GOSPEL PROCRASTINATION RESISTS ALL TESTIMONY TO GOD’S TRUTH
How ironic that the courts of human justice so often resist the testimony to God’s truth and thereby serve as a venue to subvert justice. This is exactly what we see happening as Paul’s trial progresses to the Roman court of the governor Felix in Caesarea. We might ask Who is really on trial in this context? For it is the convicting gospel truth courageously presented by Paul to Felix and his adulterous wife that will cause them to hide in fear and shame and guilt while Paul continues to minister with a clear conscience – despite the aggressive false charges against him.
There is much in this passage to learn about the danger of procrastination and delay in responding to gospel conviction. Where there is opportunity to embrace Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior – that opportunity must be seized. Otherwise your heart hardens and it becomes more difficult to turn from your sinful ways.
GOSPEL PROCRASTINATION RESISTS ALL TESTIMONY TO GOD’S TRUTH
I. (:1-9) UNJUSTLY CHARGED – STAGING AN OPPORTUNITY TO TESTIFY –
FELIX HOLDS COURT
A. (:1) Court Trial Initiated
“And after five days the high priest Ananias came down with some elders, with a certain attorney named Tertullus; and they brought charges to the governor against Paul.”
Lot of effort and attention devoted by the Jews to try to bring Paul down; couldn’t just let him alone; shows the effectiveness of Paul’s ministry
Role of professional lawyer like Tertullus has not changed all that much down thru the centuries; Jewish officials figured they needed someone with some clout that was familiar with Roman court proceedings who could make the case for them
Frank Allen: In the last chapter we left Paul at Caesarea in Herod’s palace. This was a fortress built upon a promontory extending into the sea the ruins of which still stand. The law provided that the trial of a Roman should take place as soon as possible. Therefore, within five days, as soon as word could be taken from Caesarea to Jerusalem and his accusers could return, Paul was tried before Felix the governor of Judea.
Jack Arnold: Felix Antonia was the Roman governor of Judea for five years and was the successor of Pontius Pilate. Felix was born a slave, but his brother Pallas, who was also a slave, became a favorite of Claudius Caesar, the Emperor of Rome. It is believed that Pallas was shown favor because he was a homosexual partner of Claudius Caesar, the emperor. Through Pallas, Felix was given the governorship of Judea. He was the first slave in history to become a governor of a Roman province. He was an absolute demagogue who abused his authority. He was ruthless, vile, greedy and totally unrestrained in his sexual behavior. It is interesting to note that in Latin Felix means “pleasure.” The Roman historian, Tacitus, said of Felix, “He wielded his kingly authority with the spirit of a slave, in all cruelty and lust.” He slaughtered any and all who were a threat to his rule for he was an insecure tyrant. He had been married three times to different princesses. We know little about his first wife. His second wife was the granddaughter of Anthony and Cleopatra. His third wife was Drucilla who had been the wife of the King of Emesa. Felix, a man never to deny his lustful passion, seduced Drucilla, committing adultery and then later married her. Felix was completely unscrupulous. He would rub out anyone who got in the way of his political ambitions. It was before such a wicked judge that the Apostle Paul was to appear. . .
Perhaps his name, Tertullus, which means “little Tertius,” tells us something about his character. Using your imagination, you can see him as a short, fat, cocky, feisty and pompous man, strutting around the courtroom trying to establish his case.
B. (:2-4) Conciliatory Opening Remarks
“And after Paul had been summoned, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying to the governor, ‘Since we have through you attained much peace, and since by your providence reforms are being carried out for this nation, we acknowledge this in every way and everywhere, most excellent Felix, with all thankfulness. But, that I may not weary you any further, I beg you to grant us, by your kindness, a brief hearing.’”
C. (:5-6a) Charges Specified – 4 Specific Charges
1. Cancer —
“For we have found this man a real pest”
You would think you would start out with your strongest charge; this is pretty lame; all this uproar just to exterminate a pest? Very general characterization before we get into the 3 more specific charges
Like a cancer or a plague – Luke 2:11 is other NT usage
Albert Barnes: This word is commonly applied to a plague, or pestilence; and then to a man who corrupts the morals of others, or who is turbulent, and an exciter of sedition. Our translation somewhat weakens the force of the original expression. Tertullus did not say that he was a pestilent fellow, but that he was the very pestilence itself. In this he referred to their belief, that he had been the cause of extensive disturbances everywhere among the Jews.
