Acts 20:28 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Acts 20:28, NIV: "Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood."

Acts 20:28, ESV: "Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood."

Acts 20:28, KJV: "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood."

Acts 20:28, NASB: "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood."

Acts 20:28, NLT: "'So guard yourselves and God's people. Feed and shepherd God's flock--his church, purchased with his own blood--over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as elders."

Acts 20:28, CSB: "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which he purchased with his own blood."

What does Acts 20:28 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Paul has reminded the elders of the church of Ephesus how he ministered to them for three years, thoroughly teaching them how to receive forgiveness from God for their sins by placing their faith in Jesus' sacrifice. Now, he explains how they must follow his example as they assume permanent leadership of the church.

The elders must focus their attention on their ministry and their church. Ephesus is filled with idols, demons, and witchcraft, and identified by the temple of Artemis (Acts 19:12, 19, 24). Success in business largely depends on religious practice, either because the job is directly related to idol worship and demons or because business connections are made while sharing sacrificial meals in the temple (1 Corinthians 8:10). The elders need to reject the standards of their old lives and take their new roles seriously.

This warning is not unique to the church. In Ezekiel 34, God strongly condemned the Jewish leaders who were in exile in Babylon. He accused them of using their positions of authority for their own gain while ignoring or even persecuting the people they were supposed to lead. God compared the leaders to selfish shepherds who abandon their sheep to wild animals. Likewise, Paul tells the elders that "fierce wolves" will infiltrate their own flock and teach lies to pull people away from following Jesus (Acts 20:29–30). The elders will take Paul's words to heart; decades later, Jesus will tell the church in Ephesus they do well in identifying false teachers (Revelation 2:2–3).

In Christianity, especially in the West, we tend to see salvation as a private affair: as individuals we accept Christ and have a personal relationship with God. But Jesus' sacrifice also created the church. Jesus' death reconciles us to God, and we become one with Him (John 14:20) as we also become one with other believers (John 17:11; Ephesians 4:4–6). Jew, Gentile, slave, free, men, women—we all become one in Christ (Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11).

"Overseer" is from the Greek root word episkopos from which we get our word "episcopate." An episcopalian church is one that is governed by a single pastor or priest. An episcopalian denomination has a single bishop over several churches and so on with a single leader over the entire denomination, like the Roman Catholic Church. In the early church, however, "pastor," "overseer," and "bishop" usually referred to any of the several elders over a local church, including the foremost elder who was the senior pastor of that church. Beyond the elders and deacons of the local congregation, the Bible does not lay out a strict governing hierarchy.