Acts 23

Paul Before the Sanhedrin

1 Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.”
2 At this the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth.
3 Then Paul said to him, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!”
4 Those who were standing near Paul said, “How dare you insult God’s high priest!”
5 Paul replied, “Brothers, I did not realize that he was the high priest; for it is written: ‘Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.’[a]
6 Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees. I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead.”
7 When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided.
8 (The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees believe all these things.)
9 There was a great uproar, and some of the teachers of the law who were Pharisees stood up and argued vigorously. “We find nothing wrong with this man,” they said. “What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?”
10 The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force and bring him into the barracks.
11 The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”

The Plot to Kill Paul

12 The next morning some Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul.
13 More than forty men were involved in this plot.
14 They went to the chief priests and the elders and said, “We have taken a solemn oath not to eat anything until we have killed Paul.
15 Now then, you and the Sanhedrin petition the commander to bring him before you on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about his case. We are ready to kill him before he gets here.”
16 But when the son of Paul’s sister heard of this plot, he went into the barracks and told Paul.
17 Then Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the commander; he has something to tell him.”
18 So he took him to the commander. The centurion said, “Paul, the prisoner, sent for me and asked me to bring this young man to you because he has something to tell you.”
19 The commander took the young man by the hand, drew him aside and asked, “What is it you want to tell me?”
20 He said: “Some Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul before the Sanhedrin tomorrow on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about him.
21 Don’t give in to them, because more than forty of them are waiting in ambush for him. They have taken an oath not to eat or drink until they have killed him. They are ready now, waiting for your consent to their request.”
22 The commander dismissed the young man with this warning: “Don’t tell anyone that you have reported this to me.”

Paul Transferred to Caesarea

23 Then he called two of his centurions and ordered them, “Get ready a detachment of two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen[b] to go to Caesarea at nine tonight.
24 Provide horses for Paul so that he may be taken safely to Governor Felix.”
25 He wrote a letter as follows:
26 Claudius Lysias, To His Excellency, Governor Felix: Greetings.
27 This man was seized by the Jews and they were about to kill him, but I came with my troops and rescued him, for I had learned that he is a Roman citizen.
28 I wanted to know why they were accusing him, so I brought him to their Sanhedrin.
29 I found that the accusation had to do with questions about their law, but there was no charge against him that deserved death or imprisonment.
30 When I was informed of a plot to be carried out against the man, I sent him to you at once. I also ordered his accusers to present to you their case against him.
31 So the soldiers, carrying out their orders, took Paul with them during the night and brought him as far as Antipatris.
32 The next day they let the cavalry go on with him, while they returned to the barracks.
33 When the cavalry arrived in Caesarea, they delivered the letter to the governor and handed Paul over to him.
34 The governor read the letter and asked what province he was from. Learning that he was from Cilicia,
35 he said, “I will hear your case when your accusers get here.” Then he ordered that Paul be kept under guard in Herod’s palace.

Acts 23 Commentary

Chapter 23

Paul's defence before the council of the Jews. (1-5) Paul's defence. He receives a Divine assurance that he shall go to Rome. (6-11) The Jews conspire to kill Paul, Lysias sends him to Cesarea. (12-24) Lysias's letter to Felix. (25-35)

Verses 1-5 See here the character of an honest man. He sets God before him, and lives as in his sight. He makes conscience of what he says and does, and, according to the best of his knowledge, he keeps from whatever is evil, and cleaves to what is good. He is conscientious in all his words and conduct. Those who thus live before God, may, like Paul, have confidence both toward God and man. Though the answer of Paul contained a just rebuke and prediction, he seems to have been too angry at the treatment he received in uttering them. Great men may be told of their faults, and public complaints may be made in a proper manner; but the law of God requires respect for those in authority.

