3rd February 2017


“They went to the chief priests and the elders and said…‘Now then, you and the Sanhedrin petition the commander to bring him before you on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about his case. We are ready to kill him…’
Acts 23:14-15 (NIVUK)

“Petitioning” has been much in the news this week. It means to bring a formal request, often in writing, to an authority in the hope of changing the course of events.

Controversy surrounded almost anything the apostle Paul said and did, and it reaches crisis proportions in Acts 21 to 23. Jerusalem was in an uproar. Paul was being beaten up by an angry mob when Roman soldiers rescued him. “The crowd that followed kept shouting, ‘Get rid of him!’” (21:36), “He’s not fit to live!’” (22:22). But the Roman commander, who had bought his own Roman citizenship, intervenes because Paul complains that he, Paul, was a Roman citizen by birth and that this was no way to treat him. Paul speaks to the Jewish council and says that the problem is that he believes in the resurrection of the dead, and this divides his listeners. Some said, “We find nothing wrong with this man”, and “The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them” (23:9-10).

This is where the petitioning comes. About 40 of those leading the opposition to Paul urge the religious élite to petition the commander to bring Paul before them again. The plan is to kill Paul at that point. The petition, presumably a written document, is sent, but Paul’s nephew hears of the plot and warns the Roman commander, who orders that Paul be escorted to safety by “a detachment of two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen” (23:23). Quite a story!

As for we who believe and trust in God, scripture tells us to bring our petitions to God in prayer. Paul himself instructs us: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (I Timothy 2:1-4).

Eternal God, thank you for who you are, and, we petition you on behalf of our world leaders, to reveal your son Jesus to them that they might accept his salvation. Help us please to live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
In Jesus’ name.

Study by James Henderson


About the Author:
James Henderson is the National Ministry Leader for Grace Communion International in the UK and Ireland.

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