The Theological Brawl: Acts 23:6-10
“6) But perceiving that one group were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, 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!” 7) As he said this, there occurred a dissension between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8) For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor an angel, nor a spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. 9) And there occurred a great uproar; and some of the scribes of the Pharisaic party stood up and began to argue heatedly, saying, “We find nothing wrong with this man; suppose a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?” 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.” Acts‬ ‭23‬:‭6‬-‭10‬ ‭
What Paul did at this point was extremely crafty. Recognizing that his accusers were made up of Pharisees and Sadducees he reduced the hearing into a heated theological debate. He simply identified himself as a Pharisee and said “I am on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead.” The two groups have an unresolvable division over this matter.
It is equivalent to having a room full of Arminian’s and Calvinist’s and saying; “I am on trial for the doctrine of eternal security.” Immediately the room will be hopelessly divided. It will be reduced to a heated and fruitless debate.
Why? “ For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor an angel, nor a spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.” (Vs 8) Immediately, every Pharisee came to Paul’s defense and every Sadducee vehemently opposed him.
Not a single charge of wrongdoing was presented against Paul at this hearing. Rather it was reduced to a theological brawl. Whether by design or default, Paul accomplished his purpose. He displayed to the commander that he was not guilty of wrong doing but rather the focus unresolvable theological bias and controversy. The contention became so severe, the commander had to rescue Paul a second time. Paul was nearly torn apart.
Such can be the nature of theological fervor. At some point the brain shuts down and heated emotions take over. Sadly, many church business meetings and denominational differences have descended into this pit. I have found such debate to be fruitless and distasteful.
From the perspective of the commander, Paul just won round #2. He displayed that he was the victim of emotional fervor and not any criminal activity. He was indeed an innocent man.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global