Friday, January 21, 2011

Bible Study - Acts 22 - 24

This post is in conjunction with a Bible study being led by Rachel at

These three chapteres in the book of Acts are so power packed!  I am glad our moderator broke our study down so that these chapters were together. They tell the story of Paul's defense of himself before the Jews, how he gave his testimony, how he was rescued several times by the chief captain, how he gave his testimony before Felix the governor, and how he was left imprisoned for two years.  Let's take a look...

I had to go back to the end of Acts 21 to get a little background.  Chapter 22 begins with Paul's speech to the Jews.  He had been pulled out of the temple in Jerusalem, and the Jews were going to kill him.  As noted at the end of chapter 21, he was rescued by the chief captain (Roman).  As he was being led into the castle, Paul stopped on the steps and asked the chief captain if he could address the Jews. 

In chapter 22 Paul begins with his address.  He pointed out to the people, in Hebrew, that he was a Jew's Jew.  He was zealous in his devotion to God.  He had studied under one of the greatest teachers of the time, Gamaliel (who was himself highly respected in Israel -- see Acts 5:33-35).  He was a Pharisee of the Pharisees.  He was so zealous to his religion, to his God, that he happily persecuted Christians, even unto their deaths.  Whether those he persecuted were men or women did not matter.  And he did this under the knowledge and direction of the chief priests and the council.  On his last trip (this time to Damascus) Paul had an experience that changed his life forever.  It changed him from the old man to the new, from a man named Saul to a man newly named Paul.  He testified that he was met by Jesus of Nazareth, who accused Paul of persecuting him. In another account of this conversion experience, Jesus tells Paul it is hard to kick against the goads.  The goads that were coming from the Holy Spirit, the knowledge that what those of the Way were saying was the truth. A man who had been zealous for God would now be zealous to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Saviour, the Son of God.  His eyes had been willfully, spiritually closed to the gospel of Jesus, purposefully rejecting Him as just another false teacher, until that meeting on the road to Damascus.  Now, his spiritual eyes (as well as his physical eyes which had been blinded by this encounter) were opened to the Truth, the Way.  It was no mistake that God chose such a zealous man to be His witness to the Gentiles!  Think of the drive Paul had, and when it was turned in the proper direction, he was able to influence the world for Christ. 

Paul told about Ananias.  The man who came to Paul at God's bidding and told him to regain his sight, be converted, and be baptized.  Ananias, I am sure, had known why Paul had intended to go to Damascus -- to persecute the Christians.  Paul made a point of stating that Ananias said "The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth.  For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard."  Did Ananias think maybe this was  a ploy on Paul's part?  A trap?  In any case, he was obedient to God and spoke with Paul. 

The Jews listened to all that Paul had to say, until he got to the part where he was met again by Jesus, and Jesus told Paul he would be sent to the Gentiles.  I find the response  of the Jews (Acts 22:22)interesting, "And they gave him audience unto this word, and then lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live."  They listened to him until he said that he was being sent to the Gentiles, people they considered unfit to hear and share about their God.  They went so far as to throw off their clothes and throw dirt in the air.

Once again, Paul had to be rescue by the chief captain who again took him to the castle, this time to beat him into telling why the Jews were so upset with him.  Paul escaped the beating by asking the centurion if it were lawful to scourge a Roman, someone who had not been condemned.  This surprised the chief captain when he heard about it, so much so that he was afraid because he had unlawfully bound a Roman citizen.  According to The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, to be a Roman citizen gave that person important rights such as “the right of appeal after a trial, exemption from imperial service, right to choose between a local or Roman trial, and protection from degrading forms of punishment like scourging…most people who claimed citizenship were trusted since the penalty for impersonating a Roman citizen was death.”

The next day Paul was brought before the high council, the Sanhedrin, and the chief priests, where Paul once again tells them that he has done nothing that he would be ashamed of before God. This incites the high priest Ananias to command Paul to be struck on the mouth. When Paul protests with, the people claim that he is reviling God’s high priest.

Paul discerned that there were both Pharisees and Sadducees among those present and proclaimed that he was a Pharisee, knowing that the Pharisees and Sadducees were deeply divided in their religious views. Paul’s claim caused an uproar because as a Pharisee, Paul was claiming that he believed in the resurrection of the dead, and stated that was why he was being questioned. The Pharisees, of course, sided with Paul, and said that they could find no fault in Paul. They did not want to “fight against God.” Such a disagreement occurred that the chief captain was afraid Paul was going to be torn apart by the Pharisees and Sadducees, and he once again had to rescue Paul. “Go down and…take him by force from among them.” God comforted Paul during the night and once again told him that he would be His witness to the Gentiles, specifically to Rome.

