Acts Chapter Twenty-Four

Read Acts 24:1-9

v.1And after five days Ananias the high priest descended with the elders, and with a certain orator named Tertullus, who informed the governor against Paul.”


            Roman law required that people charged and referred to a higher court be tried as soon as possible.  So, much faster than in our court system today, arrangements are made and the high priest, Ananias, and several of the elders or Sanhedrin council came down from Jerusalem to Caesarea.  They bring with them a Roman lawyer named Tertullus, one who is called an orator a very capable speaker to present their case.  We can note here that none of the Asian Jews are mentioned, the people who stirred the trouble in Jerusalem, the people who accused Paul were not present.  Paul uses that in his defense a little later.


v.2-3And when he was called forth, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying, Seeing that by thee we enjoy great quietness, and that very worthy deeds are done unto this nation by thy providence, 3We accept it always, and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness.”


            Politics hasn’t changed in 2000 years and probably hasn’t changed since the creation of man.  The Roman lawyer starts out his presentation with what the commentator calls “exaggerated flattery”, telling Felix how wonderful his rule over Judea was and how thankful everyone was to have him as governor.  Secular history tells us that Felix had put down a number of riots in Jerusalem, had removed some insurrectionists, that these Jews were an obstinate and rebellious people who never willing accepted anyone ruling them, much less be thankful.


v.4  Notwithstanding, that I be not further tedious unto thee, I pray thee that thou wouldest hear us of thy clemency a few words.”


            Tertullus continues his flattery and asks Felix to hear their case with “clemency”.  The word used here in the Greek means “reasonable, likely, or fair”. In reality the last thing these Jewish rulers want from Felix is a decision that is fair and reasonable, they want a conviction.  Felix was not a righteous man, in fact he was well known to have tremendous greed for both money and power and was an extremely covetous man.


v.5-6For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes: 6Who also hath gone about to profane the temple: whom we took, and would have judged according to our law.”


            When we look at the presentation made by Tertullus we find he made four charges against Paul.  First of all a general charge that Paul was a “pestilent” person; he was a pest, a plague.  This is a very strong word, found only one other place in the New Testament, used by Jesus to describe the destruction of Jerusalem:


Luke 21:11And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven.”


            The first of the more specific charges they bring are that Paul was rebellious and caused seditions and insurrections among the people all over the world.  They could be referring to the problems that Paul encountered at Thessalonica (Acts 17:6) and Ephesus (Acts 19:28), if so they were not Paul’s doing but generated by those who opposed his teaching.

            The second charge is that Paul is a “RINGLEADER OF THE SECT OF THE NAZARENES” a charge that is basically true.  Paul is an apostle, a preacher and teacher of Jesus Christ, indeed a “RINGLEADER” of the true church that is labeled a “SECT” by those who refused to accept Jesus as the Messiah.  They use it here the same way that it has been used by others in other places, because, as we have studied before, it was illegal to teach or promote any religion in the Roman Empire other than that approved by the central government.

            The third charge is that Paul profaned the temple, an outright lie.  As we noted in our study of Acts 21:18-25, great care was taken to keep from giving the Jews an excuse to make this charge.


v.7-8But the chief captain Lysias came upon us, and with great violence took him away out of our hands, 8Commanding his accusers to come unto thee: by examining of whom thyself mayest take knowledge of all these things, whereof we accuse him.”


            Tertullus continues that the Jewish rulers in Jerusalem would have handled this problem themselves but the chief captain came and forcibly removed Paul from their control.  He also makes the same kind of presentation that any prosecutor would before a judge will today, that Felix, if he will examine Paul, make an investigation, will find that these charges are true.

Commentators and scholars have had some problems with these verses.  Some ancient authorities include “AND WOULD HAVE JUDGED ACCORDING TO OUR LAW BUT THE CHIEF CAPTAIN LYSIAS CAME upon us AND WITH GREAT VIOLENCE TOOK him AWAY OUT OF OUR HANDS, COMMANDING HIS ACCUSERS TO COME UNTO THEE”, others do not.  This is part of verse 6, verse 7 and part of verse 8 in the KJV that is not found in the ASV, the RSV puts it in a footnote and the Catholic Confraternity includes it.  Some, obviously, think it belongs, others consider it an addition to Luke’s original writing.


v.9  And the Jews also assented, saying that these things were so.”


