Monday, July 6, 2020

Before the Sanhedrin

"Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day” (Acts 23:1)

Jesus was silent before His accusers, but Paul looked them straight in the eye and preached to them. We see in this contrast the difference between Jesus’ unique work of sacrifice for the sins of the world and our work of proclaiming His death to the world. Jesus allowed Himself to be flogged by the Roman soldiers, but before the Romans laid the whip on Paul, he informed them that he was a Roman citizen. Immediately they removed the chains from him, because he was under Caesar’s protection (Acts 22:24–29).

The Roman commander summoned the Sanhedrin and set up a meeting between them and Paul. Paul began by proclaiming that he had done nothing wrong. At this point he was ordered to be struck on the mouth by a bystander. Jesus did not resist when He was buffeted, but Paul immediately rebuked the man who ordered him struck. Then they told Paul that his assailant was none other than the high priest. Paul apologized, because God’s Law says not to bring a railing accusation against those in authority, even when they mistreat us (Acts 23:1–5; Exodus 22:28).

Then Paul decided to set the Sanhedrin against itself. In the Gospels we find that Jesus worked much with the Pharisees because they were the Bible-believing traditionalists of their day, but He did not spend much time with the liberal Sadducees. Paul announced that he had been trained as a Pharisee and that he was on trial for believing in the Resurrection, specifically the resurrection and enthronement of Jesus Christ. The Pharisees believed in resurrection, while the Sadducees did not.

The Pharisees suddenly decided to side with Paul against their hated enemies, the Sadducees (who grieved the Pharisees by controlling the temple). A violent conflict broke out between the two parties, and the meeting dissolved in chaos. Fearing for Paul’s life, the Roman commander removed him from the scene and took him to the Roman barracks. There Jesus appeared to Paul and told him that He had ordained him to testify in Rome (Acts 23:6–11). The emphasis on the Roman barracks in this section seems to indicate that God was moving His people out of a Jewish context into a Gentile one (Acts 21:34, 37; 22:24; 23:10, 16, 32).

We notice that Paul did not hesitate to use any legitimate means to confuse the enemies of the Gospel and to protect himself as the spokesman for Christ. There is nothing “unspiritual” about making use of the protection given us by the “powers that be.” Consider how you might follow Paul’s example today.