About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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The Trial Before Felix (ch. 24:1 - 27)

Five days after Paul arrived in Caesarea Ananias the high priest and certain elders and a lawyer named Tertullus came to present their case.  Five days is not a long time for Paul to wait.  It would have taken at least two days for these men to travel the seventy miles from Jerusalem down to the coastal city of Caesarea.

We must remember that Paul is not a legal prisoner at this moment.  He has not even been charged as yet.  This is the reason for the meeting at hand. 

Tertullus is not a Jewish name.  Maybe the Jews needed a non-Jew to support their cause.  He opens his remarks by saying flattering things about Governor Felix.  Depending on how Felix thinks of these words would determine his response. Was this indeed flattery or respect for Felix on the behalf of Tertullus?  It could well have been pure flattery, but we know that all means would have been used to gain a positive audience with the governor.  I interpret this as flattery and not respect.

The lawyer says, "We have enjoyed a long period of peace under you, and your foresight has brought about reforms in this nation".  I doubt if Tertullus really believed what he was saying.  Any Jew or representative of the Jews would not have enjoyed the domination of any Roman governor.  I think this is pure flattery to get a positive response from Felix.   

Tertullus goes on to say that "we acknowledge this with profound gratitude".  This could either get his case on the right foot with Felix or cause problems in the very beginning, depending on how Felix interprets these words,   but what else could this lawyer say.  He had to acknowledge the governor in the best way possible without sounding overly flattering.

I doubt if Luke recorded all that Tertullus said.  I am sure there were more words spoken than what we read.  The main charge against Paul was that "he was a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world, as is seen in verse 5.  Of course, Paul was the center of many riots but he wasn't the initiator of them.  The riot that got Paul in trouble this time was actually started by the Jews, not Paul, and, like many riots, most of the rioters did not even know why they were rioting.   

The lawyer called Paul "a leader of the Nazarene sect and he even tried to desecrate the temple".  Of course, the reference to the Nazarene sect is to Jesus of Nazareth. The desecrating of the temple would be in reference to the assumption that Paul brought a Gentile into the temple during the ceremonial vow discharging of the four men we read about earlier.  This was never proved.  It was simply an assumption on the part of the Jews.

In verse 8 Tertullus simply tells Felix that they had brought Paul to him so he could hear the truth for himself.

Verse 9 tells us that the rest of the Jews joined in these assertions that were made by Tertullus. The rest of the Jews are in reference to Ananias and the elders that came from Jerusalem with Tertullus. 

Verse 10 begins Paulís defense once Felix gave him permission by motioning to him.  Paul begins his address by acknowledging that Felix has been a "judge over this nation for many years".  He uses no flattery as did Tertullus.  He only recognizes Felixís legal position and adds that he is glad to be able to defend himself before the governor. Paul is both respectful and to the point.

I'm sure Paul is very glad to have the chance to defend himself before a Roman governor because by doing so, he would preach the gospel to Felix.  This must have really thrilled Paul and confirmed for him that this was God's will as seen in the prophecy Ananias spoke to him at his conversion. 

The first part of Paulís defense as seen in verses 11 and 12 refers
to the charge of causing a riot.  He says 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 synagogue, or anywhere else in the city, and, they cannot prove to you the charge that they are making against me".  Paul denies that he started a riot, and he informs Felix that the Jews have no concrete proof for their charge against him.

We need to be clear about something here.  Paul at this point was defending himself before the Roman governor.  There is nothing unbiblical about defending yourself when you are in the right.  Christians aren't called to be wimps.  We're called to be strong, courageous, yet quiet in spirit.  As our western world continues to forsake the Biblical consensus it was built on, it becomes more anti-Christ in nature, and therefore causes conflict between society and Christians.  We must learn from Paul's experience.  Let's not be afraid to defend ourselves, whether on an individual level or a societal level. 

