INTRO: Good morning church. In the book of Acts we have read about Paul’s journeys in the past few years. We also recently considered the subject of Worry and that of Patience. If you recall, in both of those lessons we turned to the example of Paul and what he has said. Today I want to look at what is described in Acts 24. Our text will be verses 1 through 22.
The Apostle Paul’s life was being threatened almost every single day, it seems. He’s been passed from pillar to post by the authorities. He had times in his life when he thought he would never fulfill his ambition to go to Rome to preach the gospel.
In spite of the difficulties he faced Paul never lost his grip on the truth. He understood that pain and suffering doesn’t mean that God has left you. Paul learned that God was one step ahead of the game concerning his life and when God said to him you’re going to Rome to preach, he knew that God stands by His promises.
I. In Acts, near the end of chapter 23, we had read about Paul being held in prison and the commander is warned by Paul’s nephew that there were more then 40 men who were waiting to kill Paul. Let’s quickly review that situation. Acts 23:20-21 – “And he said, "The Jews have agreed to ask that you bring Paul down to the council tomorrow, as though they were going to inquire more fully about him. "But do not yield to them, for more than forty of them lie in wait for him, men who have bound themselves by an oath that they will neither eat nor drink till they have killed him; and now they are ready, waiting for the promise from you.”
A. Being warned, the commander called two of his officers and told them in verse 23ff; “Prepare two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen, and two hundred spearmen to go to Caesarea at the third hour of the night; and provide mounts to set Paul on, and bring him safely to Felix the governor.” The commander had a bit of a problem didn’t he? He could not let Paul, a Roman, be killed by a mob because it would reflect badly on his ability to protect citizens. Nor could he confront the mob directly lest a riot take place. The whole force was 470 men; and their departure at the third hour of the night (9:00 P.M.) was thus well ahead of any request the chief priests might send to him the next day. The size of the escort was so large as to quench any thought of the forty conspirators of following it, overtaking it, and murdering Paul anyway.
B. In verse 25 begins the letter the commander wrote to the governor; “Claudius Lysias, [ly-se-us] to the most excellent governor Felix: Greetings. This man was seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them. Coming with the troops I rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman. And when I wanted to know the reason they accused him, I brought him before their council. I found out that he was accused concerning questions of their law, but had nothing charged against him worthy of death or chains. And when it was told me that the Jews lay in wait for the man, I sent him immediately to you, and also commanded his accusers to state before you the charges against him. farewell.”
C. Some interesting things to note here besides the fact we now know the commander’s name, Lysias [Ly-se-us]. This is a classic example of a distortion of truth to serve selfish and political ends. "Having learned that he was a Roman ..." implies that the rescue was made to prevent harm to a Roman citizen, whereas Lysias did not even know that Paul was a Roman until after he had illegally bound him, a fact left comfortably out of sight in his letter.
1. Looking at this report of the document I suspect it is genuine as is evident in every nuance of it. This was politics as it was played in the Roman Empire in those days. I strongly suspect that the same old game goes on in this age as well.
2. Significantly, Paul is sent to Felix, not as a criminal, but as a fellow citizen, rescued. I think that if an honorable man had held the office entrusted to Felix, Paul would have been released at once.
D. Next in verse 31-33; “Then the soldiers, as they were commanded, took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris. [anti-pat-rus] The next day they left the horsemen to go on with him, and returned to the barracks. When they came to Caesarea and had delivered the letter to the governor, they also presented Paul to him.” Antipatris is roughly 40 miles from Jerusalem and 26 miles south of Caesarea. The whole contingency of 470 men made the march to Antipatris then the next day part of them continued to Caesarea with Paul.
E. In verse 34 Felix reads the letter; “And when the governor had read it, he asked what province he was from. And when he understood that he was from Cilicia, [si-lis-ea] he said, "I will hear you when your accusers also have come.'' And he commanded him to be kept in Herod's Praetorium.” Some translations say Herod’s palace. Felix asked what province Paul was from to determine if Paul came under his authority. Paul’s accommodations are not those of a person accused of a vicious crime.
II. Now as chapter 24 starts, we find the apostle Paul in Governor Felix’s control and under guard until the Jews arrive to present their case against him. That’s what we are going to read next. The Jews didn’t come alone, they came fully prepared, and brought a very smart orator with them.
