Acts Chapter Twenty-Four
PAUL'S TRIAL BEFORE FELIX
Introduction:In the last chapter we studied about Paul's escape from Jerusalem and his being brought to Caesarea where he is imprisoned by Felix the governor until his accusers could come up from Jerusalem. When the Sanhedrin heard of his imprisonment they immediately began planning the charges they would make against Paul and how they would go about making those charges. They planned well, but God through His trusted servants turned the table on them, and Paul, the prosecuted one, becomes the prosecutor, causing the Judge to tremble over what he hears. Let's study what brings it about.
The Delegation -- Vs. 1-9
Tertullus was a skilled orator whose address is full of deceit, flattery and lies. Note the flattery of Felix that he makes in verses 2 and 3. Yet Felix's deeds were infamous and that he ruled in a mean and cruel manner. He was never accepted by the Jews but was greatly hated. But the devil is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44. Jesus is the truth. John 14:6. So here we have God aligned against Satan, Paul against the Jews and Tertullus, lies against truth. Truth will ultimately prevail.
Tertullus accused Paul of three things:
- Sedition, saying that he was stirring up trouble all over the Empire. CF. Acts 21:27.
- Heresy, saying that he was teaching things which the Jews did not believe
- Profaning the Temple.
Now we read a sad note. In Verse 9 all the religious leaders said that these things were so. These men were religious but they did not have Christ, therefore, their sinful hearts were filled with murder. Their attitude and acts showed their religion was inadequate. Matthew 7:20; II Corinthians 5:17. Are we showing Christ to a lost world?
The Defense -- Vs. 10-21
The Romans believed in law and justice. Felix heard Tertullus give the Jews' side of the question but he was not going to condemn Paul until he heard his side. That's a good rule to follow. Too often we hear a person give his side of the story and immediately we rise up and condemn someone before hearing the other side. The wise person will hear both sides before making a decision.
Paul didn't lie. He did show Felix respect. He said, it's only been 12 days since I went up to Jerusalem. Certainly, Felix could get all the facts of what happened in that short time. Paul denied every charge and said that his accusers could not prove a single charge.
About the charge of heresy, Paul said in essence, "I do admit that I am a follower of Christ (vs. 14) but that doesn't mean I've forsaken God's way. I still believe in >all things written in the law and the prophets (the Old Testament)'." Paul was simply saying (vs. 14-16) "I believe these things as much as you do but I've gone a little farther." Judaism was the bud and Christianity was the full-blown flower. Judaism was the prophecy and Christianity was the fulfillment. Judaism was the promise -- "I am coming," and Christianity was the Presence -- "I am here."
Vs. 16 -- Paul says I'm living in such a way that my conscience is clear before God and men.
About the charge of profaning the Temple, Paul answers in Verse 17-20: "I came to worship and to bring offerings. I did nothing wrong in the Temple and the fact that my accusers are not here bespeaks the fact that they are afraid to face me here."
Paul then made one last statement concerning his faith. He believed in the resurrection and he said so. What a brave and courageous man was Paul! With these words Paul ended his speech of defense, he had answered every charge, he had become the prosecutor by charging them and proving them to be liars. His accusers were silent. So it is, if we will stand for truth, God will cause us to be victorious in our battle for right and Him.
The Deferment -- Vs. 22-23
Felix knew something of Christianity. He knew it didn't stir up trouble, so Tertullus' speech didn't fool him. He decided to go deeper into the case when Lysias could come and be heard. He deferred the case until a later date and let Paul, though kept and guarded, have many liberties.
There seemed to be two reasons for his not letting Paul go. One was that he didn't want to further antagonize these influential Jews. They could cause him to be recalled to Rome. Another reason was the love of money. Felix thought that by keeping Paul, someone would bribe him to let him go free. cf. Vs. 26 and 27. Both are poor reasons.
The Doctrines -- Vs. 24-25a
Drusilla had been married to another man and Felix had taken her from him. He had stolen another man's wife. One day they wanted to hear the great apostle Paul preach. They had heard of his power in preaching so they sent for him.
Paul preached. Note the theme:
- Righteousness of life which Felix did not have
- Temperance which he did not practice
- Judgement to come which he rightly feared.
He preached what preachers ought to preach. He said, "Here is your sin and here is what you ought to do about it."!
The Delay -- Vs. 25b
Felix trembled as well he might. Here the position is reversed and Felix, the judge, becomes Felix the prisoner; while Paul the prisoner, becomes Paul, the judge. We never read that this "convenient season" ever came. God says "Now is the accepted time." II Corinthians 6:2; Proverbs 1:24-31. What a fool Felix was to reject Christ.
The Detention -- Vs. 26-27
For two years Paul was kept a prisoner. No, God wasn't through with him but Paul needed a rest and now God gave it to him. God always looks out after our needs.
Conclusion: Paul's trial before Felix was one of the most outstanding ever held. From it we learn that God will see the truth and righteousness will prevail. God will win out in the end. Let's get on God's side, as Paul was, in this great struggle of right against wrong. Let's get on the winning side.