Summary: The Apostle Paul has put himself in harms way and now stands before a Roman court. Thanks to the Lord working through other people, he is bold to share his faith - a boldness we can have too.
As we saw in verse 11 of chapter 23, Jesus’ will was for Paul to go to Rome. Paul may have not known just how he was going to get there but here he was in Roman custody, having barely escaped being torn to death twice—first by the Asian Jews in the Temple and second by the Sanhedrin itself.
What follows for the balance of the book of Acts are the events that swept Paul from Jerusalem to Caesarea and on to Rome. Paul did not have a travel plan, only his faith and trust in the Lord Jesus to guide him. Forces all around will try to stop God’s mission for Paul, and it’s wonderful to see how Paul and those around him, actually end up helping out God’s plan, even when they may have had no idea what they were doing!
23:12 – 22
This is the only mention of Paul’s relatives. Usually when a Jew became a Christian their entire family would disown them. But apparently Paul’s young nephew is too innocent to buy into any of that stuff. He still loves Uncle Saul. Paul could receive visitors while under protective custody, so the boy comes to warn Paul of the plot.
Just a word about that plot – I’ve never quite understood why you would not eat or drink anything until you had accomplished a physical task. King Saul of Israel made his troops take a similar vow in 1 Samuel 14. It made the men weak and unable to do all that God had planned. Anyway, this vow is even more rash because they are fighting against the Apostle Paul, a servant of Jesus! Most likely the plot was hatched by the same people who caused Paul problems in the first place—the Asian Jews who had come to Jerusalem. The Sanhedrin goes along with, a plot to murder Paul (against the 10 Commandments) just like they plotted to murder Jesus rather than risk giving up their position.
Well, the Roman tribune now realizes how serious the situation is and to have a prisoner assassinated while in Roman custody would not look good on his service record so he gets Paul out of Dodge!
23 – 24
The word “spearman” could actually mean “extra mounts and pack animals.” If that’s so, the tribune could have been sending almost half of the garrison at the Fortress Antonia to escort Paul. So the commander writes a letter to go along with Paul. Luke would not have had access to the letter so he says it was “a letter to this effect.” Paul would have probably known most of its rough contents so he presumably related it to Luke. Notice now how he puts the situation:
25 – 30
I love how suddenly it’s Lysias himself who discovers the plight of poor Roman citizen Paul and rescues him gallantly from the horrible mob. No mention of the fact that they bound and almost flogged Paul!
We do know a little about this man. Lysias was a freeborn Greek who’d worked his way up through the ranks and at some point paid an official of Claudius’s government to receive Roman citizenship. He then added the Roman name Claudius to his own in honor of the emperor.
Notice that Lysias finds nothing against Paul except a religious disagreement with the Jews. This is important as Paul makes his way up the Roman justice system. He has not broken any Roman laws according to the chief law enforcement officer on the scene.
31 – 35
Notice balance between trusting God and seeing how He uses real people (like the Roman soldiers and Paul’s nephew) to bring about His will. Antipatris was a town built by Herod the Great for his father thirty five miles northwest of Jerusalem. The ruins of the fortress still exist today. It looks to be about halfway from Jerusalem to Caesarea. They left about 9pm and arrived by morning, then the next day went the final 40 miles to Caesarea. Since Felix was a provincial governor he felt competent to hear the case.
A little background on Felix. Antonius Felix was born a slave but freed by Antonia, the mother of Emperor Claudius. His brother Pallas was good friends as a boy with Claudius so Felix got himself appointed first to a subordinate post in Samaria, then in A.D. 52 Claudius appointed him as governor of Judea. He was a master of lust and cruelty. Insurrections and anarchy were common and the more Felix put down the people by killing them, the more problems would break out. He married Drusilla, the youngest daughter of Agrippa I, who had been married to Azisus, king of Emesa (in Syria).
Ananias is smart enough to know he needs a Greek to present the argument. Apparently Terullus was a lawyer who was sympathetic to the Jews but knew how to put together a case in Roman court.