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Paul Speaks to the Religious Leaders’ Court

23 Paul looked straight at the court and said, “Brother Jews, I have lived for God with a heart that has said I am not guilty to this day.” Then Ananias, the head religious leader, told those standing near him to hit him on the mouth. Paul said, “God will hit you, you white-washed wall! Do you sit there and say I am guilty by the Law when you break the Law by having me hit?”

Those standing near said, “Do you talk like that to God’s head religious leader?” Paul said, “Brother Jews, I did not know that he was God’s head religious leader. I know the Holy Writings say, ‘You must not speak against the leader of your people.’” (A)

Paul saw that part of the court was made up of the religious group who believe no one is raised from the dead. The other part were proud religious law-keepers. Then he cried out, “Brother Jews, I am a proud religious law-keeper and from a family of proud religious law-keepers. I have been brought in front of this court because of the hope of being raised from the dead.”

When they heard this, both religious groups started to argue and the people of the court were divided in what they thought. The one religious group believes that no one is raised from the dead. Also, they do not believe in angels or spirits. But the other religious group, the proud religious law-keepers, believe that people are raised from the dead and that there are angels and spirits. The courtroom was filled with noise. Some of the teachers of the Law working with the proud religious law-keepers stood up and said, “We find nothing wrong with this man. What if an angel or spirit has spoken to him?”

10 They argued all the more. Then the captain was afraid they would pull Paul to pieces. He told his men to get Paul out of there and take him back to the soldiers’ building. 11 The next night the Lord came to Paul and said, “Paul, do not be afraid! You will tell about Me in the city of Rome the same as you have told about Me in Jerusalem.”

The Plan to Kill Paul

12 In the morning some of the Jews gathered together and made a plan to kill Paul. They promised each other that they would not eat or drink until they had killed him. 13 There were more than forty of them who had made this promise. 14 These people came to the head religious leader and to the leaders of the people and said, “We have made a promise not to eat any food until we have killed Paul. 15 We ask you and the court to have the captain bring Paul down to you tomorrow. It will look as if you want to ask him some things. Before he gets near you, we will be waiting to kill him.”

16 Paul’s nephew heard about the plan. He went to the soldiers’ building and told Paul. 17 Paul called one of the soldiers and said, “Take this young man to the captain. He has something to tell him.” 18 The soldiers brought the young man to the captain and said, “Paul asked me to bring this young man to you. He has something to tell you.” 19 The captain took him by the hand and they walked over where they could be alone. He said, “What is it that you have to tell me?” 20 The young man said, “The Jews have made a plan to ask you to bring Paul to the courtroom tomorrow. It would look as if they were going to ask him some things. 21 Do not let them talk you into it. More than forty men are waiting in secret to kill him. They have promised each other not to eat or drink anything until they have killed him. They are all waiting for you to say the word.” 22 The captain told the young man to go. He said, “Do not tell anyone you have told me this.”

Paul Is Sent to Felix in Caesarea

23 Then the captain called two soldiers and said, “Get 200 men ready to go to the city of Caesarea by nine o’clock tonight. Also have seventy men ride on horses and 200 men carry spears. 24 Get horses ready for Paul to ride. Take him to Felix, the leader of the people.”

25 He wrote a letter which said, 26 “Claudius Lysias greets Felix, the best leader of the people. 27 This man Paul was taken by the Jews. He was about to be killed by them. But I came along with my soldiers and kept him from being killed. I did this when I learned that he was a Roman citizen. 28 I wanted to know what they had against him. So I took him to the religious leaders’ court. 29 I learned they were holding him because of something about their Law. There was no reason for him to be killed or to be put in prison. 30 I was told that the Jews had a plan to kill this man. At once I sent him to you. I told the Jews who wanted to kill him to tell you what they have against him. Good-bye.”

31 The soldiers took Paul as they were told. They brought him during the night to Antipatris. 32 The next day they went back to their building in Jerusalem. The men riding horses went on with Paul. 33 When they came to Caesarea, they gave the letter to the leader of the people. They also handed Paul over to him. 34 After he read the letter, he asked what part of the country Paul was from. He was told that Paul was from the city of Cilicia. 35 He said, “I will listen to all of this when the men come who want to kill you.” He had Paul kept in King Herod’s building.

Paul Speaks to King Agrippa

26 Agrippa said to Paul, “You may now speak for yourself.” Paul lifted his hand and started to talk, “King Agrippa, the Jews have said many things against me. I am happy to be able to tell you my side of the story. You know all about the Jewish ways and problems. So I ask you to listen to me until I have finished.

“All the Jews know about my life from the time I was a boy until now. I lived among my own people in Jerusalem. If they would tell what they know, they would say that I lived the life of a proud religious law-keeper. I was in the group of proud religious law-keepers who tried to obey every law.

“And now I am on trial here because I trust the promise God made to our fathers. This promise is what our twelve family groups of the Jewish nation hope to see happen. They worship God day and night. King Agrippa, it is because of this hope that they are saying things against me. Why do you think it is hard to believe that God raises people from the dead?

“I used to think I should work hard against the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 I did that in Jerusalem. I put many of the followers in prison. The head religious leaders gave me the right and the power to do it. Then when the followers were killed, I said it was all right. 11 I beat them and tried to make them speak against God in all the Jewish places of worship. In my fight against them, I kept going after them even into cities in other countries.

12 “When I was going to Damascus to do this, I had the right and the power from the head religious leaders to make it hard for the followers. 13 I was on the road at noon. King Agrippa, I saw a light from heaven brighter than the sun. It was shining around me and the men with me. 14 We all fell to the ground. Then I heard a voice speaking to me in the Jewish language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you working so hard against Me? You hurt yourself by trying to hurt Me.’ 15 I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, the One you are working against. 16 Get up. Stand on your feet. I have chosen you to work for Me. You will tell what you have seen and you will say what I want you to say. This is the reason I have allowed you to see Me. 17 I will keep you safe from the Jews and from the people who are not Jews. I am sending you to these people. 18 You are to open their eyes. You are to turn them from darkness to light. You are to turn them from the power of Satan to the power of God. In this way, they may have their sins forgiven. They may have what is given to them, along with all those who are set apart for God by having faith in Me.’

19 “King Agrippa, I obeyed what I saw from heaven. 20 First I told what I saw to those in Damascus and then in Jerusalem. I told it through all the country of Judea. I even preached to the people who are not Jews that they should be sorry for their sins and turn from them to God. I told them they should do things to show they are sorry for their sins.

21 “That is why the Jews took hold of me in the house of God and tried to kill me. 22 God has helped me. To this day I have told these things to the people who are well-known and to those not known. I have told only what the early preachers and Moses said would happen. 23 It was that Christ must suffer and be the first to rise from the dead. He would give light to the Jews and to the other nations.”

24 As Paul was speaking for himself, Festus cried out in a loud voice, “Paul, you are crazy! All your learning keeps you from thinking right!” 25 Paul said, “Most respected Festus, I am not crazy. I am speaking the truth! 26 The king knows about all this. I am free to speak to him in plain words. Nothing I have said is new to him. These things happened where everyone saw them. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the writings of the early preachers? I know that you believe them.”

28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “In this short time you have almost proven to me that I should become a Christian!” 29 Paul said, “My prayer to God is that you and all who hear me today would be a Christian as I am, only not have these chains!” 30 King Agrippa and Festus and Bernice and those who sat with them got up. 31 As they left the courtroom, they said to each other, “This man has done nothing for which he should be kept in prison or be put to death.” 32 Agrippa told Festus, “This man could go free if he had not asked to be sent to Caesar.”