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Bible Study: 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.