Acts 23:1 – 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.” (NLT)
In today’s passage we have some tense drama! Paul had been brought before the ruling council of the Jewish faith. Remember, Paul remained a Jew his entire life. In the early years of Christianity, Jews and Christians had yet to become separated into two distinct groups. Paul was a great missionary, but his mission work was primarily to the non-Jewish people. Bringing in different cultures was bad enough for some of the rulers, but Paul was also advocating that one did not have to adhere to the Jewish dietary laws, not to mention his radical teachings on the law itself. This did not set well with many of the Jewish leaders.
So, here is Paul before the council, and things do not look good. Paul surveys the crowd and recognizes that it was comprised of both Sadducees and Pharisees. Paul capitalizes on the division that he knows exists. He knew that the two groups were divided on the subject of life after death. He makes one statement, and with that statement disorder breaks out: “I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead.” Paul did not even mention Jesus, he did not even mention anything about whether or not one had to keep the law. He simply mentioned a hot topic amongst the Jews, and division ruled.
While this may have been was a stroke of genius for Paul (or perhaps he was led by the Holy Spirit), I believe that when it comes to various hot topics, many Christians act in the same manner as the Jewish leaders. How many Christians cannot get past one issue without disorder reigning? Consider some of the things that Christians have allowed to divide us: baptism, communion, ordination, style of music, biblical translations, the death penalty, sexuality, and the list goes on and on. Like the Jews that Paul stood before, chaos could reign with the mention of any one of these topics, and quite possibly no one would even mention Jesus.
We have differences, each of us, but we all have Jesus. Our task as Christians is not to make everyone think just as we think. When we try, nobody wins, and everybody loses. Our task is to model Christ, for that is the definition of Christian. That does not mean that Christians cannot discuss amongst themselves their convictions, but it does mean that we must see beyond our differences.
Today, let us show others the Christ that lives within us. For the sake of a hurting world, let us not argue our faith, but rather live it.
Posted by Ramón Torres