So now Paul was taken before the Sanhedrin, the highest official Jewish court in Jerusalem. Here his Lord was condemned and sentenced to death a few years ago, here he'd stood approving of Stephen’s death, and now here he stood with himself on trial.
He started out his appeal by testifying to his basic godliness in his lifestyle. Of course, he wasn’t claiming to be sinless. This was not a theological statement about his eternal standing before God, but a claim that he was innocent of the charges brought against him. He'd never tried to tell Jews to stop being Jews, he never advocated that Jews abandon the heritage of their fathers (notice how often they use that phrase in these chapters), and he never blasphemed the temple or the Law.
The High Priest Ananias, known for his cruelty, corruption, and violence, had Paul struck for his “insolence.” By the way, this was highly illegal under Jewish law. And on a side note, Paul’s condemnation, although made in the heat of anger, proved to be prophetic. Ananias was hated by his own people and was murdered during the Jewish revolt against Rome in the late 60’s A.D. As someone once said, the mill of God’s justice is slow but exceedingly fine.
Was he repentant about cursing the High Priest? Some say he was being sarcastic in vs. 5, but I personally don’t think so. It had been several years since he had been in Jerusalem, so I think he really didn’t recognize the High Priest. The man Ananias was despicable, but Paul believed in respecting people’s positions of authority, even if the man personally didn’t deserve it (just like David with King Saul).
Then things got really exciting. No boring day in the Sanhedrin today! Paul, following his Lord’s admonition to be as shrewd as a snake and as innocent as a dove, drove a wedge and stoked a major division among his enemies. He knew about the theological (and bitter) divide between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and he took full advantage of it.
Now, was he being ethical here? Well, the Resurrection of Christ is an essential part of the Good News. He knew that he really was closer to the theology of the Pharisees than to that of the Sadducees. So he brought in some allies over to his side. And it seemed to work. At least it got him a chance to get a hearing among some of them, something he didn’t have before.
But then comes vs. 11, my favorite part of this whole story. Paul had been unjustly accused, nearly stoned, manhandled, and threatened. And worse was yet to come. But in the midst of all this craziness, his Lord and Shepherd stood by him. When we stand for our Savior, we’ll see him standing with us. He never lets his sheep face the wolves alone. Never!!!!
And not only did the Lord stand by him. He also gave him a wonderful promise. Paul was going to Rome to testify about his Savior. I want you to remember this verse, because this was going to be very important to Paul in the days ahead. Satan had his plans, his Jewish enemies had their plans, and Paul probably had his own plans. But as Proverbs tells us “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”
Aren’t you glad?
Yes, Lord, I’m very glad. If my plans and yours are in conflict, then it’s mine that need to change. And they will.