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“Providence” – Acts 23:11-35

Oct 11, 2020

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Introduction

Providence:

     - God providing protective or spiritual care.

     - Timely preparation for future eventualities.

God's providence might be thought of as how He gets His will accomplished through circumstance and people in the natural world.

The Apostle Paul's life continues to be led by God's providence in this passage.

We may view God's providence as it relates to our lives personally as good or bad, but it's best if we understand this: 

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

(Rms. 8:28)

As we pick up the exposition of this passage, the Apostle is in a cell in the Antonia Fortress, at night, innocent of any wrong doing.

1 Peter 3:14-18

 Exposition

Vs. 11

            "But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, "Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome."

The Lord's message to Paul was one of courage.

            "...the Lord stood by him..."

                 * Not the first time:

                         - When Paul was in the temple, the Lord told him to leave Jerusalem and go to the Gentiles. (Acts 22:17-18, 21)

                         - When Paul was badly discouraged in Corinth. (Acts 18:9-10)

                * And this would not be the last time:

                         - When Paul was in the storm on his way to Rome.  (Acts 27:22-25)

                        - During his trial in Rome. (2 Tim. 4:16-17)

And most famously, the road to Damascus where the Lord changed his life forever. (Acts 9:3-20)

The Lord appeared to Paul when he was in great need of encouragement, "Be of good cheer, Paul." As well as in need of guidance:

            "...as you have testified to me in Jerusalem, so you must bear witness in Rome."

It was also a message of commendation.

The Lord did not rebuke Paul for going to Jerusalem against the advice of godly counselors. (Acts 21:4, 10-12)

He commended him for his testimony even though it wasn't well received by the Jews. (Acts 22:22-23)

The Lord was pleased, this was what was most important and always will be.

And, finally, it was a message of confidence.  Paul would go to Rome.

Paul's desire was to witness of Christ in Rome (Acts 19:21), as well as God's providential plan.

In everything that happened to Paul from the time he left the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:38) God was with him and fulfilling his perfect plan to get his faithful servant to Rome.

"...lo, I Am with you always, even to the end of the age."

(Matt. 28:20)

This truth gives us, as believers, great consolation in trials, and confidence that God's will be done.

In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

(Matt. 6:9-10)

But God's sovereign will is not always what we hope for.

Remember, He released Peter from this same prison miraculously by the hand of an angel.

Acts 12:1-11

But Paul remained in his cell, and would remain in bondage for the rest of his life.

The Assassins

Verses 12-15

Paul's life had been in danger from the beginning of his ministry.

His disciples had to let him down in a basket from the Damascus wall. (Acts 9:22-25)

The Hellenistic Jews tried to kill him in Jerusalem right after his conversion. (Acts 9:29)  They drove him out of Antioch (Acts 13:50-51), Iconium (Acts 14:5). He was stoned and left for dead in Lystra (Acts 14:19-20), in Philippi imprisoned and beaten with Silas (Acts 16:22-23), in Thessalonica, they ran him out and his disciples sent him to Berea at night (Acts 17:10).  In Corinth, they conspired to have him arrested (Acts 18:12-17). 

In Ephesus, the Jews plotted to murder him, and to again later kill him at sea (Acts 20:3, 19).

Everywhere he went he preached Christ first in the synagogues, and when he was not received, he went to the Gentiles.  Often Gentile government officials persecuted and imprisoned him by the manipulation of the Jews.

But he wouldn't quit, he was following his Lord, and he knew it was all part of his call.

But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake."  (Acts 9:15-16)

As believers this is part of our call also:

"If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you....Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me."

(Jn. 15:18, 20-21)

"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

(Jn. 16:33)

Vs. 12

             "...the Jews banded together..."

                  * The Asian Jews had a special hatred for Paul, they failed to kill him outside of the temple. (Acts 21:27-31)

                  * And now they had a new plot.

            "...and bound themselves under an oath...to kill Paul."

                  * Oaths were forbidden by God.

But let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No.' For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.

(Matt. 5:37)

Vs. 14

            "...we will eat nothing until we have killed Paul."

                 * Did they eventually starve to death?  Or break their oath?

Vs. 15

            "...the council, suggested to the commander that he be brought down to you..."

                 * Paul was imprisoned in the Antonia Fortress above the temple courts.

                 * The Council - Sanhedrin with the chief priests.

                 * The Commander - The Roman tribune in charge.

            "...we are ready to kill him before he comes near..."

                  * The fortress was only 1,500' from the Sanhedrin's chamber of meeting.

                  * Many assassinations had been done in this area by Zealots and other political sects. (Acts 21:38)

 But the forty fasting would be assassins and the religious leaders forgot that Paul was an apostle of Christ, and he was part of God's plan and providence!

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

(Jer. 29:11) 

The Nephew

Verses 16-22

Vs. 16

            "...Paul's sister's son..."

                 * Paul's nephew, this is the only mention of Paul's family in Scripture.

                 * We know Paul was a son of a Pharisee, so his family was well connected. (Acts 23:6)

                 * His sister and nephew were not likely Christians.  But devout Jews or they wouldn't have had access to this important information.  Again, God's providence.

            "...entered the barracks..."

                  * Only Roman citizens of importance would have been allowed access to Paul in the Fortress Antonia.

Vs. 17

           "...Paul called one of the centurions..."

