Acts 23-24

Thursday Evening Bible Study

January 24, 2008


As Paul was winding up his third missionary journey, he was trying hard to make it to Jerusalem by Pentecost.  Yet at just about every place Paul stopped at, he was receiving prophecies and warnings about the trouble he would face in Jerusalem.  When he got to Jerusalem, the leaders of the church were encouraging Paul to be sure to act about as Jewish as he could.  But when Paul was in the Temple, some unbelieving Jews from Ephesus spotted him and started stirring up the crowd against him.  A near riot was broken up by the Roman soldiers as they took Paul from the crowd and ushered him off to the Roman garrison known as the Antonio Fortress.  Paul was allowed to address the crowd, but when his speech brought another near riot, the soldiers took him inside the fortress. When the Romans found out that Paul was a Roman citizen, they began to treat him very carefully.  The Roman commander has arranged for the Jewish leaders to come the next morning and explain why they want Paul to be put to death.  Paul is now given a chance to address the Sanhedrin…

:1-10  Paul divides the Sanhedrin

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

looking earnestlyatenizo – to fix the eyes on, gaze upon; It could be because of his poor eyesight that he’s gazing.  It could be that he’s trying to see if he recognizes any faces from the days of when he was a part of the Sanhedrin, the one which condemned Stephen.

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

Ananias – This is not the same as the “Annas” who was one of the high priests during the trial of Jesus.  This man is the son of Nebedaeus, and was high priests from AD 48 to AD 59.  In AD 52 (about five years earlier to Acts 23) he was called to Rome to answer charges of cruelty by the Samaritans, though he was later acquitted. He was known as a brutal man who cared more for Rome’s favor than for Israel’s welfare.

In AD 66, when the war will begin to break out between the Jews and Rome, Ananias gets worried because of how close he had been to Rome.  He hides, but Jewish guerillas find him hiding in an aqueduct in Herod’s palace and put him to death.

:3 Then Paul said to him, "God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! For you sit to judge me according to the law, and do you command me to be struck contrary to the law?"

whitewashed wall – a wall that is made pretty with a white coat of paint.  Paul is calling him a hypocrite.

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

:5 Then Paul said, "I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, 'You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.'"

Some suggest that Paul’s bad eyesight kept him from recognizing the high priest.  It could be he simply didn’t know who was the high priest at the time.  It could also be that Paul is being a bit sarcastic – like, “I couldn’t tell that he was the high priest…”

Paul is quoting

(Exo 22:28 NKJV)  "You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people.

Pay attention though – Paul is apologizing.

Some might say that Paul isn’t doing anything wrong here.  But Paul thought he did, he’s going to apologize.


Nobody’s perfect.

A carpet layer had just finished installing carpet for a lady. He stepped out for a smoke, only to realize he’d lost his cigarettes. In the middle of the room, under the carpet, was a bump.  “No sense pulling up the entire floor for one pack of smokes,” he said to himself. He proceeded to get out his hammer and flattened the hump.  As he was cleaning up, the lady came in.  “Here,” she said, handing him his pack of cigarettes. “I found them in the hallway.” “Now,” she said, “if only I could find my parakeet.”
When Jesus was struck by a soldier during His trial, He didn’t get angry:
 (John 18:23 NLT)  Jesus replied, "If I said anything wrong, you must give evidence for it. Should you hit a man for telling the truth?"
Yet Paul blows it.  Personally, I find it a little comforting to see that even Paul still blew it after having walked with Jesus for twenty years.
The Christian Life is a life of growing.  It’s a life of becoming more and more and more like Jesus.  But we don’t ever “arrive” until we see Him face to face.  We need to find the balance:
We need grace for ourselves and for others.  We’re going to make mistakes.

(Psa 103:10 KJV)  He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.

(Psa 103:14 KJV)  For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.

:6 But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, "Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!"

Paul knows that the Sanhedrin is split between the two factions, Pharisees and Sadducees.

He takes the side of the Pharisees.  After all, he was one.

It would kind of be like walking into Congress and saying, “I was only acting like a good Republican…”  You would instantly have half of the crowd on your side.

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

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

:9 Then there arose a loud outcry. And the scribes of the Pharisees' party arose and protested, saying, "We find no evil in this man; but if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him, let us not fight against God."

:10 Now when there arose a great dissension, the commander, fearing lest Paul might be pulled to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him by force from among them, and bring him into the barracks.

Lysias was afraid the Sanhedrin was going to kill Paul, so he takes him out of the gathering.

:11-22 The Plot against Paul

:11 But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, "Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome."


Watching God guide

It was earlier in the year when Paul had written a letter to the Romans from Corinth where he mentioned his hopes for the future:
(Rom 15:22-28 NKJV)  For this reason I also have been much hindered from coming to you. {23} But now no longer having a place in these parts, and having a great desire these many years to come to you, {24} whenever I journey to Spain, I shall come to you. For I hope to see you on my journey, and to be helped on my way there by you, if first I may enjoy your company for a while. {25} But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. {26} For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem. {27} It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things. {28} Therefore, when I have performed this and have sealed to them this fruit, I shall go by way of you to Spain.

