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Bible Commentaries
Acts 23

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Verses 1-35


Acts 23:1

Looking steadfastly on for earnestly beholding, A.V.; brethren for men and brethren, A.V.; I have lived before God, etc., for I have lived, etc., before God, A.V. Looking steadfastly; ἀτενίσας, as in Acts 1:10; Acts 3:4, Acts 3:12; Acts 6:15; Acts 7:55; Acts 10:4; Acts 11:6; Acts 13:9; Acts 14:9. It governs a dative here, as in Acts 3:12; Acts 10:1; Acts 14:9; Luke 4:20; Luke 22:56; elsewhere it is followed by εἰς. Brethren. He emits here the "fathers" which he added in Acts 22:1. If there is any special significance in the omission, it may be that he meant now to assume a less apologetic tone, and to speak as an equal to equals. Howson and Lewin think that he spoke as being, or having been, himself a member of the Sanhedrim. But he may have meant merely a friendly address to his countrymen. I have lived, etc. πεπολέτευμαι τῷ Θεῷ); comp. Philippians 3:20; I have had my conversation (vitam degi) unto God, or, for God, i.e. according to the will of God, with a view to God as the end of all my actions. So Josephus ('De Maccabeis,' sect. 4) says that Antiochus Epiphanes made a law that all Jews should be put to death οἵτινες φάνριεν τῷ πατοίω νόμω πολιτευόμενοι "who were seen to live according to the Law of their fathers." And so in 2 Macc. 6:1 it is said that he sent to compel the Jews to forsake the Law of their fathers—καὶ τοῖ τοῦ Θεοῦ νόμοις μὴ πολιτεύεσθαι—and not live agreeably to the laws of God. And once more, in 3 Macc. 3:3, 4 the Jews are said to fear God and to be τῷ τούτου νόμῳ πολιτευόμενοι, living according to his Law. Here, then, πολιτεύεσθι τῷ Θεῷ means to live in obedience to God. St. Paul boldly asserts his undeviating compliance with the Law of God, as a good and consistent Jew (Philippians 3:6).

Acts 23:2

Ananias, the son of Nebedaeus, successor of Joseph the son of Camel, or Camydus ('Ant. Jud.,' 20. 1.3; Acts 5:2), appears to have been actually high priest at this time. tie was a violent, haughty, gluttonous, and rapacious man, and vet looked up to by the Jews ("tres considere," Renan). tie had probably lately returned from Rome, having been confirmed, as it seems, in his office by Claudius, to whom Quadratus, the predecessor of Felix, has sent him as a prisoner, to answer certain charges of sedition against him. He seems to have been high priest for the unusually long period of over ten years—from A.D. 48 to A.D. 59 (see Josephus, 'Ant. Jud.,' 20. 5.2; 6.2, 3; 8.8). But, on the other hand, Josephus ('Ant. Jud.,' 20. 8.5) speaks of a certain Jonathan being high priest during the government of Felix, and being murdered by the Sicarii at his instigation; which looks as if Ananias's high priesthood had been interrupted. It would appear, too, from 20. 8.8, that Ismael the son of Fabi succeeded to Jonathan, not to Ananias, as is usually supposed. But the question is involved in great obscurity.

Acts 23:3

And for for, A.V.; according to for after, A.V. God shall smite thee (τύπτειν σε μέλλει). A distinct announcement of something that would happen. (For the incident itself, comp. I Kings Acts 22:24, Acts 22:25; Jeremiah 28:15, Jeremiah 28:17; and Acts 12:1, Acts 12:2, Acts 12:23) Ananias perished by the daggers of the Sicarii (Josephus, 'Bell. Jud,' 2. 17.9), at the beginning of the Jewish war under the procuratorship of Florus, in the year A.D. 66. He had been previously deposed from the high priesthood by King Agrippa toward the close of the government of Felix ('Ant. Jud.,' 20. 8.8), about A.D. 59, or early in A.D. 60, less than two years from the present time. Thou whited wall. This expression is admirably illustrated by the quotations from Seneca in Kuinoel: "These base and sordid spirits are like the walls of their own houses, only beautiful on the outside." "What are our gilt roofs hut lies? for we well know that under the gilding unseemly beams are concealed." "It is not only our walls which are coated with a thin outward ornament; the greatness of those men whom you see strutting in their pride is mere tinsel; look beneath the surface, and you will see all the evil that is hid under that thin crust of dignity". Ananias was sitting in his priestly robes of office, presiding over the council in power and dignity, and presumably a righteous judge, but his heart within was polluted with injustice, selfishness, and a corrupt disposition, which made him act unrighteously (comp. Matthew 23:27). Contrary to the Law; or, acting illegally; παρανομῶν, only found here in the New Testament, but common in classical Greek. St. Paul's temper was very excusably roused by the brutality and injustice of Ananias. But we may, perhaps, think that he did not quite attain to "the mind that was in Christ Jesus," who "when he was reviled, reviled not again," but was "led as a sheep to the slaughter, and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, he opened not his mouth" (Acts 8:32).

Acts 23:4

God's high priest. This seems to show that Ananias actually was high priest, though some think that he had thrust himself into the office after his return from Rome, without due authority, and that this was the reason why St. Paul excused himself by saying, in Acts 23:5, "I wist not that he was high priest."

Acts 23:5

And Paul said for then said Paul, A.V.; high for the high, A.V.; a ruler for the ruler, A.V. I wist not, etc. These words express, as distinctly as words can express anything, that St. Paul was not aware, when he called Ananias a "whited wall," that he was addressing the high priest. Different reasons for this ignorance have been given. Some think that it arose from the uncertainty that existed whether Ananias really was high priest or not at this time, or whether the office was not in abeyance. Others attribute to Paul's weakness of sight the fact that he did not see that Ananias was sitting in the presidential chair, neither was able to recognize his features. Others, giving to οὐκ ἤδειν a sense which it never bus, render, "I did not reflect," or "bear in mind, that he was high priest." What is certain is that for some reason or other Paul did not know that he was speaking to the high priest. Had he known it, he would not have said what he did say, because the Law is express which says, Ἄρχοντα τοῦ λαοῦ σου οὐ κακῶς ἐρεῖς (Exodus 22:28, LXX.).

Acts 23:6

Brethren for men and brethren, A.V. (as in Acts 23:1); a son of Pharisees for the son of a Pharisee, A.V. and T.R.; touching for of, A.V. When Paul perceived, etc. Possibly the Pharisees in the Sanhedrim were disgusted at the brutal act of Ananias, and were not sorry to hear him called "a whited wall;" and St. Paul's quick intelligence saw at a glance that the whole council did not sympathize with their president, and divined the cause. With a ready wit, therefore, he proclaimed himself a Pharisee, and, seizing upon the great dogma of the resurrection, which Christians held in common with the Pharisees, he rallied to his side all who were Pharisees in the assembly. Of Pharisees. The R.T. has Φαρισαίων (in the plural), which gives the sense that his ancestors were Pharisees (comp. Philippians 3:5). Touching the hope, etc. (see Acts 24:21). The words are somewhat difficult to construe. Some take "the hope and resin'. rection of the dead" for a hendiadys, equivalent to "the hope of the resurrection of the dead." Some take ἐλπίς by itself, as meaning "the hope of a future life." Perhaps the exact form of the words is, "Touching the hope and (its ultimate object) the resurrection of the dead I am called in question.'' The article is omitted after the preposition (Alford). As regards St. Paul's action in taking advantage of the strong party feeling by which the Sanhedrim was divided, there is a difference of opinion. Some, as Alford, think that the presence of mind and skill with which Paul divided the hostile assembly was a direct fulfillment of our Lord's promise (Mark 13:9-11; see Homiletics, 1-11) to suggest by his Spirit to those under persecution what they ought to say. Farrar, on the contrary, strongly blames St. Paul, and says," The plan showed great knowledge of character … but was it worthy of St. Paul? … Could he worthily say, 'I am a Pharisee'? Had he any right to inflame an existing animosity?" and more to the same effect. But it could not be wrong for St. Paul to take advantage of the agreement of Christian doctrine with some of the tenets of the Pharisees, to check the Pharisees from joining with the Sadducees in crushing that doctrine. He had never thrown off his profession as a Jew, and if a Jew, then one of the straitest sect of the Jews, in any of its main features; and if he claimed the freedom of a Roman citizen to save himself from scourging, why not the fact of being a Pharisee of Pharisees to save himself from an iniquitous sentence of the Sanhedrim?

Acts 23:7

Sadducees for the Sadducees, A.V.; assembly for multitude, A.V.

Acts 23:8

Neither angel, etc. Is there any connection between this expression and that in Acts 12:15, "It is his angel" (see Acts 12:9)? For the statement regarding the Pharisees and Sadducees, see Luke 20:27.

Acts 23:9

Clamor for cry, A.V.; some of the for the, A.V.; of the Pharisees' part for that were of the, etc., A.V.; stood up for arose, A.V.; and what for but, A.V.; a spirit hath spoken to him, or an angel for a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, A.V.; the R.T. omits the clause in the T.R., let us not fight against God. The scribes (comp. Luke 20:39). We find no evil in this man (comp. John 18:29, John 18:33; Luke 23:1-56. Luke 23:14, Luke 23:15, Luke 23:22). What if a spirit, etc.; alluding to what Paul had said in Acts 22:17, Acts 22:18.

Acts 23:10

Be torn for have been pulled, A.V.; by for of, A.V.; take for to take, A.V.; bring for to bring, A.V. A great dissension; στάσεως, as in Acts 15:2. and above, Acts 15:7. The state of things here described is exactly what the pages of Josephus and of Tacitus disclose as to the combustible state of the Jewish mind generally just before the commencement of the Jewish war. The Roman power was the one element of quiet and order. The tower of Antonia was the one place of safety in Jerusalem.

