Acts 24:1-27

Sunday Morning Bible Study

October 25, 1998

Introduction

After having been in Jerusalem for a week, Paul was seized in the temple and falsely accused of defiling it by bringing a Gentile into the holy place. After he was rescued by the Roman soldiers, he tried to talk to the crowd, but when he told them that Jesus had sent him to the Gentiles, the crowd went berserk. The next day Paul addressed the Sanhedrin to give his defense, but again everything ended with a near riot. When the Roman soldiers were informed about a plot to kill Paul, he was taken from Jerusalem to Caesarea by an escort of Roman soldiers. Itís now in Caesarea that Paul is waiting for a trial before the governor, Felix.

:1 a certain orator named Tertullus

Tertullus Ė He was a hired Roman lawyer, probably not a Jew. This was the best way to approach a court of Rome, with someone who knows the system.

:2 Seeing that by thee we enjoy great quietness Ö

This is all a bunch of flattering nonsense. Felix may have stopped the riots led by the renegade Egyptian, but he was also known for having secretly encouraged bandits in Judea, and then sharing the plunder with them.

:3 We accept it always, and in all places, most noble Felix

noble Ė kratistos Ė mightiest, strongest, noblest, most illustrious, best, most excellent

Felix Ė As we mentioned last week, he was not a cat. Felix was a brother of Pallas, who was a chief advisor of the emperor Claudius. He had at one time been a slave of the emperorís mother, Antonia, before being freed. He was made governor of Judea by Claudius in AD 52. Tacitus says of him that "with all cruelty and lust he exercised the power of a king with the spirit of a slave."

He was immoral. King Herod Agrippa had given his daughter Drusilla to another king in marriage, but when Felix saw her, he used a Jewish friend to talk her into leaving her husband for Felix. She became his third wife, all of which had been daughters of kings.

He was violent. Josephus records an incident (Antiquities 20:8:5) where Felix had murderers hired to have a high priest named Jonathan killed. Then, as an act of justice, he had the murderers brought back and put to death.

Lesson

Beware of flattery.

Felix may like what heís hearing, but he ought to know better. Itís only for the purpose of persuading him to rule against Paul.

(Prov 29:5 KJV) A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet.

Illustration

The pastor had been teaching on Proverbs 16:24: "Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones." The minister then added, "You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." One manís wife leaned over, put her head on her husbandís shoulder and whispered in his ear, "I just love to watch your muscles ripple when you take out the garbage." -- Reader's Digest, September 1991, p. 80

:5 a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews

pestilent Ė loimos Ė pest, plague. "Paul the Pest".

sedition Ė stasis Ė a standing; an insurrection; strife

This was actually the most serious of the charges against Paul, from the Roman viewpoint. This was something that could have put Paul to death, if he was found guilty of stirring up rebellion against Rome. But the only trouble he had stirred up was trouble with the Jews, not with Rome.

:5 and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes

Nazarenes Ė Nazoraios Ė an inhabitant of Nazareth, like Jesus; a name given to the followers of THE Nazarene (Jesus).

:9 And the Jews also assented

After the attorney is done speaking, his clients all nod their heads in agreement.

:10 after that the governor had beckoned

had beckoned Ė neuo Ė to give a nod

:10 thou hast been of many years a judge unto this nation

Felix has governed for seven years by this time. This is about as much of a compliment as Paul can muster with Felix. About all Paul can say is to acknowledge that Felix has been around for a while. He doesnít say heís been a good judge, heís just glad that heís someone who is familiar with the issues.

:11 there are yet but twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem

Subtract the five days spent already in Caesarea, and that means that Paul had only been in Jerusalem for seven days. Not enough time to be planning some great Jewish insurrection.

:12 neither Ö disputing Ö neither raising up the people

disputing Ė dialegomai ("dialog") Ė to converse, discourse with one, argue, discuss. This is the word that was often used of Paulís method of witnessing, holding a dialog with people. He wasnít even witnessing in the temple.

raising up Ė episustasis Ė starting a riot.

:14 this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathersÖ

heresy Ė hairesis Ė act of taking, choosing. The same word thatís translated "sect" in verse 5.

Lesson

Be honest in your testimony.

Paul denied the things that he had been falsely accused of. But there are some things that he canít deny. They had accused him of being a leader of the "Nazarenes". This was true. Jesus said,

(Mat 10:32-33 KJV) Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. {33} But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.

Illustration

The year was AD 155, and the persecution against Christians swept across the Roman Empire and came to the city of Smyrna. The proconsul of Symrna, swept up in this persecution, put out an order that the Bishop of Symrna, Polycarp, was to be found, arrested, and brought to the public arena for execution. They found Polycarp and brought him before thousands of spectators screaming for blood. But the proconsul had compassion on this man who was almost a hundred years old. He signaled the crowd to silence. To Polycarp he said, "Curse the Christ and live." The crowd waited for the old man to answer. In an amazingly strong voice, he said, "Eighty and six years have I served him, and he has done me no wrong. How dare I blaspheme the name of my king and Lord!" With that Polycarp became a martyr. -- Leith Anderson, "Can Jesus Trust Us?" Preaching Today, Tape No. 126.

