Acts 20:31
Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(31) Therefore watch . . .—The word was, as it were, an echo from our Lord’s teaching (Matthew 24:42; Matthew 25:13, et al.), which could hardly have been unknown to St. Paul. Here, however, it receives a fresh significance from its connection with the term episcopi. They who were the bishops, the overseers, the watchers of the flock, ought, above all others, to set an example of vigilance.

By the space of three years.—Strictly speaking, the narrative of the Acts accounts for three months’ preaching in the synagogue (Acts 19:8), two years in the school of Tyrannus (Acts 19:10), and an undefined period embracing the time immediately before and after the tumult of Demetrius. This would be enough to warrant him describing the time of his ministry, speaking roughly, as extending over three years.

To warn every one night and day with tears.—Comp. Note on Acts 20:19.

Acts 20:31. Therefore watch — With all diligence and care; take heed yourselves, and warn others to take heed; and remember, that by the space of three years, (for so long had he been preaching at Ephesus and the parts adjacent,) I ceased not to warn every one — To whom I had access; night and day with tears — This was watching indeed! Who copies after this example? Let it then, as if he had said, be your care, that a church planted by me with so much labour and solicitude, may not be ravaged and overthrown by the enemy, but that it may long continue to flourish. Observe here, reader, 1st, Paul, like a faithful watchman, had warned them publicly, by preaching, and by the warnings he thus gave them was instrumental in prevailing with them to receive the truth and turn to God. 2d, He warned every one. Besides the public warnings he gave to all in general that attended his ministry, he applied himself to particular persons, according as he saw their case called for it. 3d, He was constant in giving warning; he warned them night and day, his time was filled up with this work. 4th, He was indefatigable in it, he ceased not to warn; though some might be obstinate and persist in sin, disregarding his warnings, yet he persevered, hoping, that at length, by the grace of God, they would be reformed. And though others might appear to comply with his warnings, yet still he did not desist, fearing lest, although they were now righteous, they should, through the power of temptation, be overcome in some unguarded hour, and turn from their righteousness, Ezekiel 3:18 to Ezekiel 21:5 th, He addressed them, whether in public or private, with a great deal of affection and concern; he warned them with tears, namely, with tears of compassion; thereby showing how much he was himself affected with the danger an misery of those who were in a sinful state and false way; or with tears of love and gratitude to God in behalf of those who were savingly converted to him and adorned his gospel.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.Therefore watch - Matthew 24:42. In view of the dangers which beset yourselves Acts 20:28, the danger from people not connected with the church Acts 20:29, and the danger which will arise from the love of power among yourselves Acts 20:30, be on your guard. Observe the approach of danger, and set yourselves against it.

Remember - Recall my counsels and admonitions in reference to these dangers.

By the space of three years - In Acts 19:10, we are told that Paul spent two years in the school of Tyrannus. In Acts 19:8, it is said that he was teaching in the synagogue at Ephesus three months. In addition to this, it is not improbable that he spent some months more in Ephesus in instructing the church in other places. Perhaps, however, by the phrase three years, he meant to use merely a round number, denoting about three years; or, in accordance with the Jewish custom, part of each of the three years one whole year, and a considerable portion of the two others. Compare the notes on Matthew 12:40.

I ceased not - I continued to do it.

To warn - To admonish; to place before the mind νουθετῶν nouthetōn; setting the danger and duty of each individual before him.

Everyone - He had thus set them an example of what he had enjoined, Acts 20:28. He had admonished each individual, whatever was his rank or standing. It is well when a minister can refer to his own example as an illustration of what he meant by his precepts.

Night and day - Continually; by every opportunity.

With tears - Expressive of his deep feeling, and his deep interest in their welfare. See the notes on Acts 20:19.

31. by the space of three years—speaking in round numbers; for it was nearer three than two years.

I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears—What an appeal to be able to make! "And if this was an apostle's part, how much more a pastor's!" [Bengel].

Watch; take heed yourselves, and warn others to take heed.

By the space of three years; from St. Paul’s first coming to Ephesus it was three years current, and now almost complete, Acts 19:8,10 20:3.

With tears; a great, and no feigned payov; as Christ wept over Jerusalem, Luke 19:41, so St. Paul over the unbelieving Jews; it went to his heart to think that they could not be saved. See how St. Paul loved souls, and pitied souls. Therefore watch,.... Meaning both over themselves, and the flock; to prevent, if possible, false teachers entering in, and to nip the buds of heresy and schism, as soon as they appear, and to preserve themselves, and the church, from being carried away with the error of the wicked.

And remember that by the space of three years; reckoning from his first coming to Ephesus, unto this time, that he now called at Miletus; see Acts 18:19 and

I ceased not to warn everyone night and day with tears; that is, he was constantly and continually cautioning them against false teachers, and their doctrines, in the most tender and affectionate manner; shedding tears at the thoughts of what mischief would be done, and how many souls would be ruined by them; which gives a lively idea of the apostle, and his ministry, of his affection, zeal, and diligence, very worthy of the imitation of all the preachers of the Gospel. Several copies, and all the Oriental versions, read, "everyone of you".

Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 20:31. Γρηγορεῖτε] “verbum pastorale,” Bengel,—comp. προσέχετε ἑαυτοῖς καὶ παντὶ τῷ ποιμνίῳ Acts 20:28,—and that, encouraged by the recollection of my own example, μνημονεύοντες, ὅτι κ.τ.λ.

τριετίαν] See on Acts 19:10.

