Lesson 48: A Plot to Kill Paul/Paul Moved To Prison In Caesarea
Acts, Lesson #48. Paul and his eight companions made it to Jerusalem on Pentecost week as planned. They were received gladly by the elders. And, apparently the gifts were given to the elders for the poor. Acts 21:20 said those elders "glorified the Lord." Then they persuaded Paul to take four men (that was there) and go to the temple and be purified with them. The idea was to defuse the Jews: but it didn't work Paul wound up bound in the custody of the militia for his own safety. We have discussed Paul;s interrupted speech, made by permission from the castle steps. That's where lesson #47 ended.
Lef s read, beginning in Acts 22:22 through 29. "And they gave him audience unto this word, and then Ufted up their voices, and said, Away with such & fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live. And as they cried out, and cast off their clothing, and threw dust into the air, the chief captain commanded him to be brought into the castle, and bade that he should be examined by scourging; that he might know wherefore they cried so against him. And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned? When the centurion heard that, he went and told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what thou doest; for this man is a Roman. Then the chief captain came, and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? He said Yea. And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom, and Paul said, But I was free born. Then straightway they departed from him which should have examined him: and the chief captain also was afraid, after he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him." Alright, Paul managed to take advantage of his Roman citizenship in time to prevent the scourging. He got that citizenship bit right up front this time. Those Jews put on a real display of anger before that chief captain. They cried out; jerked off their outer garments and threw dust into the air. But, of course, they didn't dare provoke any of the soldiers; they were smarter than that. They knew where to vent their anger and where not to. The chief captain assumed Paul was a real criminal - to have provoked these people so. What did Paul do? That was the captain's question. He thought he would choke it out of Paul with a whip; but, then Paul's Roman citizenship got in the way. He could see he must use different tactics. Why were the Jews so upset? Can you imagine that night, when Paul laid down to sleep, safe behind that castle wall? It had happened just as Agabus and the others had prophesied. Would he ever get to Rome? That question must have crossed his mind. He surely did not think for once that this imprisonment would last for over four years. Does that mean Paul must quit preaching Jesus?
Let's read v.30. "On the morrow, because he would have known the certainty wherefore he was accused of the Jews, he loosed him from his bands, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down, and set him before them." O.K., "the chief priests and all their council" is the Jew's sanhedrin court, we have discussed before. It was the highest tribunal of the Jews, i.e., permitted by the Romans. It's purpose was more religious and less civil in nature. It's that same council that had tried Jesus, Stephen and all the apostles. Just how those council members, (sometimes called elders) were elected or appointed, I'm not sure. But, all were Jews, part were Pharisees and part were Sadducees. So, the Roman captain ordered that Jewish council to meet. Paul was brought before this council to see what their charges were against Paul. Thus, in a more orderly and in a more official way, the captain hoped to get his question answered: What has Paul done? Naturally, the high priest and all the council were looking for technicalities, in front of the Roman captain, to take advantage of Paul. It would appear the chief captain permitted Paul to speak first. This is not the order one would anticipate. So, possibly the high priest requested that. I would assume, this time, Paul spoke in Greek for the benefit of the captain, because he was the real jury in this case. Let's see what happened.
Chapter 23, v.1-5. "And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day. And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth. 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? And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God's high priest? 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 they people." O.K., the words "earnestly beholding the council" in v.l must mean that Paul appeared very, very serious. Paul addressed his words to "men and brethren." This was an appeal to their common Jewish background. Then, the rest of Paul's first sentence was an appeal to his honesty and manner of life before God. Paul apparently used that approach or beginning often in his speeches. The day before on the steps, Paul said: "...that he was zealous toward God" (22:3). His speech to the Ephesian elders (20:18) started in a similar way. But, this time he said his conscience was good. This was intended to convey his sincerity, but the high priest must have looked upon this as hypocrisy. Paul was probably slapped in the mouth before he realized what happened. Then Paul gave the high priest a real verbal blast (v.3). The thought projected by Paul in that sudden blast must be the question that haunted Paul, over and over. How could these people sit and claim to be judges of the law and never see any contradiction between their actions and that law itself? Then Paul (in essence) apologized hi v.5. It was not Paul's purpose to revile the high priest. It was super clear at that point, the Jews were going to play dirty. He could see their attitude written on their faces. And possibly some hi that assembly thought the high priest acted hastily.
