Paul Before the Sanhedrin
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!" Then, as they cried out and tore off their clothes and threw dust into the air, 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. 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 uncondemned?" When the centurion heard that, he went and told the commander, saying, "Take care what you do, for this man is a Roman." Then the commander came and said to him, "Tell me, are you a Roman?" He said, "Yes." The commander answered, "With a large sum I obtained this citizenship." And Paul said, "But I was born a citizen." 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.
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.
Then Paul, looking earnestly at the council, said, "Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day." And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. 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?" And those who stood by said, "Do you revile God's high priest?" Then Paul said, "I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, 'You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people. '" 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!"
And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and the assembly was divided. For Sadducees say that there is no resurrection–and no angel or spirit; but the Pharisees confess both. Then there arose a loud outcry. And the scribes 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." Now 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.
We see in our passage today, three actions and responses. One relates to the Romans, that of the non-believer doing the work of government, in the way that they did business. Another relates to the Jew, their actions, and attitudes; a people whom God had set aside, separate, a special people, His chosen. The third is that of a single individual, Paul, and how he is for us an example of Christlikeness that we would do well to emulate.
We will begin with the Romans, and briefly look at their interaction, so when we look at the Jews, we can see and compare the responses with improved contextual eyes as it were, into how the system worked back in those days.
This passage demonstrates the absolute brutality of the Roman rule. They wanted to know why the crowd were getting so rabid and as such proposed to scourge Paul in order to find out, and to facilitate this bound him. It was a bit like grabbing a sledgehammer to break open the walnut. It appeared to be an easy way of getting information, by producing incredible pain and suffering. I imagine few could remain silent, many would say anything to get it to stop. However, in Roman law there was a caveat. A search of the internet shows that there was a law passed by a couple of men, one called Porcia and also Sempronia that stated Roman citizens were not to be scourged without appeal; the law being proclaimed in about 195 BC. Sempronia appears to have included not executing Roman citizens without a trial! Paul seems to know this particular law, and almost casually notes his Roman citizenship to the centurion, basically saying, surely what you are about to do is illegal! The centurion quickly reverses his action, undoes the straps and talks to his boss the commander, and the action is immediately terminated. The law it seems, though brutal, provides a much greater justice to Roman citizens, thereby providing insight into the lack of rights for non-Romans, and especially slaves. Such laws kept the conquered nations on its toes, the citizens more like to obey their masters, no matter the circumstance. What is interesting in this story is that the when Paul is taken in by the Romans as we heard last week, the Roman commander thought that he was someone completely different – an Egyptian who led 4000 assassins in a rebellion. Paul was a virtual unknown to them, just a 'nobody' who appeared to be making trouble in their province, and trouble needed to be quickly quelled. Applying the worst of torture for information was routine.
This interchange between Paul and the Romans was in the secular world. The secular world works as it wants, though within the boundaries that God sets, which enable the free will of man to run rampant. Satan rules this domain for the temporary time being only. We know this as Paul wrote to the Corinthians: But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe (2 Corinthians 4:3-4) and to Rome: Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. (Romans 13:1) These verses show that many are blinded by Satan, and these are those who do not follow the one true God. The next verse tells us clearly that no one is in a position of authority without God placing them there, either in the secular world or Christian. We know Satan has time limit as it is well described in Revelation twenty. This latter verse is especially pertinent to today's text, and to today's churches. I put to you that the average Christian appears to have forgotten Romans 13:1 and I will discuss this in more detail later; needless to say, no one is in power without God's sovereign permission, not even Satan, as we see clearly in the first couple of chapters of Job.
Let us move to the second point, and after the three points have been expanded we will move to application, the so what, and how do we live with these precepts from God. Here we see the Jewish response. This is an ugly response to say the least. We see twice in this passage the violence of Jew against another Jew, the total disregard for the Law as we saw in the commanding of a person on trial to be struck without provocation, their complete disrespect for God seen in the nature of so many Jews being part of the rabble. We have seen time and time again the Jews gathering together, and often with violence, driving Paul out of town. Here in Jerusalem it was no different. So to this specific example - just where can we start? The Abrahamic covenant? Now the Lord had said to Abram: "Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." (Genesis 12:1). Having noted this, we must ask: what was God's chosen doing in acting this way, especially the High Priest? Maybe there was a change in the covenant God made with Moses? But we read: And He said: "Behold, I make a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation; and all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the Lord. For it is an awesome thing that I will do with you. (Exodus 34:10) This covenant appears to be one blessing after another, if they kept the Law of the LORD. Finally, however, let us remind ourselves of the warning given by God in the last days of Moses: I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess. But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, I announce to you today that you shall surely perish (Deuteronomy 30:16-18) Here we see what was surely the issue amongst the Jewish nation?
The Romans ruled, the Jewish people did not have their own king, and the priests saw a void within the Judaic culture and filled it with their own power. They were subservient to the Roman but they wanted their land back. Jesus came and failed to give them their land back, so they had Him crucified. So why the hatred towards Paul, a man who preached Christ crucified, who preached resurrection from the dead, who preached free salvation, and forgiveness of all sin? I think it boils down to power. Christ crucified touched their conscience. I leave you this thought for you to consider. It seems that no matter where Paul went, many Jewish people were determined to kill him; it was like a binary system amongst the Jews, they either embraced Paul, the new Way and received salvation, or they tried to kill him!
What is most striking was how the people could be stirred up so easily and without any real knowledge of the truth. Paul had just returned to Jerusalem, having been a way for many many years. He had done a couple of quick visits previously, but this time round he is noted to have been there for around a week, as we heard, making a vow, supporting four of the local Jews in making a vow and paying their dues. Why I believe that the issue boils down to a single focus; that of the power of the current regime held by the priests - is that the rabble's excuse for going wild was flimsy at best. Paul had allegedly taken a non-Jew into the temple! No need to check facts, just go wild! Unfortunately, apart from the power issue, and Paul's challenge to it, these actions also reinforced the false thinking that abounded surrounding the temple. The Jews worshipped the temple, rather than worshipping God in the temple - they actually worshiped the temple along with and Moses. We saw this earlier in Acts when the Jews stated in their charge against Stephen: "This man does not cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law; for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us." (Acts 6:13-14) One cannot blaspheme either the temple or Moses, only God, so to think this appears to mean they held both the temple and the law in as high esteem as God. God however has a different view, for He says: "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. "You shall have no other gods before Me… For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God (Exodus 20:2-3,5).The last part of the verse is extremely pertinent, for God uses the word jealous with its real meaning, that of requiring all worship to be His, all glory is His, nothing is of us, nor anything else, including Moses, the Law or the temple. Any deviation from this will evoke His jealousy, and beware the jealousy of God when we evoke it! We may not feel the wrath of God as Christ's blood blocks that from us, but God will bring us back to Himself, sometimes very painfully.
Therefore, in our passage we see the Jews acting in what they believed was a righteous manner – trying to kill someone who blasphemed the temple (I am sure this was their interpretation of what they thought Paul did). Yet like the priests of Malachi's days, you will remember from our studies, they lived a life completely against the standards of God, and could not see this difference; blinded in their own self-righteousness. God however, castigated them for their ways: "A son honours his father, and a servant his master. If then I am the Father, where is My honour? And if I am a Master, where is My reverence? says the Lord of hosts to you priests who despise My name." (Malachi 1:6) The Jews of Paul's day had no excuse. They had Scripture, they were given the prophecies, they had men who could attest to the reality of Jesus, some were alive who had seen Jesus, yet they chose not to believe. They could have been living the promises of God to Israel; they could have been ruled by God, independent of Rome. But they disobeyed, and remained disobedient to the covenants of God, and were therefore, in the circumstances of their day, through no other fault but their own.
