God’s Word for You
Acts 23:17-22 The plot revealed
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, January 25, 2021
17 Then Paul summoned one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the commanding officer. He has something to tell him.” 18 So the centurion took him to the commanding officer and said, “The prisoner Paul summoned me and asked me to bring this young man to you because he has something to tell you.” 19 Taking the young man by the hand, the commanding officer drew him aside and asked, “What is it you want to tell me?”
It seems pretty unusual for a prisoner to command a guard. However, this was once more common than we might think. Going back 200 years to the Napoleonic wars, a prisoner who was an officer could expect to make demands of ordinary soldiers who were his guards. He might, for example, demand medical help for another prisoner, the attendance of a minister or priest, etc. In those cases, a uniform and a bearing of authority were enough. Here, Paul had made it known that he was a Roman citizen. There may even have been a standing order to treat Paul with special respect since his citizenship was discovered.
Greek has various terms to describe young men. There is brephos (unborn baby or newborn baby, child, Luke 1:41), nepios (nursing baby, infant, Matthew 11:25), teknon (child, descendant, Matthew 2:18), pais (boy, Luke 2:43), and neanias (young man, teenager, twenty-something, Acts 7:58, 23:17). This last one, a young man in his teens or twenties, was what Paul’s nephew was. Since he was “led by the hand,” we can guess that he was on the young side of things. That detail about the guard taking the boy by the hand also shows us that Luke was an eyewitness.
20 And he said, “The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down to the Sanhedrin tomorrow as if they want more accurate information about him. 21 Don’t give in to them, because more than forty of them are waiting in ambush for him. They have put themselves under a curse not to eat or drink until they have killed him. They are ready right now, waiting for your consent to their request.” 22 The commanding officer dismissed the young man and warned him, “Don’t tell anyone that you gave this information to me.”
The nephew was concise with his message, and surprisingly bold. The words “Don’t give in to them” show an honest urgency in the boy. He wasn’t making any of this up; Paul’s life was in serious danger. It’s been suggested that the Jews who bound themselves with an oath (really a curse, see verse 12) were Zealots, the very group that the Roman Colonel was afraid Paul was leading when he arrested him (Acts 21:38). One of Jesus’ apostles, the other Simon (not Peter), may have come out of this group (Matthew 10:4).
The Colonel warned Paul’s nephew not to tell anybody else about this. This was partly for the boy’s safety, since he didn’t know who else to trust, and partly to insure the success of his plan. He had decided on the best course of action, but “Loose lips sink ships.” He needed to be careful, and he needed to act quickly.
There are several cases in the Bible where a plot by wicked men is uncovered by the hand of God. Joseph’s brothers plotted to kill him, but God turned their plan into the means of saving his people from a famine (Genesis 37:18-22, 45:6-8). The Arabs and Ammonites conspired to stop the returning exiles from rebuilding Jerusalem, but this plot was discovered (Nehemiah 4:7-15). A conspiracy against King Xerxes of Persia was discovered by a Jew in the city gate (Esther 2:21-22). The last of the Amalekites plotted to destroy the Jews of Persia, but he was thwarted by the queen herself (Esther 9:23-25).
But it was the plotting of the Jews against Jesus that were of special use to God. He permitted their plot to be made and to unfold, so that Jesus could be sacrificed for the sins of mankind at just the right moment, and not a moment before (Matthew 12:14, 26:4; Mark 14:1-2; Luke 22:4-5; John 11:53). So it will be with the plots and schemes of the sinful world against God’s church. When the enemies of God rise up to try and overthrow God’s plan and God’s will, God shall allow their schemes to go forward long enough to let his people show their faith, but then he will bring an end to it all (Daniel 7:25-27). Don’t despair when the world and the devil have their petty little victories. Their triumph will not last very long. In the end, the world will stand before God in judgment, and those who are dead will awake, “some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2). Your faith in Jesus gives you your place in eternal life. Don’t fear the plots of the devil in the meantime. His days are numbered, his judgment is guaranteed. Your place forever with Jesus is even more secure, by the merits of Jesus himself. Trust in him always.
Pastor Timothy Smith