2. Political Agitator — Schism
“and a fellow who stirs up dissension among all the Jews throughout the world,”
Troublemaker – this is the main charge that would be of concern to the Roman government so Tertullus leads with this to try to make his case against Paul
Where is the evidence of this dissension? True the Pharisees and the Sadducees were just at each other over the issue of the resurrection; true that there was much disagreement about Jewish-Gentile relationships within the context of the church. But where is the harm to the Roman government? Paul is a self-proclaimed Apostle to the Gentiles. It is the Jews that are causing all the upheaval.
3. Ringleader — Sedition
“and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.”
Nazareth was well known as place of origin for Jesus; plus Nazarenes may have carried a negative connotation
Bock: A sect is a recognized group with identifiable beliefs. The term is used five other times in Acts (5:17 of the Sadducees; 15:5 of the Pharisees; 26:5 of the Pharisees; 28:22 of reports to Roman Jews about Christians. . . The implication is that Paul, as a violator of Jewish law, was disturbing the peace in a way that was socially disruptive, and the Romans did try to enforce public peace in Jewish regions. The lack of a direct danger to Rome, however, is evident. The most they could chare Paul with was being allegedly disruptive.
Jack Arnold: The second charge was that of a radical ringleader of a religious heresy. The word “sect” could mean “heresy.” Jews referred to early Christians as Nazarenes because they were followers of Jesus of Nazareth. The Jews were claiming that Christianity was an illegal religion not recognized by the Roman state. The Romans wanted no religious leader to come on the scene of history who would be a revolutionary since they had heard of the rumor of the Christians about a Messiah who would rule the world.
Albert Barnes: It is properly a military word, and denotes one who stands first in an army, a standard-bearer, a leader, or commander. The meaning is, that Paul had been so active, and so prominent in preaching the gospel, that he had been a leader, or the principal person, in extending the sect of the Nazarenes.
4. Desecrator — Sacrilege
“And he even tried to desecrate the temple;”
This charge had already been answered by Paul earlier. Would not get much traction from the government officials.
D. (:6b-8) Case Venue
1. (:6b-8) Prior Attempt to Pass Judgment
“and then we arrested him.
And we wanted to judge him according to our own Law.”
2. (:7-8) Present Opportunity to Pass Judgment
“But Lysias the commander came along, and with much violence took him out of our hands, ordering his accusers to come before you. And by examining him yourself concerning all these matters, you will be able to ascertain the things of which we accuse him.”
E. (:9) Corroboration by the Conspiring Jews
“And the Jews also joined in the attack, asserting that these things were so.”
II. (:10-21) UNJUSTLY CHARACTERIZED – SILENCING THE FALSE CLAIMS –
FELIX HEARS PAUL’S DEFENSE
A. (:10-13) Opening Argument
1. (:10) Addressing the Governor
“And when the governor had nodded for him to speak, Paul responded: ‘Knowing that for many years you have been a judge to this nation, I cheerfully make my defense,”
No sense of victimization or resentment on the part of Paul despite the unjust treatment.
Bock: The structure of his reply is that
– He did not make a disturbance (vv. 11-13),
– His relationship to the Way is not a violation of Judaism (vv. 14-16),
– There was no temple desecration (vv. 17-19),
– And there is no proof for the charges, as even the previous examination showed (vv. 20-21)
2. (:11-12) Appealing to His Blameless Public Behavior
“since you can take note of the fact that no more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship. And neither in the temple, nor in the synagogues, nor in the city itself did they find me carrying on a discussion with anyone or causing a riot.”
Appeals to very recent events which could easily be checked out and substantiated.
3. (:13) Asserting His Innocence of All Charges
“Nor can they prove to you the charges of which they now accuse me.”
As a Roman citizen, there need to be proven charges – not a mob lynching.
B. (:14-16) Objective Assessment of His Life and Ministry
1. (:14a) Follower of God’s Way
“But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers,”
We do have religious differences – but from some common traditions.
2. (:14b) Believer in God’s Word
“believing everything that is in accordance with the Law, and that is written in the Prophets;”
How upset can they be with someone who is so loyal to their own sacred scriptures?
