If I were not an accountant, I think I would like to be lawyer. I love watching arguments in court. I like how lawyers prove their point with reason, with evidence either to convict the guilty or to acquit the innocent.
This morning, I read in Acts 23:1-11 Paul on trial as he faced the council of people who were against him for spreading the gospel. Paul was a Roman citizen and a Pharisee – a member of an ancient Jewish sect, distinguished by strict observance of the traditional and written law. He used these status to his advantage. (Read Acts 22:25-29 on how he used his Roman citizenship to get himself out of being whipped and released.)
Beyond his status, here is his argument in self-defence:
“Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day.” Whoa.. what a claim of innocence!
The high priest, Ananias was perhaps indignantly surprised at Paul’s impudence – implying that he was wrongly accused. Ananias ordered those beside Paul to slap him on the mouth. Paul said:
“God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Do you sit to try me according to the Law, and in violation of the Law order me to be struck?”
The bystanders said to Paul: How dare you insult the high priest!
Paul said, “I was not aware, brethren, that he was high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’” (Paul once again defend himself with the truth. He did not know the high priest. Yet he also pointed out what is the law – that one should not disrespect a ruler or people in leadership.)
Paul was a smart lawyer. He knew how to position himself and take timely advantage of pertinent data and situation. He knew that in the courtroom, there were two groups of people: the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Sadducees were a religio-political group that held a great deal of power among the Jews in Israel. These 2 groups had opposing view on resurrection – life after death.
Paul began crying out in the Council, “Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; I am on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead!”
Because of his statement, a great uproar and argument started and some scribes (secretary) of the Pharisees sided with Paul and said:
“We find nothing wrong with this man; suppose a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?”
What happened next? v.10
And as a great dissension was developing, the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them and ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force, and bring him into the barracks.
Paul got himself out of the trial – he was neither convicted nor acquitted. But the people who tried him ended up quarrelling among themselves.
What can we learn from Paul in this case? Paul was a smart lawyer. He knew how to use his knowledge to his advantage. He was familiar with the legal system, he knew the weaknesses of his enemies. He was also bold to speak out. He was passionate about the gospel to the extent that he was often persecuted – jailed, beaten, mobbed, plotted to be killed (Read of the plot to kill him vv.12-15).
What is his comfort and motivation? v.11
But on the night immediately following, the Lord stood at his side and said, “Take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also.”
I often wish that I would hear God speak so clearly to me as Paul did. And I discovered on many occasions that God did – through the circumstances and people that came into my life at just the right place and time. I am always amazed at his timeliness. He sends his comfort and encouragement just when I needed it most. He assures me of what He wants me to do through His Word – affirmed by timely assignments that He sent me.
Let me illustrate my point: Recently I was studying the book of Esther. On the day that I shared a lesson on Mordecai and Haman, I was invited to write an article for publication in a booklet. The person in charge asked if I could write about Esther. Truly, God affirms his calling in his beautiful time.
It is not easy for Paul to be a missionary to the Gentiles. That was what God called him to do (Acts 22:21). Yet when God calls, it does not mean the road would be easy. But it means His presence, peace and power go with the calling.
Wherever you are right now, dear friend, whatever you are doing, no matter who you are, you are loved and called for a purpose – to serve your family? to love your enemy? to teach your employees? to work for your boss? Is it hard? Yes, it is not easy. But God said: Take courage. I am with you always.
Be like Paul – make your defence against the enemy and let God defend you and make an offence to stand for what is right and true… to be on God’s side. Let God be on your side.