God’s Word for You
Acts 23:11 Take courage
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, January 21, 2021
11 The following night the Lord stood by Paul and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified about me in Jerusalem, you must also testify in Rome.”
The Lord didn’t come right away that night after the meeting with the Sanhedrin. Paul wasn’t terrified for his life, nor was he completely desperate for help. He had been in tight places before, and he was hardly a man to panic. But the following night the Lord Jesus appeared to Paul in some way. Perhaps it was a dream, or a vision, or Jesus in his body standing there by the prison pallet upon which Paul had composed himself for a night’s sleep.
The Lord said, “Take courage!” This is a Greek word (tharsei) that only Jesus uses in the Bible (Matthew 9:2, 9:22; Mark 10:49 and here). It doesn’t mean that Paul wasn’t scared. It was the Lord encouraging Paul to keep it up! Keep going just the way that you’re going, Paul, because you’re on the right path. Paul had testified about Jesus in Jerusalem and now he was heading to do the same thing in Rome. In fact, the Lord says very distinctly, “You must also testify in Rome.”
Rome was the center of the Western World. The Christian church was about to move its central location from Jerusalem to Rome. This would help in the movement of the gospel around the Roman empire and beyond its borders. It was also going to be essential because the Lord of the Church already knew that Jerusalem was soon to fall. It was now early summer, around May (Pentecost), of 57 AD. By 66, the war would have started in Judea that would end with the sack of Jerusalem and the total destruction of the temple and an end to the Old Testament sacrificial worship forever.
But there was another reason to carry the gospel to Rome, a more immediate concern for Paul than the eventual growth of the church in Europe and around the world. At this time there were at least eleven large Jewish synagogues in Rome, and we don’t know how many smaller ones. These Roman Jews needed to hear the gospel and be told about forgiveness through Christ. The Lord’s “You must testify” was for their sake in the immediate future. Souls were at stake! They were in the darkness, but darkness is not dark to God (Psalm 139:12). He has a plan, and he has power.
Paul faced problems that were going to put him in place to help millions upon millions. Billions of souls have come to faith in Jesus in the millennia since Paul confessed his belief in the resurrection to the Sanhedrin on a May morning back in 57. How many people who come after you will be blessed by your actions, your regular pattern of worship and prayer, reading your Bible and going to communion? Let people see your faith, whatever way you show it. “By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life” (Psalm 42:8). Let them hear you say to yourself and to everyone you love: “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him: my Savior and my God” (Psalm 43:5). And again: “Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light” (Micah 7:8). Your confidence and trust in the Lord is a beacon that shines in the dark to people who are down, who are scared, who are uncertain, and who are lost. Take courage! And give it, too.
The word tharsei occurs as a translation of a pair of Hebrew expressions in the Old Testament: “Do not be afraid” (Genesis 35:17; 1 Kings 17:13; Joel 2:21; Zephaniah 3:16) and “Have confidence” (Proverbs 31:11). In the Apocrypha it is almost always “Take courage!” (Judith 11:3; Tobit 7:17; 11:11; Sirach 19:10 and Baruch 4:30).
Pastor Timothy Smith