Acts 23

Many are the troubles of the righteous, but some way or other, the Lord delivereth them out of them all. God is able to bring the hidden things to light and make conspirators’ own tongues betray them, and above all to make the persecutions of His servants to turn to the wider spread of the Gospel.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

Acts 23:1-11 – ​Dividing His Persecutors

   The behavior of the judge was quite unworthy of his office, but Paul’s epithet cannot be defended. The best of men are but men at the best. Paul was thrown off his guard by an insult which touched him to the quick; but nothing could have been finer than the grace and frankness with which he acknowledged his error. The adroit way in which Paul divided the Council probably saved the situation. If the body had been united, Lysias would doubtless have handed Paul over to them to deal with. But the fiery hatred that broke out gave the chief captain grave concern for the safety of this man with citizen-rights.
   How timely and precious was the Savior’s revelation on the following night! As Paul’s heart was sinking amid the solitude of his cell, and he was beginning to think that perhaps the predictions of Agabus and others were about to be fulfilled, he suddenly became aware of the presence of his Lord. Do not trust in your own understanding; let your Master steer your course; and remember that in the darkest hour, as in the brightest, He is beside you. There will be made to you, at “the fourth watch of the night,” revelations which will reassure your weary and despairing soul that you are not alone (Matthew 14:25; Mark 6:48). —Through the Bible Day by Day

Acts 23:1—Brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.

​   Conscience is what one knows with oneself. That at least is an exact translation of this Latin word. It is a man coming to himself, facing himself, looking deep into his own eyes as he stands before the mirror of God’s truth. There are varieties of conscience—the weak conscience, which is ever questioning; the defiled conscience, which has a consciousness of neglected duty or unforgiven sin; the morbid conscience, which is perpetually discussing infinitesimal niceties, and splitting hairs. In contrast with these is the good conscience, of which the apostle speaks.
   We have to live with our conscience, and if it is disquieted and restless, we find that it will make life almost unbearable. Like the restless sea, it frets and foams through the dark hours; and is always casting up the bitter memories and sad regrets of bygone days. As it was with King Ahab, so it is with all who have sinned against conscience, they get the vineyard of Naboth; but with it they get Elijah, standing like an incarnate conscience at the door, and taking pleasure and enjoyment from their possession.
   Paul could not have made this statement unless he had been very accurate and careful in his daily walk and conversation; but he tells us that he perpetually exercised himself to have a conscience void of offence toward God and man. Let its subject ourselves to a similar discipline, and often expose ourselves to the searching scrutiny of the Holy Spirit, so that we may say with the apostle, “My conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost” (Acts 24:16; Romans 9:1).
   It is a marvelous experience to stand before God; but how much more so to live before Him! —Our Daily Homily

Acts 23:12-24 – ​Would-Be Murderers Baffled

   The Lord had told His servant that he was needed in Rome, but the conspirators said that he should not leave Jerusalem. There is only one conclusion when such a collision occurs—God’s word must stand to the discomfiture of those who have sworn that they will neither eat nor drink till they have perpetrated their plan to the contrary.
   These high ecclesiastics fell in with an infamous plot. What will not unscrupulous men do under cover of religion! It is a pleasing trait that the Roman officer took Paul’s nephew by the hand and led him aside for a private audience. How proudly would the boy recount the whole story to his mother, when he emerged from those grim walls. At nine o’clock that night there was a clattering of horses’ hoofs as seventy horsemen and two hundred soldiers went through the stone-paved streets on their way to Caesarea. Already Paul had begun his journey to Rome. Often afterward, when it seemed as though his life would be forfeited, he must have stayed on the Master’s words, So must thou bear witness also at Rome (Acts 23:11). What a life-buoy that promise was! And if God had saved him from the mob at Jerusalem and given him the friendship of Lysias, what could God not do for him in the future! —Through the Bible Day by Day

Acts 23:25-35 – ​Sent to a Roman Tribunal

   Antipatris was forty-two miles from Jerusalem. The escort and their prisoner made the forced march in a night. Next day the legionaries marched back to Jerusalem while the mounted soldiers rode forward to Caesarea, which was twenty-six miles farther on. The Apostle therefore entered Caesarea in a guise different from that in which he had left it, Acts 21:16. Philip and the other Christians must have been startled to see how soon their forebodings were fulfilled as the great missionary, from whom they had parted with so many tears, rode through the streets surrounded by soldiers.
   When Felix read the letter which Lysias had sent explaining the case, he handed Paul over to a soldier to be kept in one of the guard-rooms of the old palace which now formed the stately residence of the governors of Judea. What mingled feelings must have filled that lion heart, as he realized that, while Rome had him in her power, all the artifice of his bitter foes would now be powerless to do him bodily harm. The psalms which he had sung at Philippi would come to mind with added force as he strengthened his soul in God. —Through the Bible Day by Day