Scripture Reading: Acts 22:30—23:35


We have seen that in 21:31-39 the Roman commander intervened to rescue Paul from the Jews who were seeking to kill him. Paul was then given the opportunity to defend himself before the rioting Jews (21:40—22:21). The Jews listened to him up to a point, but eventually began to make a disturbance. Paul was then bound by the Romans (22:22-29). In his wisdom, Paul utilized his Roman citizenship to save himself from suffering persecution (vv. 25-29). The Roman commander then gave Paul the opportunity to defend himself before the Sanhedrin (22:30—23:10). Acts 22:30 says, “And on the next day, intending to know for certain why he was accused by the Jews, he released him and ordered the chief priests and all the Sanhedrin to come together; and having brought Paul down, he had him stand before them.” Let us now consider Paul’s defense given before the Sanhedrin.

Conducting Himself in All Good Conscience

Acts 23:1 says, “And Paul, looking intently at the Sanhedrin, said. Men, brothers, I have conducted myself in all good conscience before God until this day.” Following man’s fall and his being sent out of the garden of Eden (Gen. 3:23), God wanted man, in His dispensation, to be responsible to his own conscience. But man failed to live and walk according to his conscience and fell further into wickedness (Gen. 6:5). After the judgment of the flood, God ordained man to be under human government (Gen. 9:6). Man failed also in this. Then, before fulfilling His promise to Abraham concerning the blessing of the nations in Christ (Gen. 12:3; Gal. 3:8), God put man under the test of the law (Rom. 3:20; 5:20). Man failed utterly in this test. All these failures indicate that man has fallen from God to his conscience, from his conscience to human government, and from human government to lawlessness. Therefore, man has fallen to the uttermost.

To conduct oneself “in all good conscience before God,” as Paul did, was a great return to God from man’s fall. Paul spoke this word to vindicate himself before those who accused him of being a lawless and even reckless person. He referred, in his defense, to his conscience again in 24:16. This showed his high standard of morality in contrast to the hypocrisy of the Jewish religionists and the crookedness of the Roman (Gentile) politicians.

In his defense before the Sanhedrin in the presence of representatives of the Roman government, Paul could say that there was nothing wrong in his personal conduct. He did all things according to his conscience, behaving in the highest standard of morality.

Paul’s Boldness and Wisdom

Acts 23:2 and 3 continue, “And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! And you sit, judging me according to the law, and contrary to the law you order me to be struck?” Here we see Paul’s straightforwardness and boldness in dealing with his persecutors. Those standing by said to him, “Do you revile the high priest of God?” (v. 4). Paul replied, “I did not know, brothers, that he is the high priest; for it is written, You shall not speak evilly of a ruler of your people” (v. 5).

Acts 23:6 says, “And Paul, knowing that one part was Sadducees, but the other Pharisees, cried out in the Sanhedrin, Men, brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!” The Pharisees were the strictest religious sect of the Jews (26:5), formed about 200 B.C. They were proud of their superior sanctity of life, devotion to God, and knowledge of the Scriptures. Actually, they were degraded into pretentious conduct and hypocrisy (Matt. 23:2-33). The Sadducees were another sect among Judaism. They did not believe in the resurrection, nor in angels, nor in spirits. While the Pharisees were supposed to be orthodox, the Sadducees were ancient modernists.

When Paul declared that he was a Pharisee and that he was being judged concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead, “a dissension arose between the Pharisees and Sadducees; and the multitude was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel nor spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge both. And there was a great outcry; and some of the scribes of the Pharisees’ party rose up and fought it out, saying, We find nothing evil in this man; and if a spirit has spoken to him, or an angel...” (vv. 7-9). Paul wisely used this situation to his benefit, knowing that the Pharisees would take sides with him and then fight with the Sadducees.

When Paul realized that it was helpful to him to take his stand as a Roman citizen, he did so, and this frightened the Roman officials. Here he cried out that he was a Pharisee, knowing that this would cause a fight between the Pharisees and Sadducees. Once again Paul exercised his wisdom to avoid suffering persecution. As we have seen, Paul faced his opponents in a different way than Christ did. When Christ was judged by men for the accomplishment of redemption, He did not open His mouth (Isa. 53:7; Matt. 26:62-63; 27:12, 14). But Paul, as a faithful and bold apostle sent by the Lord, exercised his wisdom to save his life from his persecutors so that he might fulfill the course of his ministry. For the sake of carrying out this ministry, he endeavored to live as long as possible.

Acts 23:10 goes on to say, “And when much dissension arose, the commander, fearing that Paul might be torn to pieces by them, ordered the soldiers to go down and take him by force from their midst and bring him into the barracks.” This was the sovereignty of the Lord to rescue Paul from the hand of the Jews.