Paul Before Governor Felix – Acts 23

Paul in front of Ananias and the Sanhedrin

    1-5 Then Paul, looking earnestly at the council, said, “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.” And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! For you sit to judge me according to the law, and do you command me to be struck contrary to the law?” And those who stood by said, “Do you revile God’s high priest?” Then Paul said, “I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’ ”

Paul had such bad eyesight, that it is very reasonable to think that he truly didn’t know that he was before the high priest Ananias in part because he couldn’t see and also because he’d been away from Jerusalem so long.

    For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me.
    ~Galatians 4:15b

    See with what large letters I have written to you with my own hand!
    ~Galatians 6:11

Now we read as Paul address this council of Jewish leaders, and he tries to drive a wedge between them.

    6-10 But when Paul perceived that 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; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!” And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and the assembly was divided. For Sadducees say that there is no resurrection—and no angel or spirit; but the Pharisees confess both. Then there arose a loud outcry. And the scribes of the Pharisees’ party arose and protested, saying, “We find no evil in this man; but if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him, let us not fight against God.” Now when there arose a great dissension, the commander, fearing lest Paul might be pulled to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him by force from among them, and bring him into the barracks.

You can see Paul is working to divide this group of Jewish leadership (the Sanhedrin). Think of it as the Democrats and the Republicans in Congress. The Sadducees are similar to the Democrats of today in that they were the liberal group. They didn’t believe in a resurrection or any sort of spiritual world. The Pharisees are more like the Republicans of today. They were more traditional. They did believe in a resurrection of the dead though not necessarily Jesus’ resurrection.

Paul’s attempt to split them up in disagreement works immediately, they agree on nothing, and Paul is sent back to his cell.

The Comfort of Christ

    Vs 11 But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome.”

Have you ever been sent to your room where your mom/dad told you to wait until they decided what your punishment would be? Or imagine you have to go to court knowing your case is weak, and you may be sentenced to be punished?

That time of waiting is awful. You dwell on what may happen, you can’t think of anything else but the coming possible punishment. Maybe your buddies even try to console you and tell you it won’t be all that bad. Then the God of the universe steps into the room to offer Paul comfort and to strengthen him. Jesus stands by Him to console him.

Paul even writes about this comfort in his second letter to the Corinthians.

    Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. ~2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Can you imagine Paul begging God for some words of comfort? Sometimes the unknown future is the scariest, and we know Paul must have felt pretty down because Jesus came to him. Here, Jesus responds to Paul by assuring him that his work and his words were what God wanted – “as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome.” Jesus was saying “you did good Paul, and I’m going to have you do it again before a Roman court.” The Savior was also assuring Paul that this trial will not be his death sentence by telling him He had later plans for him.

The Plot to Kill Paul

    Vs 12-15 And when it was day, some of the Jews banded together and bound themselves under an oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. Now there were more than forty who had formed this conspiracy. They came to the chief priests and elders, and said, “We have bound ourselves under a great oath that we will eat nothing until we have killed Paul. Now you, therefore, together with the council, suggest to the commander that he be brought down to you tomorrow, as though you were going to make further inquiries concerning him; but we are ready to kill him before he comes near.”

A band of forty-something Jews have now concocted this plan to trick the commander into bringing Paul before the chief priests and elders. Then, while they are moving him from the prison to the Jews for questioning, they would ambush the group and kill Paul. This plot was sealed by their oath to “neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul”. This was a serious pact!

    Vs 16-30 So when Paul’s sister’s son heard of their ambush, he went and entered the barracks and told Paul. Then Paul called one of the centurions to him and said, “Take this young man to the commander, for he has something to tell him.” So he took him and brought him to the commander and said, “Paul the prisoner called me to him and asked me to bring this young man to you. He has something to say to you.” Then the commander took him by the hand, went aside, and asked privately, “What is it that you have to tell me?” And he said, “The Jews have agreed to ask that you bring Paul down to the council tomorrow, as though they were going to inquire more fully about him. But do not yield to them, for more than forty of them lie in wait for him, men who have bound themselves by an oath that they will neither eat nor drink till they have killed him; and now they are ready, waiting for the promise from you.” So the commander let the young man depart, and commanded him, “Tell no one that you have revealed these things to me.”

The Lord Jesus had already assured Paul he would go to Rome to testify there, and now we see God’s hand of protection that intervenes by using Paul’s nephew and the local Roman commander!

God is our Defense!

    And he said: “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; The God of my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, My stronghold and my refuge; My Savior, You save me from violence. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies. When the waves of death surrounded me, The floods of ungodliness made me afraid. The sorrows of Sheol surrounded me; The snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the LORD, And cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, And my cry entered His ears.” ~ 2 Samuel 22:2-7

What Paul was going through is called spiritual warfare. In that realm of the spirit, the world that we cannot see, God and his angels are battling for us. But God has also given us weapons of war that allow us to fight as well.

    Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.
    Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
    For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
    Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
    Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.
    And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;
    ~Ephesians 6:10-17

Which weapons did Paul use in this battle? All of them!

In the middle of the night, he found “strength in The Lord“.

Paul “girded his waist with truth” or we would say that he dwelled on and rested in the word of God. He centered his life around the Bible, he read it, memorized, and knew it incredibly well.

He “put on the breastplate of righteousness“. How do we get that? That is salvation is Jesus! In Jesus Christ we are made righteous if we accept his free gift of salvation.
Certainly Paul had “shod his feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace“. Everywhere Paul walked and travelled, he shared the gospel with whoever would listen.

The “shield of faith” was certainly a defensive weapon that Paul used all the time. This is the faith we have that the God of the universe is in control and protects and defends us. The “wicked one” (Satan) attacks us with “fiery darts“, but our faith in Jesus can be our defense.

The “helmet of salvation” protects our head while the “shield of faith” protects our heart! It’s so easy to get confused and torn away from our walk with God. But if we continue to believe with all of our heart and we confess it with our mouth, we are saved.

    If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
    For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. ~Romans 10:9-10

Last we see the “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God“. This “sword of the spirit” is the only offensive weapon we are given. We attack and fight back by knowing God’s word and reading it. We are attacked by the enemy with doubt, frustration, anxiety, anger, pride and so many others. That is Satan trying to draw us away from faith. And when we know what God’s word says, we are assured in our hearts and minds of the truth.

Paul is Spared and Sent to Governor Felix

    Vs 23-35 And he called for two centurions, saying, “Prepare two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen, and two hundred spearmen to go to Caesarea at the third hour of the night; and provide mounts to set Paul on, and bring him safely to Felix the governor.”
    He wrote a letter in the following manner:
    Claudius Lysias, To the most excellent governor Felix: Greetings.
    This man was seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them. Coming with the troops I rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman. And when I wanted to know the reason they accused him, I brought him before their council. I found out that he was accused concerning questions of their law, but had nothing charged against him deserving of death or chains. And when it was told me that the Jews lay in wait for the man, I sent him immediately to you, and also commanded his accusers to state before you the charges against him. Farewell.

    Then the soldiers, as they were commanded, took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris. The next day they left the horsemen to go on with him, and returned to the barracks. When they came to Caesarea and had delivered the letter to the governor, they also presented Paul to him. And when the governor had read it, he asked what province he was from. And when he understood that he was from Cilicia, he said, “I will hear you when your accusers also have come.” And he commanded him to be kept in Herod’s Praetorium.

Here we see the commander of this force in Jerusalem protecting Paul by pulling him out of the prison. But who is Paul’s real Protector? Jesus. He can be yours and mine as well if we ask Him to.

    The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. ~Psalm 18:2

I love you Lord. I confess that you are the Son of God, born on earth to die for my sins, and resurrected from death that I can have eternal life. Save me from my sins and from myself. Be my defender against all the fiery darts of the evil one. Amen.

See also Put ON That Armor! from Desiring to Walk Humbly With My God

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