Paul Before The Divided Sanhedrin

– Acts Twenty-Three –


   Paul was an honest man who served "in all good conscience before God." (Acts 23:1) He did the best he knew how to live right and to be an honor to God. His claim to a good conscience caused Ananias to tell someone to strike him on the mouth. In Acts 23:3 Paul told the High Priest, "God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law?" He did not know that this man was High Priest. He certainly was not acting like a High Priest should act. Paul would never have spoken to Ananias as he did if he had known he was High Priest. Paul knew that the law of God requires respect for authority. (Exodus 22:28, Ecclesiastes 10:20)


   The Sanhedrin was divided. Some members of the court were Sadducees and others were Pharisees. Paul said that he was being judged "concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead."  The Sadducees had neither hope nor dread of the future. "For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both." (Acts 23:8)


   About forty Jews bound themselves under an oath that  they would  neither eat  nor drink until they had killed Paul. They would ask the chief priest and elders to bring him down that they might ambush him and kill him. Paul's nephew heard of their wicked plot and told Paul. He sent him to tell the commander about their plan. The commander sent Paul to Caesarea guarded by two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen, and two hundred spearmen. As an added means of safety he was sent out by night. He sent a letter to Felix about Paul's situation.


   Paul's defense before the Sanhedrin – Acts 23:1-5: Paul appeared before the Sanhedrin to try to resolve the charge of profaning the Temple. He pictured again his religious situation before becoming a Christian. He had been a very religious man, but he was religiously wrong. However, he said, "I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day."


   The High Priest commanded the people to strike Paul in the mouth. They were gathered to learn the truth, but sadly the High Priest had no interest in truth. Paul called Ananias a "whitewashed wall." He was beautiful on the outside and rotten on the inside. He pretended to be religious, but it did not show in his life. Paul could not tell by his actions that Ananias was High Priest. Paul had too much respect for God to knowingly speak against His authority!


   Paul was assured that he would go to Rome – Acts 23:6-11: As Paul stood before the Sanhedrin he realized that they were a very divide group. They were divided concerning the resurrection from the dead. "The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection." (Matthew 22:23) The Pharisee realized that Paul was called into question concerning the resurrection of the dead. They realized that to reject the resurrection was to fight against Almighty God. The contention was very strong between these two groups. They were so angry with one another that the commander feared that Paul might be torn to pieces. He sent soldiers down to bring him, by force, to the castle.


   This must have been a discouraging time for Paul. But, "the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome." (Acts 23:11) Discouragement is one of the Devils most powerful tools. He has used "discouragement" to remove many men from the pulpits in churches of Christ. Discouragement is the feeling of despair in the face of obstacles. It is the feeling that everything is wrong and nothing will turn out well. Many brethren have blessed my life, and lifted my heart and hands. On the other hand there are those that have discouraged the hearts of young preachers and even older preachers. What a terrible thing to answer for on the Day of Judgment. "...Our brethren have discouraged our heart, saying..." (Deuteronomy 1:28)


   The Jews conspired to kill Paul – Acts 23:12-24: There was so much hatred toward Paul that more than forty Jewish men vowed that they would not eat nor drink until they had killed  him. They even asked the chief priest and other to join them in their godless plot. They wanted then to request the commander to bring Paul down that they might kill him from ambush.


   Paul's nephew somehow heard about the plot. He told Paul who then asked an officer to take him to the commander. He told the commander that some men would ask him to bring Paul before the Jewish council tomorrow. They would pretend to desire to question Paul more. However, more than forty men were going to attack Paul. They had made a vow not to eat or drink anything until they have killed him. The commander charged the young man not to tell anyone what he had told him. If they knew that their plot had been made known they might have devised a new scheme before Paul could be spared.


   At about nine o'clock that night Paul was sent to Caesarea with two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen, and two hundred foot soldiers with spears to protect him. Paul was put on a horse and carried safely to Felix the governor.


   Claudius Lysias's letter to Felix -- Acts 23:25-35: Claudius Lysias wrote a letter in which he sent greetings to Felix and somewhat explained Paul's situation. He explained how that Paul was taken by the Jews in the temple, dragged out and beaten by them. He said he saved Paul's life when he found out he was a Roman. But he did not know that until he had bound him with two chains, and ordered him to be examined by scourging. He made it seem that it was his great concern for a Roman citizen that caused him to take such care.


   Claudius Lysias said that he wanted to find out what the Jews had against Paul. He explained how that he brought him before their council and learned that the charges concern only religious laws. He said Paul was not guilty of anything for which he should die or even be put in prison. He explained about the plot against Paul's life and how that he had quickly sent Paul and his accusers to Felix's court. Felix promised to hear Paul's case when his accusers came. Felix desired to hear both sides of the matter before he passed his judgment, even though the chief captain's letter had said that Paul was innocent. Paul was kept in Herod’s judgment hall. This provided an open door for much work in the kingdom.


   To become a Christian you must hear the gospel (Romans 10:17), believe in Jesus (John 8:24), repent of sins (Romans 10:9-10), confess Christ as Lord (Acts 8:37) and, be baptized into Christ. (I Peter 3:21) After baptism you must stand boldly for God even under the worst of circumstances!