There are actually two men on trial in this chapter. In the first half of the chapter, Paul is on trial before Felix, the governor of Judea. In the second half of this chapter, it is Felix himself who is on trial, but not before Paul, before the supreme judge of the universe. As we look carefully at these two trials, we will see the difference in how the world accuses and the spirit convicts,
The Devil Accuses the Brethren Of Wrongful Deeds The Devilish Accusation: Acts 24:1 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. Let’s meet these accusers.
Ananias the son of Nedebaeus reigned as high priest from A.D. 48 to 58 or 59 and was a terrible man. He was known for his avarice and liberal use of violence. At one point he himself was bound and sent to Caesar to answer for his conduct. During his time away from Jerusalem a man named Jonathon ascended to the high priesthood. Now here is where it gets really crazy, and also where we see the Ananias and Felix have a twisted history together. Soon after Ananias returned to Jerusalem, Jonathan was slain in the temple itself, by the instigation of Felix, by assassins who had been hired for the purpose. This murder is thus described by Jewish historian Flavius Josephus: "Felix bore an ill-will to Jonathan, the high priest, because he frequently gave him admonitions about governing the Jewish affairs better than he did, lest complaints should be made against him, since he had procured of Caesar the appointment of Felix as procurator of Judea. Accordingly, Felix contrived a method by which he might get rid of Jonathan, whose admonitions had become troublesome to him. Felix persuaded one of Jonathan's most faithful friends, of the name Doras, to bring the robbers upon him, and to put him to death.” This was done in Jerusalem. The robbers came into the city as if to worship God, and with daggers, which they had concealed under their garments, they put him to death. After the death of Jonathan, the office of high priest remained vacant. It was during this interval, while the office of high priest was vacant, that the events which are here recorded took place. Ananias was then at Jerusalem; and as the office of high priest was vacant, and as he was the last person who had borne the office, it was natural that he should discharge, probably by common consent, its duties, so far, at least, as to preside in the Sanhedrin. This background is pretty helpful in understand Paul’s interaction before the council in chapter 23:
Acts 23:1 And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” 2 And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?” 4 Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God’s high priest?” 5 And Paul said, “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’”
This is the man that brings a charge against Paul to Felix his co-conspirator. Yet he comes not alone. He brings with him a man named to Tertullus to argue his case: derived from Tertius, and meaning, liar or impostor. He speaks words of flattery, words of accusation.
The Charge Against Him:
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.
We have found this man to be a plague, who stirs up riots among the jews throughout the world
ringleader of the nazarenes, he tried to profane the temple: All lies. We have the record already in front of us. All according to his righteousness. In other words, they are speaking against his conduct. That he’s a bad citizen, that he is an instigator of trouble and violence.
There is a reason why I refer to this accusation as a devilish accusation. Satan’s name means adversary and accuser. He is called the accuser of the brothers in Rev 12:10, and he will answer to Christ for his malicious accusations. So you have corrupt men making slanderous accusation according to Paul’s righteousness. And look now at Paul’s defense
Paul’s Defence: Acts 24:10 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.
Paul responds to every charge against him:
I did not stir up the crowd when I went up to worship: 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.
I worship the God of the Jews: 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.
I maintained the purity of the temple: 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.
My accusers are not here: "But some Jews from Asia— 19 they ought to be here before you and to make an accusation, should they have anything against me.
Are you ready to actually speak to the issue of faith? 20 Or else let these men themselves say what wrongdoing they found when I stood before the council, 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.’”
the outcome: Acts 24:22 But Felix, having a rather accurate knowledge of the Way, put them off, saying, “When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case.” 23 Then he gave orders to the centurion that he should be kept in custody but have some liberty, and that none of his friends should be prevented from attending to his needs.
knowing that the world will accuse us according to our righteousness we must take all the more care that our consciences are kept clean in front of all men.
16 So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.
The people of pursue a strategy of benevolent good works in their communities, that act as a shield toward persecution and a platform for speaking about our saviour.
Did you notice that Paul does not testify of Jesus? When we are accused according to our righteousness, it is not the time for us to defend ourselves by preaching the gospel.
There is a time to preach, but there is also a time to defend our righteousness. If we preach before establishing our righteousness, we are called hypocrite.
