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Divide and Conquer (Part 2)

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VI. Strategy #3: Divide and conquer; using your enemies' weakness against them.
1. Paul was brought before the council and once again tried to reason with them (Act 23:1).
A. He declared to them that he had lived in good conscience all his life.
a. Paul stated this fact more than once in his defense and in his letter to Timothy (Act 24:16; 2Ti 1:3).
b. Paul also impressed upon Timothy, the young preacher whom he had trained and ordained, the importance of maintaining a good conscience (1Ti 1:5,19).
c. Even when Paul was persecuting Christians and Jesus Christ Himself, he did it with a good conscience (Act 26:9 c/w Joh 16:2).
2. Paul earnestly beheld the council (Act 23:1).
A. Earnestly - In an earnest manner; in a manner indicating earnestness.
B. Earnest - adj. - 1. Of persons: Serious, as opposed to trifling; usually in emphatic sense, intensely serious, gravely impassioned, in any purpose, feeling, conviction, or action; sincerely zealous. Of feelings, convictions, etc.: Intense, ardent. Of actions or words: Proceeding from or implying intensity of feeling or conviction.
3. At that point, it appears that the council were all unified against Paul (Act 22:30 - 23:1).
4. Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees (Act 23:6).
A. Perceive - v. 1. To apprehend with the mind; to become aware or conscious of; to observe, understand.
B. Paul was being circumspect (Eph 5:15).
C. He was foreseeing the evil and hiding himself (Pro 22:3).
5. Paul knew some things about the Pharisees and the Sadducees.
A. The Sadducees didn't believe in the resurrection (Mat 22:23; Act 23:8).
B. They also denied that there are angels or spirits (Act 23:8).
C. The Pharisees confessed both (Act 23:8).
D. They also believed in the resurrection (Act 24:15).
E. The Pharisees and Sadducees were about as different as the liberal Episcopalians and the fundamentalist Baptists.
6. Paul was a Pharisee (Act 23:6).
A. Paul was brought up under a reputed Pharisee named Gamaliel (Act 22:3 c/w Act 5:34).
B. Until his conversion, Paul lived as a Pharisee after the most straitest sect of the Jewish religion (Act 26:5; Phi 3:5).
C. Paul was even more zealous than the other Pharisees (Gal 1:14).
7. Paul's strategy: divide and conquer.
A. Though Paul counted his former life as a Pharisee as dung (Phi 3:7-8) and had renounced it (at least the wicked parts of it) (2Co 4:2), he could still use it to his advantage since he still believed some of the fundamental doctrine that they did, such as the resurrection.
B. "We must never think the worse of any truth of God, nor be more shy of owning it, for its being held by men otherwise corrupt." - Matthew Henry
C. Paul then used their weakness against them, which was their lack of unity, and sided with his enemies, the Pharisees, and declared that he was one of them and that he believed in the resurrection (Act 23:6).
a. Unity causes stability and builds up a group (Eph 4:13-16).
b. Division and strife will cause a group to consume itself (1Co 3:3 c/w Gal 5:15).
c. Strife causes confusion (Jam 3:16).
d. If Paul could get the council divided, he could overthrow their purposes.
e. This would have been tantamount to crying out, "I am a member of a sovereign grace church and I believe in predestination and election" if you were surrounded by a group of Calvinists and Arminians who were arguing with you.
D. Paul's strategy was successful and caused a dissension and a division between his enemies (Act 23:7).
a. Dissension - 1. Disagreement in opinion; esp. such disagreement as produces strife or contention; discord; an instance of this, a violent disagreement or quarrel arising from difference of opinion.
b. Because they disagreed on the resurrection, they strove together (Act 23:8-9).
c. This is how the Lord destroyed Israel's enemy, the Midianites, in the days of Gideon (Jdg 7:20-22).
E. The Pharisees then did a 180 and sided with their enemy, Paul, saying "We find no evil in this man" (Act 23:9).
a. They used the occasion to not only strive with the Sadducees about the resurrection, but also to get in a jab at them by saying that if a spirit or an angel had spoken to Paul (both of which the Sadducees denied (Act 23:8)), then they shouldn't fight against God (Act 23:9).
b. They had wisely taken the advice of one of their leaders, Gamaliel (Act 5:38-39), even if it was not due of the best motives.
c. Sometimes people will even set their differences aside and join with an enemy when they have a greater common enemy (Act 17:18; Luk 23:12).
F. The Pharisees and Sadducees went from having a dissension to a great dissension (probably in part due to the Pharisees bringing up angels and spirits) (Act 23:10).
a. Rather than being united against Paul, they ended up fighting over Paul to the point that it looked like they might pull him in half (Act 23:10).
b. Paul's ways had pleased the Lord and He made his enemies to be at peace with him (sort of) (Pro 16:7).
c. God has been known to reward faithfulness in such ways (2Ch 17:6,10-11).
G. The civil authorities ended up coming to Paul's rescue (Act 23:10).
a. This wasn't the first time this happened (Act 21:30-35).
b. And it wouldn't be the last time either (Act 23:12-27).
c. Paul could be confident because of past deliverances that God would deliver him again (2Co 1:8-10).

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