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The Book of ACTS
THEME: Paul's defense before the Sanhedrin
Paul is now a prisoner. We will now see what he does as a prisoner. Paul gives a defense of himself and his ministry. He will appear before several rulers. Because the Jews are planning to kill him, he will be taken down to Caesarea. He will spend about two years there in prison before he finally appeals and is sent to Rome.
There has always been some difference of opinion, as to whether or not Paul should have gone to Jerusalem. Was he in the will of God when he did this? I think that he was entirely in the will of God. Again and again Paul has been in the will of God. Yes, he has been arrested, and yes, he is having a rough row to hoe, but that does not mean that he is not in God's will. God does not promise any of us a "rose garden."
I think we can clearly see the Hand of God in the life of this man, and this same omniscient One Who was in the life of Paul wants to be in your life today. God wants to lead and guide you and I today (Ps.73:24). We need God's help today, just as Paul needed it back all those years ago.
We have seen how the Roman captain arrested Paul and put him in prison and was going to beat him. He did not go through with that when he learned that Paul was a Roman citizen. He was amazed to find that Paul was a Jew who could speak Greek and was a Roman citizen. Paul was a highly educated, multi-nation gentleman.
The Sanhedrin was composed of the religious rulers who want to try him. Paul makes a useless attempt to explain his position and his conduct to the Sanhedrin. The Lord encourages Paul. Then we see that the plot to murder Paul leads to his transfer to Caesarea for trial before Felix. This is a remarkable section and a thrilling account of the experiences of Paul as a prisoner for Jesus Christ.
Paul's Defense Before The Sanhedrin (Acts 23:1-10)
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. (KJV)
And Paul, earnestly beholding the council . . . Paul looking intently at the council, found a modest cheerfulness and a deep down confidence. He was not conscious of any guilt and felt assured of the goodness of his cause.
Said, men and brethren . . . (Acts 22:1). I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day . . . not only from the time of his conversion, but throughout the whole of his life.
There really is no "good conscience" except when it is awakened by the Spirit of God and is purged from sin by the precious Blood of Christ. Paul had a good conscience, since he believed in Christ. But, even while he was a blasphemer and persecutor, an enemy of Christ, he did not act contrary to the his conscience, but according to it, because he looked at all things as "to the glory of God, and the honor of His law." So Paul says he did live before God in all good conscience, although an wrong and mistaken one. He thought he ought to do what he did; and what he did, he did with a zeal for God.
Paul had respect to his outward moral lifestyle, which, before and after conversion, was very strict, and even blameless, and certainly unblemished before men. No one could charge him with any monstrous crime, even though he did not live without sin in the sight of the omniscient God.
Acts 23:2 And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth. (KJV)
And the high priest Ananias . . . this could not be the same as Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas, but rather Ananus his son; though this is more generally thought to be Ananias the son of Nebedaeus, whom Josephus speaks of.
Commanded them that stood by him . . . those who were nearest to Paul, some of the members of the sanhedrin; or some of the high priest's officers, or servants (John 18:22).
To smite him on the mouth . . . slap Paul's face, by way of contempt, as if he had said something he should not have said, and to silence him. Why? Either because Paul did not directly address him, and give him such flattering titles as he expected, or because he set out with such declarations of his innocence, and spotless behavior, and with so much courage and boldness.
Paul is before the Sanhedrin. The chief priest and the council are there. The rudeness of the high priest is appalling. He was not about to let Paul speak until he was ready to hear him.
Acts 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? (KJV)
Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee . . . Wow! What boldness! This could be considered either as a prophecy of what would be, that God would smite him with some judgment, or with quick death, or with eternal damnation hereafter. It suggests that a retaliation would be made, and that the measure he meted, would be measured to him again; or else as a curse upon him.
Thou whited wall . . . hypocrite, in the same manner as Christ compares the hypocritical Scribes and Pharisees to whited sepulchres (Mat.23:27).
For sittest thou to judge me after the law . . . the law of Moses, which was the rule of judgment in the sanhedrin, or at least professed to be, and which was allowed of by the Romans, especially in matters relating to the Jewish religion.
And commandest me to be smitten contrary to law? . . . which condemns no man before he is heard, and much less punishes him, (John 7:51) and which is contrary not only to the Jewish laws, but to the Roman laws, and all others founded upon the law of nature and reason.
Under Roman law no man was to be punished until judgment had been handed in. Just because a man is arrested and accused of a certain crime does not grant liberty to those who had arrested him to abuse him. In that day the Roman law actually granted a great deal of justice. However, this incident and the trial of Jesus make us recognize that even the Roman law could be twisted and turned . . . just like today. Justice depends on the one who executes the law.
Acts 23:4 And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God's high priest? (KJV)
And they that stood by . . . the members of the sanhedrin that were next to the apostle; or the servants of the high priest, since they are said to stand, whereas those of that court sat.
And said, revilest thou God's high priest? . . . are you going to insult God's high priest? Paul didn't know this man was the high priest. Certainly he would recognize the high priest on sight. Before his conversion he had been a Pharisee in judgment. I think this is another evidence that Paul had an eye disease and didn't see too well. Other places in Paul's letters, we find other statements which indicate that Paul had trouble with his vision.
Acts 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. (KJV)
Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest . . . I did not know that he was the high priest; and the sense is, that he did not really know him, either because he had been away from Jerusalem; and besides there were new high priests made, sometimes every year, and sometimes oftener, that it is no wonder he should not know him; or because he might not sit in his usual place; or chiefly because he was not, in his habit, an high priest; for the priests, both the high priest, and the common priests, only wore their priestly robes, when they ministered in their office, and at other times they wore other clothes, as laymen did, according to Eze. 44:19.
For as soon as they had performed their office, there were servants that attended them, who stripped them of their robes, and laid them up in chests which were in the temple till they came to service again, and put them on common garments; for they might not appear among the common people in their priestly garments; which when they were off of them, they were, "as strangers", or as laymen, like the rest of the people; for which reason Paul might not know Ananias to be the high priest.
For it is written . . . Ex. 22:28 Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people. (KJV) . . . which the Jewish writers generally understand of the head of the great sanhedrin, as Ananias might be, or of a king.
Acts 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 of the dead I am called in question. (KJV)
But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees . . . one part of the sanhedrin consisted of Sadducees, which was often the case; sometimes the high priest was of this sect, as Ananias probably was, and sometimes the greater part of the sanhedrin were Sadducees, and sometimes, even the whole Sanhedrin. (Acts 5:17). And the other Pharisees . . . the rest were Pharisees (Mat. 3:7).
He cried out in the council . . . with a loud voice, that he might be heard by all. Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee . . . he was not only brought up in that sect from his youth, and lived according to it before his conversion, but he was still a Pharisee. He does not say, I "was", but I "am" a Pharisee. For what distinguished the Pharisee from the Sadducee, was the belief of the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the dead, and a future state, and strict holiness of life and conversation.
The son of a Pharisee . . . his father and his mother were both Pharisees; for there were women Pharisees as well as men; so that he was a Pharisee of the Pharisees, as well as an Hebrew of the Hebrews; and this is said to show that he was by education of that sect.
Of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question . . . that is, either for the hope of the resurrection of the dead (Acts 24:15) or for professing the hope of eternal life, and happiness in a future state, and the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, when the soul and body will be reunited, and enjoy endless joy.
These were the grounds and foundation of the hatred and persecution of Paul, because he preached the resurrection of Christ from the dead, and the resurrection of men through Him, and that there was hope of eternal life and salvation by Him. In this the apostle showed the caution and wisdom of the serpent, along with being harmless as a dove (Mat.10:16), thus dividing the assembly, and freeing himself from them. It was just and right for since they would not hear him about to make a fair and open defense of his cause, but ordered him to be smitten on the mouth, it was justice to throw them into confusion, and save himself.
Paul uses the discord between two parties to further his own defense. The issue here is not the resurrection of Christ Jesus. It was that the Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the dead and had this hope, while the Sadducees did not. So Paul turns the trial into a theological argument between the "fundamentalists" and the "liberals." That is easy to do. There never has been a time when you couldn't get these two groups at each other's throats! That is what Paul is doing here.
Acts 23:7 And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided. (KJV)
And when he had so said . . . he stopped and made a pause. And there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees . . . about the things which he had spoken of, particularly the resurrection of the dead. This was what the apostle intended, so that his end was answered by the speech he made.
And the multitude was divided . . . the members of the sanhedrin were divided, some being on one side of the question, and some on the other.
Acts 23:8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both. (KJV)
For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection . . . of the dead, being ignorant of the Scriptures, and the power of God (Mat.22:23,29). Neither angel nor spirit . . . the sense seems to be, that they did not believe there was any such species of beings as angels, nor any spirits whatever, which were immaterial or immortal for as for the spirit or soul of man. They believed that the body, when it died, did not exist in any separate state after this life. Josephus says, that they deny the permanence of the soul, and rewards and punishments in the invisible state. And, according to the Talmudic writers, they denied that there was any other world than this. . . no Heaven, no Hell. Many of these around today! Once you're dead, you're dead . . . is what millions today believe! They are WRONG! Jesus said: Matthew 25:46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. (KJV) These people should reconsider what they believe!
But the Pharisees confess both . . . the Pharisees believe in BOTH the resurrection of the dead, and that there are spirits, both angels and the souls of men, which are immortal, as the Bible teaches! Josephus says that the Pharisee hold that every soul is incorruptible or immortal; and that they held the resurrection of the dead.
Acts 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. (KJV)
And there arose a great cry . . . a great noise, a loud clamor; they were very noisy, talking loudly one against another.
And the Scribes that were of the Pharisees' part arose . . . there were Scribes in the sanhedrin, and there were some of them with the Sadducees, and some on the side of the Pharisees. Those on the Pharisees' side in this sanhedrin rose up from their seats, and strove . . . disputed the point with the Sadducees.
Saying, we find no evil in this man . . . why he should be hated, persecuted, and punished. But if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him . . . if the Holy Spirit has inspired him, or God by an angel has revealed anything to him, who can say anything against it? This they said in agreement with their own principles, and more for the sake of establishing them, and in opposition to the Sadducees, rather than in favor of Paul.
Let us not fight against God . . . Acts 5:39 But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God. (KJV)
Acts 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. (KJV)
And when there arose a great dissension . . . Big argument! Hot words were spoken, and they were ready to come to blows.
The chief captain fearing lest Paul should be pulled in pieces of them . . . either of the Sadducees, whom he had greatly offended and provoked, or maybe both Sadducees and Pharisees, the one laying hold on him to preserve him from the fury of the other, and the other trying to pluck him out of their hands. The fears of the chief captain were NOT out of affection or mercy to Paul, he was afraid there would be an uproar, which might lead to a rebellion against the Roman government.
Commanded the soldiers to go down . . . here is the captain again. Take him by force from among them . . .
if they refused to let Paul go, make use of their weapons. And bring him into the castle . . . of Antonia, where he was before.
This is the first time that Luke says there was "a great dissension." Seeing how he always used understatement, I think that this is the worst dissension recorded in the Book of Acts concerning any group. Paul's life is so in danger again that the Roman captain reaches in and saves him from the angry Sanhedrin. So the chief captain rescues Paul again without learning the real nature of the hatred against Paul.
The Lord Appears To Paul (Acts 23:11)
Acts 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. (KJV)
And the night following . . . the day when Paul was brought before the sanhedrin, and pleaded his own cause before them, and had thrown them into confusion and division.
The Lord stood by him . . . the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to Paul in a vision, stood very near him, by the side of him, by the bed or couch where he was: and said, "be of good cheer, Paul ". . . even though Paul was now a prisoner in the castle; and although the high priest, and the Sadducees especially, were enraged against him; and even though a plan was about to be formed to take his life . . . the words brought comfort. The words of the Lord Jesus seemed to be designed to prepare Paul for more trials, and to prevent his discouragement. This shows the great care of Christ Jesus over Paul, His concern for him His love to him.
For as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem . . . not only in the Christian church, and before the Apostle James, and the elders, but in the Jewish sanhedrin, and before the high priest, Scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees, where and before whom, though not particularly recorded, Paul bore a testimony for Jesus, that He was the true Messiah; and that though He died, He was risen from the dead, and He was at the right Hand of God, and was the only Saviour of men.
So must thou bear witness also at Rome . . . as Paul had been a public and faithful witness to the Person, office, and grace of Christ at Jerusalem, and Judea; so now, by the decree of God, and for the glory of Christ, that Paul would bear a like testimony at Rome, the chief city in the whole world at that time. The Words of Jesus meant that Paul would NOT die at Jerusalem, and gave Paul a hint that he should appeal to Caesar, which he afterwards did.
Again, this shows that Paul was NOT out of the will of God in going to Jerusalem. The Spirit of God had warned Paul that he could expect bonds and difficulties if he went to Jerusalem. But, in spite of this, Paul went to Jerusalem and had witnessed for the Lord Jesus in that city. Now Jesus tells him that just as he has testified in Jerusalem so he will also do so in Rome.
It is very important to see that there is NO rebuke to Paul from the Lord. Instead the Lord encourages Paul.
The Plot Against Paul (Acts 23:12-22)
Acts 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. (KJV)
And when it was day . . . as soon as it was light, very early in the morning, certain of the Jews banded together . . . most likely these were the Sadducees, who had been very irritated and provoked by what Paul had said the day before in the council. They gathered together, planning to take Paul's life.
And bound themselves under a curse . . . "they anathematized themselves;" they bound themselves by a solemn oath. They invoked a curse on themselves, or devoted themselves to destruction, if they did not do it.
Saying, that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul . . . that they would not eat or drink until they had killed Paul. See: 2 Sam. 3:35; 1 Sam. 14:24.
I would want to think that they got pretty hungry and thirsty before this was over!
Acts 23:13 And they were more than forty which had made this conspiracy. (KJV)
And they were more than forty which had made this conspiracy . . . 40 men had met together and decided on this evil plan, binding themselves with this oath. The word "conspiracy" meant an agreement by oath. The large number of them banded together, that they might have enough strength to take Paul out of the hands of the soldiers, as he was taken by them from the castle to the temple.
Acts 23:14 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. (KJV)
And they came to the chief priests, and elders . . . who were members of the sanhedrin, to tell them about their plans. And said, we have bound ourselves under a great curse, that we will eat nothing until we have slain Paul . . . these chief priests and elders, IF they had acted correctly to the character they bore, on such an information, would have taken up those men, and punished them, or at least would have talked them out of such a vile action. But they knew these men, and very likely they too were Sadducees, whom Paul had so much offended the day before. So, they were pleased and approved of their evil scheme, and willingly went along with the following proposal.
Acts 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 enquire something more perfectly concerning him: and we, or ever he come near, are ready to kill him. (KJV)
Now therefore ye with the council . . . the whole sanhedrin and being met together, then to: signify to the chief captain . . . or let him know that they were assembled together, because of Paul, and that they wanted him brought before them.
That he bring him down unto you tomorrow . . . from the castle of Antonia to the place where the sanhedrin met. The pretence formed for his being brought down is: as though ye would inquire something more perfectly concerning him . . . what had Paul done to cause this uproar? What it was he was charged with? And whether he was guilty or not.
And we, or ever he come near . . . where the sanhedrin sat; are ready to kill him . . . they would lie in wait some where between the castle and the temple. They intended to rush out at him, all at once, and kill him, far enough away from both the temple and the council, that neither one might not be defiled. What disgusting minds to dream up such satanic evil!
This is the plot to put Paul to death. It's well that the Lord Himself has made it very clear to Paul that He has a different plan for him; he is going to Rome.
Acts 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. (KJV)
And when Paul's sister's son heard of their lying in wait . . . Paul might have had a sister living in Jerusalem; or her son might be there because of his studies. He might be a pupil to one of the doctors, by which means he might have come by this this secret, that such a number of men were in ambush, in order to take away his uncle's life.
He went and entered into the castle . . . but Paul was not there, but in the castle of Antonia. Though it is plain that Paul was not very closely confined, it was easy to have access to him; the reason might be, not only because he was a Roman, but because he was not condemned, nor was any charge proved against him.
