No matter how strange things may seem in life, know that God continues to work all things to His good.
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Acts 23 (ESV)
1 And looking intently at the council, Paul said,
“Brothers, I have lived my life
in all good conscience
up to this day.”
2 And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth.
3 Then Paul said to him,
“God is going to strike
you whitewashed wall!
Are you sitting to judge me
according to the law,
and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?”
4 Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God’s high priest?”
5 And Paul said,
“I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest,
for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’ ”
6 Now when Paul
perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees,
he cried out in the council,
I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees.
It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.”
7 And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided.
8 For the Sadducees say that there is
but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.
9 Then a great clamor arose,
and some of the scribes of the Pharisees’ party stood up and contended sharply,
“We find nothing wrong in this man.
What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?”
10 And when the dissension became violent,
the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them,
commanded the soldiers to go down
and take him away from among them by force
and bring him into the barracks.
11 The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”
12 When it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul.
13 There were more than forty who made this conspiracy.
14 They went to the chief priests and elders and said,
“We have strictly bound ourselves by an oath
to taste no food
till we have killed Paul.
15 Now therefore you, along with the council,
give notice to the tribune to bring him down to you,
as though you were going to determine his case more exactly.
And we are ready to kill him before he comes near.”
16 Now the son of Paul’s sister
heard of their ambush,
so he went and entered the barracks and told Paul.
17 Paul called one of the centurions and said,
“Take this young man to the tribune,
for he has something to tell him.”
18 So he took him and brought him to the tribune and said,
“Paul the prisoner called me and asked me to bring this young man to you,
as he has something to say to you.”
19 The tribune took him by the hand, and going aside asked him privately,
“What is it that you have to tell me?”
20 And he said,
“The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down to the council tomorrow,
as though they were going to inquire somewhat more closely about him.
21 But do not be persuaded by them,
for more than forty of their men are lying in ambush for him,
who have bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they have killed him.
And now they are ready, waiting for your consent.”
22 So the tribune
dismissed the young man,
charging him, “Tell no one that you have informed me of these things.”
23 Then he called two of the centurions and said,
two hundred soldiers,
with seventy horsemen
and two hundred spearmen
to go as far as Caesarea at the third hour of the night.
24 Also provide mounts for Paul to ride
and bring him safely to Felix the governor.”
25 And he wrote a letter to this effect:
26 “Claudius Lysias, to his Excellency the governor Felix, greetings.
27 This man
was seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them
when I came upon them with the soldiers and rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman citizen.
28 And desiring to know the charge for which they were accusing him,
I brought him down to their council.
29 I found that he was being accused about questions of their law,
but charged with nothing deserving death or imprisonment.
30 And when it was disclosed to me that there would be a plot against the man,
I sent him to you at once,
ordering his accusers also to state before you what they have against him.”
31 So the soldiers, according to their instructions,
took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris.
32 And on the next day they returned to the barracks, letting the horsemen go on with him.
33 When they had come to Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor,
they presented Paul also before him.
34 On reading the letter, he asked what province he was from.
And when he learned that he was from Cilicia,
35 he said, “I will give you a hearing when your accusers arrive.”
And he commanded him to be guarded in Herod’s praetorium.
Acts 23 Summary
Paul appears before the Jewish establishment, having been sent there by the Roman authorities to determine what the root cause of all the chaos is that breaks out around Paul all of the time.
In his testimony, Paul expertly pits the opposing parties within the establishment against each other. These guys had even deeper animosity than what Republicans and Democrats do today. Paul pits the Pharisees against the Sadducees, who denied any sort of spiritual realities or life after death.
Once again chaos ensues, and Paul is once again evacuated by the Romans. After an assassination plot is uncovered, a massive show of Roman imperial force transports Paul to the next higher rung of the Roman government.
All of this to say that the methods God often uses to work out His will - in this case, Paul being brought to testify to the highest levels of the government in Rome - are often stranger than fiction!
A few days ago we read about Paul's sermon going "on and on," which bored poor young Eutychus to death. In chapter 23, however, Paul says all that needed to be said in a few words: my hope is in the resurrection of the dead.
Ultimately this is the crux of Christian belief, that there is life after death. The chaos that follows in the Sanhedrin is evidence of the power of these words.
Remember this as you evangelize: long & complicated explanations are not always needed.
Certainly the chaos that broke out and the military evacuation that followed were not the results Paul intended. Not even Paul's witnessing always had 'good results,' at least according to our judgement, but you can confidently know that God will work His purposes out as you testify to His truth just as He did with Paul.
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: A great and mighty God who can even use a pagan army to save His people.
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Know that Jesus is standing right alongside of you, telling you to take courage as you seek & do His will.
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: