Thursday, June 5, 2014

KILLING PAUL (Acts Chapter 23)

Acts 23:12, “When it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul.”

It seems that wherever Paul went he found himself in trouble (Cf. 2 Corinthians 11:23-28).  It was not that he himself was a trouble-maker, it was the gospel that he proclaimed that worked to stir things up.  It was that message that was at the heart of the difficulties that ensued when he came to Jerusalem. 

Having proclaimed his own testimony, the trouble all started when he spoke of his God-given directive to take the gospel to the Gentiles (Cf. Acts 22:21-22).  Certain Jews had come to believe, but were still zealous for the law (Cf. Acts 21:20).  These Jews had spread a malicious rumor about Paul, that he was teaching others to not circumcise their children or walk according to the Jewish customs (Cf. Acts 21:21).  The leaders of the church in Jerusalem had devised a plan to appease these men, but the plan failed to mollify Paul’s opponents (Cf. Acts 21:22-36).  Paul sought to defend himself—in sharing his testimony-- before the crowds, but upon mentioning his ministry to the Gentiles, chaos ensued (Cf. Acts 22:22-29).

Paul was ultimately brought before the Sanhedrin (Cf. Acts 23:1-5).  He cleverly worked to divide his opponents by speaking of the resurrection (Cf. Acts 23:6-9).  A dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees arose (the Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection, but the Pharisees did) and became violent (Cf. Acts 23:10).  “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” (Cf. Acts 23:10).

With Paul away in the barracks, “the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul” (Acts 23:12).  “There were more than forty who made this conspiracy” (Acts 23:13).  They went to the chief priests and elders and devised a plot whereby they could ambush Paul on his way to a supposed interrogation (Cf. Acts 23:14-15).

Note the intensity of the animosity directed towards Paul.  It was no small group that formed the conspiracy.  So zealous were they for Paul’s demise that they had oath-bound themselves to a fast till he was dead.  It involved members of the highest levels of the religious establishment.  They were seeking to murder him, not because he had done anything wrong, but because they disagreed with his theology.  There were two main points of disagreement: 1) they were legalists and disdained Paul’s message of salvation by grace (Cf. Acts 20:24; 21:20); and 2) they were Jews and despised Paul’s outreach efforts to the Gentiles (Cf. Acts 21:28; 22:21-22).  Paul’s ministry was an affront to them.  And it is important to note that Paul could have avoided his troubles if he would have simply compromised with these men.  They disdained his salvation by grace message—he have could avoided conflict if he would have been willing to add the need to do some works to the salvation equation.  They disdained his outreach to the Gentiles—he could have avoided conflict if he would have restrained his outreach to the Jews.

“The son of Paul’s sister heard of their ambush” (Acts 23:16).  He went and told Paul.  Paul told one of the centurions to take his nephew to the tribune.  Paul’s nephew related what he had heard to the tribune and the tribune heeded his warning.  “Then he called two the centurions and said, ‘Get ready two hundred soldiers, with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go as far as Caesarea at the third hour of the night.  Also provide mounts for Paul to ride and bring him safely to Felix the governor’” (Acts 23-23-24).

They plotted to kill Paul because they didn’t like his message—they had “a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge” (Cf. Romans 10:2).  But God, who had previously rescued Paul countless times before, sovereignly worked again to orchestrate his deliverance.  Paul was invincible till God’s work in his life—in sharing the gospel of grace—was finished.

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