And told Paul . . . what he had heard, that a large number of men had entered into a conspiracy to take away his life, and lay in wait for him. This was done both out of duty and affection to his uncle.
Acts 23:17 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. (KJV)
Then Paul called one of the centurions unto him . . . under this chief captain there could have been ten centurions, if the company of which he was captain consisted of a thousand men, as his title chief captain or chiliarch imports; for a centurion was over an hundred men, as his title signifies; perhaps this might be the same, as in (Acts 22:25-26).
And said, bring this young man to the chief captain . . . Though divinely assured of safety, Paul never allows this to interfere with the duty he owed to his own life and the work he had yet to do. (Acts 27:22-25, 31).
For he hath a certain thing to tell him . . . the chief captain had the command of a thousand soldiers, there were ten captains under him. It was one of these Paul entrusts with his message to the chief captain, not making any particular request unto the chief captain, but supposing he would have enough Roman justice in him, that when he understood his problem, he would provide for his safety. Paul was right.
Acts 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. (KJV)
So he took him, and brought him to the chief captain . . . immediately, without asking questions.
And said, Paul the prisoner called me to him . . . either vocally or by some gesture.
And prayed me to bring this young man unto thee, who hath something to say unto thee . . . Paul asked it as a favor, to introduce his nephew to the chief captain, to see what he had to say. The centurion willingly does as Paul asks, and tells the captain about the circumstances, and tells him the young man had something to say to him . . . he did not know what it was, and then departs. Paul is exerting his right as a Roman citizen, which he has a perfect right to do.
Acts 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? (KJV)
Then the chief captain took him by the hand . . . some think the reason for this was, that he expected that Paul's nephew had brought him a present in his hand, from Paul. I think this was just an instance of civility and humanity, and what showed him to be a man of breeding and good manners. This could have been done out of respect to Paul, and to encourage the young man to use freedom in the account he was about to give him.
And went with him aside privately . . . I think it was acting wisely to take him into a private room, and hear what he had to say. And asked him, what is that thou hast to tell me? . . . What is wrong? Paul's nephew then speaks.
Acts 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 enquire somewhat of him more perfectly. (KJV)
And he said, the Jews have agreed to desire thee . . . meaning the Jewish sanhedrin. The young man not only had information of the conspiracy, and the lying in wait of the forty men or more; but also of the agreement which the sanhedrin at the motion of these men were come into, to make the following request to the chief captain. This young man might be a student under the president of the council, or one of the doctors, whereby he came at the knowledge of these things.
That thou wouldst bring down Paul tomorrow into the council . . . Acts 23:15.
Acts 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. (KJV)
But do not thou yield unto them . . . or be persuaded by them, to bring Paul down from the castle to the sanhedrin. This was not the young man's pride and vanity, in his trying to give advice to the chief captain; but was his great affection for his uncle.
For there lie in wait for him more than forty men, which have bound themselves with an oath, that they will neither eat nor drink till . . . until they have have killed him (Acts 23:12-13).
And now are they ready . . . to execute their plans, being met together, and lying in ambush in some place, between the castle and the place where the sanhedrin met.
Looking for a promise from thee . . . that he would promise them to bring Paul down according to their request; and for the making and performing of this promise, these men were waiting.
Acts 23:22 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. (KJV)
So the chief captain then let the young man depart . . . after he had listened to him, and understood it all. And charged him, see thou tell no man that thou hast showed these things to me . . . told him not to tell anyone what he had told him. It was wise to conceal this matter, that the men might go on with their plans, and a chance could be taken to take Paul away. Otherwise, it would have been known that their evil plot was discovered, they would have entered upon new measures.
Paul Sent To Caesarea (Acts 23:23-35)
The chief captain goes into action. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.
Acts 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; (KJV)
And he called to him two centurions . . . each of them had 100 hundred soldiers under them.
Saying, make ready two hundred soldiers to go to Caesarea . . . Caesarea was formerly called Strato's tower, a sea port town, where Felix the Roman governor now was. It was 600 furlongs, or 75 miles from Jerusalem. The 200 soldiers were foot soldiers, for it then tells us about horsemen.
And horsemen threescore and ten . . . 70 horsemen were sent to defend the foot soldiers.
