Acts 22:30-23:11 is our passage today and as you will probably know, the notes have been provided by Beth.
‘I thought you were a Christian’ is something I fear being said to me. As a Christian, it’s so important that we don’t lose our witness to our non-Christian friends or colleagues by doing or saying something ‘unchristian’. Sometimes being a Christian can feel like you are constantly being watched and tested by those around you who are waiting for you to slip up. Here, when Paul is on trial, he has to speak up about what a good and religious man he is. Could we do the same?
I’m repeating myself but yet again, Paul is shockingly calm here. He seems completely unfazed by the situation. The passage that we read on Monday now makes so much more sense. Maybe the prophecies and warning of other Christians helped to prepare him for this suffering. Paul seems to have come to terms with his suffering before he even suffered. If we expect persecution and trials as a Christian, maybe we will be better at dealing with them when they arise. Jesus told us that we would be hated because of His name, “You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. ‘ (Matthew 10:22)
Here we see the High Priest, Ananias, become completely enraged. He is angry that Paul looks them in the eye and speaks to them as equals, ‘Brothers.’ Paul’s different attitude towards them is because he is under a new covenant. He no longer believes in a hierarchy where the high priest will offer sacrifices for his sins, he has trusted in Jesus and his death. That means that ‘There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’ (Galatians 3:28) There is no hierarchy. The curtain of the temple has been torn in two. Hallelujah!
Paul seems to lose his temper here and seems to have to apologise for his actions but when you look at it more closely, that isn’t really the case. Firstly, let’s look at Paul’s anger, ‘“God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!’ (v3) Rather than losing his temper, it seems here that Paul is so angry at the abuse of power and hypocrisy of the high priest and the Sanhedrin, that his anger overflows. When he has to be reminded of the status of the man he has insulted, Paul says, ‘Brothers, I did not realise that he was the high priest’. Paul is not lying here, it seems that when he says, ‘I did not realise’, he is in a sense, saying, ‘I forgot for a moment’, as in, he was so angered by his actions, that he did not consider his position. Incidentally, the high priest was not a good man, as can be seen here. So, rather than seeing Paul snap here and lose his temper, it seems to be a righteous anger at the injustice and corruption of the Sanhedrin.
It is okay to be righteously angry. We see Jesus demonstrate righteous anger in the temple and we see it from Paul here. There are things that should make us angry.
Lord, we know Your heart is broken
By the evil that You see
And You’ve stayed Your hand of judgment
For You plan to set men free
But the land is still in darkness
And we’ve fled from what is right
We have failed the silent children
Who will have never see the light
How long before You drench the barren land?
How long before we see Your righteous hand?
How long before Your name is lifted high?
How long before the weeping turns to songs of joy? (We Have Sung our Songs – Stuart Townend)