Let's read some more (v.6-9). "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. And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both. 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." O.K. Something hi their actions (at that very moment) must have drawn Paul's attention to the fact: the group itself was fractionalized. Oh, they were united hi then: disdain for Paul; but, basically there were a lot of jealousies and lot of competitions between the elders of the sanhedrin. And no one knew this, any better than Paul. Some even believe Paul served on this council before he became a Christian. He realized that; anything he said, would be perverted and scoffed at; so Paul made an appeal to his next sentence to identify with one sect of the Jews (the Pharisees). The first part of v.6 establishes clearly that Paul anticipated such a rift could easily be brought about. And it did happen. Furthermore, Paul's statement was true. His father was of the Pharisaical sect and Paul had been a zealous Pharisee in the past. And, the real basic question involved hope and the resurrection. Paul had no desire to bring about the violence that ensued but he did get some support from the majority party. Thus, he took advantage of their own differences to momentarily help his cause. The whole thing must have confused the chief captain, being of pagan background. And it demonstrated clearly to die captain, Paul was caught between two warring factions. Now, in v. 9 where the Pharisaical scribes said: "We find no evil in this man...," it doesn't mean they are hi love with Paul by any means. It was the Pharisees who taught :"...be circumcised and keep the law of Moses," according to Acts 15:5. Ifs just that: (on this issue) about the hope and resurrection of the dead, they are forced to take that side, to maintain their basic doctrine. Now, v.30 above said: the chief captain wanted to know the "certainty" (see that?). Well, he certainly didn't get that. The council itself was on the spot, not having a reasonable charge to bring against Paul. But, the Pharisees began to see a way out for themselves, by dumping the whole sordid mess hi the lap of the Sadducees as a way of relieving some of then- own embarrassment before this chief captain. And that infuriated the Sadducees. The "dissension" (v.7) must have gotten pretty loud.
Let's read v.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." O.K., Paul is back behind the castle wall- approximately two decades of service in the army of Jehovah, taking order from King Jesus. Churches and brethren scattered over hundreds and hundreds of miles. And, can you imagine the prayers of those brothers who were helped by the aid that was brought by Paul and his company, when they discovered Paul was hi prison. Imprisoned by his own countrymen. We sometimes think our present world is in a hum-drum mess. It has always been that way. Jesus said: "Ye are the salt of the earth." And in the next verse He said: "Ye are the light of the world." The righteousness that exists today is somewhat proportional to the biblical seed mat was sown a generation ago. The righteousness of the next generation will be proportional to the seeds we sow today. I'm talking about real biblical seed, i.e., God's word. I'm not talking about denominationalism and the doctrines and commandments of men. They don't count. The are tares (Matt. 13:25). Jesus said: "An enemy hath done this." (Matt. 13.28). We need to learn to speak where the bible speaks, be silent where the bible is silent.
Let's read v.ll. "And the night following the Laid 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." At Rome? Don't lose hope Paul, you'll make it to Rome! "Be of good cheer." Can you imagine that? At a time when Paul was very down and disgusted. We do not enjoy a baptismal measure of the Holy Ghost as Paul did. We have God's word. The Lord does not deal with us, miraculously, as he did with Paul, we've been through those verses before. But the Lord is touched with the feelings of our infirmities (Heb.4:15). He was tempted in all points like as we are. Here's that "pick-me-up" Paul needed. Do you remember right after Paul went to Corinth (Acts 18:9)? The Lord spoke to Paul in the night: "Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not they peace: For I am with thee." Can you fathom that assurance? It always helps to be reassured. All you have to do (to get exactly the same assurance) is read Matt. 28:20. Jesus said: "Lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." He said it and even had it written down for us. Yet, so many never read it - don't even know it's there. It doesn't say so, but surely Paul slept better that night. Or, maybe he couldn't sleep, thinking of his trip to Rome. His reservation had just been confirmed. Yet, on the other side of that castle wall were people who literally hated Paul's guts. His own countrymen, who had been out done; in that, the Roman peace keeping force had taken Paul from their reach. I never cease to marvel at what people will do in the name of religion.
