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Acts 23

The Road to Rome
Part VI

Acts 23:1
And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.

“Earnestly beholding” is the Greek word atenizo and it means to fix your eyes on.1 
“Have lived” is politeuomai and means to live as a citizen or to be a citizen.
“Conscience” is suneidesis (syneidesis) and means co-knowledge, joint knowing.

Helps Word-studies: syneídēsis (from  sýn, "together with" and eídō "to know, see") properly, joint-knowing. 

Paul opens by looking his judges in the eye, unflinchingly, eye to eye. Then in ten Greek words declares a volume to this court. In English, the sum and substance is Paul declaring, “as a citizen of God, I have a good conscience, concerning my life unto this day. My conscience before God is free of guilt and shame, therefore your judgment is meaningless to me.”

Paul’s opening statement speaks volumes. He did not say his actions were right, he said his conscience was good.

How could Paul who led the persecution against those who believed in Christ and Paul the Apostle both have a good conscience regarding God? How could Paul the Apostle have a good conscience after going against the will of his Lord? 

Syneidesis (suneidesis) is a compound Greek word from syn (sun) meaning together with, and eido meaning to know. In English the word conscience consists of the prefix con, which means together with and the root word science, which means knowledge, therefore it means co-knowledge.

For example, your mind is making a decision concerning a certain politician. Your conscience will endeavor to guide that decision, to influence the decision, with the standard you have set in your conscience. Co-knowledge between the mind and the conscience.  

The conscience is not part of the mind, it is not part of the heart, it is not part of your thoughts. The conscience sets the intrinsic values for life, ethically, financially, personally. The conscience holds the standard by which an individual endeavors to guide life’s decisions. 

The conscience will guide an individual to godly decisions unto righteousness or worldly decisions unto sin and corruption. 

Your conscience may say, a deal must be profitable to all who are involved. The other man's conscience may say, a deal is only profitable when I get a deal better than every other person involved. It is your conscience. You set its standard.

Romans 2:13-15
(For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)

The conscience will accuse or excuse. It is not making the decision but works to guide or influence the decision.

Paul has a pure conscience for he stands with God through Christ. 

As a persecutor Paul’s conscience was aligned with the Temple through the doctrine of the Pharisees, according to the Law of Moses.

Philippians 3:5-6
Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

The Greek word for blameless is amemptos and means, “deserving no censure, free from fault or defect."3   The actions were wrong, but the conscience was followed.

Then after being instructed accurately by Jesus of Nazareth, Paul followed the accurate joint knowledge he had in his conscience and his mind. Paul knew his ministry, he knew his identification is in Christ, he is justified from sin. Even if the actions are wrong, the believer can stand strong in Christ. 

But, you say, he is on trial with the Sanhedrin because he disobeyed the will of his Lord. 

Having a “good conscience” in the Administration of Grace does not mean you have a perfect walk.

Hebrews 10:1-2
For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.

These verses are addressed to Israel and must be understood considering this Truth.

The word “purge” is kathaireo and it means to cleanse, to clean. It comes from the Greek word kataros, which means to make pure, from sin and guilt. It is in the perfect tense and the passive voice. This means Israel will receive this “purging” of their conscience one time, it will be accomplished for them, passive voice. It will happen at the start of the New Covenant, with the return of Christ and the resurrection of the Just.

It is hard to get away from sin consciousness when your identity is in Adam and sacrifices are made continually to cover your sin nature. Each sacrifice reminds you of that sin nature.

Hebrews 10:3
But in those sacrifices, there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.

In context, Israel is being instructed that with the coming of the New Covenant their identification in Christ will purge their conscience of sin and of guilt.

However, since the day of Pentecost, there will be no more sacrifices for sin, was Israel’s conscience purged from sin at Pentecost?

1 John 1:7-10
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

This epistle is addressed to Israel after the day of Pentecost.

The sacrifice for sin is replaced with the confession of sin. Just like the sacrifice, the individual is reminded of sin continually by his confession. The sacrifices were a yearly reminder, confession of sin is a daily reminder. 

James 5:16
Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

Israel is still reminded of their sin nature every day until the times of refreshing shall come when the Lord returns.

Acts 3:19
Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.

But… but in the Administration of Grace we are not bound by a covenant. 
Our justification from sin is NOW
Our identification in Christ is NOW
Our conscience can be purged NOW!

Hebrews 9:14
How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

“Purge” is the Greek word katharizo and means, “in a similitude, like a vine cleansed by pruning and so fitted to bear fruit.”4  

Applied to Israel in the Revealing Administration, it is the confession of sin. 
Applied principally to the Administration of Grace and it is renewed mind to God’s Word. To prune out those standards in the conscience that have been learned from the world.  

The life of a believer is a walk with his Lord and with his Heavenly Father. The goal is to bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, that each person may be a living sacrifice.

2 Corinthians 10:5
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; 

When you walk sometimes you lose your balance. How quickly it is re-gained is up to the individual. Sometimes when you walk, you trip. How quickly a person gets back up is up to the individual. (Understanding the Body of Christ adds more insight)

Paul was wrong in his actions, especially in his compromise to the wishes of James and the elders. But, have you heard him confess his sin? Not only here, but anywhere? In the Pauline Epistles to the Administration of Grace there is no confession of sin for one who is a child of God and a joint heir with Christ.

We are not to be sin conscious, but God in Christ in us conscious. 

You can only think one thought at a time. 
Who you are in Adam, or who you are in Christ. 
Your choice is reflected in your walk. 
Paul is sharp and walking with the Christ in him.
Paul is not walking in Adam and mistakes. 
Paul is walking in Christ and victory!

The purpose of this trial for the Sanhedrin is to hear what has happened and then to judge whether Paul has broken a Law of Moses.

Remember the initial charge the Sanhedrin is to judge.

Acts 21:27-28
And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him, Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men everywhere against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place.

Did Paul “pollute” the Temple by bringing Gentiles into the Temple? 

The purpose of this trial for Claudius Lysias, the Chief Captain, is to understand what, if anything, this man has done to be so hated.

The purpose of this trial for Felix is self-enhancement. Either through a bribe from Paul or a present to Israel, with a string attached.

By his opening statement Paul has declared himself innocent of any charge the Sanhedrin might consider.

Acts 23:2
And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth.

There is nothing in Paul’s opening statement that gives the High Priest the right to interrupt and have Paul hit in the face. But it tells Paul the trial is already decided. The High Priest has interrupted Paul and ordered a punishment when he has not yet heard the full matter.

Acts 23:3
Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law?

Paul is pulling no punches. “Whited Wall” is similar to what Jesus said of the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23) in comparing them to whited sepulchers. The accusation, hypocrites!

It was against the Word of God to judge a man before you heard his defense. The High Priest giving an order to “smite” Paul is against the Law of Moses. “Smite” is the Greek word tupto (typto) and it means to strike, to beat, to inflict punitive evil. It is not a simple slap, the High Priest wants Paul to be injured.

John 7:51
Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?

Proverbs 18:13
He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.

God required two or three witnesses to confirm a sin. There have been no witnesses against Paul at this point. There has not even been a formal charge against Paul at this point, and the High Priest has already found Paul guilty and worthy of punishment. 

Acts 23:4  
And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God's high priest?

Paul knew full well who is the High Priest of Israel (Hebrews 4:14).

Acts 23:5
Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.

Who were the ones speaking evil of the true High Priest? 

Some feel Paul is apologizing with these words. However, I see them more with the idiom, tongue-in-cheek, meaning Paul was being sarcastic and demonstrating a dry sense of humor.

Acts 23:6
But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men, and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.

The word “perceived” is the Greek word ginosko, it means to know, to have experiential knowledge. His perception is amazingly accurate and the key to ending this farce of a trial.

Acts 23:7-8
And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.

Immediately the trial is no longer about Paul, it is about the different ideologies of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

Acts 23:9
And there arose a great cry: and the scribes that were of the Pharisees' part arose, and strove, saying, we find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God. 

As quickly as the trial began, it is over as the judges and the gallery break out into a riot.

Acts 23:10
And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle.

Once again, the Romans need to step in to prevent the religious leaders from killing Paul.

Acts 23:11
And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.

The same night of the trial, Jesus appears to Paul once again, and says, “be of good cheer.” It is the Greek word tharseo and means have courage, be of good courage. Now, for the first time, Paul going to Rome is more than his personal conviction, his Lord agrees.

It does not seem like Paul has had much opportunity to witness in Jerusalem in these last few days, but he has said more than you might realize. Beginning with what was shared with James and the elders upon his arrival.

Acts 22, verses 7 and 8 Paul spoke of the risen and ascended Jesus of Nazareth that he saw in a vision, whom he also called Lord. In verse 14 he spoke of the God of our Fathers. Then Paul goes on to speak of another vision received in the Temple, that said those in Jerusalem where not ready to receive testimony concerning his Lord, but the Gentiles were ready.

Then in Acts 23 Paul pointed out the High Priest was acting contrary to the Law, and he was being called into question because of the hope of the resurrection from the dead. Paul in a very brief time of speaking said many things in witness of his Lord.

But there is something else we should recognize in verse eleven, “as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.” There are two more points to consider about this statement. First, Jesus Christ does not mention Paul going to Spain and second, while in Rome Paul will witness there as in Jerusalem, what are the similarities?

Acts 23:12-13
And when it was day, certain of the Jews banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. And they were more than forty which had made this conspiracy.

Once again, kill him!

It is said a person can go for one month, maybe two months without food and maybe three to four days without some form of liquid. So, if these men are truly committed, they did not have long to live. But they understood that, so they had a plan.

Acts 23:14-15
And they came to the chief priests and elders, and said, We have bound ourselves under a great curse, that we will eat nothing until we have slain Paul. Now therefore ye with the council signify to the chief captain that he bring him down unto you tomorrow, as though ye would enquire something more perfectly concerning him: and we, or ever he come near, are ready to kill him.

