Acts 20:29
For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(29) After my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you.—The figurative language followed naturally on the idea of the flock and of the shepherds who keep watch over it. It lies in the nature of the case that the wolf stands primarily for the open enemies of the flock, the persecutors of all ages. (Comp. John 10:12.) The wolves, however, might come in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15), and so the false prophets, the usurpers of authority, and leaders of parties within the Church, are also included in the term. Here this latter class is distinctly pointed out in the following verse. We find traces of the fulfilment of the prediction in the “turning away” of 2Timothy 1:15; the “fiery trial” of 1Peter 1:7; 1Peter 4:12; the suffering “as a Christian” of 1Peter 4:16.

Acts 20:29-30. For I know this — As if he had said, Wonder not that I give you this charge in so strict a manner; for, besides the weighty reasons for it which I have already intimated, I know, that after my departure — From the churches in these parts, or my removal out of this life, notwithstanding all I have done to preserve discipline and truth among you; grievous wolves shall enter in — From without, that is, seducing teachers, who shall endeavour to make a prey of you, and, by introducing false and heretical doctrines, shall divide and scatter you, as wolves make a prey of, divide, and scatter the sheep. He seems to mean those Judaizing and false teachers, who, though they had before this time done much mischief at Corinth and elsewhere, had not yet got any footing at Ephesus; not sparing the flock — Having no mercy on them, but, with voracious eagerness, and overbearing violence, making terrible havoc of God’s church, out of a mean and wicked regard to their own private and secular interests. Also of your own selves — From within; shall men arise — Proud and factious men; speaking perverse things — Broaching false and pernicious tenets, which they will endeavour to establish by perverting the Scriptures; to draw away disciples after them — From the purity of the gospel, and the unity of the body; or to make a party for themselves, that shall admire, be led by them, and contribute to their support and exaltation. By these, distinguished from those termed grievous wolves, in the foregoing verse, the apostle may mean such as Phygellus, Hermogenes, Hymeneus, and Philetus: as also those that afterward introduced the Nicolaitan principles and practices, of which Christ complains as prevailing here, (Revelation 2:6,) as well as in the neighbouring city Pergamus, Revelation 2:14-15.

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.For I know this - By what he had seen in other places; by his knowledge of human nature, and of the dangers to which they were exposed; and by the guidance of inspiration.

After my departure - His presence had been the means of guarding the church, and preserving it from these dangers. Now that the founder and guide of the church was to be removed, they would be exposed to dissensions and dangers.

Grievous wolves - Heavy βαρεῖς bareis, strong, mighty, dangerous wolves - so strong that the feeble flock would not be able to resist them. The term "wolves" is used to denote "the enemies of the flock - false, and hypocritical, and dangerous teachers." Compare Matthew 10:16.

Enter in among you - From abroad; doubtless referring particularly to the Jews, who might be expected to distract and divide them.

Not sparing the flock - Seeking to destroy the church. The Jews would regard it with special hostility, and would seek to destroy it in every way. Probably they would approach them with great professed friendship for them, and expressing a desire only to defend the laws of Moses.

29, 30. after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you—Two classes of coming enemies are here announced, the one more external to themselves, the other bred in the bosom of their own community; both were to be teachers, but the one, "grievous wolves," not sparing, that is, making a prey of the flock; the other (Ac 20:30), simply sectarian "perverters" of the truth, with the view of drawing a party after them. Perhaps the one pointed to that subtle poison of Oriental Gnosticism which we know to have very early infected the Asiatic churches; the other to such Judaizing tendencies as we know to have troubled nearly all the early churches. See the Epistles to the Ephesians, Colossians, and Timothy, also those to the seven churches of Asia (Re 2:1-3:22). But watchfulness against all that tends to injure and corrupt the Church is the duty of its pastors in every age. My departing; either out of this country, or out of this life.

Grievous wolves; so false teachers and persecutors are called, the one destroying the body, the other the soul. In this the metaphor is persisted in; the disciples of Christ being as sheep or lambs, their enemies are by our Saviour himself called wolves. Matthew 7:15.

For I know this,.... By divine revelation:

that after my departing; either out of this world, or after his leaving them now, and proceeding on, his journey:

shall grievous wolves enter in among you; false teachers, comparable to wolves, for their craft and cunning, and for their greedy, covetous, and voracious dispositions; and who would be very grievous, troublesome, and even intolerable to them; these, he knew, would enter privily, at an unawares, into their churches, and set up themselves for preachers, without being called or sent:

not sparing the flock; fleecing it instead of feeding it, making merchandise of it, and like the Pharisees, under religious pretences, devour widows' houses, and drain the purses of men; and having as little compassion upon their souls, poisoning them with their errors and heresies, subverting their faith, and bringing them into swift ruin and destruction, as much as would in them lie.