3. (:15) Lover of the Resurrection
“having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.”
4. (:16) Preserver of a Blameless Conscience
“In view of this, I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men.”
C. (:17-21) Opposing Accusation Addressed
1. (:17-18a) Innocent Behavior
“Now after several years I came to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings; in which they found me occupied in the temple, having been purified, without any crowd or uproar.”
2. (:18b-21) Incendiary False Witnesses
“But there were certain Jews from Asia–who ought to have been present before you, and to make accusation, if they should have anything against me. Or else let these men themselves tell what misdeed they found when I stood before the Council, other than for this one statement which I shouted out while standing among them, ‘For the resurrection of the dead I am on trial before you today.’”
Frank Allen: He had manifested his love for his people by bringing a great gift of alms to them to aid them in their poverty. He had gone through the usual form of purification before he entered the temple and had aroused no tumult. Those Jews from Asia who did stir up the tumult ought to have been there to present their objections to his actions if there were any accusations which they could prove. The fact that they were not there was a reasonable assurance of his innocence.
Bruce: It may be that the Sanhedrin thought it best that the Asian Jews should not appear, as cross-examination would soon have revealed the hollowness of their charges, and a Roman judge would not look lightly upon people who wasted his time with unfounded accusations.
III. (:22-27) UNJUSTLY CONFINED – SPEAKING WORDS OF CONVICTION –
FELIX HIDES FROM THE TRUTH
A. (:22-23) Confined But Allowed Special Privileges and Visitors
1. (:22) Procrastination in Judgment
“But Felix, having a more exact knowledge about the Way, put them off, saying, ‘When Lysias the commander comes down, I will decide your case.’”
2. (:23) Privileges in Confinement
“And he gave orders to the centurion for him to be kept in custody and yet have some freedom, and not to prevent any of his friends from ministering to him.”
B. (:24-27) Confined But Allowed to Witness and Bring Conviction
1. (:24) Heard Paul’s Testimony
“But some days later, Felix arrived with Drusilla, his wife who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul, and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus.”
2. (:25) Hid From Paul’s Convicting Message
“And as he was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, ‘Go away for the present, and when I find time, I will summon you.’”
Frank Allen: He evidently fitted his message on that day to the need of the hour, for he probably knew that Felix had persuaded Drusilla to come to him from her husband Azizus, and that he was living with her in Caesarea in an adulterous relationship. Felix was not accustomed to hearing true, conscientious ministers, and it is not likely that he had any idea that Paul would talk of righteousness and purity and judgment to come. . .
He preached to Felix and Drusilla a most searching message. Felix was alarmed and terrified. He could not bear to hear Paul go on with his denunciation of sin. He felt that the application of the Gospel which Paul had made fitted him exactly, but he was not ready to yield. It meant a revolution of life and practice for him, the giving up the woman by his side and changing his method of conducting his office. The easiest way to get the matter off his mind for the present was to dismiss the messenger and this was what he did.
Bock: Felix found himself on the horns of a dilemma. He could not convict Paul, since Lysias the tribune had found no fault in him (23:29), nor had the Sanhedrin (23:9), nor had Tertullus been able to substantiate his charges. On the other hand, Felix was unwilling to release Paul, partly because he hoped for a bribe (26) and partly because he wanted to curry favor with the Jews (27). The only other option was to postpone his verdict on the pretext that he needed the tribune’s advice.
3. (:26) Hoped for a Bribe
“At the same time too, he was hoping that money would be given him by Paul; therefore he also used to send for him quite often and converse with him.”
Bock: The term [bribe] appeared earlier in Acts when Simon tried to offer money to Peter to gain the right to distribute the Spirit (8:18). Felix knows from Paul’s remarks about alms and offerings that Paul has access to large amounts of money, and he may assume that Paul can get more.
4. (:27) Held Paul Prisoner
“But after two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus; and wishing to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul imprisoned.”
Illustration: Dean’s argument (five year old grandson) about when he plans to put his trust in Jesus and submit to His authority … “the day He comes back.” When told that would be too late, after thinking for just a few seconds, he came up with the next best alternative: “the day before Jesus comes back.” Sadly that is too often the grievous error of natural man.