From Acts 24-26
In today’s passage Paul is on trial. Opposed by many Jews his life is in the balance. Yet despite his situation he offers his defense and shows his accusers have nothing against him other than his faith that Jesus rose from the dead.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
In yesterday’s chapter readings Paul returned to Jerusalem. Word from opposing Jews has followed him back about his ministry and the Jews are keen to see him dead. The riot attracts the attention of the governing bodies of Rome and Paul is arrested (Acts 21.27-36). The next few chapters have Paul in court where he defends himself and explains why he has acted as he did (Acts 21.37-23.35).
Our passage picks up in another courtroom scene. Paul is defending himself before Felix the Governor and Ananias the High Priests at Caesarea.
24 And after five days the high priest Ananias came down with some elders and a spokesman, one Tertullus. They laid before the governor their case against Paul. 2 And when he had been summoned, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying:
“Since through you we enjoy much peace, and since by your foresight, most excellent Felix, reforms are being made for this nation, 3 in every way and everywhere we accept this with all gratitude.
4 But, to detain you no further, I beg you in your kindness to hear us briefly. 5 For we have found this man a plague, one who stirs up riots among all the Jews throughout the world and is a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. 6 He even tried to profane the temple, but we seized him.
8 By examining him yourself you will be able to find out from him about everything of which we accuse him.”
9 The Jews also joined in the charge, affirming that all these things were so. (Acts 24.1-9)
High Priest Ananias appointed speaker Tertullus makes his case. He refers to the Pax Romana enjoyed by all the people. This includes the religious freedom the Jews have under Roman rule and is a subtle manipulation. Tertullus is suggesting it is in Rome’s best interest to decide against Paul.
We have found this man a plague.
Tertullus turns on Paul. He attempts to persuade Felix that Paul is stirring up the Jews all over the Roman world. If Paul was doing this he would be a threat to Roman peace. Even worse, more recently Tertullus thinks Paul tried to profane the temple (cf. Acts 21.17-26). A number of other Jews back Tertullus up in his condemnation of Paul.
10 And when the governor had nodded to him to speak, Paul replied:
“Knowing that for many years you have been a judge over this nation, I cheerfully make my defense. (Acts 24.10)
If this trial goes against him he will probably be killed. Even so, Paul is unfazed. He recognises Felix’s authority and says;
I cheerfully make my defense.
Despite his opposition and their arguments. Despite what could happen to him. His words speak of a deep faith in God and willingness to stand up for him no matter what.
11 You can verify that it is not more than twelve days since I went up to worship in Jerusalem, 12 and they did not find me disputing with anyone or stirring up a crowd, either in the temple or in the synagogues or in the city. 13 Neither can they prove to you what they now bring up against me. (Acts 24.11-13)
Paul denies Tertullus’ charges and encourages Felix to verify them for himself. Paul is confident if he did, he would find nothing against him.
14 But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, 15 having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. 16 So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man. (Acts 24.14-16)
The second part of Paul’s defense demonstrates he is a man of good character. He opens himself up to Felix sharing what he believes. Paul has actually established some common ground with his accusers. They have the same ancestors and believe what the law and the prophets say.
He affirms there will be a resurrection of the just and the unjust. They will be judged.
This is why Paul takes extra pains to have a clear conscience before God. He knows he will be judged. If he has ever had outstanding sin against him, he has dealt with it. Asking forgiveness, making reparation, atoning for it and resolving not to do it again.
17 Now after several years I came to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings. 18 While I was doing this, they found me purified in the temple, without any crowd or tumult. (Acts 24.17-18)
Paul now gives his testimony about how he got in this position in the first place. He was bringing ‘alms’ (money as a gift) for the poor among his nation (e.g. Gal 2.10) and making offerings in the temple while being purified.
Can you see anything wrong with what Paul has done?
Basically the Jews have nothing against him, he was a model Jew and not causing any disturbances.
But some Jews from Asia 19 they ought to be here before you and to make an accusation, should they have anything against me. 20 Or else let these men themselves say what wrongdoing they found when I stood before the council, (Acts 24.19-20)
The Jews however had another impression. But they have nothing against him other than this one thing…
21 other than this one thing that I cried out while standing among them: ‘It is with respect to the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you this day.’ ” (Acts 24.21)
Its with respect to Paul’s belief in the resurrection from the dead he is on trial. He believes and has been proclaiming Jesus risen from the dead.
Paul’s teaching about the risen Jesus Christ and his dealing with the Gentiles have left an indelible mark on the Jews. His gospel message is why he is on trial.
They found nothing wrong with Paul, other than his belief in the raised Jesus Christ. His message offended them.
Fortunately many Christians live in peace and are able to share what they believe without to much grief. However since Jesus, Christians have been persecuted and killed for their faith. This passage is just one instance where a believer stood up for his faith despite dangerous opposition.
We need to pray for those who are persecuted in the world. That they may cheerfully offer their defense and stand up for their faith just as Paul.
Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2015. All Rights Reserved.