On Acts 20:22-27

Acts 20:22-27
Next the apostle turns from his ministry at Ephesus to the prospect before him. He was well aware that the severest trials awaited him (compare Rom. 15:30-3130Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me; 31That I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints; (Romans 15:30‑31)), and, it would appear, with no slight presentiment that Jerusalem would prove the source of much that was imminently hanging over him. “And now, behold, I go bound in the (or my) spirit1 onto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: save that the Holy Spirit testifieth to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me” (Acts 20:22-2322And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: 23Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. (Acts 20:22‑23)).
Though he was not aware of the precise shape, he thus lets it be known that he went with eyes open to that coming pressure of troubles, which was only interrupted for a little while before all terminated in a martyr’s death. He knew further that, whatever might be the close, bonds and afflictions intervened; and what could be more serious for the testimony of the Lord and saints generally to the heart of one who loved the church? Nevertheless God was in it all; for during these very bonds he wrote the Epistles which furnish, we happily know, the fullest and brightest light of Christ and on heavenly things, which was ever vouchsafed for the permanent instruction and comfort of the saints of God. We shall see that loving remonstrances did not fail on every side, which must have added so much the more to his grief in resisting all appeals to the contrary.
Indeed the apostle here gives the pith of his answer to every entreaty and dissuasive. “But I hold not my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may accomplish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus to testify the gospel of the grace of God “2(vs. 24). Nothing could frustrate such a resolve. It was no question to him of success, as men speak, or of present effects, however promising. His eye was on the glory of Christ, his ear only for the will of God. Suffering or death as a sequence he would not allow to deter him for an instant. His Master had shown him, in the highest degree and for the deepest ends, how in a world of sin and misery suffering glorifies God. Undoubtedly there was that in the cross of Christ which belongs to none but Himself. The expiation or sin falls exclusively to Him, the Infinite Sacrifice; but sacrifice, though the deepest, is far from being the only element in Christ’s death. There were other sufferings which the saints are permitted to share with Him to be despised, to be rejected, to suffer for love and truth, as well as for righteousness. These sufferings are not confined to Christ, as it was to suffer for sin; and Paul perhaps more than any other was one who could rejoice in his sufferings for the saints, as well as fill up that which was behind of the tribulations of Christ in his flesh, for His body which is the church. The sufferings of the gospel also were for him to glory in; and no mere man before or since ever won so good a title of those honorable scars (Gal. 6:1717From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. (Galatians 6:17)).
Most truthfully, therefore, could he say that he made no account of his life as dear to himself: nor is it merely before the elders that he felt transport, or on any transient occasions of like kind. He had it before his heart to finish his course with joy, and the service which he had received of the Lord Jesus to testify the glad tidings (or gospel) of the grace of God. The large-heartedness of the apostle is as refreshing as instructive. Who had such a crowd of daily pressure on him? Who like him bore the burden of all the assemblies? If he had to do with weak consciences, who could be weak like Paul? Who went out in heart toward one who stumbled as he did? Nevertheless the gospel was as near to his spirit as to the most earnest evangelist. There was no one-sidedness in this blessed servant of the Lord. He was here simply to carry out all the objects of His love, to promote His glory wherever His name penetrated; and Christ is not more the Head of the church than the sum and substance of the gospel.
It will be noticed that the gospel is here designated “the glad tidings of the grace of God.” This appears to be the most comprehensive title given to it in scripture. Elsewhere the apostle speaks of it as “the gospel of the glory of Christ,” where its heavenly side is meant to be made prominent. Again, he speaks of it as “the gospel of God,” where its source in divine love is pointed to. Furthermore we hear of “the gospel of Christ,” where He is in view through whom alone the glad tidings become possible from God to man. In the Gospels we hear of “The gospel of the kingdom,” looking on to Messiah in power and glory: in the Revelation, of the “everlasting gospel,” the revelation of the bruised Seed bruising the Serpent’s head. Each has its main or distinctive meaning; but as none can be apart from Christ, so none of them appears to be so full as “the gospel of the grace of God.” Nor is any other designation of it more than this last in keeping with the Acts of the Apostles, as well as with that apostle’s heart, who was now addressing the Ephesian elders. The person and the work of the Lord Jesus are fully supposed although not expressed in it; for in whom, or through whom, can God’s grace shine out, save in Him or by Him.
“And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom3 [of God], shall see my face no more” (vs. 25). It is his farewell. His work, as to presence in their midst, was ended.
Here we have another and distinct topic, and one that is apt to be overlooked in modern preaching, “The kingdom.” He who examines the Acts of the Apostles will find how large a place it occupies in the preaching not of Peter only but of Paul, and, we may be assured, of all the other servants of the Lord in these early days. It is a grave blank where the kingdom is left out as now. Nor is it only that the future according to God is habitually lost to the faith of saints through the unfaithfulness of modern preachers, but thereby the gospel of God’s grace also suffers. For in that case there is sure to be confusion, which, mingling both characters, never enjoys the simple and full truth of either4: for the kingdom will be the triumph of righteousness by power when Christ appears in His glory. A truth it was most familiar to those who were bred in the constant and glorious vision of O. T. prophecy. Christianity, though it open to us heavenly things, was never intended to enfeeble this prospect; rather should it enable the believer to taste its blessing more, as well by imparting a deeper intelligence of its principles, as by bringing in the heavenly glory. We can enjoy it in an incomparably larger and more distinct way; and we have its principles explained by a deeper and fuller view of its basis in the reconciling work of the Lord Jesus on the cross.
“Wherefore I testify to you this day that I and pure from the blood of all. For I shrank not from announcing to you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:26-2726Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. 27For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. (Acts 20:26‑27)). The apostle could thus solemnly attest his fidelity to the trust the Lord had confided to him. (Compare Ezek. 3:18-2018When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. 19Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. 20Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumblingblock before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand. (Ezekiel 3:18‑20).) Twice at least (vss. 20, 27) he disclaims expressly that reserve which some bearing the Christian name have not been ashamed to avow as a merit learned from Him Whose death rent the veil, and Who puts all true followers of His in the light of life, the light which makes everything manifest. Walking in darkness, now that the True Light shines, is a walk in the flesh without God. With such no wonder that “the hungry sheep look up and are not fed.”
It is a mistake that “all the counsel of God” means no more than the plan of God in saving men unfolded in the gospel. “The gospel” is indeed the preaching of salvation in a dead and risen Savior; “the kingdom,” whether morally or in, its tally manifested form, has its own distinct force in God’s reign, as we have seen; “all the counsel of God” rises still higher and embraces His purpose in its utmost extent.