:16 to have always a conscience void of offence

This is the way he had started his address to the Sanhedrin. It was with these words that Ananias had ordered Paul struck in the mouth. Yet here Ananias has to sit and listen to Paul say it again, and he canít order Paul to be struck in the mouth this time.

:17 Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation

These were the gifts that Paul had brought to Jerusalem from the Gentile churches. Apparently his team had been carrying quite a bit of money. To the Corinthians (2Cor.8:2), he had talked about the "the riches of their liberality". Though Paul is simply being honest, it may be giving greedy Felix ideas about taking advantage of Paul.

:19 Who ought to have been here before thee

The Jews from Asia who caused the initial stir against Paul werenít present before Felix. Roman law required that the accusers face the accused.

:22 having more perfect knowledge of that way

Apparently Felix knew more about this Christianity stuff than the Sanhedrin realized. Itís possible he had heard Philip the Evangelist who lived in Caesarea. It could be that he heard some from his wife Drusilla who was a descendant of the infamous Herod kings.

:23 to let him have liberty

Paul was allowed visitors. He was allowed to see his friends.

:24 his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess

She was one of three daughters of Herod Agrippa I (Drusilla, Mariamne, Bernice). Her father murdered James, her great-uncle Herod Antipas slew John the Baptist, her great-grandfather (Herod the Great) killed the babes of Bethlehem. Felix had induced her to leave her former husband Aziz, King of Emesa.

:25 reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come

reasoned Ė dialegomai ("dialogue") Ė to converse, argue, discuss. This is the word that is often used to describe Paulís witnessing style in the synagogues. What we have here is just a brief outline of Paulís message to Felix.

1. Righteousness

righteousness Ė dikaiosune Ė the condition of being acceptable to God.

We donít have the details of Paulís discussion with Felix, but since his wife was Jewish, perhaps he reminded him of Godís standards as summarized in the Ten Commandments:

Exo 20:3-17 Thou shalt have no other gods before me Ö {13} Thou shalt not kill. {14} Thou shalt not commit adultery. {15} Thou shalt not steal. {16} Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. {17} Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.

I imagine that more than a few of these would have made Felix gulp hard.

Perhaps he told Felix of the standard that Jesus gave:

(Mat 5:48 KJV) Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

2. Temperance (self-control)

temperance Ė egkrateia Ė self-control (the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, esp. his sensual appetites)

Here was a man known for his indulgences, and Paul speaks about self-control.

Itís lack of self control that gets us into so much trouble in the first place.

"I have more trouble with D. L. Moody than with any other man I ever met." Ė Dwight Lyman Moody (1837Ė1899)

Charles H. Spurgeon said, "Learn to say no; it will be of more use to you than to be able to read Latin."

Self-control takes great strength, strength to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands--and then eat just one of the pieces.

Illustration

In Scotland, during the early days of aviation, a stunt pilot was selling rides in his single engine airplane. One day he got into an argument with an old farmer who insisted upon taking his wife along on the ride -- at no extra charge. "Look," said the pilot finally, "I'll take you both up for the price of one if you promise not to utter a sound throughout the entire trip. If you make a sound, the price is doubled." The deal was made and they all clambered aboard. The pilot then proceeded to put the aircraft through maneuvers designed to make the bravest tremble. But not a sound came from the back, where his passengers sat. Exhausted, he set the plane down. As the farmer climbed out, the pilot said, "I made moves up there that frightened even me, and yet you never said a word. You're a fearless man." "I thank ye," replied the Scotsman. "But I must admit that there was one time when ya almost had me." "And when was that?" asked the pilot. The farmer replied, "That was about the time my wife fell out!"

3. Coming Judgment

At times our lack of self-control seems a little hilarious, but in reality it is deathly serious. The truth is that we will one day face judgment before God for our sin and our lack of self-control.

Those who do not meet Godís standard of righteousness will be judged. Those who have not chosen to live in self-control will be judged for their indiscretions.

As in any court case, there is the determining of guilt and then there is the penalty phase of the trial. But the penalty for sin doesnít take long to arrive at. The penalty for sin is death. The penalty for rebellion against a holy God is eternity in hell.

It doesnít take a rocket scientist to realize that all of mankind is in a horrible predicament. What can we ever do to avoid eternity in hell?

(2 Cor 5:19-21 NLT) For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people's sins against them. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others. {20} We are Christ's ambassadors, and God is using us to speak to you. We urge you, as though Christ himself were here pleading with you, "Be reconciled to God!" {21} For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

Itís in Jesus that we have hope. It is through Jesus that God takes our sins away from us and in turn gives us the righteousness of Christ.

