Day 36

The Plot to Kill Paul

from the Acts of the Apostles reading plan

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

BY Rebecca Faires

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.


Post Comments (33)

33 thoughts on "The Plot to Kill Paul"

  1. Natalie T says:

    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.

  2. Emily says:

    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.

    1. She Reads Truth says:

      Amen. Thanks for joining us today, Emily!


  3. Caroline says:

    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!

  4. Amanda Mae Steele says:

    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!

    1. Kayla says:

      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.”

      1. Cali says:

        Praying for your city.

  5. Kathie says:

    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.

  6. Keri Underwood says:

    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!

  7. Tochi Heredia says:

    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!

    1. She Reads Truth says:

      Thankful for this encouraging reminder, Tochi. Blessings to you!


    2. Cali says:


      1. Nadine says:

        Thanks for the reminder. I needed this today xx

    3. Susan says:

      Definitely! My own strength is insufficient.

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