Acts: Day by Day has been on pause for Easter. If you want to catch up with the back-catalogue, you can do so here.
The Roman tribune wants to know why Paul is causing such a stir and so gathers the chief priests and all the council to meet. Paul is brought into their midst (22.30) and immediately launches into a defense, with mixed results:
“Paul looked directly at the council and said, “Brothers, I have lived my life with a clear conscience before God to this day.” At that the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Do you sit there judging me according to the law, and in violation of the law you order me to be struck?” Those standing near him said, “Do you dare insult God’s high priest?” Paul replied, “I did not realize, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You must not speak evil about a ruler of your people.’”
(Acts 23.1-5, NET)
Knowing that there was a sharp disagreement among the people present, Paul proclaims that he is, in fact, a pharisee (v.6) and is on trial for his belief in the resurrection. Those present who claim there is no resurrection took offence (vv.8-9) and Paul is then removed by the Romans for fear of a riot (v.10). David Guzik writes:
“Paul seems to have read his audience and saw they were not conducive to the gospel – the actions of the high priest and the attitudes of those present made this plain. So, Paul gave up on preaching the gospel, and did what he could to preserve his liberty before a council that wanted to kill him.”
Nobody is doubting Paul’s passion for preaching the Gospel (cf. 20.24) but he was also savvy enough to read the room. Knowing that this was not his moment to proclaim salvation by faith in Jesus alone, Paul sought to expose belief that was contrary to Scripture (v.8).
For you and for me, not every place we find ourselves is going to be a place to stand and proclaim the Gospel. Sometimes there are false beliefs that need to be challenged first. Had Paul simply stood up and preached then half the room would have switched off immediately. However, because he knew those before him, because he knew where they were at, spiritually, Paul could ignite a passionate discussion and debate among them. The same is true for you and for me. We don’t necessarily need to stir up groups to implode but we do need to know those we are seeking to engage with.
Preaching indiscriminately risks falling on deaf ears (Matthew 13.1-23) but measured and thought-out conversation with a known group of people is rarely wasted.