{9} For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.

(9) A prophecy of pastors that would immediately degenerate into wolves, against those who boast and brag only of a succession of persons.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 20:29-30. Ἐγώ] with similar emphasis, as in Acts 20:25 : After my departure

I know it—not only will enemies from without intrude among you (Ephesian Christians, as whose representatives the presbyters were present), who will be relentlessly destructive to the welfare of the church; but also within the church itself, out of the midst of you, will men with perverse doctrines arise.

That by the very common figure of ravenous (vehementes, comp. βαρύτατος ἀνταγωνιστής, Xen. Ages. 11, 12) wolves (Matthew 7:15; Luke 10:3; John 10:12) is not meant, as Grotius supposes, persecutio sub Nerone, but false teachers working perniciously, is rendered probable by the very parallelism of Acts 20:30, and still more certain by the relation of εἰσελεύσ. to μετὰ τὴν ἄφιξίν μου, according to which Paul represents his presence as that which has hitherto withheld the intrusion of the λύκοι,—a connection which, in the case of its being explained of political persecutors, would be devoid of truth.

ἄφιξις is here not arrival (as almost constantly with Greek writers), but departure, going away, Dem. 58, pen.; Herod. vii. 58. Paul does not specially mean his death, but generally his removal (discessionem, Vulgate), on which the false teachers necessarily depended for the assertion of their influence. Moreover, his prediction without doubt rests on the observations and experiences (comp. 1 Corinthians 16:9) which he had made during his long ministry in Ephesus and Asia. He must have known the existence of germs in which he saw the sad pledge of the truth of his warning; and we have no reason to doubt that the reality corresponded to this prediction. At the time of the composition of the Epistle to the Ephesians, the false teachers may not yet have been working in Ephesus itself, but in Colossae and its neighbourhood these—they were Judaists of an Essene-Gnostic type—had made themselves felt (see Introduction to Colossians, § 2), and in Asia Minor generally the heretics of the First Epistle of John and probably also of that of Jude are to be sought, not to mention those of the Apocalypse and Pastoral Epistles. The indefinite and general expressions, in which the false teachers are here described, correspond to the character of prophetic foresight and prediction. According to Zeller, a later writer has by these sought to conceal his otherwise too glaring anachronism; whereas Baur finds the sectarian character, such as it existed at most toward the close of the first century, so definitely delineated, that he from this circumstance recognises a vaticinium post eventum! Thus the same expression is for the one too indefinite, and for the other too definite; but both arrive at the same result, which must be reached, let the Paul of the Book of Acts speak as he will.

ἀποσπᾷν κ.τ.λ.] to draw away, from the fellowship of true believers, after them. “Character falsi doctoris, ut velit ex se uno pendere discipulos,” Bengel. On ὀπίσω αὐτ., comp. Acts 5:37.

Acts 20:29. ἐγὼ γὰρ οἶδα, see critical note. Baur and Zeller could only see in this assertion a vaticinium post eventum—the heresiarchs are portrayed in the general expressions in vogue in the second century; so too Renan thinks that the writer gives us the ideas of a later date, although he does not carry us further than 75–80 A.D. But if we accept the early date of the Didaché, that document is quite sufficient to show us that similar phraseology to that in the address before us was current in the Church at an earlier date than Baur and Zeller supposed. If St. Paul had been engaged all his life in struggling with false teachers, it would have been inconceivably short-sighted if he had thought that such dangers would cease after his departure, and still more inconceivable if with such presentiments he had neglected to warn the Church. The vagueness of the description of the heretical teachers is in itself a proof of genuineness, and a writer of a later date would have made it far less general, and more easily to be identified with some current error. It has been further objected by Zeller and Overbeck, and even by Wendt, that it is strange that with present opponents before him, 1 Corinthians 16:8-9, St. Paul should speak only of the future; but whilst he had himself been present among them he had been their protector against their enemies, but now that he was about to withdraw from them nothing was more natural than that he should warn them against the subtle attacks which might be more easily made when his own careful superintendence was no more.—εἰσελεύσονται: so men outside the fold—the when of their entrance is not specified precisely, but the words were amply fufilled in the presence of the emissaries of the Judaisers, creeping in from the Jewish communities into the Churches of Asia, as they had slunk into the Churches of Galatia, cf. Hort, Judaistic Christianity, pp. 130–146, on the teaching of the Judaisers and its evil influence in the Pastoral Epistles. There is at all events no need to refer the words with Grotius to outward persecution, such as that of Nero.—ἄφιξιν, i.e., his departure from amongst them (not necessarily including his death), not arrival, although the latter meaning attaches to the word in classical Greek, so too 3Ma 7:18; Jos., Ant., iv., 8, 47 (but see both Alford and Blass, in loco).—λύκοι: continuing the imagery of Acts 20:28, cf. Matthew 7:15, Luke 10:3, John 10:12; so in the O.T. λύκοι of presumptuous and cruel rulers and judges, Ezekiel 22:27, Zephaniah 3:3. The similar kind of language used by Ignat., Philadelph., ii., 1, 2; Justin Martyr, Apol., i., 58; Iren., Adv. Hær., i., Præf. 2, may well have been borrowed from this, not vice versâ as Zeller maintained; but such imagery would no doubt be widely known from its employment in O. and N.T. alike.—βαρεῖς, cf. for the sense of the adjective, Hom., Il., i., 89; Xen., Ages., xi., 12; so too Diog. Laert., i., 72.—μὴ φειδ.: litotes, cf. John 10:12. The verb occurs six times in St. Paul’s Epistles, twice in Romans and four times in the Corinthian Epistles (only twice elsewhere in N.T. in 2 Pet.).

