Wednesday, 20 September 2023
“serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews; Acts 20:19
Although a bit clunky, the words more correctly say, “serving the Lord with all mind-abasement, with many tears and trials occasioned me by the ambushes of the Jews” (CG).
The words continue the thought of the previous verse. Taken together, they would say, “And when they came to him, he said to them, ‘You know from the first day in which I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, serving the Lord with all mind-abasement, with many tears and trials occasioned me by the ambushes of the Jews.’”
With that noted, the words of this verse begin with, “serving the Lord with all mind-abasement.” It is a single noun first found here, tapeinophrosune. It is derived from tapeinos (humble, lowly, etc.), and phrén (mind, intellect, etc.). And so, as a single noun, “mind-abasement” exactingly translates it. It will be used by Paul five times and by Peter twice. Paul continues by saying, “with many tears and trials.”
Some manuscripts omit the word “many,” but it is likely original. Paul’s use of the word would be perfectly fitting with the events of his time in Ephesus. He labored vigorously, cared deeply, and faced trials repeatedly. And these were “occasioned me by the ambushes of the Jews.”
The word translated as “occasioned” means to come together or come to pass. These things befell Paul personally and they were instigated by the Jews. As for the word translated as “ambushes,” it is a plural noun signifying a plot, but it also carries the sense of the plot being put into action. Some translations say, “plots.” This gets half of the idea. Others say, “lying in wait,” but that is a paraphrase that is singular in nature. A single word that carries the whole intent would be the plural “ambushes.” In this, there are the plots which are combined with the actions of carrying them out.
Life application: Paul’s words are not boasting through self-piety. The things he said are simply the manner in which he conducted himself. This is perfectly evident from the fact that he is saying them to the very people who saw how he conducted himself. He is laying out the foundation for his words of admonishment, and it is appropriate that he sets this groundwork down in the exact manner in which he conducted himself.
This is a good lesson for each of us. If we act in a pious manner to ingratiate ourselves to others, that is not an acceptable way to conduct our affairs. However, if we live in an attitude of self-abasement as our regular conduct, it is an acceptable and noteworthy choice. Paul says as much to us in his epistles, such as –
“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” Romans 12:3
“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3, 4
This was Paul’s attitude and conduct, and it should be ours as well. In this, we will be living properly before the Lord.
Heavenly Father, help us to consider others before ourselves, deeming them as valuable people in Your eyes. Jesus came to save others, even while the world was sold to sin. We were once in that state, and they still are. The only difference between the two is Jesus. How can we look down upon others when – without Him – we would still be just as they are? Help us to have this mind. Help us to care about their state and to pity where they are. Soften our hearts to their plight, O God. Amen.