INTRO: Today we will go back to our look at the book of Acts, and we will be examining Acts 22:22 thru 23:11.
Before we begin let me tell you a story.
One night two friends were camping out in the deep woods on a warm summer's night.
Suddenly, their sleep was abruptly interrupted by a huge black bear rummaging through their camp, crushing supplies, throwing backpacks, and scaring the two men half to death.
Thinking quickly, one of the men began to lace up his sneakers for a quick getaway.
"You will never outrun that bear!" his friend whispered.
To this he replied, "I don't have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you!"
Last time we left the apostle I would have thought that Paul would have had an excellent reason to run away. Instead Paul chose to stay and confidently speak to those in the mob. As we are about to find out confident speaking isn’t going to help if your audience has already made up their minds.
Remember that Paul has been charged with four things.
The Jews have accused him of (1)teaching against the Jews; (2)teaching against the law; (3)teaching against the temple; and (4)bringing Greeks into the temple, thereby defiling it.
In a situation where many of us would gladly put on our sneakers and just run away from the accusing mob, the apostle Paul asked permission from the commander of the Roman garrison to speak to the crowd.
I. Paul was given permission and he goes ahead and shares his testimony about his encounter with the risen Lord Jesus Christ. It seems that the crowd was perfectly willing to listen to Paul... up until he mentioned the taboo subject of the Gentiles. We rejoin Luke’s narrative now at verse 22. Acts 22:22-24 – “22. And they listened to him until this word, and then they raised their voices and said, "Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!'' 23. Then, as they cried out and tore off their clothes and threw dust into the air, 24. the commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks, and said that he should be examined under scourging, so that he might know why they shouted so against him.”[NKJV]
A. To understand the Jews reaction to Paul’s words, we need to understand the Jewish mindset at this time. A Jew could not stand the Gentiles, in fact the Jew saw the Gentiles as unclean.
1. If a Jew were walking down the street and he saw a Gentile coming towards him, the Jew would cross the street to avoid being anywhere near him.
2. Luke is letting us see that the Jews' hatred of the Gentiles was so great, that the very mention of them enraged the audience and moved them to call for Paul's death. They began to throw their garments and dust in the air, perhaps in preparation to stone the apostle.
B. The commander had Paul taken into the barracks and prepared to flog him until he got an explanation. Acts 22:25-29 – “25. And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who stood by, "Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman, and un-condemned?'' 26. When the centurion heard that, he went and told the commander, saying, "Take care what you do, for this man is a Roman.'' 27. Then the commander came and said to him, "Tell me, are you a Roman?'' He said, "Yes.'' 28. And the commander answered, "With a large sum I obtained this citizenship.'' And Paul said, "But I was born a citizen.'' 29. Then immediately those who were about to examine him withdrew from him; and the commander was also afraid after he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him.”
C. Paul was an educated man, knew his rights, and he knew the law. Paul asked if the law would allow them to flog an un-condemned Roman citizen. The centurion in charge of the flogging didn’t want to break the law so he immediately told the chief captain, who, in turn, asked if Paul was a Roman. After Paul said yes, the captain said that he had bought those privileges for a great sum of money. Paul didn’t pay for the privilege of being a Roman citizen, Paul said he was born into Roman citizenship.
1. Before making a terrible mistake by having Paul flogged, everyone quickly withdrew but the commander was still worried because he had bound a Roman. Why was he worried? Not only did he understand that the Roman law prohibited citizens from being flogged without a trial, but he also understood that the law prohibited Roman citizens being bound without being charged first.
2. We have read about a similar situation to this in Acts 16, when Paul was imprisoned in Philippi. He speaks to the officials and says in Acts 16:37-39 – “But Paul said to them, "They have beaten us openly, un-condemned Romans, and have thrown us into prison. And now do they put us out secretly? No indeed! Let them come themselves and get us out.'' And the officers told these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Romans. Then they came and pleaded with them and brought them out, and asked them to depart from the city.” Roman citizenship had its privileges and God used those privileges to protect Paul until God got Paul where he needed to be next which was Rome.
II. Now Paul was a Roman citizen, but he understood where his real citizenship lay. He says to the church in Philippi, in Philippians 3:20 – “... our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,”[NKJV]
A. ‘Our citizenship is in heaven’. He says, “Is” in heaven, present tense, in other words heaven is our present possession. The Philippians could understand that. Remember Philippi was a Roman colony. It was 600 miles from Rome and many of the people had never been to Rome yet they were Roman citizens.
1. They dressed like Romans.
2. They ate like Romans.
3. They spoke the Roman language.
4. They lived the Roman culture.
5. They obeyed the Roman laws.
B. What Paul is saying, “You are citizens of a city you haven’t seen yet, talk like heaven people, dress like heaven people, obey the laws of heaven, live the culture of heaven.” In other words, he says, “I want you to live here, like you’re already there, let you’re walk reflect where you’re going”.
