Acts 20:17
(17) And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.--We find, from Acts 20:28, that they were known also as episcopi ("bishops," or "overseers"), the two names being interchangeable at this period, and the Apostle standing in relation to those who bore them as the later Bishop did to the elders under him. (See Notes on Philippians 1:1; Titus 1:5-6; 1Peter 5:1-2.) The many presbyters represented probably, each of them, a distinct church or congregation. Most, if not all, of these must have been ordained by the Apostle himself. He had found them loyal, faithful, singularly receptive of the truth (Acts 20:20; Ephesians 3:4). He was passing, as he thought, to far-off regions, never to revisit them, and he was naturally anxious to give them parting words of counsel and of warning.

Verse 17. - Called to him for called, A.V. The R.V. gives the force of the middle voice μετεκαλέσατο. The elders of the Church; viz. of Ephesus. These are manifestly the same as are called ἐπισκόπους in ver. 28, "overseers," or bishops. The distinctive names and functions of Church officers were not yet fixed; and the apostles themselves, aided by degrees by such as Timothy and Titus, were what we now call bishops, exercising oversight over the elders themselves as well as over the whole flock (see 1 Timothy 3:1). The diocesan episcopate came in gradually as the apostles died off, and the necessity for a regular episcopate arose (see Acts 6:1-6; Acts 14:23, etc.).

20:17-27 The elders knew that Paul was no designing, self-seeking man. Those who would in any office serve the Lord acceptably, and profitably to others, must do it with humility. He was a plain preacher, one that spoke his message so as to be understood. He was a powerful preacher; he preached the gospel as a testimony to them if they received it; but as a testimony against them if they rejected it. He was a profitable preacher; one that aimed to inform their judgments, and reform their hearts and lives. He was a painful preacher, very industrious in his work. He was a faithful preacher; he did not keep back reproofs when necessary, nor keep back the preaching of the cross. He was a truly Christian, evangelical preacher; he did not preach notions or doubtful matters; nor affairs of state or the civil government; but he preached faith and repentance. A better summary of these things, without which there is no salvation, cannot be given: even repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, with their fruits and effects. Without these no sinner can escape, and with these none will come short of eternal life. Let them not think that Paul left Asia for fear of persecution; he was in full expectation of trouble, yet resolved to go on, well assured that it was by Divine direction. Thanks be to God that we know not the things which shall befall us during the year, the week, the day which has begun. It is enough for the child of God to know that his strength shall be equal to his day. He knows not, he would not know, what the day before him shall bring forth. The powerful influences of the Holy Spirit bind the true Christian to his duty. Even when he expects persecution and affliction, the love of Christ constrains him to proceed. None of these things moved Paul from his work; they did not deprive him of his comfort. It is the business of our life to provide for a joyful death. Believing that this was the last time they should see him, he appeals concerning his integrity. He had preached to them the whole counsel of God. As he had preached to them the gospel purely, so he had preached it to them entire; he faithfully did his work, whether men would bear or forbear.And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus,.... Which is said, by some, to be about four hundred furlongs from Miletus, and, by others, ten German miles.

And called the elders of the church; that is, at Ephesus; not the ancient members of the church, but the officers of it; the pastors, bishops, and overseers, as they are called, Acts 20:28 and are so styled from their office, and not their age. The twelve disciples the apostle found in this place, and the numerous converts made by him here, first composed this church, which doubtless was formed into Gospel order by himself; to which he afterwards wrote an epistle, when at a distance from them, called the Epistle to the Ephesians; and in the latter end of the first century, another epistle was sent from Jesus Christ himself, by the Apostle John, to this church, Revelation 2:1 and which had an angel, pastor, or bishop over it; but who he was, is not certain; Caius, who is reckoned among the seventy disciples, is said to be bishop of it; See Gill on Luke 10:1. Some say Timothy was the first bishop of this church, and after him Onesimus; but these accounts are uncertain, and not to be depended on: but certain it is, that the Apostle John dwelt here, and in the parts adjacent, unto his death, and was a superintendent and overseer in common of this church, and others near it; concerning whom Irenaeus (g), a very ancient writer near his time, says, the church at Ephesus was founded by Paul; but John remained with them to the times of Trajan. In the "second" century Ignatius (h) wrote an epistle to this church, in which he speaks highly of it, saying, there was no heresy in it; and makes mention of Onesimus as bishop of it: in the "third" century there was a church in this place, and a very memorable affair happened here in the times of Decius; he having obliged all to sacrifice to the idols in the temple, seven persons, by name Maximianus, Malchus, Martinianus, Dionysius, Johannes, Serapion, and Constantine, were accused of Christianity, which they owned; but being soldiers, they had space given them to repent until the return of the emperor, who was going elsewhere: whilst he was gone they fled and hid themselves in the caves of Mount Caelius; upon the emperor's return they were inquired after, and found to be there; who, being provoked, ordered the mouth of the caverns to be shut up with stones, that they might be famished; and it is said, that what through fear and grief they fell asleep, and slept to a great age; some pretend to say to the times of Theodosius, and then awaked; and these are they that are called the seven sleepers: in the beginning of the "fourth" century there was a bishop of this church at the council of Nice: in the "fifth" century Ephesus was famous for a general synod, convened in it against Nestorius; and in this age we read of several bishops of this place: at the time of that synod, Memnon was bishop of it, and before him Antonius and Heraclides, and after him Basil, Bassianus, Stephen, and Paul: in the "sixth" century there was a bishop of this church present at the synod of Rome and Constantinople; and in the same age Ruffinus was bishop at Ephesus, who flourished under Mauritius the emperor: in the "seventh" century a bishop of this place assisted at the sixth council at Constantinople; in this century it was a metropolitan church, and Theodorus was archbishop of it: in the "eighth" century, one Theodosius presided over the church here; to which church the emperor Constantine gave a hundred pounds of gold (i): so far down Christianity is to be traced in this place.

(g) Adv. Haeres. l. 3. c. 3.((h) Epist. p. 16, 17. (i) Magdeburg. Hist. Eccles. cent. 3. c. 2. p. 2. c. 12. p. 212. cent. 4. c. 2. p. 3. cent. 5. c. 2. p. 3. c. 10. p. 590. &c. cent. 6. c. 2. p. 4. c. 10. p. 342. cent. 7. c. 2. p. 3. c. 7. p. 111, 115. cent. 8. c. 2. p. 4.

Acts 20:16
Top of Page
Top of Page