by Greg Williamson © revised 2022
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB © The Lockman Foundation*

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Paul Speaks to the Crowd (Acts 22:1-21) | Paul the Roman Citizen; Before the Sanhedrin (Acts 22:22-23:11)

Paul the Roman Citizen; Before the Sanhedrin (Acts 22:22-23:11)

From anarchy & action to anger & argument (Acts 22:22-23:11)

(22) They listened to him up to this statement, and then they raised their voices and said, "Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he should not be allowed to live!" (23) And as they were crying out and throwing off their cloaks and tossing dust into the air, (24) the commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks, stating that he should be examined by scourging so that he might find out the reason why they were shouting against him that way. (25) But when they stretched him out with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, "Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman and uncondemned?" (26) When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and told him, saying, "What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman." (27) The commander came and said to him, "Tell me, are you a Roman?" And he said, "Yes." (28) The commander answered, "I acquired this citizenship with a large sum of money." And Paul said, "But I was actually born a citizen." (29) Therefore those who were about to examine him immediately let go of him; and the commander also was afraid when he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had put him in chains.

(30) But on the next day, wishing to know for certain why he had been accused by the Jews, he released him and ordered the chief priests and all the Council to assemble, and brought Paul down and set him before them.

(23:1) Paul, looking intently at the Council, said, "Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day." (2) The high priest Ananias commanded those standing beside him to strike him on the mouth. (3) Then Paul said to him, "God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Do you sit to try me according to the Law, and in violation of the Law order me to be struck?" (4) But the bystanders said, "Do you revile God's high priest?" (5) And Paul said, "I was not aware, brethren, that he was high priest; for it is written, 'YOU SHALL NOT SPEAK EVIL OF A RULER OF YOUR PEOPLE.'"

(6) But perceiving that one group were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, Paul began crying out in the Council, "Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; I am on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead!" (7) As he said this, there occurred a dissension between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. (8) For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor an angel, nor a spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. (9) And there occurred a great uproar; and some of the scribes of the Pharisaic party stood up and began to argue heatedly, saying, "We find nothing wrong with this man; suppose a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?" (10) And as a great dissension was developing, the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them and ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force, and bring him into the barracks.

(11) But on the night immediately following, the Lord stood at his side and said, "Take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also."

  A. The anarchy of the crowd (Acts 22:22–23): Again the mob turns violent and attempts to kill Paul, forcing the soldiers to secure him in their barracks.
  B. The action of the commander (Acts 22:24–29)
    1. The command (Acts 22:24): He orders the apostle whipped, hoping Paul will reveal why the crowd hates him so much.
2. The countermand (Acts 22:25–29): He quickly repeals the order upon learning of Paul's Roman citizenship.
III. PAUL STANDS BEFORE THE JEWISH SANHEDRIN (Acts 22:30): The apostle is given the opportunity to testify before these leaders.
I. THE COUNCIL (Acts 23:1–10): Paul stands before the Jewish Sanhedrin.
  A. The assault (Acts 23:1–2): After greeting the council members, Paul is struck on the mouth by order of the high priest.
B. The anger (Acts 23:3): Not knowing his tormentor's identity, Paul says, "God will slap you, you whitewashed wall!"
C. The apology (Acts 23:4–5): Upon learning it is the high priest, Paul apologizes.
D. The argument (Acts 23:6–10): A dispute breaks out between the Sadducees and Pharisees.
    1. The reason for this argument (Acts 23:6–8): Paul boasts of being a Pharisee, knowing this group disagrees with the Sadducees over three issues—the fact of the resurrection, the existence of angels, and the existence of spirits.
      a. The Pharisees believe all three (Acts 23:6–7, 8b).
b. The Sadducees deny all three (Acts 23:8a).
    2. The results of this argument (Acts 23:9–10): It becomes so violent that Paul has to be removed by the soldiers for his own protection. [ref]
II. THE COMFORT (Acts 23:11)
  A. The Lord appears to Paul that night (Acts 23:11a).
B. The Lord speaks to Paul that night (Acts 23:11b): "Be encouraged, Paul. Just as you have told the people about me here in Jerusalem, you must preach the Good News in Rome."
  • (Acts 22:22-29) Fernando:
    Paul's statement in [Acts 22:21] that the Lord had decided to send him to the Gentiles served as a trigger for another outburst from the Jewish crowd. They shouted for his death, threw off their cloaks, and flung dust into the air (Acts 22:22–23). The latter two actions expressed both their frustration and their horror at blasphemy, possibly through their connecting the word "Gentiles" with Paul's alleged desecration of the temple. The crowd was too unruly for anything constructive to take place, so the commander had [Paul] taken into the barracks in order to give him third-degree treatment -- questioning through torture with hope of getting at the bottom of the wrong that Paul had committed about which the Jews were so angry (Acts 22:24).

