us: Luke’s use of the first person pronoun “us” indicates that he rejoined Paul at Philippi; the two men had parted company at Philippi some time earlier. (Ac 16:10-17, 40) They now traveled together from Philippi to Jerusalem, where Paul was later arrested. (Ac 20:5–21:18, 33) This is the second section of the book of Acts where Luke includes himself in the narrative.—See study notes on Ac 16:10; 27:1.
to have a meal: Lit., “to break bread.” Bread was the staple of the diet in the ancient Middle East; hence, this expression came to denote any kind of meal. Bread was generally formed into flat loaves that were baked hard, so the bread was often broken rather than cut with a knife. Therefore, breaking the loaves to eat them was customary and something that Jesus often did. (See study note on Mt 14:19; see also Mt 15:36; Lu 24:30.) When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Evening Meal, he took a loaf and broke it. Since this was the normal way to divide a loaf, there is no spiritual significance to Jesus’ breaking the bread. (See study note on Mt 26:26.) Some claim that when this expression occurs in certain places in the book of Acts, it refers to the observance of the Lord’s Evening Meal. (Ac 2:42, 46; 20:7, 11) Every time the Lord’s Evening Meal is mentioned, though, breaking bread is associated with drinking wine from a cup. (Mt 26:26-28; Mr 14:22-25; Lu 22:19, 20; 1Co 10:16-21; 11:23-26) The two actions are equally significant. So when breaking bread is mentioned without any reference to drinking from a cup, this is a reference, not to the Lord’s Evening Meal, but to an ordinary meal. Moreover, there is nothing to indicate that Jesus intended the Memorial of his death to be observed more often than the festival it replaced, the Passover, which was observed just once a year.
for he is alive: Or “for his soul [that is, “his life”] is in him.” In other words, the young man’s life had been restored. As in many places in the Christian Greek Scriptures, the Greek word psy·kheʹ here means “life as a person.”—Mt 6:25; 10:39; 16:25, 26; Lu 12:20; Joh 10:11, 15; 13:37, 38; 15:13; see Glossary, “Soul.”
began the meal: Lit., “broke the bread.”—See study note on Ac 20:7.
elders: Lit., “older men.” In the Bible, the Greek term pre·sbyʹte·ros refers primarily to those who hold a position of authority and responsibility in a community or a nation. Spiritually older, or mature, men shared the responsibility of leadership and administration in the cities of the ancient nation of Israel. Likewise, spiritually older, or mature, men served in the different Christian congregations in the first century C.E. This account about Paul meeting with the elders from Ephesus clearly shows that there was more than one elder in that congregation. The number of elders in each congregation depended on the number who qualified as spiritually mature men. (1Ti 3:1-7; Tit 1:5-8) When Paul wrote his first letter to Timothy, who likely lived in Ephesus at the time, he mentioned “the body of elders.”—1Ti 1:3; 4:14.
humility: This quality involves freedom from pride or arrogance. Humility is manifested in the way a person views himself in relation to God and others. It is not a weakness but a state of mind that is pleasing to God. Christians who are truly humble can work together in unity. (Eph 4:2; Php 2:3; Col 3:12; 1Pe 5:5) In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the word ta·pei·no·phro·syʹne, here translated “humility,” is drawn from the words ta·pei·noʹo, “to make low,” and phren, “the mind.” It could therefore literally be rendered “lowliness of mind.” The related term ta·pei·nosʹ is rendered “lowly” (Mt 11:29) and “humble ones” (Jas 4:6; 1Pe 5:5).—See study note on Mt 11:29.
from house to house: Or “in different houses.” The context shows that Paul had visited the houses of these men to teach them “about repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus.” (Ac 20:21) Therefore, he is not referring solely to social calls or visits to encourage fellow Christians after they became believers, since fellow believers would already have repented and exercised faith in Jesus. In his book Word Pictures in the New Testament, Dr. A. T. Robertson comments as follows on Ac 20:20: “It is worth noting that this greatest of preachers preached from house to house and did not make his visits merely social calls.” (1930, Vol. III, pp. 349-350) In The Acts of the Apostles With a Commentary (1844), Abiel Abbot Livermore made this comment on Paul’s words at Ac 20:20: “He was not content merely to deliver discourses in the public assembly . . . but zealously pursued his great work in private, from house to house, and literally carried home the truth of heaven to the hearths and hearts of the Ephesians.” (p. 270)—For an explanation of rendering the Greek expression katʼ oiʹkous (lit., “according to houses”), see study note on Ac 5:42.
bound in: Or “compelled by.” Paul felt both an obligation and a willingness to follow the direction of God’s spirit to go to Jerusalem.
preached: The Greek word basically means “to make proclamation as a public messenger” and stresses the manner of the proclamation, usually an open, public declaration rather than a sermon to a group. The theme of Christian preaching continued to be “the Kingdom of God.”—Ac 28:31.
the Kingdom: That is, God’s Kingdom. This overriding theme of the entire Bible runs through the book of Acts. (Ac 1:3; 8:12; 14:22; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23, 31) Some early translations into other languages, such as the Latin Vulgate and the Syriac Peshitta, read “the Kingdom of God.” One translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures into Hebrew (referred to as J17 in App. C4) uses the divine name, and the whole expression can be rendered “the Kingdom of Jehovah.”
I am clean from the blood of all men: Paul was free of bloodguilt before God because he had not failed to preach the good news of the Kingdom. He had not withheld the lifesaving information that this message contains. (Ac 18:6; compare Eze 33:6-8) Paul conveyed “all the counsel of God” to the disciples in Ephesus because he did not want anyone to lose his life in God’s day of judgment. (Ac 20:27) Other ways in which a Christian can become bloodguilty before God are by committing murder or bloodshed, which can include actively or tacitly supporting the activities of a bloodguilty organization, such as “Babylon the Great” (Re 17:6; 18:2, 4), or other organizations that have shed innocent blood (Re 16:5, 6; compare Isa 26:20, 21). Also, eating or drinking blood in any way would incur bloodguilt.—Ac 15:20.
all the counsel of God: Or “the whole purpose (will) of God.” Here referring to all that God has purposed to do by means of his Kingdom, including everything that he has decided is essential for salvation. (Ac 20:25) The Greek word bou·leʹ is rendered “counsel [or, “direction; guidance,” ftn.]” at Lu 7:30 and “purpose” at Heb 6:17.
Pay attention to: Or “Keep watch over.” The sheep in Jehovah’s flock are dear to him because he purchased them with the precious “blood of his own Son.” Jehovah could not have paid a higher price. Humble overseers, therefore, keep watch over the welfare of each member of the flock, bearing in mind how much Jehovah loves his sheep.—1Pe 5:1-3.
overseers: The Greek word for overseer, e·piʹsko·pos, is related to the verb e·pi·sko·peʹo, meaning “carefully watch” (Heb 12:15), and to the noun e·pi·sko·peʹ, meaning “inspection” (Lu 19:44, Kingdom Interlinear; 1Pe 2:12), “to be an overseer” (1Ti 3:1), or “office of oversight” (Ac 1:20). Therefore, the overseer was one who visited, inspected, and directed members of the congregation. Protective supervision is a basic idea inherent in the Greek term. Overseers in the Christian congregation have the responsibility to care for spiritual concerns of their fellow believers. Paul here used the term “overseers” when speaking to the “elders” from the congregation in Ephesus. (Ac 20:17) And in his letter to Titus, he uses the term “overseer” when describing the qualifications for “elders” in the Christian congregation. (Tit 1:5, 7) The terms, therefore, refer to the same position, pre·sbyʹte·ros indicating the mature qualities of the one so appointed and e·piʹsko·pos indicating the duties inherent in the appointment. This account about Paul meeting with the elders from Ephesus clearly shows that there were several overseers in that congregation. There was no set number of overseers for any one congregation, but the number serving depended on the number of those qualifying as “elders,” or spiritually mature men, in that congregation. Likewise, in writing to the Philippian Christians, Paul referred to the “overseers” there (Php 1:1), indicating that they served as a body, overseeing the affairs of that congregation.—See study note on Ac 1:20.
God: Some ancient manuscripts read “the Lord” here, but the main text reading “God” has strong manuscript support and is viewed by many scholars as the original reading.
with the blood of his own Son: Lit., “through the blood of the own (one).” Grammatically, the Greek expression could be translated “with the blood of his own” or “with his own blood,” so the context has to be taken into consideration. In Greek, the expression ho iʹdi·os (“his own”) could stand alone without a clarifying noun or pronoun, as seen by how it is rendered at Joh 1:11 (“his own home”); at Joh 13:1 (“his own”); at Ac 4:23 (“their own people”); and at Ac 24:23 (“his people”). In non-Biblical Greek papyri, the phrase is used as a term of endearment to refer to close relatives. A reader of this verse would logically understand from the context that a noun in the singular number is implied after the expression “his own” and that the noun referred to God’s only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, whose blood was shed. Based on this, quite a number of scholars and translators acknowledge that the word “son” is to be understood here and render the phrase “with the blood of his own Son.”
God: A few manuscripts read “the Lord” here, but the majority of manuscripts read “God.”
the words of the Lord Jesus: The statement following these words is quoted by the apostle Paul only, although the sense of those words is found in the Gospels and in the rest of the inspired Scriptures. (Ps 41:1; Pr 11:25; 19:17; Mt 10:8; Lu 6:38) Paul may have been told this quote orally, either by someone who heard Jesus say it or by the resurrected Jesus himself or in a divine revelation.—Ac 22:6-15; 1Co 15:6, 8.
embraced Paul: Lit., “fell upon Paul’s neck.” In the Scriptures, to embrace someone along with kissing and tears was a sign of great affection, something that these elders certainly felt for Paul.—See also Ge 33:4; 45:14, 15; 46:29; Lu 15:20.
affectionately kissed him: Or “tenderly kissed him.” Paul’s genuine love for his brothers had endeared him to them. In Bible times, such friendship was often expressed with a kiss. (Ge 27:26; 2Sa 19:39) At times, kissing was accompanied by a warm embrace along with tears. (Ge 33:4; 45:14, 15; Lu 15:20) The Greek term rendered “affectionately kissed” has been understood to be an intensive form of the verb phi·leʹo, sometimes rendered “to kiss” (Mt 26:48; Mr 14:44; Lu 22:47) but more often meaning “to have affection for” (Joh 5:20; 11:3; 16:27).—Compare study note on Mt 26:49.