(Acts 23:12-15)

We all live life… from our perspective… that is uncertain. We don’t know from one moment to the next what will happen. The future is hidden from us except what God has revealed in Scripture. Our life takes unexpected turns & stops that weren’t in our life plans or goals. Sometimes they are small, but other times they are huge. Sometimes they are bumps, but some are seemingly devastating.

Recently I was reading a one-page devotion on Ac 23:12.[1] As I contemplated the author’s thoughts, I decided to study Ac 23:12 a little more. I wanted to consider these things in terms of my life events & I ask you to do the same. Listen to the text…

The Jews made a plot & bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. 13 There were more than forty who made this conspiracy. 14 They went to the chief priests & elders & said, “We have strictly bound ourselves by an oath to taste no food till we have killed Paul. 15 Now therefore you, along with the council, give notice to the tribune to bring him down to you, as though you were going to determine his case more exactly. And we are ready to kill him before he comes near.”

This is a genuine conspiracy, not a conspiracy theory. If all the infomation we had were this, we’d say Paul was a dead man. These guys weren’t playing… they were serious, all 40 of them! Everything else in life was put on hold until they killed Paul… including eating. Paul’s clock was ticking…

BUT there is more to the story, the part those 40 men didn’t & couldn’t know. We find it earlier in Ac 23. Paul was on trial before the Jewish religious leaders, giving testimony about Christ. During his examination he purposefully made a statement about the resurrection, knowing it would cause a great argument among those present (Pharisees & Sadducees).

The tumult rose to the degree that there was a danger of Paul being torn from limb to limb (V 10). So they had soldiers whisk Paul to a secure place… jail (10-b). There, the next night, an unexpected event happened w/ Paul… Acts 23:11

The following night the Lord stood by him & said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”

The LORD told Paul, “You must testify also in Rome.” There is no ambiguity. GOD had an appointment for Paul in another city… another country… at a time to be decided by Him. And there was nothing 40 mortals could do to prevent it. They conspired to kill Paul, but Paul was immortal in that situation. What I mean is, they could not possibly kill Paul.

Now let’s consider the part of the story that is really interesting! Specifically, HOW God made Paul immortal to the 40 conspirator’s plan. Listen to it as found in Acts 23:16-25

Now the son of Paul’s sister heard of their ambush, so he went & entered the barracks & told Paul. 17 Paul called one of the centurions & said, “Take this young man to the tribune, for he has something to tell him.” 18 So he took him & brought him to the tribune & said, “Paul the prisoner called me & asked me to bring this young man to you, as he has something to say to you.” 19 The tribune took him by the hand, & going aside asked him privately, “What is it that you have to tell me?” 20 And he said, “The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down to the council tomorrow, as though they were going to inquire somewhat more closely about him. 21 But do not be persuaded by them, for more than 40 of their men are lying in ambush… who have bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they have killed him. And now they are ready, waiting for your consent.” 22 So the tribune dismissed the young man, charging him, “Tell no one that you have informed me of these things.” 23 Then he called 2 of the centurions & said, “Get ready 200 soldiers, w/ 70 horsemen & 200 spearmen to go as far as Caesarea at the third hour of the night. 24 Also provide mounts for Paul to ride & bring him safely to Felix the governor.”

An unlikely series of events transpired to deliver Paul from the murder conspiracy. They were: A boy overheard the plot. The boy was Paul’s nephew. The boy courageously told the Roman centurion guarding Paul. The centurion took him to the Tribune. The Tribune believed him & prepared “200 soldiers, with 70 horsemen & 200 spearmen” to take Paul to safety.

A boy “happened” to hear the plot? The boy “happened” to be Paul’s nephew? The boy had courage to address a Roman soldier? The centurion believed this Jewish boy? The leaders believed this boy… AND got together a force of 470 to keep Paul safe?! Coincidences?? Hardly…

God has a way of delivering his people miraculously & secretly. Secretly? Yes… God is not overtly mentioned as delivering Paul, but He was behind the scenes the whole time. Just because we don’t see Him… or perceive Him… doesn’t mean He isn’t there or isn’t at work! Another example of God’s behind the scene work is Joseph in the OT. He isn’t mentioned in Joseph’s story till Gen 20:50, “You meant it for evil, God meant it for good…”

ASIDE: It isn’t recorded that God ever said anything to Joseph over his 27-year ordeal. But Joseph knew God was there, working… guiding… protecting… & delivering, the whole time. As it is written, “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7).

ASIDE: Every child of God has the same attention from Him as anyone in Scripture. God loves you as much as Peter, Paul, Abraham, Joseph, or Moses. I know that b/c of the cross… what Jesus did to prove His love for you. And b/c God lovingly gave His son for you to live, there is nothing good He will ever keep from you… EVER! Don’t ever forget that! (Now back to our text)

God’s plan for Paul was to testify about Christ in Rome. This was God’s design, plan, & will. Thus it was impossible for anything or anyone to negate that reality. For as long as God’s plan is being worked out, His children are immortal. Once it is complete, they are called home.

This is what is taking place in Paul that is under our consideration. Paul understood this as he wrote in Eph 1:11, “In (Christ) we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will…”

Did you catch that last phrase? “Who works ALL THINGS after the counsel of His will?” WHO is the center of this verse? Christ. What is He doing? Working. How many things? All things. How does He work them? After the counsel of HIS WILL. Drive that deep into your heart…

Is that true just for Paul, or Peter, or Joseph, or Abraham, or Moses? No. It is a universal truth for all of God’s children… which if you are a believer in Christ… is YOU! (P) But let’s continue…

Paul was safely taken to Rome, thwarting the plans of the conspirators. There Paul gave testimony about Jesus. The last information about Paul in Acts is the last verses 28:30-31

He lived there two whole years at his own expense, & welcomed all who came to him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God & teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness & w/out hindrance.

Paul was delivered… lived in Rome for 2 years… proclaiming Christ with all boldness. And there is more to the story…

Tradition tells us that while Paul enjoyed fruitful ministry in Rome for a time, it was there he was arrested (Possibly by Nero)… taken outside Rome… & beheaded. Paul was immortal until he had fulfilled God’s plan for His life. There were many times of uncertainty from the human perspective in Paul’s life… but they were all planned & certain in heaven.

The Lessons For Us? What is uncertain to us is certain with God. Regardless of anyone’s attempt to harm or hurt us, God’s will supersedes them. For as long as God is using us, we are immortal. When God’s plan for us is concluded, we will be called home.

Those things are hopeful! They are good! HOW? Regardless of how things look to us, God is in control… 100%. No matter how hopeless a situation seems, God is sovereign over it & all involved. Regardless of what others may do, God is able to do exceeding & abundantly above all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

[1] John Piper.