After making the trip to Jerusalem with the gifts from the Gentiles, Paul was hoping to make it to Rome and then on to Spain.

You kind of get the idea that Paul was talking about the kinds of desires he had on his heart.

God will guide us through our desires.

(Psa 37:4 NKJV)  Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.

Jesus is now encouraging Paul that he will indeed be giving his testimony in Rome.

Jesus speaks directly to Paul.

For right now, Paul may be thinking that this means he will be released.

But it isn’t going to work out that way.

Later, as things get worse and worse, Paul will make his appeal, asking to be sent to Caesar.

Some people look at this and say that Paul made a mistake making his appeal because King Agrippa will say that he might have let him go if he hadn’t made the appeal.

Yet Jesus is still going to work it all out for Paul to get to Rome.

Be careful about second-guessing yourself and your decisions.  God is able to still get you where He really wants you to go.

:12 And when it was day, some of the Jews banded together and bound themselves under an oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul.

They are going to get pretty hungry.

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

:14 They came to the chief priests and elders, and said, "We have bound ourselves under a great oath that we will eat nothing until we have killed Paul.

Keep in mind, these aren’t simple murderers.  These guys think they’re doing God a great service.

(John 16:2 NKJV)  "They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.

Sometimes we can make the mistake of thinking that “intensity” means “right”.  We can think that because someone is “intense” in what they believe that it must be right.  They can simply be “intensely wrong”.

:15 "Now you, therefore, together with the council, suggest to the commander that he be brought down to you tomorrow, as though you were going to make further inquiries concerning him; but we are ready to kill him before he comes near."

Isn’t it fascinating that these Jewish religious leaders have no problem with the concept of these men planning to kill Paul?

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

We find out that Paul has a sister and a nephew.

:17 Then Paul called one of the centurions to him and said, "Take this young man to the commander, for he has something to tell him."

:18 So he took him and brought him to the commander and said, "Paul the prisoner called me to him and asked me to bring this young man to you. He has something to say to you."

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

I find it kind of cute that the commander takes him by the hand.  I wonder how old the nephew was.

:20 And he said, "The Jews have agreed to ask that you bring Paul down to the council tomorrow, as though they were going to inquire more fully about him.

:21 "But do not yield to them, for more than forty of them lie in wait for him, men who have bound themselves by an oath that they will neither eat nor drink till they have killed him; and now they are ready, waiting for the promise from you."

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

The commander doesn’t want word to get out that they know about the plot.

:23-35 Paul sent to Felix

:23 And he called for two centurions, saying, "Prepare two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen, and two hundred spearmen to go to Caesarea at the third hour of the night;

This might sound like a lot of soldiers, but keep in mind that the Jews plotting to kill Paul had over 40 men planning on an attack.  It is 9:00pm.

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

Felix – not the cat … he was the Roman procurator of Judea (A.D. 52 to probably 58) with headquarters in Caesarea.

Show Caesarea video???

:25 He wrote a letter in the following manner:

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

:27 This man was seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them. Coming with the troops I rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman.

Claudius Lysias is bending the truth a little.  He didn’t learn Paul was a Roman until after he had rescued him.  He also conveniently forgets to mention that he had bound Paul and had ordered him scourged.

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

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

:30 And when it was told me that the Jews lay in wait for the man, I sent him immediately to you, and also commanded his accusers to state before you the charges against him. Farewell.

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

Antipatris – a military outpost halfway between Jerusalem and Caesarea, about 30 miles from Jerusalem.

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

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

We never hear from the hungry guys who want to kill Paul.  Perhaps they all starved themselves to death.

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

Roman law required that this question be asked at the opening of a hearing, to make sure that the governor has jurisdiction over the matter.  Apparently there could have been a choice as to where the case was tried.  It could have been tried in Tarsus or at Caesarea.  Felix apparently doesn’t want to offend the Jews by making them travel to Tarsus to try the case.

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

Praetorium –


Acts 24

:1-9 Paul officially accused before Felix of sedition

:1 Now after five days Ananias the high priest came down with the elders and a certain orator named Tertullus. These gave evidence to the governor against Paul.

oratorrhetor – a speaker, an orator; of a forensic orator or advocate; the Jewish leaders have hired a big time attorney to make their case before the governor.  Tertullus is a Roman name.

:2 And when he was called upon, Tertullus began his accusation, saying: "Seeing that through you we enjoy great peace, and prosperity is being brought to this nation by your foresight,

great peace – Felix had stopped the riots led by the renegade Egyptian, but he was also known for having secretly encouraged bandits in Judea, and then sharing the plunder with them.

:3 "we accept it always and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness.

:4 "Nevertheless, not to be tedious to you any further, I beg you to hear, by your courtesy, a few words from us.

Felix was a brother of Pallas, who was a chief advisor of the emperor Claudius.  He had at one time been a slave of the emperor’s mother, Antonia, before being freed.  He was made governor of Judea by Claudius in AD 52.  Tacitus says of him that “with all cruelty and lust he exercised the power of a king with the spirit of a slave.”