μετὰ δακρύων] extorted both by afflictions (Acts 20:19) and by the sympathetic fervour with which Paul prosecuted his quite special (ἕνα ἕκαστον) pastoral care, 2 Corinthians 11:29; 2 Corinthians 2:4.

νύκτα κ. ἡμέρ.] See on Luke 2:37. νύκτα is here placed first, because it most closely corresponds to the figurative γρηγορεῖτε.

As to the idea of νουθεσία, admonition, see on Ephesians 6:4.Acts 20:31. γρηγ.: the pastoral metaphor continued; verb used four times by St. Paul, and it may well have passed into familiar use in the early Church by the solemn injunction of our Lord on the Mount of Olives to watch, cf. also Luke 12:37, 1 Peter 5:8, Revelation 3:2-3; Revelation 16:15, and the names Gregory, Vigilantius, amongst the early converts.—τριετίαν: the three years may be used summarily i.e., as speaking in round numbers, or literally. It would have seemed out of place in such an appeal to say “two years and three months,” or whatever the exact time may have been. The intention was to give a practical turn to this watchfulness: triennium celeste, Bengel. The word is regarded by Vogel as a decided employment of a medical term by Luke from Dioscorides, see also to the same effect Meyer—Weiss, Evangelium des Lukas, note on Acts 1:1. The word is found only here in N.T., not at all in LXX, but used by Theophr., Plut., Artem.—νύκτα: perhaps placed first because it corresponded more closely to the idea of watching against attacks, or perhaps because it emphasised the ceaselessness of the Apostle’s labours, cf. Acts 26:7, 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 1 Thessalonians 3:10, 1 Timothy 5:5, 2 Timothy 1:3.—μετὰ δακρύων, cf. 2 Corinthians 2:4, Chrys., Hom., xliv. “Quod cor tamen saxatum, ut hisce lacrimis non emolliatur? qui non fleat flente Paulo?” Corn. à Lapide; see also Farrar, St. Paul, ii., 283.—νουθετῶν: only here in Acts, but seven times in St. Paul’s Epistles, but nowhere else in N.T., “admonish,” R.V. In classical Greek it is joined both with παρακαλεῖν and κολάζειν; St. Paul too used it in gentleness, or “with a rod”. In LXX, Job 4:3; Wis 11:10; Wis 12:2.—ἕνα ἕκαστον, 2 Corinthians 11:29 and John 10:3; αἶς ἕκαστος twice in St. Luke’s Gospel, Luke 4:40, Luke 16:5, six times in Acts, five times in St. Paul’s Epistles (only once elsewhere in N.T., Matthew 26:22, but not in T.R.).31. Therefore watch] The sort of watching implied is that unsleeping alertness which can never be taken by surprise.

and remember, that by the space of three years] As the verb here is a participial form the Rev. Ver. translates “Wherefore watch ye, remembering, &c.,” in which there is this gain, that the watchfulness which the Apostle enjoins is thus enforced by his own example. Be ye watchful, because ye know that I was so night and day while I was among you. The “three years” may be a speaking in round numbers, yet it cannot have been far from the length of time which Paul spent at Ephesus. See notes on Acts 19:8; Acts 19:10.

I ceased not to warn [admonish, Rev. Ver.] every one night and day with tears] We know from his appeal to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 11:29) and other places, how sympathetic St Paul was in all that concerned his flock. “Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?” And if for weakness and offences, how much more in a city like Ephesus where idolatry was rampant everywhere. We need not confine the “every one” to the presbyters, St Paul’s labour was spent on the whole Ephesian Church.Acts 20:31. Γρηγορεῖτε, watch) A pastoral expression.—νύκταἓκαστον, by night—every one) This was great watchfulness. [And if this was becoming in an apostle, how much more is it so in a pastor!—V. g.]Verse 31. - Wherefore watch ye for therefore watch, A.V.; remembering for and remember, A.V.; admonish for warn, A.V. By the space of three years (τριετίαν). The word is only found here in the New Testament; but it is used in the LXX. of Isaiah 15:5 and 2 Chronicles 31:16, and in classical Greek. We have here one of the few chronological data in the Acts. Three years includes the whole of his sojourn at Ephesus as his headquarters. There were first the three months during which he preached in the synagogue; then the two years which he spent in preaching in the school of Tyrannus, and which terminated with the incident of burning the books of magic (Acts 19:8, 10, 19). Then there was an indefinite time described in Acts 19:22 as "for a while" (αὐτὸς ἐπέσχε χρόνον), during which he was busy making plans, probably writing letters, sending off Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia, and perhaps making missionary expeditions in the neighborhood. This may have occupied three or four months longer, and made up a term of two years and six, seven, or eight months, which would quite justify the term τριετία. Every one. Each one separately, not merely the whole flock together. A weighty lesson for every one who has the cure of souls (comp. John 10:3). Night and day. The night is mentioned first, in accordance with Hebrew usage (Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, etc.; comp. the word νυχθήμερον in 2 Corinthians 11:25) St. Paul enforces the word "Watch," so appropriate to shepherds who watch over their flocks by night (Luke 2:8), by his own example of admonishing by night as well as day. Watch (γρηγορεῖτε)

See on Mark 13:35.

To warn (νουθετῶν)

From νοῦς, the mind, and τίθημι, to put. Lit., to put in mind; admonish (so Rev., better than warn). "Its fundamental idea is the well-intentioned seriousness with which one would influence the mind and disposition of another by advice, admonition, warning, putting right, according to circumstances" (Cremer).

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