A. We going to read about that as we catch up with Luke’s report in Acts 24:1-4 – “Now after five days Ananias the high priest came down with the elders and a certain orator named Tertullus. [ter-tull-us] These gave evidence to the governor against Paul. And when he was called upon, Tertullus began his accusation, saying: "Seeing that through you we enjoy great peace, and prosperity is being brought to this nation by your foresight, "we accept it always and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness. "Nevertheless, not to be tedious to you any further, I beg you to hear, by your courtesy, a few words from us.”[NKJ] Other translations use “advocate” or “lawyer” instead of “orator”. Strong defines “Tertullus” as “triple-hardened”.
B. Luke tells us after five days, the high priest, the elders and this smart lawyer, presented themselves before Governor Felix to bring a formal charge against Paul. I said this lawyer was smart and he is. Notice in the text the way Tertullus begins talking to Felix.
C. He uses flattery with Felix, he softens him up by telling him how wonderful he is. He refers to the peace that Felix had brought to the land under Roman authority. Like all smart lawyers who want people on their side he does not mention anything negative, such as the Jews resentment of Felix.
D. I don’t know about you but people like that make me queasy. I honestly have difficulty interacting with them because I know they are after something. It’s usually not until after you’ve listened to them for a few minutes, just praising you and telling you how wonderful you are that they finally get to the point. I wish they would just get to the point. What do they really want? Just like this lawyer, you know they want you on their side for something. I have difficulty trusting someone like that. I find their approach devious and deceitful.
E. I’m reminded of Psalm 5:9 says; “For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; Their inward part is destruction; Their throat is an open tomb; They flatter with their tongue.”
F. Tertullus is very clever in his words to get Felix on his side, even to the point where he tells Felix that he will state his case briefly. In other words he doesn’t want to take too much of Felix time.
III. Tertullus presents his case before Felix in Acts 24:5-9 – “"For we have found this man a plague, a creator of dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. He even tried to profane the temple, and we seized him, and wanted to judge him according to our law. But the commander Lysias [Ly-se-us] came by and with great violence took him out of our hands, commanding his accusers to come to you. By examining him yourself you may ascertain all these things of which we accuse him.'' And the Jews also assented, maintaining that these things were so.”
A. They accused Paul of four things. Briefly stated: Paul was accused of being (1) a pest, (2) an insurrectionist, (3) a ringleader of the Nazarenes, and (4) one who had attempted to profane the temple. All these charges except No. 3 were unspecific, and even it was unsupported by any evidence.
B. After hearing all the accusations the lawyer urges Felix to "examine" Paul. What does that mean? I’m not certain, but in researching this I found several scholars suggesting that examining Paul meant scourging him. In other words they wanted Felix to “beat the truth out of him”.
C. Notice again how clever this lawyer is. He doesn’t even mention anything about Paul’s Roman citizenship. If the scholars are correct that scourging was intended, and if they had scourged Paul at this point, Felix would be guilty of breaking Roman law. The lawyer didn’t even mention that. The lawyer is very selective with the truth.
1. The onslaught against Paul continues. Isn’t it amazing how far people will go to get rid of someone they don’t like? Nothing has changed. There are still people today who are very selective with the truth and they will do anything and say anything to discredit someone. They will go to any lengths to get someone out of the way, especially if you say something against their traditions and practices.
2. Especially if you say something which effects their comfort zones. These people are happy with their traditions and practices. They are comfortable in their beliefs. This guy named Paul from Tarsus comes along and starts rocking their boat. Let me tell you, folks, the truth will always rock your boat, especially if you do not want to hear it.
D. Jimmy, age 10, and his sister Taylor, age 13, were always teasing each other. One day, Jimmy was getting "sensitive" about things his sister was saying to him. His grandmother reminded him that he had said the same sort of things many times in the past. With quiet reflection Jimmy said: "But it doesn't hurt as much coming out of my mouth as it does going into my ears."
E. These religious leaders didn’t want to hear the truth because the truth hurt them. While all these accusations were being presented to Felix our “friends” the high priest and elders affirmed the truthfulness of the case presented by their lawyer. Next, just like in any courtroom today, the judge needs to hear both sides of the story.
