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God’s Word for You

Acts 23:6-10 Sad, you see

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, January 20, 2021

6 Knowing that some were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, Paul cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” 7 As soon as he said this, an argument broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and also that there are no angels or souls, but the Pharisees confess them all. 9 Then there was a lot of shouting, and some of the scribes of the Pharisees’ group stood up and protested violently, “We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?” 10 The argument became so heated that the commanding officer was afraid that they would tear Paul to pieces. He ordered the soldiers to go down and forcibly remove him from them and bring him into the fortress.

Paul’s first attempt at a defense had failed. His appeal had merely begun with asserting that he had a clear conscience (vs. 1), but this got him nowhere. Now he realized that there was no hope of actually presenting the truth to defend himself, at least not the true facts about his case. Therefore he turned to the true facts about his life. The Sanhedrin was divided between two parties, Pharisees and Sadducees. Verse 8 is the passage that best describes the differences between the two. The Sadducees, who were not orthodox or traditional Jews in any way, rejected most of the Old Testament (except the five books of Moses). They denied the existence of angels and demons. They maintained that the human soul dies along with the body, and that there is no resurrection from the dead. They also denied the existence of hell, miracles, and other supernatural things. The Pharisees, on the other hand, upheld the whole Old Testament, believed in angels and demons, the existence of the soul, the resurrection, miracles, and other things. In many ways, they were very close to our Christian way of thinking about the Scriptures (apart from rejecting Christ). One author, Josephus, claimed that the Pharisees had a confused notion of the place of the soul. “‘They say that the souls of good men (only) are removed into other bodies, but that the souls of bad men are subject to eternal punishment’” (quoted by Heinrich Meyer, Handbook on the Acts of the Apostles [1844] p. 437). Do not think that the Pharisees believed in reincarnation. Josephus means that the Pharisees’ concept of the resurrection was that the spirit moved into ‘other’ (purified) bodies. This isn’t exactly what the Bible teaches, but it is much closer than the Sadducee’s utter denial of the truth.

Paul stood before this divided group, who sometimes resorted to murder within their ranks to settle disagreements, and said, “I am on trial because I believe in the resurrection.” This made the Pharisees erupt into a rage against the Sadducees. Some of the most highly trained men, the scribes, even carried the argument to its ultimate conclusion: “What if a spirit or angel spoke to him?” They had nothing but contempt for the heretical unbelief of the Sadducees. This helps to explain certain polarizing statements in the early Church Fathers: “Whoever perverts the sayings of the Lord for his own desires and says that there is neither a resurrection or a judgment—that man is the firstborn of Satan” (Polycarp 7:1). Also, “Those who deny the gift of God are dying in their arguments. It would be better for them to love so that they may reach the resurrection” (Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans 7:1).

Once again, the Colonel had a riot on his hands, this time right inside the walls of his own fortress, among men he himself had ordered to attend. The phrase in verse 10, “he ordered the soldiers to go down,” shows that the meeting was happening in the lower level of the fortress, and now he had Paul removed to one of the upper floors.

The Romans had been involved in the affairs of Judea and Syria for more than 230 years.  After all this time, they still did not understand the Jews or the Jewish religion. Their failures have all the same hallmarks of the failures of grown men who try to calm down shouting matches between Middle School girls. If you’re not one of them, you can’t really understand any of them. Paul was removed from one problem, and now he faced another. What would become of his arrest? Still, he put his trust in God. “Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, breathing out violence” (Psalm 27:12). Removed from the bile of the Sadducees, he could focus on the cold logic of the Romans. God’s helping hand was still present in Paul’s life, just as God’s helping hand is still present in yours. Don’t bat away the hand that helps you. He has your good in mind: Your eternal good with him in heaven, and your earthly good today as well. Let God give to you the good gifts he has in store, and give him praise and glory along the way.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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