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*Positioning for Checkmate*
Big Idea: We are able to see the big picture in tough times by recognizing God’s sovereignty, realizing God’s provision, and remembering God’s Word.
1. Chess is a game of 100% skill, one person against another.
Even though I’m not a chess player, I like the idea of going head-to-head with someone and trying to outmaneuver them, out-strategize them, or out-think them.
3. It’s very difficult to try to set up a viable defense with your positioning at the same time you’re looking for a weakness in your opponent’s positioning in order to attack and capture their king.
4. It is easy, however, to get so focused and tunnel-visioned on trying to do one thing, but forgetting about the rest of the board and getting check-mated because you didn’t see the big picture of what was happening.
5. That’s why so few people attain the highest level of grandmaster.
1. How are you at seeing the big picture?
Do you fall victim to tunnel-vision?
2. It’s easy for us to get so focused on what we’re doing in our little corner of the universe, especially during difficult times or times of tragedy that we miss seeing God at work.
3. Because we miss seeing God at work, we fail to find comfort or encouragement when we need it most, during those tough times.
1. Being able to read through the Bible like we can, we have the ability and the opportunity to see God’s big picture unfold throughout history.
2. Part of how that big picture unfolds is kind of like a chess match between God and Satan.
a. Incorrect to say that Satan is able to compete with God, however, we can say that Satan is opposed to God and desires to ruin His plans.
We see this in a couple of different ways in the Bible, especially with regard to Messianic prophecies:
3:15 – seed promised that would destroy Satan, then Cain kills Abel.
Seth then born.
2.) 2 Sam.
7 – offspring of David that would rule for eternity, then we see son with Bathsheba dies.
Even in the book of Acts, we see several times how the church is growing in number and power, and then the apostles are beaten and arrested, or Stephen is stoned to death, or James is killed, or Peter is imprisoned.
Even in the life of the apostle Paul, we see several times where people try to kill him or run him out of town, but God always shows up to deliver him.
3. As we continue in Acts 23, we see the same type of chess-like maneuvering between God and Satan.
Particularly, we see how God handles some of Satan’s attacks on His church.
A. Divert the Attack (Acts 22:30-23:11)
1. Storyline context
a. Beginning in Chapter 21, Paul is determined to make his way back to Jerusalem in order to celebrate Pentecost (coming up later this month).
b. We’re now 58AD, or roughly 25 years after Jesus’ resurrection and the Pentecost of Acts 2.
He is arrested in the temple and allowed to speak to the crowds in Acts 22, where he gives his Damascus Road conversion testimony.
d. Paul says something to stir up the crowds even more, so the Roman tribune in charge takes him away to examine him more.
This is the context for out text today.
2. Paul addresses Ananias (Acts 22:30-23:5)
a. Tribune sets up meeting with council
1.) Desires to know “real reason” for accusations against Paul
2.) Brings Paul and Sanhedrin together to hear each side
Was third effort at finding the truth
1.) First was by questioning the crowd, but got no facts (Acts 21:33-34).
2.) Second was through torture, but found out Paul was a Roman citizen (Acts 22:24-29).
c. Paul immediately goes on the offensive and claims that he has done nothing wrong, emphasizing his devotion to God.
d. Ananias reacts to this by ordering someone to hit Paul.
1.) Ananias was the high priest in Israel
a.) Several sources speak to his corruption and violence.
b.) Robbing from other priests
2.) Why would Ananias react so strongly?
In his saying, Paul is making the claim that for his entire life, including after his conversion experience, he has been a good citizen of Judaism, doing everything according the Law because of his devotion to God.
b.) Paul is going beyond saying, “I’m innocent” and is taking it to a level of “Every God-fearing Jew should be doing what I’m doing.”
e. Paul responds angrily by calling him a hypocrite and announces that he is placing himself under the judgment of God.
1.) Whitewashed wall was a reference to the cosmetic cleaning of a dirty and decrepit wall by covering it with plaster.
a.) Jesus called the hypocritical Pharisees and scribes “whitewashed tombs” in Matt.
b.) On the outside they looked nice, but on the inside they were full of uncleanness and death.
2.) Paul, however, then apologizes for this statement.
3.) Several interpretations for this apology:
a.) Paul couldn’t see well (references poor eyesight in Gal.
This was an informal meeting of the Sanhedrin, since the Roman tribune was present, so the high priest wasn’t wearing his usual ceremonial garb.
c.) Paul was being a bit sarcastic as was saying to the effect, “I apologize, but I didn’t know that man with such a low character could become high priest.”
3. Paul addresses the Council (Acts 23:6-23:10)
Because Paul had “looked intently” at the makeup of the council, he saw that they were a mixed group of Pharisees and Sadducees.
1.) Mixed socially – Pharisees were generally associated with the lower, to middle class of society and were extremely learned in the Law.
Sadducees were from the upper classes of society.
2.) Mixed politically – Pharisees got their political power from the Jewish people, while the Sadducees got their power and influence from Rome.
3.) Mixed theologically – Pharisees believed in angels, spirits and a general resurrection to come.
Sadducees did not.
b. Paul takes advantage of this division and identifies himself as a Pharisee and says that it is for theological reasons that he is on trial.
He brings up the resurrection in particular, meaning the resurrection of Jesus.
2.) Pharisees take up Paul’s case and say that there is nothing wrong with him.
This creates great dissention in the council, and Paul has to be removed by the tribune so that he is not “torn to pieces” (Acts 23:10).
Why would Paul do this?
1.) Paul did this to reveal to the Roman tribune that although the Jews, particularly the Sadducees, hated him, they couldn’t agree on why they hated him.
In Acts 21, the crowd was beating him because the accusation was that he was teaching against the law and the traditions, and that he defiled the temple by bringing a Gentile into the temple court – which he didn’t do.
In Acts 22, the crowd started shouting for his death when he said that he was told by God to take the good news to the Gentiles.
2.) He was saying that their argument against him was a religious one, and it had no merit because he has stayed true to the Law, as half of the Sanhedrin were attesting to.
3.) The attack was diverted from being against Paul and turned in on each other.
As a result, Paul was able to leave safely.
4. Jesus addresses Paul (Acts 23:11)
a. Paul is taken into the Antonia Fortress where he is able to reflect in solitude what was happening to him for a whole day.
1.) Perhaps he was remembering the words of the disciples in Tyre who exhorted him in the Holy Spirit not to go to Jerusalem.
2.) Maybe he was recalling the words and actions of the prophet Agabus while he was at Philip the evangelist’s house in Caesarea who prophesied that he would be bound and delivered to the Gentiles if he went to Jerusalem.
3.) Maybe he was thinking, “If only I had listened to them, then I wouldn’t be in this mess.”
b. Regardless of what he was thinking, Jesus appeared to him in a vision.
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