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The Scriptorium

To Caesarea

Felix receives Paul in Caesarea. Acts 23.37-40

The Trials of Paul (6)

Pray Psalm 54.1, 2.
Save me, O God, by Your name,
And vindicate me by Your strength.
Hear my prayer, O God;
Give ear to the words of my mouth.

Sing Psalm 54.1, 2.
(Beatitudo: Father of Mercies, in Your Word)
Save us, O God, by Your great Name; vindicate us with power.
Answer our prayer, remove our shame, in this our desperate hour.

Read Acts 23.1-35; meditate on verses 31-35.

1. To whom did the soldiers present Paul? What else did they present?

2. How did the governor respond?

Felix received Paul, inquired about his citizenship and provenance, and promised a hearing once his accusers had arrived (vv. 33-35). Felix wouldn’t hear the case, or any more of the details than what Claudius related, until all parties were present. Roman order in the service of the Gospel (Rom. 13.4).

Paul was kept in a prison in Herod’s palace (v. 35), which may suggest he was not regarded as a threat. He would have been safe there and would enjoy considerable deference and hospitality for two years. Meanwhile, we can only wonder about those poor, hungry blokes back in Jerusalem.

We can see that Luke is a reliable historian. Plenty of facts (Thucydides) woven into a gripping story (Herodotus). Luke’s attention to details – places, change of guard (vv. 31, 32), Roman protocol, individuals, exchanges, laws and protocols – help to bring reality to his story. Sometimes Christians think the events of the Bible occurred in time other than the time/space continuum in which we live – “Bible time”, or something like that. “That Was Then” time. But the Kingdom of God unfolds in real time, real history, and all history’s players and places are at the Lord’s disposal for His Kingdom purposes, even the rulers of the world (Prov. 21.1). The time/space continuum of Acts is the same one we inhabit, and which the Scriptures refer to as “the last days” (Acts 2.14ff.; cf. Mic. 4.1-8).

The action slows down a bit and we catch our breath as we await the next stage of Paul’s ongoing trial. We’re not hearing much from Paul at this stage, but we know he must be thinking about what’s going to happen next. And he is sure that Jesus’ Word to him would not fail (v. 11).

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
“I will hear you when your accusers also have come” (Acts 23.35). And with that, Paul was sent to his room!

Our grown children love to tease me about my parenting methods of yore. One of their favorites is when I would say, “If you don’t stop x, y, or z I’m going to separate you!” And that is what amuses them. They didn’t really want to be playing together anyway, so for me to separate them was really, sort of, exactly what they wanted.

And here we see Paul, eager to write letters and minister to people in his Personal Mission Field, and because of the nastiness of the folks in Jerusalem he has been separated from them and sent to his room, oh no!, so he can write and talk and live a relatively nice life, albeit “kept in Herod’s Praetorium”(Acts 23.35).

We can be sure that Paul saw each of these days as valuable, and that he worked hard to make each one count. “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90.12).

Whether his life was threatened or his freedoms curtailed, Paul’s attitude was always the same: “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20.24).

And this was the secret to Paul’s peaceful and prosperous heart and life.

Here is a letter he wrote to Timothy from prison: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4.7, 8). Forward thinking. Peaceful. Accomplished.

Paul always made good use of his time.  His circumstances never changed the essence of his life. They did not affect what he did, wrote, thought, or believed. They were merely the background music to his love for Christ Jesus, and his work in the Kingdom of God.

And Paul made bold to say to us: “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11.1).

For reflection
1. How can you keep your eye on Jesus and your mind on His promises when all around your world seems to be unraveling?

2. Jesus has promised to be with you always. He is at work in you to will and do of His good pleasure. He will never fail you nor forsake you. How should you respond to these promises?

3. Whom will you encourage today to keep their eyes on Jesus and their mind on His promises?

After reading the letter from Jerusalem, Felix wanted to know Paul’s home province. When he learned it was Cilicia he decided to hear the case, because the political status of Cilicia did not require its natives to be sent back there for trial. Earl Radmacher (1931-2014), NKJV Study Bible Note on Acts 23.35

Pray Psalm 54.4-7.
Seek the Lord’s help for all your work today, not just your job. Offer all your time up to Him, and yourself as a living sacrifice. Thank Him for His deliverance and salvation, and call on Him to guard you against the enemy of your soul and uphold you in all you do today.

Sing Psalm 54.4-7.
(Beatitudo: Father of Mercies, in Your Word)Y
ou are the Helper of our soul; You will sustain and bless.
Recompense evil to our foe in Your great faithfulness.

Willingly will we praise You, Lord, gladly adore Your Name!
You have redeemed us by Your Word and blessed us by the same.

From all our trouble, by Your grace, You have redeemed us, Lord.
While all our foes in sad disgrace reel backward from Your Word.

T. M. and Susie Moore

You can listen to a summary of last week’s Scriptorium study by going to our website,, and clicking the Scriptorium tab for last Sunday. You can download any or all the studies in this series on Acts by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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