“And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” (Acts 23:1). I am not sure we fully understand the gravity of the situation that Paul was in as he stood before the Council. As he is being accused of being an apostle, anti-Jewish and a man that associates with the unclean Gentiles, he boldly stands before them to defend himself. First of all, he looks “intently at the council”, that just means he looked them in the eyes. He wanted to make sure that they all understood what he was about to say. Then he called them “Brothers”, which was not the proper way to address the Sanhedrin. When Peter stands before them earlier in Acts 4.8, he addresses them in this way, “Rulers of the people and elders”. Peter does this as a sign of respect for their office, even though they are not showing proper respect to God’s work. Yet now we have Paul, who stands boldly before them and looks them in the eyes and calls them “Brothers”. One of the ever-present themes of the New Testament thus far, has been the Jews opposition to the Gospel. In Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, it was their opposition to Jesus; now in the book of Acts it is opposition to the apostles and the church. The Jews have been in constant opposition to Jesus and the Gospel, but not to God. In their minds, as the Council, they feel as if they are cream of the crop of the followers of God. Now…with that in mind, as Paul stands up and looks them in the eye and calls them brothers, he is indicating that even though they are looking down on Paul for his crimes, they are on the same level. These were people he knew; some of them were students with him as he studied under Gamaliel. At one time these were his peers, his friends. In fact, he had worked with them in his persecution of the church and now they have deemed him as a traitor. Paul knew he is innocent, and the only way he could relate that innocence to them was to remove himself from the equation. What does Paul mean when he states, “I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.”? Paul wants them to know that his entire life has been lived with the intent of doing what God wanted him to do. Ever since he was a child, his life had been about pleasing God and no one else. What he is saying is this, “If you are going to be upset with anyone, you can’t be upset with me, because God is the one who is doing this through me.” He is boldly saying, essentially the same thing that Peter told them in Acts 4.39, “We must obey God, rather than man”. He could also be alluding to Gamaliel’s advice in Acts 4.39, “…you might even be found as opposing God” . Later, when Paul writes his letter to the Galatians, he says it this way, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20). Some of the Council believed, but the majority became violent against him. It must have been very hard for Paul to stand up for what is right amidst his peers. Today, it is still hard. People judge and criticize us when we seek to do what is right. People say we are intolerant, they say we are arrogant, and think we are better than everyone else. Many of us can say the same thing Paul does “Everything I have done up until this point of my life has been about pleasing God, so if you don’t like it…take it up with Him”. When we face these critics, we may get the same reaction Paul got; but notice what God says to him when they put him back into the barracks, “take courage…”. The lesson for us is this, when the world is out to accuse, criticize and judge us for doing God’s will, don’t let them get to you. Remember the words of Jesus, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12).