(Acts 23) God's Plan Is At Work

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...Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged! (Acts 23:6)

Introduction

God's plan was stated to Paul in Acts 9:15 "to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the sons of Israel."

God chose or called Paul to serve Him as an apostle. God's call to Paul had previously been resisted. In Acts 9:5 and Acts 26:14, the Lord said, "It is hard for you to kick against the goads."

The Lord's plan was that Paul not only testify for Him in Jerusalem, but also to "bear witness at Rome." (Acts 23:11)

God's plan for the whole Christian church was pronounced by the Lord Jesus. "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world." (Matthew 28:18-20)

Our obligation to the Lord, as Christians, is to be carrying the Christian message to this part of the world in which we live.

Paul's call was to witness to Christ in Jerusalem, and throughout the Roman Empire, as he planted the gospel on his way to the capital city of Rome.

The Lord's plan for his life was being accomplished, because he was obeying the call and the guidance of the Lord. And this is the way God's plan will be accomplished in our own lives - by answering God's call to serve Him alone, all our days, and by continuing daily to follow Him.

If we do not do this and keep on doing this, His plan for our lives will be forfeited and missed. If we come to God later in our lives, we can serve Him for the remainder of our lives, but we will have missed out for the years before, in knowing the joy of serving Him.

1 The Apostle's Profession (Verses 1-9)

Before the Jewish Council in Jerusalem:

  1. "I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day." - God is the one who determines what a good conscience is. When we let Him search our heart and ask Him to make us clean, He will. (Acts 15:8-9)
  2. We can have a seared conscience (1 Timothy 4:2), an evil conscience (Hebrews 10:22), a weak conscience (1 Corinthians 8:7) or a pure conscience (1 Timothy 3:9 & 2 Timothy 1:3).
  3. Paul stated to Governor Felix (in Acts 24:16) "I myself always strive to have a good conscience without offense toward God and men." A good conscience must be kept good.
  4. Having a good and pure conscience does not mean we will not have enemies, who will falsely accuse us of wrongdoing. Even the Lord Jesus Himself had enemies and false accusers.
  5. What matters is: that I know that the Lord has forgiven my past sins, and that He has made my heart clean from all that is wrong.
  6. To have God work out His plan in your life, you need a good conscience.
  7. God worked in spite of Paul's weakness. It seems that Paul's eyesight was defective: for several reasons: He did not recognize the high priest. He was "looking intently" at the Sanhedrin Council, as though he had difficulty seeing them clearly. Other passages of scripture indicate he had poor sight. (Refer to Galatians 4:13-15 & 6:11). Perhaps this injury came from the terrible stoning he received at Lystra. (Acts 14:19)

Physical weakness is not a hindrance for God's plan being fulfilled in your life. As God promised Paul (in 2 Corinthians 12:9) "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness."

2 The Commander's Pluck (Verse 10)

  1. The Roman Commander protected Paul by having the soldiers pluck him from the grasp of the Sadducees and the Pharisees.
  2. What a mockery of God's name that the Jewish religious council broke up in "a great dissension" (verse 10), so that the Roman soldiers had to forcefully remove Paul from their grasp.
  3. God's plan was still being accomplished in the midst of the great dissension - because Paul had born witness to Christ in Jerusalem - both to the people and to the Jewish council, the Sanhedrin, and because the Roman commander was doing his job.
  4. Just because difficulties or troubles are happening to you, does not mean that God's plan is not being accomplished in your life, providing you are obeying the Lord.
  5. The Lord Himself was not inflicting these troubles on Paul. God's enemies were doing it.
  6. They did not take their own advice "Let us not fight against God" (verse 9). This is similar advice given by Gamaliel, Paul's teacher. (Acts 5:38b & 39) "If this plan or this work is of man, it will come to nothing, but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it - lest you even be found to fight against God." (Acts 22:3)

3 The Lord's Promise (Verse 11)

  1. The Lord stood by Paul, not just the following night, but always. This was the fourth time the Lord had appeared to Paul (see Acts 9:3-6, 18:9-10 and 22:17-18).
  2. The Lord has promised all who keep on trusting in Him, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5, Genesis 28:15, Deuteronomy 31:6 & 8, Joshua 1:5) But do not be presumptuous with the Lord's promise. God's prophet Azariah warns us, "The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you."(2 Chronicles 15:2)
  3. God's promise to Paul was that just as his testimony had been given in Jerusalem, so he would also bear witness in Rome. We know that God kept His promise to Paul. (Acts 28:16, 23 & 30-31)

4 The Enemy Plot (verses 12-22)

  1. The Jews who hated Paul were doing the very thing that Gamaliel and the Pharisees had warned them of - "fighting against God."
  2. Sometimes, evil men temporarily get away with their schemes against God's people. In this case they did not get away with their plot against Paul. Be sure of this - they can never win against God Himself. The Lord Jesus announced, "I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
  3. A little boy, Paul's nephew (verse 16)- was God's messenger to save Paul's life from their planned ambush. God uses children who love Him for work in His kingdom. (Examples: Samuel, The boy's lunch, the little Jewish girl who told Naaman the leper how to be healed).
  4. If these 40 men kept their vows, they would have starved themselves to death.

5 The Romans Protection

How magnificent are the ways of God!

  1. God laughs at the plots of wicked men. As David wrote (in Psalm 37:12-13) "The wicked plots against the just, and gnashes at him with his teeth. The Lord laughs at him, for He sees that his day is coming."
  2. Before the plotters even had time to hide in ambush, the 470 man Roman escort protecting Paul had already left that same night at the third hour of the night (about 9 pm), on their way to Caesarea. They provided Paul with a horse, too.
  3. That night they arrived at Antipatris, a small fortress (verse 31), about 1/2 way to Caesarea. The whole trip from Jerusalem to Caesarea was about 68 miles.
  4. The Lord used these actions of the Jews and the Romans to bring Paul to Rome, and on the way he bore witness to Christ, in Caesarea and other places to kings, governors, and rulers.

Conclusion

God has a plan for your life; Yes, for each and every life. Have you answered God's call on your life to be saved from all your sin, and have you surrendered your life to serve Him in whatever way He wants you to?

If you accept His call on your life and follow Him, He will work out His wonderful plan for your life, through all the circumstances you pass through - as He did with Paul.

God's plan is at work - and will not fail. Just as the Lord stood by Paul - the Lord will stand by you.

Note:

Unless otherwise stated, all Bible quotations are from the New King James Version.

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