Paul Before Felix: Part 1 of 4 (series: Lessons on Acts)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

May 31, 2016


Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles
By: Tom Lowe


Lesson: IV.F.2: Paul Before Felix (24:1-21)


Acts 24:1-21 (KJV)
1 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.
9 And the Jews also assented, saying that these things were so.
10 Then Paul, after that the governor had beckoned unto him to speak, answered, Forasmuch as I know that thou hast been of many years a judge unto this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself:
11 Because that thou mayest understand, that there are yet but twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem for to worship.
12 And they neither found me in the temple disputing with any man, neither raising up the people, neither in the synagogues, nor in the city:
13 Neither can they prove the things whereof they now accuse me.
14 But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets:
15 And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.
16 And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void to offence toward God, and toward men.
17 Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings.
18 Whereupon certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with multitude, nor with tumult.
19 Who ought to have been here before thee, and object, if they had ought against me.
20 Or else let these same here say, if they have found any evil doing in me, while I stood before the council,
21 Except it be for this one voice, that I cried standing among them, Touching the resurrection of the dead I am called in question by you this day.


Introduction
Paul’s removal to Caesarea began a two-year imprisonment in that city. During these years he had his share of appearances at legal hearings where he stated his case (and therefore the case for the Gospel) before two governors and a king,—Felix, Festus, Herod Agrippa II, Drusilla, Bernice, and also before a varying number of high officials, thus further fulfilling the ministry to which he had been called (9:15). These were days of high drama as well as of tedious confinement, but through it all Paul maintained his unswerving purpose to serve Christ and the Gospel.

It seems that nobody really knew what to do about him until he appealed to Caesar. Forced into becoming a display for public view so often, the apostle probably felt like he was some freak at a sideshow.


Commentary
1 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.

The word “descended” means he came down since Jerusalem was

at a higher elevation than Caesarea. The clause, “the high priest descended with the elders” brings to mind the picture of a flock of vultures descending on its prey. They came well prepared. They brought an advocate (lawyer) with them, one who knew how to present a case in flattering terms and with the utmost appeal to the judge. Probably 8 Tertullus was a Hellenistic Jew.

The first of the two governors to hear Paul’s case was Antonius Felix, the brother of Pallas, the freedman, and favorite of the emperor Claudius. It was through the influence of Pallas that Felix had been appointed to Judea. Like his brother, he had been a slave, and with reference to this, one Bible scholar remarked that “with savagery and lust he exercised the power of a king with the disposition of a slave. The information we have of Felix’s public and private life does not paint a pretty picture, at all. Trading on the influence of his infamous brother, he indulged in every vice and excess, thinking “that he could do any evil act with impunity.”

Within five days of Paul’s arrival in Caesarea, the Jews were ready to present their case against him. This suggests some haste on their part. Perhaps the Sanhedrin was afraid that unless they acted quickly he might be released for want of a reason for holding him. The delegation included 1Ananias, the high priest, a number of elders, and a lawyer (lit., “orator”) named Tertullus, who was their spokesmen. Words like “according to our law” in verse 6 suggest that he may have been a Jew. On the other hand, he may simply have been identifying with his clients, for he seems to disassociate himself from the Jews in verse 2 when he calls them “this nation.”


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.

One would think that Felix was a paragon of virtue, the great peacemaker, and benefactor of the Jewish nation, the Prince of Peace himself. The words of Tertullus were blatant lies. In fact, his very first statement, “Seeing that by thee we enjoy great quietness” was a lie. Paul could have rebutted Tertullus by asking him this one question: “Why did it require nearly 500 soldiers to protect one man in transit from Jerusalem to Caesarea? It was true that Felix had put down some revolts, but he had certainly not brought peace to the land. In fact, during the time Felix was suppressing robbers in his realm, he was also hiring robbers to murder the high priest, Jonathan, simply because he refused to cooperate with him. Felix was known for his cruelty and treachery. However, the lawyer was not interested in the truth, only in securing the conviction of Paul; and if that involves filling the ears of Felix with flatteries, that is what he would do; though, he must have been hard-pressed to find anything complimentary to say. He did say, or rather he implied that Felix must have been so busy with his reforms that he did not like to keep him from his work any longer than was necessary. But the truth is that he had not made any improvements in the lives of the Jews and Gentiles of the region. Instead, he had, in fact, made life miserable for the Jews, which was indicated by the increase in rebellious movements during his term in response to his total lack of sympathy for or understanding of them. The one thing in his opening remarks that had any foundation in truth was that Felix had brought a kind of peace to the land by suppressing the robber bands that had infected it (24:2). So much for his reforms.

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