Acts 23 starts with these words: 1 Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.” 2 At this the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!” 4 Those who were standing near Paul said, “You dare to insult God’s high priest?” 5 Paul replied, “Brothers, I did not realize that he was the high priest; for it is written: ‘Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.'”
As the historical narrative continues concerning the beginning of the church – we find Paul in front of the Jewish leaders again. I think there are a couple of interesting things found in these first 5 verses of Acts 23.
1. Paul’s commitment to the truth of Scripture as seen in vs 5. It’s also interesting to note that he believed (according to Scripture) that you shouldn’t speak evil about your leaders.
2. Paul’s courage in the midst of being “on trial” if you will. He called the one who ordered him to be struck a WHITEWASHED WALL and said – God will strike you! (This was before he knew that WHITEWASHED WALL was the high priest). However, Paul’s accusation was correct. By WHITEWASHED he was referring to one who is a hypocrite – the High Priest was like a wall made out of mud & dirt, then plastered and WHITEWASHED. In other words – he looked really clean outwardly while inwardly he was dirty. Note: there are many in churches today who are WHITEWASHED – they look good on the outside, but inside they are unclean b/c their hearts have never truly been changed by Jesus Christ or they’ve chosen to reject His Lordship over their life (and tongue).
3. Paul’s understanding of true character & Christianity in verse 3. The High Priest commanded Paul to be struck – violating the very Law he was using to judge Paul. How often does this happen with Christians today? We make judgments of someone based on what we claim to be our “Christian principles & commands” and violate the very principles and commands of Scripture with our words, attitudes and actions.
Instead of always looking for ways to criticize others, maybe we ought to adhere to the principles found in Phil 2:1-5: 1 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.