IV. Luke continues and tells us about Paul’s defense in Acts 24:10-13 – “Then Paul, after the governor had nodded to him to speak, answered: "Inasmuch as I know that you have been for many years a judge of this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself, because you may ascertain that it is no more than twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem to worship. And they neither found me in the temple disputing with anyone nor inciting the crowd, either in the synagogues or in the city. Nor can they prove the things of which they now accuse me.”
A. Even today in our courtrooms no one is allowed to speak unless the judge gives permission. Since Felix was the judge on this occasion, Paul waited to get permission to speak before he began his defense.
B. Paul began his defense by saying that it was a pleasure to be able to state his case before a person who had years of experience in judging matters involving the Jews. Note Paul's use of "judge" rather than " governor."
C. Remember that the first accusation against Paul was they accused him of being a troublemaker. In his defense Paul says, he had only been back in Judea for 12 days, with the last 5 of those being spent in jail. In other words Paul would be hard pressed to be a trouble maker in such a short space of time. Paul said they didn’t find him in the temple disputing with others or stirring up the crowd.
D. As for the accusation of being a rebel against Rome, Paul is saying, he wouldn’t have had time for that and there was absolutely no proof of it either. Paul's emphasis here is directed to the charge of creating an insurrection which is the only thing Felix would have been the slightest concerned about anyway. Paul also said they couldn’t prove their charge of trying to desecrate the temple. Paul was telling the truth and as we are about to read, he’s going continue to tell the truth, even though he knows his accusers won’t like it.
V. Acts 24:14-16 – Paul says; “But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men.”
A. When they accused Paul of being a ringleader of the Nazarenes, Paul didn’t hide the fact that he worshiped God according to the “Way”, which his Jewish accusers called a sect. Implicit in the name “Way” is the trueness and rightness of it. There are many ways of sin, but only one way of eternal life. If Paul was going to plead guilty to anything, he pleaded guilty to worshipping the God of the Jewish fathers. Paul's use of this expression, having the meaning of "our hereditary God," had the purpose of establishing the legality of Christianity under Roman law. Thus, Paul asserts that, according to Roman law which allowed all men to worship the gods of their own nation, he is not open to any charge of irreligion.
B. He pleaded guilty to believing all that was written in the Law of Moses and the prophets. He readily admitted that he based his hope in God, just as his accusers did. God who would raise both the righteous and wicked from the dead. Because of that belief, Paul said he tried to live with a clear conscience offending neither God or man. Throughout all of Paul's epistles, as here, Paul never failed to present Christianity as fully identified with all the types and shadows of the Old Testament, being in fact the fulfillment of all that was intended by everything in the old institution. Christians are the true Israel. Christ is the Prophet like unto Moses. Christ's teaching is the New Covenant. And yet the New is identified with the Old.
VI. Paul was practicing what Peter preached in 1 Peter 3:15-16 – “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.” Paul gave them a reason for his hope. Paul did that in a gentle way. He showed them respect with his words, and he kept a clear conscience as these people were speaking maliciously against him. That’s what speaking the truth does. The truth has nothing to hide.
A. Truth exposes falsehood and some people don’t like that. Folks, one of the problems that people who fabricate the truth face… is their conscience.
B. For the life of me I don’t know how people who fabricate truth can sleep at night. How can they sleep knowing they have presented something as truth and knowing it is not? How can their conscious let them sleep knowing they have falsely accused someone of something?
1. A mother asked her son Jimmy if he knew the difference between "conscious" and "conscience." He said, "Sure, Mom. Conscious is when you're aware of something. Conscience is when you wish you weren't."
2. Someone once said that, "Conscience is the clearness of eternal light and the mirror of the majesty of God."
3. My point is this, our conscience does one of two things for us; it either helps us to live a life which is pleasing to God with a clear state of mind, or it convicts us of sin and makes us feel guilty. Paul’s conscience is clear. How about ours?
C. Maybe we’ve said something to someone which we knew wasn’t the entire truth and now that plays in the back of our mind. Maybe we’ve done something which we knew was sinful but haven’t confessed it to God or repented of it. Maybe we’ve said, ‘yes, I will go to a meeting’ but we know in our heart that we have no intention of going.
1. Maybe we’ve lied to someone about why we couldn’t come to worship and we feel bad for lying. Maybe there was someone who needed help and we know we could have helped them, but we gave some excuse and now we feel bad for letting them down in their time of need.
