Summary: The Sanhedrin questions one of their own who has returned.
a. In Cambodia during the 1970’s, Hiam and his family were rounded by the Communists for being Christians. "Bad Blood" they were called. They were tied together and made to lie on the ground all night. The next morning, they were told to dig their own grave, which they did. The soldiers were generous in giving them a moment to say their last prayers before execution. Parents and children held hands and knelt together near the open grave.
b. Hiam then exhorted the Communists and all those looking on to receive Jesus as their Savior. Suddenly, one of Hiam’s young sons bolted into the nearby forest and disappeared. Hiam calmly persuaded the soldiers to allow him to call the boy back. While the family knelt again, Hiam pleaded with his son to return and die with them.
c. "Think my son," he shouted. "Can stealing a few more days of life, as a fugitive in that forest, compare to joining your family here around a grave and soon seeing the face of Jesus?"
d. The boy returned to his family, weeping. Hiam told the soldiers they were ready for execution. But none of the soldiers would fire on them. I would like to tell you that this story had a happy ending, but I can’t.
e. Unfortunately, this type of activity still goes on in Cambodia and Vietnam today. The question that the Sanhedrin was trying to answer was whether Paul was a Christian of not.
f. The evidence to convict Paul was overwhelming. He had abandoned his post on the Sanhedrin, and abandoned the mission he was assigned to go and hunt down Christians in Damascus.
g. He spent a few years in Arabia, and when he pops us again, he was back in his native Tarsus. A few years more, and he appears at Antioch, as a leader of this new sect. He goes on journeys throughout the Roman Empire, spreading the Christian doctrine wherever he went. He was reported in Cyprus, Ephesus, Galatia, Corinth, and Athens.
h. The crimes he was accused of were heresy, blasphemy, and bringing gentiles into forbidden areas of the temple. All of these carried the death penalty, and the Romans let them have free reign to pass judgment for the most part.
i. Now, they had Paul in front of them, to stand trial.
a. In our study today, we will look at Acts chapter 23 in its entirety. This would be Paul’s final days in Jerusalem, as we will see him being moved away from there towards the end of this chapter.
b. When we left Paul last week, he had faced the rioting mob that had dragged him from the temple, and while he was being carried up to the Roman fortress there on the temple mount, he asked to address the crowd. He must have thought that this would be a good opportunity to share the gospel.
c. He shares his testimony, and his account is stirring. But when the crowd found out that he was preaching to gentiles, they went nuts, throwing dirt into the air, and tearing their clothes. So the Roman commander had Paul taken away, and it was his intent to have Paul scourged or beaten to find out why the crowd went crazy.
d. Paul then lets the Roman guards and centurions tie him up for his beating before he lets them know that he is a Roman citizen. Upon hearing this, the commander is alarmed, because his actions concerning Paul were illegal. He could not legally bind a Roman citizen without due process, much less beat him.
e. So, the commander, Claudius, has Paul released, and probably cleaned up at that point, and the next day, he has Paul carried down to face the Sanhedrin, the 71 member Jewish supreme court, because he wanted to know what Paul had done that was so terrible as to stir up the whole city.
f. Today, we will look at Paul facing the Sanhedrin, and the events that took place immediately thereafter, as we will finish all of Acts chapter 23, in our continuous study through the book of the Acts.
g. As with last week, since we have so much ground to cover this week, we will forego our normal reading of the passage in its entirety, and jump right into our study, so that we can finish this chapter in one morning. Only five more chapters to go in Acts.
h. So, turn with me if you would to Acts chapter 23, and we will begin reading at verse 1. **If you need a Bible** This morning, we are looking at seven points in this chapter, The Opening Statements, The Opinions Flying, Organizing the Plot, An Overhearing Relative, Orders to the Troops, An Offenseless Report, and last we will look at Paul On the Road.