In chapter 23 we left Paul in a Caesarean jail after having committed no crime.
Then Paul took the men, and the next day, having been purified with them, entered the temple to announce the expiration of the days of purification, at which time an offering should be made for each one of them. Now when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him, crying out, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, the law, and this place; and furthermore he also brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” (For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.) And all the city was disturbed; and the people ran together, seized Paul, and dragged him out of the temple; and immediately the doors were shut. ~Acts 21:26-30
Paul had done nothing to stir up the crowd, in fact he was minding his own business. Yet here we see the Jews so determined to convict Paul that they bring in the high priest Ananias, the elders, and a lawyer named Tertullus. And they gather these together in five short days to present their case to Felix the Governor, as we’ll see.
The Jews Present Their Case
Ch. 24, Vs 1-4 Now after five days Ananias the high priest came down with the elders and a certain orator named Tertullus. These gave evidence to the governor against Paul. And when he was called upon, Tertullus began his accusation, saying: “Seeing that through you we enjoy great peace, and prosperity is being brought to this nation by your foresight, we accept it always and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness. Nevertheless, not to be tedious to you any further, I beg you to hear, by your courtesy, a few words from us.”
Immediately, Tertullus (the lawyer) begins by heavily flattering Governor Felix. He really lays it on thick, hoping to sweet talk a conviction out of him against Paul.
“We enjoy great peace” – In fact, under Felix, they did not enjoy peace and Felix was pulled from office in A.D. 60 because he hadn’t dealt well with a dispute between Jews and Gentiles right here in Caesarea.
“Prosperity is being brought to this nation by your foresight” – “In reality he [Felix] had put down several insurrections with such barbarous brutality that he earned for himself the horror, not the thanks, of the Jewish population.” (Stott)
He goes on to say that Felix is “most noble” and that the Jews “accept it always and in all places… with all thankfulness”. – In fact “Tacitus, the Roman historian, describes Felix as ‘a master of cruelty and lust who exercised the powers of a king with the spirit of a slave’ (Historiae 5.9, cited in Longnecker)” from David Guzik.
The point here is that all our lives, people will try to convince us to do one thing or another with flattery.
For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. ~ Romans 16:18
These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage. ~ Jude 1:16
Sometimes these folks have good intentions, other times they do not. It’s not always obvious to us if they have the best intent, or if they intend for evil. While only The Lord knows their heart, we can guard against flattery by remaining humble, testing their words against what the Bible says, and guarding our own heart!
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. ~1 John 4:1
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. ~James 4:10
But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness—God is witness. ~1 Thessalonians 2:4-5
Tertullus continues to present his case:
Vs 5-9 “For we have found this man a plague, a creator of dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. He even tried to profane the temple, and we seized him, and wanted to judge him according to our law. But the commander Lysias came by and with great violence took him out of our hands, commanding his accusers to come to you. By examining him yourself you may ascertain all these things of which we accuse him.” And the Jews also assented, maintaining that these things were so.
Tertullus accuses Paul of creating trouble among the Jews and profaning the temple (by allowing a Gentile -Trophimus- to enter with him.)
Paul Defends Himself Cheerfully!
Vs 10-14 Then Paul, after the governor had nodded to him to speak, answered: “Inasmuch as I know that you have been for many years a judge of this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself, because you may ascertain that it is no more than twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem to worship. And they neither found me in the temple disputing with anyone nor inciting the crowd, either in the synagogues or in the city. Nor can they prove the things of which they now accuse me. But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets.
Notice a few things about Paul’s defense:
1) Paul responds “cheerfully”! Paul knows he did nothing wrong, and he knows that he has the Creator of the universe on his side.
But let the righteous be glad; Let them rejoice before God; Yes, let them rejoice exceedingly. ~Psalm 68:3
(Paul has been made “righteous” by faith in Jesus so he can be joyful and glad in this situation.)
