Journal Acts 23 (all references are from the ESV; changes in punctuation and notes are mine)
Scripture: But on the next day, [the Centurion] desiring to know the real reason why he was being accused by the Jews, he unbound him and commanded the chief priests and all the council to meet, and he brought Paul down and set him before them.
And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to 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 is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you going to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?”
Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God’s high priest?”
And Paul said, “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’” (Acts 22:30 to Acts 23:5)
Observation: Looks like Paul got caught in an “oops…” I love (not) those, “Aw phooey! Sorry, for ‘…it is written…’”
Application: There are layers of instruction within the Scriptures to ferret out. Personal study allows for preparation.
This is a significant record for the leading Jews wanted to treat Paul according to Jewish tradition but were heading straight into a Roman wall of legalities. Paul is a Jew AND a natural born Roman citizen. To get to here, Paul pulled the Roman citizenship card, waved it around, and avoided a flogging.
It may be sort of silly to think that Paul was all calm, cool, and collected during this episode. I wouldn’t be, and not too many other people would be either. Tensions and emotions might have been high, and Paul’s flight or fight responses may have been producing a little hostility—and I am soft pedaling this a bit because I am reading into the text.
But isn’t that the way I react? Somebody comes at me, and my defenses rise, and I probably go on the offense just like Paul did? Unfortunately, “you whitewashed wall” would probably be replaced with something less colorful and more profane.
Paul was told that this was the high priest, and he went, “Oops. I didn’t know.” And what followed? “For it is written…”
Was this a humble response? Humility was certainly forced in a practical way by the Word of God, for the Holy Spirit brought the scripture immediately to mind. How? Because Paul prepared some time ago and planted this in his heart and mind.
Did Paul give his corrected response through gritted teeth? Maybe. I probably would have.
The key here is PREPARATION…planting the living word in my heart, doing like the Psalmist writes in Psalm 119 about embracing the doctrines, precepts, and the Law; making them my DELIGHT…and doing this in the times that are peaceful so that they are a ready response on my lips in times of any intensity of turmoil.
Paul wrote this snippet to the church at Colossae, as an exhortation and encouragement:
“…we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the KNOWLEDGE of his will (in all spiritual wisdom and understanding), so as to WALK IN A MANNER WORTHY OF THE LORD, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the KNOWLEDGE OF GOD; being strengthened with all power (according to his glorious might), for all endurance and patience with joy…” (Col 1:9b-11)
I have found out the hard way that spiritual wisdom isn’t a button I can push when I need or want it. If I want to be changed, I need to hold hands with the Holy Spirit and put my nose to the grindstone so I can be “filled with the knowledge of his will” and “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him” and bear good fruit. (for those wanting the theological description, this is the Human Responsibility part of the Sanctification process…)
Prayer: Lord, after this morning’s minor conflict, I sure wish that I listened to you and responded biblically to my wife…I tripped over my mouth and tongue and out spewed salt water (c. James 3:11). I am reminded of James, “…be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19b-20)
My goodness, I wish this stuff rushed to my mind before I opened my mouth today.
Please make the appropriate difference in my life, O God. I want to serve you intensely all my days.
Ricky Two Shoes