Saturday, July 15, 2023

2023.07.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 22:22–23:10

Read Acts 22:22–23:10

Questions from the Scripture text: What does the mob now repeat (Acts 22:22, cf. Acts 21:36)? Now what do they do (Acts 22:23)? What does the commander now order (Acts 22:24)? Ostensibly, to learn what? What were they doing in Acts 22:25? To whom does Paul speak this time? What does he ask about? What information does he give him? To whom, then, does the centurion speak (Acts 22:26)? What does he tell him? Now to whom does the commander speak (Acts 22:27)? What does he ask about? What does Paul answer? What does the commander share about himself in Acts 22:28? How does Paul respond? Who then respond in what way (Acts 22:29)? And how does the commander feel about this? Why (cf. Acts 21:33)? How does the commander decide to get to the bottom of it instead (Acts 22:30)? What does Paul say about himself in Acts 23:1? Who commands what, in Acts 23:2? How does Paul answer (Acts 23:3)? Who say what, then, to Paul (Acts 23:4)? What does Paul say he didn’t know (and imply he wouldn’t have done, Acts 23:5)? Why not? What does he perceive now (Acts 23:6)? What does he cry out, rather than trying to make a case according to the law? What result did this outburst have (Acts 23:7)? What two things do Sadducees deny (Acts 23:8)? But who confess both? What did the Pharisees conclude about Paul, and what were they actually concerned about at this point (Acts 23:9, cf. Acts 5:39)? Meanwhile, how did the commander respond to the great dissension (Acts 23:10)?

What sorts of things might the Lord use to take His servants where He wants them to go? Acts 22:22–23:10 looks forward to the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these nineteen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that believers are freed to serve God with a clear conscience by the confidence that the Lord orders literally everything for their good and for their service to Him. 

What sorts of things does the Lord use for His people’s good and their service to Him?

The rage of their enemies. The Jews going even more nuts in Acts 22:22-23 is essential to triggering the interaction in Acts 22:24-29. It’s tempting to be anxious or intimidated when the Lord’s enemies and ours get themselves worked into a rage against us. But they are just so many Hamans and Jewish mobs—bringing guilt upon themselves while being used to do us good and facilitate our service to Him.

Unjust authorities… and conscientious authorities… and fearful authorities. The commander knew that Paul was from Cilicia (cf. Acts 21:39), but he didn’t take the time to ascertain his citizenship. Granted, he was busy stopping a massive riot mob, but getting this right would have mattered to Paul a great deal more than it mattered to the commander. And Paul himself correctly makes a charge of injustice against the high priest at his Jewish trial in Acts 23:2–3. Believers often find that their wellbeing or rights aren’t cared for by authorities so much as they should be.  

As Paul is about to be “examined” by scourging, he gets his chance to go over the commander’s head and talk to the centurion (Acts 22:25). To the centurion, the citizenship matters, and he instructs the commander accordingly (Acts 22:26). He’s a conscientious leader. In Acts 22:29, we discover that the commander (like his men) is not only unjust but fearful—a combination often found in lower level authorities. Authorities may be unjust, conscientious, fearful, or otherwise. Let believers remember that the Lord is employing them to do us good and facilitate our service to Him. 

The location of our birth and the nation of our citizenship. Before Paul was born, the Lord was arranging for his transport to Rome for the sake of the gospel, thought it would not come for decades. Not only did He give to Paul to be born in Cilicia so that he would be proficient in Greek language and culture, something very useful both for ministering to Gentiles and for interacting with Romans. But the Lord also gave him to have a Roman citizenship by that birth. God has appointed the time and boundary of our dwelling (cf. Acts 17:26). 

Some people think that their generation and their birthplace and their nationality has been a curse; but let those who are believers remember the goodness and wisdom that have selected these for them. Others are proud of the time and place and nationality of their life; only let them remember that the One Who has selected these has done so for His own good purposes, and let them use their advantages in His service.

Believers’ own conscientiousness. Paul begins making his case from his conscientiousness before God. In his defense, he starts (Acts 23:1) similarly to Acts 22:3. And he immediately goes on to prove both his knowledge of the law and submission to that law in Acts 23:5. 1 Peter 2:12–17 and 1 Peter 3:13–17 urge this as a rule for all believers. When we are faithful and obedient and conscientious, we honor God in multiple ways—as the God Who gave us that character in Christ, and the God Who rules and overrules the evil that is done to us for good, and the God Who is perfectly just in the end, and often even as the God Who has ordered His world so that wisdom and godliness are generally fruitful. Loving the glory of God’s goodness and wisdom in His providence is an incentive to conscientious living, not a disincentive.

Others’ errors and common-grace wisdom. The Sadducees were in significant error—believing only in what’s material and only for this life. The Pharisees not only had more correct theology, but even their teaching tradition included Paul’s teacher, who was the source of the same wisdom that we see in Acts 23:9 (cf. Acts 5:34–39). Paul might not have known that they would refer to Gamaliel, but he certainly seems to have expected in Acts 23:6 the ensuing scene in Acts 23:7-9. Paul would have loved for both Sadducees and Pharisees to come to faith in Jesus Christ. Acts 21:20 was such good news precisely because he had the Romans 9:3–5 love for Jews. Yet, he could not fail to see how God’s wisdom used even their errors in His mercy toward Paul and toward all who would believe the gospel in Rome and beyond.

Where and when were you born? Who has mistreated you? What authorities have been unjust toward you? Whom do you wish you could bring to faith or to sound doctrine? What is God doing through all of these things? What opportunity does this give you for how you live, and how you serve and glorify Him?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we praise You for Your almighty rule and perfect wisdom. Thank You for using it for Your glory, and our good, and to free us for serving You with a good conscience. Give us to remember this, and trust You, and love You, and serve You with all that we are, we ask through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or TPH256 “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”

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