on Acts 20 :28
Made you overseers - Εθετο επισκοπους, Appointed you bishops; for so we translate the original word in most places where it occurs: but overseers, or inspectors, is much more proper, from επι, over, and σκεπτομαι, I look. The persons who examine into the spiritual state of the flock of God, and take care to lead them in and out, and to find them pasture, are termed episcopoi, or superintendents. The office of a bishop is from God; a true pastor only can fulfill this office: it is an office of most awful responsibility; few there are who can fill it; and, of those who occupy this high and awful place, perhaps we may say there are fewer still who discharge the duties of it. There are, however, through the good providence of God, Christian bishops, who, while they are honored by the calling, do credit to the sacred function. And the annals of our Church can boast of at least as many of this class of men, who have served their God and their generation, as of any other order, in the proportion which this order bears to others in the Church of Christ. That bishop and presbyter, or elder, were at this time of the same order, and that the word was indifferently used of both, see noticed on Acts 20:17 (note).
Feed the Church of God - This verse has been the subject of much controversy, particularly in reference to the term Θεου, of God, in this place; and concerning it there is great dissension among the MSS. and versions. Three readings exist in them, in reference to which critics and commentators have been much divided; viz. εκκλησιαν του Θεου, the Church of God; του Κυριου, of the Lord; Κυριου και Θεου, of the Lord and God. From the collections of Wetstein and Griesbach, it appears that but few MSS., and none of them very ancient, have the word Θεου, of God; with these only the Vulgate, and the later Syriac in the text, agree. Κυριου, of the Lord, is the reading of ACDE, several others, the Sahidic, Coptic, later Syriac in the margin, Armenian, Ethiopia, and some of the fathers. Κυριου και Θεου, of the Lord and of God, is the reading of the great majority; though the most ancient are for Κυριου, of the Lord: on this ground Griesbach has admitted this reading into the text, and put Κυριου και Θεου in the margin, as being next in authority.
Mr. Wakefield, who was a professed and conscientious Unitarian, decides for του Θεου, of God, as the true reading; but, instead of translating του ιδιου αἱματος, with his own blood, he translates, by his own Son, and brings some passages from the Greek and Roman writers to show that αἱμα and sanguis are used to signify son, or near relative; and, were this the only place where purchasing with his own blood occurred, we might receive this saying; but, as the redemption of man is, throughout the New Testament, attributed to the sacrificial death of Christ, it is not likely that this very unusual meaning should apply here. At all events, we have here a proof that the Church was purchased by the blood of Christ; and, as to his Godhead, it is sufficiently established in many other places. When we grant that the greater evidence appears to be in favor of του Κυριου, feed the Church of the Lord, which he has purchased with his own blood, we must maintain that, had not this Lord been God, his blood could have been no purchase for the souls of a lost world.
on Acts 20 :28
Take heed, therefore - Attend to; be on your guard against the dangers which beset you, and seek to discharge your duty with fidelity.
Unto 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 Colossians 4:17; 1 Timothy 4:14. Ministers are beset with unique dangers and temptations, and against them they should be on their guard. In addition to the temptations which they have in common with other people, they are exposed to those special 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.
And to all the flock - The church; the charge entrusted to them. The church of Christ is often compared to a flock. See the John 10:1-20 notes; also John 21:15-17 notes. The word "flock" here refers particularly to the church, and not to the congregation in general, for it is represented to be what was purchased with the blood of the atonement. The command here is:
(1) To take heed to the church; that is, to instruct, teach, and guide it; to guard it from enemies Acts 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 I 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 unique needs, 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 Spirit. It was 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 - ἐπισκόπους episkopous. "Bishops." The word properly denotes those who are appointed "to oversee or inspect anything." This passage proves that the name "bishop" was applicable to elders; 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 term denotes "age," and both words were applied to the same persons in the congregation. The same thing occurs in Titus 1:5-7, where those who in Titus 1:5 are called "elders," are in Titus 1:7 called "bishops." See also 1 Timothy 3:1-10; Philippians 1:1.
To feed - ποιμαίνειν poimainein. This word is properly applied to the care which a shepherd exercises over his flock. See the notes on John 21:15-16. It is applicable 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 instructing the church, but also of "governing" it; of "securing" it from enemies Acts 20:29, and of "directing" its affairs so as to promote its edification and peace.
The church of God - This is one of 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 is this the correct and genuine reading. The other two passages are, 1 Timothy 3:16, and 1 John 5:7. The mss. and versions here exhibit three readings: "the church of God" τοῦ Θεός tou Theos the church of the Lord τοῦ Κυρίου tou Kuriou; and the church of the Lord and God Κυρίος καὶ Θεός Kurios kai Theos. 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 Χριστός Christos is written ChoS; the name God θεός theos is written ThoS; the name Lord κύριος kurios is written KOS; 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. The authority for the name "God" 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 used here περιεποιήσατο periepoiēsato occurs but in one other place in the New Testament - 1 Timothy 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; to make it ours." This may be done by a price, or by labor, etc. The noun (περιποίησις peripoiēsis) derived from this verb is used several times in the New Testament, and denotes "acquisition:" 1 Thessalonians 5:9, God hath appointed us "to obtain" (unto the obtaining or acquisition of) salvation"; 2 Thessalonians 2:14, "Whereunto he called you by our gospel to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ"; 1 Peter 2:9; Titus 2:14; Ephesians 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 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Corinthians 7:23; 2 Peter 2:1.
With his own blood - With the sacrifice of his own life; for blood is often put for life, and to shed the blood is equivalent to faking the life. See the notes on Romans 3:25. The doctrines taught here are:
on Acts 20 :28
20:28 Take heed therefore - I now devolve my care upon you; first to yourselves; then to the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers - For no man, or number of men upon earth, can constitute an overseer, bishop, or any other Christian minister. To do this is the peculiar work of the Holy Ghost: to feed the Church of God - That is, the believing, loving, holy children of God; which he hath purchased - How precious is it then in his sight! with his own blood - For it is the blood of the only begotten Son of God, 1John 1:7.