            Ananias the high priest and the elders from Jerusalem also testify and swear that these things that Tertullus is saying are all true.  They omit, and perhaps did not know, that Paul is a Roman citizen and therefore has more rights under Roman law than they do.  Now Paul is given the opportunity to defend himself.


Read Acts 24:10-22


v.10Then Paul, after that the governor had beckoned unto him to speak, answered, Forasmuch as I know that thou hast been of many years a judge unto this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself:”


            Paul’s speech is much different than that of Tertullus.  The Roman lawyer used flattery, exaggerations and outright lies and while Paul accurately points out that Felix has been a judge or governor for several years Paul’s presentation is truthful and straightforward.


v.11Because that thou mayest understand, that there are yet but twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem for to worship.”


            The first thing that Paul brings to the attention of Felix is that it’s only been about twelve days since Paul was in Caesarea (Acts 21:15).  There has not been time for him for him to become a “PESTILENCE” as his accusers claim, much less raise an insurrection.


v.12-13And they neither found me in the temple disputing with any man, neither raising up the people, neither in the synagogues, nor in the city: 13Neither can they prove the things whereof they now accuse me.”


            During the five days that passed between the time that Paul was brought to Caesarea and the time that his accusers came down for trial enough time has passed for Felix to make an investigation.  Apparently, from the words that Paul is speaking, Felix knows more about what has actually happened than these Jewish rulers give him credit for knowing.  Paul states the basic facts; he participated in no debates or disputes, not in the temple, in any of the synagogues or in the city itself.  The elders of the church at Jerusalem advised him to keep a very low profile, to go about his business of keeping his vow and worshipping in the temple as he had planned.  He practiced the very thing that he wrote about to the church at Corinth:


I Corinthians 9:20And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;”


But Paul does have one confession to make:


v.14But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets:”


            He’s a Christian; he is a member of the group of people that the Jewish elders are calling a “SECT OF THE NAZARENES”.  The original word translated sect can and is also translated “HERESY”.  But Paul also worships the God of the Jewish fathers or patriarchs and believes all that had been written in the law and the prophets about this that Jesus is the Messiah that was to come.  He is the one promised and that One for whom the Israelite nation was given the Law of Moses to preserve and prepare them for His coming.  Just as he wrote Timothy:


2 Timothy 1:3I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day;”


v.15And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.”


            Paul believed firmly the words of the prophet Daniel:


Daniel 12:2  And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”


These are words that most of his accusers denied even though they were written by one of their major prophets and had been known to the Jewish elders and teachers for hundreds of years.  It is this hope that Paul preaches and teaches along with The Way, the gospel of Jesus Christ; that allows us to achieve that hope.


v.16And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.”


            It is in this hope that Paul exercises himself.  He knows that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust, there will be an accounting before the ultimate Judge, God; there will be a parting as Jesus describes:


Matthew 25:32-33And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.”


Paul, as do all we, intends to be part of those separated as being acceptable to the Ultimate Judge, not part of those who will be on the left hand:


Matthew 25:41Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:”


v.17Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings.”


            Not only has Paul only been in the area for twelve days, he has returned after being gone for many years and brings alms and offerings to the needy of the Jewish population.  This is hardly the activity of an insurrectionist or one who was trying to sow sedition.  And, of course, we remember that Paul and his companions were carrying the offerings from many of the Gentile congregations to the poor saints at Jerusalem.


v.18-19Whereupon certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with multitude, nor with tumult. 19Who ought to have been here before thee, and object, if they had ought against me.”


            Paul continues that it wasn’t the people here before Felix that found him in the temple and raised the uproar.  But rather certain Jews from the province of Asia who found him worshiping quietly with all of the other Jews, no crowd or multitude of people, no tumult or uproar was present until they raised it.  And also that these Jews are not present, his accusers in Jerusalem are not his accusers in Caesarea.  If they have any charges to bring against him they should also be in Caesarea and do so.


v.20-21Or else let these same here say, if they have found any evil doing in me, while I stood before the council, 21Except it be for this one voice, that I cried standing among them, Touching the resurrection of the dead I am called in question by you this day.”


            Paul also brings to the attention of Felix that he had faced the Sanhedrin council and no charges had been brought against him, only that he believed and taught the resurrection from the dead.  If you will remember the study of Acts 23 we find that:


Acts 23:9And there arose a great cry: and the scribes that were of the Pharisees’ part arose, and strove, saying, We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God.”


v.22And when Felix heard these things, having more perfect knowledge of that way, he deferred them, and said, When Lysias the chief captain shall come down, I will know the uttermost of your matter.”


            So Felix, like we would expect from many politicians, renders a non-decision.  Some observations:  First of all he knows more about the Christians and their teaching than the Jewish rulers give him credit for knowing.  Perhaps this is because Philip the evangelist has made Caesarea his home for several years, perhaps because he learned it from other sources.  Secondly he postpones any declaration or judgment of any kind using the absence of Claudius Lysias, the chief captain, as an excuse.  Paul remains a prisoner to placate the Jewish rulers but is not set free as he should be in the face of the lack of any reason to hold him.  The next few verses tells us that Felix is acting true to his character and has other motives for continuing to hold Paul.


Read Acts 24:23-27


v.23And he commanded a centurion to keep Paul, and to let him have liberty, and that he should forbid none of his acquaintance to minister or come unto him.”


            So Felix gives orders to a centurion concerning Paul.  He is to have liberty, but limited liberty.  In the Roman system there were three levels of imprisonment: being put in the common prison with all of the other criminals that were there, being chained to a soldier, under military arrest, such as is when Paul was in Rome and in chains but allowed to have his own place to stay and freedom to have people look after him and minister to him.


v.24  And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ.”


            After a period of time, we’re not told how long, Felix with his wife Drusilla proposes to hear what Paul is teaching.  We don’t know why Felix did this, perhaps this is God’s providence; perhaps he had other motives because as we remember, Felix is a man greedy for money and power. 

            Drusilla, who was the wife of Felix, is characterized here as a Jewess.  History records for us that she was a beautiful woman; had been married before and left that husband for Felix and was the daughter of Herod Agrippa I who murdered the apostle James.  She was also the great-granddaughter of Herod the Great who had the children of Bethlehem killed to try to eliminate the new king, Jesus, who had been born there.


v.25And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.”


            Paul reasoned with them about a number of things.  We’re told that Felix had murdered a high priest, ruled as a tyrant, had taken bribes and was generally a completely unrighteous man.  Drusilla had abandoned her rightful husband for the prestige and power of being the wife of the governor.  So Paul reasoned with them of righteousness, something that they definitely were far from having in their daily lives.  He also teaches concerning self-control, temperance in life, probably especially chastity.  But above all; he reasons with them concerning the judgment to come.  Very vividly and with all the power at his disposal, he makes them see the result of their wicked lives.  Drusilla is oblivious to all this, she is like so many in the religious world today who pretend to follow God and believe, worship and live as they wish rather than as God commands.  They’re comfortable with their condition and they are not going to be touched, frightened or convinced that they need to do anything more than what they’re doing.  But Felix, knowing the kind of life that he had led and being convinced by Paul of the judgment and punishment that he would be given is frightened.  The KJV says that he trembled; the ASV says that he was terrified.  But his attack of conscience doesn’t last very long.  He tells Paul that at some convenient future time he will hear Paul again.  We have no record that that time ever came.


v.2626He hoped also that money should have been given him of Paul, that he might loose him: wherefore he sent for him the oftener, and communed with him.”


            Luke here tells us of the additional motive that Felix had for keeping Paul.  He communed with him on a regular basis.  He knew that Paul had brought what was probably a large sum of money from the Gentile churches to Jerusalem and he was hoping that Paul would either find a way to bribe him for his freedom or perhaps the Gentile Christians was provide money to buy Paul’s freedom.  However, God in his providence has other purposes for Paul and time goes by.


v.26 “But after two years Porcius Festus came into Felix’ room: and Felix, willing to show the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound.”


            Two years go by, Paul is still a prisoner in Caesarea and a change in governors is about to take place.  History tells us that Felix was removed by Nero about AD 60 because of complaints by the Jews, perhaps partially over Paul, more likely because of his greed and ruthlessness as a ruler.  During this time Felix kept Paul as a concession to the Jewish rulers.  Paul is a Roman citizen, he has broken no Roman law that would require imprisonment but he is also a Jew and has been kept in prison for political reasons.