Tom: This is our Understanding the Scriptures segment; we are in the Book of Acts:23:6: “But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.” Now, Dave, was this a diversion on Paul’s part? Was he thinking, “Why don’t we just get these guys going after each other?”
Dave: I don’t know, Tom. On the one hand, you could say it was a good tactic; on the other hand, it’s a good spiritual discussion. Maybe he is: “Hey, you Sadducees, don’t you realize there is a resurrection?” and maybe he can get the Pharisees thinking—I don’t know. Or you could just say, “Well, it was a good tactic, get them arguing with themselves.”
Tom: Yeah, because there was no point to…he was falsely accused, these guys were making it up as they go along, so he probably thought, Well, let’s throw a cat in that bag.
Dave: Yeah… Tom, once again, and we probably say this often, the precise details you get in scripture—we went over that last week, about, “Oh, I didn’t realize he was the high priest.”
Tom: Well, Dave, explain that, maybe there are some listeners out there who missed this, because we are totally in Paul’s corner, okay? Anyone who said, ”That which you see in me, that you do,” or you know, “Look to me as a pattern for your life.” It really takes some gumption to say, “Well, wait a minute, maybe Paul was out of line here,” and so on. And people have, just for the very reason that you mentioned last week, and I think you should go over it that people accuse him. Christians today say, “Well, Paul didn’t quite have it together because he didn’t know who the high priest was.” Explain that.
Dave: I haven’t really heard Christians saying that, but…
Tom: Yeah, Dave, there are commentaries…
Dave: Oh, there are?
Tom: Yeah, there are that say…
Dave: That say that?
Tom: …well, that give you some options. They say, “Well, maybe Paul didn’t quite understand, didn’t have it together….”
Tom: Well, they are the same people that say when Paul went to Jerusalem he was out of the Spirit; the Spirit kept telling him not to go.
Dave: But don’t any of the commentaries give you the facts, the truth?
Tom: Well, you know I’ve never heard it explained on the basis of the information that Josephus, for example, the Jewish historian, laid it out until you mentioned it. So that’s why I think it would be worth it for our listeners to hear it again.
Dave: Yeah, okay. We can go back over that again, because in verse 5, Paul has been accused of reviling the high priest, and he dealt with him rather severely: “You whited sepulcher! God will smite you—you sit there and judge me according to the law and command me to be smitten contrary to the law?”
Tom: Well that’s verse 3.
Dave: Yeah, well I’m just quoting out of my brain here. I’m not going back to it, but you have to get the background. And so they say, “You talk like that to the high priest?”
Paul says, “Well, I didn’t realize the guy is a high priest.” Well, an atheist, Tom, and I have a lot of files about atheists, and that’s one of their big arguments: you’ve got a contradiction in the Bible right there. Just a few chapters before it says Paul was sent by the high priest to go to Damascus with letters from the rabbis, the authorities.
Tom: And this is Ananias, the same high priest we’re talking about here.
Dave: Yes, so he surely would know. Now you’ve got a real problem with this Bible, and a big contradiction. No, the fact is, as Josephus mentions, Ananias had been deposed for misconduct, and he had been removed from the high priestly position. His successor had been murdered, and Ananias had just taken it back, unlawfully, without any authority. So Paul is basically saying, “Hey, really, you're the high priest? I didn’t realize that.”
Paul is, I guess, engaging in an argument—he’s trying to rescue the situation, actually. He doesn’t want to be sentenced to death, of course; he doesn’t want to have to go off to Rome. But the only way he is going to escape death—he knows that these men have sworn to exterminate him—he’s going to have to appeal to Rome. He has that in the back of his mind: can he settle this thing? “Can you guys get this straightened out among you?”
So we’ve got Paul acting as his own defense attorney, but I think at the same time he wants to bring in the fact of the resurrection. Jesus is alive from the dead, but he doesn’t get to that point. They’ve got a big argument going among themselves, and the Sadducees—you’ve probably heard that saying: They are sad, you see, because they don’t believe in the resurrection. Anyway, there’s a division going on. And verse 9: “And there arose a great cry: and the scribes that were of the Pharisees’ part arose, and strove, saying, We find no evil in this man: but if a Spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God.” Well, Tom, go ahead and read it here.
Tom: Verse 10: “And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle.” This verse is amazing, Dave; I mean it’s all amazing, but verse 11: “And 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.” So here are Paul’s marching orders directly from the Lord: he’s going to Rome.
“And when it was day…” Well, Dave, wait, let me go back to the Lord appearing to Paul. I was talking to somebody the other day about Galatians and Paul defending himself as an apostle, and certainly the Lord appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus. You would have to think that right after that, when he went off into Arabia where the Lord taught him the gospel, could have hung out with Jesus, who knows? Certainly, in this case, you would have to say that the Lord appeared to Paul physically, wouldn’t you?
Dave: It sounds like it. We’ve had Stephen back here in chapter 7, and he sees Jesus at the right hand of the Father on high. So, whether Christ came back to earth physically, I kind of question that myself. I think it was more of a spiritual appearance, but what does it matter?
Tom: Right. Jesus could do it both ways pretty easily.
Dave: But His appearing—we’re looking forward to His appearing, and in Titus:2:13, Paul says,”...looking for the blessed hope, the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour.” So apparently, it’s a special appearing, and He’s not going to appear until then, whether it’s a Benny Hinn platform or anywhere else. So that would lead me to doubt that it was a physical appearing of Christ. Whether it was or not, He definitely communicated with Paul, and as you said, Tom, gave him his marching orders.
Tom: And Dave, his marching orders: he’s to be of good cheer as he testifies and bears witness to Christ, both in Jerusalem and in Rome.
Dave: And Tom, as you said, he was taught by the Lord, in Arabia, and here we have another instance. The Lord is definitely in touch with Paul. That is another proof of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.