Acts Devotionals

The Purpose of the Journey

The picture suddenly reminds us of God’s purpose for Paul’s journey to Jerusalem. You might recall how many pleaded with him not to enter the Mother City, yet he was persistent … in fact, he was adamant to present himself there. The Mother Church’s eldership were concerned about the gossip going around about him and should he be seen by those committed to fanatical legalism, his life would be in danger. They came up with a plan which Paul submitted to, though this plan was the reason for Paul being “caught out” whilst praying in the temple courts. This led to him almost being mauled to death by a frantic mob … and rescued by the commander of the Roman Legion whose barrack were very close to the temple courts. With permission he spoke to the mob whilst under arrest … explaining the Gospel to them by sharing his testimony of before salvation to after salvation. This infuriated the mob resulting in Paul being taken inside the barracks. Due to Paul being a Roman Citizen, the commander decides to have the Sanhedrin assemble to find out exactly what the mob’s reason for wanting to kill Paul was. At this hearing, Paul speaks about his commitment as a Pharisee to life after death. He drops the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead into their hearing. Those of the Sadducee Party rebelled against it because they denied life after death. The Pharisees demonstrated their support for this doctrine finding Paul to be innocent of any crime. The assembly went wild resulting in the commander having Paul removed and returned to the safety of the barracks. We saw that the resurrection was all about Jesus’ resurrection and faith in that as a guarantee that believers will also be raised to life after death and be with God in heaven. Present were the Roman Commander and soldiers, the high priest, members of the parties of the Sadducees, Pharisees as well as scribes. Although a shortened version, they all heard the Gospel message. None of them could plead innocence on the Day of Judgment. Right here is the first positive that came out of Paul’s presence in Jerusalem. But there was more to come. The rest of the Book of Acts reveals this to us.

1) A visitation from the Lord.

Ac 23:11 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.”

Although one knows you are doing God’s work, it is important to be encouraged by Him as a reminder He is with you. How much more Paul in this tense and delicate environment.

(1) The Church elders of Jerusalem were nowhere to be found! Is this because the advice they gave Paul was not good?

(2) His plan is to reach Rome and he knows he needs to represent the Lord Jesus before great leaders and even kings.

(3) Yet, unknown to him at this stage, but Rome will take about two years … and he would need to go through much before getting there.

(4) The words “the Lord stood near Paul” have also been translated as “the Lord stood over Paul”. The picture is that Jesus was right there with him as he was incarcerated in the barracks.

(5) The Lord gives him encouragement and motivation.

(i) Take courage. This phrase could mean either “be of good courage” or “be of good cheer”. He was obviously feeling down. The Church leaders literally forced him into a bad decision. The mob almost killed him. He tried hard to defend himself and the Gospel. The Sadducees in the Sanhedrin almost ripped him apart and on top of all this he was under arrest. I would suggest he needed both cheer and courage.

(a) The word “testify” means to give an account of what was seen or heard personally or what had been imparted through divine revelation.

(b) The Lord Jesus had visited Paul on a few occasions, so he qualified to testify about what he has seen and heard and had been given through divine revelation.

(c) Jesus reminded him that he had testified about Him as risen and reigning in Jerusalem. It was like Jesus was saying … “Well done Paul. You are a good and faithful Gospel servant.”

(d) But there is more … Paul would need to testify about Jesus in Rome. This means he needed to reach the capital of the Roman Empire.

(e) Tucked into these words of verse 11 is a promise by Jesus that Paul shall not be killed in Jerusalem or anywhere else because he needed to represent Jesus at the center of the ideology and power of the Roman Empire.

Are you feeling down? Are you confused? Is it that plans or dreams are not materializing? Does the tunnel look too dark to see a slither of light at the other end? Welcome to reality! Maybe we are like Paul, unable to see hope and direction for tomorrow … but in His grace, God has provided us with His Word. We have the Bible. We have the greatest Word of encouragement and motivation … if we hold to it and claim it as we spend time reading it and thinking about what God is saying … and prayerfully appropriating His Words of encouragement and promise.

(ii) What Paul was unaware of was just how close to reality these needed Words of the Lord Jesus were.

2) A visitation from Paul’s nephew.

Ac 23:16 But when the son of Paul’s sister heard of this plot, he went into the barracks and told Paul.

I’m jumping ahead a little. Those intent on lynching Paul, motivated most likely by the Sadducees and although they tried to keep their intent a secret, news leaked and spread quickly as to their sinister, intended deed. On hearing that his uncle’s life was in danger, the nephew risked his life. Once again we must credit the Holy Spirit as He would have been the one who permitted the nephew to hear about this intended crime and inspired him to do something about it. Remember, Paul needed to reach Rome!

3) The conspiracy. Now we return to verses 12-15.

Ac 23:12 The next morning the 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 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.”

The word “conspiracy” means either … “a twisting up together; a binding together” or a secret combination; a coalition.” Everything applies to these mobsters. Not only did they engage the chief priests and elders (Sanhedrin) to get the commander to have Paul brought before them falsely for further information … they declared their true intent … murder! They were so hell-bound on ridding the earth of Paul, God’s servant, that they swore the most serious oath. They declared themselves cursed and devoted to destruction should they not fulfil their commitment of killing Paul. We shall return to this tomorrow, but for today … may I ask you whether you take oaths, promising to do something? If you do, is the oath you take intended to harm someone? These oath takers were Jews who subscribed to the Law which would be the Books from Genesis to Deuteronomy. Within these Books we find the Ten Commandments provided twice plus many supporting commandments preventing taking someone’s life. In their fanatical zeal for their cause, they were committing themselves to break the very commandments they said they believed in and stood by. They wanted to rid the earth of someone made in the image and likeness of God! Also remember, to have anger, especially the one carrying hatred is tantamount to murder.

Our Father, thank You for protecting and comforting Paul. Protect us from all evil and help us to be people who trusts in Your providence and do not surrender ourselves to oath taking. Amen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *