“When it was day, the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves under an oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed Paul. There were more than forty who formed this plot.”
Paul had just spoken to the Sanhedrin, the Jewish council and had been found innocent of all charges against him by the majority party, the Pharisees. The Sadducees were so upset they were in an uproar and the Roman commander feared for Paul’s life so he removed him back to the Roman barracks for his own protection where he was kept overnight. Now we have an assassination plot against Paul. The following day forty men conspired together against Paul to neither eat nor drink until they killed Paul. They must have gotten very thirsty and hungry because Paul lived for another 12 years or so.
“They came to the chief priests and the elders and said, “We have bound ourselves under a solemn oath to taste nothing until we have killed Paul. Now therefore, you and the Council notify the commander to bring him down to you, as though you were going to determine his case by a more thorough investigation; and we for our part are ready to slay him before he comes near the place.”
This was basically a conspiracy inspired by Satan against the grace of God. This is the devil’s world and there will always be conspiracies against grace. Grace existed within the apostle Paul; his was the message of grace. Therefore the apostle Paul was under attack and in this case an assassination plot because he represented grace. His grace principles had been attacked rather successfully as far as the Jerusalem church leadership was concerned. The pastors of Jerusalem had persuaded him to get into an act of legalism. Now Paul’s grace principles were going to be attacked by these forty men. Legalistic religion is always against grace. What these men were going to do (because God works all things together for good) was force Paul out of Jerusalem. In other words, God’s plan and God’s grace is going to continue in spite of every attack against it. The primary principle in this chapter is that even though grace is attacked, grace is always triumphant.
As long as God had a plan for Paul’s life nothing or no one could kill him. When God’s plan for Paul was completed he would be promoted to Heaven. Up to this point in our story we have heard nothing from the church at Jerusalem. Where are they? Apparently they were so legalistic and afraid of the religious Jews they hid out in their homes. The night had passed without any word from this church. They weren’t praying for him, they weren’t contacting him, and they were not encouraging him.
The Jerusalem church had been used by God in the case of Peter, but not for Paul. A great deal of time had elapsed between Acts 12 when they helped Peter and Acts 23 when they abandoned Paul. Legalism had overtaken the church in Jerusalem to the point that they could no longer be used by God in Paul’s deliverance. Consequently, the Jerusalem church was not having any all-night prayer meetings for Paul like they had done for Peter. They were very antagonistic toward Paul even though he had brought them a large sum of relief money. They had no appreciation for what it took to get that offering together. So the church in Jerusalem was not able to be used by God. Paul was on his own.
“But the son of Paul’s sister heard of their ambush, and he came and entered the barracks and told Paul. Paul called one of the centurions to him and said, “Lead this young man to the commander, for he has something to report to him.” So he took him and led him to the commander and said, “Paul the prisoner called me to him and asked me to lead this young man to you since he has something to tell you.” The commander took him by the hand and stepping aside, began to inquire of him privately, “What is it that you have to report to me?” And he said, “The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down tomorrow to the Council, as though they were going to inquire somewhat more thoroughly about him. So do not listen to them, for more than forty of them are lying in wait for him who have bound themselves under a curse not to eat or drink until they slay him; and now they are ready and waiting for the promise from you.”So the commander let the young man go, instructing him, “Tell no one that you have notified me of these things.”
God used two people to help Paul. The first was his nephew who was a Jewish believer and the second was the garrison commander who was a Gentile unbeliever. The nephew represented God’s grace and the garrison commander represented divine establishment (law and order). Though Paul was deserted by the Jerusalem church and though he was in one of the most discouraging situations of his entire life, he had been encouraged by a word from God in verse 11. Bible doctrine will sustain us in every situation we face and God would frustrate the assassination plot against His servant Paul. (Isaiah 54:17)
“And he called to him two of the centurions and said, “Get two hundred soldiers ready by the third hour of the night to proceed to Caesarea, with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen.” They were also to provide mounts to put Paul on and bring him safely to Felix the governor. And he wrote a letter having this form:“Claudius Lysias, to the most excellent governor Felix, greetings. “When this man was arrested by the Jews and was about to be slain by them, I came up to them with the troops and rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman. And wanting to ascertain the charge for which they were accusing him, I brought him down to their Council; and I found him to be accused over questions about their Law, but under no accusation deserving death or imprisonment. When I was informed that there would be a plot against the man, I sent him to you at once, also instructing his accusers to bring charges against him before you.” So the soldiers, in accordance with their orders, took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris. But the next day, leaving the horsemen to go on with him, they returned to the barracks.”