Acts 23:11

The R.T. omits Paul, in the T.R. and A.V.; concerning for of, A.V.; at for in, A.V. The Lord stood by him. The jaded, harassed, and overwrought spirit needed some unusual support. The Lord whom Paul loved, and for whom he was suffering so much, knew it, and in his tender care for his servant stood by him and spake a word of gracious encouragement to him. Paul felt that he was not forgotten or forsaken. There was more work for him to do, in spite of all the hatred of his countrymen. The capital of heathendom must hear his testimony as well the metropolis of the circumcision.

Acts 23:12

The Jews for certain of the Jews, A.V. and T.R. Banded together (ποιήσαντες συστροφὴν). This word συστροφή is found in the New Testament only here and Acts 19:40, where it is rendered "concourse." The sense of "a conspiracy," which it has here, is common in the LXX. (see Amos 7:10; 2 Kings 15:15, etc.). The verb συστρέφειν in the LXX. has the sense of "to conspire" (2 Samuel 15:31; 2Ki 10:9; 2 Kings 15:30, συνέστρεψε σύστρεμμα). Bound themselves under a curse (ἀνεθεμάτισαν ἑαυτοὺς). The word ἀνάθεμα (Rom 9:3; 1 Corinthians 12:3; 1 Corinthians 16:22; Galatians 1:8, Galatians 1:9) corresponds to the Hebrew ־שׂתס, the devotion of anything to destruction; and hence "the thing itself so devoted." And the verb ἀναθεματίζεν corresponds to the Hebrew ־שׂתס, to devote to destruction, without the possibility of redemption. Here they made themselves an ἀνάθεμα if they did not kill Paul before partaking of any food. It seems, however, that there was a way of escape if they failed to keep the vow. Lightfoot, on this passage, quotes from the Talmud: "He that hath made a vow not to eat anything, woe to him if he eat, and woe to him if he do not eat. If he eat he sinneth against his vow; if he do not eat he sinneth against his life. What must such a man do in this case? Let him go to the wise men, and they will loose his vow" ('Hebrews and Talmud. Exercit. upon the Acts').

Acts 23:13

Made for had made, A.V. Conspiracy; συνωμοσία, in Latin conjuratio. It only occurs here in the New Testament, but is used occasionally by Diodorus Siculus and other Greek writers. The kindred word συνωμότης is found in the LXX. of Genesis 14:13, rendered "confederate," A.V.

Acts 23:14

The elders for elders, A.V.; to taste for that we will eat, A.V.; killed for slain, A.V. The chief priests, etc. Meaning, no doubt, those who were of the party of the Sadducees, to which the chief priests mainly belonged at this time. A great curse. There is nothing in the phraseology of this verse, as compared with that of Acts 23:12, to warrant the introduction of the word "great." It is simply, "We have anathematized ourselves with an anathema."

Acts 23:15

Do ye for ye, A.V.; the R.T. omits tomorrow, in the A.V.; judge of his case more exactly for inquire something more perfectly concerning him, A.V.; slay for kill, A.V. With the council. Either the temporary feeling of the Pharisees had subsided, and their old hatred come to the front again, or the high priest and Sadducees, by some plausible excuse, persuaded the Pharisees of the council to join with them in asking that Paul might be brought before them again. Signify. The word ἐμφανίζειν only occurs here and at Acts 23:22, in this sense of "signifying" or "making known" something, which it has in Esther 2:22, LXX.. Codex Alexandrinus (as the rendering of רמַאָ, to tell), and in 2 Macc. 3:7, and in Josephus, as also in classical Greek. Elsewhere in the New Testament it means "to manifest," or "show," as in John 14:21, John 14:22; in the passive voice "to appear," as in Matthew 27:53; Hebrews 9:24; and in a technical legal sense "to give information" (Acts 24:1; Acts 25:2, Acts 25:15). Judge of his case more exactly; διαγινώσκειν κ.τ.λ. The word only occurs here and in Acts 24:22. The classical use of the word in the sense of "deciding," "giving judgment," is in favor of the R.V.; διαγινώσκειν, like διάγνωσις, diagnosis (Acts 25:21), is a word of very frequent use in medical writers, as is the ἀκριβέστερον, which here is joined with it (Acts 24:22, note).

Acts 23:16

But for and when, A.V.: and he came for he went, A.V. Lying in wait; ἐνέδρα, only here and in Acts 25:3 in the New Testament; but common in the Books of Joshua and Judges in the LXX., and also in classical Greek.

Acts 23:17

And for then, A.V.; called unto him one, etc., for called one, etc., unto him, A.V.; something for a certain thing, A.V.

Acts 23:18

Saith for said, A.V.; asked for prayed, A.V.; to for unto, A.V.

Acts 23:19

And for then, A.V.; going aside asked him privately for went with him aside privately, and asked him, A.V. Took him by the hand (ἐπιλαβόμενος τῆς χειρὸς); see above, Acts 17:19, note. The action denotes a kindly feeling towards St. Paul, as indeed his whole conduct does (comp. Acts 24:23; Acts 27:3; also Daniel 1:9 and Psalms 106:46).

Acts 23:20

Ask thee to bring for desire thee that then wouldest bring, A.V; unto for into, A.V.; thou wouldest for they would, A.V. and T.R.; more exactly concerning him for of him more perfectly, A.V. Have agreed. Συντίθημι occurs four times in the New Testament, of which three are in St. Luke's writings (Luke 22:5; this passage; and Acts 24:9), and the fourth in John 9:22. As though thou wouldest. The R.T., which reads μέλλων for μέλλοντες, must surely be wrong. It is in contradiction to John 9:15, and makes no sense. The pretext of further inquiry was theirs, not Lysias's.

Acts 23:21

Do not thou therefore for but do not thou, A.V.; under a curse for with an oath, A.V.; neither to eat nor to drink for that they will neither eat nor drink, A.V.; slain for killed, A.V.; the for a (promise), A.V. Do not … yield (μὴ πεισθῇς); be not persuaded by them; do not assent unto them (see Luke 16:6; Acts 5:40; Acts 17:4, etc.). The promise, etc.; τὴν ἀπὸ σοῦ ἐπαγγελίαν. The word occurs above fifty times in the New Testament, and is always rendered "promise" in the A.V., except in 1 John 1:5, where it is rendered both in the A.V. and the R.V. "message," which is the literal meaning of the word. In Polybius it means "a summons." Either of these meanings suits this passage better than "promise."

Acts 23:22

Let for then let, A.V.; go for depart, A.V.; charging for and charged, A.V.; tell for see then tell, A.V.; signified for showed, A.V. (see Acts 23:15, note). Charging (as in Acts 1:4; Acts 4:18; Acts 5:28, Acts 5:40, etc.).

Acts 23:23

Of the centurions for centurions, A.V.; and said for saying, A.V.; as far as for to, A.V. Two hundred soldiers; one hundred for each centurion; στρατιώτας, foot-soldiers, who alone would be under the command of the centurions. The ἱππεῖς and the δεξιολάβοι would be under the command perhaps of a τουρμάρχης, or decurio, captain of a turma, or squadron. Here there would seem to be two turmae because a turma consisted of thirty-three men—here possibly of thirty-five. Spearmen; δεξιολάβοι. This word occurs nowhere else in Scripture or in any ancient Greek author. It is first found in" Theophylactus Simocatta, in the seventh century, and then again in the tenth century in Constantine Porphyrogenitus" (Meyer). It seems most probable that it was the name of some particular kind of light infantry. But it is not easy to explain the etymology. Perhaps they were a kind of skirmishers thrown out on a march to protect the flanks of an army; as Plutarch speaks of javelin-men and slingers being placed to guard, not only the rear, but also the flanks of the army on the march (Steph., 'Thesaur.,' under οὐραγία). "Holding or taking the right" might be the force of the compound, somewhat after the analogy of δεξιόσειρος δεξιοστάτης, etc.; which agrees with the explanations of Phavorinus παραφύλακας, and with that of Beza, "Qui alicui dextrum latus [meaning simply latus] munit." Only, instead of the improbable notion of these men being a body-guard of the tribune—which their number makes impossible—it should be understood of the troops which protect the flank of an army on the march. Other improbable explanations are that δεξιολάβος means the soldier to whom the right hand of prisoners was fastened, or those who grasp with the right hand their weapon, the lance or javelin. The object of Lysias in sending so large a force was to guard against the possibility of a rescue in the feverish and excited state of the Jewish mind. And no doubt one reason for sending Paul away was his dread of a Jewish riot.

Acts 23:24

He bade them provide for provide, A.V, (the infinitive παραστῆσαι); might for may, A.V.; thereon for on, A.V. Beasts (κτήνη); here "riding-horses," as Luke 10:34. In Revelation 18:13 it is applied to "cattle;" in 1 Corinthians 15:39 it means "beasts" generally. In the LXX. it is used for all kinds of beasts—cattle, sheep, beasts of burden, etc. Beasts is in the plural, because one or more would be required for those who guarded Paul.

Acts 23:25

Form for manner, A.V. After this form. Luke does not profess to give the letter verbatim, but merely its general tenor, which Lysias might have communicated to Paul, or which Paul might have learnt at Caesarea.