The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? The LORD is for me among those who help me; Therefore I shall see my desire on those who hate me. It is better to trust in the LORD Than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the LORD Than to put confidence in princes. ~Psalm 118:6-9
(With God on Paul’s side, Felix can only do what God allows.)
Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ ~Isaiah 41:10
(When God is with us, we are told not to fear. I love that! I needed that today.)
2) Paul doesn’t try to flatter Governor Felix at all. If he did flatter Felix, wouldn’t this seem to reveal a lack of faith? As if God can’t work on Felix’s heart with facts alone, but He needs Paul to massage the message with pretty words. No, Paul is simply laying out his defense by telling the facts.
3) Paul is not ashamed or afraid to admit that he worships God “according to the Way”. Tertullus had accused Paul of being “a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes” (the “sect” being called The Way). We’ve discussed “The Way” before, it’s simply the name given at that time for Christianity (or those who follow the Gospel). The word “gospel” means “good news”, and Paul was not afraid to tell the good news that Jesus came and died for all of us, and that those who believe in Him can have eternal life.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” ~Acts 16:30-31
The Saved and the Unsaved Will Both Be Resurrected
Vs 15-21 “I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men. Now after many years I came to bring alms and offerings to my nation, in the midst of which some Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with a mob nor with tumult. They ought to have been here before you to object if they had anything against me. Or else let those who are here themselves say if they found any wrongdoing in me while I stood before the council, unless it is for this one statement which I cried out, standing among them, ‘Concerning the resurrection of the dead I am being judged by you this day.’ ”
Paul reminds them that there will be a “resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust”. This means that both will rise from the dead: those who are just -“justified by Christ”- will be resurrected to eternal life, and the unsaved, or “unjust” will be resurrected to eternal death.
“There shall be a resurrection of the dead, the dead bodies of men, of all men from the beginning to the end of time. It is certain, not only that the soul does not die with the body, but that the body itself shall live again; we have not only another life to live when our present life is at an end, but there is to be another world, which shall commence when this world is at an end, into which all the children of men must enter at once by a resurrection from the dead, as they entered into this, one after another, by their birth. It shall be a resurrection both of the just and of the unjust, the sanctified and the unsanctified, of those that did well, and to them our Saviour has told us that it will be a resurrection of life; and of those that did evil, and to them that it will be a resurrection of condemnation….The just shall rise by virtue of their union with Christ as their head; the unjust shall rise by virtue of Christ’s dominion over them as their Judge.”
This is supported in both the Old and the New Testaments:
And come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. ~John 5:29
And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. ~Daniel 12:2
No Decision Is, In Fact, A Decision
Vs 22-27 But when Felix heard these things, having more accurate knowledge of the Way, he adjourned the proceedings and said, “When Lysias the commander comes down, I will make a decision on your case.” So he commanded the centurion to keep Paul and to let him have liberty, and told him not to forbid any of his friends to provide for or visit him.
And after some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, “Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.” Meanwhile he also hoped that money would be given him by Paul, that he might release him. Therefore he sent for him more often and conversed with him. But after two years Porcius Festus succeeded Felix; and Felix, wanting to do the Jews a favor, left Paul bound.
Here we actually see Felix postpone two decisions and thereby in effect, he makes two choices:
The first choice he makes is when Governor Felix postpones a decision on Paul’s fate hoping that he can let him go when Paul offers him a bribe. By doing so, Felix decides to leave Paul in prison for two years.
Felix’s second choice was to avoid a decision to accept the free gift of salvation, mercy, and grace offered through Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Scripture tells us “Felix was afraid”. That is often the case with folks that can’t decide – they are afraid. What was Felix afraid of? Fear of commitment, fear of what God may ask, fear of losing his old lifestyle (debauchery), fear of loss of social status among his friends, or fear of losing his financial status? We don’t know. But fear held him back.
From Guzik: “Many respond to the gospel in this way; they express their rejection through delay, by procrastinating their decision to commit to Jesus Christ – but it is rejection none the less.
For He says: “In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
~2 Corinthians 6:2
Now is the time. Now is the day. Make up your mind.
Other great resources: