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Acts Chapter Twenty-three


Acts 23

Paul addresses the council with the gravity and dignity of an upright man accustomed to walk with God. It is not a testimony borne to them for their good; but the appeal of a good conscience to their consciences if they had any. The immediate answer is an outrage on the part of the judge or chief of the council. Paul roused by this procedure denounces judgment on him from God; but warned that he was the high priest (who was not so clothed as to be recognised) he excuses himself by his ignorance of the fact quoting the formal prohibition of the law to speak evil of the ruler of the people. All this was right and in place with regard to men; but the Holy Ghost could not say "I wist not." It is not the activity of the Spirit performing the work of grace and of testimony. But it is the means of the final judgment of God upon the people. It is in this character as regards the Jews that Paul appears here. Paul makes a much better appearance than his judges who thoroughly disgrace themselves and manifest their dreadful condition; but he does not appear for God before them. Afterwards he avails himself of the different parties of which the council were composed to throw complete disorder into it by declaring himself to be a Pharisee the son of a Pharisee and called in question for a dogma of that sect. This was true; but it was below the height of his own word "that which was gain I counted loss for Christ's sake." The Jews however fully manifest themselves. That which Paul said raises a tumult and the chief captain takes him from among them. God has all things at His disposal. A nephew of Paul's never mentioned elsewhere hears of an ambush laid for him and warns him of it. Paul sends him to the chief captain who expedites the departure of Paul under a guard to Caesarea. God watched over him but all is on the level of human and providential ways. There is not the angel as in Peter's case nor the earthquake as at Philippi. We are sensibly on different ground.

── John DarbySynopsis of Acts


Acts 23

Chapter Contents

Paul's defence before the council of the Jews. (1-5) Paul's defence. He receives a Divine assurance that he shall go to Rome. (6-11) The Jews conspire to kill Paul Lysias sends him to Cesarea. (12-24) Lysias's letter to Felix. (25-35)

Commentary on Acts 23:1-5

(Read Acts 23:1-5)

See here the character of an honest man. He sets God before him and lives as in his sight. He makes conscience of what he says and does and according to the best of his knowledge he keeps from whatever is evil and cleaves to what is good. He is conscientious in all his words and conduct. Those who thus live before God may like Paul have confidence both toward God and man. Though the answer of Paul contained a just rebuke and prediction he seems to have been too angry at the treatment he received in uttering them. Great men may be told of their faults and public complaints may be made in a proper manner; but the law of God requires respect for those in authority.

Commentary on Acts 23:6-11

(Read Acts 23:6-11)

The Pharisees were correct in the faith of the Jewish church. The Sadducees were no friends to the Scripture or Divine revelation; they denied a future state; they had neither hope of eternal happiness nor dread of eternal misery. When called in question for his being a Christian Paul might truly say he was called in question for the hope of the resurrection of the dead. It was justifiable in him by this profession of his opinion on that disputed point to draw off the Pharisees from persecuting him and to lead them to protect him from this unlawful violence. How easily can God defend his own cause! Though the Jews seemed to be perfectly agreed in their conspiracy against religion yet they were influenced by very different motives. There is no true friendship among the wicked and in a moment and with the utmost ease God can turn their union into open enmity. Divine consolations stood Paul in the most stead; the chief captain rescued him out of the hands of cruel men but the event he could not tell. Whoever is against us we need not fear if the Lord stand by us. It is the will of Christ that his servants who are faithful should be always cheerful. He might think he should never see Rome; but God tells him even in that he should be gratified since he desired to go there only for the honour of Christ and to do good.

Commentary on Acts 23:12-24

(Read Acts 23:12-24)

False religious principles adopted by carnal men urge on to such wickedness as human nature would hardly be supposed capable of. Yet the Lord readily disappoints the best concerted schemes of iniquity. Paul knew that the Divine providence acts by reasonable and prudent means; and that if he neglected to use the means in his power he could not expect God's providence to work on his behalf. He who will not help himself according to his means and power has neither reason nor revelation to assure him that he shall receive help from God. Believing in the Lord we and ours shall be kept from every evil work and kept to his kingdom. Heavenly Father give us by thy Holy Spirit for Christ's sake this precious faith.

Commentary on Acts 23:25-35

(Read Acts 23:25-35)

God has instruments for every work. The natural abilities and moral virtues of the heathens often have been employed to protect his persecuted servants. Even the men of the world can discern between the conscientious conduct of upright believers and the zeal of false professors though they disregard or understand not their doctrinal principles. All hearts are in God's hand and those are blessed who put their trust in him and commit their ways unto him.

