June 14th Acts 23
1: And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day. 2: And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth. 3: Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law? 4: And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God's high priest? 5: Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people. 6: But when Paul perceived that the 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: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question. 7: And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided. 8: For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both. 9: And there arose a great cry: and the scribes that were of the Pharisees' part arose, and strove, saying, We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God. 10: And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle. 11: And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.
(Paul to the Gentiles) The plot against Paul
12: And when it was day, certain of the Jews banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. 13: And they were more than forty which had made this conspiracy. 14: And they came to the chief priests and elders, and said, We have bound ourselves under a great curse, that we will eat nothing until we have slain Paul. 15: Now therefore ye with the council signify to the chief captain that he bring him down unto you to morrow, as though ye would inquire something more perfectly concerning him: and we, or ever he come near, are ready to kill him. 16: And when Paul's sister's son heard of their lying in wait, he went and entered into the castle, and told Paul. 17: Then Paul called one of the centurions unto him, and said, Bring this young man unto the chief captain: for he hath a certain thing to tell him. 18: So he took him, and brought him to the chief captain, and said, Paul the prisoner called me unto him, and prayed me to bring this young man unto thee, who hath something to say unto thee. 19: Then the chief captain took him by the hand, and went with him aside privately, and asked him, What is that thou hast to tell me? 20: And he said, The Jews have agreed to desire thee that thou wouldest bring down Paul to morrow into the council, as though they would inquire somewhat of him more perfectly. 21: But do not thou yield unto them: for there lie in wait for him of them more than forty men, which have bound themselves with an oath, that they will neither eat nor drink till they have killed him: and now are they ready, looking for a promise from thee. 22: So the chief captain then let the young man depart, and charged him, See thou tell no man that thou hast shewed these things to me. 23: And he called unto him two centurions, saying, Make ready two hundred soldiers to go to Caesarea, and horsemen threescore and ten, and spearmen two hundred, at the third hour of the night; 24: And provide them beasts, that they may set Paul on, and bring him safe unto Felix the governor. 25: And he wrote a letter after this manner: 26: Claudius Lysias unto the most excellent governor Felix sendeth greeting. 27: This man was taken of the Jews, and should have been killed of them: then came I with an army, and rescued him, having understood that he was a Roman. 28: And when I would have known the cause wherefore they accused him, I brought him forth into their council: 29: Whom I perceived to be accused of questions of their law, but to have nothing laid to his charge worthy of death or of bonds. 30: And when it was told me how that the Jews laid wait for the man, I sent straightway to thee, and gave commandment to his accusers also to say before thee what they had against him. Farewell. 31: Then the soldiers, as it was commanded them, took Paul, and brought him by night to Antipatris. 32: On the morrow they left the horsemen to go with him, and returned to the castle: 33: Who, when they came to Caesarea, and delivered the epistle to the governor, presented Paul also before him. 34: And when the governor had read the letter, he asked of what province he was. And when he understood that he was of Cilicia; 35: I will hear thee, said he, when thine accusers are also come. And he commanded him to be kept in Herod's judgment hall.
Paul addresses the Jewish Council in his second defence. This is the same council that Christ and Stephen stood before. His first and main point is, l have lived in all good conscience before God until this day. Paul as an unbeliever or as a believer always endeavoured to live before God with a clear conscience. No more can be expected of a Jew than to live in the light of conscience before God. The high priest commanded that he should be struck on the mouth. Paul turned on him in no uncertain terms, Saying God will smite you, you whitewashed wall. Because you sit in judgment against me according to the law yet you command me to be struck contrary to the law. Those that were standing by said are you reviling Gods high priest? Paul confessed that he did not know that he was the high priest because the law stated that men should not speak evil of the ruler of the people. When Paul realised that half of the assembly were Pharisees and the other half Sadducees he said I am a Pharisee and the son of a Pharisee And it is for the hope of the resurrection of the dead that l stand before you today. When he had said this the assembly was divided, because the Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection. Clearly if the assembly was divided he could not get a unanimous vote against him. The Pharisees said there is nothing wrong with that and so there was a great commotion. The Captain of the guard thinking that there might be danger to Paul’s life commanded the soldiers to go and take Paul by force from them. On the following night Paul had a vision of the Lord in which the Lord said, Cheer up Paul, You have witnessed for me in Jerusalem you must do the same in Rome. When day dawned the Jews gathered to plot Paul’s assassination. They swore to kill him before they ate again. There were more than forty in the plot. The plotters however did a foolish thing they went and told the religious leaders about it and asked for the council to ask for Paul to be brought out again. However a young man who was Paul’s nephew found out about the assassination plot and he was brought to the chief captain. The young man told him what the scheme was and so the chief captain said ok go now but don’t tell anyone what you have told me. The Chief Captain called for two centurions - ordered them to assemble two hundred soldiers, seventy mounted soldiers and two hundred spearmen by 9pm. (Four hundred and seventy men in total.) And he ordered them to protect Paul and to give him a beast to ride on and they delivered him safely to Felix. And he sent a letter, (a typical Roman letter) explaining the situation. Paul was taken in cover of darkness to Antipatris and on the following morning the foot soldiers left Paul with the mounted guard and returned to the fortress. Paul was delivered safely to Caesarea with the letter and both were presented to the Governor. Felix promised to hear the case when his accusers came to testify in person. Paul was kept safe in Herod’s Judgment hall. It is quite amazing what Romans will do to protect one of their own.