We continue our journey in the book of Acts 22 where Paul had been arrested and now Paul was speaking to the leaders himself when they got so mad they tore their clothes and was wanting to stone Paul. The religious leaders could not accept the truth of Jesus being the Messiah and changing Paul’s life. When they were about to whip him with 39 stripes, he announced the following.
Acts 22:28b Paul answered, "But I am a citizen by birth!" 29 The soldiers who were about to interrogate Paul quickly withdrew when they heard he was a Roman citizen, and the commander was frightened because he had ordered him bound and whipped.
They did not have permission to whip a Roman Citizen without a trial and the commander was concerned about his own future because of what he had ordered, so he quickly withdrew the order.
Paul before the High Council: 30 The next day the commander ordered the leading priests into session with the Jewish high council. He wanted to find out what the trouble was all about, so he released Paul to have him stand before them.
Since it was Jews who had accused Jesus of starting trouble, he released Paul to stand before them and in Acts 23 we pick up the story of Paul’s defense.
Acts 23:1 Gazing intently at the high council, Paul began: "Brothers, I have always lived before God with a clear conscience!"
Don’t you love the way Paul started his defense? First of all, no shame, no denial of where he stood because he was making direct eye contact with them with a passion that could not be mistaken. When you know you are chosen and anointed there is never a time to be intimidated by the enemy or by people. Paul wrote, since God is for you, who can be against you. Paul knew where he stood and he was not backing down on his belief. Secondly, notice his wording; I have always lived before God (not man, which is a big key) with a clear conscience. Paul knew the truth would set some free while making others mad but He was saying I have to please the Lord who has saved me. He was saying I’d rather please God than to be a man pleaser.
2 Instantly Ananias the high priest commanded those close to Paul to slap him on the mouth.
Once again we catch a glimpse of the uncontrollable hatred of those who rather live religiously than relationally. What did Paul say that was so wrong? It wasn’t wrong unless it made you feel convicted and this group was more concerned about keeping the law than pleasing Father God. It made the high priest (the leader - the religious ruler of that region) so mad he ordered Paul slapped on the face. Could we still walk in love if we were slapped for doing right, for living right? Paul did and Jesus did because they were full of Father God’s Presence and Word.
3 But Paul said to him, "God will slap you, you corrupt hypocrite! What kind of judge are you to break the law yourself by ordering me struck like that?"
I love it! It’s a very intense, emotional moment in that room and you can feel the tension getting greater. Even though outnumbered with no physical person there to stand up for him, he didn’t back off but trusted the One he served. He spoke back, my Father will slap you, you hypocrite! Don’t you know this insulted the high priest and made him even madder?
4 Those standing near Paul said to him, "Do you dare to insult God's high priest?"
The religious leaders knew the law so they used the law against Paul and when confronted with scripture Paul humbled himself.
5 "I'm sorry, brothers. I didn't realize he was the high priest," Paul replied, "for the Scriptures say, 'You must not speak evil of any of your rulers.'"
An important lesson, even though Paul was very angry, he submitted to Father God’s word. Paul quoted the scriptures and told them I didn’t realize he was the high priest. I love Paul because when confronted by religious traditions he stood tall, when confronted by the Word he humbled himself. We must be like Paul and know when to stand and when to be humble, know when to speak and when to listen.
Prayer points: Precious Holy Spirit help me to hear your voice and to know when to speak up and when to humble myself. It’s not about me but about Father God’s Kingdom, let me bring Him glory!