Today’s passage tells us about Paul’s trial before the Roman Governor, Felix. Paul who the Jews planned to lynch was transferred from Jerusalem to Caesarea. In 23:30 the centurion wrote a letter to the governor saying, “When I was informed of a plot to be carried out against the man, I sent him to you at once. I also ordered his accusers to present to you their case against him.” “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.” (24:1) Today let’s look at three attitudes that Christians should have in every situation that we can learn from Paul as he faced the trial before the Governor Felix.
I. Even when abused, don’t abuse (vs. 2-9)
First let’s look at Tertullus’ case. “When Paul was called in, Tertullus (the lawyer of the Jews) presented his case before Felix.” (2) First he flattered Felix. He said to the Governor, “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.” (2, 3) This is just a flowery rhetoric. Tertullus doesn’t see Felix as such a person at all. In fact, in verse 27 Felix looses his post. This was due to a Jewish delegation’s complaint to the emperor about his ruthless suppression of a dispute between Jews and Gentiles in Caesarea. Tertullus didn’t like Felix at all. He was just trying to buy into Felix’s heart so that the trial would go well.
Tertullus gives his case in verses 5 and 6. Here he says that Paul has committed 3 sins.
1. Paul is “a trouble maker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world.” (5) The lawyer labels Paul a troublemaker. The word used for troublemaker literally means “plague-spot”. He means that Paul is like the source of a plague. If you leave him there, then it will spread through out the people like the plague. This is referring to the influence of the Gospel that Paul is preaching more than to the influence of Paul himself. That’s how much the words of the Gospel had penetrated and spread out among the people. One evangelist has this much influence. It makes us once again realize how much influence the Gospel has. It is like a mustard seed. When it is planted, it is a very small seed. However, when it grows it is bigger than other vegetables and it is big enough that birds make their nests there. (Matt. 13:31, 32) It spread out enough to stir up riots “all over the world.” (5)
Even so the word that Tertullus is using (plague-spot) is a cruel word to use. Terullus is trying to convince Felix and the court by giving the image that Paul is a really dangerous person.
2. Paul “is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect” (5) Tertullus used a contemptuous nickname for Christians, Nazarene and labels them a sect－no more than an unauthorized minority movement within Judaism. In other words Nazarenes was a sect that believed in the Nazarene Jesus as their Savior and the ringleader was Paul. The governor knew what such antiMessianic movements could cause fanatic political movements because he had to constantly deal with such civil uprisings from such movements. Therefore, Tertullus thought that by saying such Felix would think that he would have to do something.
3. Paul “even tried to desecrate the temple.” (6) This refers to events of 21:28 and 29. They thought that when Paul came into the temple. That he had brought the Gentile, Trophimus, in with him. That was their impression so they arrested him. However, this was not so in reality. It was just their assumption. They were wrong. Even so they accused Paul thinking that the Saducees who were affiliated with the temple also supported the Roman government so they thought by doing so the trial would go well for them.
Tertullus is again strongly charging that Paul is dangerous for the Romans and for the Jews both politically and religiously. For Paul who believed that he was living completely righteously before God and men, this accusation must have seemed so disagreeable to him. There are times that Christians who strive to live devoutly also have this type of agony. However, even if we are abused by being called “a plague spot” or gossiped about that we are “stirring up riots” or misunderstood as trying “to desecrate the temple”, there is no need to be disappointed
I Peter 2:19,20
Christ is so. He left an example so that we can follow in his footprints. Even if someone has to experience an unjust cruelty, even so God’s will is that he stifle that sorrow.
In other words, even if a person experiences an unjustified cruelty, he must ignore it. That is so that person will not hear the curse. Also that is because that person has also cursed others. It is important to “not be over wicked, and do not be a fool” (Eccles. 7:16) It is also important to not go to extremes. We need to remember that although we didn’t deserve it, by the grace of God, by the atonement of the cross, our sins are forgiven. We need to stand on that grace. When George Newton, the captain of a slave ship, experienced God’s amazing grace, he wrote the hymn, “Amazing grace”. We need to let that amazing grace penetrate deep within our hearts.
