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Acts 23

Luscombe's Commentary on Selected Books of the NTLuscombe's NT Commentary

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Verse 1

1 Then Paul, looking earnestly at the council, said, " Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day. "

1. Paul looks his audience in the eye. He speaks directly to them.

2. Conscience is:

1. A trained reflex. We are trained (learn) to be attracted to or avoid certain things. We learn to fear. We learn to hate (prejudice) other people.

2. Conscience is only as reliable as it was taught and trained to be.

3. 1 John 3:20-21 - 20 For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God.

4. Conscience must be checked, but we must not depend on it as the ONLY source of information for our actions.

5. If our conscience causes doubt - don't. Rom_14:23 - But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.

3. While Paul was persecuting Christians, arresting them, sending them to prison, even killing them - He had a clear, clean, good conscience. He was ready to stand before God with confidence that he was doing the will of God.

Verse 2

2 And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth.

1. Now the high priest, leader of this council, commands that Paul be struck in the mouth.

2. Not because his conscience was clear while persecuting Christians, but because his conscience was clear while converting Jews to New Testament Christianity.

Verse 3

3 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? "

1. Paul responds in anger and pain. While the words are strong and harsh, they are truth.

2. We must be reminded that it is not just WHAT we say, but HOW we say it.

3. Our speech must be with grace, seasoned with salt. ( Col_4:5 )

4. TRUTH : While they are are sitting in judgment of his actions as violations of the Law of Moses, they are in rebellion of the very law they are judging him of breaking.

5. Whitewashed wall - This is a proverbial expression meaning - You hypocrite. The implication is that the wall is really dirty but just has a coat of paint on it to make it look new and polished.

6. Jesus talked in Mat_23:1-39 about tombstones that were whitewashed on the outside and full of dead mens bones. The expression here is similar.

7. Even with that being true - Paul was wrong to speak against the high priest.

Verses 4-5

4 And those who stood by said, " Do you revile God ' s high priest? "

5 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. '"

1. Paul is accused of speaking against the high priest of God.

2. Paul immediately apologizes. He did not know that this was the high priest.

3. He even quotes the law that he violated.

4. Question: Does this have any implication for us today? Are we allowed to speak evil against civil rulers? They are, after all, God's ministers. (See Rom_14:1-23 ). I believe we can disagree with the decision of a ruler without speaking evil of the person.

Verse 6

6 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! "

1. Paul sees that the possibility of having a rational discussion with them is not going to be achievable. They are not in a mood to listen to reason or logic.

2. Paul also sees the division among them - Sadducees and Pharisees.

3. For some of the major differences between these groups - see verse 8.

4. Paul affirms his belief in, and hope for, the resurrection. He is being accused because he stands firmly in the belief in the resurrection of Jesus and in the hope of his own resurrection.

Verse 7

7 And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and the assembly was divided.

1. The council is now divided on this matter. Instead of being united against Paul, they are now divided against each other.

2. They were united - Now they are untied. Their unity has collapsed. They were trying to pretend that their differences did not matter and joined together in this common cause.

3. Now they are divided. Doctrine does matter.

1. The ecumenical movement seeks to ignore the matters of doctrine.

2. Some are now seeking union with those who use instrumental music in worship.

3. On every occasion doctrine is ignored, played down as unimportant, or of no significance.

Verse 8

8 For Sadducees say that there is no resurrection-and no angel or spirit; but the Pharisees confess both.

1. Sadducees - In Mat_22:23 they came to Jesus with a "trick" question about the resurrection.

1. Deny resurrection - They believe in "this life only" and when you die, that is the end.

2. Deny angels - They do not believe that God has angels (messengers). They reject the idea of good or bad angels.

3. Renounce spirits - They do not believe man has a soul (spirit). They believed that man was a physical being only. Their use of the word "spirit" was only in reference to life and breath. There are some religious groups today that also teach that man is only a material being.

2. Pharisees - On all three of the above points, the Pharisees disagree with the Sadducees. To both sects of the Jewish religion, these were not just issues where they disagred; they were matters of doctrine.

Verse 9

9 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. "

1. A huge, loud, clamor arises as both sides try to out shout the other.

2. Suddenly, Paul is a friend to the Pharisees. He is on their side.

3. They argue that if Paul has heard a spirit or angel speak to him, it can't be denied.

4. Their belief in angels and spirits is so strong that to deny Paul's claim would be to fight against God.

Verse 10

10 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.

1. Now the Roman commander needs to step in. He does not care about their discussion on spirits, angels or the resurrection. He only sees a mob becoming more agitated.

2. He fears that Paul might be attacked and killed by the unruly mob.

3. He also fears that Paul, being a Roman citizen, might have his rights violated.

4. Paul is now removed from the view of the crowd and taken inside the barracks.

Verse 11

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. "

1. Paul is instructed and informed by Jesus.

1. Have courage - Be of good cheer. We would say, "Cheer up." The Greek word used here means to have courage.

2. Jerusalem testimony - Paul was faithful and did not waver in his convictions as he was arrested and in his defense to the Jews.

3. Roman witness - Paul is now informed that this is not the end. He is also to stand before councils in Rome.

Verse 12

12 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.

