Online Bible Commentary
The Reason they Accused Him
Acts 23:23 And he called for two centurions, saying, "Prepare two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen, and two hundred spearmen to go to Caesarea at the third hour of the night; 24 and provide mounts to set Paul on, and bring him safely to Felix the governor." 25 He wrote a letter in the following manner: 26 Claudius Lysias, To the most excellent governor Felix: Greetings. 27 This man was seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them. Coming with the troops I rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman. 28 And when I wanted to know the reason they accused him, I brought him before their council. 29 I found out that he was accused concerning questions of their law, but had nothing charged against him deserving of death or chains. 30 And when it was told me that the Jews lay in wait for the man, I sent him immediately to you, and also commanded his accusers to state before you the charges against him. Farewell. 31 Then the soldiers, as they were commanded, took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris. 32 The next day they left the horsemen to go on with him, and returned to the barracks. 33 When they came to Caesarea and had delivered the letter to the governor, they also presented Paul to him. 34 And when the governor had read it, he asked what province he was from. And when he understood that he was from Cilicia, 35 he said, "I will hear you when your accusers also have come." And he commanded him to be kept in Herod's Praetorium. (NKJV)
The time is 57 A.D. Paul has just completed his third and final missionary journey and has returned to Jerusalem.
The Jews in Jerusalem are in an uproar over Paul’s Christian ministry and have accused him of bringing a Gentile into the temple. The Jewish mob was beating Paul with the intention of taking his life when Roman soldiers intervened.
Since the matter seemed to be a religious matter, the commander of the Roman soldiers presented Paul to the Sanhedrin, hoping for resolution. However, when the Pharisees and Sadducees fought over Paul the Roman commander again had to rescue him from harm.
Next, more than forty Jews hatched a plot to call for another hearing before the Sanhedrin for the purpose of murdering Paul as he was being transferred to the hearing. However, Paul’s young nephew heard of the plot and informed the commander.
Now, the commander has decided to send Paul to Felix, the governor, in Caesarea in an effort to insure a fair trial and Paul’s safety. He commands for a force of 470 troops, including “two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen, and two hundred spearmen” to escort Paul to Caesarea, about 60-65 miles northwest of Jerusalem on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea (v. 23a). The entourage, with Paul on horseback, would travel under the cover of darkness, leaving Jerusalem at about 9:00 p.m. (vv. 23b-24).
Felix was about as cruel, corrupt and immoral of a person that you could find. He was a former slave who was appointed governor by the Roman Emperor Claudius as a favor to Claudius’ friend, and Felix’s brother, Pallas. Felix considered himself above the law. He arranged the assassination of a high priest named Jonathan who had criticized his rule.
The Roman commander in Jerusalem, Claudius Lysias, sent a letter with Paul introducing him to Felix (vv. 25-26). In the letter he summarized how he had rescued Paul from the Jewish mob and then, later, brought him to the Sanhedrin (vv. 27-28).
Claudius Lysias helped Paul by writing “I found out that he was accused concerning questions of their law, but had nothing charged against him deserving of death or chains” (v. 29). He wrote that he was sending Paul to Felix because of the death plot against Paul and that he “also commanded his accusers to state before you the charges against him” (v. 30).
So the Roman troops escorted Paul to Antipatris, located about 25 miles south of Caesarea (v. 31). The next day, sensing that the danger to Paul was lessened, only the seventy horsemen continued on with Paul to Caesarea (v. 32). The 400 other troops returned to the Antonia fortress in Jerusalem.
Upon receipt of Paul and the letter, Felix decided to rule on the matter since Paul’s birth province of Cilicia was under his jurisdiction (vv. 33-34). Felix then informed Paul "I will hear you when your accusers also have come" (v. 35a). Paul was housed in King Herod's “Praetorium”, or palace, but was placed under guard (v. 35b).
Thus begins Paul’s years of confinement. For the last decade of his life, except for a year or two, his time will be spent under house arrest or prison, until his beheading by Nero in A.D. 67 or 68.
All of this happened to determine “the reason they accused him” according to the Roman commander. Of course, we all know that this was God’s plan for Paul. Paul would suffer persecution for his obedience to the Lord.
As Christians we will also suffer persecution. We will have our accusers. Our opponents will always have their reasons for accusing us. Satan will be hard at work in the hearts of his captives to destroy our witness. Our charge is to stand strong in obedience to our Lord.