Acts 23 Jerusalem conspiracy

Tod Kennedy, July 8, 2001

Main points of application or “So what?” from Acts 23

  1. Paul was confident and courageous before the Sanhedrin. Like Paul, we can have spiritual courage because we know who we are (believer in Christ), we know what we believe (Bible doctrine), and we know what God wants us to do (Christian service)  (Acts 23.1).
  2. We can live with a good conscience like Paul did. He was not hypocritical or arrogant. He had a good conscience because he knew that he had been honest with God and with himself while he lived the Christian life (Acts 23.1).
  3. We should try to understand the people to whom we witness and their motives. Paul knew the Pharisees and the Sadducees; he knew their beliefs and he used his understanding to better witness for Christ and to protect himself (Acts 23.6).
  4. God has that knack of always coming to the rescue when we are ready to listen to him. The Lord Jesus  rescued Paul from possible discouragement by reminding him of his mission and of his divine support (Acts 23.11).
  5. We should rightly use our citizenship as we serve God. God has given us the divine institutions and the laws of civilization to help us. Paul certainly claimed his citizenship—for example, Acts 16.36-40 and 22.25-29—for his own protection, for the protection of other believes, and for the furtherance of the faith (Acts 23.17).
  6. Once we are convinced that God is working in us and through us, we can continue to serve him and maintain an attitude of faith-rest, even when we suffer because we are Christians. When Paul’s nephew told him about the assassination plot, Paul told the centurion and turned human work over to him, yet he trusted God to do the right thing  (Acts 23.17).

Summary Outline

  1. Acts 23.1-5.  Paul looked into the eyes of the members of the Jewish Sanhedrin and told them that his conscience was clear—he had followed God’s instructions by preaching salvation through Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Naturally, the religious Jews struck out at Paul. After all, he preached that the one they had rejected and had crucified was their awaited Messiah and they were wrong in what they had done.
  2. Acts 23.6-10. Paul understood the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Because he did, he was able to divide the Sanhedrin and use this to his own advantage. Note that he did not bend or compromise the truth. He spoke of the resurrection at just the right time. Paul was not just playing on the people; he realized the central biblical truth that both groups needed to know.
  3. Acts 23.11. Jesus Christ knew that Paul was under great attack. He encouraged Paul when he appeared to him during the night and stood right next to him. Jesus was reminding Paul that he was Paul’s defense. Just as a Roman guard had his duties to protect one charged to him, so the Lord had taken the responsibility to protect Paul.
  4. Acts 23.12-21. Paul’s nephew learned of a plot to assassinate the apostle. How he found out we do not know. We do not even know what he was doing in Jerusalem. Maybe Paul’s nephew had followed in his uncle’s footsteps and gone to Jerusalem from Tarsus in order to study at the university. Whatever was in the background, he had an affection for the apostle so that he told him of the plot. Once the plot was discovered, Paul introduced his nephew to a centurion who took him to the commander (cilarco~ chilarchos, commander of a thousand).
  5. Acts 23.22-32. The commander, Claudius Lysias,  made the necessary arrangements to move Paul to Caesarea.  He ordered 200 foot soldiers and 70 cavalrymen to protect Paul on the 60 mile trip. The commander wrote the necessary letter to the governor, Antonius Felix, who ruled Judea from AD 52-60. Tacitus said of Felix, “He exercised the power of a king with the mind of a slave” (Histories v.9).
  6. Acts 23.33-35. The soldiers turned Paul over to the custody of governor Felix. He was kept at Herod’s Praetorium. Herod the Great had built this for his own residence; it contained jail cells. Paul had to wait until his accusers came so that there might be a hearing. The Jewish accusers were unsuccessful, but Paul ended up staying in Caesarea for two years because Paul would not pay a bribe to Felix and because Felix wanted to do a favor for the Jews.

Dictionary of Bible Doctrine

  1. Pharisees
  2. Sadducees
  3. Spiritual Courage