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Acts 23:1

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

I have lived in all good conscience - Some people seem to have been unnecessarily stumbled with this expression. What does the apostle mean by it? Why, that, while he was a Jew, he was one from principle of conscience; that what he did, while he continued Jew, he did from the same principle; that, when God opened his eyes to see the nature of Christianity, he became a Christian, because God persuaded his conscience that it was right for him to become one; that, in a word, he was sincere through the whole course of his religious life, and his conduct had borne the most unequivocal proofs of it. The apostle means, therefore, that there was no part of his life in which he acted as a dishonest or hypocritical man; and that he was now as fully determined to maintain his profession of Christianity as he ever was to maintain that of Judaism, previously to his acquaintance with the Christian religion.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

And Paul, earnestly beholding - ἀτενίσας atenisasFixing his eyes intently on the council. The word denotes “a fixed and earnest gazing; a close observation.” See Luke 4:20. Compare the notes on Acts 3:4. Paul would naturally look with a keen and attentive observation on the council. He was arraigned before them, and he would naturally observe the appearance, and endeavor to ascertain the character of his judges. Besides, it was by this council that he had been formerly commissioned to persecute the Christians, Acts 9:1-2. He had not seen them since that commission was given. He would naturally, therefore, regard them with an attentive eye. The result shows, also, that he looked at them to see what was the character of the men there assembled, and what was the proportion of Pharisees and Sadducees, Acts 23:6.

The council - Greek: the Sanhedrin, Acts 22:30. It was the great council, composed of seventy elders, to whom was entrusted the affairs of the nation. See the notes on Matthew 1:4.

Men and brethren - Greek: “Men, brethren”; the usual form of beginning an address among the Jews. See Acts 2:29. He addressed them still as his brethren.

I have lived in all good conscience - I have conducted myself so as to maintain a good conscience. I have done what I believed to be right. This was a bold declaration, after the tumult, and charges, and accusations of the previous day Acts 26:9, “I verily thought with myself,” says he, “that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.” Of his conscientiousness and fidelity in their service they could bear witness. Of his conscientiousness since, he could make a similar declaration. He doubtless meant to say that as he had been conscientious in persecution, so he had been in his conversion and in his subsequent course. And as they knew that his former life had been with a good conscience, they ought to presume that he had maintained the same character still. This was a remarkably bold appeal to be made by an accused man, and it shows the strong consciousness which Paul had of his innocence. What would have been the drift of his discourse in proving this we can only Conjecture. He was interrupted Acts 23:2; but there can be no doubt that he would have pursued such a course of argument as would tend to establish his innocence.

Before God - Greek: to God - τῷ Θεῷ tō TheōHe had lived to God, or with reference to his commands, so as to keep a conscience pure in his sight. The same principle of conduct he states more at length in Acts 24:16; “And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God and toward men.”

Until this day - Including the time before his conversion to Christianity, and after. In both conditions he was conscientious; in one, conscientious in persecution and error, though he deemed it to be right; in the other, conscientious in the truth. The mere fact that a man is conscientious does not prove that he is right or innocent. See the note on John 16:2.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
See here the character of an honest man. He sets God before him, and lives as in his sight. He makes conscience of what he says and does, and, according to the best of his knowledge, he keeps from whatever is evil, and cleaves to what is good. He is conscientious in all his words and conduct. Those who thus live before God, may, like Paul, have confidence both toward God and man. Though the answer of Paul contained a just rebuke and prediction, he seems to have been too angry at the treatment he received in uttering them. Great men may be told of their faults, and public complaints may be made in a proper manner; but the law of God requires respect for those in authority.
Ellen G. White
Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 2, 725.2

This pretense of conscientiousness has been pretty thoroughly tested and proved. I speak understandingly when I tell you that I have very little confidence in his conscientiousness. There is a good conscience and a bad conscience, and the man is most thoroughly deceived in himself. Under this deception he will do many things in his own spirit that are not in harmony with the Spirit of God. Yet he will be as immovable as a rock to counsel or to any way except his own way.—Letter 48, 1892. 2MCP 725.2

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Ellen G. White
Selected Messages Book 2, 319

Some were making the matter of dress of first importance, criticizing articles of dress worn by others, and standing ready to condemn everyone who did not exactly meet their ideas. A few condemned pictures, urging that they are prohibited by the second commandment, and that everything of this kind should be destroyed. 2SM 319.1

These one-idea men can see nothing except to press the one thing that presents itself to their minds. Years ago we had to meet this same spirit and work. Men arose claiming to have been sent with a message condemning pictures, and urging that every likeness of anything should be destroyed. They went to such lengths as even to condemn clocks which had figures, or “pictures,” upon them. 2SM 319.2

Now we read in the Bible of a good conscience; and there are not only good but bad consciences. There is a conscientiousness that will carry everything to extremes, and make Christian duties as burdensome as the Jews made the observance of the Sabbath. The rebuke which Jesus gave to the scribes and Pharisees applies to this class as well: “Ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God” (Luke 11:42). One fanatic, with his strong spirit and radical ideas, who will oppress the conscience of those who want to be right, will do great harm. The church needs to be purified from all such influences. 2SM 319.3

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Ellen G. White
The Acts of the Apostles, 411-6

“But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question. AA 411.1

“And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.” The two parties began to dispute between themselves, and thus the strength of their opposition against Paul was broken. “The scribes that were of the Pharisees’ part arose, and strove, saying, We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God.” AA 411.2

In the confusion that followed, the Sadducees were eagerly striving to gain possession of the apostle, that they might put him to death; and the Pharisees were as eager in striving to protect him. “The chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle.” AA 412.1

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