In our study of Acts chapter twenty four, we continue with Paul on his way to testify about Jesus in Rome. Here, he is put on trial in the city of Caesarea before the governor.
Five days later the high priest Ananias went down to Caesarea with some of the elders and a lawyer named Tertullus, and they brought their charges against Paul before the governor.
Five is the number of grace throughout the Bible and we are reminded of that grace in the fact that God rescued Paul from those that were going to kill him. Five days after he was sent to Caesarea, the religious rulers showed up with their prosecutor to present the case against Paul.
When Paul was called in, Tertullus presented his case before Felix: '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. But in order not to weary you further, I would request that you be kind enough to hear us briefly.'
The prosecutor begins his case against Paul not with any charges but with flattery to the governor. He really lays it on thick as he kisses up to the governor. He really knew that he didn't have a case against Paul but he was hoping for a guilty verdict as a favor. That is much the same way that Satan will use people to attack us as children of God. Usually, it will not be a direct attack but instead will be a distortion or distraction from the truth.
'We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect and even tried to desecrate the temple; so we seized him. But the commander, Lysias, came and with the use of much force snatched him from our hands and ordered his accusers to come before you.'
The prosecutor finally gets down to the charges that they are bringing against Paul. Really there are no specific charges only general accusations. He also tells Felix that they had the matter under control until the commander stepped in and that is why they are there. He doesn't really give any facts of the case and that is typically how the devil and his demons work.
'By examining him yourself you will be able to learn the truth about all of these charges we are bringing against him.' The Jews joined in the accusation, asserting that these things were true.
The prosecutor summed up his case against Paul and all of the Jews agreed with him. He tries to make it seem like even a child could see it in hopes of getting a quick agreement.
When the governor motioned for him to speak, Paul replied: 'I know that for a number of years you have been a judge over this nation; so I gladly make my defense.'
Now, Paul gets to defend himself against these false accusations. He starts by saying that he knows that Felix understands the Jewish customs and so he is glad to present his defense. Felix had been there for years dealing with Jewish matters and so would be qualified to make a reasonable ruling in the case.
'You can easily verify that no more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship. My accusers did not find me arguing with anyone at the temple, or stirring up a crowd in the synagogues or anywhere else in the city. And they cannot prove to you the charges they are now making against me.'
Paul continues by explaining that he only went to worship and that his accusers weren't even there to see what he was doing. They have no basis for their charges and cannot prove them. It is interesting to note that he says it was "no more than twelve days ago" that this happened. Twelve is the number of divine authority throughout the Bible and it reminds us that Paul is in front of Felix by the appointment and authority of God and so he has no need to worry.
'However, I admit that I worship the God of our fathers as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that agrees with the Law and is written in the Prophets,'
Paul continues by explaining that He is a follower of Jesus Christ which is in agreement with the Torah (Old Testament) which his accusers believed. Jesus said that He did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it and all of the Old Testament points to the coming of the Messiah who is Jesus, the Son of God.
and I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.
Paul explains that there is one hope and that is for the resurrection just as Jesus was raised from the dead. In light of that hope, he tried to live a life that would bring honor and glory to God. He gave practical advice on how we can all do this in Ephesians 4.
'After an absence of several years, I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings. I was ceremonially clean when they found me in the temple courts doing this. There was no crowd with me, nor was I involved in any disturbance.'
Now, Paul directly confronts the false charges. He points out that he was in complete agreement with the law (ceremonially clean) and was going to present offerings. He also adds that there was no crowd or disturbance.
'But there are some Jews from the province of Asia, who ought to be here before you and bring charges if they have anything against me.'
He continues to explain that, if anyone had a reason to present the charges it would be some Jews from Asia where he had done most of his work. They were not there in front of Felix just as they were not present before the Sanhedrin.
Or these who are here should state what crime they found in me when I stood before the Sanhedrin - unless it was this one thing I shouted as I stood in their presence: 'It is concerning the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today.'
Paul continues by sharing the fact that he was not found guilty of any crime when he was brought before the Sanhedrin. Then, he gives the real reason that he was put on trial again and that was because he preached the message of the resurrection.
Then Felix, who was well acquainted with the Way, adjourned the proceedings. 'When Lysias the commander comes,' he said, 'I will decide your case.' He ordered the centurion to keep Paul under guard but to give him some freedom and permit his friends to care of his needs.
So, after hearing both sides, Felix, whose name means "pleasure" and who was a cruel and immoral man, decides not to decide. He puts the decision off and holds Paul but gives him more freedoms than normal. Felix new about the Jewish laws and even he could see that Paul was not guilty but he still did not release him. We might ask why God would let His child suffer under arrest like that and the simple answer is that we see parts but God sees His whole plan and He knows what is truly best.
Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus.
Now, we see why God would allow this to happen and we see this immoral man about to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. This man was a politician and so would not have done the right thing unless there was something in it for himself. He came expecting a bribe but instead got a lesson on the coming judgment.
As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, 'That's enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.'
Paul told Felix about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment. That made Felix very uncomfortable and so he sent Paul away. Paul just boldly proclaimed the Word of God and allowed God to convict Felix about his lifestyle. Do you find that many around you are uncomfortable when you talk about the things of God? That is a good thing in that as we live and speak the things of God, He will convict their hearts and they may repent and be saved.
At the same time he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him.
Felix faced an internal conflict as the Word of the Lord convicted him and made him uncomfortable yet his greed made him seek a bribe from Paul. In seeking a bribe, he continued to call for Paul and hear the Word of God. Paul simply kept on faithfully sharing the Word. God can use all things for His purposes and, here, He even uses the greed of this immoral man so that Paul could share about Jesus. It is a reminder that we need to seek the "immoral men" around us and trust God to do His work in them through us. We also notice that Paul did not compromise his faith to build a relationship with Felix before sharing the gospel. In the same way, we are not to compromise and do the same things as the "immoral men" in hopes of winning them to Christ. We are to hold fast to our faith, be different, and faithfully share the truth of God's Word.
When two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, but because Felix wanted to grant a favor to the Jews, he left Paul in prison.
This went on for two years and still Felix did not accept Christ but he heard the gospel. Instead of doing the right thing, he then turned Paul over to his successor and he still remained in prison. We may ask how someone could do that to a man that they knew was innocent but in fact they did even worse when Jesus was crucified (He who knew no sin became sin so that we may have life). Paul who was innocent stayed in prison and preached the gospel to his captors so that they too may have life in Christ.