Chapter 23 continues the argument and Paul’s ability to preach the gospel. Paul argues that he has remained free from guilt. He is ordered to be struck. Paul brings out that it is unlawful to be ordered to be struck. Then Paul finds out it was the High Priest that orders him to be struck.
Paul’s response gives us a look into the time he is in and about his character. Paul says, “Brothers, I did not realize he was the high priest. For it is written, ‘you shall not curse a ruler of your people’” (Acts 23:5). The first thing I notice is that Paul is open to being corrected. Paul was accusing Ananias for having him struck when Ananias did not have the authority to do so, but then finds out he did. Paul has the humility to be open to the truths that are presented to him. Not so with the “fact checkers” of today. Most people are more interested in finding a way to justify themselves by finding facts rather than looking at the truth. What’s the difference? Facts are small pieces of the truth that people use to twist to fit into what they want to believe. Facts, therefore, might only be partially true. As the old saying goes, “Some of the best lies are hidden by partial truths.”
Truth has all the facts and tells the whole story. Facts are easily twisted and interpreted to one’s own agenda. Truth is not as easily twisted, but it is done. It might be a fact that Fr Barr slammed his car door and walked away. Two people may be standing next to each other watching this happen. The one says to the other, “Boy, did you see how angry Fr Barr was? He just slammed his door and walked away in a huff!” But the truth may be that Fr Barr’s car door needs to be oiled so he can close it better. Truth is so important. It can really help avoid arguments.
Paul acknowledges that the High Priest has the right to judge him as being worthy of being hit. He even quotes it from Scripture, “you shall not curse a ruler of your people” (v5 & Ex 22:27). I doubt Paul would interpret this Bible quote wrongly, especially since he does not benefit from it. It shows that this was a common thought.
Realizing the situation of having the Sadducees arresting him and the Pharisees come into the debate, he uses it to his advantage. “Sadducees say that there is no resurrection or angels or spirits, while the Pharisees acknowledge all three” (v8). Paul argues that the Sadducees have him arrested based on the teaching of the resurrection. The Sadducees do not deny it but engage their argument with the Pharisees. The Roman commander is worried that Paul is going to be torn into pieces in this argument, so he sends troops to get him out of there. The next day Jesus appears to him and tells him where he will witness for the faith, “For just as you have borne witness to my cause in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness in Rome” (v11). Paul’s course is set.
Evidently, Paul had a sister, and she had a son (v16) who knew of a plot to kill Paul. When he told Paul, Paul told the son to talk to the commander. The commander then responded by sending Paul to Caesarea with his troops (v17-24). Now he was in the governor’s hands. They had to wait for Paul’s accusers to get there before a decision would be made. Paul, if he escapes, will likely be found and killed. If he stays, his future would be uncertain except for what Jesus told him, that he would witness for His cause. And so he does.