Scriptures

Acts 24

Introduction

“Five days later the high priest Ananias went down to Caesarea with some of the elders and a lawyer named Tertullus, and they brought their charges against Paul before the governor. When Paul was called in, Tertullus presented his case before Felix: “We have enjoyed a long period of peace under you, and your foresight has brought about reforms in this nation. Everywhere and in every way, most excellent Felix, we acknowledge this with profound gratitude. But in order not to weary you further, I would request that you be kind enough to hear us briefly.” Acts 24:1-4

Paul’s Trial Before Felix

The apostle Paul’s life was being threatened almost every day, he’s been past from pillar to post by the authorities. And although he had times in his life when he thought he would never fulfil his life time ambition to go to the greatest nation in the world at that time to preach the Gospel.

He never lost his grip of the truth, he understood that pain and suffering doesn’t mean that God has left him. Paul learned that God was one step ahead of the game concerning his life and when God said to him you’re going to Rome to preach, he understood that God stands by His promises.

In the previous chapter we left the apostle Paul in Governor Felix’s palace under guard until the Jews arrived to present their case against him, but as we read here, the Jews didn’t come alone, they came fully prepared, and to such an extent, they had a very smart lawyer with them.

Luke tells us after five days, the high priest, elders and a lawyer, presented themselves before the governor to bring a formal charge against Paul. I said this lawyer was smart and he is, notice in the text the way Tertullus begins talking to Felix.

He uses flattery with Felix or what we would say, he sweetens him up by telling him how wonderful he is. He refers to the peace that Felix had brought to the land under Roman authority.

And like all smart lawyers who want people on their side, he doesn’t mention a thing about the fact that the governor had been responsible for the murder of the high priest, Jonathan, Psalm 5:9.

Tertullus is very clever in choosing in words to get Felix on side, even to the point where he tells Felix that he will state his case briefly, so he doesn’t take too much of his time. And so he presents his case before Felix.

“We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect and even tried to desecrate the temple; so we seized him. By examining him yourself you will be able to learn the truth about all these charges we are bringing against him.” The Jews joined in the accusation, asserting that these things were true.” Acts 24:5-9

Basically he accused Paul of four things.

1. They accused him of being a troublemaker.

2. They accused him of stirring up rebellion among the Jews throughout the world.

3. They accused him of being a ringleader of the Nazarene party among the Jews.

4. They accused him of trying to desecrate the temple.

And so after hearing all the accusations the lawyer urges Felix to ‘examine’ Paul. What does that mean? No one really knows but one commentator suggests that examining Paul meant scourging him. In other words, they wanted Felix to beat the truth out of him.

Notice also how clever this lawyer is, he doesn’t even mention anything about Paul’s Roman citizenship which meant if they scourge him at this point, Felix would be guilty of breaking the Roman law.

He is very selective with the truth. And so the onslaught against Paul continues, but isn’t this just amazing how far people will go to get rid of someone they don’t like?

People who are very selective with the truth, will do anything and say anything to discredit someone. They will go to any lengths to get someone out of the way, especially if you say something against their traditions and practices.

Especially if you say something which effects their comfort zones. These people are happy with their traditions and practices, they are comfortable in their beliefs. And now this guy named Paul from Tarsus comes along and basically starts rocking their boat a bit.

The truth will always rock our boat, especially if we don’t want to hear it. These religious leaders didn’t want to hear the truth because the truth hurt them.

And so while all these accusations were being presented to Felix our dear friends the high priest and elders affirmed the truthfulness of the case presented by their lawyer.

But just like in any courtroom session, the judge needs to hear both sides of the story. So Luke continues and tells us about Paul’s defence.

“When the governor motioned for him to speak, Paul replied: “I know that for a number of years you have been a judge over this nation; so I gladly make my defence. You can easily verify that no more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship. My accusers did not find me arguing with anyone at the temple or stirring up a crowd in the synagogues or anywhere else in the city. And they cannot prove to you the charges they are now making against me.” Acts 24:10-13

Remember, even today in our courtrooms no one is allowed to speak unless the judge says so. And so as Felix was the judge on this occasion Paul waited to get permission to speak from him before he began his defence.

And Paul begun his defence by saying that it was a pleasure to be able to state his case before a person who had years of experience in judging on matters involving the Jews.

Remember that the first accusation against Paul was they accused him of being a troublemaker. In defence of that Paul basically says, he had only been back in Judea for 12 days, with the last 5 of those being spent in custody. In other words, Paul would be hard pushed to be a trouble maker in such a short space of time.

He said they didn’t find him in the temple either disputing with others or stirring up the crowd. And so against the accusation of being a rebel against Rome, Paul basically says, he wouldn’t have had time for that and not only that there is absolutely no proof of that either.

Paul also said they couldn’t prove their charge of trying to desecrate the temple either. Paul was telling the truth and as we are about to read, he’s going continue to tell the truth, even though he knows his accusers won’t like it.

“However, I admit that I worship the God of our fathers as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that agrees with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, and I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.” Acts 24:14-16

When they accused him of being a ringleader of the Nazarene party among the Jews. Paul didn’t hide the fact that he did worship God according to the Way, which his Jewish accusers called a sect. And so, if Paul was going to plead guilty to anything, he pleaded guilty to worshipping the God of the Jewish fathers.

He pleaded guilty to believing all that was written in the Law of Moses and the prophets. He readily admitted that he based his hope in God, as his accusers also did, who would raise both the righteous and wicked from the dead. And so because of that belief, Paul said he tried to live as his conscience directed, so he would not offend God or man.

Paul gave them a reason for his hope, he was gentle in his approach, he showed them respect with his words, and he kept a clear conscience as these people were speaking maliciously against him, 1 Peter 3:15-16. Because that’s what speaking the truth does, the truth has nothing to hide. Truth exposes falsehood and like we said some people don’t like that.

God sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for us and spill His blood for us so that we can be free from a guilty conscience, Hebrews 10:19-23. A person doesn’t feel guilty when they have done nothing wrong, it’s only when their conscience is pricked does the guilt come along.

Paul did nothing wrong, that’s why he had a clear conscience. He lived his live to please God, that’s why he had a clear conscience. He’s didn’t rely on himself for it; he relied on the blood of Christ for a clear conscience.

But Paul also understood that a clear conscience didn’t make him innocent of sin, 1 Corinthians 4:4. Paul was clear in his mind about who he was and what he was.

“After an absence of several years, I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings. I was ceremonially clean when they found me in the temple courts doing this. There was no crowd with me, nor was I involved in any disturbance.” Acts 24:17-18

After some five years in other parts of the world, Paul had returned to Jerusalem with a gift for the needy of the Jewish nation. And he says in his defence that he didn’t defile the temple, they found him there after he had completed his vow of purification which again we know as being true.

“But there are some Jews from the province of Asia, who ought to be here before you and bring charges if they have anything against me. Or these who are here should state what crime they found in me when I stood before the Sanhedrin- unless it was this one thing I shouted as I stood in their presence: ‘It is concerning the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today.'” Acts 24:19-21

Paul suggested that there were some Asian Jews who brought the original charges against him and stirred up the mob. He says the very ones who provided the bullets in the first place, they should have been present to contest the facts which he presented. They are long gone, they simply passed on the bullets for someone else to fire.

These people who are firing are far from innocent, but they weren’t the ones who originally begun this plot to get rid of Paul. And so Paul exposed what the real accusation was all about, he got to the point even when they wouldn’t.

He even invited those Sadducean accusers who were present to step forward and show the error in his one statement before the Sanhedrin, ‘concerning the resurrection of the dead I am being judged by you this day’. Paul knew exactly why he was there, even know they wouldn’t admit it.

God sent the prophets with a message to His people but they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third, they shot the messengers. God sent His Son with a message for His people but they killed him, they shot the messenger, Matthew 21:33-39.

They stoned Stephen to death, they shot the messenger, they put James to death with the sword, they shot the messenger. Tradition says that Peter was crucified, upside-down on an x-shaped cross, in Rome, they shot the messenger. The Apostle Paul was tortured and then beheaded by the evil Emperor Nero at Rome in A.D. 67, they shot the messenger.

We today are God’s messengers, Matthew 28:19-20, and we too should not be surprised if people want to shoot us too. But before we give them a chance to do that, just remind them, ‘not to shoot the messenger’, we’re only telling them what the God Himself says they need to know.

“Then Felix, who was well acquainted with the Way, adjourned the proceedings. “ When Lysias the commander comes,” he said, “I will decide your case.” He ordered the centurion to keep Paul under guard but to give him some freedom and permit his friends to take care of his needs.” Acts 24:22-23

People say that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing but in this case we could safely say that a little knowledge can win the day. Luke tells Theophilus that Felix had a fairly good knowledge of the Way, but just how did he get that knowledge?

If we remember, Philip and his four daughters lived in Caesarea and Cornelius had been converted while he was living in the same city, so it is possible he had some information about this new religion called Christianity through them.

But like any ruler or judge, rather than judging the proceedings immediately, Felix delayed judgment until Lysias came to give his testimony.

We may think that this was good of Felix to allow all the testimonies to be heard first before making any judgment but there is a strong possibility that he was merely delaying the situation in the hope of receiving a bribe from the Christians.

But one thing we do know for sure, is that Felix directed the centurion in charge of Paul to grant him basic freedom to be with his friends and have someone attend to his needs.

Before we make any judgments about anyone or any situation we first need to know all the facts, otherwise we’re nothing less than gossips, Proverbs 18:8.

“Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” At the same time he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him. When two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, but because Felix wanted to grant a favour to the Jews, he left Paul in prison.” Acts 24:24-27

When Felix returned to Caesarea with his third wife Drusilla, who was one of the three daughters of Herod Agrippa I, he called for Paul to come tell him more about ‘the faith in Christ.’

And so like all of us should be able to do, Paul was ready to give the reason for the hope that he had in Christ Jesus. And so he presented the case for righteous living and judgment, along with consideration of the importance of self-control in such living.

Luke records that Paul also warned of the coming judgment, in which every man will be judged based upon his works. And that discussion terrified Felix and moved him to send Paul away, saying he would call for him again at a more convenient time. Now no-one knows if that time ever came.

Historians do tell us that after Felix’ removal from office, Drusilla and their son, Agrippa, perished in the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79. Jewish historians also tell us that Felix did call for Paul to come and converse with him often, secretly hoping to receive a bribe to release him.

But it seems from our text that after two years of waiting, Felix was relieved by Festus but Felix left Paul in prison in an effort to earn some special favour from the Jews.

Go To Acts 25

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."

Philippians 4:8

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