Monday 4th July 2022

ACTS 23

“You must be on your guard.  You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues.  On account of me, you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them.  And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.  Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say.  Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit”.  This is not Acts 23, but Mark 13:9-10.  Jesus had warned all his disciples that life would not be easy for them – if they were faithful to him – and that they (and we) would suffer for the sake of his name.  He had also said about Paul: “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name” (Acts 9:16).

These kinds of words must have been going through Paul’s mind as he stood for the second time since his arrest in front of a mob – this time a respectable ‘mob’ named the Sanhedrin.  We can therefore assume that it was the Holy Spirit speaking though Paul as he addressed the new high priest, Ananias, who was so cruel and unpopular that his own people later assassinated him.  Paul, through the Spirit, rebuked Ananias for hypocrisy and law-breaking; he followed that up with the statement that he didn’t recognise him as the high priest (probably due to his behaviour!).

Paul was also not afraid of ‘playing politics’ when it suited his needs.  He introduced a doctrinal conundrum into the enquiry which totally divided his accusers: the Pharisees sided with Paul, since he held to the doctrines of resurrection, angels, and spirits, whereas the Sadducees were rather anti-supernaturalist and denied the existence of all these things.  The ensuing row was violent, and Paul was fortunate to escape alive.

Later, Jesus himself appeared to Paul and encouraged him to stay strong and to be ready to testify about him in Rome.  “At least I will arrive there safely”, Paul must have thought to himself!  Sure enough, a plot to have Paul killed was thwarted and soon he was being transferred safely to the regional governor, Felix, whose brother was best friends with Emperor Claudius.  The Jerusalem commander had written a letter of introduction to Felix – the contents of which portrayed the author in a rather better light than he deserved!  After reading the letter, Felix decided that the investigation would wait until Paul’s accusers arrive from Jerusalem. 

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