II, Prepare for the coming judgment (vs. 10-21)
Next let’s look at Paul’s defense. When Tertullus’ charge is finished, the governor motioned for Paul to give his defense. Paul spoke against each individual charge that Tertullus gave.
1. First of all Paul spoke against the accusation that he was stirring up riots. In verses 11 to 13 Paul says that if they looked into it that they would realize that he has not caused riots nor done anything to disrupt the peace in Jerusalem. In reality he had gone to Jerusalem to worship, not to cause a riot. It was the Jews who started the riot inside the temple. Also he had only been in Jerusalem for 12 days so he lacked opportunity to orchestrate a revolt.
2. The second defense is against the accusation that Paul was “a ringleader of the Nazarene sect.” (5) In verse 14 Paul says, “I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets.” Paul didn’t say whether or not he is the head of the Nazarene sect. He only said clearly that he was a member of the flock that believes in the Nazarene Jesus Christ. However, he explained that this flock, which from the Jewish eyes looked like a cult, was certainly not the teachings of a cult. Moreover, what the Jews were calling a cult, those following the way were actually following the way of people of the Old Testament. They are really following the way of the God of their fathers.
3. Then Paul deals with the accusation that he “tried to desecrate the temple.” in verses 17-21. He says that he definitely didn’t desecrate the temple. Rather he was following the teaching of the Jewish law and went to the temple to worship. He completely denies the Jewish accusations.
From the beginning this problem occurred purely over the Jewish doctrine of resurrection between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. If that is the case, it is strange that they would be disputing this in the Roman court.
By Paul’s defense the Jewish accusations were withdrawn. However, among Paul’s words there is one verse that we need to pay attention to. That is verse 16. Paul is saying in his defense that he always strives to keep his “conscience clear before God and man.” He had said this before in 23:1. The meaning of conscience can be found in Psalms 26:2.
When we look together with God at our heart, this is conscious. There are times when we deceive ourselves. We easily deceive others. However, even though we deceive others, God knows our hearts completely. Paul says that he has walked before God with a clear conscious. There are few people who can say that. There are people like the Jews who thought they were living righteously but in reality they were talking about God and wearing the jewelry of the law for their own satisfaction and own fulfillment. There are also those who like Felix who uses his position “hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe. Also “because Felix wanted to grant a favor with the Jews, he left Paul in prison.” (27) His heart was far from having a pure conscious. However, Paul before men and God walked faithfully. No matter who the other person is he insisted that what is right is right and what is wrong is wrong. He didn’t figure how he could benefit from it and walked correctly before the Lord. He was able to do this because he realized that there is another judgment. This is the judgment of verse 25, “the judgment to come”.
“The judgment to come” is the final judgment. a judgment that determines eternity. It is a judgment that we must all face. Paul knew this so he wanted to stand before God in his court with no shame and a clear conscious. Therefore, Paul is striving to do what is right. We too, for the judgment day, want to not fear, but have a life of joy, having no shame but a clear conscious before men and God.
III. Leave everything to the Lord. (vs. 22 & 23)
Lastly let’s look at the result of the trial. Even though Paul gave his defense, Felix did not give a judgment , but ordered Paul to be kept until Lysias the commander comes. Luke gives two reasons that Felix delays his verdict; his thorough acquaintance with Christianity and his desire to hear the testimony of Claudius Lycias, the only independent witness to any civil disturbances. Felix knew “the Way,” the opposition to it from the Jewish leaders-and increasingly from the people-and the potential for civil unrest that its very presence seemed to create.
According to verse 27 Paul was there 2 years. Even though Paul was given a lot of freedom, it must have been very hard to wait considering his determination to goto Rome. However, during these 2 years he wrote Ephesians, Phillipians, Colosians, and Philemon. In our lives this happens a lot. Things don’t seem to be moving in our lives, but we are being led the best way. Therefore we need to leave all to the hands of God who controls and leads us.
There is “a time” in all that God does. We don’t know when things will happen, but God is leading us in his plan for our lives. Therefore we need to believe the promises of God’s word and even though it may not be now, believe that God will lead us. Let’s have hope in this. Let’s have hope in God’s time.