Acts 23

Paul before the Council

1 Paul, looking intently at 1the Council, said, "2Brethren *, 3I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day."
2 The high priest 4Ananias commanded those standing beside him 5to strike him on the mouth.
3 Then Paul said to him, "God is going to strike you, 6you whitewashed wall! Do you 7sit to try me according to the Law, and in violation of the Law order me to be struck?"
4 But the bystanders said, "Do you revile God's high priest?
5 And Paul said, "I was not aware, brethren, that he was high priest; for it is written, '8YOU SHALL NOT SPEAK EVIL OF A RULER OF YOUR PEOPLE.' "
6 But perceiving that one group were 9Sadducees and the other Pharisees, Paul began crying out in 10the Council, "11Brethren *, 12I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; I am on trial for 13the hope and resurrection of the dead!"
7 As he said this, there occurred a dissension between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the assembly was divided.
8 For 14the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor an angel, nor a spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.
9 And there occurred a great uproar; and some of 15the scribes of the Pharisaic party stood up and began to argue heatedly, saying, "16We find nothing wrong with this man; 17suppose * a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?"
10 And as a great dissension was developing, the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them and ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force, and bring him into 18the barracks.
11 But on 19the night immediately following, the Lord stood at his side and said, "20Take courage; for 21as you have 22solemnly witnessed to My cause * at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also."

A Conspiracy to Kill Paul

12 When it was day, 23the Jews formed a conspiracy and 24bound themselves under an oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed Paul.
13 There were more than forty who formed this plot.
14 They came to the chief priests and the elders and said, "We have 25bound ourselves under a solemn oath to taste nothing until we have killed Paul
15 "Now therefore, you and 26the Council notify the commander to bring him down to you, as though you were going to determine his case * by a more thorough investigation; and we for our part are ready to slay him before he comes near the place."
16 But the son of Paul's sister heard of their ambush, and he came and entered 27the barracks and told Paul.
17 Paul called one of the centurions to him and said, "Lead this young man to the commander, for he has something to report to him."
18 So he took him and led him to the commander and said, "Paul 28the prisoner called me to him and asked me to lead this young man to you since he has something to tell you."
19 The commander took him by the hand and stepping aside, began to inquire of him privately *, "What is it that you have to report to me?
20 And he said, "29The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down tomorrow to 30the Council, as though they were going to inquire somewhat more thoroughly about him.
21 "So do not listen to them, for more than forty of them are 31lying in wait for him who have 32bound themselves under a curse not to eat or drink until they slay him; and now they are ready and waiting for the promise from you.
22 So the commander let the young man go, instructing him, "Tell no one that you have notified me of these things."

Paul Moved to Caesarea

23 And he called to him two of the centurions and said, "Get two hundred soldiers ready by the third hour of the night to proceed to 33Caesarea, with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen."
24 They were also to provide mounts to put Paul on and bring him safely to 34Felix the governor.
25 And he wrote a letter having this form:
26 "Claudius Lysias, to the 35most excellent governor Felix, 36greetings.
27 "When this man was arrested by the Jews and was about to be slain by them, 37I came up to them with the troops and rescued him, 38having learned that he was a Roman.
28 "And 39wanting to ascertain the charge for which they were accusing him, I 40brought him down to their 41Council;
29 and I found him to be accused over 42questions about their Law, but under 43no accusation deserving death or imprisonment.
30 "When I was 44informed that there would be 45a plot against the man, I sent him to you at once, also instructing 46his accusers to bring charges against him before you."
31 So the soldiers, in accordance with their orders, took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris.
32 But the next day, leaving 47the horsemen to go on with him, they returned to 48the barracks.
33 When these had come to 49Caesarea and delivered the letter to 50the governor, they also presented Paul to him.
34 When he had read it, he asked from what 51province he was, and when he learned that 52he was from Cilicia,
35 he said, "I will give you a hearing after your 53accusers arrive also," giving orders for him to be 54kept in Herod's Praetorium.

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 54

  • 1. Acts 22:30; Acts 23:6, 15, 20, 28
  • 2. Acts 22:5
  • 3. Acts 24:16; 2 Corinthians 1:12; 2 Timothy 1:3
  • 4. Acts 24:1
  • 5. John 18:22
  • 6. Matthew 23:27
  • 7. Leviticus 19:15; Deuteronomy 25:2; John 7:51
  • 8. Exodus 22:28
  • 9. Matthew 3:7; Matthew 22:23
  • 10. Acts 22:30; Acts 23:1, 15, 20, 28
  • 11. Acts 22:5
  • 12. Acts 26:5; Philippians 3:5
  • 13. Acts 24:15, 21; Acts 26:8
  • 14. Matthew 22:23; Mark 12:18; Luke 20:27
  • 15. Mark 2:16; Luke 5:30
  • 16. Acts 23:29
  • 17. John 12:29; Acts 22:6f
  • 18. Acts 21:34; Acts 23:16, 32
  • 19. Acts 18:9
  • 20. Matthew 9:2
  • 21. Acts 19:21
  • 22. Luke 16:28; Acts 28:23
  • 23. Acts 9:23; Acts 23:30; 1 Thessalonians 2:16
  • 24. Acts 23:14, 21
  • 25. Acts 23:12, 21
  • 26. Acts 22:30; Acts 23:1, 6, 20, 28
  • 27. Acts 21:34; Acts 23:10, 32
  • 28. Ephesians 3:1
  • 29. Acts 23:14
  • 30. Acts 22:30; Acts 23:1, 6, 15, 28
  • 31. Acts 23:12, 14
  • 32. Luke 11:54
  • 33. Acts 8:40; Acts 23:33
  • 34. Acts 23:26, 33; Acts 24:1, 3, 10; Acts 25:14
  • 35. Luke 1:3; Acts 24:3; Acts 26:25
  • 36. Acts 15:23
  • 37. Acts 21:32
  • 38. Acts 22:25-29
  • 39. Acts 22:30
  • 40. Acts 23:10
  • 41. Acts 23:1
  • 42. Acts 18:15; Acts 25:19
  • 43. Acts 23:9; Acts 25:25; Acts 26:31; Acts 28:18
  • 44. Acts 23:20
  • 45. Acts 9:24; Acts 23:12
  • 46. Acts 23:35; Acts 24:19; Acts 25:16
  • 47. Acts 23:23
  • 48. Acts 23:10
  • 49. Acts 8:40; Acts 23:23
  • 50. Acts 23:24, 26; Acts 24:1, 3, 10; Acts 25:14
  • 51. Acts 25:1
  • 52. Acts 6:9; Acts 21:39
  • 53. Acts 23:30; Acts 24:19; Acts 25:16
  • 54. Acts 24:27

Footnotes 23

Acts 23 Commentaries