Acts 23:26

Greeting for sendeth greeting, A.V. Governor; ἡγεμών, as Acts 23:24; propraetor of an imperial province, as distinguished from the ἀνθύπατος, or proconsul, who governed the provinces which were in the patronage of the senate. Sergius Paulus (Acts 13:7, Acts 13:8) was a proconsul, and so was Gallio (Acts 18:10); Pontius Pilate (Matthew 27:2) and Felix were procurators, ἡγεμόνες, only in a looser sense, as the more exact name of their office was ἐπίτροπος procurator. Only, as they were appointed by the emperor, and often exercised the full functions of a legatus Caesaris, they were called ἡγεμόνες as well as proprietors. Felix, called by Tacitus, Antonius Felix ('Hist.,' 5.9), was the brother of Pallas, the freedman and favorite of Claudius. He as well as his brother Felix had originally been the slave of Antonia the mother of the Emperor Claudius; and hence the name Antonins Felix, or, as he was sometimes otherwise celled, Claudius Felix. Tacitus, after mentioning that Claudius appointed as governors of Judaea sometimes knights and sometimes freedmen, adds that among the last Autenius Felix ruled this province with boundless cruelty and in the most arbitrary manner, showing by his abuse of power his servile origin. He adds that he married Drusilla, the granddaughter of Mark Antony and Cleopatra, so that he was Mark Antony's grandson-in-law, while Claudius was Antony's grandson. But see Acts 24:24, note. In the 'Annals' (12. 5) Tacitus further speaks of the incompetence of Felix to govern, stirring up rebellions by the means he took to repress them, and of the utter lawlessness and confusion to which the province was reduced by the maladministration of Felix and his colleague, Ventidius Cumanus ("cut pars provinciae habebatur"). He adds that civil war would have broken out if Quadratus, the Governor of Syria, had not interposed, and secured the punishment of Cumanus, while Felix, his equal in guilt, was continued in his government. This was owing, no doubt, to the influence of Pallas. The same influence secured the continued government to Felix upon Nero's accession, Pallas being all-powerful with Agrippina. Such was "the most excellent governor Felix." For further accounts of him, see Josephus ('Bell. Jud.,' 2. 12.8; 13.), who ignores his share in the government as the partner of Cumauus, and dates his appointment subsequently to the comdemnation of Cumanus at Rome, and is also there silent as to his misdeeds.

Acts 23:27

Seized by for taken of, A.V.; was about to be slain for should have been killed, A.V.; when I came for then came I, A.V.; upon them with the soldiers for with an army, A.V.; learned for understood, A.V. The soldiers (τὸστράτευμα, as Acts 23:10). The army of the A.V. is out of place. Having learned, etc. Lysias departs here from strict truth, wishing, no doubt, to set off his zeal in defense of a Roman citizen, and also to anticipate any unfavorable report that Paul might give as to his threatened scourging.)

Acts 23:28

Desiring to know for when 1 would have known, A.V.; down unto for forth into, A.V.

Acts 23:29

Found for perceived, A.V.; about for of, A.V. Questions; ζητήματα, only in the Acts, where it occurs five times (Acts 15:2; Acts 18:15; Acts 23:1-35. Acts 23:29; Acts 25:19; Acts 26:3). St. Luke also uses ζήτησις (Acts 25:20), as does St. Paul four times in the pastoral Epistles (1 Timothy 1:4, T.R.; 1 Timothy 6:4; 2 Timothy 2:23; Titus 3:9).

Acts 23:30

Shown to for told, A.V.; that there would be a plot against for how that the Jews laid wait for. A.V. and T.R.; I sent him to thee forthwith for I sent straight- way to thee, A.V.; charging for and gave commandment to, A.V.; to speak against him before thee for to say before thee what they had against him, A.V.; the R.T. omits farewell, in the A.V. That there would be a plot, etc. Two constructions are mixed up either by the writer of the letter, or by the transcriber. One would be Μηνυθείσης δέ μοι ἐπιβουλῆς τῆς μελλούσης ἔσεσθαι, "When I was informed of the plot which was about to be laid against him;" the other, Μηνυθέντος μοι ἐπιβουλὴν μέλλειν ἔσεσθαι, "When I was informed that a plot was going to be laid," etc. Against the man; πρὸς αὐτόν, as Acts 6:1; 1 Corinthians 6:1. But λέγειν πρός (instead of κατά), "to speak against" any one, is an unusual phrase. The T.R., which is retained by Mill, Alford, Wordsworth, Meyer, etc., is far more probable. Other readings are

Acts 23:31

So for then, A.V. Antipatris; "forty-two Roman miles£ from Jerusalem, and twenty-six from Caesarea, built (on the site of Kaphor Saba) by Herod the Great, and named in honor of Antipater, his father" (Alford). According to Howson, following the American traveller, the Rev. Eli Smith, the route lay from Jerusalem to Gophna, on the road to Nablous, and from Gophna, leaving the great north road by a Roman road of which many distinct traces remain, to Antipatris, avoiding Lydda or Diospolis altogether. Gophna is three hours from Jerusalem, and, as they started at 9 p.m., would be reached by midnight. Five or six hours more would bring them to Antipatris, most of the way being downhill from the hill country of Ephraim to the plain of Sharon. Attera halt of two or three hours, a march of six hours would bring them to Caesarea, which they may have reached in the afternoon.

Acts 23:32

But on for on, A.V. On the morrow, after their departure from Jerusalem, not, as Alford suggests, after their departure from Antipatris. It was a forced march, and therefore would not occupy two days and a night.

Acts 23:33

And they for who, A.V.; letter for epistle, A.V. Presented Paul; πάρεστησαν. This is a word particularly used of setting any one before a judge (see Romans 14:10, and the subscription of 2 Timothy, Ὅτε ἐκ δευτέρου παρέστη Πῦλος τῷ Καίσαρι Νέρωνι).

Acts 23:34

He for the governor, A.V. and T.R.; it for the fetter, A.V. Province; ἐπαρχία, only here and in Acts 25:1. A general word for a government, most properly applied to an imperial province.

Acts 23:35

Thy cause for thee, A.V.; also are for are also, A.V.; palace for judgment hall, A.V. I will hear thy cause; διακούσομαί σου, found only here in the New Testament; but used in the same sense as here for "hearing a cause," in Deuteronomy 1:16, Διακούσατεκαὶ κρίνετε, "Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously," A.V. See also Job 9:33, Διακούων ἀναμέσον ἀμφοτέρων, "That might lay his hand upon us both," A.V., i.e. judge between us. Palace (ἐν τῷ πραιτωρίῳ). The praetorium—for it is a Latin word—was originally the proctor's tent in a Roman camp. Thence it came to signify the abode of the chief magistrate in a province, or a king's palace. Herod's palace seems to have been a palace originally built by King Herod, and now used, either as the residence of the procurator or, as the mode of speaking rather indicates, for some public office. (For the use of the word πραιτώριον, see Matthew 27:27; John 18:28,John 18:33; John 19:9; Philippians 1:13.)


Acts 23:1-11


The characteristic quality of an Israelite indeed, as our Lord has taught us, is to be without guile. All kinds of trickery, deceit, false pretences, disguises, dissimulation, as well as downright falsehood, are entirely alien from the true Christian spirit. The man of God walks habitually in an atmosphere of transparent truth. He has nothing to conceal, nothing to simulate. He has to do with the God of truth, who searches all hearts, and from whom no secrets are hid. His one great object is to please God, and to live in all good conscience toward him. And it is a small thing with him to be judged of man's judgment. And then, as regards one fruitful source of falsehood, fear—fear of evil, of danger, of blame, the man of God is comparatively free from its influence, because he trusts in God, and commits the keeping of his soul to him as to a faithful Creator. God's faithfulness and truth are his shield and buckler. Hid under the shadow of his protecting wings, he is safe. Even in the valley of the shadow of death he fears no evil, because God is with him. His only fear is lest he forfeit that omnipotent protection by conduct displeasing to God and unworthy of a Christian man. But is the man of God therefore to take no steps to secure his own safety? is he to use no sagacity, no wisdom, no prudence, to follow no line of good policy, by which danger may be avoided, and the enemies who seek to hurt him may be baffled and eluded? Surely this cannot be affirmed except on principles of fatalism, which equally preclude the taking of any steps towards the accomplishment of any end. To act wisely and discreetly, to take advantage of circumstances and opportunities as they arise, to bring about good results, and to avert evil ones, is as much the duty of a Christian as to sow in order that he may reap, or to take medicine in order that he may be healed. In the case before us, St. Paul was in imminent danger of being condemned by unrighteous judges. He saw that their passions and their prejudices were inflamed against him, and that his own integrity was no security against an unjust sentence. But he saw also that, though for the moment his judges were incited by their common hatred towards himself, there were strong elements of discord among them. He saw that on one of the leading truths of that gospel which he preached—the resurrection of the dead, and the life everlasting beyond the grave—the division between his enemies was at its height, and a large portion of his judges were on his side. It was therefore an act, not of guile or deceit, but of sagacity and policy, to take advantage of this circumstance, and to divide his opponents, and, under cover of their division, to save himself. And he did so with signal success. In doing so he has added one to many other examples, that the safety of the righteous lies in the disunion of sinners. It may be added that the vision, with its message, in Acts 23:11, does not look as if St. Paul had sullied his bright conscience by any unworthy shifts when he stood before the council.

Acts 23:12-35

Special providence.

It is difficult to define exactly what we mean by a special providence. Not one sparrow falls to the ground without our heavenly Father, who works all things after the counsel of his own will, and makes all things "work together for good to them that love him, to them who are the called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). And yet there are times and occasions when the overruling and controlling hand of God is seen more clearly and more markedly than usual, and when the interposition of human will and intention is more conspicuously absent. And perhaps this is what we mean when we speak of a special providence. Let us mark some of the circumstances detailed in this section, which seem to bring St. Paul's escape from the Jews at this time under the category of a special providence. The danger was great and imminent. In the feverish excited state of the Jewish mind at this time, and when they were unable, through their weakness, to give effect to their intense hatred of their heathen masters, they were all the more ready to wreak their vengeance upon any more helpless victim who might fall into their hands. Such a victim was St. Paul; and already in the temple court and on the castle stairs, he had nearly forfeited his life to their violence. Again, in the council-chamber he was on the point of being torn in pieces by them. The danger, therefore, was very great which he had already escaped. But a greater was at hand. More than forty Jews, in whom guile, hatred, and fanaticism were a triple cord not easily to be broken, bound themselves together by a terrible curse to "remove" that obnoxious life, and seemed to make their own lives dependent upon the fulfillment of their atrocious vow. It was nearly certain that a request, coming to Lysias from the chief officers of the Sanhedrim, to bring Paul down again for some further inquiry into his case, would be complied with, and, if so, his death was certain also. Now mark the providential circumstances by which this plot was defeated. Paul had a sister, and this sister had a son. We hear nothing and know nothing of either of these persons except on this critical occasion. Where the young man lived, how he happened to be at Jerusalem (unless it were to keep the Feast of Pentecost), whether he had been influenced by his uncle to embrace the Christian faith, or whether, as seems more probable, he was a zealous Jew, and as such entrusted with the secrets of the party, we know not. All we know is that he became acquainted with the conspiracy, and went immediately to the castle to inform Paul of it. His ready admission to the prisoner, the good-natured compliance of the centurion with Paul's request to him to bring the young man to the chief captain, the chief captain's courteous attention to the young man's tale, and his instant determination to send Paul off by night to Caesarea, were the further links, each absolutely necessary, in the chain of providence, by which Paul's escape was accomplished. But one other circumstance must be noted. It seems strange at first sight that the tribune of the Roman garrison should take so much trouble about one poor Jew, whom, moreover, he had only to keep a close prisoner in the castle to ensure his safety. But we have a ready explanation of this in Lysias's own letter, and in what happened the day before, as recorded in Acts 22:24-26. Lysias, not a Roman by birth, had committed a grave mistake in threatening Paul, a Roman citizen, with scourging. Such a mistake might have had grave consequences to himself. He therefore adroitly and promptly took a step to show his respect and reverence for the dignity of a Roman citizen, and also for the office of the Roman procurator, by sending Paul off to Caesarea. At the same time, by so doing he avoided the chance of a riot at Jerusalem, and threw the whole responsibility of dealing with Paul and his Jewish enemies upon Felix. Nothing could be more politic. What, however, it is to our purpose to observe is that, by this tangled tissue of motives and interests, and by this accidental combination of circumstances, God's gracious purpose was brought about which he had announced to Paul in a vision of the night, saying, "Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast borne witness of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome." The violence of the Sanhedrim (though they knew it not); the conspiracy of the Jews (though they knew it not); the courtesy and policy of Lysias (though he knew it not); as afterwards the intrigues of Felix, the weakness of Festus, and the urgent malice of the Jews,—were all necessary steps, moving in a direction that they little suspected, for brining the apostle of the Gentiles to the capital of the Gentile world.


Acts 23:1

Good conscience before God?

Those first words of Paul's defense, which so greatly excited and angered the high priest, are capable of being taken in more senses than one. We may regard them in—

I. THE SENSE IN WHICH THEY MUST BE FALSE. It is certain that Paul did not intend to say that he had never been conscious of defect and guilt in his relation to God. The time had been when he might have said so. As a scrupulous Pharisee, who was, "touching the righteousness which is in the Law, blameless," he would consider himself without any reason for remorse. But "what things were gain to him," those he "counted loss for Christ" (Philippians 3:7). He had come to the conclusion that the "way of peace" was not by faultlessness, but by forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ; he had sought and found" the righteousness which is of God by faith" (Philippians 3:9). And there is no living man who can look back upon all that he has said and done, and look in on all that he has been, and declare that he is conscious of no defect and no guiltiness before God,—except, indeed, he is one whom sin has blinded, and who does not know how "poor, and blind, and naked" he is, in the sight of absolute purity. Comparing our conduct and examining our hearts in the light of God's" exceeding broad commandment," we are all included under sin. We have all to acknowledge much in the matter of positive transgression, and far more in that of unfulfilled obligation.

II. THE SENSE IN WHICH THIS MAY BE TRUE OF US ALL. It was true of Paul in this respect, that from the beginning of his Jewish course up to the time when he became a Christian, he had acted in accordance with his convictions; that his change of view was purely conscientious; and that from the beginning of his Christian career till that day he had steadfastly pursued the path in which God had directed him to walk. Every Christian man ought to be able to affirm this of himself, having regard to his entire Christian course. This conscious spiritual integrity:

1. Includes a sense of continued reconciliation and fellowship with God.

2. Includes unbroken uprightness of conduct, freedom from presumptuous and scandalous sin, and general conformity to the will of God in all the relations of life.

3. Admits of many failures and infirmities, which are acknowledged and resisted.

4. Results from that gracious influence from heaven which attends the waiting upon God (Isaiah 1:2, Isaiah 1:3; Isaiah 40:31).

III. THE FULLEST SENSE IN WHICH THEY CAN BE TRUE OF ANY ONE. Paul may have been able to use these words of every period of his life; but they can only be applied to the earlier part with a reservation. He could only feel that he had been honestly and earnestly pursuing a mistaken course during those years. Happy are they who, when the end arrives, are able to look back on a whole life devoted to truth, to heavenly wisdom, to holy usefulness; who, from childhood to old age, have spent their powers in the service of Christ. These have not to set off one part of their career against another part, but can rejoice to feel that, from the beginning "until this day," they have, in the fullest sense, "lived in all good conscience before God." Here is an argument

(1) for beginning at the earliest point;

(2) for continuing through the special temptations of mid-life;

(3) for persisting through the infirmities of later years, in the beauty of a holy Christian life, in the excellency of earnest work.—C.

Acts 23:3-10

Things dubious and things certain.

There are few passages of Scripture in which there are so many doubtful points in a small space.

I. THREE DOUBTFUL POINTS. It is uncertain:

1. What Paul meant by his apologetic remark (Acts 23:5; see Exposition).

2. Whether he was justified in administering such a scathing rebuke, "God shall smite thee," etc. It certainly looks much like the utterance of a man who for the moment has lost his self-control, and there seems to be ground for contrasting it with the calm dignity of the Master when he was smitten (John 18:22, John 18:23). The apostle laid no claim to perfection (Philippians 3:13 "perfect," in Philippians 3:15, signifies mature, instructed, disciplined), and he may well have been provoked, at this time, into a resentment which he afterwards wished he had been able to master.

3. Whether he was right in classing himself with the Pharisaic party (Acts 23:6). Though with them in those respects in which they differed from the Sadducees, and though, therefore, his words were formally correct, his spirit was so different from theirs, his principles were so opposite to theirs, his energies were so spent in combating theirs, that there was (or at least seems to have been) more of falsity than truth in his declaration. It is always a doubtful thing to say under pressure what we should never dream of saying under ordinary circumstances. But we may look at—


1. That only intrinsic worth can long hold the honor of our fellow-men. If Paul was ready, as he was, to pay outward deference to "God's high priest" (Acts 23:4); if he was unwilling to "speak evil of the ruler of the people" (Acts 23:5); he certainly held in small honor the particular high priest then pre- siding. Kings, judges, statesmen, ministers, may enjoy a temporary deference and an outward tribute as public officers; but if they are corrupt, if they are self-seeking, if they are indulgent, they will soon sink into dishonor and even into contempt. Only the worthy will continue to enjoy the esteem of their kind. Possibly a few of the shrewdest and most cunning have carried their honors to the grave, though they have deserved public reprobation, but these have passed to a scene where the veil will be torn off, and the long-outstanding penalty be required; but these are the few and not the many. Usually the pretender is unmasked here, and the iron hand of indignation comes down on the guilty head.

2. That it is an honorable and excellent thing to explain or apologize when one or the other is demanded.

(1) It is the right thing; it is due to those who have been misled or injured.

(2) It is the manly thing; it requires more courage, and courage of a higher order, to withdraw with expressions of regret than to maintain with the appearance of rectitude.

(3) It is the Christian thing; though, indeed, our Lord needed not to do this himself, yet we are sure it is in perfect accordance with his will: "If thy brother sin against thee, and he repent, forgive him, etc.

(4) It is the peaceful thing; to defend one's position is to foment strife; to acknowledge error is to disarm resentment and promote peace.

3. That straightforwardness is the best course to pursue. It is very doubtful whether Paul gained anything by his adoption of this expedient; he was in the greatest danger of being "pulled in pieces" (Acts 23:10). Such expediency as that which he employed may sometimes be rewarded by a temporary success. But the deepest and the longest success is the reward of sincerity and unswerving truth: the deepest, because our own self-respect is preserved inviolate and our integrity strengthened; the longest, for that which is founded on truth is built upon a rock, and is likeliest to endure.—C.

Acts 23:11-24

The powers that act on us from without.

Manifold are the powers which are acting upon our spirit and deciding our course and destiny. Some of these are suggested by this narrative.

I. THE MALEVOLENT HUMAN. (Acts 23:12-15.) In this case human malevolence took a very violent and malignant form: it sought to compass Paul's death by a dark and shameless stratagem. More often it seeks to do us injury for which we shall suffer, but from which we may recover. The very worst form which it assumes is that of aiming at our spiritual integrity, leading us into sin and so into shame and death.

II. THE INDIFFERENT HUMAN. (Acts 23:18-24.) The Roman-centurion, chief captain, soldier—took no special interest in Paul, and had no prejudice against him. tie regarded the whole matter in a professional light, and acted in simple and strict accordance with his habits of obedience and command. Around us is human law, human custom, human society—with this we must lay our account. It will proceed on its usual course, like a train upon the lines laid down for it, with small concern for our hopes and fears, our joys and sorrows. If we take heed, we may avail ourselves of its help; if we are indiscreet, it wilt dash against us unpityingly. So far as we may do so and can do so, we must order ourselves so as to benefit by its strong force.

III. THE BENIGNANT HUMAN. (Acts 23:16-21.) Paul's sister induced her son to interpose, and the young man (or, youth) played his delicate and dangerous part well, intervening between these sanguinary schemers and their illustrious victim. We may hope for positive sympathy and active aid from

(1) those who are closely and tenderly related to us;

(2) those who are young, and therefore open to many admirable inspirations (obedience, pity, courage, aspiration, etc.);

(3) those who have spiritual affinities with us, to whom we are brethren or fathers "in the Lord."

IV. THE DIVINE. (Acts 23:16.) At this troublous and anxious time, when Paul was cut off from fellowship with the disciples, the Master himself drew near to him. He came with his comforting presence and his cheering word. He did not fail his servant then; nor will he fail his faithful followers now. We may reckon upon

(1) his comforting presence with us;

(2) his word of promise and cheer;

(3) his summons to bear witness in the future as in the past: "As thou hast testified … so must thou," etc. While all these powers are acting upon us, we must play our own part manfully, or the issue will be unfavorable (Acts 23:17). When all is done for or against us, we must make our own choice, decide for ourselves which of the two paths we will pursue, at which gate we shall be found when the journey of life is over (.Galatians 6:4, Galatians 6:5).—C.


Acts 23:12-35

Paul at Caesarea.

I. "THE LORD IS MINDFUL OF HIS OWN." Recall the beautiful song in Mendelssohn's 'St. Paul.'

1. The craft of their foes. They conspire against the righteous with a zeal worthy of a better cause (Acts 23:12, Acts 23:13); and cloak their designs under pious pretexts (Acts 23:14,Acts 23:15). 2. The Divine protection. He brings the counsels of wickedness to light (Acts 23:16). The young man, whoever he was, Christian Or otherwise, became, in Divine providence, a guardian angel of the apostle.

"Nothing so fine is spun,
But comes to light beneath the sun,"

to the help of the good and the confusion of the wicked (cf. Psalms 7:15; Psalms 34:8). Sincerity and good faith are found where they are least expected, when God is guiding the hearts of men (Acts 23:18).


1. They are withdrawn from the snares of their foes. Paul, surrounded by the military guard, seems a visible picture of the angels of God encamping about those who fear him. "Against forty bandits he sends five hundred protectors."

2. Testimony to the truth is furnished on their behalf (Acts 23:27, etc.). The honorable and straightforward dealing of the heathen Romans stands in contrast to that of the orthodox Jews. Better have the spirit of the Law without the letter than the letter without the spirit. The very indifferentism of the Romans becomes overruled for the deliverance of Paul. Guarded in the palace of Herod, Paul has time for reflection and prayer. The intervals el arduous labor, the moments of respite from toil and conflict,—in these we may find proofs of the nearness and tenderness of God.—J.


Acts 23:1-10

Paul before the Sanhedrim.

I. A SUGGESTIVE CONTRAST between corrupt ecclesiasticism and secular power. The bigotry, intolerance, personal animosity, unfairness, fanatical cruelty, all finding abundant confirmation in the history of the persecutions emanating from the papacy. Lysias was cruel because he was reckless and followed bad customs, but Ananias was cruel because he was spiteful and tyrannical.

II. THE MASTER'S PREDICTION FULFILLLED. Such a scene was what the servants of Christ were told to prepare for. The apostle's infirmity, compared with the Savior's perfect self-possession and patience, shows that the highest of merely human characters tall far below the Divine goodness in Christ. Yet the instant apology, so courteously expressed, shows that the ruffle was only on the surface. The mistake was a natural one, and the provocation was great.

III. THE CORRUPTION OF JUDAISM EXHIBITED. Whether Paul acted blamelessly in appealing to Pharisees against Sadducees may be an open question, but, as he was brought before the highest religious authority of Judaism, and the Jews of that time rejected the reformation which Christianity in the person of Paul presented to them, it was a challenge to Jewish orthodoxy to vindicate itself if it could. And all the apostle probably meant was that he had been brought up in the orthodox school, and that Christianity was no heresy to the substance of Jewish teaching. The discussion which followed revealed the utter decay of Judaism. The heart of it was eaten out with skepticism and pride. The orthodox had no moral influence. The heterodox were powerful enough to fight successfully their battle against the rulers, which was another proof, like the crucifixion of Jesus, that the Jewish state was ripe for judgment. The Messiahship of Christ rested on the facts of the Resurrection.

IV. THE HOLLOW HYPOCRISY OF UNBELIEF. The Sadducees were not open to conviction. Nor are unbelievers generally. Their professed love of truth is sincere. They will inquire in order to decry, but not to reach a conclusion contrary to their inclinations. No dogmatists are so bigoted and so tyrannical as the dogmatists of the Sadducean school. As in Paul's time, so still, worldly influence is called in to help unbelief. The Sadducees were the wealthy party. There was a root of faith in the Pharisaic school, but it was being destroyed by worldliness, and they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. Had the Sadducees been willing to hear Paul, they might have been convinced of their own error. Had the Pharisees not hoped for victory over their antagonists more than for light, the council might have been held.—R.

Acts 23:3

The human judge in the presence of the Divine.

"Sittest thou to judge me," etc.?.

I. The law of man rests on the Law of God.

1. In its aims.

2. In its execution.

II. The blessing of a faithfully kept and righteously administered system of justice, which, notwithstanding all human infirmities, can be maintained.

III. The bar of human law both a prediction and an evidence of the future judgment. Yet the imperfections of earthly justice remind us that God shall make up all inequalities, and show hereafter perfectly that all justice is love.

IV. The corruption of Jewish Law proved the necessity of a better law, the law of Christ, which is not a despotic law, but "peace, and righteousness, and joy in the Holy Ghost;" not smiting our neighbor, but "bearing one another's burdens."—R.

Acts 23:11

Light in the darkness.

"And the night following," etc. Review the position of the apostle. In prison. Hated by the Jews. Only rescued by a heathen hand, which itself may be turned against him. Perplexed by his own thoughts (el. Elijah in the cave at Mount Horeb). Conflict of fears and desires—his hope to do greater things, his desire to see Rome; his sense of a great vocation as the leading missionary; his apparent helplessness among his enemies. The vision had a twofold purpose—to prepare the apostle for its work, to give encouragement to all who resembled him in single-heartedness and spiritual heroism.


1. The strengthening of faith in the personal Redeemer. His resurrection; his sympathy; his approval of the apostle's life; the progress of his kingdom.

2. The certainty conveyed that all that would occur in Jerusalem would be overruled for good.

3. The prospect held out corresponding to the apostle's own aims and desires, that Rome would be visited—a prospect which emboldened him to appeal to Caesar, although it might lead to greater sufferings eventually.


1. In the darkest night the appearance of Jesus is new strength.

2. Faithful and heroic work is never left without encouragement.

3. Though visions of the night may not be granted to the Church now, except on very rare occasions, still there are foresights of the future which can be obtained by deep insight, prayerful vigilance, elevated faith and. study of events in the light of the Savior's words, and the facts of his past intercourse with his disciples.

4. Holy ambition is accompanied with the spirit of apostolic self*devotion, and is rewarded with the accomplishment of our desires. "Expect great things; attempt great things." Why not aim at Rome? James and John were not reproved by Christ for desiring a place beside him, but were reminded that they must purge all such desires of the sordid and selfish, and be prepared for the baptism of blood. If we take up the cross, we may sit with Jesus on the throne.

5. The highest description of a Christian's life is "bearing witness." Christ is all and in all we reflect his light. Even at Rome a simple testimony is enough.—R.

Acts 23:12-35

Conspiracy defeated.

The "must" of the Lord's midnight message interpreted by events. Divine providence working. The Christian stands still and sees the salvation. The Word of God is instead of human calculations and predictions. How different from fatalism in such a case as Livingstone in the dangers of his African mission reminds us that there is a feeling of confidence in our weakness which is like a vision in the night. Notice—

I. THE GUILT OF FANATICISM. The forty conspirators thought that they were doing God service. They divulged the oath to the chief priests and elders. It was, by their silence, appropriated as the deed of the whole Sanhedrim. The blindness of their passion secured its own defeat.

II. THE DIVINE INTERPOSITION TO PROTECT. The sister of Paul probably not a Christian. The boy attached to his uncle, showing the affectionate nature of the apostle. A weak instrument chosen of God to accomplish a great work. The soldierly feeling of the captain aroused, and his sympathy with a fellow-citizen of Rome. Human agents controlled and directed by Divine influences.

III. ROMAN DESPATCH AND DISCIPLINE called, again, into the service of the gospel The promise of the Lord was being fulfilled, though in a way unanticipated by Paul. Caesarea revisited under very different circumstances. The lonely, persecuted Jew becoming important. Felix put on his mettle. The contrast between the two worlds—the world of Judaism and the world of imperialism. The prisoner going to Caesarea suggests what is wanted to deliver mankind from both—the cruelty of fanatics and the cruelty of despots and military ambition. The simplicity, heroism, all-conquering love of the Christian ambassador. "got by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord." It was a significant change from Lysias's fortress at Jerusalem to Herod's palace at Caesarea. The gospel was challenging the world.—R.


Acts 23:1-5

A threefold example of true greatness.

Every careful reader of the Testament is aware that there is obscurity present to a certain degree in this passage. The obscurity is of a nature not very likely to yield to timid treatment. It does not seem likely that there remain facts of history which would clear it up, for instance. Rather would it seem the preferable course to face at once the difficulty, to narrow its dimensions to the smallest compass, and to admit that it is not evident how it was that Paul failed to know the thing that he said he did not know—whether this were that Ananias was the high priest, or whether it were that it was Ananias who uttered the command to smite him on the mouth. For this is one among many instances of the sort of difficulty that offers no impossibility of reaching a very feasible explanation, but only perplexity and uncertainty, as to which among several may have been the actual explanation. All, however, that is now incumbent on ourselves is to accept in all good faith Paul's statement, and the lessons which may be suggested by what is before us will not be prejudiced. We have in the passage a threefold exemplification of the greatness that is open even to human character and life.

I. THE GREATNESS OF A GREAT IDEA AND RULE OF LIFE. There is no reason to think that Paul said what exceeded in the least degree the facts.

1. He owned to a conscience.

2. He owned to the principle that conscience ought to be accepted as guide.

3. He owned to the duty of accepting the governance of that conscience in things great and small—in "all things."

4. He glanced, to say the least, and very significantly, at the fact that conscience, too, had its Superior, its Master, its Judge—the living "God" himself. A life led through the length of its intelligent period in obedience to conscience is a life that will have steadiness, consistency, strength, about it. Equally noticeable is it that human greatness, where it may most really touch the mark, will own, as it did notably in the case of Saul, to much mixture of imperfection, to much possibility of error, to grand oversights, even if conscience be its guide, unless that conscience is informed, is divinely informed, and is refreshed by the light of the Spirit of all true guiding.


1. Paul feels an intense scorn of the thing that Ananias does.

2. Though by exposing it, and trenchantly, in the face of open court, he exposed himself also to have it thought and said that personal resentment partly accounts for his conduct, yet Paul was content to run the risk of this. Many do now think that the conduct of Paul and his language here contrast unfavorably with what might have been, and detract something from the force of his righteous indignation-on a righteous occasion. Them is, however, such a thing as a noble disregard of fair fame, that a purer offering may be made to one thing—the hit fame of truth. Igor do we think that anything less than this is the truth here of Paul. If his utterance were the result of personal resentment simply, it certainly could not have had the remotest chance of working well for him personally. If the utterance were the child of personal resentment exclusively, the suppression of it would have been the suppression of an actual and legitimate instinct. But there is no evidence of this, nor even looking this way. For

(1) Paul's remonstrance is worded so as to exhibit the insult done to righteousness, not to himself. And

(2) not only is there not a trace of temper, but there is abundant indication immediately succeeding that Paul had himself under perfect control.

3. Paul expresses no wish for the punishment of Ananias, but he firmly declares the abundantly likely retribution of God. He certainly leaves his own case in the hands of him to whom "judgment belongeth." And his language is no bitter retort, invective, or imprecation. It is no sign of either humility or greatness to hide out of sight our own strong convictions or our strong faith in God's moral government, just because the instance in question may arise in our own history. Therefore, while on the one hand the actual words employed by Paul receive unimpeachable justification from those of Jesus himself (Matthew 23:1-39. Matthew 23:27), the spirit he manifested does not expose itself to censure in comparison with even that of Jesus (John 18:22, John 18:23), for the simple reason that it does not offer to come into comparison with it, the occasions having their material points of difference as well as of resemblance. The wonderful and divinest meekness of Jesus is indeed ever imitable, but it does not follow that every possible occasion of meekness is a right occasion for it. It may be that stern duty shall allow no option, and its more painful behest be the word of crushing rebuke (as here) rather than the tones of mercy and meekness.

III. THE GREATNESS THAT WAITS, READY TO ADMIT THAT A THING DONE BY ONE'S SELF MIGHT HAVE BEEN BETTER LEFT UNDONE. There are many things that may aggravate or diminish the blame of error. Rare as they are, there are such things as genuine explanations of error, which leave no fault with the person who nevertheless has been the perpetrator of it. Possibly Paul may be justly credited with some blame in not knowing to whom he spoke before he spoke, just as the language which he used may possibly be liable to some censure. But, anyway, the occasion is a fit one to remind us of these things:

1. That it is one sign of a great disposition—other things being equal—to be open to acknowledge error.

2. That this is a much more effectual sign, when all the circumstances of an occasion (as now) make the admission one of peculiar difficulty.

3. That worth is added to any such acknowledgment when, after all, the error is one in manner only, and emphatically not in matter, and. when it lies in the accidents rather than in the merits of the subject. Though it were only such an error, Paul publicly admits it, and quotes chapter and verse, as it were, to his own disadvantage.

4. That this virtue is especially the growth of Christian teaching, Christian principles. The germ of this virtue so rare lies in the truth, the sincerity, the purity to which Christianity invites our supreme homage.—B.

Acts 23:6

The hope of the living and the resurrection of the dead.

"The hope and resurrection of the dead." The chapter in which these words are found offers a striking illustration of the irresistible force of providence, or of providence and the direct acts of the Spirit in co-operation. The day was dark for Paul, nor did there seem a glimmer of hope of any justice for him at the hands of the council before whom he stood. But words and wisdom were found either by him or for him. Those words of wisdom were the weighty words of the text. The mere utterance of them rent the council in twain; soon compelled the chief captain to come again to the rescue, in place of shirking his duty, as by a side move he had wished to do; left an enraged populace no chance, as they thought, of disposing of Paul except by a murderous conspiracy; necessitated the removal of Paul by the governor under a sufficient military escort to another place and another court of trial, which in its turn led on directly to Paul's appeal to Caesar and arrival in the capital of the world. And weighty indeed were those words—words which may be numbered as two; for they were weighted with the solemn meaning and inscrutable mystery of a whole world. They touch all that, is deepest in questions between God and man. They hold, in fact, the one question that lies hidden down m some of its aspects in mystery unfathomably deep. Notice, then—

I. THE HOPE HERE INTENDED. The expression may mean simply "the hope of Israel" (Acts 26:6-8; Acts 28:20). But if it do mean this, it is instanced as having for its chief implication the revelation of immortality in and by Jesus. Or it may mean more specifically Israel's "hope in and for the resurrection of the dead," though for obvious reasons Paul omits the word "Israel"—a wider resurrection than that of Israel merely being deep in his heart (Acts 24:15). The expression says "the hope," either absolutely or "of the dead." The ambiguity of expression is immaterial, because there is none of meaning. And grand indeed are the suggestions that come of the language employed.

1. "The hope" must be universal. The laborious and far-fetched exceptions that possibly might be produced would be infinitely insignificant, and might be accounted for in, perhaps, every case by moral reasons, though the most disastrous.

2. "The hope" must be of the very chiefest that can stir human hearts.

3. "The hope" carries in it the highest argument and testimony of the Creator of those hearts.

4. "The hope" must determine the great leading tracks of our thoughts of God and thoughts toward him. If he is only our God up to the grave, the greatest feeders of human regard, awe, devotion, are ruthlessly cut off at one stroke. Wonder because of him, fear toward him, love for him, wither away rootless and profitless. According as we find ground for this hope or were to fail to find it, our notions of God must be trustful or doubting, loving or callous, aspiring or ruinously baffled, and our own life rearing itself to air and light or cruelly beaten down to earth. Yes, the hope of universal man, his deepest hope, his last hope, his highest kind of hope, his most governing hope, is the hope that those called "the dead" are not dead, but that they "all live." For "the dead" the living hope this, and they hope it for themselves, ere they, too, shall be numbered among that number. Upon the basis of this hope rises the superstructure of our leading views of God, as of our forecasts of self.

II. THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD HERE SPOKEN OF. The resurrection of the dead (in the sense of the resurrection in any tenable philosophical sense of the body) is, beyond doubt, the specific revelation of Christianity. The Christian revelation of the resurrection of the body avails:

1. To guide human thoughts as to the method of the transition from mortality to immortality. Whatever may be the facts as to the disembodied and intermediate state, the resurrection of the body sufficiently fixes for us the form of the immortal life, and gives definiteness to our conception of it.

2. This revealed method evidently guarantees the maintenance of individuality in the immortal life.

3. For quite similar reason it postulates the continuous identity of the individual.

4. It surely infers the responsibility of the individual. No one for one moment contends for human responsibility or for human irresponsibility in this poor lower life. That those who have known it for the years of life's brief span should ignore it, at the first moment when its commanding character would receive forcible illustration, is incredible.

5. The resurrection of the dead indefinitely enlarges the entire character of man. Were the truth now conceivably subtracted from the wealth of truth which is our present possession, it would condemn us to a poverty of distressing misery. No more appalling type of the truncated could be found the world around. When Paul introduced with powerful voice and distinctest of utterance this twofold expression of the grandest and the most fundamental fact of human nature, he threw, doubtless, the apple of discord into the midst of Pharisees and Sadducees, and he did it designedly. But he was gaining a hearing for the truth that carries humanity's highest outlook in it. He was making a fresh appeal to all that is greatest and deepest in human nature. He was reminding a hardened multitude of what should most raise them and endear the Christ who came from God to them. And he was preaching to them, not what could be construed into "a hard saying," but what was fitted to be perennial inspiration. Let us see to it that it may be to us what it should have been, but was not, to them.—B.

Acts 23:11

The sympathizing and mindful Master.

We may justly suppose that, after the life, activity, and intense excitement of that day, a reaction set in for Paul with the time of darkness and enforced rest. Those who toil for their Lord all day will not find themselves forgotten in their night of darkness, of uncertainty, of trouble. The comfort of Jesus is in this night brought to Paul. And the way in which it was brought to him must have been most grateful. That comfort offered itself in several degrees.

I. THE LORD HIMSELF APPEARS. What an honor! What a kindness! What a comfort!

II. THE LORD HIMSELF "STANDS BY" PAUL. What a condescension! What a really brotherly helping!

III. THE LORD HIMSELF SPEAKS WORDS OF GOOD CHEER. What a help for Paul, that voice! He had known different tones of voice of Jesus. What a gracious variety, this! What a close suggestion also of the faithful watching of the Lord over his faithful servant! He "had seen," he "had seen" the sorrowing, wearied, grieved spirit of Paul, and had come to stay his affliction by the direct exhortation, "Be of good cheer."



1. This will put to flight all cares and anxieties as to the result of this trial, as to the fear of assassination, as to the uncertainty of his future career on earth.

2. It puts to flight all self-reproaching fears as to whether, "for his unworthiness," he was now to he cast aside. No; he is still a vessel meet for the Master's use—a weapon, polished, and not to be cast aside or laid aside.

VI. THE LORD MAKES A VERY SELECTION OF WORDS THAT CARRY COMFORT AND STRENGTH WITH THEM. "Thou must bear witness also at Rome." His Lord needs him and relies on him. And says he can depend on him who had done his work so well "in Jerusalem."—B.


Acts 23:1

A good conscience.

Joubert says, "The trick of personifying words is a fatal source of mischief in theology." The personifying has been mischievously applied to the word "conscience," and we make it into a kind of separate, being, by' whom, apart from our own judgment and will, our conduct is regulated. Having m mind the descent of Minerva, in the form of an aged man, to accompany young Telemachus in the search for his father, we speak of "conscience" as an inward Mentor. The philosophical questions that arise concerning the nature and testimony of conscience may be briefly referred to, especially these two:

(1) Is conscience a separate and independent power? or

(2) Is conscience our faculty of judgment exercised concerning our own actions? We approve of the second view, and regard it as "the secret judgment of the soul, which gives its approbation to actions that it thinks good, or reproaches itself with those which it believes to be evil." Here, in our text, St. Paul is not thinking of the absolute right and wrong, but of the ceremonial claims which rested on a pious Jew, and says that, in relation to the formal rules of his religion, he had a "good conscience," "a conscience void of offence," a sense of having always striven to be loyal and faithful. The word "good" is a general word, and we may understand St. Paul better if we try to see what it may be regarded as including.

1. AN ENLIGHTENED CONSCIENCE. For, apart from the bare distinction of the absolute right and absolute wrong, conscience must be dependent on knowledge. All its finer and more precise testimonies come out of its culture. Our advances in education and moral training involve the quickening and enlightening of the conscience. The advanced man finds it altogether a more subtle guard of his life and conduct. It becomes keenly sensitive to the "beautiful" and the "becoming," as well as to the "right." This is illustrated in the case of the apostle himself; at one time "he verily thought within himself that he ought to do many thinest, contrary to the Name of Jesus of Nazareth." With the letters in his hand authorizing the persecutions of the Damascene Christians, his unenlightened conscience made no testimony of his wrongness, and offered no reproaches. By-and-by, when the revelation of the Messiahship of Jesus came to his understanding and heart, then conscience smote him, and he felt the exceeding shame of his past doings. It may be shown that all which cultures a man quickens and sensitizes conscience; but the greatest enlightener is the personal reception of Christ as our Savior. Then we begin to see ourselves, and to make the true estimate of conduct, spirit, and life. If we are responsible for making the best of our opportunities for self-culture, we may be said to be also responsible for the measure of enlightenment of our conscience.

II. A CLEAR CONSCIENCE, By which qualifying term we may mean:

1. One that can make decisions and testimonies in a firm, decided way, with no uncertainties or doubtings, no "maybe" or "perhaps." Conduct is greatly dependent on prompt, clear decisions of the judgment, and these follow simple witness of the conscience to the right and wrong, the true and the beautiful.

2. The term "clear" may mean free from the deteriorating influence of bad principles and fixed evil habits. A man may so live that his conscience has always a thick, foul atmosphere to speak through, and gets sadly defiled thereby. A man may come even to read his conscience in the light of his inclinations. "Keep conscience as the noon-tide clear."

III. AN APPROVING CONSCIENCE. One that commended his actions. It is well when the constant witness of conscience is favorable, He lives a hard life who knows the daily conflict of conduct and conscience, There can be no peace until the conscience may be quiet, or only give its approvals. Precisely the result of our gaining peace with God is our gaining peace with ourselves. Our wills regenerated, we are no longer disposed to resist the leadings of our conscience. In speaking of this subject we should remember that conscience "is not an infallible guide, but requires illumination, and therefore each man needs to pray for light; but it is never right to act against its dictates."—R.T.

Acts 23:3

Passion under insult.

We may at once say that, though much excuse may be found for St. Paul, he was quite below the Christian standard in making such an answer to the official. He was certainly far below his Divine Master, who, "when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed him. self to him who judgeth righteously." A probable explanation of St. Paul's failure to recognize the high priest is given by Michaelis: "Soon after the holding of the first council at Jerusalem, Ananias, son of Nebedaeus, was deprived of the high priest's office for certain acts of violence, and sent to Rome, whence he was afterwards released, and returned to Jerusalem. Between the death of Jonathan, who succeeded him and who was murdered by Felix, and the high priesthood of Ismael, who was invested with this office by Agrippa, an interval elapsed in which this dignity was vacant. This was at the time when Paul was apprehended, and the Sanhedrim, being destitute of a president, Ananias undertook the office. It is probable that Paul was ignorant of this circumstance.'' The incident may suggest to us—

I. THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF INDIGNATION. Distinguish between "anger," which is generally used for quick passionate temper, often both unreasoning and unreasonable, and "indignation," which is the proper uprising of our nature against wrong. We seldom do well to be "angry;" we always do well to be "indignant." Anger suggests feeling mastering judgment; indignation suggests judgment giving character to feeling. Every man ought to be sensitive to wrong, whether it be done to others or to himself. The question for him concerns, not the feeling of indignation, but the forms in which such indignation may find expression. St. Paul ought to be indignant at the offering of such an insult, by one who occupied the position of a judge. "St. Paul's prompt and stern utterance perhaps anticipated compliance with this direction, which was quite illegal in itself, and must have been considered to be aggravated as given against a Roman citizen, placed at a Jewish bar by the Roman commandant." For a similar insult offered to our Lord, see John 18:22.

II. THE NOBILITY OF THE MAN WHO CAN APOLOGIZE EVEN FOR HIS RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATIONS. At once, in the spirit of the Christian gentleman, as soon as the official position of the person whom he had answered was pointed out to him, he expressed his regret. Some have, indeed, thought that he meant to say such conduct as that of Ananias made it impossible to regard him as the high priest, but it is more simple to read in his words some sense of his having yielded to his sensitive and intense feelings. Impulsive men are usually quick to acknowledge their faults, and to remove any evil impressions which their conduct or language may have produced. The highest virtue is the self-mastery that keeps us from making such mistakes; but the next virtue is a cheerful and humble readiness to make amends when our mistakes, or our hasty language, have injured another.

III. THE HIGHER RIGHTEOUSNESS OF THE MASTERY OF INDIGNATION BY THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTIAN FORBEARANCE, Just as there is a "righteousness which exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees," so there is a righteousness which exceeds the worldly maxims and moral rules which guide ordinary men. It may be right to resent insult, but, from the Christian standpoint, it is much more right to bear it, and be patient under it, and forgive it. And such righteousness is illustrated in the scenes of our Lord's trial, when contumely was heaped upon him. Show that few things offer a severer test of Christian virtue than unprovoked and unreasonable insult. By it even the watchful man may be taken at unawares, and be suddenly moved to passion. Only the constant habit of thinking before we speak, and letting the moments of thinking be moments of prayer, can keep us in the trying hour. St. Paul's reset for his hasty words would be more profound before God than before men. He found a serious and humbling lesson in this mistake. Impress how often we err, and disgrace our Christian profession, by the tone and temper in which we "answer back."—R.T.

Acts 23:6

The resurrection a dividing doctrine.

If the supposition be a correct one that, just at this time, there was no high priest, we can well understand how easily divisions and contentions might be aroused in the mixed council, where party feeling was always strong. The Pharisees and Sadducees were really more political than ecclesiastical parties; they had distinct lines of thought, and conflicted for the positions of supreme influence in the ecclesiastico-political life of the nation. Both parties vigorously opposed Christianity, but the Pharisees on the ground of its teachings—as they thought them—against Mosaism, and of its degrading the national hope of Messiah, by affirming that he had come in the person of the Galilaean Jesus. The Sadducees on the ground chiefly of the disciples' affirmation that Jesus had risen from the dead, which, they were quick to see, it once admitted, involved the truth of our Lord's claim to the Messiahship. St. Paul evidently estimated, quickly and skillfully, the character of the judges before whom he was brought, and easily turned them from the consideration of his case to mere party wrangling. He saw, plainly enough, that there was no chance of a fair judgment from either party. If we must recognize some guilefulness in St. Paul's conduct on this occasion, we must remember that he had to deal with party prejudice and unreasoning hatred, and he was justified in securing his deliverance by such a quick-witted device. We observe—

I. THAT THE JEWISH RESURRECTION WAS A DREAM OR A DOCTRINE, To the Sadducees a mere superstitious dream, to the Pharisees an important doctrine. Hints of it are found in the earlier Scriptures, but the Old Testament has no clear testimony on the subject. This is not really remarkable, because Mosaism did not take this point of view; it did not demand obedience upon the promise of the "life to come," but upon promise of "the life that now is." Thoughts of resurrection and eternal life do not properly come to a Jew as a Jew, only to a Jew as a personally devout, God-fearing man, with an individual spiritual life of fellowship with God. Therefore the psalmists and prophets alone give us hints of resurrection. See what helps come to the idea

(1) from the translations of Enoch and Elijah;

(2) from the resurrections to natural life wrought by Elijah and Elisha;

(3) from the expressions used in the Book of Job, and in the Psalms; and

(4) from allusions in the prophets. Exactly in what sense the Pharisees believed in resurrection it is difficult to say. Clearly they had no notion of that spiritual body in which Christ reappeared among men, and we also must appear. Probably they held the doctrine very much as we hold some of our doctrines, merely for a battleground. The Sadducees had not much difficulty in showing that such a resurrection was a mere dream.

II. THAT THE CHRISTIAN RESURRECTION IS A TRUTH AND A HOPE. St. Paul calls it here a hope, but it is really a truth upon which we may build our hopes. Illustrate by showing what St. Paul writes about it—about its foundations and about its vital importance to the Christian—in 1 Corinthians 15:1-58. To him it was no mere dividing doctrine, though among foes he ventured so to use it; to him it was infinitely sure and infinitely precious—the message to him of his Redeemer's own resurrection, He labored, if "by any means he might attain unto the resurrection of the dead."

