The Apostle Paul Concludes His Testimony Before Felix
[Acts chapter 24, verses 17-27]
by Minister Paul J. Bern
Last week as we concluded part 1 of Acts chapter 24, the apostle Paul had begun to testify in his trial before governor Felix in Caesarea on charges of incitement, plus a bunch of religious charges relating to the Jewish law of Moses. Paul’s accusers, who were his own fellow Jews, had gone to extremes to try and get the apostle Paul to incriminate himself. But Paul’s rebuttal was evidently more than Paul’s accusers were prepared for. Despite the best efforts of the Sanhedrin, the Pharisee’s and the Sadducee’s, they had been unable to convict Paul of any crime, whether real or imagined. So today as we continue our ongoing series concerning the writings of the apostle Luke, let’s all move on to part 2 of Acts 24, beginning at verse 17.
“17) ‘After an absence of several years, I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings. 18) 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. 19) 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. 20) Or these who are here should state what crime they found in me when I stood before the Sanhedrin – 21) 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.’ 22) Then Felix, who was well acquainted with the Way, adjourned the proceedings. ‘When Lysias the commander comes,’ he said, ‘I will decide your case.’ 23) He ordered the centurion to keep Paul under guard but to give him some freedom and permit his friends to take care of his needs.” (Acts 24, verses 17-23)
“After an absence of several years, I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings.” What a contrast between that which is Scriptural to modern ‘Christianity’! Paul the apostle has been on the road preaching and teaching for about 2 ½ years at the time the apostle Luke wrote these words. Over the course of that time, Paul had been the recipient of a fair amount of offerings from those he taught and ministered to. Some of it he undoubtedly redistributed along the way as Paul carried out his mission, but some he had not. So when he arrived at Jerusalem, Paul came to give gifts and present offerings there at the Temple. This indicates that Paul only kept enough for his own personal needs, and gave away the rest. There was enough to take care of the needs of the poor throughout the city. Today when this happens, the “evangelist” keeps whatever is left after the expenses have been paid off and when the payroll has been met. So churches today operate as ‘winner take all’. The early Church, together with Spirit-led leaders like Paul, was the polar opposite of modern Christianity.
The early Church was also populated by gracious and merciful people, as verse 18 attests to: “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.” Real Christianity is never forceful, nor is it ever pushy. The Social Gospel that is the namesake of this blog is always merciful, always gentle (excluding matters of self defense), and it is always just. Moreover, it can be depended upon to be truthful. Anything less is really no gospel at all. The only weapon Satan has to deal with truth is untruth, half-truth, or lies of omission. Paul brings this up in the very next verse: “….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. 20) Or these who are here should state what crime they found in me when I stood before the Sanhedrin….” Paul’s accusers never came to his hearing before the governor. They knew better by this time.
“….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.’ 22) Then Felix, who was well acquainted with the Way, adjourned the proceedings….” So here is the crux of the matter. The reason the Hebrew leadership at the Temple at Jerusalem – the same people who handed Christ over to the Romans to be crucified – were so upset and offended by the resurrection of Christ, was because Jesus was nowhere in the Old Law except for being promised through his prophets. When Christ did come, the leadership failed to recognize him for who he was. Since this subject was so controversial, Felix adjourned the hearing right then and there in order to maintain control over the proceedings. And now let’s finish up this week’s message with the rest of chapter 24.
“24) Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. 25) As Paul talked about 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.’ 26) At the same time he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him. 27) 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.”
By this time, Paul was so compelling a witness for Christ that his reputation as an evangelist and apostle was very well known. Felix and his wife Drusilla were no exceptions. So much so that Felix stopped Paul, as if he could stand no more,. telling him, ‘That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you’. Whether Drusilla had the same view of Paul’s testimony as her husband isn’t revealed here. But as it is written in verse 26, Felix was secretly hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, just like what happens in government today. Everyone is in it for the money, and government has always been that way. That and politics, let’s not forget that since they go hand in hand. But, as we see in verse 27, Paul spends the next two years in prison. But that two years was nothing compared to the 3 hours Jesus hung on the cross at Golgotha until he died.
Next, Luke wrote, “….but because Felix wanted to grant a favor to the Jews, he left Paul in prison.” So when Felix was replaced by Festus in approximately 60 AD, Paul was kept locked up for political reasons. As long as Paul was locked up, there would be peace among the Jewish population of Jerusalem, and Jews were the majority who lived there. So at this point, the captivity of one man ensured there would be no further domestic unrest throughout all the countries that comprise the Middle Eastern nations today. This was a perfect plan for everybody except Paul. But at least he was being held in Herod’s palace under guard instead of prison.
But by this time, Felix’s term in office had expired, and he was replaced by governor Festus. A few weeks after he had entered on his office the case of Paul, then a prisoner at Caesarea, was reported to him. The “next day,” after he had gone down to Caesarea, he heard Paul defend himself in the presence of Herod Agrippa II. and his sister Bernice, and not finding in him anything worthy of death or of bonds, would have set him free had he not appealed unto Caesar (Acts 25:11, 12). In consequence of this appeal Paul was sent to Rome. Festus, after being in office less than two years, died in Judea. So everyone be sure and return next week as we move on to Acts chapter 25. Have a great week!