Acts 23:23-35 (NIV)
Then he called two of his centurions and ordered them, “Get ready a detachment of two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go to Caesarea at nine tonight. Provide mounts for Paul so that he may be taken safely to Governor Felix.”
He wrote a letter as follows:
To His Excellency, Governor Felix:
This man was seized by the Jews and they were about to kill him, but I came with my troops and rescued him, for I had learned that he is a Roman citizen. I wanted to know why they were accusing him, so I brought him to their Sanhedrin. I found that the accusation had to do with questions about their law, but there was no charge against him that deserved death or imprisonment. When I was informed of a plot to be carried out against the man, I sent him to you at once. I also ordered his accusers to present to you their case against him.
So the soldiers, carrying out their orders, took Paul with them during the night and brought him as far as Antipatris. The next day they let the cavalry go on with him, while they returned to the barracks. When the cavalry arrived in Caesarea, they delivered the letter to the governor and handed Paul over to him. The governor read the letter and asked what province he was from. Learning that he was from Cilicia, he said, “I will hear your case when your accusers get here.” Then he ordered that Paul be kept under guard in Herod’s palace.
God frequently works through other people and societal structures to protect those of His people who need protecting. Here is a case in point. Commander Claudius could in no sense be called a believer or disciple, but God still used him and his finely tuned sense of justice to ensure that Paul did not fall into the hands of assassins.
The amount of manpower the commander called up, 470 armed men to protect one prisoner, might seem excessive. But he was taking no chances. He knew that men who were willing to swear not to eat or drink until they had assassinated Paul would be reckless and might do significant damage to a smaller force if they caught wind of the plan, so he pulled out all the stops.
Claudius’ letter to Governor Felix in Caesarea contains some information about his own actions that he “spun” to show himself in a more favorable light than the pure facts would have. For example, he states that he rescued Paul from the mob because he had discovered that he was a Roman citizen, instead of presenting the unvarnished truth that he discovered that fact only after he had illegally bound Paul and was preparing, again illegally, to examine him at the business end of a whip. But the letter is clear that, as far as Claudius could determine, Paul was guilty of no crime against Rome. He had merely run afoul of the religious laws of the Jews.
The plan for Paul’s safety was successful, and they brought him to Caesarea as planned. Felix had a similar high view of Roman justice, so he kept Paul in “protective custody” until a trial could be held. But Felix’ sense of justice was clouded by his ambition, which ultimately meant that Paul suffered injustice on his watch by being kept in jail uncharged for two years (Acts 24:27).
Father, You made a promise to Paul that he would have the chance to testify about Jesus in Rome (Acts 23:11), but You never specified how or when. It would have been easy for Paul to grow discouraged while all these events unfolded and while the calendar pages kept flipping past. But he knew that You never break a promise, so he just needed to hold on and wait. Lord, give me the peace and patience that I need during the waiting times, so that I don’t’ lose heart and grow discouraged. Amen.
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