The Plot Against Paul: Part 1 of 3 (series: Lessons on Acts)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

April 18, 2016

Acts of the Apostles
By: Tom Lowe

Lesson: IV.E.6: The Plot Against Paul (23:11-22)

Acts 23:11-22 (KJV)

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.
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.
13 And they were more than forty which had made this conspiracy.
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.
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.
16 And when Paul's sister's son heard of their lying in wait, he went and entered into the castle, and told Paul.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.

The narrative has all the marks of an eyewitness account; only the most skeptical would question Luke’s accuracy and truthfulness.

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.

Alone, locked up, and held under guard; it would be natural for Paul to be depressed, fearful, and discouraged by all this. Perhaps he was secretly chastising himself for the commotion he had caused. He had failed and now what about his plans to go on to Rome? At this point he was not even sure he would get out of Jerusalem alive. Where would all this end? What good had it done him or anyone else for him to have come to Jerusalem; fine thanks he had received from the Jerusalem Christians for the generous gift he had brought them.

The following night after his appearance before the Sanhedrin, Paul had a reassuring vision{1] while in the Antonia prison. Dear reader, I can imagine Paul praying and the Lord taping him on the shoulder and then standing beside him. We would insult the very sacredness of this incident if we discussed how the Lord appeared or how Paul heard Him. He was there, and Paul knew it. He spoke, and Paul heard it. It put a new heart into the apostle, and he took courage as the Lord commanded him. If ever he had needed reassurance, it must have been now, and the Lord (Jesus) met that need. He spoke to Paul that night in the Antonia, bidding him to “be of good cheer.” He could take the cruelty of his circumstances now as part of that good and acceptable and

perfect will of God. All things would indeed work together for good. He was the called according to God’s purpose. He was still in the center of God’s will.

Notice what the Lord said to the apostle: “Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.” It covered all his needs at the time. He had a word for his dejection: “Be of good cheer.” He had a word for his sense that he had failed in Jerusalem: “But thou hast testified concerning Me at Jerusalem.” There may have been a failure in method, in policy, but the motive was pure, and therefore the Lord could say: “Thou hast testified.” He had a word or his fear about the future: “So must thou bear witness also at Rome.” What a night it was. How full of light, how full of glory. His Master’s word of cheer to chase away the dejection of his spirit; his Master’s word of commendation astonishing him, and yet comforting him in view of his failure; his Master’s word of appointment, filling him with certainty that in spite of all the difficulties in front of him, he would preach Christ at Rome.

The Lord’s message, “Be of good cheer,” simply means “Take courage!” Jesus often spoke these words during His earthly ministry. As God’s people, we can always take courage in times of difficulty because the Lord is with us and He will see us through. Notice, there was not a word of criticism or reproach from the Savior. Rather, it was a message of sheer praise and promise.

The next two or three years would be filled with difficulties, delays, and outright dangers, but Paul would rise triumphant over them all; nothing could prevent him now from getting to Rome. The Lord had certainly prepared him well for the events that had just transpired in Jerusalem—“I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me” (20:23). Still, they had been particularly trying—the mob in the temple square, the arrest, the attempted scourging, the violence of the Sanhedrin. To what was it all leading? The Lord’s words assured him that there was a divine purpose in all that had happened to him. As he had borne his witness in Jerusalem, so would he bear it in Rome. Paul had already expressed his own desire to visit Rome—“After all this had happened, Paul decided to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. “After I have been there,” he said, “I must visit Rome also” (19:21). Now the visit received the Lord’s endorsement. The key word is, of course, “testify.” Notice that his task was not to defend himself, but “to testify.” All Paul’s troubles in the past two days had ultimately derived from his testifying to Christ before the Jews. Now his trip to Rome and all of the legal hassle in between also would be a testimony.

On so many occasions Paul was on the very brink of disaster, and yet somehow or other he came through unscathed. A person who did not know the secret might innocently say that he led a charmed life. There was no charm about it. It was simply that the Lord stood by him. Paul knew it; he accepted it; he literally threw himself upon it. It gave him a kind of daring that was beyond the boldness of a gladiator. He had been taught it from childhood; he learned it by heart in the psalms—“A thousand shall fall at thy side . . . but it shall not come nigh thee” (Psalm 91:7)—but he felt it, knew it in his heart, when he stood by the Cross and felt the love of God flowing through the sacrificial life of Jesus, poured out indiscriminately upon those who deserved it and those who did not, given extravagantly to men and women who were still sinners.

Any disciple who in some measure shares Paul’s experience can do anything; for no matter what happens to him or around him he knows that the Lord stands by.

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