Once again Paul’s Roman citizenship paid off. The Roman commander protected Paul and sent him to Felix, the governor of that region. Even though Paul had been out of the geographical will of God, the cursing would eventually be turned to blessing. Paul was now headed to Caesarea on his way to the place where God wanted him to be in the first place – Rome. However, God still had a few lessons for Paul to learn about obeying the will of God. So Paul was back in fellowship but would have to pass a test we call Evidence Testing.
In human history, man’s thoughts, motives, decisions, and actions are entered as evidence, exhibits, precedents, and arguments in Satan’s appeal trial. Every believer who attains spiritual maturity is a witness for the prosecution against Satan. No believer qualifies as a witness until he has attained spiritual maturity, which is the fulfillment of the protocol plan of God.
Every believer who attains spiritual maturity is a witness for the prosecution. To qualify as a witness for the prosecution (i.e., God), the believer must attain spiritual self-esteem, spiritual autonomy and spiritual maturity. Spiritual maturity plus passing evidence testing, means glorification of God to the maximum in the trial of Satan and all fallen angels.
Evidence testing is Satan’s attempt, through his cross-examination of suffering, to discredit those believers who attain spiritual maturity. It appears that Satan is always the one who administers evidence testing, but only under restrictions imposed by God before the testing begins. For example, Satan was not permitted to kill Job. There are two categories of evidence testing: 1) the relationship to the plan of God test - illustrated by Jesus Christ in Matthew 4:1-11 2) the relationship to life test - illustrated by Job in the book of Job. Both categories of evidence testing are administered only to mature believers, for only believers executing the plan of God can be credible witnesses for the prosecution in the Angelic Conflict. The reason this is true is that only a spiritually mature believer has the doctrinal capacity to stand up in a courtroom and testify regarding God’s character, having experienced it in his own spiritual life. The test a believer receives is a matter of the sovereign will of God.
The illustration and pattern of the relationship to the plan of God test is found in the three unique temptations to the Lord Jesus Christ, which were temptations to His humanity only; as God He cannot be tempted. The three parts are: 1) relationship with the Holy Spirit, Matthew 4:1-4 2) relationship with the Word of God, Matthew 4:5-7 3) relationship with the plan of God, Matthew 4:8-10.
Perhaps the most surprising thing for many Christians during Christ’s evidence testing was the fact that instead of performing miracles from His deity, He used Bible doctrine to combat the testings from Satan. Under the doctrine of Kenosis, Christ restricted the use of His deity while on earth. For spiritually mature believers in the Church Age facing evidence testing, the utilization of Bible doctrine under the filling of the Holy Spirit is the greatest power available to them. The power of the Holy Spirit was the same power that sustained Christ when being tempted by Satan. The same mechanics that are available to us today were used by Jesus Christ when being tested (tempted) – the filling of the Holy Spirit.
The illustration and pattern of the relationship to life test is found in the story of Job. All of Job’s possessions including his family were taken away in the first part of Job’s relationship to life test. The three parts of his test were: 1) loss of prosperity, servants and children, Job 1:1-17 2) loss of health and attractiveness, Job 2:1-8 3) maligning from his wife and friends, Job 2:9 – 42:17. Job eventually passed all three categories of evidence testing and received the restoration of his family and the doubling of his possessions. Evidence testing is always undeserved suffering. And God never allows believers to be tested with more than they can bear according to I Corinthians 10:13.
“When these had come to Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they also presented Paul to him. When he had read it, he asked from what province he was, and when he learned that he was from Cilicia, he said, “I will give you a hearing after your accusers arrive also,” giving orders for him to be kept in Herod’s Praetorium.”
The commander saw in Paul nothing worthy of imprisonment or death, he saw a theological controversy. Because of the separation of religion and the state, he did not interfere in a theological controversy. He did not take sides but he protected both parties from violence against the other. Justice, to be administered properly, must never become involved in theological controversies.
Felix the governor was a power-mad politician and not interested in Roman justice; he had no background in Roman justice. He was not a good servant of Rome. He was a politician who had got involved for his own self-gratification. Claudius Lysias, the commander, represented everything that was good about Rome. Felix represented everything that was bad about Rome, as we will see shortly.
The very first question that Felix asked Paul was what province he was from. He wanted to see how much of a bribe he could get from Paul to let him go. If he was from a good province, he would expect a large bribe, but if from a poor province he would take a little less. In other words, Felix was not interested in justice; Felix was interested in money. Felix was going to use the actions of Paul’s Jewish accusers as pressure to try to get more money out of him.
Felix regarded Paul as a “VIP” because he thought he was going to make a lot of money out of him. So he put Paul up in the governor’s palace. Paul was housed in Herod’s Praetorium until his accusers arrived. The Praetorium was originally the headquarters of a Roman camp, but in the provinces the name became attached to the governor's official residence. Such a residence might sometimes be in a royal palace, as was probably the case in Caesarea, where the governor used Herod's palace as his residence.