Acts 23

1 Paul, looking steadfastly at the council, said, “Brothers, I have lived before God in all good conscience until today.” 2 The high priest, Ananias, commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! Do you sit to judge me according to the law, and command me to be struck contrary to the law?” 4 Those who stood by said, “Do you malign God’s high priest?” 5 Paul said, “I didn’t know, brothers, that he was high priest. For it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’” 6 But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Men and brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. Concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!” 7 When he had said this, an argument arose between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the crowd was divided. 8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit; but the Pharisees confess all of these. 9 A great clamor arose, and some of the scribes of the Pharisees part stood up, and contended, saying, “We find no evil in this man. But if a spirit or angel has spoken to him, let’s not fight against God!” 10 When a great argument arose, the commanding officer, fearing that Paul would be torn in pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him by force from amongst them, and bring him into the barracks. 11 The following night, the Lord stood by him, and said, “Cheer up, Paul, for as you have testified about me at Jerusalem, so you must testify also at Rome.” 12 When it was day, some of the Jews banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed Paul. 13 There were more than forty people who had made this conspiracy. 14 They came to the chief priests and the elders, and said, “We have bound ourselves under a great curse, to taste nothing until we have killed Paul. 15 Now therefore, you with the council inform the commanding officer that he should bring him down to you tomorrow, as though you were going to judge his case more exactly. We are ready to kill him before he comes near.” 16 But Paul’s sister’s son heard of their lying in wait, and he came and entered into the barracks and told Paul. 17 Paul summoned one of the centurions, and said, “Bring this young man to the commanding officer, for he has something to tell him.” 18 So he took him, and brought him to the commanding officer, and said, “Paul, the prisoner, summoned me and asked me to bring this young man to you, who has something to tell you.” 19 The commanding officer took him by the hand, and going aside, asked him privately, “What is it that you have to tell me?” 20 He said, “The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down to the council tomorrow, as though intending to inquire somewhat more accurately concerning him. 21 Therefore don’t yield to them, for more than forty men lie in wait for him, who have bound themselves under a curse neither to eat nor to drink until they have killed him. Now they are ready, looking for the promise from you.” 22 So the commanding officer let the young man go, charging him, “Tell no one that you have revealed these things to me.” 23 He called to himself two of the centurions, and said, “Prepare two hundred soldiers to go as far as Caesarea, with seventy horsemen, and two hundred men armed with spears, at the third hour of the night.” 24 He asked them to provide animals, that they might set Paul on one, and bring him safely to Felix the governor. 25 He wrote a letter like this: 26 “Claudius Lysias to the most excellent governor Felix: Greetings. 27 “This man was seized by the Jews, and was about to be killed by them, when I came with the soldiers and rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman. 28 Desiring to know the cause why they accused him, I brought him down to their council. 29 I found him to be accused about questions of their law, but not to be charged with anything worthy of death or of imprisonment. 30 When I was told that the Jews lay in wait for the man, I sent him to you immediately, charging his accusers also to bring their accusations against him before you. Farewell.” 31 So the soldiers, carrying out their orders, took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris. 32 But on the next day they left the horsemen to go with him, and returned to the barracks. 33 When they came to Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they also presented Paul to him. 34 When the governor had read it, he asked what province he was from. When he understood that he was from Cilicia, he said, 35 “I will hear you fully when your accusers also arrive.” He commanded that he be kept in Herod’s palace.

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Questions about today’s reading? See if Matthew Henry can help.
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, 1706

Verses 1–5

See here the character of an honest man. He sets God before him, and lives as in his sight. He makes conscience of what he says and does, and, according to the best of his knowledge, he keeps from whatever is evil, and cleaves to what is good. He is conscientious in all his words and conduct. Those who thus live before God, may, like Paul, have confidence both toward God and man. Though the answer of Paul contained a just rebuke and prediction, he seems to have been too angry at the treatment he received in uttering them. Great men may be told of their faults, and public complaints may be made in a proper manner; but the law of God requires respect for those in authority.

Verses 6–11

The Pharisees were correct in the faith of the Jewish church. The Sadducees were no friends to the Scripture or Divine revelation; they denied a future state; they had neither hope of eternal happiness, nor dread of eternal misery. When called in question for his being a Christian, Paul might truly say he was called in question for the hope of the resurrection of the dead. It was justifiable in him, by this profession of his opinion on that disputed point, to draw off the Pharisees from persecuting him, and to lead them to protect him from this unlawful violence. How easily can God defend his own cause! Though the Jews seemed to be perfectly agreed in their conspiracy against religion, yet they were influenced by very different motives. There is no true friendship among the wicked, and in a moment, and with the utmost ease, God can turn their union into open enmity. Divine consolations stood Paul in the most stead; the chief captain rescued him out of the hands of cruel men, but the event he could not tell. Whoever is against us, we need not fear, if the Lord stand by us. It is the will of Christ, that his servants who are faithful, should be always cheerful. He might think he should never see Rome; but God tells him, even in that he should be gratified, since he desired to go there only for the honour of Christ, and to do good.

Verses 12–24

False religious principles, adopted by carnal men, urge on to such wickedness, as human nature would hardly be supposed capable of. Yet the Lord readily disappoints the best concerted schemes of iniquity. Paul knew that the Divine providence acts by reasonable and prudent means; and that, if he neglected to use the means in his power, he could not expect God’s providence to work on his behalf. He who will not help himself according to his means and power, has neither reason nor revelation to assure him that he shall receive help from God. Believing in the Lord, we and ours shall be kept from every evil work, and kept to his kingdom. Heavenly Father, give us by thy Holy Spirit, for Christ’s sake, this precious faith.

Verses 25–35

God has instruments for every work. The natural abilities and moral virtues of the heathens often have been employed to protect his persecuted servants. Even the men of the world can discern between the conscientious conduct of upright believers, and the zeal of false professors, though they disregard or understand not their doctrinal principles. All hearts are in God’s hand, and those are blessed who put their trust in him, and commit their ways unto him.

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