    The planned flogging was probably the Roman brutal scourging with a whip that had thongs weighted with rough pieces of bone or metal. It could cause great harm and even leave people crippled for life. As Paul was about to be flogged, he told the centurion that he was a Roman citizen. Though Roman citizens who had been convicted of some crime could have scourging decreed as a punishment, they were exempt from it as a method of inquiry before trial. The commander was therefore saved from breaking the law any further, for he was wrong to even order the flogging. Thus, his alarm (Acts 22:29) was understandable. He talked of the bribe that he had had to pay to acquire Roman citizenship (Acts 22:28), while Paul said he had inherited his citizenship through birth. [ref]
  • (Acts 22:22-23)
    ■ The crowd listened respectfully to Paul until the mention of "his mission to the Gentiles [see Acts 22:21]. This word made all their resentment blaze up with redoubled fury. They screamed and gesticulated in a riot of abandoned rage. ... [I]t was evident that they were bitterly hostile to [Paul] and were out for his blood. In a few well-chosen words Luke paints the scene; we can see them waving their clothes in the air and throwing dust about in their excitement." [ref]
    ■ Polhill: "In those days of rising Jewish nationalism, Paul's law-free Gentile mission seemed to be disloyal to all that was Jewish (cf. Acts 21:21)." [ref]
    ■ Toussaint: "When Paul mentioned his commission to preach to the Gentiles, the mob was moved to instant rage and violence. Preaching to Gentiles could not have caused such a response because the religious authorities of Israel had preached to Gentiles (cf. Matt. 23:15). Paul’s message that infuriated the mob was that Jews and Gentiles were equal without the Law of Moses (cf. Eph. 2:11–22; 3:2–6; Gal. 3:28). This response is important to the argument of the Book of Acts. It indicates the Jews in Jerusalem had irrevocably refused the gospel of Jesus Christ and had sealed their fate. Less than 20 years later in A.D. 70 the city of Jerusalem became rubble and ruin (cf. Matt. 24:1–2; 21:41; 22:7). This, of course, does not mean Israel will not be restored in the future (cf. Rom. 11:26)." [ref]
Potential Persecution (Acts 21:26-22:22)
When ministering in cultural situations where people may be resistant to the gospel, we should be prepared to identify with Christ’s sufferings. (Video link) [ref]
  • (Acts 22:24) Toussaint: "This flogging is different from Paul’s beating with rods at Philippi and on two other occasions (2 Cor. 11:25; Acts 16:22–23). Nor was it the same as the Jewish 39 lashes administered with the long whips, a punishment Paul had received five times (2 Cor. 11:24). The Roman scourge was inflicted with shorter whips embedded with pieces of metal or bones and attached to a strong wooden handle. It could kill a man or leave him permanently crippled. This was the punishment Christ received (Matt. 27:26), leaving Him unable to carry His cross." [ref]
  • (Acts 22:25) Paul asserts both his Roman citizenship and the fact that he has not benn found guilty of any crime via a fair trial (uncondemned). Peterson: "As a Roman citizen, Paul could rightly appeal to be delivered from scourging as a form of inquisition. ... [I]n this context, while Paul's self-disclosure indicates that 'he has some confidence that his Roman citizenship may make a difference in his treatment, its manner suggests that Paul is still prepared to suffer or even die without complaint (cf. Acts 21:13) if it is disregarded' (Rapske, Roman Custody). Paul possibly established his citizenship by means of his 'diploma', which was 'a small wooden diptych which would attest his registration (and birth) as a citizen' (Barrett 1998)." [ref]
Citizenship Is A Two-Way Street
H. A. Ironside:
Sometimes we are told that because Christians are heavenly citizens, they have no responsibility whatever as to citizenship here on earth. We have even heard it said that inasmuch as one cannot be a citizen of two countries at the same time here on earth, so one cannot be a citizen of heaven and a citizen of earth at the same time. But this certainly does not follow. Since it was right for the Apostle Paul to claim Roman citizenship in order that he might not have to suffer scourging, then it was also incumbent upon him -- and is incumbent upon any citizen of any country in this world -- to fulfil the responsibilities of citizenship. In other words, if I am to have certain protection as a citizen, I owe it to my country to act accordingly when it comes to fulfilling my responsibilities. It is true I am a citizen of heaven, but I am also a citizen of whatever country I belong to on earth by natural relationship, and so I am to be loyal to my government, to pay my taxes, and to accept even military responsibilities, as at the present time, if I am subject to them. It would be unthinkable that one would be entitled to claim protection from a country if he did not loyally respond to the rightful demands of its government. [ref]
  • (Acts 22:26-28) The commander learns of Paul's Roman citizenship.
    ■ Keener: "In this period, Roman citizenship was not common in the east, especially among the non-elite, so no one had expected it for this prisoner. Paul might wait until he has been chained for the same reason as in [Acts 16:37]: he now has legal room to maneuver against them. Law prohibited even binding a Roman citizen without trial; although not all governors followed the law, the tribune would be wise to avoid a breach that could bring him into trouble with the governor. If one claimed to be a citizen, officials were supposed to treat him as such until documentation could be procured or checked." [ref]
    ■ Toussaint: "Could not anyone avoid flogging by simply claiming to be a Roman citizen? Perhaps; but if a person falsely claimed to be a citizen, he was liable to the death penalty." [ref]
No Unnecessary Suffering
Ajith Fernando:
Even though Paul was willing to suffer death for Christ's sake, he did not take on unnecessary suffering (Acts 21:13). Some second-century Christians are said to have gloried in suffering so much that they desired it in unhealthy ways. New Testament Christians did not give in to such excessive morbidity. Today too we can challenge people through the law to ensure our own rights and protection as long as we do not dishonor God. Especially when Christians are being illegally ill-treated because of their principles, it may be good for them (and for society in general) if they protest the way they are being treated.

I do not think God intends a battered wife to bear her pain silently when she is being physically abused and treated as a subhuman by her husband. A child must be encouraged to protest sexual abuse that he or she may be facing. Workers who are underpaid should appeal to their employers to be fair. Furthermore, if the Bible leaves room for us to speak up on behalf of ourselves for our protection, how much more important it is for us to speak up for others who are being dehumanized or treated unjustly.

Because of the sinfulness of the human race, in spite of all the advances in labor rights in the world, there are still situations where laborers are badly exploited. Christians ought to speak up on their behalf and try to secure their legitimate rights. These are results of Christians getting close to people. They see needs and realize that as Christians they can and must do something. The early Methodist movement rightly got involved in encouraging the labor movement. Christian laborers began to talk in their small groups about their troubles, and their fellow Christians realized they had to do something to alleviate those sufferings. [ref]
  • (Acts 22:30-23:10) Marshall:
    The tribune had grasped the fact that Paul was unpopular with the Jews, but was still no nearer discovering precisely what was the cause of the trouble; Paul's speech had not said anything about the immediate issue. In a further attempt to get at the truth he called the members of the Sanhedrin to meet with him. Instead of hearing Jewish accusations, however, the meeting heard a statement from Paul which was cut off sharply by an altercation with the high priest. Thereafter Paul again seized the chance to speak, and he successfully divided the assembly by claiming to side with the Pharisees in their belief in the resurrection of the dead, a doctrine denied by the Sadducees. A tumult broke out between the two groups, placing Paul in danger, and once again he had to be rescued from the Jews. [ref]
  • (Acts 22:30) The following day the commander orders the Sanhedrin to assemble, and he places Paul before them. Larkin: "Though the tribune is just doing his job in a case of public disorder, he becomes a model for Luke's readers and for us. Just as he persists in his pursuit to know the certain facts of the case (gnōnai to asphales; compare Acts 21:34), Luke's readers should study his works to know the certain truth of the gospel (epignōs . . . tēn asphaleian; Lk 1:4)." [ref]
  • (Acts 23:1-2) Paul surveys the members of the council with a steady gaze, and then says his piece: "Friends, I've lived with a clear conscience before God all my life, up to this very moment." That sets the Chief Priest Ananias off. He orders his aides to slap Paul in the face. (see The Message; some verbs changed to present tense)
    ■ Barclay: "There was a certain audacious recklessness about Paul's conduct before the Sanhedrin; he acted like a man who knew that he was burning his boats. Even his very beginning was a challenge. To say Brethren was to put himself on an equal footing with the court; for the normal beginning when addressing the Sanhedrin was, 'Rulers of the people and elders of Israel.'" [ref]
    ■ Stott: "[W]hy was the high priest so enraged by Paul's opening remark that he ordered him to be struck on the mouth? ... The most likely explanation is that Ananias understood Paul's words as a claim that, though now a Christian, he was still a good Jew, having served God with a good conscience all his life (since, as well as before, his conversion), even 'to this day'. This was certainly the claim Paul made in 2 Timothy 1:3. It seemed to Ananias the height of arrogance, even of blasphemy." [ref]
Warren W. Wiersbe:
"Conscience" is one of Paul's favorite words; he used it twice in Acts (23:1; 24:16) and twenty-one times in his letters. The word means "to know with, to know together." Conscience is the inner "judge" or "witness" that approves when we do right and disapproves when we do wrong (Rom. 2:15). Conscience does not set the standard; it only applies it. The conscience of a thief would bother him if he told the truth about his fellow crooks just as much as a Christian's conscience would convict him if he told a lie about his friends. Conscience does not make the standards; it only applies the standards of the person, whether they are good or bad, right or wrong.