III. Let’s continue in our text at Acts 22:30 – “The next day, because he wanted to know for certain why he was accused by the Jews, he released him from his bonds, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down and set him before them.”
A. Referring back to Acts 16, Paul told the officials after Silas and he had been beaten in Philippi, about his citizenship and the officials panicked and asked them to leave the city. Here in Acts 22 Paul pulls out his ‘get out of jail free card’ and tells the Roman authorities about his citizenship and they too panic and let him go free. Paul was freed and the chief priests and all the council were commanded to come together, while Paul was put before them.
B. Luke continues in Acts 23:1-5 – “1. Then Paul, looking earnestly at the council, said, "Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.'' 2. And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. 3. Then Paul said to him, "God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! For you sit to judge me according to the law, and do you command me to be struck contrary to the law?'' 4. And those who stood by said, "Do you revile God's high priest?'' 5. Then Paul said, "I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, 'You shall not speak evil of the ruler of your people.' ''
C. As Paul stood before the council, he told them he had lived his life for God until that very time. That’s why he could write to the church in Corinth and say in 1 Corinthians 4:4 – “My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.”[para] It is also why he could write to his young friend Timothy and say in 2 Timothy 1:3 – “I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day,”[NKJV]
IV. Paul’s announcement about his clear conscience didn’t go down very well with Ananias the high priest. He commanded the man next to Paul to strike him, which was a violation of Jewish law.
A. God says in Deuteronomy 25:1-2 – “If there is a dispute between men, and they come to court, that the judges may judge them, and they justify the righteous and condemn the wicked, "then it shall be, if the wicked man deserves to be beaten, that the judge will cause him to lie down and be beaten in his presence, according to his guilt, with a certain number of blows.”
1. They broke God’s law by striking Paul on the mouth. Paul, with the voice of prophecy, told Ananias that God would strike him because he sat to judge the apostle by the law but violated it by having a man struck before he had been tried and found guilty. This is interesting because according to Jewish history Ananias was murdered by his own people just a few years later at the beginning of the Jewish war.
2. Those standing by, asked Paul if he was insulting the high priest, who, of course, was one with certain authority. Let’s see what God says in Exodus 22:28 – “You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people”
B. Why did Paul insult the high priest? It is possible that Paul didn’t know who he was. Since this was not a formal assembly, Ananias may not have had on official dress. It is also possible Ananias may not have been the actual high priest at that time, because the title “high priest” was also used for former high priests and those who were merely from the family out of which he was chosen. Any or all of these circumstances may have accounted for Paul's failure to recognize Ananias as high priest.
C. Notice what Paul did as soon as he learned Ananias was the high priest. Once Paul knew who he spoke against, he immediately apologized noting that it was against the law to speak against a ruler of God's people.
V. What happens next in Acts 23 is one of the finest examples we have of divide and conquer. Acts 23:6 – “But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, "Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!''”
A. Luke tells us that when Paul looked around at his audience, he saw the council was comprised of both Pharisees and Sadducees. He begins his defense by saying he was a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee and brought up on charges because of his belief in the resurrection of the dead.
1. Why would Paul say he was brought before them because of his belief in the resurrection? Because when you preach about the gospel, as we have already seen time and time again, when you teach the gospel, you must include the teaching of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
2. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 – “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,” Paul uses his belief in Jesus’ resurrection to divide and conquer.
B. Acts 23:7-10 – “7. And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and the assembly was divided. 8. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection and no angel or spirit; but the Pharisees confess both. 9. Then there arose a loud outcry. And the scribes who were of the Pharisees' party arose and protested, saying, "We find no evil in this man; but if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him, let us not fight against God.'' 10. And when there arose a great dissension, the commander, fearing lest Paul might be pulled to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him by force from among them, and bring him into the barracks.”
C. Luke tells us that Paul’s statement immediately created a division between the Pharisees, who believed in the resurrection and the Sadducees who didn’t. The discussion reached a point where some of the scribes who were Pharisees stood up and said they could not find any fault in Paul. In fact, they almost defend Paul by wondering if the apostle had been spoken to by a spirit or an angel. After all, the Pharisees believed in spirits and angels but the Sadducees didn’t.
D. Because of these two different beliefs, the dissention between the two groups was so great that the commander had Paul withdrawn to the barracks, afraid he would be torn apart by them.
VI. I imagine that Paul’s situation was terrifying, yet Paul being the faithful Christian that he was, kept his focus on the mission which God gave him. God didn’t let Paul get too comfortable on this earth, and He doesn’t want us to get too comfortable either.
