1. REVEALING CHRIST
a. Of what does the treatment of Paul remind us? Acts 21:33–36; Luke 23:18.
“When the Son of God was on trial, the Jews cried out, ‘Away with Him, crucify Him!’ because His pure life and holy teaching convicted them of sin and condemned them; and for the same reason many in their hearts cry out against the word of God.”—Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, p. 425.
b. Why did divine Providence open the way in Paul’s defense? Acts 21:37–39.
“In the midst of the tumult the apostle remained calm and self-possessed. His mind was stayed upon God, and he knew that angels of Heaven were about him. He could not leave the temple without making an effort to set the truth before his countrymen. He therefore turned to the commanding officer, and in a deferential manner addressed him in Greek, saying, ‘May I speak with thee?’ . . . and begged that he might be permitted to speak to the people. The Lord had given his servant an influence over the Roman officer, and the request was granted.”—Sketches From the Life of Paul, p. 218.
2. A NOBLE DEFENSE
a. Name some highlights of Paul’s defense. Acts 21:40; 22:1–11.
“The apostle could never forget his conversion from a persecutor of all who believe on Christ, to a believer in Him. What a bearing this conversion had on all his afterlife! What an encouragement it was as he worked on the side of Him whom he once ridiculed and despised. He could never forget the assurance conveyed to him in the first part of his ministry. He could speak intelligently because he had an experience, a personal knowledge, of the Lord Jesus Christ. He had a living, abiding faith, for he cultivated a sense of the presence of Christ in all his works. He received strength in prayer, and as a faithful soldier of Christ he ever looked to his Captain for orders.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 6, p. 1065.
b. Why was Paul quite certain of his calling from God to minister to the Gentile world? Acts 22:12–21.
“The Lord had given Paul his commission to enter the broad missionary field of the Gentile world. To prepare him for this extensive and difficult work, God had brought him into close connection with Himself and had opened before his enraptured vision views of the beauty and glory of heaven.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 159.
c. How did the crowd react to Paul—and with what result? Acts 22:22–24.
“[The Roman captain] had not understood Paul’s Hebrew address, and concluded from the general excitement that his prisoner must be guilty of some great crime. . . .
“The body of the apostle was stretched out, like that of a common malefactor, to receive the lashes. There was no friend to stand by him. He was in a Roman barrack, surrounded only by brutal soldiers.”—Sketches From the Life of Paul, p. 220.
d. Why was Paul spared from suffering an even worse ordeal? Acts 22:25–29.
3. BEFORE THE COUNCIL
a. How did Paul’s hearing before the council begin—and what did he prophesy? Acts 22:30; 23:1–5.
“Under the influence of the Holy Spirit, Paul uttered a prophetic denunciation similar to that which Christ had uttered in rebuking the hypocrisy of the Jews. The judgment pronounced by the apostle was terribly fulfilled when the iniquitous and hypocritical high priest was murdered by assassins in the Jewish war.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 6, p. 1065.
b. How did Paul wisely redirect the focus of the hearing? Acts 23:6–9.
“The Pharisees were very strict in regard to the outward observance of forms and customs, and were filled with haughty, worldly, hypocritical self-righteousness. The Sadducees denied the resurrection of the dead and the existence of angels, and were skeptical in regard to God. This sect was largely composed of unworthy characters, many of whom were licentious in their habits.”—Ibid., vol. 5, p. 1077.
“The two parties began to dispute between themselves, and thus the strength of their opposition against Paul was broken. . . .
“In the confusion that followed, the Sadducees were eagerly striving to gain possession of the apostle, that they might put him to death; and the Pharisees were as eager in striving to protect him.”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 411, 412.
c. How was Paul protected—and what does this make us recall? Acts 23:10.
“Our standing before God depends, not upon the amount of light we have received, but upon the use we make of what we have. Thus even the heathen who choose the right as far as they can distinguish it are in a more favorable condition than are those who have had great light, and profess to serve God, but who disregard the light, and by their daily life contradict their profession.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 239.
4. WHEN ALONE IN THE DARK
a. What were Paul’s thoughts while alone at night in the castle prison—and what brought him comfort? Acts 23:11.
“Later, while reflecting on the trying experiences of the day, Paul began to fear that his course might not have been pleasing to God. Could it be that he had made a mistake after all in visiting Jerusalem? Had his great desire to be in union with his brethren led to this disastrous result?
“The position which the Jews as God’s professed people occupied before an unbelieving world, caused the apostle intense anguish of spirit. How would those heathen officers look upon them?—claiming to be worshipers of Jehovah, and assuming sacred office, yet giving themselves up to the control of blind, unreasoning anger, seeking to destroy even their brethren who dared to differ with them in religious faith, and turning their most solemn deliberative council into a scene of strife and wild confusion. Paul felt that the name of his God had suffered reproach in the eyes of the heathen.
“And now he was in prison, and he knew that his enemies, in their desperate malice, would resort to any means to put him to death. Could it be that his work for the churches was ended and that ravening wolves were to enter in now? The cause of Christ was very near to Paul’s heart, and with deep anxiety he thought of the perils of the scattered churches, exposed as they were to the persecutions of just such men as he had encountered in the Sanhedrin council. In distress and discouragement he wept and prayed.
“In this dark hour the Lord was not unmindful of His servant. He had guarded him from the murderous throng in the temple courts; He had been with him before the Sanhedrin council; He was with him in the fortress; and He revealed Himself to His faithful witness in response to the earnest prayers of the apostle for guidance. [Acts 23:11 quoted.]”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 412, 413.
b. What reveals God’s willingness to comfort us in the darkness, just as He did for Paul—and for David alone in the wilderness? Psalm 63:5, 6.
“At all times and in all places, in all sorrows and in all afflictions, when the outlook seems dark and the future perplexing, and we feel helpless and alone, the Comforter will be sent in answer to the prayer of faith.”—Christian Service, p. 251.
5. FROM HIS OWN NATION
a. The next day, what plan did the enemy of souls devise? Acts 23:12–15.
“While the Lord encouraged His servant, Paul’s enemies were eagerly plotting his destruction.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 413.
b. Whom did the Lord use to expose the evil plot? Acts 23:16–21.
c. How only could the chief captain overrule the plan—and what should the persecution against Paul make us realize? Acts 23:22–33.
“The case of Paul was not the first in which a servant of God had found among the heathen an asylum from the malice of the professed people of Jehovah. . . .
“While the Jewish leaders professed to have great zeal for the honor of God and the good of Israel, they were enemies of both. By precept and example they were leading the people farther and farther from obedience to God—leading them where He could not be their defense in the day of trouble.”—Ibid., pp. 416, 417.
“Satan is constantly working through his agents to dishearten and destroy those whom God has chosen to accomplish a great and good work. They may be ready to sacrifice even life itself for the advancement of the cause of Christ, yet the great deceiver will suggest to their brethren doubts concerning them which, if entertained, would undermine confidence in their integrity of character, and thus cripple their usefulness.”—Ibid., p. 418.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. How did Paul’s behavior contrast with that of his countrymen?
2. What made it possible for Paul to endure the suffering heaped on him?
3. Who treated Paul the worst—the heathen, Pharisees, or Sadducees?
4. Why can we be comforted by God’s care for Paul in the castle prison?
5. Explain the contrasting attitude between the Roman captain and the Jews.