Conscience may be compared to a window that lets in the light. God's Law is the light; and the cleaner the window is, the more the light shines in. As the window gets dirty, the light gets dimmer; and finally the light becomes darkness. A good conscience, or pure conscience (1 Tim. 3:9), is one that lets in God's light so that we are properly convicted if we do wrong and encouraged if we do right. A defiled conscience (1 Cor. 8:7) is one that has been sinned against so much that it is no longer dependable. If a person continues to sin against his conscience, he may end up with an evil conscience (Heb. 10:22) or a seared conscience (1 Tim. 4:2). Then he would feel convicted if he did what was right rather than what was wrong!

Paul had persecuted the church and had even caused innocent people to die, so how could he claim to have a good conscience? He had lived up to the light that he had, and that is all that a good conscience requires. After he became a Christian and the bright light of God's glory shone into his heart (2 Cor. 4:6), Paul then saw things differently and realized that he was "the chief of sinners" (1 Tim. 1:15). [ref]
R. C. Sproul:
When Luther was commanded at the Diet of Worms to revoke his convictions, he could not. He addressed Emperor Charles and the delegation from Rome and said, "Unless I am convinced by sacred Scripture or by evident reason, I cannot recant. For my conscience is held captive by the Word of God, and to act against conscience is neither right nor safe." I believe Luther's conscience was held captive by the Word of God, and I agree with the principle that he expressed, that to act against conscience is not right. It is certainly not safe. The Bible tells us that that which is not of faith is sin (Rom. 14:23). There are people who believe that certain things are wrong and sinful, even though the Bible leaves people free at that point, and if their conscience is persuaded that something is evil but they go ahead and do it anyway, then they have sinned. On the other hand, if someone is totally convinced that a certain activity is just and virtuous even though in God's sight it is a sin, does the fact that he acts according to conscience exonerate him? No, not if his conscience has been calloused by repetitive sin and by a slothful neglect of the Word of God, which is what captures the conscience.

We all have had our conscience influenced by things apart from God, for better or worse. We have a tendency to live not by the mandates of Scripture but by Jiminy Cricket theology, which says, "Let your conscience be your guide." If you commit sin in good conscience, it is still sin. When I took violin lessons, my teacher would ask, "Did you practice this week?" I'd say, "Yes, teacher." But she did not take my word for it. She would take my hand and run her fingers across the tips of my fingers to see if they were calloused. If they were calloused, then she would know I had practiced, but if they were not calloused, she would know I had lied.