29. For I know this] The oldest MSS. (and the Rev. Ver.) have only “I know.”

that after my departing] This noun is only used here, and most frequently in classical Greek signifies “arrival,” though not always. But as the person who departs from one place arrives at another, it is only a difference of the point of view. Here there can be no doubt of its meaning. It does not refer to the Apostle’s death, but his leaving Asia, with the thought that he should return no more.

shall grievous wolves … flock] The Apostle seems first to refer to false teachers who should come in from without. He must have been familiar with the dangers to which the Ephesian church was exposed, and we know from his Epistles how much harm was already inflicted on the Christian Church by the Judaizers and Gnostics. Even when writing to so undisturbed a church as that in Philippi, we find the Apostle giving warning against both kinds of error. And if we turn to those early parts of the Apocalypse in which the condition of the churches of Asia is described, we can read of a crop of errors the sowers of which St Paul may have had in his mind as he spake at Miletus. “Nicolaitans,” “those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan,” “those that hold the teaching of Balaam,” “the woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess,” all these could not have risen in a moment, but must have given indications of their existence long before they became so prominent as they were when St John wrote. He must have read the New Testament with little appreciation who speaks of the words here ascribed to St Paul as a “prophecy after the event” made by the writer of the Acts in the second century.

Acts 20:29. Ἐγὼ, I) A sure and confident prediction.—εἰσελεύσονται, enter in) from elsewhere. In antithesis to, from among your own selves, Acts 20:30. Concerning both kinds of pestilential evils among the Ephesians, see Revelation 2:2; Revelation 2:6.—μετὰ, after) Immediately after the departure and death of the apostles, the Church lost a great part of its purity, as is evident from their (the apostles’) predictions, warnings, and complaints. As to the Church of the Ephesians, see the Epp. to Tim. and the writings of John.—μετὰ τὴν ἄφιξίν μου) Hesychius says, ἄφιξις, i.e. ἔφοδος, παρουσία, arrival, presence. Comp. Romans 16:19, “Your obedience is come (ἀφίκετο) unto all men;” where see the note. Nor does ἄφιξις signify departure. Zosimus, lib. v.: μετὰ τὴν Ὀνωρίου εἰς τὴν Ῥάβευναν ἄφιξιν, i.e. after Honorius had set out from Ravenna to Bononia (not after his departure to Ravenna). Eusebius, lib. vi. Demonstr. Evang. last chapter: μετὰ τὴν εἰς ἡμᾶς ἄφιξιν (τοῦ Χριστοῦ) ὁ νεὼς ἐπυρπολεῖτο. Therefore the sense is, “First Paul came: then afterwards shall come wolves.” Comp. John 5:43.—λύκοι, wolves) Allegorical.—μὴ φειδόμενοι, not sparing) A Meiosis, i.e. (not only) not spring, but) most baneful. It is the part of a pastor φείδεσθαι, to spare.

Verse 29. - I know for, for I know this, A.V. and T.R.; grievous wolves shall for shall grievous wolves, A.V. After my departure (ἄφιξιν, not ἀνάλυσιν, as 2 Timothy 4:6). The word, which is only found here in the New Testament, usually means "arrival" in classical Greek, but it also means, as here, "departure." It is not to be taken in the sense of "departure from this life," but refers to that separation, which he thought was forever, which was about to take place. Grievous wolves; still keeping up the metaphor of the flock. The wolves denote the false teachers, principally Judaizers. See 2 Timothy 3:1-12, and 13, "But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived." These came from Judaea. Acts 20:29Grievous (βαρεῖς)

Lit., heavy: violent, rapacious.

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