III. WHEREIN MAY WE FIND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE JEWISH AND THE, CHRISTIAN IDEAS OF RESURRECTION? We only note one of the more important differences. Pharisees had only, as aids to their conception, cases of resurrection which were merely a temporary restoration of bodily life. All the risen ones they could know of died a natural death. Christians take their conception from the resurrection of their Lord, which was to a spiritual, incorruptible, and eternal life.—R.T.

Acts 23:11

Divine cheer in anxious hours.

One of St. Paul's marked peculiarities was sensitiveness to Divine visions and communications. Such visions are indeed granted only in the sovereignty of Divine grace; but we may see that they are granted only to such persons as are receptive, and likely to be influenced aright by them. The same remark may be made concerning "visions" and "miracles "and all special modes of Divine communication. They are conditioned as truly by what man can receive as by what God can grant; and this may sufficiently explain why we have no visions or miracles now. On St. Paul's sensitiveness to the Divine nearness, note

(1) that his Christian life began in a vision and revelation;

(2) that his labors had been directed in a special manner; and

(3) that the culture of his spiritual life involved the quick, clear vision of the "unseen." Show what an anxious day this had been to the apostle. He estimated the malice of the Jewish party, and knew well that nothing short of his death would satisfy these zealots. No doubt he spent much time in prayer, and, as a response, there came this vision of his glorified Lord, and the cheering and assuring message. Our Lord gave his personal cheerings to St. Paul—by manifestation and message—on all the great occasions of perplexity and danger in the apostle's career (see Acts 18:9; Acts 17:22-25, etc.). We may see that, in this instance before us, the grounds on which the apostle should be of "good cheer" were partly expressed and partly assumed.

I. "BE OF GOOD CHEER;" FOR YOU SHALL STILL WORK AND WITNESS. No joy to St. Paul could be compared with this, that he might be longer spared to work for his Divine Master. True, he could say that "to die is gain," but he could unfeigned]y rejoice with his disciples that he was "to continue with them all for their furtherance and joy in faith." On this occasion, taken back to the castle in the charge of the Roman guard, he might reasonably have felt despondent. "To human apprehension there was at this time nothing between the apostle and death but the shelter afforded in the Roman barrack." He might fear that his work was done. All earnest Christian workers know what times of depression and despondency mean. Even after successful work there may come the feeling of exhaustion, and we may say, like Elijah, "Let me die, for I am not better [more successful] than my fathers." To Elijah, to St. Paul, and to us, at such times, the best of all cheer is the message, "The Lord hath need of thee" yet awhile. With such cheer the clouds pass; we can smile again on life. We are lifted up above our difficult circumstances and our exceeding perils. We learn that if bearing and battling have to be our lot, it is but for a while; we shall battle through, and we shall even serve God in the battling. This is good cheer indeed. "Christ shall still be magnified in our body, whether it be by life or by death."

II. "BE OF GOOD CHEER;" FOR I AM WITH YOU. This is the comforting which is assumed rather than expressed. Christ "stood by" the apostle, but it was only his coming out of the invisible into the visible. St. Paul only saw what was the permanent fact. His Lord was always standing by him, always within the visions of his soul. And there is no cheer for us like this. Compare the intense anxiety of Moses to be sure that Jehovah was present in the camp. "If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence." it was perfect rest for anxious Moses to hear Jehovah respond, saying, "My presence shall go with thee." What is in this case assumed is actually expressed to St. Paul in some of his other visions. At Corinth Christ had said, "Be not afraid … for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee." Still, we know that trial is nothing, if Jesus is with us, helping us to bear; and work is nothing, if Jesus is with us, helping us to do. "I can do all things, and can bear all sufferings, if my Lord be there." Then impress what is for us the real cheer of life.

1. Work.

2. God's presence the inspiration and the strength of our working.

3. The inward consciousness that God's approval rests upon our work.

In our text Christ did but assure St. Paul, what he also assures us, that "man is immortal until his work is done." No arrow can pierce any one of us until our last battle has been fought, and it is enough that our Lord knows when our bit of service for him is complete.—R.T.

Acts 23:16

Providential protections.

There is a time for miracle to work, and a time for providence to work, and the appropriate times the Lord of infinite wisdom and knowledge alone can arrange. It seems very strange to us that St. Peter should have been brought out of prison by the miraculous deliverances of an angel, and that St. Paul should be left dependent on the accident, as some would call it, of his nephew's overhearing the plot against his life. Yet, perhaps, there is no real difference between a "miraculous" and a "providential" deliverance. Both are Divine interventions on behalf of God's servants, and both are simply adaptations of the intervention to particular cases. When we can get a fuller and worthier conception of God's working in the "natural," we shall probably lose sight of the distinction which we now make between the "natural and the supernatural." And this we shall do, not by losing the "supernatural," but by losing the "natural," and seeing that all Divine workings are beyond mere "nature," beyond mere human energy. We shall find Divine energy in the flowers, and trees, and sunshine, and storms, and in the genius, art, and poetry of man. We shall not "level down," but "level up;" and, forgetting how men would drag us down to the operations of dead law, we shall find everywhere the working of the living God, and all life will seem to us God's great miracle. While we have to make a distinction between the "miraculous" and the "providential," we may notice that—

I. THE ONE IS AN EXTRAORDINARY, THE OTHER AN ORDINARY AGENCY. We know that our fellow-men, and we ourselves, have ordinary and regular methods of working, and that both we and they, under pressure of circumstances, sometimes transcend ourselves, and act with an energy, promptitude, skill, and power which quite surprises those who seem to know us most intimately. May not this suggest to us the distinction in God between the miraculous and the providential? The miraculous is the Divine working to meet sudden and unusual circumstances. Then we may see that there was no need for extraordinary intervention in St. Paul's case, because this was no sudden calamity, breaking in upon and interfering with the Divine order; it was but a step in the regular course of providential dealings with St. Paul, and ordinary resources of providence sufficed to overcome the seeming danger.

II. THE ONE IS A TEMPORARY, THE OTHER A PERMANENT AGENCY. God's providences have been working through all the ages, and they have sufficed to secure the safety of his servants under all kinds of perils. From the Old Testament numerous illustrations may be taken; e.g. notice how David was preserved while he was pursued by Saul; or see how events were providentially ordered for Joseph. Remarkable stories of wonderful providences are given in modern books; e.g. that of the man pursued by soldiers, who searched the house where he had found refuge, and quarreled outside the door of the room in which he was secreted, as to whether that room had been searched; the quarrel resulting in their going away and never entering it. God's miracles have been wrought in almost every age, but they have always been temporary phenomena, special occasions of necessity, and having some unusual testimony to make. By their very nature miracles must be occasional only.

III. ONE PRODUCES A SUDDEN IMPRESSION, THE OTHER APPEALS TO THOUGHTFUL. CONSIDERATION. Miracles are wonders. They are not, indeed, wonders only; they are works; they are signs and wonders. Still, it is their chief characteristic that they arrest, arouse, surprise, excite attention. On the other hand, God's providences need to be watched for and observed and thought about. "Whoso will observe these things, even he shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord." Then impress that, in life, human agencies that seem to bring about results for us, as his nephew's intervention brought about St. Paul's safety, must never take our interest merely for their own sake. We must ever look behind them and see that they are but working out the Divine plan and Divine will. God delivered St. Paul from peril by the aid of his nephew just as truly as if he had rescued him by the hand of an angel.—R.T.

Acts 23:29

Strangers' testimonies to God's servants.

The moral influence exerted by St. Paul on this Roman,, captain was so decided that he is compelled to send to his superior this report, whom I perceived … to have nothing laid to his charge worthy of death or of bonds." Such a man as this captain would judge fairly matters of character or of conduct. He had no blinding and bewildering ecclesiastical prejudices which made crimes where there were none. So his testimony to the apostle is important. Indeed, it is always well for us to feel that the world and the stranger are sure to judge us, and form impressions from our character and conduct. We cannot be indifferent to their opinion. Our walk and conversation ought to do honor to our Master. Men should "take knowledge of us that we have been with Jesus." The words used by the captain here remind us of two things.

I. THAT THE WORLD WANTS NO JUDGMENT ON MEN FOR THEIR OPINIONS. About opinions a Roman soldier could be supremely indifferent. With opinions human laws and magistracies have nothing to do. In opinions men may have the fullest liberty and toleration. Only when opinions influence conduct in a way that imperils social order, or the safety of the state, does the law or the magistrate concern himself with it. So we find that, in order to bring so-called heretics under the civil power, it has always been necessary to accuse them of rebellion against the law; the judge condemns them as anarchists, not as heretics. In these times we are beginning to learn more fully that opinion had better not be interfered with, and that every man may have full "liberty of prophesying," of persuading men to adopt his views. And all wrong teachings are to be met by right teaching, by the moral force of argument, and not by the physical forces of the law. Though still we properly keep the liberty to matters of simple opinion; when men express their views in their conduct, we are bound to consider whether their conduct tends to preserve the public peace and the social order.

II. SECTARIAN PREJUDICE ALONE WANTS TO PUNISH MEN FOR THEIR OPINIONS. Even the sectarian Jews knew that St. Paul had done no wrong. They trumped up a charge against him of defiling the temple, but they knew well enough that it was a groundless charge. They were offended with his opinions and teachings, as opposing their own. Illustrate from the assumptions of the Papal Church, and her efforts to crush all who held other opinions than she sanctioned. Modern illustrations of the bitterness of sectarian prejudice may be mentioned. A man may, like the apostle, have the truth of God, but he must be rejected unless his message rings in exact harmony with the received opinions. Show, in conclusion, that the strangers judgment of us is the only really important one. They ask what we are in character, conduct, life, and relations; and they can best judge about the value of our opinions by those things in which the opinions find their practical expression. Let, then, those outside our circles, the strangers, judge us as Christians. Will they say of us as the Roman officer said of St. Paul, "About their opinions we know little or nothing; bat this we can say, They are good men and true"?—R.T.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Acts 23". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/acts-23.html. 1897.
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