We get calloused from repeated practice. The first time we commit a sin, we may abhor ourselves. We may be stricken with a guilty conscience. If we do it again, our conscience is less strident. If we do it repeatedly, we will eventually feel no remorse at all. We live in a culture that has lost its conscience. We are like the people Jeremiah described who had the forehead of a harlot who had lost her capacity to blush. We live in a culture that practices sin day after day, and nobody says anything about it. We had better be careful that if and when we follow our conscience, it has been informed by the Word of God. [ref]
  • (Acts 23:3) Then Paul said to him, "God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Do you sit to try me according to the Law, and in violation of the Law order me to be struck?" Williams: "It was both offensive and an offense for one Jew to order another to be struck in this way, Paul's 'knee-jerk' response was to declare that God would strike the high priest (lit., 'God is about to strike you'). He called him a whitewashed wall, a proverbial saying meaning that he was a hypocrite, like the prophets of Ezekiel 13:10f. who covered a wall of loose stones with whitewash so that it appeared to be other than it was (cf. Isa. 30:13; Matt. 23:27; Luke 11:44). Ananias bore the semblance of a minister of justice, but he was not what he seemed (cf. Lev. 19:15), for in Jewish law the rights of the defendant were carefully safeguarded." [ref]
  • (Acts 23:5) Paul claims to be unaware that Ananias is high priest. Ger:
    There are two possibilities to explain Paul's ignorance of Ananias being high priest. First, Paul may well have recognized the high priest but was sarcastically commenting that Ananias' boorish and inappropriate action had rendered him unrecognizable as high priest. The alternative explanation, however, is more likely. As this was a specially convened session held within the Antonia, there is no reason to believe that Ananias would have been wearing his high priestly garments or anything to indicate his status as anything other than a simple priest or scholar. As an infrequent visitor to Jerusalem, Paul would have previously seen Ananias only a few times, and then at a distance. Considering that the room was filled with heavily bearded Jewish men of a certain age, it is not surprising that Paul was unable to recognize Ananias as high priest. [ref]
  • (Acts 23:6) Paul, knowing some of the council is made up of Sadducees and others of Pharisees and how they hate each other, decides to exploit their antagonism: "Friends, I am a stalwart Pharisee from a long line of Pharisees. It's because of my Pharisee convictions -- the hope and resurrection of the dead -- that I've been hauled into this court" (see The Message; some verbs changed to present tense). Keener:
    Paul finds supporters to whom he can appeal. The hope of the resurrection was central to Judaism, and many martyrs had died staking their hope on it. Paul's views did not violate any central tenets of Pharisaism; he was now a "Pharisee plus," who taught that the resurrection had already been inaugurated in Jesus. Pharisees recognized that no true Pharisee would have committed the crime with which Paul had been charged by the original crowd (Acts 21:28). Moreover, Paul maneuvers strategically: if the tribune can be persuaded that his opposition's motives are merely theological, this verdict will later help his case before the governor (Acts 24:20–21). [ref]
The Gospel At Our Fingertips
H. A. Ironsise:
I have often called attention to the fact that …  [Romans 10:9, 10] can be best illustrated by the fingers of one hand. It commences with uncertainty -- that little word "If." It ends with glorious certainty -- "saved." What a wonderful thing it is to be able to say, "Thank God, I am sure that my soul is saved." Well now, in between there are three "shalts."
  1. "If" -- there is the thumb.
  2. "If thou shalt" -- there is the first finger.
  3. "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt" -- there is the second finger.
  4. "Believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt" -- there is the third finger;
  5. and now the fourth finger -- "be saved."
There it is. Why, you have the gospel at your very finger-tips! Think of it! "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." It is not enough to believe in resurrection; it is not enough to believe in Christ's resurrection. What we need to know is that we have trusted the risen Christ as our own personal Saviour. [ref]
  • (Acts 23:8) The two main religious groups within the Sanhedrin, the Sadducees and the Pharisees, vehemently disagree regarding resurrection, angels, and spirits. Keener:
    Some scholars contend that the Sadducees believed only in the five books of Moses; but even if this were the case, they must have believed in the angels that appeared in Genesis. Luke's parenthetical comment here probably refers to the Sadducees' denial of the developed angelology and demonology of the Pharisees (Acts 12:15 is not Pharisaic), or maybe ideas about people becoming angels after death or being resurrected in angelic form. "Spirit" may address a different issue: The Sadducees reportedly did not believe in life after death; belief in an afterlife before the resurrection allowed Pharisees to accept that Jesus could have appeared to Paul as a spirit (cf. Acts 22:7–8; 23:9) even if they did not accept his resurrection. Many Jewish people believed that resurrection bodies would be like angelic bodies; some also portrayed the intermediate state in angelic terms. [ref]
  • (Acts 23:9-10) And so a huge and noisy quarrel breaks out. Then some of the religion scholars on the Pharisee side shout down the others: "We don't find anything wrong with this man! And what if a spirit has spoken to him? Or maybe an angel? What if it turns out we're fighting against God?" That is fuel on the fire. The quarrel flames up and becomes so violent the captain is afraid they will tear Paul apart, limb from limb. He orders the soldiers to get him out of there and escort him back to the safety of the barracks. (see The Message; some verbs changed to present tense) Polhill:
    Whatever was intended, it soon became clear that the Pharisees were Paul's defenders. Not only did they not find the resurrection a ridiculous idea, they were even willing to grant that God may have spoken to Paul through a spirit or an angel (Acts 23:9). It is possible that they were trying to give some explanation for Paul's Damascus road experience. The dispute at this point became so violent that Lysias had to send a messenger to bring down troops in order to prevent Paul from being torn to shreds between the two opposing groups (Acts 23:10). Whereas Lysias's original seizing of Paul could be seen as an arrest (Acts 21:33), this time there is no doubt the tribune served as his protector. [ref]
The Gospel Is For Everyone
Luke has all along shown great interest in displaying how the gospel is for everyone, including the social elite and even the politically high and mighty. He will end his masterful presentation in Acts by showing how the gospel reaches the elite and powerful in the Greco-Roman world through the courageous witness of Paul, and will allude to the fact that beyond the end of his account Paul will go on to greater heights still, testifying about the gospel not only in Rome but before Caesar (cf. Acts 23:11 to Acts 27:24). In the end the gospel must not merely cross geographical boundaries and unite various geographical regions, it must cross social boundaries and unite the well-to-do with even the ne'er-do-well. It must also unite Jew and Gentile, and Luke's presentation, especially in Acts 28, suggests he has not given up on the witness to either of these groups, even though the majority of people on both sides of this ethnic divide had not accepted the gospel in his day. [ref]
  • (Acts 23:11) That night the Master appears to Paul: "It's going to be all right. Everything is going to turn out for the best. You've been a good witness for me here in Jerusalem. Now you're going to be my witness in Rome!" (see The Message; some verbs changed to present tense)
    ■ Hughes:
    This was one of the darkest nights of Paul's life. For years he had hoped to give fruitful witness in Jerusalem. But when he arrived, he found a compromising church full of legalistic believers who held him suspect because of his contact with Gentiles. Now his hopes of convincing the leadership of his people had gone up in smoke as well. His dreams of effective testimony to the Jews lay in ashes at his feet, and his vision for successful witness in Rome began to fade too.

