Summary Acts 22:30-23:11:
Paul was brought before the Sanhedrin to face charges against him. Paul says he has fulfilled his duty to God with a good conscious. The high priest took offense to this statement and had Paul struck. Paul tells Ananias God will strike him down and accuses him of corruption and of violating the law. When told Ananias was the high priest, Paul says he didn’t know that.
Then Paul cleverly divides the Sadducees from the Pharisees by bringing in Jesus whom Luke explains, saying the Sadducees do not believe in the resurrection whereas the Pharisees do.
The Pharisees want to release Paul; the Sadducees want him dead. Paul is taken back to the barracks for his own protection where the Lord appears to him at night, saying to take heart for he is to go to Rome.
BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 25, Day 4: Acts 22:30-23:11
9a) The high priest Ananias ordered Paul be struck on the mouth when Paul offended him, saying he had a good conscious. Paul tells Ananias God will strike him down and accuses him of corruption and of violating the law (Deuteronomy 25:1-2 says you must be found guilty before being punished or beaten). Paul cleverly divides the Sadducees from the Pharisees by bringing in Jesus whom Luke explains, saying the Sadducees do not believe in the resurrection whereas the Pharisees do. A fight breaks out between the two factions, and Paul is taken back to the barracks since the Romans are afraid he will be ripped apart.
b) Personal Question. My answer: Here, people are hypocrites and petty. God always protects the faithful as He does with Paul by having him brought back to the barracks.
10a) Lord appears to Paul and tells him, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”
b) Personal Question. My answer: Everyday strength that I am doing the right thing.
11) The gospel will go with Paul to Rome.
Conclusions BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 25, Day 4: Acts 22:30-23:11
Paul knows he shouldn’t be beaten unfairly without a trial (Deuteronomy 25:1-2) and he knows he must obey God through obeying the leaders of the day (Exodus 22:28). Further, he knows he is on trial because of his belief in Jesus and that this is also God’s will. God tells Paul He has more work for him, just like He has work for us each day of our lives.
End Notes BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 25, Day 4: Acts 22:30-23:11
Luke presents the Roman commander as a fair and upstanding man
The Sanhedrin was the Jewish congress or parliament. Paul would be given the opportunity to speak before the group that he was once a member of. Acts 26:10 clearly says that Paul had a vote – usually, that would be used as a member of the Sanhedrin.
Paul would logically think this was the opportunity of a lifetime, to preach to those he loved so much and knew so well.
God had revealed a plan to Paul right at his conversion. Paul was a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake (Acts 9:15-16). Paul knew the general plan; but just like us, he didn’t know how it would all work out. He had to trust God, just like every believer.
Men and brethren: According to William Barclay, this address meant that Paul was bold in speaking to the council, setting himself on an equal footing with them. The normal style of address was to say, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel.”
Paul’s claim of a good conscience offended the high priest. He thought that someone accused of such serious crimes should never claim a clear conscience.
Punch in the Face
This order was illegal, for the Jewish law said, ‘He who strikes the cheek of one Israelite, strikes as it were the glory of God,’ and ‘He that strikes a man strikes the Holy One.’” (Hughes)
The Ananias who was high priest at this time did no honor to the office. He was well known for his greed; the ancient Jewish historian Josephus tells of how Ananias stole for himself the tithes that belonged to the common priests.
Whitewashed wall; a white veneer of purity covering over obvious corruption.
Paul exposed the hypocrisy of the man who made the command.
The men of the council were supposed to be example of the Law of Moses. The command to have Paul struck was in fact contrary to both the spirit and the letter of the law. Deuteronomy 25:1-2 says only a man found guilty can be beaten, and Paul had not yet been found guilty of anything.
God will strike you: “Paul’s words, however, were more prophetic than he realized. Ananias’ final days – despite all his scheming and bribes – were lived as a hunted animal and ended at the hands of his own people.” (Longenecker)
He agreed that it was wrong to speak evil of the ruler of your people (Exodus 22:28). Yet Paul excused himself, claiming that he did not know that the man who commanded the punch was Ananias, the high priest.
This isn’t unreasonable, since Paul had been away from the council and the high circles of Jewish authority in Jerusalem for more than 20 years. Probably, he simply didn’t recognize the man who gave the command to strike him as the high priest. However, some think he did not know because Paul’s eyesight was bad. This is an inference from Galatians 4:14-15 and 6:11, as well as from early written church traditions.
