Have you ever endured a season when you had little or no control over your circumstances? when each day brought new and unexpected challenges? when life seemed to be spinning out of control? Paul was in the midst of a series of events like this. Pray for God to teach you to respond as Paul does.
Paul had just experienced one of the most frightening days of his life. He had been beaten by a mob, rescued and taken away by Roman soldiers, almost flogged and then rescued again at the last minute. Now he is thrust before a hostile Jewish court for questioning.
1. A. Why did the Roman commander Claudius Lysias order the Sanhedrin to assemble? (22:26, 30)
B. (Digging Deeper) Who stood before this same body almost 25 years earlier with a similar defense? (Acts 6:12-14, 7:54- 60, 8: 1) What happened to him?
C. (Digging Deeper) Who else stood before this court? (Matthew 26:57) What happened to Him?
2. A. What claim did Paul make as he began his defense? (23: 1) What do you think he meant by this statement?
B. How did the High Priest react? (23:2)
C. Has anyone ever done this to you? If so, how did you feel?
D. What was Paul's response and why? (23:3)
E. (Digging Deeper) What do you think Paul meant when he called the High Priest a whitewashed wall"? Why was this a great insult? (Luke 11:39, 40)
3. A. Those close to Paul rebuked him for insulting the High Priest. (23:4) As a result, what did Paul say in verse 5?
(Note: Paul may not have recognized the High Priest because (1) Paul had defective eyesight (2) he may not have been wearing his priestly robes (3) in the confusion Paul could not see who had spoken to him, or (4) Paul did not expect a High Priest to act this way.)
B. What did Paul's response in verse 5 show about his attitude toward authority? What can we learn?
4. A. How did Paul effectively divide the court? Why did the Pharisees defend Paul? What were the doctrinal differences among the Sanhedrin? (23:6-9)
B. What happened to Paul as a result of this tactic? (23: 10)
C. What did the Roman Commander learn about the Jewish court that day? Did he accomplish his purposes for assembling the Sanhedrin as stated in 22:30?
5. A. What assurance and comfort did Paul receive that night? (23:11)
B. (Digging Deeper) Review Paul's time in Jerusalem since he arrived beginning in 21:17. Why would he especially be in need of assurance now?
C. What were Paul's hopes and feelings about someday ministering in Rome? (Romans 1:9-13)
D. Do you have a "dream" or expectation you hope to see fulfilled during your life time? If you want to, share your "dream" with the group. What is needed for your dream to come true?
When the trail backfired, the Jews were determined to find another way to kill Paul.
6. A. Describe the plot. How many Jews were directly involved? Who conspired with them? What oath did the assassins take?
B. (Digging Deeper) Why do you think these Jews hated Paul enough to starve themselves? What is the source of hate?
C. How committed were these Jews to their cause? What were they willing to do?
7. How did Paul’s nephew become a hero and save Paul’s life? (23:16-22)
8. A. What precautions were taken to protect Paul? (23:23)
B. Where was Paul to be taken? Why?
(Note: The commander's provision of "mounts" for Paul in verse 24 indicates that his friends were taken with him.)
9. It was customary that a letter accompany a prisoner transferred from one authority to another. How does Claudius Lysias describe the circumstances of Paul's arrest so that they made him look good? What did he conclude about Paul's guilt or innocence? (23:26-30)
After an uneventful trip to Caesarea, the Roman soldiers delivered Paul into the hands of Governor Felix, who accepted the case. (23:31-34)
10. A. What was required before the trial could begin? (23:35a)
B. Where was Paul to wait? (23:35b)
11. A. Like all Jewish scholars, Paul knew the Psalms intimately. Read Psalm 91. How might this Psalm have comforted Paul as he awaited his trial?
B. Throughout his time in Jerusalem, Paul had no control over what was happening to him. His hands were bound and he went where he was led. How do you feel when you are helpless and out of control?
C. What do you do to try to maintain control?
D. How much control do any of us really have in life? Who is in control?
E. (Summit) When Job was angry with God over his circumstances, God spoke to him. Read Job chapters 38-42:6 to hear God explain who is really in control.
F. God protected and cared for Paul in the midst of terrifying circumstances. When has God protected you or someone you love?
12. (Digging Deeper) What promise had Jesus made to His followers in Luke 21:12-19? How did Paul’s experiences in this passage illustrate the truth of Jesus’ promise?
13. (Summit) Read Philippians 1:12-26. What was Paul’s attitude during his time of imprisonment?
You can’t control the length of your life, but you can control its width and depth. You can’t control the weather, but you can control the moral atmosphere surrounding you. You can’t control the other fellow’s annoying faults, but you can see to it that you do not develop and harbor annoying propensities. You can’t control hard times or rainy days, but you can bank money now to boost you through. Why worry about things you can’t control? Get busy controlling all that depends on you!