Day 136: Paul the Pharisee

Acts 22:30 – 23:9 :

But on the next day, desiring to know the truth about why he was accused by the Jews, he freed him from the bonds, and commanded the chief priests and all the council to come together, and brought Paul down and set him before them.

Paul, looking steadfastly at the council, said, “Brothers, I have lived before God in all good conscience until this day.”

The high priest, Ananias, commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth.

Then Paul said to him, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! Do you sit to judge me according to the law, and command me to be struck contrary to the law?”

Those who stood by said, “Do you malign God’s high priest?”

Paul said, “I didn’t know, brothers, that he was high priest. For it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’” But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Men and brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. Concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!”

When he had said this, an argument arose between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit; but the Pharisees confess all of these. A great clamor arose, and some of the scribes of the Pharisees part stood up, and contended, saying, “We find no evil in this man. But if a spirit or angel has spoken to him, let’s not fight against God!”

This is a fascinating exchange. It is important for us to remember when reading this passage, that Jesus had commanded his disciples to not determine in advance what to say when they appeared before leaders.

Luke 12:11-12 :

“When they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, don’t be anxious how or what you will answer, or what you will say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that same hour what you must say.”

What we are witnessing here is the Holy Spirit speaking through Paul to the leaders and it is amazing. First, we read that the Roman officer really wanted to know why Paul was getting accused by the Jews. What’s interesting is that the Holy Spirit makes it pretty clear by causing Paul to make them argue with each other.

First, Paul lashes out at the high priest and then apologizes. At that moment, he realizes that there is a natural divide between them. The Holy Spirit divides the enemy by causing them to fight along natural boundaries of disagreement. This demonstrates to the Roman officer how frail the Jewish accusers were.

Not only that, Paul was able to pronounce the centrality of the doctrine of the physical resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The funny thing is that the Pharisees fought so hard with the Sadducees that some of them decided that Paul wasn’t guilty after all!

It shouldn’t be too shocking to us that even today, people are divided along the lines of supernaturalism and naturalism. Many of the founding fathers of the United States of America didn’t believe that Jesus was God.

It is interesting to notice that in regard to the resurrection from the dead, Paul considered himself in the Pharisee party. I believe that we should follow his example. We need to realize that we are Pharisees in this way and stand up for our belief in the supernatural, especially the resurrection of the dead.