The Book of Acts (Chapter 24) (Part 36)
When the Lord Jesus sent out His disciples on their short term missionary campaign he said to them; “But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.” (Matthew 10:17-18) Now this did not happen to any of the disciples on their first missionary adventure for the Lord Jesus. It did happen later on and here we see it happening to Paul. In fact this kind of thing has been happening down through the long history of the Christian Church. In the last days this will become a global feature even in the western democracies as believers are hauled before secular courts and judges because of their confession of the name of the Lord Jesus.
Betrayed and handed over
Many denominational churches who have compromised the Word of God and apostatized will hand genuine believers over to secular courts. Within Roman Catholicism the Popes and prelates and clergy will persecute those who have believed in the Lord Jesus and no longer give allegiance to the Church of Rome or its Pontiff. How far this is off we cannot know but it is surely coming to the Western democracies which are already becoming less and less democratic if the truth be known. Religious leaders who do not know God will persecute the faithful followers of the Lord Jesus and these high ranking so called ‘College of Cardinals’ to coin a phrase, led by Ananias, came down to Caesarea with a legal guru to persecute Paul. They were fully intending to bring litigation against Paul. And so we read…
(Vs. 1-4) “After five days the high priest Ananias came down with some elders, with an attorney named Tertullus, and they brought charges to the governor against Paul. After Paul had been summoned, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying to the governor, “Since we have through you attained much peace, and since by your providence reforms are being carried out for this nation, we acknowledge this in every way and everywhere, most excellent Felix, with all thankfulness. But, that I may not weary you any further, I beg you to grant us, by your kindness, a brief hearing.”
These religious hypocrites were past masters in flattery especially when dealing with the secular authorities. They thought nothing of compromising their so called theological convictions when it suited them. They thought flattery would get them a favourable response from Governor Felix. When you look at Church history institutionalised Roman Catholicism and even within Protestantism both institutions persecuted born again Bible believers who put scripture before secular authority or church hierarchy because these believers vehemently opposed church and state union. Ananias and his religious cronies were acting like so called ‘gentlemen’ asking for a ‘brief’ hearing but their intention was a deadly plan to get rid of Paul. These religious leaders were so accomplished in the art of hypocrisy and play acting that they were able to persuade secular authorities to act on their behalf as they had previously done with the Lord Jesus with Ananias himself leading the way.
(Vs.5-9) “For we have found this man a real pest and a fellow who stirs up dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. And he even tried to desecrate the temple; and then we arrested him. We wanted to judge him according to our own Law. But Lysias the commander came along, and with much violence took him out of our hands, ordering his accusers to come before you. By examining him yourself concerning all these matters you will be able to ascertain the things of which we accuse him.” The Jews also joined in the attack, asserting that these things were so.”
These hypocrites put their own ‘spin’ on the story they related to Felix attempting to put thoughts into the mind of Felix that somehow Paul was an insurrectionist. These hypocrites knew that the Roman authorities were always aware of zealots and rebels in and around Jerusalem and in the region of Judea. Of course the charges were unfounded and could not be substantiated. Then they tried to blame the Roman commander at Jerusalem of enforcing excessive violence against them and taking Paul by force out of their hands. Of course the Roman commander had already written to Governor Felix saying that Paul had been examined and found not only to be a Roman citizen but that he had not broken any Roman law. It was a religious matter he had said and wanted Felix’s advice on the matter. And so after Ananias, his cronies and their associates had made a commotion Felix asked Paul to speak. And so we read…
(Vs.10-12) “When the governor had nodded for him to speak, Paul responded: “Knowing that for many years you have been a judge to this nation, I cheerfully make my defence, since you can take note of the fact that no more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship. Neither in the temple, nor in the synagogues, nor in the city itself did they find me carrying on a discussion with anyone or causing a riot. Nor can they prove to you the charges of which they now accuse me.”
When the Gospel of the Kingdom is preached in the power of the Holy Spirit there will always be opposition especially from those religious leaders who feel threatened because their so called ‘authority’ is being undermined. Paul had not broken any Jewish law or custom because if he had the religious hierarchy would have been able to deal with it. They were before Felix because they had no evidence against Paul and Paul knew it.
(Vs.14-16) “But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets; having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. In view of this, I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men.”
One thing Paul strived to do always was to maintain a clear conscience both before God and before men. As a genuine Pharisees this had been his habit even before he was saved. Now his confession carried weight as he witnessed in the power of the Holy Spirit as he preached the Word of God. It is vitally important that as believers we seek to do the same thing as Paul did. If our conscience is clear before God and before man then we will have the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through us when the time comes to witness for the Lord Jesus or to preach the Word of God. Paul was not boasting but preaching what he practiced daily.
Furthermore he also freely confessed that he believed everything written in Torah and the prophets in accordance with the Law of Moses and had a hope in God concerning the resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous. Of course he knew that the Pharisees also believed in the same things. Most probably there were no Sadducees there as they did not believe in the resurrection or angels like the Pharisees did. And so Paul continued his defence before Felix the Governor.
(Vs.17-21) “Now after several years I came to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings; in which they found me occupied in the temple, having been purified, without any crowd or uproar. But there were some Jews from Asia—who ought to have been present before you and to make accusation, if they should have anything against me. Or else let these men themselves tell what misdeed they found when I stood before the Council, other than for this one statement which I shouted out while standing among them, ‘For the resurrection of the dead I am on trial before you today.’”
Undoubtedly there were some of Paul’s accusers who were from the region of Asia who did not appear before Felix. Obviously diehards like Ananias had to get rid of Paul because the resurrection Paul was preaching was connected to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Ananias had been directly involved in the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus and the last thing he and his cronies wanted was to hear about the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. This must have irked these religious hypocrites a great deal. Added to this Paul was well known in Israel and in the province of Asia. Paul was on trial because of his confession in the resurrection found only in the Lord Jesus Christ and no other.
Men will have Jesus the prophet, Jesus the good man, Jesus the social reformer or even Jesus the miracle worker but to have the resurrected Jesus causes a problem for those who are religious but lost and for those who are not saved. The resurrection meant that all men would have to stand before the Lord Jesus Christ if He was alive. Men and demons find it hard to stand against a confession of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. After all every other religious leader and guru are still in their graves but the Lord Jesus is risen! The irony was that the religious Pharisees believed in the resurrection but could not fathom that the resurrection to life was given by the Lord Jesus and not obtained by good works or by trying to keep the law of Torah which no one can keep anyway. Now Felix was not ignorant of the Way or of what the believers in Jesus taught. And so we read…
(Vs.22-23) “But Felix, having a more exact knowledge about the Way, put them off, saying, “When Lysias the commander comes down, I will decide your case.” Then he gave orders to the centurion for him to be kept in custody and yet have some freedom, and not to prevent any of his friends from ministering to him.”
Felix obviously saw through the subterfuge of Ananias and his ‘College of Cardinals’ and put them off as he already knew about the people of the Way and what they were actually teaching. He was most probably favourable to Paul finding nothing in him to condemn him for and furthermore allowed Pauls companions to minister to his needs while in custody. Besides all this Paul had been assured personally by the Lord Jesus that he was to go to Rome and to appear before Caesar himself which would have been Nero at this time. Felix went back to his residence.
(Vs.24) “But some days later Felix arrived with Drusilla, his wife who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus.”
Felix being married to a Jewess would have known Torah and have been acquainted with its teaching. She was most probably very interested in hearing what Paul had to say as he was a well-known Jewish Rabbi. Luke records that Paul spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. He did not preach religious observance, keeping religious laws and customs or about doing good works to be saved. He spoke to Felix and his wife about faith in the Lord Jesus. Paul, having tried to justify himself before God by scrupulously trying to keep Torah law, had failed and he knew it. The revelation he had received was that “the just shall live by faith, or faithfulness.” (Habakkuk 2:4) (Romans 1:17) (Romans 5:1) (Galatians 3:11) (Hebrews 10:38) (Hebrews 11:6) He understood that no one could be put right with God by trying to keep the Law of Moses or by just doing good works in themselves. (Philippians 3:9) As believers in the Lord Jesus we do good works because we have been saved not to get saved. (Ephesians 2:8-9) Judaism in the time of Paul was founded on a works based righteousness which not even the Pharisees were able to keep.(Matthew 23:23) Paul continued to preach and it was in the power of the Holy Spirit because it brought about conviction of sin in Felix.