2. Folks, the list could go on and on. If this applies to us today then we have the need ask God to forgive us. And that’s the important part. We, as Christians, need to clear our conscience.
VII. Hebrews 10:19-23 – says “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”
A. God sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for us and spill His blood for us, so that we can be free from a guilty conscience. A person doesn’t feel guilty when they have done nothing wrong. It’s only when their conscience is pricked that guilt comes along. Paul did nothing wrong, that’s why he had a clear conscience.
B. He lived his life to please God. He’s didn’t rely on himself for it; he relied on the blood of Christ for that clear conscience. Paul also understood this important point, he knew that a clear conscience did not make him innocent of sin. He understood that.
C. In 1 Corinthians 4:4 Paul says, “For I know nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord.” That is; “My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.” Folks, Paul was clear in his mind about who he was and what he was, and so he carries on his defense before Felix and says in Acts 24:17-18 - “Now after many years I came to bring alms and offerings to my nation, in the midst of which some Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with a multitude nor with tumult.”
D. After some five years in other parts of the world, Paul had returned to Jerusalem with a gift for the needy of the Jewish nation. He says in his defense that he didn’t defile the temple. They found him there after he had completed his vow of purification which again we know as being true. That’s what he did.
VIII. Something else to think about. Some people are very good at getting others to do their dirty work, or providing the bullets, as we say, for someone else to use. People who provide the bullets can become experts at avoiding the conflict which they cause.
A. That’s because they haven’t got the courage to speak to you face to face. As we look at it in the religious sense, they don’t have the courage to obey the words of Jesus as we find them in Matthew 18:15 – “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.” Some people simply do not have the courage to do that.
B. I think it is important for us to remember and understand this because of what Luke tells us next in Acts 24:19-21 – “They ought to have been here before you to object if they had anything against me. Or else let those who are here themselves say if they found any wrongdoing in me while I stood before the council, unless it is for this one statement which I cried out, standing among them, `Concerning the resurrection of the dead I am being judged by you this day.' ”
C. Paul suggested that there were some Asian Jews. (Acts 21:27), who brought the original charges against him, and stirred up the mob. He says those are the ones who provided the “bullets” in the first place; they should have been present for the case before Felix. They are long gone; they simply passed on the bullets for someone else to fire. Those who are shooting are far from innocent though.
D. Paul exposed what the real accusation was all about. He got to the point even when his accusers wouldn’t. He even invited those Sadducean accusers who were present to step forward and show the error in his statement. Paul said it’s "Concerning the resurrection of the dead I am being judged by you this day."
Paul knew exactly why he was there. I suspect he also knew they wouldn’t admit it. Paul brought to them something they did not want to hear and so they decided to blame the messenger and remove him. We have seen this many times in history and we experience it in life. It is the act of lashing out at the (blameless) bearer of bad news. Anytime we are given bad news we tend to suspect the motivation of the person bringing it. In ancient times, messages were delivered in person by a human envoy. An easily-provoked receiver of the message could more easily vent anger on the deliverer of that unpopular message than on its author, and would literally… kill the messenger.
Just before we finish up let’s turn over to Matthew 21:33-39 – Jesus says; “There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit. And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them. Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, `They will respect my son.' But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, `This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.' And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him.”
God sent the prophets with a message to His people, but they beat some, killed some, and stoned others. They killed the messengers.
God sent His Son with a message for His people, but they killed Him. They stoned Stephen to death. They put James to death with the sword. They killed the messengers.
Tradition says Peter was crucified, upside-down in Rome. The Apostle Paul was tortured and then beheaded by the Emperor Nero at Rome in A.D. 67.
Folks, we today are God’s messengers and we too should not be surprised if people want to come down on us. Before we give them a chance to do that, just remind them, ‘”Don’t shoot the messenger’, I’m only telling you what God wants you to hear and what you need to hear from God.”
We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God; and be baptized for the remission of our sins… If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.
Perhaps there is someone in the assembly today with the need to be buried with Christ in baptism. If you have never done these things, we urge you to do so today. If anyone has this need or desires the prayers of faithful Christians on their behalf, we encourage them to come forward while we stand and sing.
Taken from sermon by Mike Glover
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