Acts 23:12

I. "THE LORD IS MINDFUL OF HIS OWN. Recall the beautiful song in Mendelssohn's 'St. Paul.'

1. The craft of their foes. They conspire against the righteous with a zeal worthy of a better cause (vers. 12, 13); and cloak their designs under pious pretexts (vers. 14,15). 2. The Divine protection. He brings the counsels of wickedness to light (ver. 16). The young man, whoever he was, Christian Or otherwise, became, in Divine providence, a guardian angel of the apostle.

Nothing so fine is spun,
But comes to light beneath the sun," to the help of the good and the confusion of the wicked (cf. Psalm 7:15; Psalm 34:8). Sincerity and good faith are found where they are least expected, when God is guiding the hearts of men (ver. 18).


1. They are withdrawn from the snares of their foes. Paul, surrounded by the military guard, seems a visible picture of the angels of God encamping about those who fear him. "Against forty bandits he sends five hundred protectors."

2. Testimony to the truth is furnished on their behalf (ver. 27, etc.). The honorable and straightforward dealing of the heathen Romans stands in contrast to that of the orthodox Jews. Better have the spirit of the Law without the letter than the letter without the spirit. The very indifferentism of the Romans becomes overruled for the deliverance of Paul. Guarded in the palace of Herod, Paul has time for reflection and prayer. The intervals el arduous labor, the moments of respite from toil and conflict, - in these we may find proofs of the nearness and tenderness of God. - J.

And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul.
On two other occasions a special Divine encouragement was given to Paul similar to the one here (Acts 18:9, 10; Acts 27:23, 24). At other times he acted under the general promises which God makes to all His people; but in these instances, special difficulties made a special promise appropriate. Note —


1. The conspiracy which had been secretly formed against his life. Of this it may be remarked —(1) That it was made sufficiently strong to render success morally certain. More than forty men who bound themselves over to destruction — to the wrath of God — if they did not succeed.(2) It might be presumed that Lysias would readily grant a request which would relieve him of embarrassment.(3) Had the request been granted, it would have been an easy matter to have carried their purpose into execution, for it is not probable that a strong guard would have been sent on an errand apparently so peaceful. In the vision Paul was assured of protection from this danger; and he was rescued in a most remarkable manner (vers. 16-24).

2. The trials before the Roman governors of Syria. The character of Felix (chap. Acts 24); a man corrupt in heart and life (ver. 25); ready to be bribed (ver. 26); disposed to do anything to gratify the Jews (ver. 27); afforded little reason to hope for justice. The probability that Paul would be delivered up to the Jews, and life again endangered, was not less in the trial before Festus who (chap. Acts 25) was equally disposed to conciliate the Jews (ver. 9); which led Paul to appeal to Caesar, and secure what had been promised him in the vision. It is easy to see how, when brought before Felix and Festus, the promise that he should "bear witness at Rome" was necessary to sustain him.

3. The voyage to Rome. In the storm, and shipwreck, all human probability of reaching Rome would fail entirely. Amidst these scenes, Paul could not but fall back on this Divine assurance.

II. THE ASSURANCE GIVEN IS THE VISION, as an illustration of the arrangements which God has made to keep us from despondency.

1. There is need of such an arrangement. We are often surrounded with perils, and are disappointed in our plans. We see no egress from our difficulties; no way of escape from our danger. Obviously we need some arrangement that will inspire hope.

2. We are secretly conscious to ourselves that there is such an arrangement. The world, though full of disappointment and trouble, is not inactive or despairing. There is a conscious something — which inspirits the mariner, the warrior, the farmer, the merchant, the traveller, the Christian. What is this arrangement? How does it appear that it is of Divine origin, and marked by Divine benevolence? In reply to these questions I shall advert —(1) To the records of the past. We have unconsciously before us, in our difficulties, the memory of the general success which crowns the conflicts of life. The arrangements of God show that the general tendency of things is favourable to effort and to virtue, and preserve the world from idleness and despair.(2) To the general promises of the Bible. In reference to temporal matters, the promises in regard to success in this life (Isaiah 33:15, 16; Psalm 37:25; 1 Timothy 4:8; Psalm 84:11; Philippians 4:19; Psalm 23:1; Hebrews 13:5), and temporal good (Leviticus 19:25; Leviticus 26:4; Deuteronomy 7:13; Deuteronomy 16:15; Deuteronomy 28:4; Psalm 67:6) are of a general character; but in reference to the future life they are absolute (Matthew 4:7, 8; Mark 16:16; John 6:37; Revelation 22:17). That there are dangers and enemies in the way of our salvation, and that it requires a struggle is certain; but the promise of victory is positive.(3) To what may be designated an internal confidence of success and safety. How much of hope there is in the young man, the mariner, the merchant, the farmer, etc. God has created the mind buoyant, elastic, hopeful. He leads men to think of recovery and success, rather than to anticipate disaster and defeat. He has thus said to every man, not in distinct vision, yet really, "Be of good cheer!"

(A. Barnes, D. D.)

From the midnight whisper of the Lord to Paul we may draw forth sweet encouragement. Paul was like the rest of us, made of flesh and blood, and therefore liable to be cast down: he had kept himself calm at first; but, still, the strong excitement of the day no doubt operated upon his mind, and when he was lying in prison all alone, thinking upon the perils which surrounded him, he needed good cheer, and he received it.

1. This consisted, first, in his Master's presence: "The Lord stood by him." If all else forsook him, Jesus was company enough; if all despised him, Jesus' smile was patronage enough; if the good cause seemed in danger, in the presence of his Master victory was sure. "The Lord stood by him." This shall be said of all who diligently serve God. Dear friend, if you are a worker of the Lord Jesus, depend upon it He will not desert you. Did you ever forsake a friend who was spending his strength for you? If you have done so, you ought to be ashamed of yourself; but I think I hear you say, indignantly, "No, I have always been faithful to my faithful friend." Do not, therefore, suspect your Lord of treating you ungenerously, for He is faithful and true.

2. The next comfort for Paul was the reflection that the Lord's standing by him proved that He knew where he was, and was aware of his condition. One is reminded of the Quaker who came to see John Bunyan in prison, and said to him, "Friend, the Lord sent me to thee, and I have been seeking thee in half the prisons in England." "Nay, verily," said John, "that cannot be; for if the Lord had sent thee to me, thou wouldst have come here at once, for He knows I have been here for years." God has not a single jewel laid by and forgotten. "Thou God seest me" is a great consolation to one who delights himself in the Lord. The Lord stood by Paul despite doors and locks: he asked no warder's leave to enter, nor did He stir bolt or bar; but there He was, She Companion of His humble servant. If we come into such a peculiar position that no friend knows our experience, none having been tempted as we are, yet the Lord Jesus can enter into our special trial and sympathise in our peculiar grief. Jesus can stand side by side with us, for He has been afflicted in all our afflictions. What is more, that part of our circumstances which we do not know ourselves, Jesus knows, and in these He stands by us; for Paul was not aware of the danger to which he was exposed, he did not know that certain Jews, to the number of forty, had banded together to kill him; but He who was his shield and his exceeding great reward had heard the cruel oath, and arranged to disappoint the bloodthirsty ones. Before Satan can draw the bow the Preserver of men will pus His beloved beyond the reach of the arrow. Before the weapon is forged in the furnace, and fashioned on the anvil, He knows how to provide us with armour of proof which shall turn the edge of She sword and break the point of the spear.

3. When the Lord Jesus came to Paul He gave him a third reason for courage. He said, "Be of good cheer, Paul: for thou hast testified of Me in Jerusalem." There was much comfort in this assurance that his work was accepted of his Master. We dare not look for much joy in anything that we have done, for our poor works are all imperfect; and yet the Lord sometimes gives His servants honey in the carcasses of lions which they have themselves slain by pouring into their souls a sweet sense of having walked in integrity before Him. Herein is good cheer; for if the Lord accepts, it is a small matter if men condemn. The Lord says to Paul, "Thou hast testified of Me in Jerusalem." The apostle had done so, but he was too humble to console himself with that fact till his Lord gave him leave to do so by acknowledging the brave deed. It may be that your conscience makes you more familiar with your faults than with your services, and you rather sigh than sing as you look back upon your Christian career; yet your loving Lord rovers all your failures, and commends you for what His grace has enabled you to do in the way of witness bearing. It must be sweet to you to hear Him say, "I know thy works; for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept My word, and hast not denied My name."

4. A fourth comfort remained for Paul in the words, "As thou hast testified of Me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome." The Lord would have us take comfort from the prospect of future service and usefulness. We are not done with yet, and thrown aside as vessels in which the Lord hath no more. This is the chief point of comfort in our Lord's word to the apostle. Be of good courage, there is more for you to do, Paul; they cannot kill you at Jerusalem, for you must bear witness also at Rome. Wycliffe could not die though the malicious monks favoured him with their best wishes in that direction. "Nay," said the reformer, "I shall not die, but live, and declare all the evil deeds of the friars." The sight of rogues to be exposed roused his flickering life, and revived its flame.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

S. S. Times.
1. Christ is constantly with His followers, and He often manifests Himself at the very moment when the future looks darkest to human eyes.