He was immoral. King Herod Agrippa had given his daughter Drusilla to another king in marriage, but when Felix saw her, he used a Jewish friend to talk her into leaving her husband for Felix.  She became his third wife, all of which had been daughters of kings.

He was violent.  Josephus records an incident (Antiquities 20:8:5) where Felix had murderers hired to have a high priest named Jonathan killed.  Then, as an act of justice, he had the murderers brought back and put to death.

:5 "For we have found this man a plague, a creator of dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.

plagueloimos – pestilence; a pestilent fellow, pest, plague

dissensionstasis – a standing, station, state; an insurrection; strife, insurrection

The Romans should pay attention – Paul is causing trouble all over the world.

ringleaderprotostates (“first” + “insurrection”) – one who stands in the front rank; a leader, chief, champion

secthairesis – (“heresy”) choosing, choice; a body of men following their own tenets (sect or party)

Pretty STRONG words.

:6 "He even tried to profane the temple, and we seized him, and wanted to judge him according to our law.

They had claimed that he had taken a Gentile into the part of the Temple where Gentiles were not allowed.  They had assumed this simply on the fact that Paul had been seen around town with Trophimus, an Ephesian Gentile.

:7 "But the commander Lysias came by and with great violence took him out of our hands,

:8 "commanding his accusers to come to you. By examining him yourself you may ascertain all these things of which we accuse him."

They don’t appreciate what Lysias did.

:9 And the Jews also assented, maintaining that these things were so.

After their lawyer was finished, they all were nodding, saying they agreed with all he said.

:10-21 Paul’s defense before Felix

:10 Then Paul, after the governor had nodded to him to speak, answered: "Inasmuch as I know that you have been for many years a judge of this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself,

:11 "because you may ascertain that it is no more than twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem to worship.

Paul had now been in Caesarea for 5 days, that meant he had only been in Jerusalem for a week, not much time to stir up sedition.

:12 "And they neither found me in the temple disputing with anyone nor inciting the crowd, either in the synagogues or in the city.

:13 "Nor can they prove the things of which they now accuse me.

:14 "But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets.


Be honest in your testimony.

Paul denied the things that he had been falsely accused of. But there are some things that he can’t deny.  They had accused him of being a leader of the “Nazarenes”.  This was true.  Jesus said,
(Mat 10:32-33 KJV)  Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. {33} But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.

:15 "I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.

:16 "This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men.

:17 "Now after many years I came to bring alms and offerings to my nation,

Paul had been collecting money around the world for the people of Jerusalem.  (Rom. 15; 2Cor. 8,9)

:18 "in the midst of which some Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with a mob nor with tumult.

:19 "They ought to have been here before you to object if they had anything against me.

The unbelieving Jews from Asia were the ones behind the controversy, yet they were not the ones standing before Felix and Paul.

:20 "Or else let those who are here themselves say if they found any wrongdoing in me while I stood before the council,

:21 "unless it is for this one statement which I cried out, standing among them, 'Concerning the resurrection of the dead I am being judged by you this day.'"

The Jewish leaders had only heard gossip and rumors about Paul.  The only thing they themselves could testify to was that Paul had made the statement about the resurrection that had caused such division in the Sanhedrin.

:22-27 Felix drags his feet

:22 But when Felix heard these things, having more accurate knowledge of the Way, he adjourned the proceedings and said, "When Lysias the commander comes down, I will make a decision on your case."

having more accurate knowledge of the Way – Apparently Felix knew more about this Christianity stuff than the Sanhedrin realized. It’s possible he had heard Philip the Evangelist who lived in Caesarea.  It could be that he heard some from his wife Drusilla who was a descendant of the infamous Herod kings.

Lysias, the commander in charge of Jerusalem wasn’t at the trial, so Felix says he wants to hear from him.

:23 So he commanded the centurion to keep Paul and to let him have liberty, and told him not to forbid any of his friends to provide for or visit him.

Paul did not have a strict imprisonment.  He could have visitors who could also bring food and such.

:24 And after some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ.

She was one of three daughters of Herod Agrippa I (Drusilla, Mariamne, Bernice). Her father murdered James, her great-uncle Herod Antipas slew John the Baptist, her great-grandfather (Herod the Great) killed the babes of Bethlehem. Felix had induced her to leave her former husband Aziz, King of Emesa.

:25 Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, "Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you."

Felix wasn’t such a fine outstanding guy.  I imagine that he was a bit convicted by the things that Paul was talking about.

righteousness – There is a right and a wrong way to live your life.

self-control – God wants us to learn to change the way we live.  God can give us the ability to say “no” to sin.

judgment to come – Jesus is coming back one day.  You will be facing God with your life.

a convenient time – be careful about putting God off for too long.  You don’t have forever to choose.

:26 Meanwhile he also hoped that money would be given him by Paul, that he might release him. Therefore he sent for him more often and conversed with him.

What a snake of a guy!

:27 But after two years Porcius Festus succeeded Felix; and Felix, wanting to do the Jews a favor, left Paul bound.

We go from Felix the cat to Porky Pig…

Porcius FestusPorkios Phestos  (“now Marshall Dillon …”)  = "swinish festival” (We go from Felix the cat to Porky Pig…)