What does Acts 20:28 mean?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 leaders.
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.
NKJV: Therefore take heed to yourselves and to 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.
Verse Commentary:
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.
Verse Context:
Acts 20:28–35 records Paul's last words to the elders of Ephesus. He has reminded them of his own faithful service to them and the church. He has told them he is going to Jerusalem where he will be imprisoned; they will never see him again (Acts 20:18–27). Now, he exhorts them to follow his example in leading the church, protecting their people from false teachers, and sacrificing worldly gain to bring others to Christ. Paul will live out this last point as he spends the next five years in custody but still preaching and writing to the churches (Acts 28:30–31).
Chapter Summary:
Acts 20 finishes Paul's third missionary journey. He leaves Ephesus after three years and travels to Macedonia and Corinth. Threats from the Corinthian Jews send him and his team back to Macedonia and Troas. In Troas, Paul gives a very long sermon and raises Eutychus from the dead after he falls—both asleep and out a window. In Miletus, Paul meets with the Ephesian elders. He reminds them to beware of false teachers and tells them he is going to be imprisoned and will not see them again. After a tearful farewell, he boards a ship for Judea.
Chapter Context:
Acts 20 records the last stages of Paul's third missionary journey. He started by visiting the churches he and Barnabas had planted in central modern-day Turkey (Acts 18:23). From there, he traveled southwest to the province of Asia, where he established a church in Ephesus (Acts 19). In Acts 20, he visits the churches in Macedonia and Greece before returning to Judea. When he lands, he meets briefly with Philip the Evangelist in Caesarea Maritima before going to Jerusalem and getting arrested. He will stay in house arrest for the next two years before embarking on a dangerous sea voyage to Rome (Acts 21—28).
Book Summary:
The summary of the book of Acts is provided in Jesus' words in Acts 1:8: ''But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'' In Acts 2:1–13, the Christ-followers receive the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:14—7:60 describes the rapid growth of the church in Jerusalem. Chapters 8—12 find Jewish persecution inadvertently spreading the gospel throughout Judea and Samaria. And in chapters 13—28, Paul and his companions spread the good news throughout the Roman Empire.
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