Paul Before the Sanhedrin Council
Text: Acts 22:21-23:11
I. The Jews were willing to listen to Paul, even when he spoke about Jesus and his conversion, up until Paul mentioned that he was sent to the Gentiles
A. The hatred for the Gentiles was so strong that the Jews did not want to hear of anyone being sent to attempt to save them.
B. The very thought stirred them to demand Paul’s death and a riot broke out.
II. The commander, who did not speak Hebrew, and so only knew that Paul spoke and a riot ensued, ordered that Paul be interrogated by scrounging.
A. As they prepared to whip Paul, he asked them if it was legal to do so before a trial for a Roman citizen who had not been condemned.
B. Roman citizenship carried privileges of fair trails that most people did not have.
C. The centurion immediately reported to the commander what Paul said and the commander went to Paul and demanded to know if he was a Roman.
1. He is suspicious because Paul was obviously a Jew who spoke the Hebrew tongue fluently.
2. He said that his citizenship came at extreme costs, implying that Paul did not look like a wealthy man.
3. Paul pointed out that he was born a Roman (i.e. his father was a Roman citizen).
D. When everyone in the room heard this, Paul was immediately released.
1. Their lives were in jeopardy for what they had almost done.
2. Even the commander was afraid because he put a citizen in chains without just cause.
III. Still, the commander had a problem. What was Paul doing that was stirring up the city? The Romans placed heavy emphasis on peace. They did not need various nations rioting.
A. The commander decided to have Paul tried by the Jewish council and then find out from them.
B. The next day Paul was brought before the Sanhedrin Council.
1. Paul was educated by a famous member of this council: Gamaliel.
2. Some believe that Paul had been in line to have a seat on this council.
C. Paul started with controversy.
1. He stated that he lived in good conscience until this day.
a. He had always done what he believed to be right (even when it turned out to be wrong.)
2. This offended the High Priest.
a. They knew Paul had left Judaism for Christianity.
b. They knew Paul lived and taught among the Gentiles.
c. The High Priest had Paul struck on the mouth for lying.
3. In anger Paul called the man a whitewashed wall
a. He looked righteous, but it was only on the surface.
b. He pointed out that this was a trial and he had already violated the law.
c. You can’t have someone punished just because you don’t like what he had said.
4. A bystander pointed out that Paul was scolding the High Priest
a. Paul apologized, saying that he didn’t realize the man was the high priest.
b. This puzzling, given Paul’s background.
c. It could be that he is speaking ironically, indicating that the man’s actions did not show the character of a high priest.
d. Or it could be that the man currently occupying the position of High Priest was not qualified to be there. Paul is subtly pointing out that trial was illegal and by forcing this reaction by the fraudulent high priest demonstrated that lawfulness was not on the minds of his judges.
e. Pointing out the precarious position of the one supposedly in charge sets the stage for the following controversy.
D. Paul cries out that he, being a Pharisee, was on trial for fundamental Pharisaical beliefs: The hope and resurrection of the dead.
1. The comment through the whole proceedings into an uproar.
2. The High Priest, being a Sadducee, lost control of the meeting.
3. The council divided into two.
a. The Pharisees instantly stated that Paul is innocent
b. The Sadducees, showing that they already had judged Paul guilty, refused to let him go so easily.
E. The uproar became so great that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn in pieces before his eyes.
1. He pulled Paul out and under heavy guard, returned him to the barracks.
2. Again, he is no more knowledgeable about what Paul is doing to cause such an uproar everywhere he goes.
IV. The Lord visits Paul that night to encourage him. He is told that he will be a witness for Jesus in Rome.