── Matthew HenryConcise Commentary on Acts


Acts 23

Verse 3

[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?

Then said Paul — Being carried away by a sudden and prophetic impulse.

God is about to smite thee thou whited wall — Fair without; full of dirt and rubbish within. And he might well be so termed not only as he committed this outrage while gravely sitting on the tribunal of justice but also as at the same time that he stood high in the esteem of the citizens he cruelly defrauded the priests of their legal subsistence so that some of them even perished for want. And God did remarkably smite him; for about five years after this his house being reduced to ashes in a tumult begun by his own son he was besieged in the royal palace; where having hid himself in an old aqueduct he was dragged out and miserably slain.

Verse 5

[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.

I was not aware brethren that it was the high priest — He seems to mean I did not advert to it in the prophetic transport of my mind: but he does not add that his not adverting to it proceeded from the power of the Spirit coming upon him; as knowing they were not able to bear it. This answer admirably shows the situation of mind he was then in partly with regard to the bystanders whom he thus softens adding also the title of brethren and justifying their reproof by the prohibition of Moses; partly with regard to himself who after that singular transport subsided was again under the direction of the general command. Exodus 22:28.

Verse 6

[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.

I am a Pharisee the son of a Pharisee: for the hope of the resurrection of the dead am I called in question — So he was in effect; although not formally or explicitly.

Verse 8

[8] For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection neither angel nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.

The Pharisees confess both — Both the resurrection and the existence of angels and separate spirits.

Verse 9

[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.

And the scribes of the Pharisees' side arising — Every sect contains both learned and unlearned. The former used to be the mouth of the party.

If a spirit — St. Paul in his speech from the stairs had affirmed that Jesus whom they knew to have been dead was alive and that he had spoken to him from heaven and again in a vision. So they add nothing only they construe it in their own way putting an angel or spirit for Jesus.

Verse 11

[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.

And the night following the Lord Jesus — What Paul had before purposed in spirit Acts 19:21 God now in due time confirms. Another declaration to the same effect is made by an angel of God Acts 27:23. And from the 23d chapter the sum of this book turns on the testimony of Paul to the Romans. How would the defenders of St. Peter's supremacy triumph could they find out half as much ascribed to him! Be of good courage Paul - As he laboured under singular distresses and persecutions so he was favoured with extraordinary assurances of the Divine assistance.

Thou must testify — Particular promises are usually given when all things appear desperate.

At Rome also — Danger is nothing in the eyes of God: all hinderances farther his work. A promise of what is afar off implies all that necessarily lies between. Paul shall testify at Rome: therefore he shall come to Rome; therefore he shall escape the Jews the sea the viper.

Verse 12

[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.

Some of the Jews bound themselves — Such execrable vows were not uncommon among the Jews. And if they were prevented from accomplishing what they had vowed it was an easy matter to obtain absolution from their rabbis.

Verse 15

[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.

Now therefore ye — Which they never scrupled at all as not doubting but they were doing God service.

Verse 17

[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.

And Paul — Though he had an express promise of it from Christ was not to neglect any proper means of safety.

Verse 19

[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?

And the tribune taking him by the hand — In a mild condescending way. Lysias seems to have conducted this whole affair with great integrity humanity and prudence.

Verse 24

[24] And provide them beasts that they may set Paul on and bring him safe unto Felix the governor.

Provide beasts — If a change should be necessary to set Paul on - So we read of his riding once; but not by choice.

Verse 27

[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.

Having learned that he was a Roman — True; but not before he rescued him. Here he uses art.

Verse 31

[31] Then the soldiers as it was commanded them took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris.

The soldiers brought him by night to Antipatris — But not the same night they set out. For Antipatris was about thirty-eight of our miles northwest of Jerusalem. Herod the Great rebuilt it and gave it this name in honour of his father Antipater: Cesarea was near seventy miles from Jerusalem and about thirty from Antipatris.

Verse 35

[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.

In Herod's palace — This was a palace and a court built by Herod the Great. Probably some tower belonging to it might be used for a kind of state prison.

── John WesleyExplanatory Notes on Acts


Chapter 23. Vow to Kill Paul

Fulfill Duty to God
In All Good conscience

I. Testify Before the Sanhedrin

  1. Violate the Law
  2. Contention in Belief
  3. Defeat the Enemy by Psychological Strategy

II. The Lord Appears in the Night

  1. The Lord Stood Near
  2. Take Courage
  3. Testify in Rome

III. Escape from Conspiracy

  1. Plot to kill
  2. The Son of Paul's Sister Discloses the Plot
  3. Again Soldiers to Transfer
── Chih-Hsin ChangAn Outline of The New Testament