Acts 20:22-27

22 And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there,

23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me.

24 But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

25 “And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more.

26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men.

27 For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.

spirit (v.22) — Paul’s own spirit of determination, not the Holy Spirit

This term is an idiom [“bound in the spirit”] meaning to feel one’s self responsible. The “spirit” here … is his own, not the Holy Spirit, which is distinguished from Paul’s spirit in the next verse by the addition of the word “Holy” and (in the original) by the familiar repetition of the definite article: “the Spirit, the Holy.” — Stam, page 250.

dear (v.24) = precious, valuable

shall see my face no more (v.25) — Paul’s expectation. He may, in fact, have returned to the region (2 Timothy 1:15).

innocent of the blood of all men (v.26) — Paul never missed an opportunity to preach the gospel

There is very little consensus among my commentaries on this passage. Most think Paul was wrong to go to Jerusalem (Ironside, Gaebelein, Stam), but not all (Walker). I think that the Holy Spirit didn’t want him to go but stopped short of ordering him not to go.

As to his preaching the “kingdom of God,” here’s what Stam says:

He still speaks of “inheriting” the kingdom of God in Ephesians 5:5 and of his “fellow workers unto the kingdom of God” in Colossians 4:11, both of which passages were written considerably after the close of Acts.

It must be remembered that this term, unlike “the kingdom of heaven” (found only in Matthew), is a very broad one. We find it used in both the opening and closing verses of the Acts and in each case the context must be kept in view.

When our Lord, before His ascension, taught the eleven “the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3)  He dealt with the earthly establishment of that kingdom, which the apostles hoped for and which Peter was soon to offer to Israel (Acts 3:19-21). But when Paul, in bondage in Rome, preached the kingdom of God (Acts 28:31) he would, of course, tell what had become of the offer of its establishment on earth, and explain how this was now being held in abeyance (Cf. Romans 11:25-27).

Above all let us observe carefully that “the ministry” which Paul had “received of the Lord Jesus,” was the proclamation of “the gospel of the grace of God” (v.24) — Stam, page 249.

While not disagreeing with what Stam says here, I don’t think he says enough. He says that the “kingdom of God” is a broad term which Paul uses in Ephesians and Colossians, then goes on to show that in Acts 1 and Acts 28 it refers specifically to the earthly kingdom of Israel. But he never explains what the broader term, as used here, means.

The KJV Commentary holds this view:

This preaching must refer to the gospel proclamation of the church which he was establishing. Again, we see that the present-day form of the kingdom is the church. This in no way denies the literal nature of the coming millennial kingdom, but clearly indicates that the church is the mediatorial form of the kingdom at the present. Otherwise, this reference would have to be looked upon as if Paul were still preaching a Jewish kingdom message (so, hyper-dispensationalist). — KJV Commentary, page 1377

While I’m glad they affirm a still-coming, literal millennial kingdom, I think this is taking a lot out of a very brief passage. If, as Stam says, the “kingdom of God” is a broad term, then it must refer to God’s general rule over humanity in all dispensations, including law, kingdom, and grace. And if that’s the case, then claiming that this verse proves the church is the kingdom today, while not being totally wrong in one sense, is somewhat overstepping the facts. I don’t agree with his “Paul … still preaching a Jewish kingdom message” statement.

Finally, Gaebelein:

And faithfully he had labored preaching both the Gospel of Grace and the Kingdom of God, not shrinking from declaring all the counsel of God and therefore he was pure from the blood of all. — Gaebelein, page 352

I must admit that there is part of me that wants to buy into this view. It’s the tidiest, for sure. Paul preached grace to the Gentiles and kingdom to the Jews and, therefore, declared all the counsel of God. Except that the verse clearly says that he preached the kingdom to the Ephesians church, which pretty much eliminates this view as a possibility.

So what is the right interpretation? First, I think we need to keep context in mind and not make it mean more than it was meant to mean. Paul isn’t explaining in detail the content of his ministry here — he’s simply stating that he served the Lord diligently. He was about to encourage the Ephesian elders to stay the course and he began by reminding them that he had done just that. As for “kingdom of God,” my best guess is that he was using it as a general term to refer to God’s rule over humanity which, in this time (and now) was grace. That doesn’t mean that the church is the kingdom. It simply means that God’s rule over humanity is now exercised by grace.

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