Acts: Day 36

The Plot to Kill Paul


Today's Text: Acts 23:12-35, 2 Corinthians 4:8-12, Job 33:4

Text:  Acts 23:12-35, 2 Corinthians 4:8-12, Job 33:4

Paul was on the road to his death, a journey to Rome he suspected would end in martyrdom. Yet, in spite of the uncertainty ahead, he was exuberantly alive in Christ. This paradox of death and life exists for us all. Trusting in God’s good providence is life, but trusting in our own strength means only death.

Though faced with a fierce opposition that constantly threatened his life, Paul did not set his hope on his own strength, nor place his trust in earthly and human things. His sight was always set upon Christ and His kingdom. The Jews, however, were a remarkable contrast. They, too, were committed to a kingdom in this life-and-death struggle, but it was not the Kingdom of Christ.

Forty of these men swore an oath not to eat until they killed Paul (Acts 23:12). Translators render this phrase both as “oath” and “curse,” and it comes from the Greek word anathema. I’ve heard this word used in English for strong dislike (i.e., “After she stole my boyfriend at the party, she is anathema to me.”), but that’s such a sad watering-down of this big, meaty word. Anathema is a declaration, a curse, or vow that a thing is devoted to destroying (Numbers 21:2-3, Joshua 6:17). It is a thing accursed—something set aside because of moral worthlessness.

In fact, another place this word is used in the Bible is Peter’s third betrayal of Christ. Peter was using his strongest language to emphasize the distance between himself and Christ:

Then he started to curse and to swear with an oath, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about!”
-Mark 14:71

In His mighty grace, Christ forgave Peter. His forgiveness is so deep. But to plot evil is to seek death instead of life. The prophet Micah reminds us that to lie in bed at night and devise evil schemes is bad, but to wake up the next morning and vow to commit yourself to them is to make a covenant with evil (Micah 2:1). It’s like the difference between crimes committed in the heat of passion and a cold-blooded resolve to do evil.

In cold blood, these men took a vow devoting themselves to the destruction of Paul, believing it was for the good of society. This combination of spiritual blindness and self-reliance is deadly. They believed that if they didn’t act, justice would never be done. But trying to take justice into our own hands shows contempt for God’s providence. The plans of those forty Jews were foiled because they’d bound themselves to do evil, which is death itself.

How often do we believe that God depends on us to wrangle our version of justice in the world? Instead, we must depend on Him and His sovereignty. Let us bind ourselves to Christ and His Kingdom, not to death and anathema or by taking things into our own hands. God is sovereign, and His is the way of life.


  • Natalie T

    How pertinent to my feelings after so many terrorist attacks and other cold blood murders in the news. Many believe they must take charge to change the world into how they see it. We cannot remain passive in the face of evil, but we also cannot rule ourselves. We must hand the fate of the world over to God.

  • I am weak but HE is strong. Lord, let us today look to you for our answers and not ourselves or the foolishness of the world. Amen.

  • Caroline

    I just loved Paul’s example. He didn’t focus on all the chaos around him, but fixed his eyes on CHRIST. What an example we need to live by today!

  • Amanda Mae Steele

    Wow… Again, so eerily timed with the recent events in the news. Thank you for this Word – God IS sovereign! Let us continue to hold fast to our Hope!

    • Kayla

      This is so true. I live in Dallas not far from the locations of last week’s events. I feel that our city is being awoken. Believers are seeing more opportunities to step up and help others find Christ in these difficult times.

      Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

  • Beth Moore spoke on periscope a few hours ago. The title is “Five minutes for those who could use a maternal voice”. Excellent! She reminds us to be bold and courageous. How timely with today’s message in Acts.

  • Keri Underwood

    I love reading about the meanings of some of the words used in these passages! It brings such a deeper meaning and understanding to the Bible. It makes the passage of Peter denying Christ all the more powerful and gut-wrenching!

  • Tochi Heredia

    Wow, this was timely.
    This past week I’ve been confronted with the way I deal with things. Whether it’d be health issues, anxiety or stress, I attempt to rely on my own strength to make things better.
    Oh, how short I fall. I think that, for me, this is the result of impatience and pride. It’s as if I don’t trust God because I think I can do better. Yikes.
    Father, move us to surrender every aspect of our lives to you, help us learn from Paul’s example and trust that You are the only Way, Truth and Life.

