Acts 20:33
I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel.
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(33) I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel.—Comp. the parallel of Samuel’s appeal to the people (1Samuel 12:3). In each case there was a special reason for what might otherwise seem an uncalled-for boast. Samuel’s sons had been guilty of corrupt practices, taking bribes and the like (1Samuel 8:3). Among the many calumnies against St. Paul, one was that he used his apostolic ministry “as a cloke of covetousness.” (Comp. 2Corinthians 7:2; 2Corinthians 12:17-18; 1Thessalonians 2:5.) On “apparel,” as constituting a large part of the personal estate of the East, see Notes on Matthew 6:19; James 5:2.




Acts 19:21 - Acts 19:34

Paul’s long residence in Ephesus indicates the importance of the position. The great wealthy city was the best possible centre for evangelising all the province of Asia, and that was to a large extent effected during the Apostle’s stay there. But he had a wider scheme in his mind. His settled policy was always to fly at the head, as it were. The most populous cities were his favourite fields, and already his thoughts were travelling towards the civilised world’s capital, the centre of empire-Rome. A blow struck there would echo through the world. Paul had his plan, and God had His, and Paul’s was not realised in the fashion he had meant, but it was realised in substance. He did not expect to enter Rome as a prisoner. God shaped the ends which Paul had only rough-hewn.

The programme in Acts 19:21 - Acts 19:22 was modified by circumstances, as some people would say; Paul would have said, by God. The riot hastened his departure from Ephesus. He did go to Jerusalem, and he did see Rome, but the chain of events that drew him there seemed to him, at first sight, the thwarting, rather than the fulfilment, of his long-cherished hope. Well it is for us to carry all our schemes to God, and to leave them in His hands.

The account of the riot is singularly vivid and lifelike. It reveals a new phase of antagonism to the Gospel, a kind of trades-union demonstration, quite unlike anything that has met us in the Acts. It gives a glimpse into the civic life of a great city, and shows demagogues and mob to be the same in Ephesus as in England. It has many points of interest for the commentator or scholar, and lessons for all. Luke tells the story with a certain dash of covert irony.

We have, first, the protest of the shrine-makers’ guild or trades-union, got up by the skilful manipulation of Demetrius. He was evidently an important man in the trade, probably well-to-do. As his speech shows, he knew exactly how to hit the average mind. The small shrines which he and his fellow-craftsmen made were of various materials, from humble pottery to silver, and were intended for ‘votaries to dedicate in the temple,’ and represented the goddess Artemis sitting in a niche with her lions beside her. Making these was a flourishing industry, and must have employed a large number of men and much capital. Trade was beginning to be slack, and sales were falling off. No doubt there is exaggeration in Demetrius’s rhetoric, but the meeting of the craft would not have been held unless a perceptible effect had been produced by Paul’s preaching. Probably Demetrius and the rest were more frightened than hurt; but men are very quick to take alarm when their pockets are threatened.

The speech is a perfect example of how self-interest masquerades in the garb of pure concern for lofty objects, and yet betrays itself. The danger to ‘our craft’ comes first, and the danger to the ‘magnificence’ of the goddess second; but the precedence given to the trade is salved over by a ‘not only,’ which tries to make the religious motive the chief. No doubt Demetrius was a devout worshipper of Artemis, and thought himself influenced by high motives in stirring up the craft. It is natural to be devout or moral or patriotic when it pays to be so. One would not expect a shrine-maker to be easily accessible to the conviction that ‘they be no gods which are made with hands.’

Such admixture of zeal for some great cause, with a shrewd eye to profit, is very common, and may deceive us if we are not always watchful. Jehu bragged about his ‘zeal for the Lord’ when it urged him to secure himself on the throne by murder; and he may have been quite honest in thinking that the impulse was pure, when it was really mingled. How many foremost men in public life everywhere pose as pure patriots, consumed with zeal for national progress, righteousness, etc., when all the while they are chiefly concerned about some private bit of log-rolling of their own! How often in churches there are men professing to be eager for the glory of God, who are, perhaps half-unconsciously, using it as a stalking-horse, behind which they may shoot game for their own larder! A drop of quicksilver oxidises and dims as soon as exposed to the air. The purest motives get a scum on them quickly unless we constantly keep them clear by communion with God.