Verses 6-11 The Pharisees were correct in the faith of the Jewish church. The Sadducees were no friends to the Scripture or Divine revelation; they denied a future state; they had neither hope of eternal happiness, nor dread of eternal misery. When called in question for his being a Christian, Paul might truly say he was called in question for the hope of the resurrection of the dead. It was justifiable in him, by this profession of his opinion on that disputed point, to draw off the Pharisees from persecuting him, and to lead them to protect him from this unlawful violence. How easily can God defend his own cause! Though the Jews seemed to be perfectly agreed in their conspiracy against religion, yet they were influenced by very different motives. There is no true friendship among the wicked, and in a moment, and with the utmost ease, God can turn their union into open enmity. Divine consolations stood Paul in the most stead; the chief captain rescued him out of the hands of cruel men, but the event he could not tell. Whoever is against us, we need not fear, if the Lord stand by us. It is the will of Christ, that his servants who are faithful, should be always cheerful. He might think he should never see Rome; but God tells him, even in that he should be gratified, since he desired to go there only for the honour of Christ, and to do good.

Verses 12-24 False religious principles, adopted by carnal men, urge on to such wickedness, as human nature would hardly be supposed capable of. Yet the Lord readily disappoints the best concerted schemes of iniquity. Paul knew that the Divine providence acts by reasonable and prudent means; and that, if he neglected to use the means in his power, he could not expect God's providence to work on his behalf. He who will not help himself according to his means and power, has neither reason nor revelation to assure him that he shall receive help from God. Believing in the Lord, we and ours shall be kept from every evil work, and kept to his kingdom. Heavenly Father, give us by thy Holy Spirit, for Christ's sake, this precious faith.

Verses 25-35 God has instruments for every work. The natural abilities and moral virtues of the heathens often have been employed to protect his persecuted servants. Even the men of the world can discern between the conscientious conduct of upright believers, and the zeal of false professors, though they disregard or understand not their doctrinal principles. All hearts are in God's hand, and those are blessed who put their trust in him, and commit their ways unto him.

Cross References 51

  • 1. Acts 22:30
  • 2. S Acts 22:5
  • 3. Acts 24:16; 1 Corinthians 4:4; 2 Corinthians 1:12; 1 Timothy 1:5,19; 1 Timothy 3:9; 2 Timothy 1:3; Hebrews 9:14; Hebrews 10:22; Hebrews 13:18; 1 Peter 3:16,21
  • 4. Acts 24:1
  • 5. John 18:22
  • 6. Matthew 23:27
  • 7. Leviticus 19:15; Deuteronomy 25:1,2; John 7:51
  • 8. Exodus 22:28
  • 9. ver 7,8; S Acts 4:1
  • 10. S Acts 22:5
  • 11. Acts 26:5; Philippians 3:5
  • 12. Acts 24:15,21; Acts 26:8
  • 13. Matthew 22:23; 1 Corinthians 15:12
  • 14. Mark 2:16
  • 15. ver 29; Jeremiah 26:16; S Luke 23:4; Acts 25:25; Acts 26:31; Acts 28:18
  • 16. Ac 22:7,17,18
  • 17. S Acts 21:34
  • 18. S Matthew 14:27; Acts 18:9
  • 19. Acts 19:21; Acts 28:23
  • 20. S Acts 20:3
  • 21. ver 14,21,30; Acts 25:3
  • 22. ver 12
  • 23. ver 1; Acts 22:30
  • 24. ver 10; S Acts 21:34
  • 25. S Ephesians 3:1
  • 26. ver 1
  • 27. ver 14,15
  • 28. ver 13
  • 29. ver 12,14
  • 30. S Acts 8:40
  • 31. ver 33
  • 32. ver 26,33; Ac 24:1-3,10; Acts 25:14
  • 33. Luke 1:3; Acts 24:3; Acts 26:25
  • 34. Acts 15:23
  • 35. Acts 21:32
  • 36. Acts 21:33
  • 37. Acts 22:25-29
  • 38. Acts 22:30
  • 39. Acts 18:15; Acts 25:19
  • 40. S ver 9; Acts 26:31
  • 41. ver 20,21
  • 42. S Acts 20:3
  • 43. ver 35; Acts 24:19; Acts 25:16
  • 44. ver 23
  • 45. S Acts 21:34
  • 46. ver 23,24
  • 47. S Acts 8:40
  • 48. ver 26
  • 49. S Acts 6:9; Acts 21:39
  • 50. ver 30; Acts 24:19; Acts 25:16
  • 51. Acts 24:27

Footnotes 2

  • [a]. Exodus 22:28
  • [b]. The meaning of the Greek for this word is uncertain.

Acts 23 Commentaries