“Sanhedrin” – Acts 22:30 – 23:11
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The attacks against the Apostle Paul continue, in this passage it's another phony investigation by the Council of Elders (Sanhedrin) and chief priests (Acts 22:30).
But their attack comes to nothing as Paul uses their own animosity and hatred against them.
Paul understood the Lord's directions; and let the Holy Spirit speak through him.
It was all in God's providence. His method was to fulfill His plan using men, whether willing or not.
"...commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear..."
* The tribune had authority over the Chief Priest and elders and he needed the facts if he was going to send Paul to the Governor.
* The "council" is the Sanhedrin (NIV), a ruling senate of 70 elders made up from all of the tribes of Israel, originally ordained by God.(Num. 11:16-17)
* This is the same council that falsely accused and tried Christ, then handing Him over to the Romans for crucifixion. (Matt. 26:57-68)
"...men and brethren..."
* Not "brethren and fathers" (Acts 7:2, 22:1).
* Paul had himself previously been a member of the Sanhedrin and was a peer, hence "men." (Acts 9:1-2, 26:10)
"...I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day."
* As the accused Paul was establishing his good character before his accusers.
* They would have understood this to mean he was "righteous before the law."
* This would have greatly angered them in light of the accusations brought against him.
...crying out, "Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, the law, and this place; and furthermore, he also brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place."
"...the High Priest Ananias..."
* "Ananias" - Was a common name (Acts 5:1, 9:10), not to be confused with "Annas" the father-in-law of High Priest Caiaphas who accused Christ of "blasphemy" (Jn. 18:13-14).
* He was High Priest from AD 47-58, he was power hungry and a thief, he was assassinated by the Zealots in AD 66 (Flavius Josephus).
"...strike him on the mouth..."
* This was a huge insult to Paul, and Christ. (Jn. 18:22)
"...God will strike you, you whitewashed wall!"
* Paul might be referencing Ezekiel (Ez. 13:10-15). If so, he is speaking prophetically, as Ananias did suffer a violent death as part of the destruction of Jerusalem, the temple and his disobedience before God.
* Paul also may be following Christ's example. (Matt. 23:27)
Walls and tombs were “whitewashed” to conceal a decrepit internal condition.
"...you command me to be struck contrary to the law."
* Ananias was a Sadducee who only believed in "the Law." Torah – "The Law of Moses."
* It was against "the law" to strike a prisoner until after his judgment as guilty. (Deut. 25:1-2)
"And those who stood by said, "Do you revile God's high priest?"
* Again, same as Christ. (Jn. 18:22)
"...I did not know that he was the high priest..."
* How could that be?
- Paul had been away from Jerusalem for 20 years.
- Ananias would not have been in his "high priest" garments outside of the temple.
- Paul had bad eyesight. (Acts 9:8, 18, Acts 14:19, Gal. 4:13-15)
"...you shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people..."
* Paul concedes, and admits it was wrong to disrespect the "office" of high priest. (Ex. 22:20)
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 Savior,...
(1 Tim. 2:1-3)
"...Sadducees and the other Pharisees..."
* Paul realizes their opposition and enmity and uses it to divide them.
"...I am a Pharisee...concerning the hope of the resurrection of the dead I am being judged!"
* By this statement he aligns himself with the Pharisees and sets off the Sadducees.
"And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and the assembly was divided. For Sadducees say that there is no resurrection--and no angel or spirit; but the Pharisees confess both.
"...the scribes of the Pharisees' party..."
* "Scribes" - Each party had its own lawyers, "teachers of the law."
"...we find no evil in this man, but if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him..."
* The Pharisees believed not only in the resurrection, but also after death, the spirit of a person remaining until the resurrection on the last day. (Jn. 11:24)
* Therefore, they could believe Paul's claim of Jesus appearing to him on the Damascus Road (Acts 22:6-10) was a spirit or an angel, something the Sadducees could never believe.
Unfortunately, they both missed the point of Christ's bodily resurrection from the grave.
That by His resurrection, His claim of deity and our salvation was fulfilled, or validated.
Paul knew this, he had already written to the Corinthians:
For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,
(1 Cor. 15:3-4)
This is why he could say:
"...concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!"
This was the point of all Paul's preaching:
Our hope in Christ, and the resurrection He provides!
"...let us not fight against God."
* Not the first time a Pharisee had this thought (Acts 5:34, 38-39), Gamaliel, Paul's teacher. (Acts 22:3)
"...Paul might be pulled to pieces by them..."
* Not an uncommon occurrence with violent rioters in ancient times.
As Christians we should expect, and be prepared for this ourselves.
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."
* Paul was no doubt discouraged by the outcome in Jerusalem, that he had not heeded the warnings of the Holy Spirit and the brethren. (Acts 20:22-23, 21:11-12)
It's easy for us, as believers, to be discouraged and doubt ourselves, and the Lord's call on our lives, to second guess ourselves in the face of opposition.
But, "be of good cheer," the Lord will stand by us and encourage us as He did Paul, "you have testified for me' ...'so you must also bear witness."
Thank you, Lord, may this be our great privilege and honor.