Lefs read another chunk (v. 12-22). Ready? "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. And they were more than forty which had made this conspiracy. And they came to the chief priest and elders, and said, We have bound ourselves under a great curse, that we will eat nothing until we have slain Paul. Now therefore ye with the council signify to the chief captain that he bring him down unto you tomorrow, as though ye would inquire something more perfectly concerning him: and we, or even he come near, are ready to kill him. And when Paul's sister's son heard of their lying in wait, he went and entered into the castle, and told Paul. 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. 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. 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? And he said, The Jews have agreed to desire thee that thou wouldest bring down Paul tomorrow into the council, as though they would inquire somewhat of him more perfectly. 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. So the chief captain then let the young man depart, and charged him, See thou tell no man that thou has showed these things to me." Can you believe it? They decided to kill Paul. Forty men say, they will neither eat nor drink until they have killed Paul. These men were not part of the council (you must have noticed in v.15); but, they sought joint teamwork with the council to persuade the chief captain to bring Paul to the council again, where they would carry out their plot. Would the council submit to such co-operation? Unbelievable! Dr. Gamaliel, the council needs your advice! "Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do" (5:35). Remember that? This same council, took counsel to slay the apostles (5:33). Now, not all the men were of that stripe. But undoubtedly some were. Their plot leaked out to Paul's nephew (no name given). A young man! Sometimes young people have more smarts than adults. Paul's nephew went boldly into the castle and told Paul. Paul's sister's son, told the chief captain. That's all we know about this young man, but he probably saved his uncle's life. The chief captain of the Roman guard was apparently not surprised from the things he had seen, for he knew how much the Jews hated Paul. O.K., what's going to happen? Should we declare this X-rated on account of violence?
V.23-35. Are you ready? "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; And provide them beasts, that they may set Paul on, and bring him safe unto Felix the governor. And he wrote a letter after this manner: Claudius Lysias unto the most excellent governor Felix sendeth greetings. 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. And when I would have known the cause wherefore they accused him, I brought him forth into their council: 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. And when it was told me how that the Jews kid 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. Then the soldiers, as it was commanded them, took Paul, and brought him by night to Antipartis. On the morrow they left the horsemen to go with him, and returned to the castle: who, when they came to Caesarea, and delivered the epistle to the governor, presented Paul also before him. And when the governor had read the letter, he asked of what province he was. And when he understood that he was of Cilicia; I will hear thee, said he, when thine accusers are also come. And he commanded him to be kept in Herod's judgement hall." O.K., so the captain acted on the tip and transferred Paul from Jerusalem to Caesarea, which was the capital. That's the town where Philip and his daughters lived. The first leg of the transfer was at night. Antipatris was a town just north of Lydda, which is city #8. Antipatris is not numbered on your map. The chief captain was Claudius Lysias and had been trained for just such maneuvers. And, he had the hardware and men to carry it out. And we learn the governor's name, Felix. Study that letter (v.26-30). It gives you some insight as to how they operated in those days. V.33 calls it an epistle. Did Claudius Lysias get his story straight? He may have slanted the Roman citizenship bit a little in his favor (v.27). He probably wanted to make himself look good to governor Felix. The governor read the letter and had a brief hearing, then had Paul incarcerated until the trial could be arranged. The chief captain had already instructed the Jews to appear before the governor at Caesarea. O.K., while we're waiting for that trial to start, lef s take a break
I hope you are enjoying this study. And I hope you will count it your duty to enroll others hi this course. Perhaps, you have been disappointed many times, as Paul was, by your own countrymen. We need so badly to get away from the creeds and dogmas of men. Many people need this study. Won't you help? If you believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and you have not completed your obedience through repentance, confession and being baptized; why not now? Call any member of the church of Christ. I'm sure the person who gave you these tapes would be happy to assist you. And, please assist us in getting this study to others. Have a good day.