Paul Before the Sanhedrin- Roman Style Acts 23

Paul’s opening statement to his accusers was, “My conscience is clear.” They were offended enough by this statement to punch him in the mouth. Paul responded with a tirade. First he called them hypocrites – painted on the outside, but filthy within. Then he accused them of disobeying the law by hitting him before the conclusion of the trial. When it was brought to his attention he was blasting the high priest, he backed off, quoting Exodus 22:28, “You must not blaspheme God or curse the ruler of your people.

Paul changed tactics, drawing the Pharisees onto his side. He claimed his trial was about the issue of the resurrection of the dead. He knew this was a divisive issue between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and both contingents were present. Paul put the Pharisees in a position of defending his ‘Road to Damascus’ account because they believed in (and fought with the Sadducees about) the possibility of divine appearances, and resurrections, and such. The Sadducees said ‘Malarkey!’ to anything mystical (that’s why they were sad-you-see). The argument became so riotous, the trial was called off and Paul was sent back to the barracks.

“The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Have courage, for just as you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.” I love it that Paul hears from God. God made sure Paul understood that everything was going according to HIS plan. I imagine that word from God was very encouraging to the one with the busted lip, who narrowly escaped a riot!

The Jews were SO predictable! They hatched an assassination plan. Paul’s nephew caught wind of it (small world) and told Paul about it. Then the young fellow told the commanding officer, who hatched a counter-plan. Apparently God uses spies.

The commanding officer snuck Paul out during the night. He wrote a letter, indicating the charges against Paul were religious rather than civil. Paul was detained in Herod’s palace while they awaited his accusers for the second trial.


  1. I am humbled by Paul’s bravery! He really had guts. Prepared to die for the name of Jesus, but not before speaking his mind. I’m also humbled by his willingness to immediately back down when he found out he was addressing the high priest. I was in a similar situation recently, as some of you will recall a comment I made about one of my leaders on my blog. Like Paul, I was reminded by a brother to ‘not speak evil about the ruler of your people.’ I needed to be reminded of that, and I did apologize. I just hope I remember it….

    I love the way Paul deflected attention from himself by stirring up a conflict with the Pharisees and Saducees. How brilliant! (Julie, my old pastor taught me that same thing to remember the sad-you-sees!) On one hand, I agree that the word from God that night was encouraging. But on the other hand, Paul must have been thinking “You mean I’ve gotta go through this again?!”

  2. My favorite part of this whole passage is seeing how Paul uses the differing belief of the Pharisees and Saducees to turn them against themselves. However, this also make me sad because as followers of Jesus we let this happen all to often to us today.

  3. Julie

    Doug – I’ve been thinking the same thing. I am amazed at how much similarity I see in first century Judiasm and modern Christianity. I’ts so sad.

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