Of note in this passage is the striking resemblance, both literally, and metaphorically, between the treatment of Paul in Jerusalem and of Jesus in Jerusalem. If we revisit John 18:19-23 we read: The high priest then asked Jesus about His disciples and His doctrine. Jesus answered him, " I spoke openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where the Jews always meet, and in secret I have said nothing. Why do you ask Me? Ask those who have heard Me what I said to them. Indeed they know what I said." And when He had said these things, one of the officers who stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, "Do You answer the high priest like that?" Jesus answered him, " If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why do you strike Me?" Both men said fairly innocuous people, and neither statements indicate a requirement to shut the men up. This response by the High Priest (different men in each case), in having the men struck on the mouth is a real indication of the state of their hearts. Before them were clearly men of God, or in Jesus's case, God Himself incarnate! The High Priests must have perceived an incredible threat to their Jewish leadership. Shutting Jesus and Paul up and refusing to hear their testimony was akin to banning their defence. The only people who would want to do this is those with guilty consciences who had no desire for the truth to be let free. We see therefore, even more evidence against the Jewish leadership in acting and responding in ways that were not of the Law as given by God, through Moses. It was not just this corrupt priest that did it, nor the man under the high priest as with Jesus, but we read also of Jeremiah (amongst many others): Now Pashhur the son of Immer, the priest who was also chief governor in the house of the Lord, heard that Jeremiah prophesied these things. Then Pashhur struck Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the high gate of Benjamin, which was by the house of the Lord. (Jeremiah 20:1-2) Silence the enemy, for they may expose our wickedness. The men were both innocent, yet endured harsh treatment at a trial that was supposed to be getting to the truth. This was hardly justice by the Jews against their own. It was a continuation of crimes against the prophets that God had placed in their midst.
Finally, in this section, let us look at the response of Paul, the individual, the man we know as the true servant of God, a man with a mission, who fulfilled his mission with every ounce of strength and courage he could muster. First, Paul was bound and readied for scourging by the Romans. One can assume this would have been with the typical scourging whip, laced with metal and designed to inflict major pain and suffering, carving open the person's back deep into the muscle. He was being held prisoner by the world, in the world's justice system. In response, Paul reminded the commander of his Roman citizenship. This led to his release from there. Paul had a mission – to go to Rome. Who knows what damage the scourging would have caused, maybe infection or shock leading to death. Paul used the law of the occupying nation to enable treatment that would allow his mission of God, to proceed. God undoubtedly had a plan for Paul, and ensured that He had chosen a man with Roman citizenship, Jewish parentage, and ability to speak both Greek and Hebrew, so that Paul could do the job he had been called to do. God leads nothing to chance!
Second, Paul curses the High Priest, without knowing he was the high priest. Apparently, as per various commentators, this was not a momentary lapse of memory, or failure to keep up with the times; the high priest was a changeable position of power, much like the political leadership in Australia today. Chronic leadership spills would have led Paul to not know who it was that he sat before, as in terms of office. Of interest, and we will speak more of this later, was the curse and the apology, for though Paul, for all the right scriptural reasons made an apology for speaking the way he did, the High Priest indeed did die, and Josephus is noted to have recorded this as being a death by an assassins! This is a little ironic considering the Roman commander had thought Paul to be an assassin, and God used such a one to fulfil Paul's words to the High Priest! Paul then notes that the group trying him had both Pharisee's and Sadducees amongst them. Rather than waste his breath with bringing the gospel to them, God, through Paul, went straight to the heart of these men, and created chaos amongst their own ranks. As the passage notes: And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and the assembly was divided. For Sadducees say that there is no resurrection–and no angel or spirit; but the Pharisees confess both. This group were not going to get Paul to Rome, his ultimate and God given destination, so God did not waste His breath through Paul, but instead conquering and dividing through internal division. It was the perfect strategy, for it brings Paul back to the Roman justice system that could get him with fares paid, to Rome!
We see therefore, Paul uses two systems for his own benefit. One, a coalition of priests not serving God but their own means, being thrown into chaos because of their false belief. The other, the Roman secular system; unfair, but in this case useful law, of Roman citizens having certain rights and privileges above that of anyone else.
We need to touch on one further salient point before moving to lessons for the churches and Christianity of today. The Pharisee's proclaimed: "We find no evil in this man; but if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him, let us not fight against God." Amongst all the evil and wickedness of the Jewish people in applying their form of Judaism rather than that of God, amongst them, the golden thread of truth, stretched so thin that it was virtually invisible, was still there. Someone at least could say clearly, that they could not fight against God. Maybe they remembered 2 Chronicles 13:12 Now look, God Himself is with us as our head, and His priests with sounding trumpets to sound the alarm against you. O children of Israel, do not fight against the Lord God of your fathers, for you shall not prosper!" Note that the speaker could not believe that God had spoken, or Jesus Himself, but said spirit or angel. However, adding everything up together, recognising that the original charge was false, the speaker spoke the only words of wisdom for that day amongst the Jews. However, it failed to end the issue, and it is noted that great dissension occurred between the two factions, and Paul was removed for fear of harm to him. We would do well to remember Psalm 2 for it holds as true today as back then: Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, "Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us." He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them in derision. (2-4) God rules. That much is certain. Paul knew this and used the defences that God had for him, in their rightful place, with this final act that split the Sanhedrin, and drew all attention away from him as they fought amongst themselves. The great Chinese warrior Sun Tzu knew this as well when he wrote: If his forces are united, separate them. Remember the armies that came up against Judah? – that of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir upon whom God sprung in ambush, and created disunity amongst them? They ended up killing each other, and the Jews could sit back and watch, and win the battle in the end through God.
We now reach the meat; the real focus for each of us today. How should we learn from this episode and what is the lesson for the people of God in this 21st century?
The first point that really jumps out at me is the apology to a man who was doing wrong. The apology was based on the man's position within the Judaic priestly system. Paul still abided by God's Law in how one treated a priest, and not only that, this whole point is reiterated in books such as Corinthians and Peter, therefore must be important for us. Paul was quoting from Exodus 22:28: You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people. The commentators note the cruelty of this particular person as recorded in history. His whole demeanour was not godly. His actions betrayed his evil mind, not one with God, but High Priest for his own gain, his own power. Yet, no matter this, Paul apologises and quotes the Scripture under which he is apologising.
Let us look briefly at Romans 13: Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. (1-2) I read this earlier, but it is so important. We, as a product of our generations, find this so difficult. Many Christians of old did not vote in general elections of the day, they allowed the nation to vote, for they knew God would appoint whom He would, be it a Hitler, a Keating, or an Abbott. Note however, the verse does not say government. It says authority. This applies to ones parents, to the leadership God has placed in the church, the local mayor, the workplace boss, and of course, government of the day. What happens in today's home, or today's church, for both are the same, when the authority whom God has put in that place takes a stance? The person who does not like what is said, or the rule imposed, often get up and leave, do they not! They walk out, they refuse to be under the leadership of home, or workplace, or government, or church, depending on the circumstance. In my job I have read case after case of children, girls and boys, leaving home at ages of twelve and thirteen because of rifts with their parents. I have heard more times than I want to weep at, church members who say this very thing. If that is the decision of the Elders I am leaving because I cannot be under the authority of this leadership. I spoke before of the jealous nature of God. That person, or group are basically saying to God, 'I am not going to obey this decree in Romans 13', 'I cannot live within your sovereignty God', for that person is there from God, and who are we to disagree with God? We may say – 'Romans 13 cannot apply to me for the Elders are making woeful judgement!' God has no caveat. God knows the decisions of those He places in authority before they know those decisions themselves. There may be a place for dissent if the decision in a church for instance is doctrinally unsound, but in most cases it is a point of spiritual discipline that people rebel against, or as mentioned in a previous day, the colour of the carpet!
