Summary: Exposition of the first half of Acts 24 regarding the first part of Paul’s trial before Felix in Caesarea
Text: Acts 24:1-21, Title: Defending Your Life, Date/Place: NRBC, 5/24/09, AM
A. Opening illustration: Read or quote Luke 21:12-19
B. Background to passage: Paul is now beginning his two year vacation in beautiful Caesarea. Having been there only five days, the Jews from Jerusalem arrive with their hired gun lawyer. And so we begin the defense of Paul’s life, for the Jews are out to make sure that Paul is dead.
C. Main thought: This morning we will look at the first two aspects of Paul’s trial before Felix
A. The Charges (v. 1-9)
1. Arriving in five days with a prosecution planned and a lawyer hired demonstrated their hurry and their seriousness, for the Jews rarely dealt the Roman courts, and even more rarely with an attorney. And after the usual flattery that was customary in the Roman courts, this lawyer began to make his case. They state the real issue first, not so much in the form of a charge, but rather a derogatory comment. The Gr. Word that they used means a pest, or a pestilence that affects the people. They really didn’t like Paul because he was infecting the people for Jesus Christ as Messiah. Now the actual charges—first, sedition. He was said to be one who creates dissention among Jews worldwide. This was the most serious charge against him, for the Romans were very serious about maintaining the Pax Romana. Secondly they charged him with being the leader of the Nazarenes. This was actually true, and later Paul admits to this, but this wasn’t a violation of Roman law, but of Jewish law. Thirdly was another violation of Jewish law, of which the Romans would care little about, that Paul profaned the temple. Bottom line is that they trumped up these charges because of Paul’s righteous life and preaching of the gospel of Christ.
3. Illustration: tell about one of the deputies being reminded that you will be unpopular, and just to keep on inviting, telling, sharing, and pointing even the unwilling to Christ, tell about the church in Biddeford that was simply known as “that church,” "All the world knows of the Christians who were flung to the lions or burned at the stake; but these were kindly deaths. Nero wrapped the Christians in pitch and set them alight, and used them as living torches to light his gardens. He sewed them into skins of wild animals and set his hunting dogs upon them to tear them to death. They were tortured on the rack; they were scraped with pincers; molten lead was poured hissing upon them; red hot brass plates were affixed to the tenderest parts of their bodies; eyes were torn out, parts of their bodies were cut off and roasted before their eyes; their hands and feet were burned while cold water was poured over them to lengthen the agony. These things are not pleasant to think about, but these are the things a man had to be prepared for, if he took his stand with Christ." “if we never experience persecution, ridicule, criticism or rejection, maybe we should examine the genuineness of our faith.”
4. Are you infectious to other around you for Jesus? Do places that you remain for a long time feel the influence of Christ? Are they transformed because of your persistent testimony? There are countries in this world in which genuine churches and believers are considered rebels and threats to society and government. Thank God that we are not that persecuted yet (or maybe not, the underground church in China does not pray for deliverance, but for grace and endurance under persecution), but know that those times are coming. We must prepare our hearts today for the suffering that will come tomorrow. Also know that grace will be provided in the same hour that we need it. Do those around you talk bad about you because of your stands for righteousness? Jesus also said that we are blessed when people trouble us or drive us away, or lie about us, or slander us, or insult us for righteousness sake. Many of us are not very blessed. We must ask the question as to why not? Shouldn’t we be bold enough to share the gospel so that we are persecuted? Where are the champions among us? No, wait, where are the Christ-followers, the disciples? What if we were known as a church that loved truth enough to not be ashamed, but boldly proclaim AND BOLDLY LIVE the truth? In discipline situations when we confront, don’t you think others will wince, and say that we are being harsh? Watched a Piper video this week, where he asked the elders to carry out discipline on his own son. Remember that Jesus takes it personally when His people are persecuted. So they really aren’t persecuting you, but Christ. So in school, work, family, neighborhood, if you are persecuted, and talked about for your stands and commitments, you are blessed!