The Sanhedrin was the highest Jewish court in Jerusalem. Comprised of members of the priestly class of Sadducees and the Pharisees, the Sanhedrin had wide-ranging authority in matters of Jewish law. In cases of capital offense, the Romans could carry out the Sanhedrin’s verdict.
Wanting to learn more about why Paul was being accused, the Roman tribune brought the case before the Jewish Sanhedrin. But what was intended as a procedure to gain clarity produced only further complications. They disagreed with Paul’s statement: “I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead” (23:6).
Because the Sadducees denied the possibility of resurrection and the Pharisees affirmed it, Paul’s proclamation may have been an attempt to stall the proceedings with internal debate. But on another level, Paul had identified the central claim of the Christian message: the resurrection of the crucified Messiah was the foundation of the Christian faith (see 1 Cor. 15:17).
Nevertheless, the rupture of chaos required that Paul be taken back to the barracks for his own safety. And that night, God delivered a brief but profound message: “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome” (23:11). In other words, despite the surrounding chaos, the endangerment of Paul’s life, and the vulnerability he experienced at the hands of Jews and Romans alike, God had a plan for him— to testify in Rome.
What followed—the plot against his life, the discovery of the plot, the tribune’s transfer of Paul to the governor Felix—all played a role in God’s providential leading of Paul to Rome. The circumstances seemed perilous and confusing, but God’s word to Paul would be his anchor.