                * Again, a Roman citizen's privilege to request a service from a Roman officer. 

Vs. 19

            "...the commander took him by the hand..."

                 * The gesture of assurance and welcome.

Vs. 20-21

            "And he said, "The Jews have agreed to ask that you bring Paul down to the council tomorrow, as though they were going to inquire more fully about him."

                   * Lying and scheming, political manipulation of those in authority to achieve murder. 

Sound familiar?

Vs. 22

            "...tell no one that you have revealed these things to me."

                 * The commander was not fooled by their deceit.

                 * He knew the "young man" was in danger if he was found an informant, and so, warned him.

By the Tribune Claudius Lysias' wisdom and understanding, and, again, God's providence, the assassins plan was foiled.

 "Trust the past to the mercy of God, the present to His love, and the future to His providence."

                                          St. Augustine

 The Commander

Verses 23-32

Claudius Lysias had just demonstrated his intelligence and integrity with Paul's nephew.

Now, he will prove his courage and command skills.

Throughout the Book of Acts, Dr. Luke writes favorably of the Roman officer class, beginning with Centurion Cornelius (Acts 10:1-2), now here with Tribune Claudius and ending with the Centurion Julius (Acts 27:1, 3, 43).

There is no record in Acts of official Roman persecution against the church, any opposition was at the instigation of the Jews.

The Roman military leaders were men of quality and loyalty who respected the Roman law.

The Tribune's plan was simple and powerful.  He knew he had to get Paul out of Jerusalem or eventually there would be one murderous plot after another until one succeeded.

Vs. 23

            "And he called for two centurions, saying, "Prepare two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen, and two hundred spearmen to go to Caesarea at the third hour of the night;..."

                  * God, through Claudius, had just provided 470 heavily armed troops to protect Paul on the way to Caesarea where the Jews could not get at him.

                  * "...the third hour of the night..." - 9:00 p.m. Paul had to leave Jerusalem in the dark of night to foil the conspiracy of the Jews.

Once again, Paul was smuggled out of a city at night to avoid murder by his Jewish brethren! (Acts 9:25, 17:10)

Claudius had to write a letter to the governor, his superior, explaining why Paul was brought to him for protection as well as trial.

Vs. 27

            "This man was seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them. Coming with the troops I rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman."

                  *"Having learned that he was a Roman." - After he was about to have him scourged!  Claudius conveniently forgot this fact as it could have led to his demise! (Acts 22:24)

Vs. 29

            "...concerning questions of their law..."

                  * It was not Roman policy to adjudicate or be involved with Jewish law, and the problems it caused.

And when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio (the Roman Proconsul in Corinth) said to the Jews, "If it were a matter of wrongdoing or wicked crimes, O Jews, there would be reason why I should bear with you. But if it is a question of words and names and your own law, look to it yourselves; for I do not want to be a judge of such matters." And he drove them from the judgment seat.

(Acts 18:14-16)

             "...to Antipatris..."

                  * The journey from Jerusalem to Caesarea was about 65 miles, the halfway point was Antipatris.

                  * A long distance for troops to force march at night.

                  * Later Antipatris would be a crusader fortress as would Caesarea.

Vs. 33

            "...Caesarea..."

                 * Judea's capital, the Governor's residence.

                 * Built by Herod the Great to honor Caesar in 25-13 BC.

                 * A mostly Gentile city in Judea.

            "...the governor...'

                 * Tiberius Claudius Felix

                 * Governor (Procurator) from AD 52-59.

                 * Married to Drusilla, a Jewess, daughter of Herod Agrippa I, sister of Herod Agrippa II (Acts 25:13).

                 * A corrupt former slave.

                 * The Roman historian Tacitus said Felix "exercised the power of a king in the spirit of a slave."  He was called a "vulgar ruffian" and lived up to the name.

"For three things the earth is perturbed, yes for four it cannot bear up:  For a servant when he reigns..."

(Prov. 30:21-22)

Vs. 34

            "...he asked what province he was from...Cilicia."

                 * Cilicia was under the Governor of Syria, Felix's immediate superior, who would expect Felix to handle Paul's case himself.

Vs. 35

             "...kept in Herod's Praetorium..."

                  * The Praetorium was where Felix himself lived. Far from the prisons Paul usually was "kept" in.

 Conclusion

How can any believer fail to be impressed with the commitment of Paul the Apostle to the Lord Jesus Christ, and his call?

"Follow Me" has a cost.  But its rewards are above measure.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

(Matt. 5:10-12)

Paul said when told of the chains and bondage that lay ahead of him:

But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

(Acts 20:24)

The Apostle Paul never looked for the easy way, but the way that would most honor God and win the lost.

He was gladly willing to become a prisoner if it would further the Gospel, and Christ's kingdom.

(Phil. 1:12-13)

But as amazing as the Apostle Paul was, God is more!

His providence in caring for Paul comes from His great love for His servants.

The angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them.

(Ps. 34:7)

"Let us trust in God, and be very courageous for the Gospel, and the Lord Himself will screen us from all harm."

                                                 Charles Spurgeon

God's servants can be courageous, in God's will.

We know that our savior is dependable and will work out His perfect will and plan for us and through us.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

(Jer. 29:11) 

The safest place is in the center of

GOD'S WILL!

 

 

AMEN!

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