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7. And when he had so said, there arose a dissen
called in question. And when , sion between the Pharisees and the Sadducees : and he had so said, there arose a the multitude was divided.
dissension between the Phari
sees and Sadducees: and the 8. 'For the Sadducees say that there is no resur assembly was divided. For 8
the Sadducees say that there rection, neither angel, nor spirit : but the Pharisees
is no resurrection, neither confess both.
angel, nor spirit: but the
Pharisees confess both. And 9. And there arose a great cry: and the scribes there arose a great clamour : that were of the Pharisees' part arose, and strove,
and some of the scribes of the
Pharisees' part stood up, and saying, "We find no evil in this man : but 3 if a spirit strove, saying, We find no evil
in this man: and what if a or an angel hath spoken to him, 4 let us not fight
spirit hath spoken to him, or against God.
an angel! And when there 10
arose a great dissension, the 10. And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul
should be torn in pieces by chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled
them, commanded the soldiers in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go to go down and take him by
force from among them, and down, and to take him by force from among them, bring him into the castle: * and to bring him into the castle.
And the night following 11
the Lord stood by him, and 11. And 5 the night following the Lord stood by him, said, Be of good cheer': for
as thou hast testified concernand said, Be of good cheer, Paul : for as thou hast is the
ing me at Jerusalem, so must testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness thou bear witness also at
Rome. also at Rome.
1 Matt. 22: 23. Mark 12: 18. Luke 20:27.
2 Acts 25:25; 26:31.
3 Acts 22:7; 17: 18. • Acts 5: 39. Acts 18:9; 27: 23, 24. truest in your creed. I invite you to listen and see whether what I now proclaim to you is not the crown and completion of all your hopes and yearnings.” — Plumptre. The resurrection of the dead meant the assurance of life in the future, of salvation, and of heaven. And the resurrection of the dead Christ was the proof of his Messiahship, that he was the Son of God and Saviour of men from sin.
7. There arose a dissension. This was but natural, owing to their difference of opinion on the topic which Paul had stated was the reason for the proceedings against him. The dispute evidently became violent (see ver. 9), and was not simply a doctrinal discussion, but a very practical one as respected Paul, although his doctrinal views were the basis of the dispute. The two parties wer: arrayed against each other. – Hackett. And the multitude was divided; i.e., the vole body of the Sanhedrim took sides. The original is quite strongly expressed.
8. For the Sadducees say. See above under ver. 6. Neither angel, nor spirit. They were materialists, and did not believe in a future existence.
9. And there arose a great cry (Rev. Ver. clamour). The noise was of an excited mob. And the scribes. The comments and interpretations of Scripture were especially the charge of the “scribe.” — Schaff. That were of the Pharisees. As a rule the "scribes" belonged to the sect of Pharisees, as that party reverently attended to the Law and the Prophets. ---- Schaff. Strove. A very strong word, implying vehemence and obstinacy. - Cook. We find no evil in this man. The Pharisees now defended Paul, their antago. nism against the other party being stronger for the time than their hatred of Christianity. If a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him. The reference is to his account, on the preceding day, of his conversion and the vision in the temple. - Abbott. Or, more probably, the words are to be taken as a general statement that Paul may have received his knowledge by revelation. -- Gloag. Let us not fight against God. This is omitted in the oldest MSS. and in the Rev. Ver. They fight against God who oppose his plan, his revelation, his moral principles, his people.
10. Lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces, etc. The Sadducees endeavoring to seize him as a blasphemer, the Pharisees laying hold on him to rescue and protect him, the apostle was literally in danger of being torn to pieces. Claudius Lysias, who was present in the assembly, at once intervened, and ordered a guard of his soldiers to interpose and bring the accused again into the Roman barracks in Antonia. He felt he was responsible for the safety of one who claimed to be a citizen of Rome. – Schaff.
V. Comfort and Encouragement in the Hour of Trouble. – Ver. 11. II. The Lord. Jesus Christ. Stood by him. Probably in a dream.
SOU'RCES OF TRIAL AND ANXIETY TO PAUL. (1) The reaction after two days of such exhausting excitement and exertion. (2) He had just escaped death, and was in the power of heathen who hated the Gospel, and were likely to be influenceci by the cunning and powerful Jewish hierarchy to put him to death. (3) The result of his work in Jerusalem seemed likely to be a failure. (4) His prayers and long-cherished hope that he might preach the Gospel in Rome seemed likely to be frustrated. Be of good cheer, Paul. With a nature like St. Paul's, such anxieties could not but find expression in his prayers. To those prayers the “vision and apocalypse of the Lord," of which we now read, was manifestly the answer. To him, tossed on these waves and billows of the soul, as once before to the twelve tossing on the troubled waters of the Sea of Galilee (Matt. 14:27), there came the words full of comfort and hope, “Be of good cheer." There might be delay, and suffering, and a long trial of patience, but the end was certain. — Plumptre.
SOURCES OF COMFORT AND CHEER. (1) The manifest presence of Christ. Paul was not alone, but he who had all power and wisdom and love was with him as his friend. (2) He had the approval of God, and his conscience would be at peace. (3) His life was safe. (4) He had more work yet to do for the Master; more souls were to be saved through him from sin and death. (5) He should have his heart's desire, and preach the Gospel in Rome, the capital of the world. (6) All things were working together for good, and the very hinderances he met were the means of accomplishing his desired purpose. — P. Alford well notes the power of comfort which these words of the Lord possessed in his subsequent experiences: "(1) in the uncertainty of his life from the Jews(2) in the uncertainty of his liberation from prison at Cesarea; (3) in the uncertainty of his surviving the storm in the Mediterranean; (4) in the uncertainty of his fate on arriving at Rome. So may one crumb of divine grace and help be multiplied to feed five thousand wants and anxieties." So must thou bear witness also at Rome. His wish (19:21; Rom. I: 10, 1) was to be gratified in a way of which he had no thought. — Cook. Paul's voice, so said his Master to him, was to be heard in the two capitals of the world - in Jerusalem, the metropolis of the religious, and in Rome, the metropolis of the civil world. The results of his preaching in each of these centres deserve attention. In Jerusalem Paul's mission was a complete failure; his words there were spoken to the winds, they were written upon the sand; but when Paul left Jerusalem, the days of the city were numbered. In about ten years from the day when his pleading voice was drowned by the execrations in the temple, and a few hours later in the Sanhedrim hall, not one stone of the doomed city was left on another. In Rome he helped to build up a flourishing church; and when the sovereignty of the world was lost to the imperial city, the once despised religion of Paul restored to Rome a new and even grander empire than the proudest of the early Cæsars had ruled over. The words of the Master in the vision were indeed fulfilled, fulfilled too in that deeper sense which the solemn word "to bear witness " was beginning to assume in the familiar language of Christians, when in the martyr's painful death he should pass to his rest at Rome. - Schaff.
LIBRARY REFERENCES. Farrar, chap. 40; Conybeare and Howson, chap. 21; Wm. Taylor's Paul the Missionary, pp. 395-408; D. H. Taylor's Life of Paul, chap. 21; Rev James Ford, The Acts Illustrated, Lewin's St. Paul, il: 146 ff.; Arnot's Church in the House, p. 446: on Paul's indignant reply to the high priest, see also Lewin's Fasti Sacri, p. 315; Schaft's llistory of the Apostolic Church, p. 310, and Alexander's Notes on Acts, II: 324; an admirable sermon on" Christian Prudence," as manifested by St. Paul on this occasion, occurs in Vaughan's Church of the First Days, ii. p. 190.
2. Paul vindicates himself, I have in all good conscience served God until this day, not only when he was a pilot to steer the church, but when he was a pirate to ritle it; when he was St. Paul the apostle, and when he was Saul the persecutor. — Bp. Thomars. Therefore we see that a good conscience is not enough. We need an instructed conscience, a conscience guided and enlightened by God.
3. Ver. 2. Often those of the worst character most severely condemn certain lesser faults in others.
4. Ver. 3. The Bible tells the faults of even its most noted saints. (1) This shows that the picture they give is truthful. (2) It shows the saints as human. (3) It gives hope and comfort to those who are trying to do better. (4) The faults are faults only when seen
in contrast with holy character. In worldly persons they would almost be called virtues. (5) The faults are usually closely allied with virtues. (6) They are repented of and confessed.
5. We ought to be indignant at sin. Our hearts ought to flame and burn.
6. Ver. 4. We should be exceedingly careful how we speak of parents, pastors, and rulers.
7. Ver. 5. Be not ashamed to confess you have been in the wrong. It is but owning what you need not be ashamed of, that you have now more sense than you had before to see your error; more humility to acknowledge it, and more grace to correct it. – Rev. J. Seed.
8. Note the value to the Christian of a familiarity with the Scriptures. — Foster.
g. Ver. 6. We are taught that prudence as well as courage is needful in the service of the Lord Jesus. – Taylor.
10. The narrative (ver. 6) illustrates the place of expediency in the Christian's conduct. It is possible to be keen, quick-witted, swift to seize advantages, turning disaster into victory, and yet be honest, truthful, and perfectly fair. It is plain that the Christian, no less than the worldling, may use all his quickness of intellect to escape from difficulties. Principle first, and expediency afterwards. Expediency so far as it does not interfere with principle, but principle at all hazards.- Rev. Adison P. Foster, in Monday Club Sermons, 1877.