To make sure we each understand this point, God does not leave it just in Romans. He says in 1 Peter 2: Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God (13-15). We do not fight the legitimate laws of the land. We accept that God has a reason, and we submit, for God has said so. We would do well to take note of the Sanhedrin's only wise words - do not fight against God.
Daniel is our best case in point. He obeyed the laws of the land, and where the law could not be obeyed for it was contrary to the laws of God, and there was only two noted times, he disobeyed, for it was better to obey God than man, and his friends disobeyed for the same reason. However, they willingly went to the punishment set for that disobedience, and God saved them. However, where the problem is not doctrinal but personal choice, choosing the colour of the walls, renaming a school for marketing purposes, changing the mission of the church to that which God seems to be pushing our direction, and we disagree, then we need to follow the action of Paul. He did not cause a ruckus, make a scene, he apologised for going against a ruler in a public place, for speaking badly of that person, even though what had just occurred was grossly unjust and against the Law of Moses. It did not matter that God agreed and killed that wicked man a little later, it was the principle of obeying God's Word that we see in this example.
Spurgeon notes, in a sermon on the verse: "For the Lord, whose name is jealous, is a jealous God."–Exodus 34:14 made the following point: He that made heaven and earth has a right to rule his creatures as he wills. The potter hath power over the clay to fashion it according to his own good pleasure, and the creatures being made are bound to be obedient to their Lord. He has a right to issue commands, he has done so–they are holy, and just, and wise; men are bound to obey, but, alas, they continually revolt against his sovereignty, and will not obey him; nay, there be men who deny altogether that he is King of kings, and others who take counsel together saying, "Let us break his bands in sunder, and cast away his cords from us." He that sitteth in the heavens is moved to jealousy by these sins, and will defend the rights of his crown against all comers, for the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. Spurgeon goes on to discuss our love for Him. If we disobey His Word so blatantly as to refuse to be under the authority of the leadership placed over each of us, to gossip and white ant those in authority, even campaign against them in a lobby group without due respect, then Spurgeon reminds us of the seriousness of this action, that of undermining the authorities God has put in place, for that action denies His sovereignty. We are loving our own selves not God: The Lord Jesus Christ, of whom I now speak, is very jealous of your love, O believer. Did he not choose you? He cannot bear that you should choose another. Did he not buy you with his own blood? He cannot endure that you should think you are your own, or that you belong to this world. He loved you with such a love that he could not stop in heaven without you; he would sooner die than that you should perish; he stripped himself to nakedness that he might clothe you with beauty; he bowed his face to shame and spitting that he might lift you up to honour and glory, and he cannot endure that you should love the world, and the things of the world. His love is strong as death towards you, and therefore will be cruel as the grave. He will be as a cruel one towards you if you do not love him with a perfect heart… Be careful Christians, you that are married to Christ; remember, you are married to a jealous husband.
I bring this up, as it makes me lose sleep at night, and I believe in the seriousness of such an attitude in the eyes of God. God does not like this behaviour, and says to us through
1 Corinthians: For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.(11:29-30) It is worthwhile noting what the Corinthians were doing. They were ignoring many of God's precepts, accepting adulterous behaviours without any discipline of the sinners, eating feasts and excluding the poor, having a rich man's club as it were, taking each other to court and suing them – the world's court (Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints?… I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers! (1 Corinthians 6:1,5-6)). The Corinthians were failing to honour God's authority structure of the church and home, failing to desist from things that were idolatrous. The list is long and all present in 1 Corinthians. Are we any better? God is a jealous God, He expects us to obey His Word no matter the circumstance. Paul had a clear reason to say what he did, it was just and right, but in the context of God's laws, it was wrong so he apologised. We must act in the same way. We must stop gossiping about our authorities when we don't like what they do, no matter how bad they are, the authorities that are placed above us, no matter their perceived incompetence, are God's appointment. We must always love them, work with them if you have concerns, with respect, there may be another side of the story, perhaps there are issues that you are not aware of, that brought them to the decision they made. Be a doer of the Word as James tells us. And just as a reminder, if the elders are doctrinally unsound, and this certainly can happen (note the word – doctrinally), there is a process, written out in Scripture, as to how to proceed with a complaint. We need to follow these instructions, so that we do not provoke our jealous God into bring us back into line. Finally on this topic, God wants each of us to love Him more than anyone else. Our loyalty must be first to God, His commands, His Word, before we take sides, make a statement, gossip. Remember 1 Timothy 5:13-14!
