The Plot To Murder Paul

Friday: “Still Will We Trust”

Acts 23:12-35 In this week’s studies we see God’s care during hard times.
“Still Will We Trust”

When the commander received word of what was up, he did what he could. It was his job to keep Paul safe; so he prepared an escort for him. It is amusing to read about it. Verses 23 and 24: “He called two of his centurions and ordered them, ‘Get ready a detachment of two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go to Caesarea at nine tonight. Provide mounts for Paul so that he may be taken safely to Governor Felix.’” Think of it! This man assembled four hundred seventy of the “crack” troops of the Roman army—foot soldiers, spearmen, even cavalry—to escort Paul safely out of town. And Paul had horses (plural) too. He did not even have to walk. 

This great troop took him about thirty-five miles downhill from Jerusalem to a staging area for troops that had been built by Herod. It was called Antipatris. There, the greatest danger being behind them, the men on foot left Paul and returned to the Jerusalem garrison while those who were on horseback went on to Caesarea. 

At this point we have a record of an interesting letter written by the Roman commander in Jerusalem to the Governor, whose name was Felix and who resided in Caesarea. This man was the corrupt brother of Claudius’ freedman Pallas and was at this time married to Drusilla, the daughter of Herod Agrippa I. Felix was the procurator of Judea from A.D. 52 to 59. He was ruthless in quelling Jewish uprisings, and though he was a freedman he seems never to have outgrown his slavish mentality. The Roman historian Tacitus wrote that he “exercised the power of a king with the mind of a slave.”1 

The letter is interesting because, while it is basically accurate, it is nevertheless at the same time rather self-serving, as official correspondence tends to be. The commander wrote, “This man was seized by the Jews and they were about to kill him, but I came with my troops and rescued him…” Thus far, of course, the letter is absolutely accurate. But it continues, “…for I had learned that he is a Roman citizen.” Well, it was true that Paul was a Roman citizen and that the commander had learned this. But he had learned it after the rescue, not before. He carefully leaves out that he had already bound Paul and was about to have him flogged before he learned it. 

All the same, the letter was generally accurate, and the commander had acted responsibly in dealing with this volatile situation. 

When Paul was moved to Caesarea, we find for the first time in his life, so far as we know, that he was able to speak about Jesus to kings. Twenty years before the Lord had said that he was to carry His name “before the Gentiles and their kings” (Acts 9:15), and now that promise began to be fulfilled. Paul had not testified before kings when he was free. But now as a prisoner, this man, who we might say was a victim of circumstances, this very Paul testifies in chapter 24 before Governor Felix, in chapter 25 before Governor Festus, and eventually in chapter 26 before King Agrippa—all before he was taken to Rome. 

I cannot tell you what God is doing in your circumstances, of course. I cannot see the future any more than you can. But God is doing something in your circumstances. And if you are going through dark times, as Paul was, if you are discouraged, if the way seems dark, if you are weary with the struggle, the message of this chapter is to continue to trust in God and serve him regardless. His purposes for you will be accomplished, the day will brighten, and the will of God will be done. I close with two verses of that great hymn, “Still Will We Trust,” written by W. H. Burleigh. 

Still will we trust, though earth seem dark and dreary, 

And the heart faint beneath his chastening rod; 

Though rough and steep our pathway, worn and weary— 

Still will we trust in God. 

Let us press on, in patient self-denial, 

Accept the hardship, shrink not from the loss; 

Our portion lies beyond the hour of trial, 

Our crown beyond the cross. 

1Tacitus, Histories, v, 9. Cited by F. F. Bruce, who also gives these details of Felix’s life and political career (Commentary on the Book of the Acts [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1975], 462). 

Study Questions
  1. How was Paul transported to Caesarea? What happened there?
  2. How did this fulfill Christ’s words?

Application: Is there someone you know who is discouraged in their circumstances? How can you minister to them?

Prayer: If you are troubled, pray for strength and encouragement. Pray also for others who are suffering hardship.

For Further Study: Download and listen for free to James Boice’s message, “Hope for the Hopeless.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

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