Itís through trusting in Jesus that we receive this incredible gift of eternal life.

(John 3:16 KJV) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Have you taken that first step of asking Jesus to take away your sins and give you His righteousness?

Lesson

Carefully confront.

Paul could have taken the tact that this man could have given him freedom, so why risk offending him? But instead, he demonstrated concern for the manís soul rather than concern for his own imprisonment.

With this, I would add a word of caution. There are some people who are doing nothing but confront others. They go out on the streets and preach. They continually pass out tracts to everyone. But sometimes itís because theyíre trying to somehow make up for the mess that their life is in. Yesterday at the Menís Conference, Raul Ries spoke about the strongest impact your life can have. He shared about how after he had first come to Jesus, he began to boldly witness to his friends. But with some of his friends, it wasnít until they saw his life being changed over many years, consistently staying close to Jesus, that they finally gave their lives to Jesus.

Itís good to confront people with the gospel, but the message comes across even louder when they see you up close, living daily, consistently for Jesus.

:25 Felix trembled

trembled Ė emphobos Ė thrown into fear, terrified, affrighted. It seems that Felix was truly touched by Paulís message, so much that he became terrified.

Lesson

Itís not enough to be touched by the message.

The Bible says that even the demons tremble when they hear about God.

(James 2:19 KJV) Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

One day when you stand before God, itís not going to be enough to say, "Well I heard about Jesus and it made me all shakey". The question is, did you turn your life over to Him? Did you choose to follow Him and then indeed followed Him?

Jesus told a story:

(Mat 7:24-27 KJV) Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: {25} And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. {26} And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: {27} And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

Somehow we get the idea that if weíre moved emotionally by a message, that this is all we need. We go home feeling like it was a good day. But nothing has changed.

Itís like the husband that is confronted by his wife about his selfish behavior and he cries and says, "Okay honey, Iíll change, honest I will." But he never does. He just goes on living like he always has, feeling that somehow just telling his wife heíll change is going to make her feel better and the problem is solved. It isnít. Not until you change.

:26 He hoped also that money should have been given him of Paul

Paul had perhaps made the mistake of mentioning that he had brought money to his nation. Perhaps he had access to some more that he might give to Felix?

:27 after two years Porcius Festus came into Felix' room

This change in governors took place in AD 58. History tells us that the reason Felix was replaced was that the Jews and Gentiles had an open fight in the market-place in Caesarea. Felix ordered the soldiers into the mob and many Jews were killed. The Jews made formal complaint to the Emperor resulting with the replacing of Felix with Porcius Festus.

Porcius Festus Ė Porkios Phestos ("now Marshall Dillon Ö") = "swinish festival" (first we had Felix the cat, now weíve got Porky Pig!)

:26 willing to show the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound.

He was hoping to get brownie points from the Jewish leaders by keeping Paul imprisoned.

:25 when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.

convenient Ė kairos Ė due measure; time; the right time

Heís saying, "Iíll think more about Jesus when itís convenient". Yet there was no more convenient time than that moment.

Lesson

Donít procrastinate.

There are some things in life that are just too important to put on the back burner.

One of them is your family. They arenít going to be there waiting for you for ever.

Cat's in the Cradle
by Harry Chapin (lyrics by Sandra Chapin).

My child arrived just the other day,
He came to the world in the usual way.
But there were planes to catch, and bills to pay.
He learned to walk while I was away.
And he was talking 'fore I knew it, and as he grew,
He'd say, "I'm gonna be like you, dad.
You know I'm gonna be like you."

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little boy blue and the man in the moon.
"When you coming home, dad?" "I don't know when,
But we'll get together then.
You know we'll have a good time then."

As the song goes on, the boy grows up, and does turn out to be just like the dad. He grows up to be someone who doesnít have time for his family.

And as important as your family is, there is one thing greater that you canít put off, your relationship with Jesus.

(Luke 12:16-21 NLT) And he gave an illustration: "A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. {17} In fact, his barns were full to overflowing. {18} So he said, 'I know! I'll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I'll have room enough to store everything. {19} And I'll sit back and say to myself, My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!' {20} "But God said to him, 'You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get it all?' {21} "Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God."

Illustration

There was a ship called the "Central America". She was in a bad state, had sprung a leak, and was going down. She therefore hoisted a signal of distress. A ship came close to her, and its captain asked, through the trumpet, "What is wrong?" "We are in bad repair and are going down. Wait till morning," was the answer. But the captain on board the rescue ship said, "Let me take your passengers on board now." "Wait until morning," was the message that came back. Once again the captain cried, "You had better let me take your passengers on board now." "Wait until morning," was the reply that sounded through the trumpet. About an hour and a half later, the lights were gone, and though no sound was heard, she and all on board had gone down to the fathomless abyss. Unconverted friends, for God's sake, do not say, "Wait until morning." Today, hear God's voice. -- Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990)