II. Ver. 7. Here again we see the wisdom of God in permitting so many forms of religion to exist. If the whole world were of one mind the truth would soon be crushed. — Ap. Past.
12. Ver. 11. A wise man is out of the reach of fortune, and all attempts upon him are no more than Xerxes' arrows; they may darken the day but they cannot obscure the sun (2 Cor. 4:7-10). -- Ford's Acts Illustrated.
13. We are taught that when we are in the greatest extremity, God will come to us with his richest consolation. — Taylor.
14. Not in the glare of day, not in the chief place of concourse, but in the stillness of night and in the solitude of the chamber Christ visits them that are his, and adapts his consolations to their individual case and need. — Arnot.
15. But Paul was no better off than we are. The same heavenly friend is with us as well. His Spirit whispers peace to our soul, his holy Word, designed for our comfort, reveals his love more than can any vision of the night. - Rev. A. P. Foster, Monday Club Practical.
SUGGESTIONS TO TEACHERS. INTERVENING EVENTS. The connecting history is more important here than in many lessons. Picture out the scenes vividly. Let the scholars see, as it were, the excited mob in the court of the Gentiles, angrily shouting and gesturing at Paul upon the stairway; the rescue; the preparation for scourging; Paul's claim to be a Roman citizen, and escape.
Illustration of Roman citizenship. By the Lex Porcia, Roman citizens were exempted from all degrading punishment, such as that of scourging. The words civis Romanus sum acted like a magical charm in disarming the violence of provincial magistrates. It was the heaviest of all the charges brought by Cicero against Verres, that he had violated the rights of citizenship. It is a crime to bind a Roman citizen; a heinous iniquity to scourge him; next to parricide to kill him; what shall I say to crucify him? According to the Roman law, it was death for any one falsely to assert a claim to the immunities of citizenship. · WORD-PICTURE OF THE SCENE IN THE COUNCIL. The different elements of which the Sanhedrim was composed; the place of meeting; the arrangement of the different parties; old friends and enemies of Paul among the members; the fact that Paul himself was once a member, and listened to Stephen and condemned him.
SUBJECT, — COMFORT IN THE HOURS OF TROUBLE.
Paul was in circumstances of peculiar trial, and yet the Lord helped him, and made all things work together for good, and gave him especial comfort, and yet just such as we may have in our troubles.
1. FIRST TROUBLE. His address interrupted (vers. 1, 2). We would dwell on what Paul hoped to do, in speaking to the Sanhedrim. He would exonerate himself, and so remove their prejudice against the Gospel, and then he would persuade them to become Christians (explain “a good conscience”; perhaps show what more we need). All these hopes were destroyed by the insulting interruption of the high priest. THE COMFORT grew out of the fact that further words were shown to be useless.
II. SECOND TROUBLE. Injustice and insult. This interruption, with its insult and injustice, may be explained.
THE COMFORT. The relief from uttering his indignant protest, and the reaction in his favor among the Pharisees, since the insult came from a Sadducee. Explain “ whited wall” and the character of Ananias.
III. THIRD TROUBLE. Pasty words. The question will arise whether Paul did wrong, and what was the error, if any.
THE COMFORT. Manly acknowledgment and explanation.
IV. FOURTH TROUBLE. The hatred of his Jewish countrymen, who wished to put him to death.
THE COMFORT. A division in the council, and a large number arising to defend him. Show the difference between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and how far Paul was a Pharisee.
Illustration. Vers. 6, 7. There is a Greek legend of Cadmus, the builder of Thebes, that he slew a dragon and sowed the teeth in the field. The dragon's teeth sprang up from the ground armed giants, a great army. Then he took up a rock and threw it among them. So that instead of slaying him they went to fighting one another. And they slew one another till only one tall giant remained, and he became the helper of Cadmus in carrying stones for the walls of the city of Thebes he began to build. So it is wise to let the enemies of Christianity fight one another; one tears down what another builds up. So it has been through the ages, whether they use historic criticism or geology, or antiquarian researches or development theories, or any form of science for their weapons. But always after the battle is over there is left some solid, settled truth which never fails to help build the city of our God. — P.
V. FIFTH TROUBLE. Another mob.
LESSON IX. — MARCH 1.
TIME. — Thursday, May 25, A.D. 58, the day following the last lesson.
RULERS. -- Nero, emperor of Rome. Felix, governor of Judea. Agrippa II., king of Trachonitis, etc., the tetrarchy east of the Sea of Galilee and the upper Jordan. Claudius. Lysias, Roman commander at Jerusalem.