    Lots of love, dear sisters! Maye this week be a victorious one!

  • this is so appropriate for the time we are living in now. How easy would it be to judge, condemn, and try to take justice in our own hands? It takes tremendous faith to leave it to God.

  • Sarah Kay

    I love that Paul didn’t sit around, twiddling his thumbs and waiting around for an angel to break him out of jail. He recognized that God works in every day people, that he can use anyone to accomplish his purposes, even a CHILD like Paul’s nephew! And thank goodness that this young boy was brave enough to bring information to the tribune. I imagine this required no small amount of bravery on his part. It leads me to wonder… how does God want to use me for his purposes today? May I have a soft and open heart today, with eyes to see what you see, Lord.

  • churchmouse

    “Trying to take justice into our own hands shows contempt for God’s Providence.” So true, Rebecca! Not only trying to take justice into my own hand but really whenever I am trying to control my circumstances, when I’m clutching at life with clenched fists. Thank you for reminding me that I am failing to trust God every time I do this. My prayer today is that I would live with open hands, accepting whatever He sends my way, trusting His sovereign love and care. Amen.

    • Sue

      Trusting…… Amen

    • Taylor

      I have been working on giving God control, I only give him certain things to handle and I think I can take care of the rest. Oh how this must break His heart! Taking matters into my own hands means I do not trust God will take care of it. His ways are better than mine ALWAYS.

    • Nadine


  • These verses speaks so clearly to me this morning. “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” Yes, may the life of Jesus be manifested in our bodies.

  • candacejo

    Surely the purpose of The Church in these days of darkness is to shine the Light of Christ!
    These things will happen but the fight is with the rulers of the darkness of this world…against the enemy of our souls, Satan himself. He would do anything to cause confusion, even among the people of God!! Because we are human, we all have differing opinions, and he will purposely divide The Church, in the time when the world needs us the most, and get our focus off of spreading the Light, keeping us consumed with who is right and who is wrong.
    If we have that Light of life, HIS Light, we should automatically shine it everywhere we go and those that are in darkness will be overcome by the Light, they will be drawn into it because the Light consumes the darkness.

    Praying we will be salt and light in a dark, dark world and bring that eternal hope to people that are hungry and searching for it.

    • missycm

      Yes. In one of the more compelling sermons I´ve ever heard, Louie Giglio spoke to this (based in Acts 2) in a sermon called Strike the Match (up on under WATCH). If you´ve got a moment to watch it today, do it.

    • DAH

      I totally agree with you. There are so many disheartening things happening all around the world right now and every now. And again I have to catch myself and remember that this is all smoke & mirrors. There is a bigger, deeper war waged here and it is in the spiritual. We the church have to be on guard agaisnst the things that threaten to divide us because we are meant to be the light in this dark time.

      So I pray along with you that we be salt & light and help to point others to the eternal hope that can only be found in Christ.

    • Kelly

      Amen!!!! Thank you for speaking this truth!

    • Sarah Kay

      Yes! May we all shine his light in our lives!

    • Rhonda

      Amen….well said!

    • Cali

      Love this! Thank you.

    • Christy

      Amen sister!

  • This is a good word for such a time as this. “God is sovereign, and His is the way of life.”

  • When I was a child, we had bible readings and prayers every morning along with the Pledge of Allegiance. Everyone took part unlike today where students don’t even have to stand during the pledge if they choose not to. When God was taken out of the public schools it began the downfall of our great nation. It all started with one woman, an atheist, Madalyn O’Hair, in 1963.

  • Mary Wilson

    Evil seems to be more and more rampant these days. So much hatred and killing. People refusing to see the other side of the story; refusing to have empathy for their fellow man. Our makes me sad and sick to see it. But the worst party is that we have politicians and movements and even famous people who ate inciting this violence by perpetuating an atmosphere of hatred. They are divisive on purpose and they are doing. They are not our leaders and should never be trusted more than God’s word. God’s word promotes peace and harmony. God’s word is inclusive of all people. As Christians we are to love AND serve others regardless of their race or ethnicity. But it’s a difficult thing to do when there is so much opposition. These days the spiritual battles are truly more and more evident.

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