Acts 23:1-10; 2 Timothy 2:24-26
Paul was a Jew with a deep love of Jewish institutions and of all things Jewish. He loved his people so much that he once offered to suffer the divine wrath they deserved (Romans 9:3). Paul came to Jerusalem because of his love for Jesus and desire that his people would come to know Jesus as he had. But Paul was met with brutal violence, wild accusations and a murderous mob that required the Roman government to step in to save him (Acts 21-22). But for Paul, being beaten was not a reason to stop speaking to his beloved countrymen. What keeps you from sharing about Jesus Christ with others?
Being falsely accused, Paul is now on trial before the Sanhedrin. He begins his address with kind words, addressing them as men and brothers. With clear, solid eye contact, Paul said, “I have always lived before God in all good conscience!” He wanted his audience to know that he was committed to his spiritual and moral choices that resulted in his trial before them. He was ready to stand before God and be accountable for the choices and actions he has made. What a challenge to hear! Am I ready to stand before God for my choices and actions?
The high priest immediately orders Paul to be slapped. It was not the first blow Paul had ever received, but Paul reacted by calling the high priest a hypocrite who would be judged by God accordingly. After being chided for such words against the high priest, Paul apologized. Paul was justified in what he said; the law was on his side. Moral principle was on his side. If Paul’s purpose in speaking was to share the Gospel and bring God glory, then his behavior was not right. What an important lesson for us. When we face abuse, we must restrain the impulse to fight back. We must show those who oppose or reject us the face of Christ—a face softened by forgiveness, gentleness, and love. Nowhere are we to allow physical abuse, but words or snide comments meant to demean and degrade, even on social media, are to be handled with grace.
Paul’s own words, written from Rome years later (2 Timothy 2:24-26), instructs us to use kindness, don’t be confusing, misleading or obscure, and be patient with difficult people. Imagine how God can use you to gently instruct people who oppose the truth. Picture God changing the heart of a friend or family member who before opposed God through the way you live and share the love God. God wants His people and His church to be a source of love and life.
What does it mean to you that God wants His people to be a source of love and life? How is God using you in your home or work place to be a source of love and life? How can this passage help you respond differently to those have wronged you or hurt you? What are some ways to turn a conversation toward spiritual things?
Praise and thank God that He is the source of life and abounding love. Ask God to help you forgive those who have wronged you. Ask for opportunities to share the Good News this week.
Acts 23:1, Psalm 26:1-12
When I was 15 years old, I lied about my age to get a job at a local fast food restaurant. I was hired. But soon I found I had to continue to make up lies to keep up the charade. As my 16th birthday approached, I thought all the angst would disappear. Of course, I did not tell my family I lied to get the job. On my 16th birthday my wonderful older sister came to my workplace with her husband and two kids and a big bunch of balloons to sing me “Happy Birthday.” Everybody, staff and customers, got involved in the hoopla. I was chagrined when someone asked how old I was and I had to openly admit to my age. I did not lose my job, but I lost the trust of just about everyone.
A clear conscience is a glorious thing. When we go to sleep at night without having to relive situations and rethink conversations to make sure we don’t get caught in lies, we can enjoy sweet dreams. And when we talk to our spouse and children or look at a colleague at work, we can look at them in the eye because we don’t have any fear of being caught in lies or fabrications of the truth. Only then can we say, like Paul, “Brothers, I have always lived before God with a clear conscience!” (NLT)
Paul’s clear conscience has a two-fold meaning. First, it refers to his conduct as a citizen, to his civil obedience, living his life in a way that keeps the laws of the land and thus gave him no qualms of conscience. In 1811, the US Treasury Department started a “Conscience Fund.” People who felt guilty about defrauding or stealing from the government could anonymously return money. To date there has been $5.7 million returned to the Treasury.
Second, Paul could have a clear conscience about his past sins because of the cross of Jesus Christ, the cross which he proclaimed. He offered this same cleansed conscience to all who would believe in Jesus as Messiah. Hebrews 9:14: “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!”
Why do we lie? We may be trying to look good to someone else; we may want to avoid blame for something we’ve done; or we may have developed a habit of shading the truth. As followers of Christ, we are called to live in truth. Psalm 26:1 in The Message says, “I’ve kept an honest shop. I’ve thrown my lot with you, God, and I’m not budging.” Trusting God gives us the strength to face the painful facts of our lives. When we’ve failed, we can embrace God’s forgiveness, confess our deception to the person we’ve lied to, and choose the path of truth again.
How clear is your conscience today? What would it mean for you to walk with integrity?
Thank God for the opportunity to walk with Him with integrity through the cross of Christ Jesus! Ask for His help in any area you need to confess and repent to have a clear conscience.
Paul is discouraged and disappointed by the way things had gone in Jerusalem. Paul had been falsely accused, been misunderstood, and been beaten by the mob. He was bruised, alone, and feeling uncertain about the future. Jesus comes and stands near Paul. What a friend we have in Jesus who stands near us in our distresses.
While alone in his cell, the Lord gives Paul a gracious command to encourage him. “Take courage!” This is a word for us today in our tough places. The Original Roget’s Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases lists boldness and fearlessness as synonyms of courage, but courage often exists in the presence of fear. In truth, courage is often doing what one is afraid to do. Courage can be seen as the capacity to resist fear, to master it, not its absence.
C.S. Lewis wrote, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality.” Without courage, men and women will fail to be loving, to sacrifice, to count the cost, to tackle the challenges or take on the responsibilities that God calls them to.
Everyone can become discouraged over conditions or lack courage to take on a responsibility or face a daunting task or trial. Fortunately, we have a loving Lord who, having given His all for us, is committed to our need, which includes our encouragement. God has graciously provided tools to encourage His people.
Encouragement of Scripture and the Promises of God. God’s Holy Word with its many principles and promises is our most important and fundamental source of encouragement because it is God’s special revelation to us of both Himself and His plan of salvation in Christ.
Encouragement of the Holy Spirit. The ministry of the Holy Spirit, as the Spirit of Truth, uses the teaching of the Word to bring courage and comfort to the church and to bring growth in the character of Christ, transforming believers into His likeness.
Encouragement from Fellow Believers (Hebrews 10:19-24). Because we are to be supporting one another as members of the Body of Christ, Scripture tells us to become involved in the encouragement of one another.
If you are like Paul here in Acts, discouraged about your present circumstances, or feeling down about past failures, or anxious about the future, the Lord wants you to take courage. He is with you in your trials, He commends you for your past service, and He promises to use you again in His service as you continue to walk with Him.
If we don’t sense God’s spiritual presence, how can we gain it? When have you been most encouraged by God’s Word and His promises? How can you best offer encouragement to someone who is feeling down?
Thank the Lord for His encouragement in your difficult circumstances. Ask God to help you become involved with other believers so that you can encourage them and be encouraged by them.
Luke masterfully recounts this event where God foils the plans of 40 zealous terrorists and Jewish religious leaders through the bold action of a young lad. I believe God intends for every believer to see himself in Paul’s place—in a potentially impossible and impassible situation—and to trust God to protect and provide for us.
The morning after Jesus visits Paul and encourages him (v. 11), a plot is hatched by 40 radicalized Jews to murder Paul (vv. 12-15). The Asian Jews had been frustrated in their attempts to lynch Paul, and the Sanhedrin had been unable to convict him of any offense. So now a group of more than 40 men plot to murder Paul and then bind themselves by oath to eat and drink nothing until they had succeeded. Their scheme involved having the religious leaders petition the Roman commander to have Paul come for another court appearance, and then killing him. These zealous religious men are blind to their own despicable behavior (conspiracy and murder)!
But even the most cunning and careful of human plans can’t succeed if God opposes them. “No weapon forged against Him will prevail” (Isaiah 54:17). Paul’s nephew, a young lad, hears of the plan and takes action. Getting our kids and grandkids involved in church, small groups, and missions is a positive way to encourage and train them to be making a difference in the Kingdom of God. News of the plot spread from Paul’s nephew to Paul, from Paul to a centurion, and from the centurion to the commander, who then learned it from the lad’s own lips. Remembering Paul’s Roman citizenship, the commander decided on immediate and resolute action.
Paul is placed at the center of 200 soldiers, 70 horsemen and 200 spearmen to go to Caesarea that night. The commander, Lysias, wrote a letter to Governor Felix that sums up the relevant facts, leaving the commander in the most favorable light. The 40-mile trip to Caesarea went without attack and Paul was handed over to Felix. The governor read the commander’s letter and asked what province Paul was from. As Paul was from Cilicia, under Felix’ jurisdiction, he was then kept under guard in Herod’s palace awaiting trial. Paul is delivered from the murderous zealots, but he is still facing false charges, confinement, and a long wait before getting to Rome. “Faith for my deliverance is not faith in God. Faith means, whether I am visibly delivered or not, I will stick to my belief that God is love.” (Oswald Chambers)
When we experience difficulties, what are some differences between demanding answers from God and trusting that He will deliver us in His way and in His time? How have you experienced God’s protection in your life or a loved one’s life? What steps are you taking to encourage a young believer in his faith?
Thank God for His powerful love and protection. Ask God to help you trust Him more through daily struggles and difficult circumstances.
Paul will spend two years in custody in Caesarea awaiting the judgment by Governor Felix concerning the charges (false) by the Jerusalem Jews. Governor Felix delays his decision (v. 22) until the commander, Lysias, could get there to give his testimony (despite the letter). It is not recorded whether Lysias came to Caesarea or not. But as the next verses indicate, for various political and fiscal reasons, Felix did not want to complete Paul’s trial. This delay, by divine design, is a manifestation of God’s grace to Felix and his wife Drusilla.
God also fulfills His purpose and promise that Paul would be His instrument to proclaim the Gospel to the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel (Acts 9:15). It is true that Felix and Drusilla seem to have rejected the Gospel, but Paul was faithful in presenting the Gospel without compromise. Paul did not change the content of the Gospel, nor did he attempt to bribe his way to success. Mature believers understand that the power of the Gospel is in the purity of the Gospel.
What does it take to bring people to Jesus? God’s truth shared in love and friendship, illustrated daily in the life of the one sharing the Gospel. Salvation is completely the work of God. Ephesians 2:8-9 says: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Paul was a faithful witness to the boundless grace of God—first to himself, then to so many others. Through God’s Word, Paul still witnesses to the world of God’s amazing grace.
Perhaps you are in the midst of a divine delay. I imagine Paul expected a much quicker transfer to Rome. Like Paul, maybe you feel stuck in your job or have responsibilities with elderly parents or young children. Maybe you have an illness or physical condition that is limiting your “options.” Are you experiencing a divine delay? For me, God closed the door to a ministry position I desired so that I would later be available to care for my grandchildren. I had to get over myself to see what God had prepared for me (Ephesians 2:10). Look at the people in your Facebook and phone photos. How many have come to know Jesus Christ through your sharing of the Gospel? Ask God where you could share God’s truth in love and friendship with them.
How did you come to know Jesus Christ? Who shared God’s truth with you in love and friendship? When have God’s delays been a blessing? What fears or circumstances keep you from sharing the Gospel? What will you ask God to do to make needed changes?
Ask God to show you someone to whom you will share God’s truth in love and friendship. Ask God for wisdom to recognize divine delays and faithfully trust God’s purpose and plan for His glory.