“He said: “Some Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul before the Sanhedrin tomorrow on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about him. 21 Don’t give in to them, because more than forty of them are waiting in ambush for him. They have taken an oath not to eat or drink until they have killed him. They are ready now, waiting for your consent to their request.” 22 The commander dismissed the young man with this warning: “Don’t tell anyone that you have reported this to me.” 23 Then he called two of his centurions and ordered them, “Get ready a detachment of two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen[b] to go to Caesarea at nine tonight. 24 Provide horses for Paul so that he may be taken safely to Governor Felix.” Acts 23.20-24
This exchange between the commander of the Roman guard, his centurions and Paul’s nephew is intriguing. The nephew of Paul hears of a plot to kill Paul. Forty Jewish men were going to ambush him at a meeting before the Sanhedrin under false pretense. But Paul sends his nephew to the commander to deliver the news. Because Paul is a Roman citizen, he has the right for full protection until his trial.
In order to protect Paul from the Jews plots to kill him, the command orders a huge array of protection for him — two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen, two hundred spearmen — in a giant show of force, sending a message to the Jews that they are in control. Four hundred and seventy soldiers are dispatched essentially to protect Paul and ensuring the propagation of the Gospel to Rome.
On the surface we see Rome showing their force. But in the heavenly realm, we see God bringing four hundred and seventy “angels” to the aid of Paul to protect him from forty Jews wanting to take his life. The gospel was going to be proclaimed. Jesus already met with Paul earlier in this chapter and promised, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”
Paul was a vessel for the Lord. His evangelism of the early church which piggybacked the entire land conquered by the Roman Empire was incredible. God used an earthly kingdom to make know the glory of his Son. The expanse of the Roman Roads (some 250k miles of highway) allowed the spread of the Gospel from the Northern England to Egypt (see this amazing “mash up” map of Roman Roads with a modern transit system.) God used the power-influencer of the day to propel his message of salvation through Jesus Christ to the world.
What instruments is God putting before us to make Christ known? Internet, industry, travel, technology, communication? How can we use what God has given us to proclaim his message and take Christ to the ends of the earth?
“O Lord God, you knew just what you were doing. You brought to earth your Son, born to a teenage, unmarried, virgin in an obscure village in the region of Galilee in a tiny country. And yet, that nation just so happened to be inhabited by the most advanced and far reaching conquers who had a road map to the world, literally. You could have spread the Gospel in many ways but you used an advanced system of roads to tell your story to the ends of the earth. Thank you Lord for your creativity! For your love and compassion to reach all people. Help us see what modern technologies you have given us to make your Word known. I love you Lord and praise your name. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen