Text: Acts 23:12-35, Title: A Mightier Deliverance, Date/Place: NRBC, 5/17/09, AM
A. Opening illustration: reminisce about our yearly deliverance at Camp Jubilee
B. Background to passage: Remember Paul has now been delivered from three riots in a row by the Lord and the Romans. And now the enemy is really mad. As we move on in Acts the deliverances of the Apostle seem to get more and more powerful as we go along. And what ratchets up the level of terror here is the plot on behalf of about 40 Jews plus the Sanhedrin Council to fast until they kill the Apostle. But as usual, God shows Himself mighty on behalf of those whose hearts are faithful to Him—2 Chron 16:9
C. Main thought: God really shows out this time.
A. The Vehemence of the Enemy (v. 12-15)
1. This was the last straw for a group of Jews for whom justice wasn’t moving fast enough. Their covenant for a total fast was to signify the intensity of their commitment. This sort of oath carried the effect of placing oneself under a curse if the commitment is not carried out. Killing someone in a riot is one thing, when even rational people get caught up in emotion. But plotting to kill, taking an oath, enlisting political forces, and drawing up a plan to carry it out is really taking it to another level. The enemy is really bound to destroy Paul.
2. Eph 6:12, John 10:10, 1 Pet 5:8, 2 Cor 2:11,
3. Illustration: Witnesses say that suddenly he reached up behind his neck and slumped over the wheel. The car swerved and went into a culvert, and he was killed. His car was completely demolished. An autopsy was ordered. Ad they began to put together the details, a keen-thinking physician noticed a small pinprick behind the man’s ear where a wasp had probably flown from behind the seat, or some part of the car, and had stung him, temporarily paralyzing a particular area of the nerve and blinding him with pain. He slumped over the wheel, lost control of the car, and died. Normally a grown man with normal strength can just swat away a little wasp with no problem. But when that wasp struck its mark, it led to a fatal crash. Martin Luther wrote: “For it is not enough to have defended ourselves against the enemy, and to be able to stand against him when he attacks us, so that we are not defeated; that is called defense. We must also be able to take the offensive--that is, to pursue the enemy, and put him to flight. Similarly, here it is not enough to ward off the devil with faith and hope as our shield and helmet, but we must draw the sword, hit back at him, hunt him down, and make him flee, thus gaining the victory ourselves.”
4. As believers we are called to submit to authority, and refrain from vigilantism. Rest assured that the enemy is not taking the battle as lightly as you are. He knows full well that there is a war going on, and only those that enter the battle with blood-earnestness will survive. Satan will attack your minds, your marriages, your money, your jobs, your health, your family, and if possible your life. Always remember that God is in control of Satan’s ability to destroy. But he is not described as a kitten, but as a lion, who will devour. And if you are doing the work of God, then you are more in his sites. If you are sitting on the sidelines of the Christian life, or worse, going with the world, he has no need to harass you.
B. The Provision of the Deliverer (v. 16, 23)
1. God provided a couple of means to ensure Paul’s safety during this incident. First of all, he provided a nephew (whom I think must have been a Christian, for surely Paul’s family would have disowned him after his conversion, had some of them not converted too). And not only did he provide a nephew, but one who could get access to the plans of the enemy. And one bold enough to visit Paul and speak to the commanding officers. Then He also provided half of the Roman garrison in Jerusalem as an escort of Paul to Caesarea. This would have been nearly half of the soldiers in the region. Probably half this many would have been sufficient, but Lysias was taking no chances. Surely this God who provided all these things could have prevented the riots/imprisonments as well?
2. Rev 3:8, 2 Kings 6:17,
3. Illustration: You see, I understand what it’s like to be hooked on prescription pain killers and muscle relaxers. I know what it’s like to wake up drunk in a ditch, laying in your own vomit and not remember how you got there. I know what it’s like to pass out in the middle of the night in a graveyard, because you’re so miserable that a grave looks better than what life you have. I know what it’s like to be hooked on Cocaine and Meth and not be able to get your nose to stop bleeding, because all of the nasal membranes have ruptured, because of abuse. I know what it’s like to spend 2 weeks in full kidney failure and to lose the function of one kidney for life, because of drug abuse. I know what it’s like to be sued for about a million dollars and to lose your home, vehicles and business, because of your lifestyle and still not finding it within yourself to surrender to God’s will. I know the fear of having a major overdose and to feel your heart take its final beat and to feel everything shutting down in your body. And thank GOD, I also know what if feels like to work through a process of deliverance, which didn’t come instantly, but was worth every heartache in the end Only Because of The Grace Of God!
4. God is the only foolproof plan. This text leaves us with lots of questions about how the nephew knew about Uncle Paul, and the rest of Paul’s family. But the bottom line is this: God can deliver out of anything! He can open doors that no man can open, and close them so no man can open them. Whatever occupational situation you are in, whatever marital mess you are in, whatever financial mess you are in, and whatever spiritual mess you are in—He can deliver! He is big enough, great enough, smart enough, and powerful enough. And sometimes you may even get to witness monumental overkill, so that God will be obviously seen as the Deliverer. Now He may choose to do it through us in time. So it may not come just when you want it to happen. And yes He always has the option to avoid the unpleasant circumstances altogether, but He is always weaving, training, disciplining, and doing a million things, and even though He definitely has the power to avoid suffering, that is not always within His best interests.
C. The Icing on the Cake (v. 29, 35)
1. Two additional things from this text that truly emphasized the full and complete deliverance of God. And as if the contingent of nearly 500 soldiers wasn’t enough, Lysias sent a letter, which by the way was standard Roman procedure (another mark of Luke’s historical accuracy). In the letter he made a statement that simply was the icing on the cake. It was the declaration, the sworn testimony, from a high ranking Roman officer that to the best of his determination, Paul had done nothing worthy of death or chains. Then after safe transport of both Paul and the letter, the governor is willing to hear the case. He didn’t have to hear it, could have dismissed it, executed Paul, or sent him somewhere else.
2. Isa 40:4, 1 Sam 2:8, 1 Cor 10:12, Hab 3:17-18,
3. Illustration: Billy Graham said, "Mountaintops are for views and inspiration, but fruit is grown in the valleys."
4. Sometimes God just really lays it on thick. Sometimes all the crooked roads just straighten themselves out. Sometimes, you get a divine escort complete with a parade with all expenses paid. Sometimes slaves get exalted to the number two position in all the land. Let your mind and your concept of God be of a Deity who is wisely, sovereignly, and benevolently arranging our lives to bring about His ends. And that may include times of relative ease. We are going to have times when everything just seems to be going our way. When that happens, beware, lest your heart be deceived, tempted, lured away in self-confidence and materialism. Know also that times will come, when things don’t seem to go your way; when you are stuck, when you are frustrated, when you are forced to wait, etc. Remember shipwreck is coming; beheading is coming. We will all have days when it doesn’t work out at all. But remember Jesus Christ is the same whether we are winning, losing, or drawing! The joy we have in Him is constant, because He is the source of all joy and satisfaction. So whether you are enjoying the icing of God, or His purposeful lack of supposed needs, rejoice in God. And there are some here that regardless of the state of your circumstances you cannot rejoice in God…
A. Closing illustration: I thought: ’The Lord who is able to save that man from certain death must surely be great and mighty’ and my arm of its own accord dropped limp at my side." See attached sheet
C. Invitation to commitment
• Is Christ Exalted, Magnified, Honored, and Glorified?