Acts 23

1 Paul stared at the council and said, "Brothers, I have lived my life with an altogether clear conscience right up to this very day."
2 The high priest Ananias ordered those standing beside Paul to strike him in the mouth.
3 Then Paul said to him, "God is about to strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit and judge me according to the Law, yet disobey the Law by ordering that I be struck."
4 Those standing near him asked, "You dare to insult God's high priest?"
5 Paul replied, "Brothers, I wasn't aware that he was the high priest. It is written, You will not speak evil about a ruler of your people."
6 Knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, Paul exclaimed in the council, "Brothers, I'm a Pharisee and a descendant of Pharisees. I am on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead!"
7 These words aroused a dispute between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the assembly was divided.
8 This is because Sadducees say that there's no resurrection, angel, or spirit, but Pharisees affirm them all.
9 Council members were shouting loudly. Some Pharisees who were legal experts stood up and insisted forcefully, "We find nothing wrong with this man! What if a spirit or angel has spoken to him?"
10 The dispute became so heated that the commander feared they might tear Paul to pieces. He ordered soldiers to go down and remove him by force from their midst. Then they took him back to the military headquarters.
11 The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, "Be encouraged! Just as you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so too you must testify in Rome."

A murder plot discovered

12 The next morning some Jewish leaders formulated a plot and solemnly promised that they wouldn't eat or drink until they had killed Paul.
13 More than forty people were involved in the conspiracy.
14 They went to the chief priests and elders and said, "We have solemnly promised to eat nothing until we have killed Paul.
15 You and the council must explain to the commander that you need Paul brought down to you. Pretend that you want to examine his case more closely. We're prepared to kill him before he arrives."
16 Paul's sister had a son who heard about the ambush and he came to the military headquarters and reported it to Paul.
17 Paul called for one of the centurions and said, "Take this young man to the commander because he has something to report to him."
18 He took him to the commander and said, "The prisoner Paul asked me to bring this young man to you. He has something to tell you."
19 The commander took him by the hand and withdrew to a place where they could speak privately. He asked, "What do you have to report to me?"
20 He replied, "The Jewish leaders have conspired to ask that you bring Paul down to the council tomorrow. They will pretend that they want to investigate his case more closely.
21 Don't fall for it! More than forty of them are waiting to ambush him. They have solemnly promised not to eat or drink until they have killed him. They are ready now, awaiting your consent."
22 The commander dismissed the young man, ordering him, "Don't tell anyone that you brought this to my attention."
23 The commander called two centurions and said, "Prepare two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen, and two hundred spearmen to leave for Caesarea at nine o'clock tonight.
24 Have horses ready for Paul to ride, so they may take him safely to Governor Felix."
25 He wrote the following letter:
26 Claudius Lysias, to the most honorable Governor Felix: Greetings.
27 This man was seized by the Jews and was almost killed by them. I was nearby with a unit of soldiers, and I rescued him when I discovered that he was a Roman citizen.
28 I wanted to find out why they were accusing him, so I brought him to their council.
29 I discovered that they were accusing him about questions related to their Law. I found no charge deserving of death or imprisonment.
30 When I was informed of a conspiracy against his life, I sent him to you at once and ordered his accusers to bring their case against him before you.
31 Following their orders, the soldiers took Paul during the night and brought him to Antipatris.
32 The following day they let the horsemen continue on with Paul while they returned to the military headquarters in Jerusalem.
33 The horsemen entered Caesarea, delivered the letter to the governor, and brought Paul before him.
34 After he read the letter, he asked Paul about his home province. When he learned that he was from Cilicia,
35 the governor said, "I will hear your case when your accusers arrive." Then he ordered that Paul be kept in custody 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.

Footnotes 1

Acts 23 Commentaries