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Scripture reading – Acts 24; Acts 25
We might glean much from the apostle Paul’s courage, and defense of himself, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ he preached. He was arrested under the false pretense of breaking the Law (Acts 21:27-28), and charged with defiling the Temple (Acts 21:29. Yet, Paul was providentially rescued and delivered from the threat of death by the chief captain of the Roman garrison in Jerusalem (Acts 21:31-35).
When given opportunity to share his testimony, Paul declared his lineage as a Jew, and his formal education in the law “at the feet of Gamaliel” (22:3). He shared he had been a great persecutor of believers (22:4), but was converted on the way to Damascus (22:5-7). After revealing his calling as an apostle to the Gentiles (22:21), the Jewish mob turned violent, and demanded, “Away with such a fellow [Paul] from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live” (22:22).
The chief captain of the Roman garrison placed Paul under his protection, and gave him opportunity to answer his accusers (23:1-11). When the chief captain understood the Jews’ plot to kill Paul (23:12-22), he provided him protection to Caesarea, where he was under the security of Felix, the Roman governor of Judaea (23:23-35).
Acts 24 – Trial before Felix
The Charge Brought Against Paul (24:1-10)
Five days after Paul arrived at Caesarea, Ananias the high priest and members of the Sanhedrin gathered and put forward “a certain orator named Tertullus” (24:1). Apparently, an attorney by trade, Tertullus was tasked with accusing Paul of sedition, a crime that would demand his death (24:2-9). Paul sat in silence as Tertullus leveled false indictments at him, and alleged he was a wicked, subversive man. Felix then gestured to Paul, and gave him opportunity to answer his accusers (24:10).
Paul’s Response to the Charges (24:10-27)
With diplomacy, and the discretion deserving of Felix’s office as governor, Paul answered the charges that were brought against him by the Sanhedrin (24:11-20). He proved the only dissension between him and those leaders was his challenge concerning the resurrection (24:21). Felix, being the governor of that region, had “perfect knowledge of that way” (24:22; Acts 16:17; 18:25). (“The way” being a reference to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; and which the resurrection was a point of division between the Pharisees and the Sadducees).
Acts 24 concluded with Felix retaining Paul in custody, and giving him liberty to have guests. While holding Paul in custody, Felix and “his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess,” sent for Paul, and heard him “concerning the faith in Christ” (24:24). Indeed, Paul’s witness was so powerful, Felix “trembled” with conviction when he heard of God’s judgment that was to come (24:25).
Revealing his flawed character, Felix did not release Paul, for he hoped the apostle might bribe him, “that he might loose him” (24:26). Though he knew Paul was an innocent man, Felix nevertheless, kept him in custody two years, seeking the favor of the Jews (24:27).
Two years after Paul was arrested, Porcius Festus arrived in Judaea to assume Felix’s office as governor (24:27; 25:1). When Festus was come to Jerusalem, he was met by “the high priest, and the chief of the Jews” who renewed their charges against Paul (25:2). The Jews requested Paul be brought to Jerusalem, seeking opportunity to ambush and kill him as he traveled from Caesarea (25:3). Festus, however, denied their request, and invited the high priest and his allies to come to Caesarea and accuse Paul (25:4-5).
Ten days later, Festus returned to Caesarea, and on the next day the Jews came to charge Paul with serious allegations (25:6-7). Paul answered his accusers, and when Festus suggested he travel to Jerusalem to be tried, Paul, being a Roman citizen, appealed to be tried “at Caesar’s judgment seat” (25:10-11).
Some days later, king Agrippa (the son of Herod Agrippa I, and grandson of Herod the Great), came to Caesarea to welcome Festus as the Roman governor of the region (25:13). Knowing Agrippa was of Jewish ancestry, Festus appealed to him to hear the matter regarding Paul (25:14-21). Agrippa and his sister Bernice, desired occasion to hear Paul, and on the next day Festus brought him from prison to give them opportunity to question the apostle, and determine what crimes he might be charged with before Caesar (25:22-27).
Closing thoughts – While we admire Paul’s passion and boldness in declaring the gospel, we also note his tact, prudence, and patience in preaching Christ to those who would listen. While bold in addressing and rebuking the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders (23:2-5), Paul was wise, discerning, and patient when speaking to the Roman captain of Jerusalem, and to both Felix and his successor Festus, the Roman governors who resided in Caesarea.
Lesson – To be effective witnesses for Christ, believers should strive to be like Paul: Bold in our faith, courageous in our testimony, and discerning regarding our audience.
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