BEING CHEERED ON!
Lord, help me to function under pressure.
Read ACTS 22:30–23:11
Paul Before the Sanhedrin
30 The commander wanted to find out exactly why Paul was being accused by the Jews. So the next day he released him and ordered the chief priests and all the members of the Sanhedrin to assemble. Then he brought Paul and had him stand before them.
23 Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.” 2 At this the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!”
4 Those who were standing near Paul said, “How dare you insult God’s high priest!”
5 Paul replied, “Brothers, I did not realize that he was the high priest; for it is written: ‘Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.’”
6 Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees. I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead.” 7 When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8 (The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees believe all these things.)
9 There was a great uproar, and some of the teachers of the law who were Pharisees stood up and argued vigorously. “We find nothing wrong with this man,” they said. “What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?” 10 The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force and bring him into the barracks.
11 The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“By perseverance the snail reached the ark” (Charles Haddon Spurgeon, 1834–1892).
The Roman commander orders the Sanhedrin to meet, in the hope that, finally, he can get to the heart of the issue. Paul begins by affirming that he has always been a law-abiding Jew (23:1), but the high priest’s response (2) indicates that he considers Paul a liar. Paul’s response is to denounce the high priest in prophetic terms (Ezek. 13:8–16). Paul is then denounced for insulting the high priest, but his counter-response (5) implies that he is not behaving as a high priest should. In other words, Paul is not actually apologizing but further denouncing the high priest!
However, Paul knows his audience and mentions an issue he knows will surely divide them. It works, and it leads to a vigorous argument between the Sadducees and the Pharisees, as the Pharisees insist that Paul is saying nothing wrong. It is not that the Pharisees have suddenly concluded that Jesus did rise from the dead; rather, that Paul has said nothing against the law as they understand it. The dispute gets so heated that the Roman commander has to intervene once again. Imprisoned in the barracks, Paul hears the Lord confirm that his expressed desire to go to Rome (Acts 19:21) is actually the Lord’s plan for him.
We can imagine what comfort the vision must have brought to Paul. In our times of greatest need, God can appear to us and encourage us to persevere. We may not have a vision (although we may), but God knows what we need and when we need his help for the next step forward. It is at those times, also, that we need to remember that there is a “great cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1) cheering us on to the finish line. Even more amazing is the fact that Jesus is cheering us on to the finish line!
What encouragement do you need today to help you keep going?
Lord, cheer me up when the chips are down and it seems that the other side is winning.
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