Acts 23 commentary

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  1. 1. ACTS 23 COMME TARY EDITED BY GLE PEASE 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. BAR ES, "And Paul, earnestly beholding - atenisas. Fixing his eyes intently on the council. The word denotes a fixed and earnest gazing; a close observation. See Luk_4:20. Compare the notes on Act_3:4. Paul would naturally look with a keen and attentive observation on the council. He was arraigned before them, and he would naturally observe the appearance, and endeavor to ascertain the character of his judges. Besides, it was by this council that he had been formerly commissioned to persecute the Christians, Act_9:1-2. He had not seen them since that commission was given. He would naturally, therefore, regard them with an attentive eye. The result shows, also, that he looked at them to see what was the character of the men there assembled, and what was the proportion of Pharisees and Sadducees, Act_23:6. The council - Greek: the Sanhedrin, Act_22:30. It was the great council, composed of seventy elders, to whom was entrusted the affairs of the nation. See the notes on Mat_ 1:4. Men and brethren - Greek: Men, brethren; the usual form of beginning an address among the Jews. See Act_2:29. He addressed them still as his brethren. I have lived in all good conscience - I have conducted myself so as to maintain a good conscience. I have done what I believed to be right. This was a bold declaration, after the tumult, and charges, and accusations of the previous day Acts 22; and yet it was strictly true. His persecutions of the Christians had been conducted conscientiously, Act_26:9, I verily thought with myself, says he, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Of his conscientiousness and fidelity in their service they could bear witness. Of his conscientiousness since, he could make a similar declaration. He doubtless meant to say that as he had been conscientious in persecution, so he had been in his conversion and in his subsequent course. And as they knew that his former life had been with a good conscience, they ought to presume that he had maintained the same character still. This was a remarkably bold appeal to be made by an accused man, and it shows the strong consciousness which Paul had of his innocence. What would have been the drift of his discourse in proving this we can only Conjecture. He was interrupted Act_23:2; but there can be no doubt that he would have pursued such a course of argument as would tend to establish his innocence. Before God - Greek: to God - t The. He had lived to God, or with reference to his commands, so as to keep a conscience pure in his sight. The same principle of conduct he states more at length in Act_24:16; And herein do I exercise myself, to have
  2. 2. always a conscience void of offence toward God and toward men. Until this day - Including the time before his conversion to Christianity, and after. In both conditions he was conscientious; in one, conscientious in persecution and error, though he deemed it to be right; in the other, conscientious in the truth. The mere fact that a man is conscientious does not prove that he is right or innocent. See the note on Joh_16:2. CLARKE,"I have lived in all good conscience - Some people seem to have been unnecessarily stumbled with this expression. What does the apostle mean by it? Why, that, while he was a Jew, he was one from principle of conscience; that what he did, while he continued Jew, he did from the same principle; that, when God opened his eyes to see the nature of Christianity, he became a Christian, because God persuaded his conscience that it was right for him to become one; that, in a word, he was sincere through the whole course of his religious life, and his conduct had borne the most unequivocal proofs of it. The apostle means, therefore, that there was no part of his life in which he acted as a dishonest or hypocritical man; and that he was now as fully determined to maintain his profession of Christianity as he ever was to maintain that of Judaism, previously to his acquaintance with the Christian religion. GILL, "And Paul earnestly beholding the council,.... Fastening his eyes upon them, looking wistly and intently at them, and thereby discovering a modest cheerfulness, and a becoming boldness, confidence, and intrepidity, as being not conscious of any guilt, and well assured of the goodness of his cause: said, men and brethren; see Act_22:1. I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day; not only from the time of his conversion, but throughout the whole of his life; for though, strictly speaking, there is no good conscience but what is awakened by the Spirit of God, and is unprincipled by his grace, and is purged from sin by the blood of Christ; in which sense he could only have a good conscience, since he believed in Christ; yet whereas in his state of unregeneracy, and even while he was a blasphemer, and persecutor, he did not act contrary to the dictates of his conscience, but according to them, in which his view was to the glory of God, and the honour of his law; he therefore says he lived before God, or unto God, in all good conscience, though an erroneous and mistaken one; he thought he ought to do what he did; and what he did, he did with a zeal for God though it was not according to knowledge: besides, the apostle has here respect to his outward moral conversation, which, before and after conversion, was very strict, and even blameless, at least unblemished before men; nobody could charge him with any notorious crime, though he did not live without sin in the sight of the omniscient God. HE RY, "Perhaps when Paul was brought, as he often was (corpus cum causa - the person and the cause together), before heathen magistrates and councils, where he and his cause were slighted, because not at all understood, he thought, if he were brought before the sanhedrim at Jerusalem, he should be able to deal with them to some good purpose, and yet we do not find that he works at all upon them. Here we have, I. Paul's protestation of his own integrity. Whether the chief priest put any question to
  3. 3. him, or the chief captain made any representation of his case to the court, we are not told; but Paul appeared here, 1. With a good courage. He was not at all put out of countenance upon his being brought before such an august assembly, for which in his youth he had conceived such a veneration; nor did he fear their calling him to an account about the letters they gave him to Damascus, to persecute the Christians there, though (for aught we know) this was the first time he had ever seem them since; but he earnestly beheld the council. When Stephen was brought before them, they thought to have faced him down, but could not, such was his holy confidence; they looked stedfastly on him, and his face was as that of an angel, Act_6:15. Now that Paul was brought before them he thought to have faced them down, but could not, such was their wicked impudence. However, now was fulfilled in him what God promised to Ezekiel (Eze_3:8, Eze_3:9): I have made thy face strong against their faces; fear them not, neither be dismayed at their looks. 2. With a good conscience, and that gave him a good courage. - Hic murus aheneus esto, Nil conscire sibi - Be this thy brazen bulwark of defence, Still to preserve thy conscious innocence. He said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God unto this day. However I may be reproached, my heart does not reproach me, but witnesses for me. (1.) He had always been a man inclined to religion; he never was a man that lived at large, but always put a difference between moral good and evil; even in his unregenerate state, he was, as touching the righteousness that was in the law, blameless. He was no unthinking man, who never considered what he did, no designing man, who cared not what he did, so he could but compass his own ends. (2.) Even when he persecuted the church of God, he thought he ought to do it, and that he did God service in it. Though his conscience was misinformed, yet he acted according to the dictates of it. See Act_26:9. (3.) He seems rather to speak of the time since his conversion, since he left the service of the high priest, and fell under their displeasure for so doing; he does not say, From my beginning until this day; but, All the time in which you have looked upon me as a deserter, an apostate, and an enemy to your church, even to this day, I have lived in all good conscience before God; whatever you may think of me, I have in every thing approved myself to God, and lived honestly, Heb_13:18. He had aimed at nothing but to please God and do his duty, in those things for which they were so incensed against him; in all he had done towards the setting up of the kingdom of Christ, and the setting of it up among the Gentiles, he had acted conscientiously. See here the character of an honest man. [1.] He sets God before him, and lives as in his sight, and under his eyes, and with an eye to him. Walk before me, and be thou upright. [2.] He makes conscience of what he says and does, and, though he may be under some mistakes, yet, according to the best of his knowledge, he abstains from that which is evil and cleaves to that which is good. [3.] He is universally conscientious; and those that are not so are not at all truly conscientious; is so in all manner of conversation: I have lived in all good conscience; have had my whole conversation under the direction and dominion of conscience. [4.] He continues so, and perseveres in it: I have lived so until this day. Whatever changes pass over him, he is still the same, strictly conscientious. And those who thus live in all good conscience before God may, like Paul here, lift up their face without spot; and, if their hearts condemn them not, may have confidence both towa