Perhaps they did not notice the number of Roman soldiers around Paul.

Acts 23:16-21
And when Paul's sister's son heard of their lying in wait, he went and entered into the castle, and told Paul. Then Paul called one of the centurions unto him, and said, Bring this young man unto the chief captain: for he hath a certain thing to tell him. So he took him, and brought him to the chief captain, and said, Paul the prisoner called me unto him, and prayed me to bring this young man unto thee, who hath something to say unto thee. Then the chief captain took him by the hand, and went with him aside privately, and asked him, What is that thou hast to tell me? And he said, The Jews have agreed to desire thee that thou wouldest bring down Paul tomorrow into the council, as though they would enquire somewhat of him more perfectly. But do not thou yield unto them: for there lie in wait for him of them more than forty men, which have bound themselves with an oath, that they will neither eat nor drink till they have killed him: and now are they ready, looking for a promise from thee.

Their plot is quickly revealed and thereby undone.

Acts 23:22-24
So the chief captain then let the young man depart, and charged him, See thou tell no man that thou hast shewed these things to me. And he called unto him two centurions, saying, Make ready two hundred soldiers to go to Caesarea, and horsemen threescore and ten, and spearmen two hundred, at the third hour of the night; And provide them beasts, that they may set Paul on, and bring him safe unto Felix the governor.

So, that is 200 foot soldiers, plus 70 calvary, and another 200 spearmen. Paul will be moved out of Jerusalem to Caesarea guarded by 470 Roman soldiers. Those 40 committed men need to start recruiting some more friends if they are going to get to Paul. Of course, after getting through these Roman soldiers they would also have to get past God Almighty.

The third hour of the night for the Romans would be about ten in the evening.

Do you think the 40 sat down around a big meal of crow?

Acts 23:25-30
And he wrote a letter after this manner: Claudius Lysias unto the most excellent governor Felix sendeth greeting. This man was taken of the Jews, and should have been killed of them: then came I with an army, and rescued him, having understood that he was a Roman. And when I would have known the cause wherefore they accused him, I brought him forth into their council: Whom I perceived to be accused of questions of their law, but to have nothing laid to his charge worthy of death or of bonds. And when it was told me how that the Jews laid wait for the man, I sent straightway to thee, and gave commandment to his accusers also to say before thee what they had against him. Farewell.

As we read here, political spin is not an invention of the twenty-first century. Chief Captain Claudius Lysias rushed in with an army to save a Roman citizen from the hands of the Judeans. Not exactly how the situation developed, but the Chief Captain has certainly acted to guard Paul’s life from the Judeans looking to kill him. 

It is fifty-seven miles from Jerusalem to Caesarea, but at least Paul gets to do it by horseback. 

Acts 23:31-35
Then the soldiers, as it was commanded them, took Paul, and brought him by night to Antipatris. On the morrow they left the horsemen to go with him, and returned to the castle: Who, when they came to Caesarea and delivered the epistle to the governor, presented Paul also before him. And when the governor had read the letter, he asked of what province he was. And when he understood that he was of Cilicia; I will hear thee, said he, when thine accusers are also come. And he commanded him to be kept in Herod's judgment hall.

Antipatris is a city, built by Herod the Great and named for his father. It was twenty-six miles from Caesarea. After leaving the castle in Jerusalem the Romans and Paul, traveled thirty-one miles, and stopped. In the morning, the 200 foot soldiers and the 200 spearmen returned to the castle while the 70 calvary soldiers traveled ahead with Paul to Caesarea.

The Chief Captain mentioned in his letter to Felix that Paul had done nothing worthy of death or even of bonds. Therefore, Felix does not send Paul to a prison cell, but to stay in Herod’s judgment hall. No matter your rank in Roman society, you must always be aware of how you treat a Roman citizen. 

The Greek word translated “judgment hall” is praitorion. It is the residence of Governor Felix.

Paul is finally out of Jerusalem, and as far as the record in God’s Word, he never returns to Jerusalem.

Paul will remain under house arrest for the next two years in Caesarea. The next immediate concern for Paul is a Roman Trial, with Felix as the Judge 

We are in the late Spring or early Summer of 58 A.D.; the Judeans will continue to try and kill Paul; the Romans will continue to confine Paul; Paul will continue to speak the Gospel of Grace; his Lord will continue to work in him, with knowledge, and wisdom, and power; his God and Father will continue to embrace him in grace, and mercy, and love.

​1.G816 - atenizō - Strong's Greek Lexicon (kjv) (
2. Strong's Greek: 4176. πολιτεύομαι (politeuomai) -- to live as a citizen (
3. G273 - amemptos - Strong's Greek Lexicon (kjv) (
4. G2511 - katharizō - Strong's Greek Lexicon (kjv) (
5. Strong's Greek: 5180. τύπτω (tuptó) -- to strike, smite, beat (

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A Journey through the Book of Acts