7/17/11 Acts 23:1-11
Leader: Pastor Biebert
Meeting Time: 8:00 AM & 10:15 AM
GOD MAKES US CONFIDENT IN THE FACE OF CRITICISM
Some have argued that Paul ignored God’s warnings and went to Jerusalem against the Lord’s will. Paul was definitely aware of the danger he faced. He told the Ephesians he did not know what would happen, but that “in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me” (20:23). The warnings simply prepared Paul for what would happen, and gave him strength to get through it. He said, “I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (21:13). Sometimes God allows hardship into our lives, just as He did for Paul.
What circumstances had landed Paul in the courtroom in trouble with the law (21:27-36)?
Under arrest in Jerusalem, Paul used his Roman citizenship for protection. The Sanhedrin was the same Supreme Court of the Holy Land that convicted and executed Jesus. It put Peter and John (4:5ff), the twelve apostles (5:21ff) and Stephen (6:12ff) on trial too. Paul realized he wouldn’t get a fair hearing. “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. Conscience is the inner “judge” (Romans 2:15). Compare your conscience to a window that lets in the light. God’s Law is the light. The cleaner the window, the more the light shines in. The dirtier the window, the dimmer the light. Finally, no light can get in. A good conscience lets in God’s light so that we feel guilt if we do wrong and support if we do right.
Why would the Head Priest react so violently (23:2; John 18:22) to Paul’s opening statement in verse 1?
Jewish people whitewashed tombs once a year. Perhaps it showed respect for the dead. Most likely it made the tombs easier to see. The Jewish “Tradition” book made touching or coming near a grave a sin (Numbers 19:16). Whitewashing tombs helped prevent accidental contact.
What kind of insult is calling someone “a whitewashed wall” (23:3; Matt 23:27-28)?
Ananias was one of the most corrupt Head Priests. He stole tithes from other priests and was power-hungry. 1st–century Jewish historian Josephus reports that this Ananias, Head Priest from a.d. 48–59, was famous for greed and dishonesty. He cared more about what Rome thought than what God thought. When the Jews revolted against Rome about eight years later in 66, Ananias had to run for his life because of his ties to Rome. Jewish freedom fighters found him hiding in an aqueduct at Herod’s palace. They killed him and his brother there. It was a humiliating death. This hearing was informal. Perhaps Ananias wasn’t in his official clothes but sat in the Head Priest’s seat. Ananias's order to strike the defendant was in character. Paul's angry reply seems out of character for a student of Jesus who "when they hurled insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats" (1 Peter 2:23).
Was Paul being sarcastic (23:5)?
Normally we think of Pharisees as the enemies of everything Christian. Here, though, they were Paul’s allies. The Sadducee Jewish judges/legislators were the majority in the Sanhedrin. They didn’t believe God would ever return dead bodies to life. Paul said he was only advocating the ancient teaching about God’s Old Testament promise to bring all dead people to life.
Why did the Pharisees rush to Paul’s defense (23:9)?
Paul was in more danger in his own country around national leaders than in a Roman jail. Arguments in the Middle East even today can get loud and emotional in no time at all. The Roman military officer in charge might easily have believed Paul’s life was in danger.
What effect does this split (23:10) have on Paul’s case?
The last time we heard God speak to Paul was in 18:9-10, after he had experienced a series of setbacks.
How would the Lord’s message here (23:11) help Paul again?
This support from God had to mean a lot to Paul. For the next two years his work would come to a halt. He was confined to Caesarea waiting for a ruling in his case.
How might this (23:11) help Paul remember what the Lord said about him to Ananias in 9:15-16?
It was a miscarriage of justice. Anyone arrested and jailed as Paul was would no doubt sue for false arrest. Yet, Paul saw it all not as an interruption in his work for God, but as an opportunity. From God’s perspective, Paul was right where he needed to be.
1. What’s a good strategy for showing respect to leaders guilty of immoral dealings?
2. When facing death, what do you want to say you have no guilt feelings about in your service to God?
3. How does this section connect to Matthew 10:24-33? What’s the connection to Jeremiah 19:14 – 20:6?