Paul was detained by Roman authorities in Jerusalem because the unbelieving Jews became angry and tried to kill him. The Roman commander wished to know exactly why the Jews were so opposed to Paul. Thus, Paul was made to appear before the Jewish council or court known as the Sanhedrin. Chief priests were also in the audience.
Paul began by stating that he had always acted in good conscience, trying to do the right thing. The conscience is our moral compass and alarm system. The conscience is not infallible; it can be based on false information. Based on his training, Paul had always believed in the causes for which he lived. As an unbelieving Jew, he had persecuted the church with all his might. Now a Christian, Paul preached Jesus. Paul had nothing to hide. The high priest was upset at Paul’s declaration and demanded Paul to be struck on the mouth. Paul’s reply to Ananias the high priest may indicate that he could not acknowledge Ananias as a priest to God.
The apostle Paul was in a precarious position and he saw a way to turn the court’s attention inwardly instead of on him. The Sanhedrin was comprised of both Pharisees and Sadducees, sects which disagreed on highly important principles. Think Congress. Raised a Pharisee, Paul believed in the resurrection. He said that his hope for the resurrection had led him to this trial. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection, nor angels, nor spirits. Agreeing with Paul on this matter, the Pharisees wished to release him. Another volatile situation led the Roman commander to take Paul from this assembly into a safe place.
On the night after this court appearance, the Lord said to Paul “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome!” (23:11). The Lord would use Paul’s imprisonment and eventual appeal to Caesar, to bring Paul to Rome. The next few years would be extremely difficult for Paul, but he would be able to preach Jesus both in low places and high places. We always have opportunity to speak for Jesus, in good times and bad.
A band of Jewish extremists bound themselves by an oath to take neither food nor drink until they had killed Paul. They proposed that the Jewish leaders send for Paul so that they might ambush and kill him on the way. Paul’s nephew, through God’s providence, heard of the plot and warned Paul. The young nephew was sent to inform the Roman commander of the plot. The forty men who had taken the oath to kill Paul would remain hungry for a long time.
The centurion prepared to send Paul to Caesarea, to the jurisdiction of Felix, the Roman governor. Antonius Felix was governor of Judea from A.D. 52-58. In the letter sent by Lysias the commander, he informed Felix of what had happened in Jerusalem. Two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen, and seventy spearmen escorted Paul by night from Jerusalem. The soldiers turned Paul over to the cavalry about halfway on the 60-mile trip from Jerusalem to Caesarea. Paul was safely delivered to Felix the governor. A historian said of Felix, “He held the power of a tyrant with the disposition of a slave.” But for now, Paul was kept in safety. Stay tuned.
My comments are not an inspired commentary, but rather a few words to draw attention to the background, context, and dynamic situation of the book of Acts. May God bless your reading of His Word. T.C.