The Spirit Convicts the World As To Their Sin
Felix was initially interested in hearing Paul speak: Acts 24:24 After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. There is an initial interest. This is a unique thing that Felix should visit Drusilla with his wife. Perhaps this was something of a compromise in their marriage. Felix was a Roman and a worldly one at that. He had been a slave in the household of the mother of Emperor Claudius before earning his freedom, and received his office because he and his notorious brother Pallas were favorites of the emperor Claudius. He married shrewdly. His first wife was the granddaughter of Anthony and Cleopatra, cementing his noble status. Drusilla, his third wife was another noble, the daughter of King Herod Agrippa. She was a piece of work on her own. The story is that she was strikingly beautiful and Felix sent a friend of hers to persuade her to leave her husband, a Syrian King, to marry Felix. Not only did she break Jewish law by divorcing her husband to marry Felix, but Felix was a Gentile. So she had pretty much burned a lot of her Jewish bridges to marry him. Perhaps that was one of the reasons they were so interested to hear from Paul about faith in Jesus. Maybe they had heard that here was a sect of Judaism that was less rigid, more open to Gentile ways.
In verse 25 we have the content of Paul’s interactions with Felix and Drusilla. “And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment,” Paul confronted him with the charge of the gospel: Faith in Jesus Christ
righteousness he did not possess: if in fact Felix and Drusilla were hoping for a less rigid, more permissive religion, they had come to the wrong place. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not permissive. In fact, the gospel calls us not only to preach the law but to preach the law further than the Jewish teachers ever dared to, because the gospel preaches the law to the heart. You’ve heard it said, “do not murder”, Jesus said, “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” The whole law is summed up in two great commandments: to Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength and to love you neighbour as yourself.
self-control he could not practice: It is not only that we are not righteous, it is that we cannot will ourselves to become righteous. We do not have the self control within us to fulfill the law of Christ. Self control can get you somewhere: it might be able to get you through having that second desert at the banquet. But what sort of self control is required to Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength and to love you neighbour as yourself.
judgement he could not prevent:
Felix’s response to the Gospel: Felix was alarmed and said, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.” Contrast to Paul who cheerfully made his defence, Felix was terrified. All other uses of this phrase in Luke’s writings speak of men trembling before Angels, of before a vision of the Lord Jesus himself. When they Gospel is preached according to our sin to convict us before a holy God, there is no recourse but to run in terror, and there are only two directions to run. One direction is to run far away from God. The other direction is to run to a place of safety - run to the cross.
In the cross we find an alien righteousness.
In the resurrection we find a spirit-given self-control
In the ascension we find a life-granting judgement
Two Trials Same Outcome
It’s too bad that Felix and Drusilla rejected the grace of God offered in Jesus Christ. They put off Paul for two years.
6 At the same time he hoped that money would be given him by Paul. So he sent for him often and conversed with him. 27 When two years had elapsed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And desiring to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison.
The first trial, Paul before Felix, lasted less than 12 days. The second trial, Felix before Paul, lasted over two years. On the one hand, it looks like nothing has changed. Paul is still in prison, now he is being used and manipulated by Felix. He’s just a pawn. Has any of this even mattered?
I initially called this sermon: “When God Wastes Your Life” Consider that it was Jesus who sent Paul up to Jerusalem, preparing him that suffering and imprisonment awaited him there. And consider when he got to Jerusalem how quickly every thing happened. It’s easy to observe the activity of God in the crisis and when everything is happening so quickly around you. But by the end of this chapter, Paul seems stalled. Sitting in prison. His outcome determined by a man awaiting a bribe or until the political winds shift.
Some of you know this moment - you feel that God has called you to something, and for a time it is all new and exciting, but then it turns into a waiting game. Mom’s you have the excitement of learning you’re pregnant, and the joy or pain of pregnancy, and the miraculous and excruciating experience of labour, and you hold your baby in your arms and you’re like, God has called me to this, he’s entrusted me with this little one, what a ministry, what a calling! And then you don’t sleep or see your friends or your church for two years. And it’s not a prison, but you have to remind yourself again and again: jesus has called me to this, Jesus has called me to this.
Jesus has called us to live lives of clear conscience and good works.
Jesus has called us to testify of our faith to the hearts of our accusers.
Jesus has called us to wait upon him no matter the outcomes.
Jesus has called us to himself.
Talking with my friend this week who is literally in this waiting position. He’s in prison serving a six-year sentence and awaiting parole. He’s come to faith in Christ, and I was contacted by the prison chaplain to get to know him. He described his situation much like the apostle Paul. I don’t know when I’m getting out. But I know that this is God’s will for the present. He’s standing by me and teaching me things about my heart.