Devotional # 67. 12/30/13. Paul’s Defense to Felix.
This week’s Reading: Acts 24:1-27.
Introduction. The last few weeks we focused on Christmas but this week we’re back to Acts. Do you remember from Acts 23 we left Paul at the Praetorium? There was a plot to assassinate Paul but Lysias (the commander) had him moved and escorted to Felix (the superior officer) for a hearing. Now we hear Paul’s defense in front of Felix.
vv. 1-9. The religious leaders hire an attorney, put together their case and travel to Caesarea quickly. Tertullus was the attorney (“orator”) (Source 1) who first buttered up Felix by telling him how great of a ruler he was (verses 2-3). Then he brings false accusations against Paul: 1. That he is a trouble maker to Jews worldwide, 2. A leader of the Nazarene sect, and 3. That he tried to desecrate the temple. They even say that they were about to judge him by their law until Lysias violently took Paul away from them. What’s funny is that Lysias had to rescue Paul because the Jews were too violent!
vv. 10-16. Once Paul is given permission to speak he says Felix has served as a “judge” for many years. Unlike Tertullus’ flattery, Paul was reminding Felix that he knew their customs and laws and so Felix should be compelled to be honest and fair with his decision (Source 1). Then Paul addresses the false accusations that the Jews brought against him. 1. Verses 11-12: Paul gives a specific time (“eleven days”) that can be looked into by Felix for how long he had been in Jerusalem. This also showed that Paul hadn’t spent all of his time trying to rile up the town since he had just arrived. Furthermore when he was in the temple he was peacefully fulfilling his vow (see Acts 21:26-29, Devotional 61) and when he was in the street he was just hanging out. Verse 13: Before he moves to point #2 he tells Felix that the Jews can’t back up any of their accusations. 2. Verse 14-16: Paul explains that he worships the God of the Jews, adheres to everything in the Old Testament (“the Law and the Prophets”) and believes in the resurrection. Interestingly he never mentions Jesus (he will later). It isn’t that he’s scared of offending anyone but he is proving that this isn’t a sect from Judaism but it is the proper continuation of Judaism. Jesus said that He didn’t come to get rid of the Law and the Prophets but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17). Paul honestly explains that he has never purposefully tried to offend God or men. Even when Paul was imprisoning and killing Christians he thought he was doing God’s will. And once he was converted, he did do God’s will. If the issue is that they think he is intentionally offending them, that isn’t the case. The reality of it is that God has told him what to do, how can he disobey?
vv. 17-21. Paul masterfully handles the Jews third point and tells Felix another reason he thinks he might be on trial. 3. They said he tried to desecrate the temple but Paul explains 1. he came to Jerusalem to give money for the needy in Jerusalem (Romans 15:25-27; 1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8, 9). And 2. That he wanted to fulfill his vow of purification. The Jews had assumed that he brought a Gentile into the temple (which we talked about in Acts 21:29, Devotional 61) but he did not. He explains that the Jews found him peacefully keeping his vow and if they had a problem with that then they should have gone to Felix at that time, but they hadn’t. So Paul said there was one other possibility: they hate him for saying that he believed in “resurrection from the dead.”
vv. 22-23. Although Felix has some information about “the Way” (this was the early name for Christians, first mentioned in Acts 19:9, 23) he decided to postpone Paul’s trial. It is assumed that he had heard about “the Way” from his Jewish wife (Source 1). Although none of the Jewish witnesses showed up and Paul is definitely not guilty of these charges, Felix won’t let him go. Felix says he needs to talk with Lysias which will postpone the trial (Source 1). His job was to keep peace and he felt this was the best way: taking a citizen’s right to shut up a group of religious hypocrites. However, it must be noted that it was nice of Felix to allow Paul’s friends to visit him.
vv. 24-27. After some time Felix and his wife Drusilla go to hear Paul speak. Paul chiefly spoke to them about “faith in Christ.” I have to believe Paul knew he was getting pulled out to entertain but he knew his responsibility and eagerly share the gospel with whoever would listen. As the conversation turned to other spiritual matters like “righteousness, self-control and” the day of judgment, it made Felix nervous and he cut the conversation short. That kind of reaction, in my mind, can only mean one thing, that Felix felt convicted; knowing the way he should be living but willingly disobeying. Also Felix was hoping that Paul would gather some money and pay him to release Paul. But Paul didn’t care about being imprisoned and he certainly wasn’t going to waste money on an early release from prison. Obviously Paul could have asked the church but he sat there for two years and never asked!
Conclusion: Although we haven’t talked much about how these stories relate to your personal life I trust that the Lord will speak to you as you read through this chapter. I am impressed with the anger and passion that the Jewish religious leaders pursued Paul with. It is pathetic how the world hunts us, as their master, Satan leads from a blind and impossible plan: that he can one day conquer God. I am also impressed by Paul’s fortitude and patience to verbally defend himself but trust God who had, so many years before, told him to go to Jerusalem just to be imprisoned (Acts 21:11, Devotional 61).
Source 1: John MacArthur, MacArthur Study Bible, pp. 1679-81.