Concerning being a ring leader of the Nazarene sect Paul says in verse 14, "I admit that I worship the God of our fathers as a follower of the way, which they call a sect".  You see here that Paul claims that his God is indeed the God of the Jews.  By adding the point about being a follower of the way Paul is only giving further clarity to the God he worships.  In fact the God that Paul preaches is the God of the Old Testament, but also the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Paul continues by saying in verse 14 that he is in full agreement with the law and the prophets and that he tries to live his life with a clean conscience before God.  Of course, Paul would redefine the meaning of the Law of Moses since the cross, something that he does not explain here.  He and his accusers are in agreement concerning the importance of the Law of Moses as he is suggesting to Felix.  It is the application of the Law where he and the Jews differ.  At this point, that would most likely be way over Felix's head.

In verse 15 Paul also mentions the hope he has in the resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked, which he says is in agreement with those who accuse him, yet Paul knows that not all his accusers had this same hope as he suggests.  There is a good chance that only those agreeing with the Sadducees on this point came with Ananias.  Remember, the Sadducees did not believe in life after death, something the Pharisees did believe in. 

We don't know if the Pharisees, who do believe in the resurrection, came with Ananias or not.  You will remember that they were actually in agreement with Paul back in Jerusalem when the Sanhedrin interrogated him.  That event turned into a riot.   

Paul seemed to be saying that this is all about a religious matter.  It wasn't a legal matter, so there was no reason for him to be retained any longer.   

I noted back in Acts 21:17 that the Jews in Jerusalem welcomed Paul and those with him warmly.  I suggested that this warm welcome was due to the gift of money that Paul and his friends gave them, even though the text does not say it back in chapter 21, verse 17, and here in verse 17 that is made clear to have been the case.  Paul tells Felix just why he was in Jerusalem .  He says that the reason why he came was to bring gifts to the poor and to present offerings.  So there you go; Paul did bring gifts of money back in Acts 21:17.   He had not been in Jerusalem for many years prior to this point.

Concerning the offerings that are mentioned in verse 17, some interpret these offerings as being the gift of money that he presented to the elders in Jerusalem, but that is not the case.  Verse 18 clears this up when Paul says that he "was ceremonially clean when they found him in the temple".  He had to be ceremonially clean in order for him to participate in the closing down of the vows with the four men.

You might ask why Paul was making offerings in the temple when he didn't see the need to do so any longer.  It might well be that to the Jews he became like the Jews and to the Gentiles he became like the Gentiles.  We should not think this to be hypocritical.  Paul simply wanted nothing to come in the way from having the gospel accepted by all.  Paul believed that neither being circumcised nor not circumcised was no big deal.  He just didn't believe it was a matter of getting saved or staying saved.  Therefore, he could perform other duties in the Law of Moses in the same light.  He could perform these offerings or he could not perform them.  It was no big deal for him.       

Paul says that he was ceremonially clean when these Jews first found him in the temple.  He also says that he was not with a crowd of people.  We need to ask what Paul means by being "ceremonially clean".  He does not explain the details to Felix concerning the four men and the vows they took that Paul was paying for.  In order for Paul to participate in the closing of these four menís vows in the temple, he would have to go through a ceremonial cleansing process.  So, when the Jews found him in the temple, that is what he was doing.  He was doing nothing wrong.  In actuality he was doing things right according to the Law of Moses.  

In verse 19 Paul mentions to Felix that certain Asian Jews who had caused trouble for him in Asia, who were also in Jerusalem, should be there charging him, not the Sanhedrin, since the Sanhedrin werenít at the temple at the time in dispute.  His accusers should clearly state what crime he committed, not those in the Sanhedrin.  We clearly see here that Paul is defending himself.  Again, I say that there is nothing wrong with a Christian defending himself, whether in a court of law or anywhere else.    

