Acts 23

Acts chapter 23

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Acts 23 Commentary

Acts 23:1-2

Acts 23:3-5 Whitewashed
Acts 23:6-10 Pharisees and Sadducees
Acts 23:11-15 Be of Good Cheer
Acts 23:16-24 Paul's Nephew
Acts 23:25-35 Claudius Lysias
ACTS 23:1  1 Then Paul, looking earnestly at the council, said, "Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day."

Had Paul "lived in all good conscience before God until this day" (Acts 23:1)?
Not always. Before he became Paul, Saul was one of the greatest persecutors of Christians (see Acts 8).

Did Paul think that he had always lived in good conscience before God?
Not at all. He wrote to the church in Corinth, "For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God" (1 Corinthians 15:9). He wrote to the churches in Galatia, "For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it" (Galatians 1:13). And just a day earlier, he had declared to the Jewish mob, "I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women, as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished" (Acts 22:4-5).

Then why does Paul say that he has lived in all good conscience before God until this day?
He is talking about his life from the last time the leaders of Israel in the audience saw him "until this day" (Acts 23:1), for four reasons. First, Paul's last two trips to Jerusalem had been to meet with the members of the Jerusalem church. The last time the leaders of Israel saw Paul was after his conversion and just before he left Jerusalem for Tarsus: "So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out. And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him. When the brethren found out, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him out to Tarsus" (Acts 9:28-30). Many if not most of those in the Sanhedrin knew Paul. Until his conversion, he had been a a model Pharisee, a chosen pupil of Gamaliel, and for whom the chief priest had even written commendations. Had Paul remained unsaved, he probably would have been a member of the Sanhedrin by this time. Paul was telling his former mentors and classmates how he has lived since the last time they saw him. Second, some if not many in the audience had heard him the day before, when his testimony was interrupted at his mention of being sent to the gentiles: "Then He said to me, ‘Depart, for I will send you far from here to the gentiles.’" And they listened to him until this word, and then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!” Then, as they cried out and tore off their clothes and threw dust into the air, the commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks ..." (Acts 22:21-24). Paul was picking up where he left off and telling them how his years among the gentiles had been lived. Third, the Jews had tried to kill him both before and after his testimony the day before, but had been prevented by the Roman Commander, who had "commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear" (Acts 22:30). Upon "looking earnestly at the council" (Acts 23:1), Paul may have seen and been responding to the "he is guilty" stares from many of those facing him. Fourth and most importantly, he was testifying to the power of salvation in Christ: "And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief." (1 Timothy 1:12-15)

ACTS 23:2  2 And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth.

What did the "high priest" (Acts 23:2) command?
When Jesus answered the then high priest (see Annas and Caiaphas) on the night of His arrest, an officer "struck Jesus with the palm of his hand" (John 18:22). The original Greek expression in this phrase is εδωκεν ραπισμα (edoken rapisma), which literally means to "give [a] slap." By contrast, τυπτειν (tuptein), the original Greek word translated "to strike" (Acts 23:2) above, literally means to "beat," "injure," "harm" or "wound" with the "fist," "whip" or "staff." Ananias wanted "those" (Acts 23:2) near Paul to injure his "mouth" (Acts 23:2).

Ananias had either heard or heard about Paul's testimony the day before (see Acts 22) and didn't want to hear the rest of what Paul was beginning to say in this hearing, which had been forced upon the Sanhedrin by the Roman commander.

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