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THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 20 - Verse 28
Verse 28. Take heed therefore. Attend to; be on your guard against the dangers which beset you, and seek to discharge your duty with fidelity.
To 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 Col 4:17; 1 Ti 4:14. Ministers are beset with peculiar dangers and temptations, and against them they should be on their guard. In addition to the temptations which they have in common with other men, they are exposed to those peculiar 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.
The word flock here refers particularly to the church, and not to the congregation in general, for it is represented to be that which was purchased with the blood of the atonement. The command here is,
(1.) to take heed to the church; i.e., to instruct, teach, and guide it; to guard it from enemies, Ac 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 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 peculiar wants, 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 Ghost. It is 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. episkopouv. Bishops. The word properly denotes those who are appointed to oversee, or inspect anything. This passage proves that the name was applicable to elders; and 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 age, and both were applied to the same persons in the church. The same thing occurs in Tit 1:5-7, where those who in Ac 20:5 are called elders, are in Ac 20:7 called bishops. See also 1 Ti 3:1-10; Php 1:1.
It applies 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 properly instructing the church, but also of governing it; of securing it from enemies, Ac 20:29 and of directing its affairs so as to promote its edification and peace.
The Church of God. This is one of the 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 this is the correct and genuine reading. The other two passages are, 1 Ti 3:16; 1 Jo 5:7. The Mss. and versions exhibit three readings: the church of GOD, tou yeou; the church OF THE LORD, tou kuriou; and the church of THE LORD and GOD, kuriou kai yeou. 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 cristov is written coe; the name God yeov is written yoe; the name Lord kuriov is written koe; 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, who thinks that the name God should be retained. The authority, however, 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 here used periepoihsato occurs but in one other place in the New Testament: 1 Ti 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; or to make it ours. This may be done by a price, or by labour, etc. The noun peripoihsiv derived from this verb, is several times used in the New Testament, and denotes acquisition. 1 Th 5:9: "God hath appointed us to obtain [unto the obtaining or acquisition of] salvation." 2 Th 2:14: "Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Pe 2:9; Tit 2:14; Eph 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 Co 6:20; 7:23; 2 Pe 2:1.
The doctrines taught here are,
(1.) that the death of Christ was an atoning sacrifice; that he offered himself to purchase a people to his own service.
(3.) That this fact should make the purity and salvation of the church an object of special solicitude with the ministers of the gospel. They should be deeply affected in view of that blood which has been shed for the church; and they should guard and defend it as having been bought with the highest price in the universe. The chief consideration that will make ministers faithful and self-denying is, that the church has been bought with a price. If the Lord Jesus so loved it—if he gave himself for it—they should be willing to deny themselves; to watch, and toil, and pray, that the great object of his death—the purity and the salvation of that church—may be obtained.
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