Summary: Paul presents not just a defense but a clear testimony of the Gospel to Felix, who fell conviction but falls prey to procrastination.
Today we are continuing through our series through the book of Acts. A few weeks ago we looked at the story of Paul returning to Jerusalem. This was a goal of his life, he wanted to go there to share the gospel with his people. But when he got there he was mis-judged, falsely accused and arrested. Paul tries to take advantage of this opportunity to share his testimony, but they cut him off. It was his best chance to share the gospel with them, he took it and they refused to listen. There are many lessons we can take from this. The first is that sometimes the best way we can share the gospel with someone is to tell them what God is doing in our lives. Next, even if we share it doesn’t mean that they will listen. We can’t make them listen all we can do is take the opportunities that God gives us and trust that His word will never come back void. Finally, in life we will face difficulty. God didn’t promise us a life with out it, but what He does promise us is the same thing that He did for Paul, He was with Paul through the trials that He faced and He will be with us through whatever life will throw at us as well. The next day the Roman soldiers bring Paul back to the Sanhedrin and have him placed on trial, Paul has a night to prepare so he takes the time to ready a defense that he thinks will again give him a chance to share the gospel. But they won’t listen to him. But in the riot and chaos that ensues he is able to show his true character. He is able to show grace under fire. Despite and early mistake, Paul gives a shows the discipline and humility to apologize and give a proper response. In a situation that could have resulted in his death, Paul instead is able to survive and go to a new venue. Then even though he has desired to preach in Jerusalem, he is willing to follow God, when God tells him that he must go to Rome and preach there as well.
I. The Accusations
So now we come to chapter 24, Paul is with the local Roman governor Felix and once again he is on trial. It is going to be the religious leaders verse Paul in a neutral court. Here is what is interesting, despite the fact that they were supposed to be on God’s side, despite the fact that their accusations were based on misjudgments made about Paul the religious leaders came prepared to win their case. It wasn’t about the truth it was about winning. We read that five days have passed and the high priest Ananias, in case you’ve forgotten he and Paul weren’t exactly on the best of terms, Ananias comes down to Caesarea with some elders and they took with them a lawyer. Ananias believed in stacking the deck he was willing to have Paul put on trial when he was the judge he had already made up his mind about Paul’s guilt, now when it’s a supposedly fair trial he brings not just a team to make his case, but a hired gun to try and ensure that he gets the verdict he wants.
So Tertullus, the lawyer, begins by complementing Felix, the governor. Look at verse 2, “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.” It sounds so nice doesn’t it? But the goal was to manipulate Felix into doing what they wanted done. Look at the words, “a long period of peace.” What was the crux of their argument in so far, and what was to come. Paul is causing unrest and unless you put him down, there will be no peace. So he sets the stage by saying, Felix we know you want peace that’s what we admire most about you. It is almost pure manipulation.
Then he presented the facts as he saw them, but it was really a mix of slander and insults. Verse 5, “We have found this man to be a trouble maker.” The words are loimon, it means “Pest” or “Plague”. In other words this man is a disease that infects the people, he is a cancer among us and also kinounta staseis which means agitator. Because of what he had done in the temple, of course you remember that what he had really done was participate in the proper cleansing rituals to go into the temple along with four other men and also pay the expenses for all of them all to show respect for the temple. He had done the exact opposite of what they said, but that didn’t stop them from slandering him anyways. They had an agenda, why let the truth get in the way of what they wanted to do.