Paul’s trials begin

Acts of the Apostles #54: Paul’s trial process begins                                Acts 23:1-35

Paul’s life has changed course very rapidly. Having arrived in Jerusalem he was the focus of a Jewish mob within 7 days and within 12 days he was in Caesarea on trial before the Roman governor, 24:11. This new direction was eventually to lead to Rome and to his death. How quickly life can change for good or ill!


Before he leaves for Caesarea he makes this recorded appearance before the Jewish Sanhedrin. He was not averse to doing so! Even though this was the body that had condemned the Saviour and lobbied the Romans for His crucifixion, had beaten and imprisoned the other Apostles some years previously, and had maintained a militant opposition against believers ever since—as Paul well knew as he had once been part of it.

The stated purpose of this appearance, organized by the Roman Chief Captain, is given, 22:30.


  1. A simple statement of testimony, v1. Cp 2Tim 1:3. Here is the highest ambition of a Christian! It is a condition to be sought prayerfully, Heb 13:18. This is not a claim to perfection, 1Cor 4:4. As far as he could judge himself, he had lived in obedience to the will of God. It indicates too his present state of fellowship with God, Heb 9:14. He was a man who kept short accounts with God!
  2. Abuse and reaction, v2-5. The High Priest, the highest justice official under God in Levitical law, betrays his animosity and vitriolic hatred of Paul.
  3. Reaction. Paul reacts to this by invoking the help of God and condemning the hypocrisy of the High Priest. In doing so he echoes the words of the Saviour, Matt 23:27. Cp Rom 12:19-20.
  4. Poor sight. Here is evidence that Paul had poor sight. He did not know he had reacted to the High Priest.
  5. Instant submission to Scripture. His desire was to submit his reaction to the word of God and he instantly excuses himself for any perceived lack of deference to the High Priest’s office. There is a deference to be shown to those in authority even when they are wrong—so long as that wrong only impacts our own rights.
  6. Sowing confusion among his enemies, v6-10. This was a deliberate tactic on Paul’s part, v6. He intended to divide and conquer by exploiting the internal divisions in the Council. Many times in Bible History God worked in such a way to confuse those who opposed His people.
  7. Rescued from violence again! In the confusion and madness of his enemies they did not forget him as the chief object of hatred. The tensions in the Council threaten to tear Paul apart too! The outcome of this is that Paul is removed from the jurisdiction of Jewish law and the trial process becomes exclusively Roman from this point on. The purpose of God for his future advances.


Cp v11.

  1. A private and personal encounter with God. There was no public, flaming display of the Divine presence in the court scenes! There was rather a quiet, personal meeting with God. The chief purpose of this was for Paul’s benefit. It was evidently a meeting initiated by the Lord Himself.
  2. A word of comfort. Note that the Lord knew what he had done that day. He also revealed to him what the future held—similar witness in Rome. The Lord urged His comfort upon him in the light of both these things. The primary idea of good comfort is courage and boldness. The Lord is strengthening him for what lies ahead.


Again Paul’s life is in danger. Yet even as these machinations against him are developing, the Lord has been with Paul to strengthen him.

  1. The fanatical hatred of his enemies. A significant number of men bind themselves to kill Paul. They do so with the full knowledge and support of the Council, v14-15. Paul is now the intended victim of a plot very like those he himself used to execute!
  2. Discovered! Cp v16-22. God brings to light the hidden things of darkness. In His providence, Paul’s nephew learns of the scheme and is able to alert the authorities so immediate protective measures can be taken.
  3. God’s purpose moves on. The threat against him only became the means of advancing God’s purpose to get him to Rome. He is moved further up the Roman justice system.
  4. Vindicated, v29. Paul goes to the next phase of his trial process with the statement made by the Chief Captain on record.

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