    Paul's heart ached. He was physically, emotionally, and spiritually tired. Even the most optimistic person can experience a low after a battle (consider Elijah), and Paul was in the depths. As he sat in Antonia he was utterly humiliated -- alone, dejected, dispirited. We all sometimes want to curl up with the biggest blanket we can get, thumb in mouth, and forget the world. What would Christ do for Paul in such a valley? [ref]
    ■ Wiersbe:
    The Lord's message to Paul [in Acts 23:11] was one of courage. "Be of good cheer!" simply means "Take courage!" Jesus often spoke these words during His earthly ministry. He spoke them to the palsied man (Matt. 9:2) and to the woman who suffered with the hemorrhage (Matt. 9:22). He shouted them to the disciples in the storm (Matt. 14:27), and repeated them in the Upper Room (John 16:33). As God's people, we can always take courage in times of difficulty because the Lord is with us and will see us through.

    It was also a message of commendation. The Lord did not rebuke Paul for going to Jerusalem. Rather, He commended him for the witness he had given, even though that witness had not been received. When you read the account of Paul's days in Jerusalem, you get the impression that everything Paul did failed miserably. His attempt to win over the legalistic Jews only helped cause a riot in the temple, and his witness before the Sanhedrin left the council in confusion. But the Lord was pleased with Paul's testimony, and that's what really counts.

    Finally, it was a message of confidence: Paul would go to Rome! This had been Paul's desire for months (Acts 19:21; Rom. 15:22–29), but events in Jerusalem had made it look as though that desire would not be fulfilled. What encouragement this promise gave to Paul in the weeks that followed, difficult weeks when leaders lied about him, when fanatics tried to kill him, and when government officials ignored him. In all of this, the Lord was with him and fulfilling His perfect plan to get His faithful servant to Rome.[ref]
God's Strength (Acts 22:23-23:11)
No matter what kind of persecution we encounter, we are to draw on Christ’s strength in order to be courageous. (Video link) [ref]


*Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, © Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.