By Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell (Guest Blogger)
Scripture Readings: Acts 23-24
Key Scripture Verse: Acts 23:9-11 (NIV, Life Application Bible)
“There was a great uproar, and some of the teachers of the law who were Pharisees stood up and argued vigorously, ‘We find nothing wrong with this man,’ they said. ‘What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?’ The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force and bring him into the barracks.
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.’”
Paul was a persistent Apostle of Christ—he regularly got himself arrested for his bold declaration of faith and even under trial he continued to teach the gospel. Jesus promised he would not only make it through this trial but would continue on to Rome to testify there. This is how it all came to be. This is how God used Paul’s circumstances to spread the gospel.
Paul has been arrested, accused of speaking against the Jews and defiling the temple by allowing Gentiles into it. They had seen Paul talking to an Ephesian in the city and presumed that he had taken the man into the temple. When Chapter 23 starts, it has already been established that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he could not be punished by the Romans unless he was proven guilty of a crime. So, the commander wanted to investigate why he was being accused by the Jews and had him go before the Sanhedrin.
The high priest Ananias ordered Paul to be punished, to be struck on the mouth, before hearing his case, thus, violating the law. Knowing that the Sanhedrin was composed of both Sadducees and Pharisees, he used that to his advantage. The Jews wanted to kill him, but he knew that if he split the group who was trying him, he had some advantage of escaping death. The controversy that he brought up was one between the Pharisees and Sadducees about resurrection. Paul was a Pharisee and he told the council that, stating that he believed in resurrection—a sore point with the Sadducees who did not believe in resurrection, angels, or spirits, as the Pharisees did.
Once he brought up this controversy, the Pharisees took his side, but the Sadducees wanted to pursue having him killed and took a solemn oath to each other not to eat or drink until they had effectively destroyed him.
The commander was later tipped that there was a conspiracy to kill Paul and saw to it that he was safely taken to Governor Felix to be tried. His accusers were ordered to present their case before Felix. In the meantime, he was guarded heavily at Herod Agrippa’s palace.
If we were to read further, we would learn that Paul is held for a period of about two years under Felix to whom he witnesses on an ongoing basis about his faith in Jesus Christ.
If we read even further into Chapter 26, we would see that Paul tells Herod Agrippa about his conversion and his faith in Jesus.
Paul was constantly telling people about Jesus. He took every opportunity to witness to others, even when his life was on the line, even when he was under trial and was asked to defend himself. Nothing kept Paul from telling others about Jesus.
In Chapter 27, Paul, still a prisoner, is sent on his journey towards Italy. God had a plan for him to continue his testimony and everyone along the way was facilitating his plan to get Paul to Rome, even though all the while they believed they were managing their prisoner.
God has a way of using circumstances to his advantage to further his purposes. Paul was a devoted disciple of Jesus Christ and his Apostle who was going to stop at nothing to get his message across and to tell others of Jesus. What a wonderful story of faith! What an incredible story of how God used Paul to spread the gospel.
We cannot always know how God will use us. Nothing is impossible with God. He asks that we act on faith and that we do his will. When we do, we may be amazed at how he will use us and our individual circumstances. And we will be generously rewarded for acting on faith when we meet him face to face. May we trust in him and act in faith in all that we do.