Summary: The Apostle Paul in all of the trials of his final years never had a lawyer. Jesus was his heavenly advocate, but he represented himself before both Jewish and Gentiles judges. As his own lawyer he was able to outwit the Supreme Court of the Jews.
The first impeachment trial of a President of the United States began on March 30, 1868. The
54 Senators were at their desks in the Senate Chamber, and at the front was Chief Justice Salmen P.
Chase of the Supreme Court, who would preside over the trial. The President himself was not there.
He felt it beneath his dignity to honor the trial with his presence, and so he remained in the White
It was a complex case. Abraham Lincoln did a strange thing. He asked his Republican
Convention to let him choose a Democrat to run as his Vice President. Believe it or not, they
nominated Andrew Johnson for the Vice Presidency. Lincoln had appointed Johnson as military
Governor of Tenn. Johnson favored Lincoln's plan to unite the North and South after the Civil War,
and not seek to punish the rebel South. Many radicals in Lincoln's party wanted revenge, and they
wanted the South to be punished. Lincoln won support for his plan for unity, and the result was a
Republican-Democrat team won the election. A Republican President with a Democrat Vice
President would be strange enough, but it gets even stranger.
When Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, Andrew Johnson became the President. Our nation
went from a Republican to a Democrat President with no votes or election whatever. It was not a
ballot, but a bullet that brought about this radical change. The Republicans were not pleased with
this turn of events, and they set out to make life miserable for a man they never liked in the first
place. To make a long story short, they finally found a way to bring impeachment charges against
him when he forced his Secretary of War to resign, who was a Republican. The Republicans
controlled the Senate, and all it took was a two-thirds majority of the Senate to impeach him.
It was a 6 weeks long battle with the best lawyers in the country on both sides. When the vote
was finally taken on May 16, 1868 Andrew Johnson won by one vote, and survived as President.
The only way he could have done it was if his lawyers were clever enough to divide his enemies, and
that is precisely what they did. Seven Republicans were persuaded not to vote with the radicals.
They paid with their political lives, and they never won another election to office, but Andrew
Johnson, thanks to his clever lawyers, not only survived, but after his term ran for the Senate and
won. He sat in that very chamber where he narrowly escaped his greatest defeat.
I share this long introduction out of our history because it is a fascinating example of the
complexity of life, and of the importance of cleverness for success and survival. The only way a
minority can win in a conflict with the majority is by the strategy of divide and conquer. The only
way you can win in a court case is to get the jury divided. If they are all united against you, you are
sunk. But if you can break that unity and get opposition among them, you have a chance to win. If
you are before the Supreme Court and all of the judges are united the battle is lost. But if you can get
the judges divided you have hope of winning. The very essence of being a clever lawyer is in having
the skill to bring about division in the ranks of your opponents.
The Apostle Paul in all of the trials of his final years never had a lawyer. Jesus was his heavenly
advocate, but he represented himself before both Jewish and Gentiles judges. In chapter 24 the Jews
brought a lawyer with them in Paul's trial before Governor Felix. One of their reasons for their
bringing professional counsel is because of Paul's clever maneuvering here in chapter 23. As his own
lawyer he was able to outwit the Supreme Court of the Jews. It was certainly a great embarrassment
to them to be outwitted by Paul's cleverness. I suspect it is an embarrassment to many Christians
even that Paul was so clever in his escape. The reason is that the Christian is often conditioned to
think that being clever is more in tune with following Satan than the Savior.
So much of the cleverness of history has been the cleverness of evil. The cunning serpent was
able to deceive Adam and Eve into choosing death for life, and by his cunning he has deceived the
majority of mankind. We tend to think of cleverness as the ability to get away with something in a
negative sense. Like the clever little boy who was warned by his mother not to take seconds. When
his hostess at the party saw how eagerly he gobbled up his ice cream, she asked if he wanted some