2. Christ manifests Himself with a cheering message: "Be of good cheer." The poor persecuted disciple, whom apparently only his enemy's mutual jealousies preserve from instant death, is made to feel that the power of Omnipotence is behind him.

3. Christ manifests Himself with words of cheer for His followers, but He does not assure them that their troubles are yet over. Paul has testified in Jerusalem, and must go on to bear witness at Rome.

4. Christ gives no furloughs until the conflict is over. All Paul could look forward to in this world was a mere change of battlefields.

5. Christ gives no furloughs here, but gives the assurance of a final honourable discharge to those who fight the battle out. Paul testified for Christ in Jerusalem and Rome; Christ testifies for Paul in the New Jerusalem of God.

(S. S. Times.)

Learn that —

I. FAITHFUL SERVICE IN THE PAST IS REWARDED BY THE COMFORT OF CHRIST'S MANIFEST AND MARKED ENCOURAGEMENT. Rewards of Christian service are not all kept for heaven. We may not have the crown here, but we may feel the grasp of the hand that shall presently put it on (Isaiah 41:13). We may not, while on earth, see the Saviour "as He is"; we may nevertheless feel His presence.

1. The Lord's way of comforting His servants is by His presence. When a little child is in great sorrow, only a mother's comfort suffices. Servant's, and sister's, and even a father's comfort are not enough. So we want the mighty volume of His sympathy who alone is sufficiently "touched with the feeling of our infirmities."

2. The Lord's words of comfort are words of direct encouragement. How characteristic of the Saviour this language is. "Fear not," and "Be of good cheer," are words constantly on His lips. To Abraham, to Moses, through Isaiah, God whispers, "Fear not." To Mary, Joseph, the women, Zacharias, Jairus, the "little flock," the daughter of Sion, John in Patmos, etc., Christ and His angels say, "Fear not." Christ spake it to the man sick of the palsy, to the frightened disciples in the storm, and to the suffering Church which in the world must have tribulation.


1. The past had qualified Paul for the future. Jerusalem, and all that went before, would help him to preach at Rome. The trials here would make him strong before Nero, and his hearers would look on this well-tried servant, and become stronger in his past fidelity and deliverances.

2. His past was also his commission for the future. This new service was the reward of the old fidelity; this new battle the honour conferred for the past victory. Marlborough's minor victories in 1702 make way for Blenheim in 1704 and Blenheim in turn makes way, later on, for Ramillies. So Talavera, and Salamanca, and Vittoria are but Wellington's preface and commission for Waterloo. Nelson fought St. Vincent and the Nile only to go on to Trafalgar. So our Lord is wont to say to His servants: "Thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many"; "Thou hast been faithful at Jerusalem, reward is to testify at Rome." They who fight their smaller battles well, will find larger field s and nobler victories.


1. Guided Paul as to his after appeal to Rome. When Festus asked, "Wilt thou go up to Jerusalem" (Acts 25:9), Paul replied, "I appeal unto Caesar." Some good men have accused Paul of weakness and error here. No! Paul felt clear about his duty, and had no regret when Agrippa said, "This man might have been set at liberty if he had not appealed unto Caesar." The Saviour Himself had said, "Thou shalt bear witness at Rome."

2. Gave Paul patience during a long and tedious course of waiting. The apostle's heart had long been set on visiting Rome. His enemies were playing into his hands and were undertaking the charges of his journey. But for two whole years Festus kept Paul bound. But the Saviour had promised Rome, and that was enough. Thus patience was born of former faithfulness.

3. Afforded assurance to Paul amidst the terrific dangers of the journey.

4. Was strength to Paul in Rome.

(F. G. Marchant.)

Was marked by —

I. A VISIT FROM CHRIST (ver. 11). This advent was —

1. Opportune. We may well suppose that Paul's sensitive nature would be subject to many painful memories. gloomy thoughts, boding anxieties, and perhaps sceptical thoughts.

2. Cheering: What a contrast to the words of falsehood, cursing, blasphemy, which during the previous days had been addressed to him! Christ's words were words of —(1) Commendation. Had Paul been allowed the mental agony of questioning whether he had done the right thing in Jerusalem? If so, here is a scattering of the dark thought: "Thou hast testified of Me" — well done.(2) Information. Paul had long been intensely anxious to visit Rome (Acts 19:21; Romans 1:10; Romans 15:23, 24). Perhaps he had given up this long-cherished purpose, and had wept bitter tears of disappointment on the wreck of the loved hope. Christ's words now assured him.