Others think that Paul was sarcastic, with the idea “I didn’t think that anyone who acted in such a manner could be the high priest.”
So, Paul gave up on preaching the gospel, and did what he could to preserve his liberty before a council that wanted to kill him.
Paul Divides the Sanhedrin
Paul referred to his heritage as a Pharisee, and declared, “concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged.” He knew this was a matter of great controversy between the two parties.
Sadducees were the theological liberals of their day, and denied the reality of life after death and the concept of resurrection. Luke rightly wrote of them, Sadducees say that there is no resurrection; and no angel or spirit.
The Pharisees were more likely to find some ground of agreement with Paul, being the more the Bible believers in the Jewish world of that time. They took the Bible seriously, even if they did err greatly by adding the traditions of men to what they received in the Bible.
Usually the Sadducees and the Pharisees were bitter enemies, but they were able to unite in opposition against Jesus (Matthew 16:1, John 11:47-53) and Paul.
The Pharisees recommended a return to advice of their great leader Gamaliel as recorded in Acts 5:38-39 to not fight against God.
Rescued by the Roman Commander Again
Paul had the opportunity to preach to a huge crowd of attentive Jews on the temple mount and it ended in failure. Then he had the opportunity to preach to the influential Jewish council, and it also ended in a fistfight. However, Paul did his part; God must do the rest.
Later Paul seemed to suggest that this tactic of bringing up the resurrection controversy in the way that he did was not good. He suggests that it was “wrongdoing” on his part (Acts 24:20-21).
The Comforting Hand of Jesus
This must have been a difficult night for Paul. His heart longed for the salvation of his fellow Jews (Romans 9:1-4), and two great opportunities came to nothing. It would be no surprise if Paul blamed himself for the missed opportunity before the Sanhedrin. It could be said that his reaction to the punch commanded by the High Priest spoiled everything.
It was in the darkness of that night when the fears came upon Paul; when his trust in God seemed to falter; when he worried about what God was going to do and if he was going to make it. It was in the darkness of that night that Jesus came to Paul and stood by him.
Jesus’ physical presence (as it seems was the case) with Paul was a unique manifestation. But Jesus promised every believer to always be with them (Matthew 28:20).
Jesus knew where Paul was; He had not lost sight of Paul because he was in jail. God knows where you are today; even if you are hiding it from everyone else, God knows where you are.
Paul was alone, but he wasn’t alone; if everyone else forsook him, Jesus was enough. Better to be in jail with the Lord than to be in heaven without him.
Paul had been miraculously delivered from jail cells before; but this time, the Lord met him right in the jail cell. We often demand that Jesus deliver us out of our circumstances, when He wants to meet us right in them. We sometimes think we are surrendering to Jesus when we are really only demanding an escape. God wants to meet us in whatever we face at the moment.
Jesus would not have said be of good cheer unless Paul needed to hear those words. Paul knew his situation was bad, but he didn’t know the half of it! The next day, forty Jewish assassins would gather together and vow to go on a hunger strike until they murdered Paul. Paul didn’t know this would happen, but Jesus did.
You might think that things are bad right now, but you may not even know the half of it. But Jesus knows, and he still says to you, be of good cheer. Why? Not because everything is fine; but because God is still on His throne, and He still holds to His promise that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
Be of good cheer is only one word in the ancient Greek, and is used five times in the New Testament – each time by Jesus.
- Jesus told the bedridden paralytic, Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you (Matthew 9:2).
- Jesus told the woman with the 12-year bleeding problem, Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well (Matthew 9:22).
- Jesus told His frightened disciples on the Sea of Galilee, Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid (Matthew 14:27).
- Jesus told His disciples the night before His crucifixion, In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world (John 16:33).
- And here, in Acts 23:11 – Jesus told Paul, be of good cheer.
God had more for Paul
Paul really wanted to go on to Rome (Acts 19:21 and Romans 1:9-12). Sometimes we think that just because we want something a lot, it couldn’t be God’s will for us. But God often gives us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4).
The timing of this promise was especially precious. It didn’t look like Paul would get out of Jerusalem alive; much less make it to Rome. God not only knows what we need to hear, but He also knows when we need to hear it.