And spearmen two hundred . . . There were 200 foot-soldiers, 70 cavalry, and 200 javelin throwers, led by two centurions . . . 472 men are sentry to conduct Paul to Caesarea to Governor Felix.
At the third hour of the night . . . partly because in those hot countries it is very troublesome to travel by day, and partly for the greater security of Paul and such as went with him.
Acts 23:24 And provide them beasts, that they may set Paul on, and bring him safe unto Felix the governor. (KJV)
And provide them beasts . . . horses or mules. That they may set Paul on . . . on the beast, or on one of the beasts provided. If more than one were provided, they might be for his companions, to go along with him.
And bring him safe unto Felix the governor . . . this is quite an army that is going to escort Paul down to Caesarea. Is this what one calls trusting the Lord? Of course it is the captain who has ordered it, but Paul has called for this type of protection from him. Certainly Paul is in the will of God in doing this. It certainly reveals the danger that Paul was in. There is no doubt that the Jews had every intention of putting him to death.
He is sending Paul to Caesarea to appear before Felix, the governor. The Roman governors had their headquarters in Caesarea and only occasionally went up to Jerusalem. Paul is to be sent to Felix in Caesarea. This will remove Paul from the danger in Jerusalem.
Acts 23:25 And he wrote a letter after this manner: (KJV)
And he wrote a letter after this manner . . . the chief captain wrote a letter to Felix the governor. Although Luke may have had the actual letter, when he says the letter was "after this manner" it probably means that he didn't have access to the letter but is giving us the sense of it.
Acts 23:26 Claudius Lysias unto the most excellent governor Felix sendeth greeting. (KJV)
Claudius Lysias, unto the most excellent Governor Felix . . . this is the inscription of the letter, and by it we learn the name of the chief captain, so often spoken of in this and the two preceding chapters. The first of these names is Roman, and which he might have taken from the Emperor Claudius, for the chief captain was not Roman born. Lysias seems to be a Greek name, and was his proper name. He himself very likely was a Greek, since he purchased his freedom with money.
The chief captain calls Felix the governor: the most excellent . . . which was a title of honor that belonged to him as a governor. The same is given to Theophilus, (Luke 1:3). In those days they didn't sign letters as we do today. They put their name at the beginning of the letter rather than at the end of the letter.
Acts 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. (KJV)
This man was taken by the Jews . . . meaning Paul, who was presented by the centurions to the governor, and was in his presence when the letter was opened and read, and who was taken by the Jews in the temple, and from thence dragged out and beaten by them. And should have been killed of them . . . and would have been killed, had it not been for the chief captain; he was very near being killed by them, he close to death.
Then came I with an army and rescued him . . . he came with the Roman band, which he had the command of, perhaps 1000 soldiers; for that is the number he should have under him by his title. He came upon the Jews as they were beating Paul, and took him out of their hands, and saved him.
Having understood that he was a Roman . . . he did not know this until later, after he had bound him with two chains, and ordered him to be bound with thongs, and examined by scourging. All of this, he covers and hides from the governor, and suggests that it was his great concern for the Roman name, and for a Roman citizen, which put him upon this predicament.
The captain in Jerusalem wants the governor in Caesarea to know that he is doing his duty. He is protecting Roman citizens.
Acts 23:28 And when I would have known the cause wherefore they accused him, I brought him forth into their council: (KJV)
And when I would have known the cause wherefore they accused him . . . it is clear that Claudius Lysias never did know exactly what the charge was against Paul. He knew it pertained to their law. Under Roman law Paul was not guilty of anything worthy of death or of imprisonment (Acts 22:30).
I brought him forth into their council . . . their court of judicature, the great Sanhedrin.
Acts 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. (KJV)
Whom I perceived to be accused of questions of their law . . . about the resurrection of the dead, and a future state, which some in the council denied, and some believed, and about the defiling of the temple, and speaking contemptibly of the law of Moses, the people of the Jews, and the holy place, which was the cry of the populace against him, and were things the captain knew little of.
But to have nothing laid to his charge worthy of death, or of bonds . . . Paul was innocent by the laws of the Romans. He bears a full testimony to the innocence of the apostle.
Acts 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. Farewell. (KJV)
And when it was told me how that the Jews laid wait for the man . . . by Paul's sister's son, that the Jews had formed a conspiracy to take away Paul's life by lying in wait in ambush to seize him.
I sent straightway to thee . . . I sent him at once to you because of the plot against his life, and because you are the proper person before whom this case should be tried.
And gave commandment to his accusers also, to say before thee what they had against him . . . it is reasonable to conclude, that he said nothing of this to them, though he might have thought he would, till after Paul was sent away; otherwise the affair would have been discovered, which he desired might be concealed.
Farewell . . . which is the conclusion of the epistle, and is a wish of health and happiness.
Acts 23:31 Then the soldiers, as it was commanded them, took Paul, and brought him by night to Antipatris. (KJV)
Then the soldiers, as it was commanded them, took Paul . . . out of the castle, and put him upon a beast, as the chief captain had ordered the centurions.
And brought him by night to Antipatris . . . they set out from Jerusalem at the third hour, or about 9:00 p.m., and traveled all night, and by break of day came to Antipatris; a city which lay in the road from Jerusalem to Caesarea, nearly 40 miles from Jerusalem, on the way to Cæsarea; so named by Herod in honor of his father, Antipater.
Acts 23:32 On the morrow they left the horsemen to go with him, and returned to the castle: (KJV)
On the morrow they left the horsemen to go with him . . . the 200 soldiers, and the 200 spearmen, who were all on foot, left the seventy horsemen to conduct Paul to Caesarea; for being come to Antipatris, all danger from the Jews was over.
And returned to the castle . . . the castle Antonia in Jerusalem, from where they had set out.
Acts 23:33 Who, when they came to Caesarea, and delivered the epistle to the governor, presented Paul also before him. (KJV)
Who, when they came to Caesarea . . . the 70 horsemen. And delivered the epistle to the governor . . . the letter
to Felix, governor of Judea, who was now at Caesarea; namely, the letter which Claudius Lysias, the chief captain, sent to him. These presented Paul also before him . . . concerning whom, and whose affairs, the letter was referring.
Acts 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; (KJV)
And when the governor, had read the letter . . . which he doubtless opened and read as soon as he had received it, not knowing what important business might be contained in it, or of what dangerous consequence a neglect of reading it might be; this showed care and diligence in him.
He asked of what province he was . . . since he perceived by the letter he was a Roman, and that he might know whether he was under his jurisdiction, and whether the hearing of his case belonged to him; and it should seem that it rather belonged to the governor of Syria; but that the crimes he was charged with were committed in Judea, particularly that of profaning the temple.
And when he understood that he was of Cilicia . . . which was a Roman province, in which Tarsus was, where Paul was born free (Acts 21:39; 22:3).
Acts 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. (KJV)
I will hear thee, said he, when thine accusers are come . . . which shows the governor to have some sense of justice and integrity, wanting to hear both sides before he judged of the case, though there was so much said in the chief captain's letter in favor of Paul's innocence, and against his enemies.
And he commanded him to be kept in Herod's judgment hall . . . or palace. This was a place built by Herod the great at Caesarea, of whose magnificent buildings here Josephus has much to say.
We will see that Paul's accusers were quick to come down to Caesarea. They were quick to follow Paul. I think you will see that Paul is not defending himself as much as he is witnessing for Christ. The Lord Jesus had said he would witness before governors and rulers and kings (Acts 9:15; 23:11). He is being brought before them. This is God's method. Paul is in the will of God, and God is carrying out His purpose.
Book of Acts
Ch.1 . . Ch.2 . . Ch.3 . . Ch.4 . . Ch.5 . . Ch.6 . . Ch.7 . . Ch.8 . . Ch.9 . . Ch.10 . . Ch.11 . . Ch.12 . . Ch.13 . . Ch.14 . . Ch.15 . . Ch.16 . . Ch.17 . . Ch.18 . . Ch.19 . . Ch.20 . . Ch.21 . . Ch.22 . . Ch.23 . . Ch.24 . . Ch.25 . . Ch.26 . . Ch.27 . . Ch.28