3. Suggestive that great trials in duty —

(1)Are no evidence of unfaithfulness.

(2)Are all known to Christ.

(3)Do not release us from the obligation to persevere.

II. A CONSPIRACY OF ENEMIES (vers. 12-16). This conspiracy was —

1. Malignant. The sufferings to which he was already subject did not satisfy them. Like wild beasts they thirsted for his blood.

2. Determined. "They bound themselves under a curse."

3. Strong. "More than forty."

4. Cunning (ver. 14). Being in the charge of the Roman officer, he could only be got at through the Sanhedrin. The fact that these wretches could make such a request demonstrates the immorality that prevailed amongst the rulers.

III. AN INTERPOSITION OF PROVIDENCE. In the verses that follow (16-35) we find Divine Providence —

1. Thwarting the evil. In the method here recorded we find three things which generally characterise the procedure of Providence.(1) Simplicity. The agency employed was "Paul's sister's son." This is all we know of the family of Paul. Here is a young man, probably uninfluential and obscure, who does the work. It has ever been Heaven's plan to employ insignificant means for the accomplishment of great ends.(2) Unexpectedness. Little did the conspirators expect that their plan would be defeated by an obscure youth; little did Paul expect that deliverance would come for him from such a quarter. Means often most unlikely are employed to accomplish important results.(3) Naturalness. It was natural

(a)for Paul's nephew, having heard of the malignant plot, to seek access to his uncle, and to warn him of it.

(b)For his uncle to despatch him to the chief captain.

(c)For the chief captain, as a man of honour, to act as he did.

2. Delivering the good.(1) Paul secured a safe journey to Caesarea. God's resources are greater than the devil's. There were forty murderers in quest of Paul's life, but God raised nearly five hundred brave soldiers to protect him. More are they that are for us than they that are against us.(2) Paul secured a good introduction to the Roman judge, in the letter that was written by Lysias to Felix. So far Paul is safe, and on his way to the imperial city he long desired to visit. Truly, "many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him out of them all."

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

1. To comfort them at the unrighteous judgment of the world.

2. To indemnify them for the reproach of their ministry.

3. To allay their doubts as to their procedure.

4. To strengthen them for future contests.

(K. Gerok.)

And when it was day, certain of the Jews banded together, and bound themselves under a curse.
Note that hatred —

I. RISES EARLY, but love rises earlier. When morning came the Jews sought Paul's life, but the Lord had stood by Paul long before the morning dawned.

II. ALWAYS BINDS MEN WITH A CURSE, and the curse is on the haters, not on the hated. Curses, like chickens, come home to roost.

III. DEMANDS SATISFACTION, THOUGH BODILY WANTS GO UNSATISFIED. But no soul can live long on hatred's poison.

IV. DEMANDS SATISFACTION, BUT IT DOES NOT SECURE IT, WHEN LOVE APPOINTS OTHERWISE. These plotting Jews died of thirst and starvation if they were faithful to their murderous vow.

V. IS INJUDICIOUS. It confides its murderous designs to forty men, half of whom are probably constitutionally unable to keep a secret.

VI. IS PROMPT AND ENERGETIC. It were well if more of Christ's followers had a little of the fiery zeal for Christ that His enemies display against Christ.

VII. IS LYING, deceitful, underhanded, unscrupulous, mean. Under the pretence of sending for Paul to question, it makes ready to stab him.

(K. Gerok.)

One fancies they were chiefly young men, such as are usually foremost in daring and reckless deeds of violence. Probably many of them were students in the rabbinical schools, just as many Nihilists now in Russia are students of the universities. Paul could hardly wonder that some of them should be wrought up to this desperate and cruel undertaking, when he remembered how, a little over twenty years before, he himself had persecuted the Christians in Jerusalem, dragging men and women to prison, and, like some fierce monster, "breathing threatening and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord."

(J. A. Broadus, D. D.)

In union there is strength — strength for evil as well as strength for good; and many a man will consent to wrong-doing in a ring, or in a corporation, or in a society of which he is a member, when he would never think of consenting to that same evil if he were all by himself in action. We have no need to go back to the days of the apostles for illustrations of this evil spirit. Instances of it abound in the European Nihilists, and the international dynamiters, and the gangs of robbers for both political and material plunder, in our American cities and in our American borders; all of whom exhibit everything that was evil in the course of the Jewish zealots, without the mitigating feature of an honest conviction, or of an accord with the prevalent spirit of the age. There is a timeliness in this Bible illustration of this accursed spirit of secret conspiring in an unholy brotherhood against law and religion, and against life and decency.

