ACTS - CHAPTERS 21: 37-40; and Chs. 22-23; "The Lord Stood by Him"
ACTS – CHAPTERS 21:37-40; -22 and 23. – “The Lord Stood By Him”
Tuesday Morning Bible Study
July 19, 2022
Pastor Carolyn Sissom
Last week we ended with Paul being arrested in the Temple. The Temple mob attempted to kill him; but the soldiers carried him away on their shoulders. The Roman Garrison had its barracks in the Tower of Antonia, the great fortress built by Herod the Great for the defense of the Temple area. The temple area is where Paul had been dragged. The Commander of the Garrison, Claudius Lysias, takes him to the steps of the tower. Here Paul managed to get the ear of the tribune and identifies himself as a Jew.
21: 37-40: As Paul was about to be led into the barracks, he said to the commander, “May I speak to you?” He replied, “can you speak Greek? Are you not the Egyptian who some time ago stirred up a rebellion and led the four thousand assassins out into the wilderness?” But Paul said, “I am a Jew from Tarsus, in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city; and I implore you, permit me to speak to the people.” When he had given Paul permission, he stood on the stairs and motioned with his hand to the people. When there was a great silence, he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, saying, (22:1) “Brethren and fathers, hear my defense before you now.”
The speech from the steps of the tower is Paul’s testimony of his visitation, his conversion, and underlines the Jewish rejection of is person and message. Yet, he is fulfilling his present commission to testify of Christ in Jerusalem.
Paul gives them his upper-class upbringing and education which according to Jewish culture are important credentials. The fact that the studied at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers’ law, and was zealous toward God alone would give him audience.
This amazing apostle who we can say was strengthened by the joy of faith (Phil 1:25); as well as strength of courage. He speaks to this crowd without malice, anger, or fright. He is polite. His ability to speak Hebrew silenced the mob. He thus received opportunity once more to preach Jesus Christ.
Paul confessed he had all the prejudices of the Jew and that he was chief in persecution of Christians. He again refers to Christianity as “The Way.”
22:4-5: I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons, both men and women; as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished.
He states clearly His visitation from the Lord Jesus describing again in perfect detail. It is a beautiful story, let us also repeat it: “a great light from heaven show around me, and I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ He said to me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.” I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of those who were with me, I came into Damascus. Then a certain Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good testimony with all the Jews who dwell there, came to me and he stood and said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.” At that same hour, I looked up at him. Then he said, ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know his will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of his mouth.
- Paul was chosen of God. Gal. 1: 15-16: When it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood.
- He was chosen to know God’s will. 22:14-16: Then he (Ananias) said, “The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth. For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.
- He was chosen to see Jesus. 1 Co. 9:1: Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?
- He was chosen to hear his voice. 22:14: The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know his will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of his mouth.
- He was chosen to be a special witness to all men. 22:15: For you shall be a witness to all men of what you have seen and heard.
Note the use of the “Righteous One” (Strong’s dikaios Vs. 14 NLT); K.J.V. “Just One.” Dikaios is a messianic title in the Old Testament (Isa. 24:16). Using O.T. terms would be wisdom in addressing this Jerusalem mob.
Risking their ire, he describes the Lord’s visitation to him in Jerusalem.
22:17-21: After I returned to Jerusalem, I was praying in the Temple and fell into a trance. I saw a vision of Jesus saying to me, “Hurry! Leave Jerusalem, for the people here won’t accept your testimony about me.’ “But, Lord, I argued, “they certainly know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. I was in complete agreement when your witness Stephen was killed. I stood by and kept the coats they took off when they stoned him. But the Lord said to me, ‘Go for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.”
His message was violently rejected. When Paul spoke these words, then they would hear no more. (Vs. 22-25) The crowd listened until Paul said that word. Then they all began to shout, “away with such a fellow! He isn’t fit to live!” They yelled, threw off their coats, and tossed handfuls of dust into the air. The commander brought Paul inside and ordered him lashed with whips to make him confess his crime. He wanted to find out why the crowd had become so furious. When they tied Paul down to lash him, Paul said to the officer standing there, “is it legal for you to whip a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been tried?”
Paul saved himself by declaring his Roman citizenship. It was a serious offense against the emperor to beat one of his citizens. The commander was horrified, the word says “frightened” to learn that Paul was a citizen by birth. As such, his citizenship ranked higher than his own. His cost him a fortune. Paul was born in a Roman province.
22:26-29: When the officer heard this, he went to the commander and asked, “what are you doing? This man is a Roman citizen.” The commander went over and asked Paul, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?’ “Yes, I certainly am,” Paul replied. “I am too,” the commander muttered, “and it cost me plenty!” Paul answered, “But I am a citizen by birth!” The soldiers who were about to interrogate Paul quickly withdrew when they heard he was a Roman citizen, and the commander was frightened because he had ordered him bound and whipped.
The commander is still trying to get to the bottom of what Paul is accused of and why the Jewish people hate him so they want to kill him? He commands a gathering of the Sanhedrin.
Paul’s presence before the Sanhedrin will complete his witness in Jerusalem. As usual, there are many criticisms of his attitude and statements here. I for one would not criticize one thing. I defend Paul. The situation was delicate the atmosphere tense. The Roman commander was between a “rock and a hard place.” If he made the Jews angry, there would be a riot and he would be in trouble. If he didn’t grant Paul his rights, he was in trouble with the emperor.
Paul owed his life (under God’s providence) to the fact that he was a Roman citizen.
