Acts 23:1-11: The Lord Stood Near
February 15, 2019
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Exodus 38-40, Psalm 37:23-40, Matthew 16:13-28, Acts 23:1-11 Acts 23:1-11: Paul is now brought before the Sanhedrin, the leading religious court of the Jewish people at the time. What will he do? How will he defend himself? First, he starts with an unapologetic and carefully worded statement. “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.” When we are under attack, or brought before a thought police trial, or persecuted, we do not need to worry beforehand about what to say, for the Holy Spirit has promised to give us words and wisdom. But not worrying beforehand is not the same as not being prepared beforehand. And this statement bears the hallmark of one that has been carefully thought through and presented with precision. He is saying before them that he has done what he believed right according to his conscience before God. Who can argue with that? Second, the high priest – unable to think of a quick retort that will put Paul back in his place — resorts to a show of power, a quick act of violence to demonstrate his authority. If you back a bully into a corner, he may lash out as his last resort, and this kind of violence speaks of desperation. What are they really going to accuse Paul of doing? Oftentimes when we are attacked physically, it is a sign not of the strength of our adversaries, but of their weakness. They have nothing left to do but hit. How poor must their argument be? Third, Paul responded by turning the tables on his aggressors by pointing out that they had contravened their own law. Once again, Paul shows himself willing to appeal to law – in this case religious law – to countermand the attack he is facing, and position himself and the gospel towards a better and more flourishing opportunity. It is a good tactic in debate to appeal to the principles and laws that your opponent recognizes if you can see how their approach is undermining their own case. Fourth, when there is a moment’s lull when everyone realizes that Paul’s response has effectively silenced the high priest, it is brought to Paul’s attention that this is the current high priest. Once again, Paul shows his wisdom: there is nothing further to be gained by antagonizing the powers that be, and so he gives lip service and a respectful tone to their authority. But then fifth, and most shrewdly (Jesus advised us to be as innocent as doves and as shrewd as snakes), he then appeals to an issue which divided the court. The resurrection of the dead! He knew the Pharisees would support him in this, and the Sadducees would not, and therefore rather than fighting against him, they would now be fighting against each other. The old rule is divide and conquer. Paul introduced a bone of contention and watched as his opponents descended into infighting and squabbling. What a master class from the brilliant apostle! A clear and unambiguous statement of innocence, followed up by brilliant assertions of the truth in a way best couched to expose the divisions and contradictions of those who were attacking him. May God give us all such wisdom if, God forbid, we are persecuted and dragged before courts for our faith in Jesus. And then verse 11:
“The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, ‘Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.’”Perhaps that’s what you most need. The Lord to stand near you and speak courage to you. But note what is said: basically, the plan is still on track. You will also testify in Rome. Don’t be afraid, God is still in control. His plan cannot be thwarted.]]>
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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