Acts 23

Chapter 23: Acts 23: 1-35, trial before the Sanhedrin

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for protection, healing, blessing, salvation, justification, sanctification, and eternal life. We pray for the anointing of the Holy Spirit, revelation of truth, and personal spiritual revival, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

VV 1-4, 1 And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day. 2 And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth. 3 Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law? 4 And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God’s high priest?

Paul said in the trial before the Sanhedrin, that his conscience was clear before God. The high priest Ananias ordered one of his men to slap Paul. Paul rebuked the high priest for ordering him to be slapped without a valid reason. The council rebuked Paul for not honouring the high priest. Ananias had replaced Annas, the high priest of Acts 5.

VV 5-6, 5 Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people. 6 But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.

Paul apologised for not knowing that Ananias was a high priest. Paul realised that half of the Sanhedrin were Sadducees, who did not believe in resurrection, and half were Pharisees, who believed in the resurrection. He cried out that he was a Pharisees and he was judged for testifying to the resurrection of Christ.

VV 7-10, 7 And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided. 8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both. 9 And there arose a great cry: and the scribes that were of the Pharisees’ part arose, and strove, saying, We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God. 10 And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle.

Another dispute broke out in the court out between the Sadducees and the Pharisees over the issue of resurrection. The Pharisees believed in angels and resurrection but the Sadducees did not. The scribes and Pharisees found no wrongdoing with Paul but the Sadducees objected and another mob broke out! The Roman commander rearrested Paul and took him by force into the barrack to protect him.

V 11, And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.

The next night, the Lord appeared to Paul again in a vision and commended him for testifying for him in Jerusalem. The Lord prophesied that he would testify for Him in Rome.

Jesus appeared to Paul at Damascus road, Acts 9, at Troas, Acts 16, at Corinth, Acts 18, at Jerusalem, Acts 23, and at Fair Havens, Acts 27.

VV 12-15, 12 And when it was day, certain of the Jews banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. 13 And they were more than forty which had made this conspiracy. 14 And they came to the chief priests and elders, and said, We have bound ourselves under a great curse, that we will eat nothing until we have slain Paul. 15 Now therefore ye with the council signify to the chief captain that he bring him down unto you to morrow, as though ye would enquire something more perfectly concerning him: and we, or ever he come near, are ready to kill him.

More than 40 Jews took the law into their own hands. They took an oath, fasted, and plotted to assassinate Paul in cold blood. They approached the Jewish leaders and informed them of their conspiracy. They wanted the Jewish leaders to bring Paul into the court the following day so that they could assassinate him.

VV 16-10, 16 And when Paul’s sister’s son heard of their lying in wait, he went and entered into the castle, and told Paul. 17 Then Paul called one of the centurions unto him, and said, Bring this young man unto the chief captain: for he hath a certain thing to tell him. 18 So he took him, and brought him to the chief captain, and said, Paul the prisoner called me unto him, and prayed me to bring this young man unto thee, who hath something to say unto thee. 19 Then the chief captain took him by the hand, and went with him aside privately, and asked him, What is that thou hast to tell me?

Paul’s nephew overheard the assassin’s conversation with the Jewish leaders and reported to Paul. Paul instructed the centurion to take his nephew to the commander and he did so. The commander asked the young man in private what he wanted to tell him.

VV 20-22, 20 And he said, The Jews have agreed to desire thee that thou wouldest bring down Paul to morrow into the council, as though they would enquire somewhat of him more perfectly.21 But do not thou yield unto them: for there lie in wait for him of them more than forty men, which have bound themselves with an oath, that they will neither eat nor drink till they have killed him: and now are they ready, looking for a promise from thee. 22 So the chief captain then let the young man depart, and charged him, See thou tell no man that thou hast shewed these things to me.

The young man told the commander about the conspiracy to assassinate Paul. The commander believed the young man and told him to keep everything secret.

VV 23-24, 23 And he called unto him two centurions, saying, Make ready two hundred soldiers to go to Caesarea, and horsemen threescore and ten, and spearmen two hundred, at the third hour of the night; 24 And provide them beasts, that they may set Paul on, and bring him safe unto Felix the governor.

At 9 pm, the commander ordered 2 centurions, 200 soldiers, 70 horsemen, and 200 spearmen to send Paul in a convoy to governor Felix in Caesarea Maritima. The 3rd hour of the night is 9 pm. Caesarea Maritima is 65 miles northwest of Jerusalem, a Roman port, beside the Mediterranean Sea.

VV 25-30, 25 And he wrote a letter after this manner: 26 Claudius Lysias unto the most excellent governor Felix sendeth greeting. 27 This man was taken of the Jews, and should have been killed of them: then came I with an army, and rescued him, having understood that he was a Roman.28 And when I would have known the cause wherefore they accused him, I brought him forth into their council: 29 Whom I perceived to be accused of questions of their law, but to have nothing laid to his charge worthy of death or of bonds. 30 And when it was told me how that the Jews laid wait for the man, I sent straightway to thee, and gave commandment to his accusers also to say before thee what they had against him. Farewell.

The commander’s name was Claudius Lysias. He wrote a letter to governor Felix saying that he had rescued Paul, a Roman citizen, from the Jews, who wanted to kill him. He said that charges against Paul were religious issues that did not warrant the death penalty. He sent Paul to Felix to protect Paul from being assassinated by the Jews. He requested Felix to take over the case because he could not handle it anymore.

VV 31-35, 31 Then the soldiers, as it was commanded them, took Paul, and brought him by night to Antipatris. 32 On the morrow they left the horsemen to go with him, and returned to the castle:33 Who, when they came to Caesarea and delivered the epistle to the governor, presented Paul also before him. 34 And when the governor had read the letter, he asked of what province he was. And when he understood that he was of Cilicia; 35 I will hear thee, said he, when thine accusers are also come. And he commanded him to be kept in Herod’s judgment hall.

The soldiers took Paul to Antipatris by night. Antipatris was a military base halfway between Jerusalem and Caesarea. The next day, the convoy arrived at Caesarea. The leader gave the commander’s letter and handed Paul to Felix. When Felix read that letter and found out that Paul was from Cilicia, he kept Paul in Herod’s Praetorium. Felix was the successor of Pontius Pilate.

Application:

Paul was persecuted by the Jews in Damascus, Jerusalem, Phillipi, Thessalonica, Iconium, Lystra, Pisidia Antioch, Corinth, Ephesus, and now in Jerusalem again. Christ appeared to Him in a vision five times to encourage him. He continued to teach, preach, and heal the sick until his death at the hands of Nero. Paul was our hero of the faith. He is the apostle and evangelist par excellence. We should imitate Paul just as he imitated Christ.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank you for the life of the great apostle, Paul. Thank you for preserving the book of Acts for our benefit and our enrichment. We pray for healing, guidance, protection, and providential care, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Acts 22

Chapter 22: Acts 22: 1-30, sharing testimony to a mob

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, we pray that You will speak to us through the Word. We pray for insight, revelation, Word of knowledge, and Word of confirmation as we seek directions and guidance. We pray that You will bring the pandemic to an end, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

VV 1-5, Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence which I make now unto you. 2 (And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence: and he saith,) 3 I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day. 4 And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. 5 As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished.

Paul addressed the mob in the Hebrews language by telling his conversion testimony. Greek for dense is “apologia” from which the English word apologetics is derived. The art and practice in defending the Christian faith are called apologetics. He introduced himself as a Jew, born in Tarsus, Cilicia. He was raised as a Jew, studied under Rabbi Gamaliel, was zealous of the law, and persecuted Christian men and women. Many years ago, he went on a witch hunt to Damascus to arrest Christians, armed with arrest warrants from the high priest.

VV 6-8, 6 And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. 7 And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? 8 And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest.

At noon, when he was very near to Damascus, a dazzling light shone into his eyes. He fell and heard a voice calling his name, twice, and asking why he was persecuting Him. Paul ask who He was and He answered, “Jesus of Nazareth”.

VV 9-11, 9 And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me. 10 And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do. 11 And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus.

Paul’s companions saw the light but did not hear any voice. Paul asked the Lord what he should do. The Lord commanded him to get up, go to Damascus, and await further instructions. Paul’s companion led him by the hand into Damascus because he could not see.

VV 12-16, 12 And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there, 13 Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him. 14 And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. 15 For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard. 16 And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.

At Damascus, Ananias, a faithful disciple, came to him, calling him brother Saul, prayed for him, and he received his sight. Ananias told Paul that Christ had chosen him to be His witness to all people. Ananias baptised him in the name of the Lord and he was saved.

VV 17-21, 17 And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance; 18 And saw him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me. 19 And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee:20 And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him. 21 And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.

Paul left Damascus and went to Jerusalem. Christ appeared to Paul in a trance and commanded him to leave the city immediately because the Jews were plotting to kill him. Paul was afraid that the Christians would not accept his testimony because he had persecuted Christians and had approved the martyrdom of Stephen. The Lord told him to leave, saying, He would send him to the Gentiles.

VV 22-25, 22 And they gave him audience unto this word, and then lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live. 23 And as they cried out, and cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air,

24 The chief captain commanded him to be brought into the castle, and bade that he should be examined by scourging; that he might know wherefore they cried so against him. 25 And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned?

Paul could not finish his testimony. As soon as the Jews heard the word Gentiles, they were furious and turned into a frenzy. They removed their clothes, threw dust in the air, and shouted: “away with him”. The Roman commander took Paul into the barracks, chained him, and ordered the centurion to scourge Paul. Paul said he was a Roman citizen. Under Roman law, it was unlawful to scourge a Roman citizen before a guilty verdict.

VV 26-29, 26 When the centurion heard that, he went and told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman. 27 Then the chief captain came, and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? He said, Yea. 28 And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was free born. 29 Then straightway they departed from him which should have examined him: and the chief captain also was afraid, after he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him.

The centurion reported to the commander that Paul was a Roman citizen. The commander asked Paul whether he was a Roman citizen. Paul said he was born as a Roman citizen. The commander was surprised because he had to pay a large sum of money to be a Roman citizen.

V 30, On the morrow, because he would have known the certainty wherefore he was accused of the Jews, he loosed him from his bands, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down, and set him before them.

A riot broke had broken out in the temple and the Romans had arrested Paul. Paul’s address triggered another riot and the Romans rearrested Paul. The next day, the Romans sent Paul to be tried under the Sanhedrin;

Application:

Paul shared his testimony to defend his faith. His testimony can be broken down into three-part, pre-conversion, conversion, and post-conversion. This is how you should share your testimony. Break it down into three parts, the before, the during, and the after. Write it out, practice it out and share it out.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for Paul’s extraordinary testimony. We pray for wisdom to prepare our three-part testimony as an evangelistic tool, in Jesus’ name, Amen.