Journal Acts 23 (all references are from the ESV; changes in punctuation are mine)
Scripture: “Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other (part) Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.”
And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. (For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.)
Then a great clamor arose, and some of the scribes of the Pharisees’ party stood up and contended sharply, “We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?”
And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force and bring him into the barracks.” Acts 23:6-10
Observation: Obviously, Paul was well aware of Jesus’ words, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Matt 10:34
Analysis: Paul took advantage of a prejudice in the synagogue. For what reason did he do that?
If I take a peek into chapter 22, I remember that Paul (being of dual citizenship) invoked his Roman citizenship and called upon his political rights. In one stroke, he messed up everyone’s response reflex: “Now what are we supposed to do?”
By proclaiming to be a Pharisee, he got the entire gathering to be either for him (as a show of solidarity) or against him (as a heretic or at least in high error).
By sort of passively inciting a riot, he got the Roman cohort (who didn’t know what they were rioting about) to protect him and start the steps to be heard before Caesar.
In none of this commotion was Paul trying to be a peacemaker: “Now, now, keep calm everyone. All will have a chance to express their ‘feelings’—everyone has a point of view that is valid…”
Am I trying to validate angry commotions/confrontations as being somehow godly? Nope—but I do acknowledge that we are missing a few degrees of passion in our embraced doctrine.
What am I convinced of and why, not “what do I believe?” Saying “I believe” is slippery in today’s parlance; I don’t have to have reasoning behind it, all I have to have is a “feeling about the correctness of something.” Does this invalidate “feelings?” No, but these “feelings” should drive an investigation about “why?” Where is the evidence to validate my feelings?
Paul may have deduced this between the Pharisees and Sadducees: Lots of emotional conviction but perhaps not so much knowledgeable conviction. I don’t know—all I have is conjecture. But what would make the synagogue blow up like it did? I have to ask myself these things—because what would I do thrust into a similar situation today?
Prayer: Father, some of these sections appear to be good for case studies: Here’s the situation; what would I do? I appreciate being prodded to think. Sometimes my initial reaction comes too quickly in an effort to be first to answer—being first may not be the best answer; I shouldn’t be an untrained gunslinger.
I think this situation, Lord, doesn’t have a clear and reasonable answer that pops out. Please bring this back to my attention sometime in the future.
Ricky Two Shoes