A Commentary by John Stott
Acts 23:6-10. b). Paul, the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Several questions also confront us when we read this part of the narrative. Was Paul justified in deliberately setting the Pharisees and the Sadducees against one another? And was he correct to call himself a Pharisee? There is certainly no need to attribute to Paul either unworthy motives or an untrue statement. He was genuinely concerned about doctrine, and he did believe (as we should) that the resurrection is fundamental to Christianity (E.G. Acts 4:2; 17:18, 31; 24:21; 26:6ff. 28:20). The anti-supernaturalist stance of the Sadducees was incompatible with the gospel. As Jesus himself said, the reason they were wrong was that they knew neither God’s word nor God’s power (Lk. 20:27ff.), Paul was a Pharisee, however, not only in the sense of his parentage and education (6), but also in the sense that he shared with Pharisees the great truth and hope of the resurrection, on account of which he was on trial.
After the uproar with followed, the Pharisees stood up for Paul, and declared that they could find nothing wrong with him. This seems to have triggered off further argument, which became so violent that for the third time the commander had to rescue him and have him brought into safe custody in the fortress of Antonia.
c). Paul and the Lord Jesus. (23:11).
After the confrontation between Paul and Ananias, and the heated argument between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, it is a relief to read that during the following night the Lord Jesus came and stood near Paul and spoke to him. The violence of the last two days, and especially the enmity of the Jews, must have made him wonder anxiously about the future. There seemed little prospect of his leaving Jerusalem alive, let alone of his travelling on to Rome. So in this moment of discouragement Jesus comforted him with the straightforward promise that, as he has borne witness to him in Jerusalem, so he must also bear witness to him in Rome. It would be hard to exaggerate the calm courage which this assurance must have brought Paul during his three further trials, his two years’ imprisonment and his hazardous journey to Rome.
Tomorrow: Acts 23:12-35. 6). Paul is rescued from a Jewish plot.
The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of Acts. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.