Acts 23:1 And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.
2 And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth.
3 Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law?
4 And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God’s high priest?
5 Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.
6 But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.
7 And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided.
8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.
9 And there arose a great cry: and the scribes that were of the Pharisees’ part arose, and strove, saying, We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God.
10 And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle.
11 And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.
In these verses we see again the importance of an honest testimony. Paul’s record is given under the inspiration of God. In verse 1 Paul began to respond to the opportunity to speak in his own defence. He made a very bold statement here in this verse. It was a bold statement, but it is a statement that every true born again Christian should desire to have. We can live with a good conscience before God. Every true Christian can confess their sin to God and be forgiven and can then move on and serve God. When they sin again, they can confess that sin to God and be forgiven and then move on and serve God further.
The apostle Paul was not stating that he never sinned. He was stating that he had a good conscience before God. He chose to walk in the spirit and not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
In verse 2 we see that the high priest, who was a false teacher took great offence to Paul’s bold statement. This false teacher knew that he could not claim that he lived with a good conscience before God. He knew that because he did not know God and he could not keep from sinning. Like all false teachers, he would try to mask his sin to try to make himself look good, but he knew he was not without sin.
The good news is that true saints can keep a clean slate with God by following God’s direction as found in I John 1:9.
I John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
If we look at the verses around this verse, we see that Paul was not stating that he never sinned. If he would do that, he would be exposing himself as a liar.
In verse 3 Paul responded to the unscriptural command made by the high priest. Paul pointed out the hypocrisy of this false teacher. False teachers hold others to a much different standard than they follow themselves.
In verse 4 we see that the rest of people in attendance were on the side of the false teachers. Paul did not have anyone standing on his side at this examination. Those in attendance rebuked Paul for his response to the high priest. Paul did not need anyone else defending him. He had God as His defence. It is true that we like to have people on our side. We take comfort in that. We know that Paul found himself without any human comfort close at hand at times. True saints are in a minority. That is why it is so important to have that right relationship with God.
In verse 5 Paul pointed out that he did not recognize Ananias as the high priest. There are several reasons for this. Paul was not a resident of Jerusalem. He was on the road, preaching the Gospel in many different places according to God’s will. Thus he would not be aware of what was happening among the false religious movement in Jerusalem. The priesthood was so corrupt that they were no longer following God’s order from the Old Testament. In fact that order was finished when Jesus Christ rose from the dead. He is the Great High Priest. God would lead the Romans to destroy the Temple in AD 70. Paul was not interested in following that which was done away by God. He had been a part of that prior to his salvation, but since then he did not keep up with the rituals of the false religious group.
Paul understood the Old Testament law. He knew that the priesthood was to be respected. However, as mentioned already, that system was finished. There was no need for a high priest. We need to remember that the vail of the Temple was rent in twain from top to bottom while Jesus was still on the cross. God tore that vail open indicating that man now had direct access to God’s mercy seat through the Lord Jesus Christ. He shed His blood on the cross of Calvary. He is the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.
In verse 6 Paul moved away from this formality and, directed by God, addressed a matter of contention that would expose the emptiness of this entire group of accusers.
The Pharisees and Sadducees were two arms of the false religious group that Paul had been a part of at one time. Paul had been a Pharisee. The Pharisees took a more strict view of certain Old Testament Scriptures, although they distorted them for their own benefit. The Sadducees were much more liberal and they denied the existence of angels and they also denied the reality of the resurrection. Even though these two groups have some distinct differences, they were willing to set those differences aside in order to attack the apostle Paul. The true Gospel was going to impact both of these false religious groups. Those who were getting saved, would no longer follow these false teachers and thus they would lose their finances and they would lose their place of prominence.
God directed Paul to raise the issue of the resurrection. In verse 7 we see that this was very effective in throwing the opposition into disarray.
Paul believed in the resurrection. As he stated, that was part of the reason he was being attacked. He believed in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. When Jesus rose from the dead, the chief priests had concocted a lie that the disciples had stolen His body. They denied the resurrection of Jesus Christ. A resurrected Saviour has power. A dead saviour is useless. Jesus Christ has the power to forgive sin because He is God and He rose from the dead.
As we see in verse 10, the dissension was so strong that the chief captain needed to rescue Paul from these irrational and ungodly religious leaders. This would expose them for who they really were before the chief captain. It would show them to be unworthy of respect. This would also give Paul further opportunity to proclaim the truth, which was contentious for those who did not want to hear or receive the truth.
In verse 11 God assured Paul that he did not need to be discouraged by what had taken place. This distraction would be used for God’s glory. God knew what He was doing in guiding Paul in raising the issue of the resurrection. God knew that He had further plans for Paul. Paul needed to continue to walk by faith and just be a willing servant of God.
Paul was a child of God who did trust God and thus he was bold in his witness for God. God told him that he would eventually bear witness for Him in Rome. Paul was currently in Jerusalem. He was not a free man. Yet God knew that He would get Paul to Rome. As we will note in the following chapters, Paul would travel to Rome at taxpayer expense. He would be treated quite well as a prisoner. God would give him an open door to preach the Gospel to people he would otherwise not have access to. He would witness to many Roman soldiers as they would need to guard him over the time.
It is important to be faithful to God and just do today what He requires. We do not need the future mapped out for us in detail. We do not need to be so invested in this world that we hesitate to speak the truth as we need to for fear of losing earthly possessions. God took care of Paul. His life would be taken from him eventually, but that was not a surprise to God. It was also not something that caused Paul to panic and regret serving God faithfully. Paul had been faithful to God thus far and God had prepared him for what was coming in the future.
God’s children need to be students of His Word. We need boldness. We need wisdom. We need humility.
I Corinthians 4:2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.