(H. C. Trumbull, D. D.)

In the story of the sack of Troy, Virgil has told us of the coming of Venus to AEneas to persuade him to abandon the useless defence of the city. She dispels the cloud which dims his vision, and enables him to see invisible deities who assist the Greeks in their work of conquest and destruction. AEneas now learns that he has done battle, not against "flesh and blood," but against spiritual forces mightier than all the powers of earth. The classic story clearly pictures the natural blindness of men to the spiritual forces which overrule their lives, and the special favour bestowed upon him whose eyes are opened to see events in the light of the unseen world. And this is the great lesson here.

I. GOD IS EVER PRESENT AND ACTIVE IN HUMAN AFFAIRS. Not always manifestly. The young man who stood by the side of Elisha at Dothan saw nothing at first to persuade him that God was present. But when his eyes were opened he saw that "the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire." The forty conspirators here sought no help and feared no hindrance from the hand of God, although their design was made in the name of their religion. But when the fruits of religion are hatred and wrath and thirst for blood, God is not in it. The help to which these men turned was their own cunning. "If we can manage Claudius Lysias," they said, "nothing shall save Paul." And yet God was present and active, giving them freedom to make their plans, and some degree of freedom in executing them, but keeping results in His own hand. So, let us believe, He always works.


1. Claudius Lysias was unconscious of anything of the sort. He was only a shrewd man, bent upon extricating himself from perplexing difficulties. Alarmed by the, to him unaccountable, violence of the Jews, and disturbed by his non-recognition of a Roman citizen, he fixed upon the plan of sending Paul to Caesarea, as a safe way of relieving himself from further responsibility.

2. More culpable was the blindness of the chief priests and elders and conspirators. How came it that they, belonging to the nation chosen of God to receive the special revelation of His will, were so blind to His purposes? The answer is: Their moral blindness was a result of past sins. We can see God in His plans and wishes only along the line of a sincere and holy purpose.

III. THE APOSTLE WAS THE ONE MAN OF OPEN VISION. Nothing in his outward condition had power to obliterate or to disturb his sense of God's nearness, and of His infinite grace. The Roman barracks had been to him a Bethel.

1. To find the reason for this vision we must go back to the very beginning of Paul's Christian life. In the saying, "I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision," is to be found the reason why at critical moments in his life the Lord "stood by him" to reassure his heart. There is a wonder working instrument of science, by the aid of which one may hear the voice of a friend who is in the heart of a distant city. So upon devoutly attentive ears there may fall, distinct and musical, the still small voice of God, which not all earth's many voices can drown.

2. The apostle's assurance of God's presence led him not to a passive reliance, but to cooperation. As he saw the power of the Roman soldiery enlisted in his behalf, he gladly availed himself of their protecting care. When the young man came into his presence to reveal the plot of the conspirators, be immediately availed himself of this information, and laid claim to the help of the chief captain.

(W. G. Sperry.)

1. God strengthens His servants internally by the promise of His grace (ver. 14).

2. He reveals the designs of their enemies (ver. 16).

3. He stirs up for them active friends (Paul's nephew) and powerful protectors (Lysias).

4. He brings them uninjured through the midst of their enemies (ver. 23).

5. He gives them an honourable testimony on the way (ver. 25, etc.).

(K. Gerok.)

I. REQUIRED against the crafty designs of enemies who —

1. Unite against the righteous (vers. 12, 13).

2. Disguise themselves under a pious appearance (vers. 14, 15).


1. Brings the wickedness to light (ver. 16).

2. Directs the hearts of men for the good of the righteous (vers. 17-22).


And they came to the chief priests and elders and said...signify to the chief captain
Many persons who would not themselves commit a crime can be induced to have a share in the results of crime. There are railroad stockholders who would not themselves attempt bribery, who will accept a dividend on stock which has been made profitable through a bribery of the Legislature for its advantage. There are bank stockholders who will share without a protest the proceeds of a guilty compromise made by the bank officials with bank robbers for the recovery of stolen funds. And there are Christian voters who will vote for a corrupt man in city councils or in the Legislature, because his corrupt ways increase the value of real estate, or improve the health and comfort of the community. Those Jewish conspirators knew something about human nature when they went to the chief priests and elders, and said, All we ask of you is to get Paul into the open street; then we'll see to it that he never troubles you again.

(H. C. Trumbull, D. D.)

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