Bowie Apostolic Church
Acts 23: You Must Testify of Me in Rome
by From the Pastor's Desk on February 23rd, 2013

Getting out of Jerusalem

Acts 23:6 Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” 7 And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. 9 Then a great clamor arose, and some of the scribes of the Pharisees’ party stood up and contended sharply, “We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?” 10 And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force and bring him into the barracks. 11 The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”  
This story chapter is so full of cultural inferences. I will try my best to bring some of those to light. It is also pushed forward by Paul’s only concern at this point, going to Rome. Nothing else matters at this point.

We see Paul is brought before the Sanhedrin. Rather than spending time to reason with them, he opts to get out this situation. It is not going to get him to Rome and it is only a hindrance. How did he get out of it? He knew his audience. The Sanhedrin was made of both Sadducees and Pharisees, 70 in total. The Sadducees only believed in the Pentateuch (first five books of the Old Testament) and they did not believe in the resurrection. The Pharisees, however, whole heartedly believed in a resurrection (Paul was formerly a Pharisee). This obviously did not prevent them from sitting on the same council, but it was a bone of contention between them both. What’s the quickest way to get out of this? He shows partiality to Pharisees by invoking his heritage as one while bringing up the issue of the resurrection. This causes such a commotion, that the Roman soldiers have to take him out of there before Paul is “torn to pieces (verse 10).” Again, the Roman army saves Paul. What a turn of events.

Going to Rome at this time would be time consuming, expensive and dangerous. Travelling was always dangerous during this time. The number of roads was minimal. The Romans were the ones that provided the roads and they only did so for their own purposes and not for everyone else’s. Because the roads were minimal, there was a “one way in, one way out” scenario for most cities. This included leisure travel and business travel. Because all traffic were routed through a few roads and the fact that there would be travelers who would be camped at night from time to time, this was a prime target for robbers. Many dignitaries would have their own security, but the average person was always at risk. For this reason, Paul being in Roman custody is actually God’s way of ensuring his safe arrival at Rome.

This stems from Paul being a Roman citizen. As it turns out, Roman citizenship was still heavily tied to being free born in the city of Rome or a child of a citizen. As Americans, we are used to citizenship being given for anyone who is born on U.S. soil. However, in Rome this privilege was not extended to the entire empire, in general. It was regarded as something that should be held as exclusive and there was a desire to keep the citizenship fairly small in comparison to the population of the rest of the empire. The well to do could sometimes become a Roman citizen through personal relationships with dignitaries, but this was always at a fee. Paul has already confessed that this was how he became a citizen (Acts 22:28). 

After Paul was arrested, Claudias Lysias (the tribunal) wanted to question him and ordered him to be flogged. However, it is illegal to flog a citizen or even tie one up without being formally charged or tried. It was a serious offense against his rights as a citizen. Because of this blunder, Lysias was afraid. This made him very cautious about Paul.

Now enters the plot of the Jews to kill Paul. Paul’s nephew (his sister’s son Acts 23:16) heard of the plot. Paul sent him to Lysias who was already afraid of bungling Paul’s custody even further. Lysias decides to protect Paul and get him out of Jerusalem by sending him to Felix in Caesarea. They take him in the middle of the night, but with Roman soldiers to guard him, this meant that Paul would be safe. We will see how this plays out in chapter 24.


Posted in Acts, Bible 2013    Tagged with Paul, caesarea, Jerusalem, Felix, Sanhedrin, Rome


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