Summary: How should a believer respond when falsely accused? Paul's response to false accusations gives us a template for how to respond to such situations in our lives.
What to Do When Falsely Accused
February 18, 2018
NOTE: A PowerPoint presentation is available for this sermon by request at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TEXT: Turn to Acts 24
Have you ever been falsely accused? If so, I bet it was one of the hardest experiences you have ever gone through. We naturally shrink from criticism-even if justified or if an accusation is true. But when the charge is false, our natural sense of justice makes it almost unbearable.
In those situations, we can learn a lot from the Paul here in Acts 24. Here was one of God's choicest servants. He had been misunderstood and unappreciated by the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem. He was falsely accused by some unbelieving Jews as he exited the Temple. He was even the object of a case of mistaken identity with a notorious criminal. Everywhere Paul went in Jerusalem, he was misunderstood and falsely accused. Now, in Acts 24, he finds himself in a Roman court, defending himself from false charges made by the leaders of what amounted to the Jewish Supreme Court.
What should we do when we face a situation like Paul? Should we defend ourselves, or just lie down and take it? Or is there an even better way than these two extremes?
By examining Paul's response to these false charges against him, let's see three things we should do when falsely accused:
I. FIRST, LISTEN CAREFULLY TO YOUR ACCUSERS - Verses 1-8 - "And after five days Ananias the high priest descended with the elders, and with a certain orator named Tertullus, who informed the governor against Paul. 2 And when he was called forth, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying, 'Seeing that by thee we enjoy great quietness, and that very worthy deeds are done unto this nation by thy providence, 3 We accept it always, and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness. 4 Notwithstanding, that I be not further tedious unto thee, I pray thee that thou wouldest hear us of thy clemency a few words. 5 For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes: 6 Who also hath gone about to profane the temple: whom we took, and would have judged according to our law. 7 But the chief captain, Lysias, came upon us, and with great violence took him away out of our hands, 8 Commanding his accusers to come unto thee: by examining of whom thyself mayest take knowledge of all these things, whereof we accuse him.'"
Verse 1 says that the high priest, Ananias, came with the leaders of the Jewish Supreme Court to prosecute Paul before Felix, the governor of the region encompassing Israel.
They also brought along a man named Tertullus, what is called in the King James Version an "orator"-basically what we would call a prosecuting attorney today. And like many lawyers in his day, Tertullus was unscrupulous and open to the highest bidder, not caring if the charges he brought against Paul were true or not. He was also a Roman. Since the Jerusalem leaders wouldn't know Roman law well enough to argue their case themselves in a Roman court of law, Tertullus was hired to do it.
After some flowery introductory remarks in verses 2-4, Tertullus brought three charges against Paul in verses 5-6:
1) The first one was that Paul was a seditious troublemaker.
Tertullus calls him a pest, by which he meant that he was a threat to law and order, stirring up trouble. He also referred to him as a "mover of sedition among the Jews throughout the Roman Empire." A "mover of sedition" means he was a traitor against Rome, a serious political charge which, if proven, was enough to cause Paul to lose his head.
2) The second charge against Paul was that he was a ringleader of a new religious sect-the Nazarenes.
This was also a serious charge because it too had political overtones. WE know that Christianity was the outgrowth of Judaism, but Tertullus made it appear that it was a new religion altogether by using the word sect. Judaism was permitted as a religio licita [pron. re-LEE-jee-o lee-SEE-ta] (that is, a "permitted religion"), but no new religions were tolerated. If Tertullus could persuade the Roman authorities that Paul was a ringleader of a new religion, he was in big trouble.
3) The third charge was that Paul attempted to desecrate the Temple in Jerusalem. - This too had political repercussions for two reasons:
First, the Romans had given the Jews permission to execute any Gentile who went inside the barrier of the temple. - If Paul had done this, he would have not only violated Jewish law, but Roman law, also which made it a political problem given the tensions between the Romans and the Jews. Also, Paul's action, if true, started a riot, which broke the Roman peace.