1. Some Jews are now more determined that before that Paul must die.

2. They take an oath. They will not eat or drink until Paul is dead.

Verses 13-14

13 Now there were more than forty who had formed this conspiracy.

14 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.

1. This band of more than forty men now report to the chief priests and elders.

2. They are so determined to kill Paul that they will not eat until the deed is done.

Verse 15

15 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. "

1. To accomplish their mission, they needed some help from the council.

2. Their plan was for the council to request Paul be brought to them for further trial and discussion. This group of 40 men would kill Paul as he was brought to the council.

Verse 16

16 So when Paul ' s sister ' s son heard of their ambush, he went and entered the barracks and told Paul.

1. We now learn that Paul has a sister. We also learn that Paul has a nephew.

2. Paul's nephew becomes aware of this plan. He must have heard some of the men discussing the plan.

3. The nephew goes to the barracks and informs Paul of the plan to attack him.

Verses 17-18

17 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. "

18 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. "

1. Paul requests that his nephew be taken to the commander. There is information that he needs to know.

Verses 19-20

19 Then the commander took him by the hand, went aside, and asked privately, " What is it that you have to tell me? "

20 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.

1. The commander is ready to listen. He takes the young man aside so they can have a private conversation.

2. The nephew informs the commander of the plot.

Verse 21

21 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. "

1. More than 40 men are ready to ambush and kill Paul.

2. They have taken an oath. They are serious in their plot.

3. They are just waiting for your approval to bring Paul to the council.

Verse 22

22 So the commander let the young man depart, and commanded him, " Tell no one that you have revealed these things to me. "

1. The commander requests the Paul's nephew tell no one about what has been revealed.

2. Telling anyone could put this young man in danger.

Verse 23

23 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;

1. Two centurions (and all 200 soldiers under them) are called to action.

2. The commander also lines up 70 horsemen. Then he adds 200 spear men.

3. It is now 9 o'clock at night. Begin counting the night hours at 6 pm.

4. The commander is going to move Paul to a safer place in Caesarea.

Verse 24

24 and provide mounts to set Paul on, and bring him safely to Felix the governor. "

1. Paul is now placed on a horse (or donkey) in the middle of this huge company of soldiers.

2. The command - Get Paul safely to Felix the governor.

Verses 25-27

25 He wrote a letter in the following manner:

26 Claudius Lysias, To the most excellent governor Felix: Greetings.

27 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.

1. A letter is written to give the governor the background information.

2. The letter is written in formal language. From Claudius Lysias (the commander) to the governor, Felix.

3. With no other formalities the letter begins telling the story.

1. Paul was seized by the Jews.

2. Troops were brought to rescue him.

3. We learned he was a Roman citizen.

Verse 28

28 And when I wanted to know the reason they accused him, I brought him before their council.

1. He was allowed a hearing before the council of Jewish leaders.

Verse 29

29 I found out that he was accused concerning questions of their law, but had nothing charged against him deserving of death or chains.

1. The charges were dealing with their law.

2. None of the charges were matters of death. There are not charges worthy of even an arrest. Paul has committed no felony.

3. The only reason he is in custody is for his protection, not because he is a criminal.

Verse 30

30 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.

1. The commander now explains the plot to kill Paul.

2. Paul is now in the hands of the Roman governor in Caesarea.

3. The commander has also sent word to the council that, if they seek to persue charges against Paul, they will have to go to Caesarea and present them to the governor.

Verse 31

31 Then the soldiers, as they were commanded, took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris.

1. This huge company travels about 35 miles to the city of Antipatris.

2. Albert Barnes says, " This town was anciently called Cafar-Saba. Josephus says that it was about 17 miles from Joppa. It was about 26 miles from Caesarea, and, of course, about 35 miles from Jerusalem. Herod the Great changed its name to Antipatris, in honor of his father Antipater. It was situated in a fine plain, and watered with many springs and fountains."

3. They are now well away from Jerusalem. It is safe to travel the rest of the way with a smaller troop.

Verses 32-33

32 The next day they left the horsemen to go on with him, and returned to the barracks.

33 When they came to Caesarea and had delivered the letter to the governor, they also presented Paul to him.

1. The horsemen continue with Paul.

2. The 200 soldiers return to Jerusalem.

3. It is assumed that the spear men also return to Jerusalem.

4. Paul is now being escorted by 70 horsemen the rest of the way to Caesarea.

Verse 34

34 And when the governor had read it, he asked what province he was from. And when he understood that he was from Cilicia,

1. Paul arrives without incident in Caesarea.

2. The governor reads the letter, learns that Paul is Roman and asks where he is from.

3. Paul tells him he is from Cilicia.

Verse 35

35 he said, " I will hear you when your accusers also have come. " And he commanded him to be kept in Herod ' s Praetorium.

1. The governor understands that he is dealing with a Roman citizen who has been accused by the Jews.

2. He decides to hold Paul until the accusers are able to come and make formal charges against him.

3. He is to be held in Herod's Praetorium. This is the Judgment Hall in Caesarea. We would say he was held in the court house. With the court rooms there is also a jail to hold prisoners. Paul is held here.

Bibliographical Information
Luscombe, Manly. "Commentary on Acts 23". Luscombe's Commentary on Selected Books of the NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mlc/acts-23.html. 2021.
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