The Way - Day 127 (Acts 23)

Daily Reading:
Acts 23
Don't forget to journal in your Foundations Book!
Daily Reading Audio Commentary:
Today's Question or Action Step:
How does God's providential love and care for Paul speak to a difficult situation you are facing this week? What from Paul's example encourages and challenges you most?
Weekly Memory Verse(s):
OPTION 1: Psalm 46:10
OPTION 2: Proverbs 18:10
OPTION 3: Matthew 6:5-6
Further Study Resources:
Study Guide for Acts 23 (Enduring Word - David Guzik)
Pastor Tom's Journal on Today's Reading:
Acts 23
Paul had narrowly escaped his encounter with the angry Jewish mob at Jerusalem and his resulting captivity by Roman authorities (22:22-24). Only through his revelation to the Roman centurion about being a Roman citizen saved him from impending death (22:25-29). The Jews had stirred up the crowds at Jerusalem by spreading lies about Paul's treatment of Jewish tradition. They believed he was teaching those Jews who came to faith in Jesus Christ to discontinue Jewish rituals; however, this was nothing but a lie (21:20-21). Paul never taught Jews to disrespect or forsake their Jewish heritage, but he did warn them that obedience to their traditions would never bring salvation. Only faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for sin could bring salvation from the power of sin and death.

After making his defense to the crowd at Jerusalem, Paul called for a meeting with the Sanhedrin (the council) so they could explain "why he [Paul] was accused by the Jews" (22:30). Paul spoke first saying, "I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day" (23:1). When Ananias, the high priest, heard Paul speak he commanded those who stood nearby Paul to "strike him on the mouth" (23:2). Paul reacted to this treatment by saying, "God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! For you sit to judge me according to the law, and do you command me to be struck contrary to the law?" (23:3) His angry reaction to the high priest, whom Paul probably did not know was the high priest, caused those who stood around to say, "Do you revile [insult] God's high priest?" (23:4) Jewish law did call for the respect of the high priest, so Paul was wrong in his reaction and quickly admitted his wrongdoing saying, "I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, 'You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people'" (23:5, also see Exodus 22:28). Even though Paul was being falsely accused, he recognized that he had violated the law by talking disrespectfully to the high priest. This action showed Paul's outstanding character and sensitivity to God's law.

The council gathered to hear Paul was comprised of both Sadducees and Pharisees. Normally these two groups did not get along because they differed on their belief in the resurrection. The Sadducees only viewed the first five books of the Old Testament as Scripture and did not believe in the resurrection; however, the Pharisees did believe in the resurrection and afterlife (23:6-8). Since Paul was aware of this difference, having been a Pharisee himself, he raised one of the most foundational teachings of Christianity - the resurrection. When the Pharisees and Sadducees heard Paul speak of this, the Pharisees rushed to defend Paul but now he was caught in the middle of these two feuding groups and had to be taken by force by the soldiers to prison (23:9-10).

No doubt exhausted by the occurrences over the last several hours, Paul found himself locked in a Roman prison when the Lord appeared to him saying, "Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome" (23:11). God's appearance to Paul in this vision must have been a huge encouragement to him; after all, he was facing some harsh persecution for speaking the truth. God seems to know just the right time to show up and bring comfort to a weary soul.

Although you would assume things get better from here, things continue to get worse. Forty Jews made a pact that they would not eat or drink until Paul was killed, so they conspired with the council to bring Paul in for more questioning, but they would kill him while he was en route (23:12-15). Paul's nephew became aware of the plot and warned Paul in prison (23:16). A centurion then ended up taking Paul's nephew to the commander and the boy revealed this plot against Paul (23:17-22).

The commander decided that Paul needed to leave Jerusalem for his own safety, so he provided "two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen, and two hundred spearmen" (23:23) to escort him to Caesarea where Felix the governor resided (23:24). The commander, Lysias, write a letter to Felix to be delivered with Paul saying, "This man was seized by the Jews...and when I wanted to know the reason they accused him, I brought them before their council. I found out that he was accused concerning questions of their law, but had nothing charged against him deserving of death or chains" (23:27-29). The letter concluded with Lysias saying, "And when it was told me that the Jews lay in wait for the man, I sent him immediately to you, and also commanded his accusers to state before you the charges against him" (23:30). So, the letter and Paul were delivered to Felix and he was kept in Herod's Praetorium (Felix's residence) until his accusers arrived (23:31-35). Paul continued to be protected by God even under some of the most adverse circumstances a person could face.

Dear God, we delight in the times You bring encouragement into our lives in order to provide hope. Please be near to those who are broken, confused, and fearful.