεοῦ. The latter, if left untouched, would be fatal to Arianism; the former, if untouched, does not militate against orthodoxy in the least.—E. and T.Verse 28. - Take heed for take heed therefore, A.V. and T.R.; in for over, A.V.; bishops for overseers, A.V.; purchased for hath purchased, A.V. Take heed, etc.; προσέχετε ἑαυτοῖς, peculiar to Luke (Acts 5:53; Luke 12:1; Luke 17:3; Luke 21:34). Now follows the weighty charge of this great bishop to the clergy assembled at his visitation. With the true feeling of a chief pastor, he thinks of the whole flock, but deals with them chiefly through the under-shepherds. If he can awaken in these individually a deep concern for the souls committed to their charge, he will have done the best that can be done for the fleck at large. The first step to such concern for the flock is that each be thoroughly alive to the worth and the wants of his own soul. "Take heed unto yourselves." He that is careless about his own salvation will never lie careful about the souls of others (comp. 1 Timothy 4:16). In the which the Holy Ghost, etc. Ἐν ῷ, no doubt, does not strictly contain the idea of "over which;" but the idea of authoritative oversight is contained in the word ἐπίσκοπος, and therefore the rendering of the A.V., and of Alford's A.V. revised, is substantially correct. Perhaps the exact force of the ἐν ῷ is "among which," like ἐν ἡμῖν (Acts 2:29, and elsewhere). The call and appointment to the ministry is the special function of the Holy Ghost (John 20:22, 23; Acts 12:2; Ordination Service). To feed; ποιμαίνειν, the proper word for "tending" in relation to τὸ ποίμνιον, the flock, as ποιμήν, the pastor, or shepherd, is for him who so feeds the flock of Christ (see John 10:11, 16; John 21:17; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 5:2, 3). St. Peter applies the titles of "Shepherd and Bishop of souls" to the Lord Jesus (1 Peter 2:25). St. Paul does not use the metaphor elsewhere, except indirectly, and in a different aspect (1 Corinthians 9:7). The Church of God; margin, Church of the Lord. There is, perhaps, no single passage in Scripture which has caused more controversy and evoked more difference of opinion than this. The T.R. has τοῦ Θεοῦ, but most uncials have τοῦ Κυρίου. Kuinoel asserts that the reading τοῦ Κυρίου rests on the authority, besides that of the oldest manuscripts, of the old versions, and of many el' the most ancient Fathers, and says that it is undoubtedly the true reading. Meyer, too, thinks that the external evidence for τοῦ Κυρίου is decisive, and that the internal evidence from the fact that ἐκκλησία τοῦ Κυρίου Occurs nowhere else in St. Paul's writings, is decisive also. But on the other hand, both the Codex Vaticanus (B) and the Codex Sinaitieus (א), the two oldest manuscripts, have Θεοῦ (Θυ). The Vulgate, too, and the Syriac have it; and such early Fathers as Ignatius (in his Epistle to the Ephesians) and Tertullian use the phrase, "the blood of God," which seems to have been derived from this passage. And Alford reasons powerfully in favor of Θεοῦ, dwelling upon the fact that the phrase ἐκκλησία τοῦ Θεοῦ occurs ten times in St. Paul's writings, that of ἐκκλησία τοῦ Κυρίου not once. The chief authorities on each side of the question are:

(1) in favor of τοῦ Κυρίου, Lachmann, Tischendorf, Bornemann, Lunge, Olshausen, Davidson, Meyer, Hackett, as also Grotius, Griesbaeh (doubtfully), Wetstein, Le Clerc, and others;

(2) in favor of τοῦ Θεοῦ, Bengel, Mill, Whitby, Wolf, Scholz, Knapp, Alford, Wordsworth, etc., and the R.T. It should be added that the evidence for τοῦ Θεοῦ has been much strengthened by the publication by Tischendorf, in 1563, of rite Codex Sinaiticus, and in 1867 of the Codex Vaticanus, from his own collation. The result is that τοῦ Θεοῦ seems to be the true reading (see the first of the two collects for the Ember weeks in the Book of Common Prayer. With regard to the difficulty that this reading seems to imply the unscriptural phrase, "the blood of God," and to savor of the Monophysite heresy, it is obvious to reply that there is a wide difference between the phrase as it stands and such a one as the direct "blood of God," which Athanasius and others objected to. The mental insertion of "the Lord" or "Christ," as the subject of the verb "purchased," is very easy, the transition from God the Father to God incarnate being one that might be made almost imperceptibly. Others (including the R.T.) take the reading of several good manuscripts, Διὰ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ ἰδίου, and understand τοῦ ἰδίου to be an ellipse for τοῦ ἰδίου υἱοῦ, the phrase used in Romans 8:32; and so render it "which he purchased by the blood of his own Son." Οἱ ἰδίοι, his own, is used without a substantive in John 1:11. This clause is added to enhance the preciousness of the flock, and the responsibility of those who have the oversight of it. To yourselves and to all the flock

To yourselves first, that you may duly care for the flock. Compare 1 Timothy 4:16.

Overseers (ἐπισκόπους)

Denoting the official function of the elders, but not in the later ecclesiastical sense of bishops, as implying an order distinct from presbyters or elders. The two terms are synonymous. The elders, by virtue of their office, were overseers.

To feed (ποιμαίνειν)

See on Matthew 2:6. The word embraces more than feeding; signifying all that is included in the office of a shepherd: tending, or shepherding.

Purchased (περιεποιήσατο)

Only here and 1 Timothy 3:13. See on peculiar people, 1 Peter 2:9. The verb means, originally, to make (ποιέω) to remain over and above (περί): hence to keep or save for one's self; to compass or acquire.

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