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Divisive Truth

Acts 23:6-8
Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, 'My brothers, I am a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees. I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead.' When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. (The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees believe all these things.) (NIVUK)

The Sanhedrin, the Jewish Ruling Council, had been ordered by the Roman military commander to allow Paul to defend himself against their hostility (Acts 22:30). A special court had been convened where the Sanhedrin faced Paul under the watchful eyes of the soldiers to ensure that the process did not become violent. The Council was made up of both Pharisees, who believed in the resurrection and eternal life, and Sadducees who did not.

The court was not an exercise in justice but an attempt by the military to get a religious argument peacefully resolved (Acts 23:27-29). But Paul was not going to deny the gospel, so he decided to talk about the resurrection, knowing it would divide the Council. Paul had been raised as a strict Pharisee, so he appealed to fellow Pharisees to accept that resurrection and eternal life were all part of God's plan. Clearly, he later intended to talk about Jesus who was raised from the dead, and who personally spoke to Paul when he was commissioned as an apostle.

But the discussion never got that far. The Sadducees were so angry that the Pharisees agreed with Paul, that they tried to kill him in the court. So the soldiers had to intervene, taking Paul into military custody. It was not a satisfactory end to the proceedings. The Pharisees had scored points over the Sadducees but had helped Paul's case rather than finding him guilty. The Sadducees had lost their opportunity to question Paul further, and the military had risked another riot. But Paul had proclaimed in public that he believed in resurrection, a theme he would come back to during his captivity and trials (Acts 26:15-19).

Sometimes you cannot complete a gospel conversation; but you can start it. Although your listeners may not agree with everything you say, say what is true and see how people respond. Sometimes people may start to agree with you and then turn to attack you. Sometimes, the reaction will be hostile from some, and other unbelievers may even appear to defend you. But at all times, speak the truth about Jesus (2 Timothy 4:2). Where you can, help people to identify with what you are saying using a concept that is familiar to them. But that will not always be possible. So speak the truth about Jesus and let people respond to Him.

Father God. Thank You for using other people to alert me to Your voice. Forgive me for the times I keep silent because I am more afraid of people than of displeasing You by not proclaiming Jesus. Please help me to be alert to take the opportunity to speak about the Lord Jesus Christ. In His Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams