Summary: Exposition of the first 11 verses of Acts 23 about Paul’s informal trial in front of the Sanhedrin, his outburst, and his deliverance.
Text: Acts 23:1-11, Title: NT Court TV, Date/Place: NRBC, 5/10/09, AM
A. Opening illustration: It’s interesting that there has been such an increase of shows on television that involve the court room. These shows really are all about the judge. He or she is the focus of the program. There is an entire station now devoted to Court TV. It all started with the “people’s Court” and Judge Wopner. Then there were spinoffs with some really tough judges like Judge Judy, Judge Mathis and on an on the list goes. You can tune into court TV and watch people being judged any time you want. May people seem to be fascinated with being able to watch someone get what is coming to them As long as it is not us. But mostly we just like to watch the drama of people who make really bad decisions…
B. Background to passage: Make sure and read the last verse of chapter 22. Remember that Paul has been accused of defiling the Temple by bringing Gentiles in while he was in Jerusalem. Some Ephesian Jews started a riot, and would have killed him, but the Romans intervened. Then he addressed the crowds from the steps overlooking the temple courts while guarded by the soldiers. After his comment about God sending Paul to the Gentiles, again they were ready to riot. The commander could not release Paul until he determined the reason for the riot, so now he calls for an informal meeting of the Sanhedrin.
C. Main thought: Paul is being faithful to Acts 9:15--“he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.”
A. Anger Management (v. 1-5)
1. Here is one of the few places in the scriptures that we see Paul exhibiting some behavior that is unbecoming of a believer. But this is also a testimony to the veracity of scripture, because it includes all the ugly with the good. Paul begins by saying that he has walked with God in integrity of conscience until this day; which is what gets him smacked in the mouth. Note that this was only permissible if God’s honor was being defended, not the high priest’s. And Paul’s remark was similar to Jesus’ about them being hypocrites. Explain Ananias’s legacy of wickedness. Since this was an informal session, and since Paul’s eyesight was bad, coupled with his general absence from Jerusalem, he didn’t recognize the high priest. And when it was noted that he had reviled, even cursed, the high priest (it was the HP who gave the order for Paul to be slapped) Paul was quick to repent of his angry outburst. He sited scripture, and in essence publicly apologized.
3. Illustration: tell about the minor fender bender the other day on TV that escalated into a shootout, “Christians need to be given the painful reminder that frequent displays of temper betray the absence or at least the severe limitation of love.” Paige Patterson, tell about Dr. Owens who refused to admit that his anger was sinful, because it seemed so justified, It is said of Julius Caesar that, when provoked, he used to repeat the whole Roman alphabet before he allowed himself to speak. I have been known to write emails that I do not intend to send out,
4. Most of us who probably act in a similar way. We are all country folks and rednecks, and to push us around will invoke a speedy escalation of emotion. Just a small note, ignorance doesn’t excuse sinful behavior. I wonder though if we are as quick to repent and seek forgiveness, when anger gets us? I wonder if scripture that we have memorized (big assumption) returns to our minds? I wonder if we are as determined as the apostle Paul to submit our lives to scriptural warnings and covenantal problems? I wonder if the world watches our outbursts, and sees hypocrisy? Do we view anger as something that everybody deals with, therefore not very significant? We must wage war on anger in our hearts, because it usually reveals that we are painfully committed to getting our own way—Mackenzie’s bad days. Determine that you will submit yourself to biblical truth. And when it does get the better of us (because sooner or later all of us will disgrace the Lord with an expression of temper), even to your children and spouse, go to them, site the scripture, seek forgiveness, and offer a sincere apology.
B. Dropping the R-Bomb (v. 6-9)
1. Paul notices the division in the group and uses it to his advantage. He claims to be a Pharisee (which he is) and then he says that he is on trial for the resurrection. Huh? I thought he was on trial because he was accused of bringing Gentiles into the temple? This was my wrestling last week. What Paul being intentionally deceptive? Or was he being intentionally divisive? I think that there is a sense in which what Paul is saying is really true. The Ephesians probably knew that Paul preaches the resurrection of Christ, and had it not been for the resurrection, none of these things would have happened to Paul. Explain why the resurrection was a big deal in the council. And maybe Paul was really looking for an opportunity for someone to ask “which resurrection” so he could preach the gospel. But it didn’t exactly accomplish the intended result.