Acts 23 – 2019-10-08
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- CHAPTER 23 COMMENTARYvv.1-2: “The implication is that he had nothing on his own mind to condemn him, that he had been faithful in his conduct toward God in every respect. Such a remark was itself something of a provocation. If Paul’s life as a Christian left him in complete innocence before God, then the Sanhedrin members who did not share his commitment to Christ were the guilty parties. It is small wonder that the high priest Ananias immediately ordered him to be struck on the mouth for blasphemy (v. 2). His action was completely in character. Josephus depicted him as one of the very worst of the high priests, known for his pro-Roman sentiments, his extreme cruelty, and his greed.”v.3: “Given Ananias’ character, Paul’s angry response is altogether understandable: ‘God will strike you, you whitewashed wall’ (v. 3). His words were prophetic. Less than ten years later, Ananias came to an untimely end at the hand of Jewish freedom fighters. The image of the whitewashed wall was particularly appropriate…His character and his actions belied the outward appearance. Jesus used the same image to depict hypocrisy, referring to the practice of whitewashing tombs as a warning to people that the defilement of dead bones lay within (Matt. 23:27)…Paul saw Ananias’ action in having him struck as in itself a demonstration of the high priest’s hypocrisy. There he sat in his role of judge, and yet he was himself in need of judgment because his striking Paul was clearly against the law (v. 3b). No verdict had been reached, no deliberations even begun, and yet the action of the high priest had already pronounced judgment. This was scarcely Israelite justice (cf. Lev 19:15).”
vv.4-5: “Since this was not a regular meeting of the Sanhedrin, the high priest was likely not in his usual seat or wearing his robes of office. Also, because Paul had visited Jerusalem only sporadically during the previous twenty years and Ananias had become high priest in A.D. 48, about ten years before these incidents, Paul would not have recognized him.”
v.6: “As Paul’s first line of reasoning was not going to work, he adopted a new line. The issue at stake here was the resurrection of the dead, which the Pharisees accepted but the Sadducees rejected. Was this simply a crafty ploy used by Paul to divide the group? Certainly there is wisdom, possibly even shrewdness, here. But he was also using a strategy that pointed to the heart of the Christian gospel, which was indeed a fulfillment of Pharisaism, so much so that a real Pharisee should actually become a Christian. He even calls himself a Pharisee here (23:6)…”
v.11: “Alone, under detention, the following night Paul had a reassuring vision (v. 11)…To what was it all leading? The Lord’s words assured him that there was a divine purpose in all that had happened to him. As he had borne his witness in Jerusalem, so would he bear it in Rome. Paul had already expressed his own desire to visit Rome (19:21). Now the visit received the Lord’s endorsement. The key word is, of course, ‘testify.’ All Paul’s troubles the past two days had ultimately derived from his testifying to Christ before the Jews. Now his trip to Rome and all of the legal hassle in between also would be testimony. With v. 11 the final portion of Acts is mapped out.”
“At times of special need [in Acts], God appears to his servants in some supernatural way and gives them a glimpse of himself that encourages them to persevere in the task they have been given (4:31; 18:9-10; 27:23). We can call this the comfort of the God of all comfort (cf. 2 Cor. 1:3-4). God knows when we need special help to overcome discouragement and to persevere in a difficult call. And at just the right time he sends us that comfort. The comfort Paul received was in the form of an affirmation of the sovereignty of God. This time of uncertainty eventually resulted in Paul’s fulfilling one of his greatest ambitions: to preach the gospel in Rome.”
vv.16-22: “Little is known of Paul’s family. The present passage is the sole mention of his sister and of her son. Likewise, how Paul’s nephew learned of the plot is anybody’s guess. He seems to have been a young man, perhaps in his late teens. His accessibility to Paul was not unusual. Prisoners of high rank, such as Paul with his Roman citizenship, were often given a great deal of liberty for visits from family and friends. In fact, Paul’s considerable standing with the Romans is indicated by the ease with which he called the centurion over to himself and by the unquestioning compliance the latter gave to his request (vv. 17-18).”
[…] Beneath the surface of our human analysis of the impossibilities we face, the Lord is arranging things to press us forward to accomplish His will. Luke delights to imply that in his accounts.”
“The tribune Claudius Lysias writes a letter to Felix declaring Paul’s innocence as far as Roman law is concerned (23:26-30). The letter enables Luke to reiterate his point that Paul can be accused of no crime for which the State is responsible. Claudius Lysias, Felix (by implication; 24:23, 26, 27), and Festus (25:25) declare Paul’s innocence. The debate about Paul is a matter of theological contention between Jews (23:29; 25:18), a debate about the resurrection (24:15; 26:6-7). Luke’s claim is that Paul is guilty of treason against neither Judaism or Rome. Of course, Paul’s real audience in Acts is neither Roman nor Jewish officials but the church of Theophilus’ day—a church of Jews and gentiles. First, Luke wants to say, our movement is best understood as a branch of faithful Judaism which, like the Pharisees, believes in the resurrection. Secondly, Luke says, we can work within the Empire to accomplish our purposes.”
v.35: “The seat of Roman government was not in Jerusalem but in Caesarea. The praetorium is the residence of a governor; and the praetorium in Caesarea was a palace which had been built by Herod the Great. […] The governor to whom Paul was taken was Felix and his name was a byword. […] He was completely unscrupulous and was capable of hiring thugs to murder his own closest supporters. It was to face a man like that that Paul went to Caesarea.”
 John B. Pohill, Acts (The New American Commentary, Vol. 26; Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1992) 467-468.
 John B. Pohill, Acts (The New American Commentary, Vol. 26; Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1992) 468.
 Ajith Fernando, et al., Acts, Life Application Bible Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1994) 567.
 Ajith Fernando, et al., Acts, Life Application Bible Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1994) 567.
 John B. Pohill, Acts (The New American Commentary, Vol. 26; Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1992) 471.
 Ajith Fernando, et al., Acts, Life Application Bible Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1994) 569.
 John B. Pohill, Acts (The New American Commentary, Vol. 26; Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1992) 472-473.
 Lloyd Ogilvie, Acts, Communicator’s Commentary Series, (Waco: Word Books, 1983) 322.
 William H. Willimon, Acts: Interpretation (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1988) 173-174.
 William Barclay, Acts, Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1976) 167-168.
- Acts 22:30-23:35 (ESV)30 But on the next day, desiring to know the real reason why he was being accused by the Jews, he unbound him and commanded the chief priests and all the council to meet, and he brought Paul down and set him before them.23 And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” 2 And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?”4 Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God’s high priest?” 5 And Paul said, “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’”
6 Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” 7 And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. 9 Then a great clamor arose, and some of the scribes of the Pharisees’ party stood up and contended sharply, “We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?” 10 And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force and bring him into the barracks.
11 The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”
12 When it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. 13 There were more than forty who made this conspiracy. 14 They went to the chief priests and elders and said, “We have strictly bound ourselves by an oath to taste no food till we have killed Paul.15 Now therefore you, along with the council, give notice to the tribune to bring him down to you, as though you were going to determine his case more exactly. And we are ready to kill him before he comes near.” 16 Now the son of Paul’s sister heard of their ambush, so he went and entered the barracks and told Paul.
17 Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the tribune, for he has something to tell him.” 18 So he took him and brought him to the tribune and said, “Paul the prisoner called me and asked me to bring this young man to you, as he has something to say to you.” 19 The tribune took him by the hand, and going aside asked him privately, “What is it that you have to tell me?” 20 And he said, “The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down to the council tomorrow, as though they were going to inquire somewhat more closely about him. 21 But do not be persuaded by them, for more than forty of their men are lying in ambush for him, who have bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they have killed him. And now they are ready, waiting for your consent.” 22 So the tribune dismissed the young man, charging him, “Tell no one that you have informed me of these things.”
23 Then he called two of the centurions and said, “Get ready two hundred soldiers, with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go as far as Caesarea at the third hour of the night. 24 Also provide mounts for Paul to ride and bring him safely to Felix the governor.” 25 And he wrote a letter to this effect:
26 “Claudius Lysias, to his Excellency the governor Felix, greetings. 27 This man was seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them when I came upon them with the soldiers and rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman citizen. 28 And desiring to know the charge for which they were accusing him, I brought him down to their council. 29 I found that he was being accused about questions of their law, but charged with nothing deserving death or imprisonment.30 And when it was disclosed to me that there would be a plot against the man, I sent him to you at once, ordering his accusers also to state before you what they have against him.”
31 So the soldiers, according to their instructions, took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris. 32 And on the next day they returned to the barracks, letting the horsemen go on with him. 33 When they had come to Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they presented Paul also before him. 34 On reading the letter, he asked what province he was from. And when he learned that he was from Cilicia, 35 he said, “I will give you a hearing when your accusers arrive.” And he commanded him to be guarded in Herod’s praetorium.
- Acts 23:1-11
- What does Paul’s quick and sharply worded rebuke to the high priest’s command (23:3) reveal about him? What is required in order to maintain this level of moral clarity under such circumstances?
- Note also how keenly Paul sizes up the situation and knows what to say. What can I learn from this passage?
- Why might the Jews’ refusal of Paul’s message have grown into hatred to the point of such a violent pledge?
- What lessons can I draw from this about the emotional preparation needed to be a minister of the gospel?