Acts 23:10-11 NKJV Now when there arose a great dissension, the commander, fearing lest Paul might be pulled to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him by force from among them, and bring him into the barracks. (11) But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome.”
There are two instances of fear that we will look at in this passage. The first is the fear of the Roman commander and the second is that of the Apostle Paul. Both experienced fear, but their reasons were vastly different.
This commander had arrested Paul in Acts 22 after hearing an uproar by a number of Jews after Paul shared the testimony of his conversion. He was going to have Paul scourged until he found out that he was a Roman citizen and had not been charged or found guilty of anything. Fearing he would get in trouble he released Paul, but his curiosity lingered and he sent Paul to the chief priests. After a brief dialogue Paul, being a Pharisee, managed to get the Sadducees and Pharisees arguing with one another. Their debate got so fierce that the commander feared there would be an uprising, that Paul would be killed, and that he’d be found responsible for the riot he was sure would ensue, so he had Paul placed in protective custody.
The commander feared he would be held responsible for whatever commotion took place. If Paul had was not a Roman as well as a Jew, he would not have cared nor feared. He was afraid he would lose his status, his position and possibly face charges for not protecting Paul.
The next night Jesus appeared to Paul and told him to, “Be of good cheer….” This phrase could also be translated, take courage or Fear Not. Jesus told Paul not to fear. Paul feared that the Sadducees, who were plotting against him, succeed in having him killed. But Paul didn’t fear dying (he later wrote Philippians 1:21) so much as he was afraid he would die without fulfilling his purpose. His fear was certainly more “noble” than the commander but it was still fear. Jesus not wanting Paul to fear, encouraged him that he still had work to do and that he had purpose.
Paul had Jesus come encourage him to Fear Not when he began to fear. The commander had no one. Relationship matters.
The commander feared for self-serving and selfish reasons; “What will happen to me?” Paul’s fear was rooted in letting down His Lord. Both fears need Jesus. Hopefully the commander put his trust in Jesus and believed on him. But we know what happened to Paul. He was encouraged to stop fearing and keep focusing on what God had called him to do. I want to encourage you to stop fearing what you will or won’t accomplish. Instead know Him and just focus on what is before you and trust in the Lord, like Paul you too have destiny to do.