23 Paul stared at the council and spoke.
Paul: Brothers, I have always lived my life to this very day with a clear conscience before God.
2 Ananias the high priest signaled those standing near Paul to hit him on the mouth.
Paul: 3 You hypocrite! God will slap you! How dare you sit in judgment and claim to represent the law, while you violate the law by ordering me to be struck for no reason?
Bystanders: 4 The nerve of you insulting the high priest of God!
Paul: 5 I’m sorry, my brothers. I didn’t realize this was the high priest. The law warns us to not curse the ruler of the people.[a]
Paul is brilliant. Accused by a group of religious intellectuals, he gets them fighting with one another. Paul understands the axiom, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” so he picks a fight with the Sadducees knowing the rest of the room will defend him. The thing society opposes often defines it, so manipulation is easy. (Consider some of the conservative political pundits who have never espoused any inclination toward Christianity. They gain millions of Christian followers by opposing the political enemies of conservative Christians.) Paul embraces a similar strategy here—if he can get these guys to fight, they will forget why they are actually convening. In many ways, the culture war is equally distracting to the early church. In the middle of the Jews vs. Gentiles battle, the church is realizing believers are not here to fight about morality and culture, but to bring the kingdom of God to earth. His kingdom will not come by debate, but by the working of the Holy Spirit within the church.
6 Paul noticed that some members of the council were Sadducees and some were Pharisees, so he quickly spoke to the council.
Paul: Brothers, I am a Pharisee, born to a Pharisee. I am on trial because I have hope that the dead are raised!
7 That got the two parties arguing with one another 8 because the Sadducees say there is no such thing as resurrection, heavenly messengers, or spirits, and the Pharisees believe in all three.
9 Soon these leaders were shouting, and some of the scholars from the party of the Pharisees rose to their feet.
Pharisees: There is nothing wrong with this man. Maybe he really has encountered a spirit or a heavenly messenger.
10 The two parties were about to start throwing punches, and the commandant was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces, so he sent in his soldiers to intervene. They took Paul back into custody and returned him to their barracks. 11 That night the Lord came near and spoke to him.
The Lord: Keep up your courage, Paul! You have successfully told your story about Me in Jerusalem, and soon you will do the same in Rome.
12-13 That morning a group of more than 40 Jewish opponents conspired to kill Paul. They bound themselves by an oath that they wouldn’t eat or drink until he was dead. 14 They told the chief priests and elders about their plan.
Jewish Opponents: We’ve made an oath not to eat or drink until this man is dead. 15 So you and the council must ask the commandant to bring Paul to meet with you. Tell him that you want to further investigate Paul’s case. We’ll get rid of the troublemaker on his way here.
16 Now Paul had a nephew who heard about the planned ambush; he managed to gain entry into the barracks and alerted Paul. 17 Paul called one of the officers.
Paul: Take this young man to the commandant. He has news the commandant needs to hear.
18 The officer took him to the commandant.
Officer: The prisoner named Paul asked me to bring this man to you. He has some kind of information.
19 The commandant led him away so they could speak in private.
Commandant: What do you want to tell me?
Young Man: 20 The Jewish council is going to ask you to bring Paul down to the council tomorrow under the pretext that there will be a thorough examination. 21 But don’t agree to do it, because 40 assassins have bound themselves to an oath not to eat or drink until they’ve killed Paul. Their plan is in motion, and they’re simply waiting for you to play your part.
22 The commandant sent the young man home with these instructions: “Don’t tell a soul that you’ve spoken with me.” 23 Then he called for two officers.
Commandant: At nine o’clock tonight, you will leave for Caesarea with 200 soldiers, 70 horsemen, and 200 spearmen. 24 Have a mount for Paul to ride, and conduct him safely to Felix the governor.
25 He wrote the following letter:
26 Commandant Claudius Lysias greets his excellency, Felix, Governor. 27 The accompanying prisoner was seized by Jews who were about to kill him. I learned he was a Roman citizen and intervened with the guard here to protect him. 28 I arranged for a hearing before their council 29 and learned that he was accused for reasons relating to their religious law, but that he has done nothing deserving imprisonment or execution. 30 I was informed that a group was planning to assassinate him, so I sent him to you immediately. I will require his accusers to present their complaint before you.
31 So the soldiers followed their orders and safely conducted Paul as far as Antipatris that night. 32-33 The next day, the horsemen conducted him on to Caesarea as the foot soldiers returned to the barracks. The horsemen delivered the letter and the prisoner to Felix who read the letter. 34 The only question Felix asked concerned the province of Paul’s birth. When he learned Paul was from Cilicia, 35 he said,
Felix: As soon as your accusers arrive I will hear your case.
He placed Paul under guard within Herod’s headquarters.