Chapter Twenty-Three — Part One: The Book of Acts

By: Pastors Rodney & Adonica Howard-Browne

Publish date: 02/05/2023

Foundation Scriptures:
Acts 23:1-8

1. The Sanhedrin.
a. Acts 23:1 AMPC — Then Paul, gazing earnestly at the council (Sanhedrin), said, Brethren, I have lived before God, doing my duty with a perfectly good conscience until this very day [as a citizen, a true and loyal Jew].
b. Lived (Greek politeuomai) – conversation (Php. 1:27) or ‘way of life’; to be a citizen; to behave as a citizen; to avail oneself of or recognize the laws; to conduct oneself as pledged to some law of life.
c. As both a Jew and a citizen, Paul had obeyed the laws and lived a sincere, honest life.
d. Even as he had persecuted Christians, he did it believing that he was fulfilling the will of God, until Jesus arrested Him and showed him his folly.
e. Now especially, since he became a Christian, he could claim a clear conscience regarding his behavior and conduct.
f. His clear conscience gave him courage to address the council.
g. Acts 23:2 AMPC — At this the high priest Ananias ordered those who stood near him to strike him on the mouth.
h. Paul infuriated the high priest, Ananias—perhaps because he addressed them as equals, rather than groveling before them.
i. Or perhaps because he called himself a true and a loyal Jew.
j. The fact that Ananias demanded that Paul be viciously struck on the mouth had the appearance that this was more of a personal vendetta than a lawful hearing.

2. Whitewashed Wall.
a. Acts 23:3 AMPC — Then Paul said to him, God is about to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Do you sit as a judge to try me in accordance with the Law, and yet in defiance of the Law you order me to be struck?
b. Whited (Greek koniaō) – whitewash/ed (wall); to cover with lime; plaster over; a term applied to a hypocrite who conceals his malice under an outward assumption of piety.
c. The Jews whitewashed the entrances to their sepulchers, as a warning against risking defilement by touching them.
d. Matthew 23:27 KJV — Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.
e. By the Spirit, Paul prophesied God’s judgment on Ananias, without knowing his identity.
f. The Romans had previously stripped Ananias of his office for bribery and corruption.
g. Jonathan was appointed in his place; however, after he was murdered, Ananias returned and usurped this office.
h. Five years later, Ananias was captured and murdered in a tumult that had been caused by his own son.

3. High Priest.
a. Paul did not realize that Ananias was the high priest when he initially addressed him.
b. Acts 23:4 AMPC — Those who stood near exclaimed, Do you rail at and insult the high priest of God?
c. Those nearby took offense and rebuked Paul for addressing the high priest in this fashion.
d. Unfortunately, man tends to value pomp, power, and titles over character and integrity.
e. Acts 23:5 AMPC — And Paul said, I was not conscious, brethren, that he was a high priest; for the Scripture says, You shall not speak ill of a ruler of your people.
f. Exodus 22:28 KJV — Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people.

4. Division.
a. Acts 23:6 AMPC — But Paul, when he perceived that one part of them were Sadducees and the other part Pharisees, cried out to the council (Sanhedrin), Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; it is with regard to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am indicted and being judged.
b. Paul, knowing that he had a slim chance of receiving any justice from the Sanhedrin, decided it was best to split up his accusers.
c. Having previously been a Pharisee, Paul was well aware of the schisms that already existed between Pharisees and Sadducees, and he used this to his advantage.
d. Paul was putting Jesus’ advice to His disciples into practice—being wise as a serpent and harmless (free from guile) as a dove (Matt. 10:16).
e. The basis of our Christian faith is the resurrection of Christ from the dead (Rom. 10:9-10; 1 Cor. 15:1-23).
f. Paul pointed out that he was on trial because he believed in the hope and resurrection of the dead.
g. Acts 23:7-8 AMPC — So when he had said this, an angry dispute arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and the whole [crowded] assemblage was divided [into two factions]. 8 For the Sadducees hold that there is no resurrection, nor angel nor spirit, but the Pharisees declare openly and speak out freely, acknowledging [their belief in] them both.

5. Pharisees.
a. The Pharisees looked for approval from God and man by their good works.
b. They prided themselves on their observation of outward forms of piety—the washing of hands, fasting, prayers, and almsgiving.
c. They believed God’s authority superseded that of the Herod’s and the Romans.
d. They believed in the existence of the spirit realm—angels and demons.
e. They believed in a coming Messiah and in the doctrine of resurrection from the dead.
f. Even though they did not recognize nor acknowledge Jesus Christ, their Messiah, when He came.
g. They possessed great influence over the common people.

6. Sadducees.
a. The Sadducees were a religious party among the Jews, at the time of Christ, who were followers of a certain heretical Israelite.
b. They mostly came from the upper strata of society—being well-born, wealthy and influential—which did not necessarily equip them for spiritual leadership.
c. They opposed the Pharisees, sought favor with the Herod’s, and generally despised the common people.
d. They acknowledged the divine authority of the Old Testament only, in matters pertaining to faith and morals—and not the oral traditions.
e. They denied the doctrines of: Resurrection of the body; immortality of the soul; future retribution: and the existence of spirits—angels or demons.
f. They believed only in free will and not in divine predestination.