(Vs.25-26) “But as he (Paul) was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, “Go away for the present, and when I find time I will summon you.” At the same time too, he was hoping that money would be given him by Paul; therefore he also used to send for him quite often and converse with him.”
The Lord Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit was poured out in power that those who received this empowerment would have the supernatural ability to witness and to work for the Lord Jesus. He said that the Holy Spirit would do three things through the believer empowered by the Holy Spirit. He said; “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.” (John 16:8-11) We are told that the Holy Spirit in His convicting and converting work in regards to the unsaved does three things.
The first thing He does is to convict a sinner of their unbelief in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord. They see that unless they repent of their sin of unbelief in Jesus and turn to Him to save them that they will be forever lost and go to hades when they die.
The second thing the Holy Spirit does, after He has convicted a sinner of their failure to believe in Jesus, is to convict that sinner concerning the need for righteousness without which no one will see the LORD. This righteousness is received by faith and imputed to a sinner the moment they turn from their sin of unbelief in Jesus and ask Jesus to give them His righteousness. This is the righteousness that also comes through faith in Him. As Paul wrote; “But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; (Romans 3:21-24)
Man’s greatest need before God is to have a righteousness, not through keeping the law, but received through faith in the Lord Jesus imparted by the Holy Spirit. God’s righteous standard is the Lord Jesus Christ and if we have the Holy Spirit living in us then we have the very same nature as the Lord Jesus Christ making us acceptable to God and inheritors of His eternal kingdom.
The third thing the Holy Spirit does is to convict the world of judgement to come. Satan was judged at the cross and all who follow him will likewise be judged and go to hades which originally was created for the devil and his angels. The average person who is not saved has no real realization of the terrible consequences that await them because of their rejection of the Lord Jesus as Saviour and Lord. Hades is the Devil’s best kept secret. Unless people see themselves as great sinners and rebels in God’s sight, under His wrath upon sin, bound for eternal torment and that nothing of any spiritual value dwells in them they will never turn to God for mercy and pardon through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Only the Holy Spirit can convict a sinner of their unbelief in Jesus, there total lack of righteousness and that they are under the judgement of God. Unless they see themselves condemned outright by the Law of God they will never appreciate His mercy and His grace.
Real gospel preaching firstly exposes sin and calls on men everywhere to repent of it, to change form a Christ hating, Christ rejecting way of life to a Christ loving, Christ accepting way of life. Unless we own up to all of our sins before God we cannot be forgiven and cleansed from them by the blood of Jesus. (John 1:7-9) Only through faith in the Lord Jesus as our personal sin bearer and our acceptance of Him as our personal saviour and lord can we be saved and receive the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38-39) The blood of Jesus will not only cleanse us and keep us clean from sin but protect us from the judgement to come when the bowls of God’s wrath will be poured out without measure upon a Christ hating, Christ rejecting world at the end of this present age. (Romans 5:9) We are justified by faith in Jesus to save us and in His blood to redeem us.
And so we read that when Paul started to preach on the need for righteousness to be saved and of the coming judgement Felix became scared realizing that he himself would have to stand before the ultimate judge in His Law Court and it frightened him. He was convicted but did not respond. While the Holy Spirit convicts a sinner of their sin and gives them the capacity to repent and believe He will not do the repenting and believing for that sinner, that is something the sinner must do for themselves if they want Jesus to save them. Repentance comes first and without it a sinner cannot be saved either in this life or in the life to come! Well Felix often spoke with Paul but had mixed motives it seems as he thought Paul might give him a bribe to go easy on him but Paul would not compromise his faith nor defile his conscience before God and man. And so we read…
(Vs.27) “But after two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, and wishing to do the Jews a favour, Felix left Paul imprisoned.”
Most of the Roman Governors that had to deal with the Jews knew that the religious leaders would not only receive bribes but take them as well. Obviously Porcius favoured the Jews and had no time for the things pertaining to the Lord Jesus Christ or to the salvation that comes through Him. Paul was left in prison for two years. He may have been down but he most certainly was not out for the count! He would make a comeback with increased zeal and vigour for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and continue the work He had received from the Lord Jesus Christ.