Then he called two of his centurions and ordered them, “Get ready a detachment of two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go to Caesarea at nine tonight. Provide horses for Paul so that he may be taken safely to Governor Felix.” (Acts 23:23-24)
Paul's complaint before the Sanhedrin caused a collective uproar among the Jewish masses. After the uproar, more than 40 of the Jews conspired to kill Paul, even swearing together: "We have taken a solemn oath not to eat anything until we have killed Paul." (Cf. Acts 23:12) When the commander of Rome learned that the Jews plotted to kill Paul, they marshaled their forces to escort Paul from Jerusalem to Caesarea. Because Jerusalem was the center of Jewish power, and Caesarea was the headquarters of the region where the Roman Empire ruled. Therefore, if the commander wanted to save Paul from being killed by the Jews, he must take Paul out of the Jewish sphere of influence.
It was unfortunate and confusing that Paul, a zealous servant of God, for whom he had given it all away, suffered from being arrested for no reason. But if we look at the whole story of Paul’s arrest, we can see the wonderful work of God. It is God who, through the hands of Roman officers, saved Paul more than once from being killed by the Jews.
When Paul was almost killed by the Jews during the cleansing ceremony in the temple, the commander took the officers and arrested him so that he would not be killed by the Jews. When Paul defended himself in the tower, he would also have been killed by the Jews if he was not protected by Roman officers. The day after Paul was arrested, when he complained before the Sanhedrin, he was almost torn apart by the Jews, and it was also the Roman officers who saved him from the crowd. And this time, a group of Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath to kill Paul. Again under the protection of Roman officers, Paul escaped from the hands of the Jews. Finally, under the escort of the Roman officers, Paul arrived safely in the city of Rome, where he testified for the Lord.
Through the arrest of Paul, we can see that everything is in the hands of God, and he has good pleasure. In all things God works for the good of those who love him (cf. Rom. 8:28).
We can see God's good pleasure through Paul's sufferings. In fact, every Christian may have a similar experience on this heavenly road. Every Christian will encounter many unexpected things that cannot be controlled, but all these things are in the hands of God. His thoughts are higher than ours, so in every experience there is God’s good pleasure. But in most cases, when we go through these things, we may be confused because we do not understand the will of God, and even may complain about God.
If we can look at what we have experienced from a different perspective, we will find many things are not good from human perspective, but God's blessing is behind them. For example, we think it is unfortunate for Christians to experience suffering, because it makes them weak and causes pain. But suffering can shape their life and enable them to rely more on God and experience God fully, so it is also called a disguised blessing.
We may not see God’s good pleasure through some experiences immediately. We need to take enough time and look at them in different ways. So no matter what we experience, we need to have faith to look up to God, wait for God, and one day we will certainly see the glory of God.
(Note: The author of this article is a co-worker of a grassroots church in Fujian)
- Translated by Abigail Wu