Paul Preaches the Resurrection
Paul knew that the Holy Spirit had constrained or bound him to go to Jerusalem even if it meant his life. At the same time, Paul wrote to the Church at Rome that he planned to visit them after his trip to Jerusalem, and even receive some support from them for a mission to Spain (Romans 15:22-29). Paul was ever thinking about taking the gospel further out into unreached places, and at that time Spain marked the western edge of the world. Yet, just as at another time Paul knew not what would become of him, so we see him here with the same attitude he ever carried about his ministry: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:19-22).
The tribune could not just pretend that nothing happened, so he called the council of the Jews to meet the next day thinking these men would be able to answer the meaning of the previous day’s riot. When they had gathered and allowed Paul to speak, he began, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” We must assume that as Paul is speaking to Jewish leaders who would be concerned about the law of Moses, he is referring to his previous life as “circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee … as to righteousness under the law, blameless” (Philippians 3:5-6). But Paul knew that that was all according to the flesh. As to his justification by grace through faith, that was by Christ alone (1 Corinthians 4:3-4), and Paul never forgot that he once persecuted the Church he now loved so much (1 Timothy 1:13). At any rate, for this statement he was summarily struck on the mouth by the order of the high priest, and though Paul’s response might strike us as out of character, we remember that Jesus also rebuked the one who struck him before the high priest, though with less fervor and passion (John 18:19-24).
But back to his testimony for Christ, which was all that mattered to Paul—he soon discovered that the council consisted of both Pharisees and Sadducees, knowing that the one believed in the resurrection of the dead and the latter did not. And as the resurrection of Jesus is at the foundation of the Christian faith, and, as we have seen throughout Acts, the centerpiece of the apostles’ preaching from the very beginning, Paul then loudly proclaimed that he was on trial “with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead.” This served to divide the council and spare Paul, but what of it? The resurrection of the dead is the greatest comfort and hope of the gospel, and we must return it to its rightful place as the centerpiece of our preaching as it ever should have been accorded.