Such hate was had for Paul that 40 of the Jews decided to bind themselves together with an oath, vowing that they would neither eat or drink until they had killed Paul. They took their plan before the chief priests and elders who gave their approval. It was agreed by the council that they would make it seem that they needed to question Paul again, and that the 40 would waylay Paul and kill him. However, Paul’s nephew found out about the plan and told Paul, who had him tell the chief captain. Once again the chief captain had to rescue Paul, this time deciding he would get Paul out of that area, taking him with a great guard (200 soldiers, 70 horsemen, and 200 spearmen, at 9:00 at night). Four hundred and seventy men to guard one man, Paul! It makes me realize how serious the situation was. Satan was at work, but God was ahead of him the whole time.

Paul arrived in Caesarea with a letter from the chief captain to the governor Felix. The governor was concerned about where Paul was from. Was he really a Roman citizen?  When Paul answered from Cilicia, the governor told him he would be heard when his accusers arrived.

Chapter 24 begins with Ananias the high priest, the elders, and along with a “certain orator named Tertullus” arriving five days after Paul. Tertullus began to expound on Paul’s crime. He was a “pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes: who also hath gone about to profane the temple…” Tertullus was true to his job description, he could embellish the truth (a “pestilent fellow?”). Notice how Tertullus calls them a sect of the Nazarenes, and not followers of the Way, or Christians (people of the Christ/people of the Messiah). After his speech, the Jews all said that Tertullus spoke the truth.

Paul was given a turn to speak by the governor. Paul claimed that he was not disputing anything in the temple with any man, neither was he creating an uprising among the people, either in the temple or in the city. “Neither can they prove the things whereof they now accuse me.” Paul does acknowledge, however, and he calls it the Way, that he does worship the God of their fathers, that he believed all things in the law, and he had a hope toward God, which he said the Jews accepted. He had a clean conscience. He was bringing alms, or gifts, to those in Israel who needed assistance. Paul stated that those who were in the temple with him (Acts 21:26-27) should have been brought before the governor as well, to testify if they had a problem with what Paul had done. But they were not there. Paul stated that the real reason he was in trouble was concerning the resurrection of the dead. Felix had apparently heard of the Way previously, and had accurate information concerning them. He adjourned the proceedings and said that he would make a judgment.

Paul was handed over to a centurion but was allowed to move about freely and have visitors who could provide for him. Eventually Felix sent for Paul. Felix’s wife Drusilla (the daughter of Herod Agrippa I and sister of Agrippa II and Bernice) was also present. Felix was greatly affected by Paul’s words, so much so that he was convicted by Paul’s teachings and trembled, was afraid. He told Paul to “Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.” It is not known if Felix ever became a follower of the Way (see II Corinthians 6:2 “For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succored thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation”).  Felix had an ulterior motive for keeping Paul imprisoned. Verse 26 says that “he hoped also that money should have been given him of Paul, that he might loose him: wherefore he sent for him the oftener, and communed with him.” Remember verse 17 of this same chapter? Was Felix wanting that money for himself? Or was he hoping that someone would buy Paul’s freedom at a great price? Verse 27 states that Felix kept Paul imprisoned for two years, and upon leaving office he left Paul in prison, wanting to show the Jews a favor.

This was a long three chapters, but to me they speak strongly of the steadfastness of God. When it seems that trials are to much to bear, God always makes a way for us to endure those trials. That doesn’t mean that things will be easy. It means that God is there, helping you to carry the burden. Paul was given strength, determination, and a good reasoning mind to deal with the Jewish council and with the Romans. He was well prepared to defend himself before both. He knew how to use his Roman citizenship to the best advantage. He knew how to use the fact that he was a Pharisee to his advantage. Paul did not use deceit or trickery, he stated the facts. Remember Matthew 10:16 says “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” (Read the rest of that section, through verse 23.) Isn’t this exactly what Paul did? Shouldn’t we also be just as prepared?

~ Reese


  1. I love the book of Acts for this is where it all started for the body of Believers and the Church I know you all are going to have a fun time studying it.

  2. Thanks! It's amazing what you can learn when you take a small portion at a and study it.

  3. Love Acts. I am a new follower I found you on blogfrog. I look froward to the journey with you.

    I saw that you stopped by for a peek thanks.

  4. I'm just sayin', I enjoyed reading your blog! Thanks for reading mine.