Acts 23:1-10-Paul addresses the Council and says that his conscience is clear.
The Council, Sanhedrin
More correctly Sanhedrin (Gr. synedrion), meaning "a sitting together," or a "council." This word (rendered "council, " A.V.) is frequently used in the New Testament (Matthew 5:22; 26:59; Mark 15:1, etc.) to denote the supreme judicial and administrative council of the Jews, which, it is said, was first instituted by Moses, and was composed of seventy men (Numbers 11:16, 17). But that seems to have been only a temporary arrangement which Moses made. This council is with greater probability supposed to have originated among the Jews when they were under the domination of the Syrian kings in the time of the Maccabees. The name is first employed by the Jewish historian Josephus. This "council" is referred to simply as the "chief priests and elders of the people" (Matthew 26:3, 47, 57, 59; 27:1, 3, 12, 20, etc.), before whom Christ was tried on the charge of claiming to be the Messiah. Peter and John were also brought before it for promulgating heresy (Acts 4:1-23; 5:17-41); as was also Stephen on a charge of blasphemy (6:12-15), and Paul for violating a temple by-law (22:30; 23:1-10).
The Sanhedrin is said to have consisted of seventy-one members, the high priest being president. They were of three classes (1) the chief priests, or heads of the twenty-four priestly courses (1 Chronicles 24), (2) the scribes, and (3) the elders. As the highest court of judicature, "in all causes and over all persons, ecclesiastical and civil, supreme," its decrees were binding, not only on the Jews in Palestine, but on all Jews wherever scattered abroad. Its jurisdiction was greatly curtailed by Herod, and afterwards by the Romans. Its usual place of meeting was within the precincts of the temple, in the hall "Gazith," but it sometimes met also in the house of the high priest (Matthew 26:3), who was assisted by two vice-presidents.
The High Priest, angered by Paul’s response, orders someone to strike him on the cheek. Paul chastises the High Priest saying that God is going to punish him for his actions. As a ruler of Israel he knows better than to do such a thing. Someone then rebukes Paul for speaking in such a manner to the High Priest. Paul says that he did not realize it was the High Priest. The question arises: how is it possible that Paul would not have recognized the High Priest? (Ryrie Study Bible, 23:5) Some think it was either because of Paul’s poor eyesight, or it was a sarcastic remark...that he did not think that the High Priest would have done such a thing. Paul is a clever debater. He is well aware of the differences of theological opinion over the resurrection between the Pharisees and the Sadducees and he uses those differences to cause the Council to take sides and be divided. The debate between these two opposing sides became so heated that the Roman commander took Paul away to the barracks to protect him.
What is the difference between the Pharisees and the Sadducees?
Acts 23:11-During the night the Lord spoke to Paul and told him to have “courage”…because he would bear witness for Him in Jerusalem and Rome.
The Lord spoke directly to Paul on four different occasions:
- at his conversion (9:5);
- in Corinth (18:9-10);
- on his first visit to Jerusalem (22:17-18);
- while in jail in Jerusalem (23:11).
Prayer: Lord, that simple word from You was all that it took to satisfy Paul. He knew that his life was in Your hands...and that no matter how things appeared, or what happened, You were still in control. Please remind me every day that You are in control of my life, that You are sovereign, and that nothing happens without Your permission.