What does Acts chapter 23 mean?In Acts 23, Paul is between two difficult situations, where the solution to the first leads him into something even more dangerous. In English, this is referred to using the expression "out of the frying pan and into the fire." While Paul had been working to prove that devotion to Jesus did not eliminate his Jewish-ness, Jews from the province of Asia wrongly accused him of bringing a Gentile into the temple. Some of the crowd heard the accusations and started beating Paul while the rest of the crowd heard nothing and joined in the melee for no reason. The Roman tribune tried to uncover why the Jews have suddenly rioted by letting their victim speak. This made the mob even angrier, and the tribune had to arrest Paul to keep him safe. Once Paul was officially in custody, the tribune ordered the centurion to beat the truth out of him, not realizing Paul was a Roman citizen. Even tying Paul's hands was against the Roman law. Paul told the centurion, who informed the tribune, about his citizenship, and Paul was not examined by flogging. Instead, the tribune decided to take Paul to the Sanhedrin; maybe the Jewish leaders could explain (Acts 21:27—22:30).
Acts 23:1–11 records the fiasco that is the meeting with the Sanhedrin. Paul begins as he usually does by sincerely trying to bring Jews to understand Jesus is their Messiah. He seems to underestimate their hostility, however. He tries to defend his honor and they strike him. Incredulous, he accuses them of breaking the Mosaic law but, possibly because of his poor eyesight, he winds up deriding the high priest. He quickly realizes they're not going to listen to him, so he sets them against each other. He identifies himself as a Pharisee who believes in the resurrection of the dead. Most of the Sanhedrin are Sadducees who do not believe in a physical resurrection. The two factions turn violent, and the tribune takes Paul away for his safety. That night, Jesus tells Paul he will go to Rome.
In Acts 23:12–22, the Sanhedrin show just how unwelcome Paul is in Jerusalem. Paul's nephew overhears a murder plot made by devout Jews and supported by the chief priests and elders. He reports to Paul who tells him to speak with the tribune. The tribune swears the boy to secrecy.
Acts 23:23–35 begins Paul's two-year stay in Caesarea Maritima. Needing to protect Paul from the assassination plot, the tribune sends him with two centurions, two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen, and two hundred spearmen to the governor's capital. He includes a letter saying the Jews attacked Paul—but he can't figure out why. Governor Felix tells Paul he will hold him until his accusers arrive and the trial begins.
In Acts 24, Felix proves to be both intelligent and corrupt. He hears the Sanhedrin's accusations and Paul's defense and, knowing about Christianity, realizes there's no charge against Paul that will stick. Even so, he decides he will profit more if he keeps Paul under house arrest. First, it will please the Jewish leaders; second, Paul may offer him a bribe. He tells Paul he will hold him until the tribune arrives with his evidence, but the tribune never comes. Two years later, when Porcius Festus is made governor, Paul is still under house arrest.