The counterpoint in our passage of Scripture today is obvious. If the world attacks us because of our Christian beliefs, because we are spreading the gospel and they want us to stop, use the legal system to our advantage. There is nothing wrong on using the law to protect the rights of ourselves in spreading the Gospel within the secular world, just as Paul used Roman law for his benefit. If we are sued for bigotry for denouncing the homosexual act, then use every means at our disposal to maintain the rightness of the message in the Christian world. Whatever the world wants to do without God, God will avenge, and we can use their system for our advantage. However, in the Christian world there is a difference, it is all about the sovereignty of God, His authority structure, His will, His pathways He has set. God's ways are one hundred percent righteous, one hundred percent just, never to be questioned; easier to do if love for others is our first goal (love for God is our life).
The final point that needs to be made with our text, as an application for today's Christian and today's church is that is preaching the correct doctrine of God, and correcting bad doctrine. We see Paul cause chaos in the Sanhedrin ensuring that the false teaching of no resurrection was brought back into the open and into discussion. Always bring the truth into the argument. If someone claims to be humble to the point of not needing any further exhortation in this, quote: I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3) Not one person has the ability to maintain this, ever!! When one finds a truly humble person, they will tell you of their faults, will clearly see room for improvement. Never avoid being exhorted to improve. Scripture says: Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called "Today," lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:12-13) We should and cannot ever think that we have it all, every day. The writer to the Hebrews would not say this if it were not needed, and even the longest serving Christian can fall into the trap of departing from the living God as they serve themselves, or pride takes over, or a sense of entitlement because they after all have been around for so long. As soon as you hear a person say – in my experience, or, I have served the Lord for fifty years therefore I am…., put the radar up, for they are quoting themselves and not God.
By doing this, we can ensure doctrine is sound, as we each exhort and temper the other into greater truths. We must be willing to where needed, in love with grace and mercy, tap someone on the shoulder and say, your God is a jealous God, you are stealing His Sovereignty. That person may then return to God and be blessed beyond their wildest dreams, as you will as well. The key to the action is doing it with the same love God did it for us. Paul in his own way, was reaching out to the Sadducees and saying to them – your doctrine is all wrong, come to the table, be true believers, the Lord Jesus is alive. They may have rejected the exhortation, however God works His own path, so that in the end it was a blessing to Paul, for they fought amongst themselves, and he took the next step to Rome.
Let us conclude by reminding ourselves that Paul used the best responses at his disposal to assist him in his mission for Rome. He used Roman law to stop a scourging, speaking with an attitude that was not only courteous, but was immediately believed. He apologised in the Sanhedrin despite the unjustness of the assault that took place in order to meet the Word of God as proclaimed 2300 years before. He proclaimed the correct doctrine, to highlight the wrong doctrine held by the Sadducees and to cause chaos amongst his accusers. The most important point in this text, I believe, is the apology, the humbling of himself before a man who did not deserve it, in order to obey God, no matter the injustice of the circumstance. The significance of this act cannot be overestimated or under studied by us today. Finally, pursue love, for it is through an attitude of loving others sacrificially, especially your fellow believer, that this action can be our action and attitude as well. Maybe we will do well to finish with this verse from 2 John 1:6: This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it. Which of course takes us to 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, 13:
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things… Love never fails… And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
 Flavius Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book 2 Chapter 17 Paragraph 9 – available in hard cover and on-line eg < http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2850/2850-h/2850-h.htm#link22HCH0017 > (Accessed 10 April 2015)
 Spurgeon, op. cit.