This Sanhedrin was the continuation of the tribunal guilty of the Blood of Christ, of Stephen, and of other Christian witnesses, probably including James. Its methods were corrupt and violent. Paul’s charges must be judged against this background. Paul was a recognized Rabbi who spoke the language of his judges.
22:30: The next day the commander ordered the leading priests into session with the Jewish high council. He wanted to find out what the trouble was all about, so he released Paul to have him stand before them.
Paul doesn’t help himself.
23:1: Paul, looking earnestly at the council said, “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.” The high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. 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?”
Ananias broke the Roman law and the law of Moses in spirit and in letter. Paul’s rebuke was prophetic and I am sure from the Lord.
“Christ will give those the kisses of his mouth (Song 1:2) who for his sake receive blows on the mouth.”
Five years later, After the burning of his house, Ananias was caught hiding in an aqueduct, then murdered due a disturbance caused by his son (Josephus XX, Ch. 10:9).
Wait for it, the Lord’s judgement is sure! The Lord Himself used the term, “whitewashed tombs” in referring to the Scribes and Pharisees.
23:4-5: Those who stood by said, “Do you revile God’s high priest?” Paul said, “I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest, for it is written, “You shall not curse a ruler of your people.”
The rebuke was contrary to the letter of the law (Ex. 22:28). The Priest was a criminal, but the seat was sacred.
Paul has another “trump card” up his sleeve. He has pulled two out at just the right time. The first one was that he was a Jew of the upper-class; (2) He was a Roman citizen; now he plays the Pharisee card.
23:6-7: 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!”
He is preaching that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead and that he has received visitations from Him, not once but multiple times. He is preaching the baptism of the Holy Spirit and that Christ is alive.
23:8: For Sadducees say that there is no resurrection---and no angel or spirit; but the Pharisees confess both.
We can say the spirit of the Sadducees is in many denominations who do not believe in angels or the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in power in our lives today. I also know that Jesus Christ visits his saints today just as He did with the apostles.
23:9: Then there arose a loud outcry. 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.”
I would concur with that advice to the denominations of the 21st century. If someone tells me they have heard from God, seen a vision, or heard God speak, I won’t dispute them. You’re on your own. If you want it judged, I would say that would be wisdom. However, often what some perceive as God speaking is really their own desires.
23:10: 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.
One has to feel sorry for this poor commander. He has a very complicated, religious/political problem on his hands; and he still can’t get to the bottom of what the Jews are so upset about.
Oh, but another visitation from the LORD makes everything alright.
23:11: 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.”
Confirmation; approval; and power to finish the course and proceed “knowing the will of God” (22:14-16). That is all we need to finish our course is to know that we know that we are in the will of God.
This one verse forever vindicates Paul. “Paul purposed in the Spirit…I must also see Rome” is a prophecy (Acts 19:21).
He would need this encouragement for the next day; for Satan and his minions are already at work.
23:12-15: When it was day, some of the Jews banded together and bound themselves under and oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. There were more than forty who had formed this conspiracy. 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. 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.”
This is demonic activity. Forty is the number of the world and of trial and testing. The men are binding themselves to a curse. Illegal and violent actions by Jews are bringing them closer to the time of the “dry-tree.”
Luke 28: 28-31: Jesus turning to them, said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. Indeed, the days are coming in which they will say, “blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which never nursed! Then they will begin to say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!” “For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?”
This time God’s deliverance is by means of Paul’s nephew. We have to believe that both the nephew and Paul’s sister were Christians. The story is detailed and graphic.
23: 16-22: When Paul’s sister’s son heard of their lying-in-wait, he went and entered into the castle, and told Paul. Paul called one of the centurions unto him, and said, “Bring this young man unto the chief captain, for he has a certain thing to tell him.” The centurion took 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.” The commander took him by the hand, went aside, and asked privately, “What is it that you have to tell me?’ The boy 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. 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.” The commander let the young man depart, and commanded him, “tell no one that you have revealed these things to me.”
We must conclude the boy was just a youngster because both the centurion and the commander took him by the hand. Divine providence intervenes. The commander makes a God ordained decision to get rid of this problem. He is sending Paul to the Governor of Caesarea.
What an awesome escort Paul is given:
- 200 soldiers
- 70 horsemen
- 200 spear-men
- Mount to set Paul on (Probably Luke was included).
This man has walked all over the Middle East. He is being sent to Caesarea to Felix the governor. It is a 72-mile journey.
23:25-30: He wrote a letter in the following manner: Claudius Lysias, to the most excellent governor Felix, Greetings. 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. When I wanted to know the reason they accused him, I brought him 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. 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.
The letter to Felix is interesting. We can only wonder how Luke got a hold of this letter. He seemed to have a way of getting access to important documents.
23:31: Then the soldiers, as they were commanded, took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris. The next day they left the horsemen to go on with him, and returned to the barracks. When they came to Caesarea and had delivered the letter to the governor, they also presented Paul to him. When the governor had read it, he asked what province he was from. When he understood that he was from Cilicia, he said, “I will hear you when your accusers also have come, “He commanded hin to be kept in Herod’s Praetorian.
The Praetorian is believe to be the same as where Jesus was tried by Herod. Felix provides Paul with an apartment in the governor’s palace. This was to be his home for the next two years.
Next week, Paul’s accusers and his witness to Felix and Drusilla, the daughter of Herod Agrippa.
Carolyn Sissom, Pastor
Eastgate Ministries Church
Scripture from N.K.J.V. – I entered into the labors of F. F. Bruce Bible Commentary, C. S. Lovett’s Lights on Acts and Dake’s Annotated Bible Reference. Comments and conclusions are my own and not meant to reflect the views of those who I entered into their labors.