A. Remember when Paul asked the Lord three times that the thorn in his flesh be taken away? The Lord told Paul “My grace is sufficient for you” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.
1. There are places in NE Ohio where we can see eagle’s nests and though some of us have seen or seen pictures of a eagle's nest high up, few of us have gotten a glimpse of the inside.
2. When a mother eagle builds her nest she starts with thorns, broken branches, sharp rocks, and several other items that seem entirely unsuitable for the project. Then she lines the nest with a thick padding of wool, feathers, and fur from animals she has killed, making it soft and comfortable for the eggs.
3. By the time the growing birds reach flying age, the comfort of the nest and the luxury of free meals make them quite reluctant to leave. That's when the mother eagle begins "stirring up the nest." With her strong talons she begins pulling up the thick carpet of fur and feathers, bringing the sharp rocks and branches to the surface. As more of the bedding gets plucked up, the nest becomes more uncomfortable for the young eagles.
4. Eventually, this and other urgings prompt the growing eagles to leave their once-comfortable abode and move on to more mature behavior. Perhaps that is why God allows trials and sufferings in our lives. He doesn’t want us to get too comfortable in this world. He wants us out of our comfort zones, and He wants us to grow.
B. When it came to Paul, God wanted Paul to take the gospel to Rome, and He wants us, you and me, to take the gospel somewhere as well. The Roman Empire believed that it was the light of the world, but Paul knew all too well that Rome was still in the dark and the gospel was the real light.
1. There is this story of a couple who took their son, 11, and daughter, 7, to Carlsbad Caverns. As part of the program, when the tour reached the deepest point in the cavern, the guide turned off all the lights to dramatize how completely dark and silent it is below the earth's surface.
2. The little girl, suddenly enveloped in utter darkness, was frightened and began to cry. Immediately was heard the voice of her brother: "Don't cry. Somebody here knows how to turn on the lights."
VII. We all know people who are still stumbling around in the darkness and God wants us to share the gospel light with them. In a very real sense, that is exactly what the message of the gospel is, it is the light.
A. Jesus says in John 8:12 – “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.''”
B. Ok, if that’s who Jesus is, what does He say we are?
C. Matthew 5:14-16 – “"You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. "Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
D. You see church, every time you open your mouth, every time you walk into a room, every time you do a good deed, -- with everything you do in life, you’re saying to people, I know how to turn on the light.
1. Jesus does not say you’re the light in the bed room, He does not say you’re the light of the meeting place.
2. No! Jesus said you’re the light of the world.
E. Have you ever been looking for a flashlight in your house and when you eventually find it, you discover that it doesn’t work because the batteries are all corroded and leaking?
1. The flashlight is now useless because it hasn’t been used regularly or cared for. Now it needs to be thrown away and replaced with a new one.
2. There’s no point in our shining like stars only on Sunday morning if we are not going to use our light through the week. We come to worship God each week to recharge those batteries so that we can have enough energy left within us to last the rest of the week. If we as torches of God’s light continue to shine every day of our lives, Satan will never have an opportunity to come in and tempt us to corrupt our lives with sin.
F. All of this must have taken a toll on Paul because Luke tells us next in Acts 23:11- “... the following night the Lord stood by him and said, "Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome.”
God told Paul to ‘Be of good cheer’ or as some translation put it, ‘Take courage’ because there was still work God had for him to do. God has work for us to do as well and we also need to take courage. Let’s look at a few verses
Matthew 28:20 – “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Hebrews 13:5 – “Let your conduct be without covetousness, and be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you.''”
Psalm 56:4 – “In God (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?”
Romans 8:35 – “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?”
Psalm 139:7-12 – “7. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? 8. If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. 9. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10. Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me. 11. If I say, "Surely the darkness shall fall on me,'' Even the night shall be light about me; 12. Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, But the night shines as the day; The darkness and the light are both alike to You.”
A man once boasted he had cut off the tail of a man-eating lion with his pocketknife. Asked why he hadn't cut off the lion's head, the man replied: "Someone had already done that." The Bible compares the Devil to a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. One way he devours is through devouring our time by scaring people away from doing God's work. Maybe there is someone God has put in your life recently to speak to about their soul. But perhaps you've procrastinated and convinced yourself you just don't have enough time right now, when the real reason you haven't acted is fear. Remember, Jesus has already cut off the lion's head. Satan is a defeated enemy. So go ahead; get your little pocket knife out and do whatever you need to do to teach the gospel, and redeem the time "
We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God; and be baptized for the remission of our sins... If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.
Perhaps there is someone in the assembly today with the need to be buried with Christ in baptism. If you have never done these things, we urge you to do so today. If anyone has this need or desires the prayers of faithful Christians on their behalf, we encourage them to come forward while we stand and sing.
Taken from sermon by Mike Glover
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