Acts Chapter 23
Paul's address to The Sanhedrin was filled with irony, and perhaps a little justice, for the man who was a member, or perhaps an enforcer of it, when Christ was arrested by them the night before they had Him killed. Paul was a Pharisee, now facing his former fellow Pharisees, along with the Sadducees who also sat on the council. Paul was in grave danger from them, but, again ironically, the Roman troops saved him: "23:10 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" (Acts 23:10 KJV). Turkish-born Paul (see Tarsus) was technically a Roman citizen with "rights" (see Paul The Roman Citizen; also Was Paul A Jew or a Benjamite?).
A far-greater defender was also there: "23:11 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" (Acts 23:11 KJV). Christ had Compassion on Paul for what he had just endured because Jesus had faced the same council.
"23:1 And Paul [see Paul's Ministry], earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.
23:2 And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth.
23:3 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?
23:4 And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God's high priest? [note that they were the ones who were "reviling God's High Priest" by persecuting Christians; the office of high priest was created by and for Christ - see What Is Jesus Christ Doing Right Now?]
23:5 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.
23:6 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 [see Resurrections and When Will You Be Judged?] of the dead [see What Happens When You Die?] I am called in question. 23:7 And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided. 23:8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.
23:9 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. 23:10 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.
23:11 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." (Acts 23:1-11 KJV)
The Sanhedrin then employed 40 assassins in a plot to kill Paul the next time he was brought before the council. Those "men of God," who claimed to be obeying God and defending God's Law, had no hesitation about violating The Lord's Commandments against murder and false witness (see Thou shalt not kill and Thou shalt not bear false witness). When Paul's nephew overheard their scheme, he brought the news to Paul, who then reported it to the Roman troops.
"23:12 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. 23:13 And they were more than forty which had made this conspiracy. 23:14 And they came to the chief priests and elders [see The Senate], and said, We have bound ourselves under a great curse, that we will eat nothing until we have slain Paul. 23:15 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.
23:16 And when Paul's sister's son heard of their lying in wait, he went and entered into the castle, and told Paul.
23:17 Then Paul called one of the centurions [see Centurion] unto him, and said, Bring this young man unto the chief captain: for he hath a certain thing to tell him. 23:18 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.
23:19 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?
23:20 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. 23:21 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.
23:22 So the chief captain then let the young man depart, and charged him, See thou tell no man that thou hast showed these things to me." (Acts 23:12-22 KJV)
The Roman military commander then ordered that Paul be sent to Caesarea to governor Felix. The centurion obviously viewed the threat as genuine, "Make ready two hundred soldiers to go to Caesarea, and horsemen threescore and ten, and spearmen two hundred."
"23:23 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; 23:24 And provide them beasts, that they may set Paul on, and bring him safe unto Felix the governor.
23:25 And he wrote a letter after this manner:
23:26 Claudius Lysias unto the most excellent governor Felix sendeth greeting.
23:27 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 [i.e. a Roman subject, see Paul The Roman Citizen]. 23:28 And when I would have known the cause wherefore they accused him, I brought him forth into their council: 23:29 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. 23:30 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.
23:31 Then the soldiers, as it was commanded them, took Paul, and brought him by night to Antipatris. 23:32 On the morrow they left the horsemen to go with him, and returned to the castle: 23:33 Who, when they came to Caesarea, and delivered the epistle to the governor, presented Paul also before him. 23:34 And when the governor had read the letter, he asked of what province he was. And when he understood that he was of Cilicia; 23:35 I will hear thee, said he, when thine accusers are also come. And he commanded him to be kept in Herod's judgment hall." (Acts 23:23-35 KJV)
Acts Chapter 24
Paul was then brought for trial before Felix, the Roman procurator (governor) of Judea at the time. Paul's accusers from Jerusalem also arrived, "24:1 And after five days Ananias the high priest descended with the elders, and with a certain orator named Tertullus, who informed the governor against Paul" (Acts 24:1 KJV).
"24:1 And after five days Ananias the high priest descended with the elders, and with a certain orator named Tertullus, who informed the governor against Paul. 24:2 And when he was called forth, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying, Seeing that by thee we enjoy great quietness, and that very worthy deeds are done unto this nation by thy providence, 24:3 We accept it always, and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness. 24:4 Notwithstanding, that I be not further tedious unto thee, I pray thee that thou wouldest hear us of thy clemency a few words.
24:5 For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of The Sect Of The Nazarenes: 24:6 Who also hath gone about to profane the temple: whom we took, and would have judged according to our law. 24:7 But the chief captain Lysias came upon us, and with great violence took him away out of our hands, 24:8 Commanding his accusers to come unto thee: by examining of whom thyself mayest take knowledge of all these things, whereof we accuse him.
24:9 And the Jews also assented, saying that these things were so.
24:10 Then Paul, after that the governor had beckoned unto him to speak, answered, Forasmuch as I know that thou hast been of many years a judge unto this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself: 24:11 Because that thou mayest understand, that there are yet but twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem for to worship. 24:12 And they neither found me in the temple disputing with any man, neither raising up the people, neither in the synagogues, nor in the city: 24:13 Neither can they prove the things whereof they now accuse me. 24:14 But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law [see Jot and Tittle] and in the prophets [e.g. see The Messianic Psalms and First And Second Comings In Isaiah; also Israelite Monarchy - The Messiah and Zionism]: 24:15 And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust [see When Will You Be Judged?]. 24:16 And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a Conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.
24:17 Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation [see Was Paul A Jew or a Benjamite?], and offerings.
24:18 Whereupon certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with multitude, nor with tumult. 24:19 Who ought to have been here before thee, and object, if they had ought against me. 24:20 Or else let these same here say, if they have found any evil doing in me, while I stood before the council, 24:21 Except it be for this one voice, that I cried standing among them, Touching the resurrection of the dead I am called in question by you this day.
24:22 And when Felix heard these things, having more perfect knowledge of that way [see The Way To Salvation], he deferred them, and said, When Lysias the chief captain shall come down, I will know the uttermost of your matter. 24:23 And he commanded a centurion to keep Paul, and to let him have liberty, and that he should forbid none of his acquaintance to minister or come unto him.
24:24 And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ [see The Manifestation Of Faith]. 24:25 And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee. 24:26 He hoped also that money should have been given him of Paul, that he might loose him: wherefore he sent for him the oftener, and communed with him.
24:27 But after two years Porcius Festus came into Felix' room: and Felix, willing to show the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound." (Acts 24:1-27 KJV)
Acts Chapter 25
Porcius Festus, usually known simply as Festus, was appointed by the Emperor Nero (see also New Testament Roman Emperors) about 60 AD to succeed Felix as procurator (governor) of Judea. Paul, still in custody after 2 years, was brought before Felix next - while Paul's enemies continued to try to get Paul back to Jerusalem where he would surely have been murdered.
"25:1 Now when Festus was come into the Province, after three days he ascended from Caesarea to Jerusalem. 25:2 Then the high priest and the chief of the Jews informed him against Paul, and besought him, 25:3 And desired favour against him, that he would send for him to Jerusalem, laying wait in the way to kill him. 25:4 But Festus answered, that Paul should be kept at Caesarea, and that he himself would depart shortly thither. 25:5 Let them therefore, said he, which among you are able, go down with me, and accuse this man, if there be any wickedness in him.
25:6 And when he had tarried among them more than ten days, he went down unto Caesarea; and the next day sitting on the judgment seat commanded Paul to be brought. 25:7 And when he was come, the Jews which came down from Jerusalem stood round about, and laid many and grievous complaints against Paul, which they could not prove.
25:8 While he answered for himself, Neither against the law of the Jews, neither against the temple, nor yet against Caesar, have I offended any thing at all.
25:9 But Festus, willing to do the Jews a pleasure, answered Paul, and said, Wilt thou go up to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these things before me?
25:10 Then said Paul, I stand at Caesar's judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest. 25:11 For if I be an offender, or have committed any thing worthy of death, I refuse not to die: but if there be none of these things whereof these accuse me, no man may deliver me unto them. I appeal unto Caesar.
25:12 Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, Hast thou appealed unto Caesar? unto Caesar shalt thou go." (Acts 25:1-12 KJV)
Paul's "appeal unto Caesar" was his legal right as a "Roman citizen"; Paul's only other option would have been to return to Jerusalem and be murdered by the Sanhedrin. Festus arranged for Paul to appear before Agrippa.
"25:13 And after certain days king Agrippa [i.e. Herod Agrippa II, see The Herods] and Bernice came unto Caesarea to salute Festus. 25:14 And when they had been there many days, Festus declared Paul's cause unto the king, saying, There is a certain man left in bonds by Felix: 25:15 About whom, when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me, desiring to have judgment against him.
25:16 To whom I answered, It is not the manner of the Romans to deliver any man to die, before that he which is accused have the accusers face to face, and have licence to answer for himself concerning the crime laid against him. 25:17 Therefore, when they were come hither, without any delay on the morrow I sat on the judgment seat, and commanded the man to be brought forth.
25:18 Against whom when the accusers stood up, they brought none accusation of such things as I supposed: 25:19 But had certain questions against him of their own superstition, and of one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive. 25:20 And because I doubted of such manner of questions, I asked him whether he would go to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these matters.
25:21 But when Paul had appealed to be reserved unto the hearing of Augustus, I commanded him to be kept till I might send him to Caesar.
25:22 Then Agrippa said unto Festus, I would also hear the man myself.
To morrow, said he, thou shalt hear him." (Acts 25:13-22 KJV)
Paul was then brought before Agrippa where he would again repeat his defense. The only thing that changed was the increasing pomposity of those who sat in judgment of him.
"25:23 And on the morrow, when Agrippa was come, and Bernice, with great pomp, and was entered into the place of hearing, with the chief captains, and principal men of the city, at Festus' commandment Paul was brought forth. 25:24 And Festus said, King Agrippa, and all men which are here present with us, ye see this man, about whom all the multitude of the Jews have dealt with me, both at Jerusalem, and also here, crying that he ought not to live any longer. 25:25 But when I found that he had committed nothing worthy of death, and that he himself hath appealed to Augustus, I have determined to send him. 25:26 Of whom I have no certain thing to write unto my lord. Wherefore I have brought him forth before you, and specially before thee, O king Agrippa, that, after examination had, I might have somewhat to write. 25:27 For it seemeth to me unreasonable to send a prisoner, and not withal to signify the crimes laid against him." (Acts 25:23-27 KJV)
Fact Finder: How was the Roman empire prophesied, long before it ever came into existence?
See Nebuchadnezzar's Dream