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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Acts 22:30-23:11 - Paul approved by Jesus

The action of the tribune in compelling the Sanhedrin to meet revealed its lack of real power. A worse realisation from their point of view would have happened if some of those who belonged to it could recall when Paul did its bidding when he was a vehement opponent of the Christian faith.  Now he too was serving with what they regarded as a worse group of people because he and other Christians were followers of the One the Sanhedrin despised. 

It is clear that Paul's claim to have served God according to his conscience did not impress the Jewish leadership. No doubt, they regarded him as a traitor to his upbringing, which would explain why Ananias ordered that Paul should be slapped.

What are we to make about Paul's retort to the high priest's instruction to slap him? Did Paul lose his temper? I don't think so, yet it is obvious that he spoke strongly in response. The lesson from his response is that we should discover who we are speaking to before we give our opinion about their actions, even when they are wrong actions. Of course, we should not be surprised to discover that Ananias, who was known for his evil deeds, later met an untimely end at the hands of his own people.

It is surprising that Paul did not recognise the high priest. Various suggestions can be made, including that the haste in which the council had been summoned had prevented the high priest from getting his official clothes. Maybe there is something in the suggestion that Paul's poor eyesight was the cause.

It is noticeable that Paul did not say that he regarded Ananias as God's high priest. Usually, Paul was precise in his language, so this omission gives us insight into how Paul regarded some aspects of the Jewish sacrificial ritual. For Paul, Ananias now only held a position of authority in Israel, but not for God. 

We also see Paul's ability to use an audience to his own advantage when he described himself as a Pharisee who believed in the resurrection of the dead. He was not telling a lie when he said that he was a Pharisee because his devotion to God would have made him an authentic one, unlike others who used that name. 

The outcome was not what the tribune would have wanted. Instead of discovering why the Jews opposed Paul, he now faced a situation in which a sizeable number of the council supported the apostle. So he had to call an end to the meeting.

Perhaps Paul wondered if he was on the right track. The following night, he received from his Master a personal assurance that he had been a faithful witness there in Jerusalem, and his opinion should govern how we interpret Paul's actions before the council. Moreover he was assured that Jesus was still in control of events, including Paul's future.

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