Saturday, July 22, 2023

2023.07.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 23:11–35

Read Acts 23:11–35

Questions from the Scripture text: When does Acts 23:11 take place? Who stood by Paul? What did He command Paul to do? What did He say that it was necessary that Paul would do? So then what immediately happens in the morning (Acts 23:12)? How many entered into this conspiracy (Acts 23:13)? To whom did they come and openly tell of this determination to murder (Acts 23:14)? What did they want the council to do (Acts 23:15)? Who happened to hear of this (Acts 23:16)? What did he do about it? To whom did Paul send him (Acts 23:17)? How was the boy presented to him (Acts 23:18)? How does the commander treat the lad (Acts 23:19)? What information does the boy give (Acts 23:20)? Then what does he do in Acts 23:21? How does the commander respond (Acts 23:22)? For whom does the commander call (Acts 23:23)? With what complement? To go where and when? With what purpose (Acts 23:24)? What does he second with the centurions (Acts 23:25-26)? How does he characterize how Paul came into custody and why (Acts 23:27)? How does he describe what happened after (Acts 23:28-30)? How does the commander’s plan go (Acts 23:31-33)? What does Felix learn from him (Acts 23:34)? What does Felix decide to do? 

How may we conduct ourselves as servants whom God rules in His redemptive plan, rather than hindrances or enemies that He overrules? Acts 23:11–35 looks forward to the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these twenty-five verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that while God rules and overrules all things in His redemptive plan, He gives us opportunities to serve, especially through courage, kindness, honesty, and diligence. 

Acts 23:11 controls all of Acts 21:34–28:31. But right here, immediately upon the Lord telling Paul to be of good cheer, the Spirit gives us several examples of admirable qualities that the Lord uses in His providence. Sometimes by example, and sometimes by counter-example.

The courage of the nephew. The time markers in Acts 23:11 and Acts 23:12 bring the two plots into competition: will the Lord get Paul to Rome, or will he be the victim of more than 40 sworn assassins? But then Acts 23:14 brings a new contrast. First, there is the pseudo-courage of the swearers of the murder-oath and the genuine courage of the young lad. On the one hand, the murderers are brazen indeed, freely admitting their oath to spiritual leaders in verse 14 and even enlisting them. But the true courage belongs  to the lad, who enters the Roman barracks (Acts 23:16), talks to Paul, and then talks even to the commander by himself (Acts 23:18). Even in his conversation with his commander, he is not only informative (Acts 23:20) but very bold (Acts 23:21). Who knows what good the sovereign Lord may be pleased to do through even just one courageous child! Be courageous, dear believer. The sovereign Lord is pleased to use courageous believers.

The kindness of the commander. With multiple centurions under him, we might expect the commander to be a hard man of war. But the Spirit highlights for us the commander’s gentleness even by the taking of the lad by the hand for a private word in Acts 23:19. Certainly, his gentleness is a stark contrast to the murderers that form the setting for the passage. And that kindness puts him in a position to do his job well. Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit and in accordance with the law of God. And, we do not know what good fruit the sovereign Lord may be pleased to bring by it.

The dishonesty of the commander. The text does not condone the commander’s dishonesty. In fact, the Spirit has intentionally narrated for us not only the timing of the commander’s learning about Paul’s citizenship, but even the fact that he was afraid when he heard it (cf. Acts 22:29). So when Acts 23:27 quotes how he presented the situation to Felix, it highlights just how small and self-serving the man was on this point. We know that Acts 23:11 is controlling everything that happens. But those who do not have a sturdy assurance about the providence of God may be tempted to lie in order to manipulate situations. Worse, his hope in Acts 23:27 was to hide one wrong that he had done, but now millions of people for thousands of years have heard of not just one but two wrongs that he had done. When all of history is known, it will recount God’s glorious, sovereign redemption. But will it recount that we were truthful by His grace, or that we were dishonest from our flesh?

The diligence of the boy, the apostle, the commander, centurions, soldiers, etc. Men should be men of action. The boy takes action and tells Paul. Paul doesn’t shrug his shoulders and say, “well, God is sovereign; let’s ‘let go, and let God.’” He takes action. The commander promptly enacts a very thorough plan. Those under his charge carry out the plan with diligence. The most heartening thing is to know that God is a God Who is always acting according to His perfect wisdom, almighty power, and boundless goodness. But men are also called to be men of action according to what wisdom, ability, and goodness that they have from the Lord. And such men serve not only their own families, churches, communities, and nations, but indeed all who are heartened by hearing of their actions. May the Lord give us to be such men, beloved reader.

In what situation do you most need to grow in courage? In kindness? In honesty? In diligence?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You and praise You that You rule over all things for Your own glory and our good. Please grant that Your Spirit would bear His precious fruit in us that we might be servants unto You, rather than those whose unfaithfulness or opposition You must glorify Yourself by overruling.

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

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