INTRODUCTION. Paul had been rescued from the contending parties in the hall of the Sanhedrim, and carried safely back to the castle of Antonia; and, during the night, in the prison, he had seen the Lord again in a vision, and received words of good cheer and promises of aid. While he was sleeping peacefully on the pillows of a clear conscience and the divine promises, the Jewish leaders were racking their brains for some plan to get Paul in their power, and by daylight a plan had been thought out, and being proposed to others, was readily adopted by them, as in the lesson.
12. And when it was day, I certain of the Jews And when it was day, the 12 banded together, and bound themselves under a curse,
Jews banded together, and
bound themselves under a saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they curse, saying that they would
neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul.
1 Vers. 21, 30. Acts 25: 3.
EXPLANATORY. I. The Conspiracy. — Vers. 12-15. 12. And when it was day. The dawn following Paul's appearance before the council. Certain of the Jews. The Jews here
13. And they were more than forty which had made this conspiracy.
had killed Paul. And they 13
were more than forty which 14. And they came to the chief priests and elders, made this conspiracy. And 14 and said, We have bound ourselves under a great they came to the chien priests curse, that we will eat nothing until we have slain have bound ourselves under a
great curse, to taste nothing Paul.
until we have killed Paul. Now 15 15. Now therefore ye with the council signify to therefore do ye with the coun
cil signify to the chief captain the chief captain that he bring him down unto you that he bring him down unto to morrow, as though ye would inquire something more this case more exactly and
you, as though ye would judge perfectly concerning him : and we, or ever he come we, or ever he come near, are near, are ready to kill him.
alluded to were doubtless composed of Paul's bitter foes from Asia Minor, together with his Sadducæan opponents. It is more than probable that some of them belonged to that wild and fanatic association which played so prominent a part in the Holy Land in the last years of Jerusalem, - the Sicarii or Assassins (see Lesson VI., ver. 38). – Rev. Com. Bound themselves under a curse. These violent men bound themselves with a dreadful oath; that is, they invoked the curse of God upon themselves if they did not kill Paul, or if they ate or drank anything before they killed him, “ that they might fence round their crime with all the sanction of religion.” That more than forty persons should unite in such a conspiracy, and should without scruple propose it to the supreme court of the land, seems to a modern almost incredible, but accords with the Jewish opinions and practices of that age. Thus Philo, who is one of the purest religious teachers outside the New Testament, directly justifies the assassination of apostates from Judaism. — Abbott. They would neither eat nor drink. So that there was no time to be lost; their work must be promptly executed. — Cambridge Bible. In the case of such fearful vows, by no means uncommon in that wild time of disorder and hatred, the Talmud, however, provided a loophole of escape for those who so rashly took this burden on themselves; they furnished the means of releasing the man from the vow and the curse, if the carrying it out in its entirety became impossible. — Schaff.
13. More than forty. Showing the excited state of popular feeling at this moment among the Jews. They may have been prompted to this method of getting rid of the apostle because they had not the power of life and death any longer, and were not likely to procure Paul's death at the hands of the Roman authorities on any accusation connected with a religious question. -- Prof. Lumby.
14. They came to the chief priests and elders. No doubt the party of religious assassins went to that group of the Sanhedrim known as bitterly hostile to Paul. These doubtless were of the Sadducee party, which at that time supplied the majority of Jewish magistrates. --- Cook. Ananias the high priest was of this party. But it is more probable that this favorable feeling on the part of the Pharisees was transient, being the impulse of the moment, and that they soon united with the Sadducees in hostility to the apostle. It is evident that they as well as the Sadducees accused him before Felix (Acts 24:15). - Gloag.
15. Now therefore. The conspirators, it is plain, felt quite sure of the hearty concurrence of the highest authorities. The words of Christ (John 16: 2) found their fulfilment. - Cook. Ye with the council. Namely, the Sanhedrim. That is, in the name of that body, as if it was their united request. -- llackett. Signify. A legal term; site official notice; a formal request for a regular investigation. - Cook. That he bring him down unto you. From the castle Antonia, north of the temple area, to the hall of the Sanhedrim outside of the western cloister. As though ye would inquire, etc. Rev. Ver., as though ye would judge of his case more exactly, which is more in accordance with the classical meaning of the verb. – Prof Lumby. The reason assigned for again bringing Paul before the Sanhedrim was plausible, as the former hearing was interrupted, and the information obtained imperfect. If God had not in his providence interfered, Lysias would in all "'.elihood have granted the request, and the conspiracy of the Jews might have been successful. -- Gloag. We, or ever he come near, are ready to kill him. The first word stands in the Greek with a kind of ferocious emphasis. “You may safely leave us to do our part." Their plan was to assassinate him on his way down from the barracks to the council. The suspicion of complicity in the crime would not fall upon the chief priests and elders. Their intention would appear to have been to give St. Paul a fair hearing, and the murder would seem to be the work of some fanatics unconnected with the council. — Prof. Lumby, in Cambridge