Demetrius may teach us another lesson. His opposition to Paul was based on the plain fact that, if Paul’s teaching prevailed, no more shrines would be wanted. That was a new ground of opposition to the Gospel, resembled only by the motive for the action of the owners of the slave girl at Philippi; but it is a perennial source of antagonism to it. In our cities especially there are many trades which would be wiped out if Christ’s laws of life were universally adopted. So all the purveyors of commodities and pleasures which the Gospel forbids a Christian man to use are arrayed against it. We have to make up our minds to face and fight them. A liquor-seller, for instance, is not likely to look complacently on a religion which would bring his ‘trade into disrepute’; and there are other occupations which would be gone if Christ were King, and which therefore, by the instinct of self-preservation, are set against the Gospel, unless, so to speak, its teeth are drawn.

According to one reading, the shouts of the craftsmen which told that Demetrius had touched them in the tenderest part, their pockets, was an invocation, ‘Great Diana!’ not a profession of faith; and we have a more lively picture of an excited crowd if we adopt the alteration. It is easy to get a mob to yell out a watchword, whether religious or political; and the less they understand it, the louder are they likely to roar. In Athanasius’ days the rabble of Constantinople made the city ring with cries, degrading the subtlest questions as to the Trinity, and examples of the same sort have not been wanting nearer home. It is criminal to bring such incompetent judges into religious or political or social questions, it is cowardly to be influenced by them. ‘The voice of the people’ is not always ‘the voice of God.’ It is better to ‘be in the right with two or three’ than to swell the howl of Diana’s worshippers,

II. A various reading of Acts 19:28 gives an additional particular, which is of course implied in the received text, but makes the narrative more complete and vivid if inserted.

It adds that the craftsmen rushed ‘into the street,’ and there raised their wild cry, which naturally ‘filled’ the city with confusion. So the howling mob, growing larger and more excited every minute, swept through Ephesus, and made for the theatre, the common place of assembly.

On their road they seem to have come across two of Paul’s companions, whom they dragged with them. What they meant to do with the two they had probably not asked themselves. A mob has no plans, and its most savage acts are unpremeditated. Passion let loose is almost sure to end in bloodshed, and the lives of Gaius and Aristarchus hung by a thread. A gust of fury storming over the mob, and a hundred hands might have torn them to atoms, and no man have thought himself their murderer.

What a noble contrast to the raging crowd the silent submission, no doubt accompanied by trustful looks to Heaven and unspoken prayers, presents! And how grandly Paul comes out! He had not been found, probably had not been sought for, by the rioters, whose rage was too blind to search for him, but his brave soul could not bear to leave his friends in peril and not plant himself by their sides. So he ‘was minded to enter in unto the people,’ well knowing that there he had to face more ferocious ‘wild beasts’ than if a cageful of lions had been loosed on him. Faith in God and fellowship with Christ lift a soul above fear of death. The noblest kind of courage is not that born of flesh or temperament, or of the madness of battle, but that which springs from calm trust in and absolute surrender to Christ.

Not only did the disciples restrain Paul as feeling that if the shepherd were smitten the sheep would be scattered, but interested friends started up in an unlikely quarter. The ‘chief of Asia’ or Asiarchs, who sent to dissuade him, ‘were the heads of the imperial political-religious organisation of the province, in the worship of “Rome and the emperors”; and their friendly attitude is a proof both that the spirit of the imperial policy was not as yet hostile to the new teaching, and that the educated classes did not share the hostility of the superstitious vulgar’ {Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller, p. 281}. It is probable that, in that time of crumbling faith and religious unrest, the people who knew most about the inside of the established worship believed in it least, and in their hearts agreed with Paul that ‘they be no gods which are made with hands.’

So we have in these verses the central picture of calm Christian faith and patient courage, contrasted on the one hand with the ferocity and excitement of heathen fanatical devotees, and on the other with the prudent regard to their own safety of the Asiarchs, who had no such faith in Diana as to lead them to joining the rioters, nor such faith in Paul’s message as to lead them to oppose the tumult, or to stand by his side, but contented themselves with sending to warn him. Who can doubt that the courage of the Christians is infinitely nobler than the fury of the mob or the cowardice of the Asiarchs, kindly as they were? If they were his friends, why did they not do something to shield him? ‘A plague on such backing!’

III. The scene in the theatre, to which Luke returns in Acts 19:32, is described with a touch of scorn for the crowd, who mostly knew not what had brought them together.

One section of it kept characteristically cool and sharp-eyed for their own advantage. A number of Jews had mingled in it, probably intending to fan the flame against the Christians, if they could do it safely. As in so many other cases in Acts, common hatred brought Jew and Gentile together, each pocketing for the time his disgust with the other. The Jews saw their opportunity. Half a dozen cool heads, who know what they want, can often sway a mob as they will. Alexander, whom they ‘put forward,’ was no doubt going to make a speech disclaiming for the Jews settled in Ephesus any connection with the obnoxious Paul. We may be very sure that his ‘defence’ was of the former, not of the latter.

But the rioters were in no mood to listen to fine distinctions among the members of a race which they hated so heartily. Paul was a Jew, and this man was a Jew; that was enough. So the roar went up again to Great Diana, and for two long hours the crowd surged and shouted themselves hoarse, Gaius and Aristarchus standing silent all the while and expecting every moment to be their last. The scene reminds one of Baal’s priests shrieking to him on Carmel. It is but too true a representation of the wild orgies which stand for worship in all heathen religions. It is but too lively an example of what must always happen when excited crowds are ignorantly stirred by appeals to prejudice or self-interest.

The more democratic the form of government under which we live, the more needful is it to distinguish the voice of the people from the voice of the mob, and to beware of exciting, or being governed by, clamour however loud and long.

Acts 20:33-35. I have coveted no man’s silver, &c. — Here the apostle begins another branch of his farewell discourse, in terms like those of old Samuel, taking his leave of the children of Israel, 1 Samuel 12:8. As if he had said, I have a testimony in my own conscience and in yours, that I have not directed my ministry to any mercenary views of pleasing any, how distinguished soever their circumstances might be, nor sought by any methods to enrich myself among you. Yea, ye yourselves know, that — Far from having any secular or worldly designs in preaching the gospel; these hands — Callous as you see with labour; have ministered to my necessities — Have procured me food and raiment, and even have assisted in supporting them that were with me — Who is he that envies such a bishop or archbishop as this? I have showed you — Elders or bishops, by my example; all things — And this among the rest; that so labouring — So far as the labours of your office allow you time; ye ought to support the weak — Or to assist in supporting them, namely, those who are disabled by sickness, or any bodily infirmity, from maintaining themselves by their own labour. And to remember — Effectually, so as to follow them; the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said — When he conversed with his disciples; It is more blessed to give than to receive — To imitate God, and have him, as it were, indebted to us. This is a true and precious monument of apostolical tradition, which, by being written in this authentic memoir, is happily preserved. Without doubt, his disciples remembered many of his words which are not recorded.

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.I have coveted - I have not desired. I have not made it an object of my living among you to obtain your property. Thus, 2 Corinthians 12:14 he says, "I seek not yours, but you." Paul had power to demand support in the, ministry as the reward of his labor, 1 Corinthians 9:13-14. Yet he did not choose to exercise it, lest it should bring the charge of avarice against the ministry, 1 Corinthians 9:12, 1 Corinthians 9:15. He also had power in another respect. He had a vast influence over the people. The early Christians were disposed to commit their property to the disposal of the apostles. See Acts 4:34-35, Acts 4:37. The pagan had been accustomed to devote their property to the support of religion. Of this propensity, if the object of Paul had been to make money, he might have availed himself, and have become enriched. Deceivers often thus impose upon people for the purpose of amassing wealth; and one of the incidental but striking proofs of the truth of the Christian religion is here furnished in the appeal which the apostle Paul made to his hearers, that this had not been his motive. If it had been, how easy would it have been for them to have contradicted him! And who, in such circumstances, would have dared to make such an appeal? The circumstances of the case, therefore, prove that the object of the apostle was not to amass wealth. And this fact is an important proof of the truth of the religion which he defended. What should have induced him to labor and toil in this manner but a conviction of the truth of Christianity? And if he really believed it was true, it is, in his circumstances, a strong proof that this religion is from heaven. See this proof stated in Faber's "Difficulties of Infidelity," and in Lord Lyttleton's "Letter on the Conversion of Paul."

Or apparel - Raiment. Changes of raiment among the ancients, as at present among the Orientals, constituted an important part of their property. See the notes on Matthew 6:19.

32-35. I commend you to God—the almighty Conservator of His people.

and to the word of his grace—that message of His pure grace (Ac 20:24) by the faith of which He keeps us (1Pe 1:5).

which—that is, God.

is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance, &c.—Observe how salvation—not only in its initial stages of pardon and regeneration, but in all its subsequent stages of "up-building," even to its consummation in the final inheritance—is here ascribed to the "ability" of God to bestow it, as in Ro 16:25; Eph 3:20; particularly Jude 24; and compare 2Ti 1:12, where the same thing is ascribed to Christ.

among all them which are sanctified—Sanctification is here viewed as the final character and condition of the heirs of glory, regarded as one saved company.

