ACTS 23 - PAUL AND THE JEWISH COUNCIL

Rev. Thomas Tyree, Jr., Pastor, Grace Bible Church of Costa Mesa, California

Copyright 1995-2014 Rev. Thomas Tyree, Jr., All Rights Reserved


Paul had spent the night in the tower of Antonia safe from the angry mob who had sought to kill him. The Roman captain had commanded the Jewish Council to appear in order to determine why Paul had been attacked by the mob. Paul was also ordered to come and meet with the Council.

The Division of the Council (The Trick)

A. The Incident with the High Priest - Acts 23:1-5. Paul did not recognize the High Priest because the Council probably did not meet in the official Council chambers where the High Priest had a seat of authority and the meeting was called hastily and the High Priest may not have been wearing his robes.

And Paul, looking intently at the Council, said, "Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day." And the high priest Ananias commanded those standing beside him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, "God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! And do you sit to try me according to the Law, and in violation of the Law order me to be struck?" But the bystanders said, "Do you revile God's high priest?" And Paul said, "I was not aware, brethren, that he was high priest; for it is written, 'YOU SHALL NOT SPEAK EVIL OF A RULER OF YOUR PEOPLE.'" (Acts 23:1-5)

B. The Insistence on Orthodoxy - Acts 23:6-10. Paul brings up a doctrinal issue that he knew would divide the group. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. The Pharisees were more orthodox and believed and contended for the resurrection.

But perceiving that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, Paul began crying out in the Council, "Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; I am on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead!" And as he said this, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and Sadducees; and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor an angel, nor a spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. And there arose a great uproar; and some of the scribes of the Pharisaic party stood up and began to argue heatedly, saying, "We find nothing wrong with this man; suppose a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?" And as a great dissension was developing, the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them and ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force, and bring him into the barracks. (Acts 23:6-10)

The Desperation of the Conspirators (The Trap)

A. Paul reposed - Acts 23:11

But on the night immediately following, the Lord stood at his side and said, "Take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also." (Acts 23:11)

B. The plot proposed - Acts 23:12-15

And when it was day, the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves under an oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed Paul. And there were more than forty who formed this plot. And they came to the chief priests and the elders, and said, "We have bound ourselves under a solemn oath to taste nothing until we have killed Paul. "Now, therefore, you and the Council notify the commander to bring him down to you, as though you were going to determine his case by a more thorough investigation; and we for our part are ready to slay him before he comes near the place." (Acts 23:12-15)

C. The plot exposed - Acts 23:16-22

But the son of Paul's sister heard of their ambush, and he came and entered the barracks and told Paul. And Paul called one of the centurions to him and said, "Lead this young man to the commander, for he has something to report to him." So he took him and led him to the commander and said, "Paul the prisoner called me to him and asked me to lead this young man to you since he has something to tell you." And the commander took him by the hand and stepping aside, began to inquire of him privately, "What is it that you have to report to me?" And he said, "The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down tomorrow to the Council, as though they were going to inquire somewhat more thoroughly about him. "So do not listen to them, for more than forty of them are lying in wait for him who have bound themselves under a curse not to eat or drink until they slay him; and now they are ready and waiting for the promise from you." Therefore the commander let the young man go, instructing him, "Tell no one that you have notified me of these things." (Acts 23:16-22)

The Destination of Paul (The Trip)

A. The Captain's plan - Acts 23:22-24

Therefore the commander let the young man go, instructing him, "Tell no one that you have notified me of these things." And he called to him two of the centurions, and said, "Get two hundred soldiers ready by the third hour of the night to proceed to Caesarea, with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen." They were also to provide mounts to put Paul on and bring him safely to Felix the governor. (Acts 23:22-24)

B. The Captain's letter - Acts 23:25-30

And he wrote a letter having this form: "Claudius Lysias, to the most excellent governor Felix, greetings. "When this man was arrested by the Jews and was about to be slain by them, I came upon them with the troops and rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman. "And wanting to ascertain the charge for which they were accusing him, I brought him down to their Council; and I found him to be accused over questions about their Law, but under no accusation deserving death or imprisonment. "And when I was informed that there would be a plot against the man, I sent him to you at once, also instructing his accusers to bring charges against him before you." (Acts 23:25-30)

C. The Captain' s success - Acts 23:31-35

So the soldiers, in accordance with their orders, took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris. But the next day, leaving the horsemen to go on with him, they returned to the barracks. And when these had come to Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they also presented Paul to him. And when he had read it, he asked from what province he was; and when he learned that he was from Cilicia, he said, "I will give you a hearing after your accusers arrive also," giving orders for him to be kept in Herod's Praetorium. (Acts 23:31-35)

Study Questions

1. What was Paul’s attitude toward the High Priest? - Acts 23:5

And Paul said, "I was not aware, brethren, that he was high priest; for it is written, 'YOU SHALL NOT SPEAK EVIL OF A RULER OF YOUR PEOPLE.'" (Acts 23:5)

2. Did Paul show respect for the Old Testament Scriptures by quoting from them? (Acts 23:5 is quoted from Exodus 22:28)

And Paul said, "I was not aware, brethren, that he was high priest; for it is written, 'YOU SHALL NOT SPEAK EVIL OF A RULER OF YOUR PEOPLE.'" (Acts 23:5)

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

3. What did Paul gain by creating a division in the Council?

4. What goal did the Lord keep before Paul? - Acts 23:11

But on the night immediately following, the Lord stood at his side and said, "Take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also." (Acts 23:11)

5. Why did the conspirators agree not to eat or drink? - Acts 23:12

And when it was day, the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves under an oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed Paul. (Acts 23:12)

6. Does it appear that the Chief Captain was a considerate man? - Acts 23:19

And the commander took him by the hand and stepping aside, began to inquire of him privately, "What is it that you have to report to me?" (Acts 23:19)

7. Was the Chief Captain's letter completely accurate?


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