Concerning these Asian Jews, they might well have followed Paul to Jerusalem in order to trap him in some kind of unlawful activity.  The only other possibility would be that these Jews were already in town for other reasons.  I would not be surprised if the Jews had actually followed Paul to Jerusalem.  They were that zealous and anxious to get rid of Paul.  That being said, it was the time of the spring feasts, so there would have been many visitors to Jerusalem from all parts of the Roman Empire .  

The only crime that Paul tells Felix that he could have possibly committed, as seen in verse 21, was "concerning the resurrection of the dead", which in fact he would say was no crime.  Paul again is stressing the importance of the resurrection, something that irritates immensely his Jewish accusers.  As far as Paul was concerned, that was the real reason why he was standing before Felix that day.

In verse 22 Felix adjourned the gathering until Lysias; the captain of the guard could come and participate.  Until then Paul was under guard, yet had a measure of freedom.  His friends could visit him.  They really could not imprison Paul since they had not yet charged him with anything.  You might call this a house arrest.  Remember, Lysias, the captain of the guards was the one who originally arrested Paul.  He needed to be at this trial.  

In verse 24 we learn a little more about Felix the governor.  He had a wife who was a Jew.  This is why he was so acquainted with the Jewish religion and the new Christian faith.  Drusilla was Felix's third wife and she was probably around twenty years old.  She was first married at the age of sixteen.  She was the daughter of Herod Agrippa the first and the sister of Herod the second.  The family of Herods were part Jew and thus the reason for Drusilla's understanding of religious matters.

In verse 25, out of curiosity, Felix called upon Paul to talk to him further about his faith.  This seemed to be off the record.  Luke was very specific in what Paul talked about.  Paul spoke about his faith in Christ Jesus.  Paul would have made it very clear that his faith was in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He also spoke to Felix about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come.  Concerning righteousness I can only guess what Paul would have said.  He might well have spoken directly to Felix about his unrighteous ways.  He then spoke about God's judgment.  Again, the exact things Paul said is unknown, but I can guess this judgment included both personal and national judgment.  At this point the Holy Spirit must have been speaking through Paul to convict the heart of Felix.  He was now afraid and asked Paul to leave. 

I'm sure Paul would have felt the presence of the Holy Spirit and I'm sure Paul would have seen the conviction that was taking place in Felix.  He was probably ecstatic since he was able to preach the gospel to a governor of the Roman Empire. 

We see that Luke records another reason why Felix would often call for Paul.  In verse 26 we see that Felix was hoping that Paul would bribe Felix.  That is to say, Felix was hoping that Paul would slip him a sum of money that would encourage him to free Paul.  That was not uncommon back then, but of course, Paul did not do that.  It appears that Felix felt the convicting power of the Spirit, yet ignored it. 

Because Felix was hoping for some financial gain from Paul some suggest that Paul was fairly well off at this point, but that is speculation.  Felix might have just thought that Paul had the money to pay for his release.  We don't actually know for sure if he had any money or how much money he had.   We do know that since Paul will appeal to Rome on his own will, he will have to pay for the trip.  The government would not have paid for it.  Besides Paul's expenses, those who went with him would have paid for their expenses as well.  My guess is that the believers helped in these expenses.        

In my estimation Paul is one of the most important men in Christian history and here we see him spending two years in house arrest in Caesarea for no valid reason.  I believe however, this was the will of God for Paul.  Ananias was told by the Lord to tell Paul at his conversion in Acts 9 that he would suffer greatly while serving Jesus.  This is what we see here, and, things won't get any better.   

It appears that Lysias, the captain of the guards, may have never come to Caesarea for a trial.  Paul was in limbo for two whole years, not knowing what would happen.  That is a long time to sit and wait, with the occasional opportunity to share the gospel with Felix, who was hoping for a bribe and not salvation.  The Roman Emperor Nero deposed Felix from his position as governor.  He was replaced by Porcius.  The normal practice back then when one governor was replaced by another was that the outgoing governor had the authority to let all his prisoners free.  This often took place, but this was not the case with Paul.  Felix did a favour to the Jews by keeping Paul under house arrest. 

 

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