A daily devotion for July 23rd
6 Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees. I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead.” 7 When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8 (The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees believe all these things.)
9 There was a great uproar, and some of the teachers of the law who were Pharisees stood up and argued vigorously. “We find nothing wrong with this man,” they said. “What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?” 10 The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force and bring him into the barracks.
11 The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”
The Plot to Kill Paul
12 The next morning some Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. 13 More than forty men were involved in this plot. 14 They went to the chief priests and the elders and said, “We have taken a solemn oath not to eat anything until we have killed Paul. 15 Now then, you and the Sanhedrin petition the commander to bring him before you on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about his case. We are ready to kill him before he gets here.”
16 But when the son of Paul’s sister heard of this plot, he went into the barracks and told Paul.
17 Then Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the commander; he has something to tell him.” 18 So he took him to the commander.
The centurion said, “Paul, the prisoner, sent for me and asked me to bring this young man to you because he has something to tell you.”
19 The commander took the young man by the hand, drew him aside and asked, “What is it you want to tell me?”
20 He said: “Some Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul before the Sanhedrin tomorrow on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about him. 21 Don’t give in to them, because more than forty of them are waiting in ambush for him. They have taken an oath not to eat or drink until they have killed him. They are ready now, waiting for your consent to their request.”
22 The commander dismissed the young man with this warning: “Don’t tell anyone that you have reported this to me.”
Paul Transferred to Caesarea
23 Then he called two of his centurions and ordered them, “Get ready a detachment of two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go to Caesarea at nine tonight. 24 Provide horses for Paul so that he may be taken safely to Governor Felix.”
25 He wrote a letter as follows:
26 Claudius Lysias,
To His Excellency, Governor Felix:
27 This man was seized by the Jews and they were about to kill him, but I came with my troops and rescued him, for I had learned that he is a Roman citizen. 28 I wanted to know why they were accusing him, so I brought him to their Sanhedrin. 29 I found that the accusation had to do with questions about their law, but there was no charge against him that deserved death or imprisonment. 30 When I was informed of a plot to be carried out against the man, I sent him to you at once. I also ordered his accusers to present to you their case against him.
31 So the soldiers, carrying out their orders, took Paul with them during the night and brought him as far as Antipatris. 32 The next day they let the cavalry go on with him, while they returned to the barracks. 33 When the cavalry arrived in Caesarea, they delivered the letter to the governor and handed Paul over to him. 34 The governor read the letter and asked what province he was from. Learning that he was from Cilicia, 35 he said, “I will hear your case when your accusers get here.” Then he ordered that Paul be kept under guard in Herod’s palace.
The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said,Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.Acts 23:11
Literally, what the Lord Jesus says as he appears to Paul is,
Be of good cheer. Cheer up, Paul. That is certainly a revelation of the state of Paul's heart at this time. He is anything but of good cheer. He is defeated and discouraged, wallowing in an awful sense of shame and failure, but he is not abandoned. Isn't it wonderful that the Lord comes now to restore him to his ministry?
I am sure that Luke does not give us the full account of what transpired between Paul and his Lord on that night. But there is enough here that we can see what our Lord is after. He restores Paul to usefulness. He promises Paul success in the desire of his heart, which was second only to his desire to win his kinsmen, i.e., that he might bear witness for Christ at the heart of the empire, the capital of the Gentile world itself. You remember that Paul had announced that, after he went to Jerusalem, he must go to Rome. And his prayer as he wrote to the Roman Christians was that he might be allowed to come to them. The Lord Jesus now gives that back to him.
And yet the very form which he employs contains a hint of the limitation which Paul had made necessary when he disobeyed the Spirit of God. The Lord Jesus puts it this way:
As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must bear witness also in Rome. In other words, the emphasis here is upon the manner in which this witness will go forth.
In the way that you bore witness to me in Jerusalem, in that same way you must bear witness in Rome. And how had he testified in Jerusalem? It was as a prisoner — chained, bound, limited.
This encounter with the Lord Jesus must have been a wonderful moment in Paul's experience. The Lord restored him to spiritual health, as he often must do with us. Have you ever been in this circumstance? Have you ever disobeyed God, knowing that you shouldn't have but wanting something so badly that you've gone ahead anyway? How wonderful to have the Lord ready to restore us. I have been there too, so I know how God can tenderly deal with us and bring us back to a place of being yielded.
After this Paul is his usual self again. From here on the things he says and does have that same wonderful infusion of the Spirit's power which makes unusual things happen. And from Rome he is to write some of his greatest letters — letters filled with power, which are still changing the history of the world. The joy of the Lord is back in his heart. The glory returns to his ministry. The love of Jesus Christ is filling him and flooding him, empowering him and enriching him. That is the glory of being a Christian. You can be forgiven. You do not have to wait. And you do not have to pay for anything. You do not have to go back and try to placate God in some way because of what you have done. You must make it right, as far as you can, with any people you have wronged — but you can be forgiven, and all the glory of your relationship with the Lord restored.
Father, thank you for your restoring love, for the fact that you have never abandoned me, that you keep me and bring me back.
Life Application: How do we respond to God's incomparably tenacious, enduring love? Do we receive such love with deepening, humble gratitude? Do we frustrate such love with our futile efforts to repay him -- assuming that to be possible? Or do we persist in defying his love by refusing his sovereign and wise authority?
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