Having spoken of the heavenly inheritance, he tells them how willing he was to have his reward hereafter, and to waive receiving his wages here. In this, St. Paul imitates Moses, Numbers 16:15, and Samuel, 1 Samuel 12:3,5.

I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. This the apostle says, not merely in vindication of himself, and his character, from all charge or suspicion of avarice; but chiefly for the instruction of these elders, and all others of the same office, not to indulge the sin of covetousness, which is very disagreeable, and ought not to be in a minister of the word; and it may be observed, that many things which the apostle says before of himself to those elders, is said not to commend himself, nor so much in his own vindication, as for their imitation; compare with this Numbers 16:15 and to point out the character of false teachers that would come in, or spring up among them, who would make merchandise of them. Beza's ancient copy, and others, read, "the silver, &c. of none of you"; and so the Ethiopic version. {11} I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel.

(11) Pastors must before all things beware of covetousness.

Acts 20:33-35. Paul concludes his address, so rich in its simplicity and deeply impressive, by urging on the presbyters the complete disinterestedness and self-denial, with which he had laboured at Ephesus, as a τύπος (2 Thessalonians 3:9) for similar conduct. Comp. 1 Corinthians 9:4 ff.; 2 Corinthians 11:7 ff; 2 Corinthians 12:14 ff.; 2 Thessalonians 3:8 ff. Reason for this: not the obviating of a Judaistic reproach (Olshausen), not a guarding of the independence of the church in the world (Baumgarten); but the necessity of the ἀντιλαμβάνεσθαι τῶν ἀσθενούντων, Acts 20:35.

ἀργ. ἢ χρυσ. ἢ ἱματ.] specification of what are usually esteemed the most valuable temporal possessions. Comp. Jam 5:2-3.

αὐτοί] without my needing to say it to you.

καὶ τοῖς οὖσι μετʼ ἐμοῦ] Thus also for his companions, to their necessities, he applied the gain of his manual labour.

αὗται] he shows them, and certainly they were not soft and tender.

πάντα[115] ὙΠΈΔΕΙΞΑ ὙΜῖΝ, ὍΤΙ] either in all points (1 Corinthians 10:33; see on Ephesians 4:15; Lobeck, ad Aj. 1402; Kühner, § 557 A. 4) I have shown to you (by my example) that; or, all things I have showed to you (by my example) in reference to this, that, etc. (ὅτι = εἰς ἐκεῖνο, ὅτι, as in John 2:18; John 9:17; 2 Corinthians 1:18; Mark 16:14, et al.). The former is simpler.

οὕτω] so labouring, as I have done, so toiling hard (comp. 1 Corinthians 4:12). Not: my fellow-labourers in the gospel (Klostermann), which, at variance with the context, withdraws from οὕτως its significance. It is the example-giving οὕτως. Comp. 1 Corinthians 9:24; 1 Corinthians 9:26; Php 3:17.

ΤῶΝ ἈΣΘΕΝΟΎΝΤΩΝ] is, with Erasmus, Calvin, Beza, Grotius, Calovius, Er. Schmid, Bengel, and others, including Neander, Tholuck, Schneckenburger, Baumgarten, to be explained of those not yet confirmed in Christian principles and dispositions. Comp. Romans 14:1; Romans 15:1; 1 Corinthians 9:22; 1 Thessalonians 5:14; 2 Corinthians 11:21. These might easily consider the work of one teaching for pay as a mere matter of gain, and thus be prejudiced not only against the teacher, but also against the doctrine, 1 Corinthians 9:12. But if, on the other hand, the teacher gained his livelihood by labour, by such self-devotion he obviated the fall of the unsettled, and was helpful to the strengthening of their faith and courage (comp. 2 Corinthians 12:14). This is that ἀντιλαμβάνεσθαι τῶν ἀσθενούντων, in which Paul wished to serve as a model to other teachers and ecclesiastical rulers. Others (Chrysostom, Oecumenius, Theopbylact, et al., including Wetstein, Heinrichs, Kuinoel, Olshausen, de Wette, Hackett) render it: that they should help the poor and needy by support (comp. Ephesians 4:28); which meaning would have to be derived not from the usus loquendi of ἀσθεν. taken by itself, but, with Kuinoel (“qui non possunt laborando sibi ad vitam tuendam necessaria comparare”), from the context. Comp. Arist. Pac. 636; Eur. Suppl. 433; Herod. ii. 88. See Valckenaer, ad Herod. viii. 51; and Raphel, Herod, in loc. But the recommendation of liberality is remote from the context; the faithfulness and wisdom of the teacher manifesting itself in gaining his own support by labour, of which the text speaks, must have a spiritual object, like the teaching office itself (1 Corinthians 9:12)—not the giving of alms, but the strengthening of the weak in faith. The more naturally this meaning occurs, the less would Paul, if he had nevertheless meant the poor, have expressed himself by ἀσθενούντων, but rather by ΠΤΩΧῶΝ or a similar word.

ΜΝΗΜΟΝΕΎΕΙΝΛΑΜΒΆΝΕΙΝ] and to be mindful of the saying of the Lord Jesus (namely) that He Himself has said: It is blessed (i.e. bliss-giving; the action itself according to its moral nature, similarly to the knowing in John 18:3, is conceived as the blessedness of the agent) rather (potius) to give than to receive. “The two being compared, not the latter, but rather the former, is the μακάριον.” The special application of this general saying of Christ is, according to the connection in the mind of the apostle, that the giving of spiritual benefits, compared with the taking of earthly gain as pay, has the advantage in conferring blessedness; and the μακαριότης itself is that of eternal life according to the idea of the Messianic recompense, Luke 6:20 ff., Luke 6:38; Luke 14:14.

The explanatory ὍΤΙ, dependent on ΜΝΗΜΟΝ., adduces out of the general class of ΤῶΝ ΛΌΓ. Τ. ΚΥΡ. a single saying (comp. Acts 15:15), instead of all bearing on the point.

Whether Paul derived this saying, not preserved in the Gospels (see on the dicta ἄγραφα of Christ, Fabric. Cod. Apocr. N.T. pp. 321–335; Ewald, Jahrb. VI. 40 f., and Gesch. Chr. p. 288), from oral or written tradition, remains undecided.

References to the same saying: Constitt. ap. iv. 3.Acts 1 : ἐπεὶ καὶ ὁ Κύριος μακάριον εἶπεν εἶναι τὸν διδόντα ἤπερ τὸν λαμβάνοντα, perhaps also Clem. 1 Corinthians 2 : ἥδιον διδόντες ἢ λαμβάνοντες. Analogous profane sayings (Artemidor. iv. 3) may be seen in Wetstein. The opposite: ἈΝΌΗΤΟς Ὁ ΔΙΔΟῪς, ΕὐΤΥΧῊς Δʼ Ὁ ΛΑΜΒΆΝΩΝ, in Athen. viii. 5.

[115] Lachmann, whom Klostermann follows, refers πάντα to ver. 34, as Beza already proposed. But if so, Paul, in ver. 24, would evidently have said too much, especially on account of καὶ τοῖς οὖσι μετʼ ἐμοῦ.

Acts 20:33. cf. 1 Samuel 12:3, ἱματ., frequent in LXX, in N.T. only in Luke and Paul (except John 19:24, quotation); Luke 7:25; Luke 9:29, 1 Timothy 2:9. In 1Ma 11:24 we have silver, gold and raiment, joined together as in this verse, describing Eastern riches, cf. Jam 5:2-3.—ἐπεθ., “he takes away that which is the root of all evil, the love of money”; be says not “I have not taken,” but “not even coveted” Chrys., Hom., xlv.

33. I have coveted] Rev. Ver.I coveted.” But this seems unnecessary. The Apostle implies that the state of mind was his when he was with them and continues still.

apparel] In which Oriental wealth largely consisted. Hence Naaman brings “changes of raiment” as well as money among the rewards which he expects to give for his cure (2 Kings 5:5), and the same may be noticed in many other parts of the Scripture history. Cp. Genesis 24:53; Genesis 45:22; 2 Kings 7:3, &c.

Acts 20:33. Ἀργυρίου, silver) The second portion of his parting address. Paul brings forth all things. So Samuel, 1 Samuel 12:3.

Verse 33. - Coveted for have coveted, A V. Apparel. One of the items of an Oriental's treasure for the purpose of gifts (2 Kings 5:5, 22, 23, 26; Genesis 45:22; Matthew 6:19, 2(1). St. Paul contrasts his own example in not seeking such gifts with the conduct of the false apostles who draw away disciples after them for gain (1 Timothy 6:5-10; Romans 16:17, 18; comp. 1 Corinthians 9.). Acts 20:33Raiment

Mentioned along with gold and silver because it formed a large part of the wealth of orientals. They traded in costly garments, or kept them stored up for future use. See on purple, Luke 16:19; and compare Ezra 2:69; Nehemiah 7:70; Job 27:16. This fact accounts for the allusions to the destructive power of the moth (Matthew 6:19; James 5:2).

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