Acts 24

Acts 24
by Pastor Mark Hudson

Our Lord Jesus told Paul, through Ananias, that Paul “is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings . . . .” We are reading the fulfillment of that prophecy.  Paul speaks before Jewish leaders and Gentiles alike.  In chapter 24, he is speaking before Felix, whose full name was Antonius Felix.  He accepted bribes, put rebellions down with vicious response and robbed a man of his wife.  Drusilla, a beautiful young 20 year-old was already married but Felix with the help of an intermediary, seduced her.  During the time of the next chapter, he is recalled to Rome to account for his violent reactions to rebellion only to be saved by his brother Pallas’s appeal to Nero.

Paul is also being contrasted with the trial of the Lord Jesus.  Luke takes pains to insure these early Christians knew they would suffer like their Lord suffered.  We read of the similarities between the Lord and Stephen, especially as he cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” in 7:60 which sounds like “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).  In Paul’s case ordeal is compared to Jesus’s accusers.
“they (Jesus’ enemies) had accused Him of threatening to destroy the temple and of blaspheming (Mk 14:55-64; Luke 22:66-71), while before Pilate they had represented him as guilty of sedition – subverting the nation, opposing taxes to Caesar and claiming to be himself a king (Lk. 23:1-3).  Now Paul’s enemies laid similar charges against him, namely that he had offended ‘against the law of the Jews’, ‘against the temple’ and ‘against Caesar’ (25:7-8)”  (Stott, The Message of Acts, p. 358).

Ironically, the case against Paul was fabricated.  He was there on a mission of mercy.  He had collected money from Gentile churches to give to the needy believers in Jerusalem (Rom. 15:14-32; I Cor. 16:1-4; II Cor. 8:1-9:15).  (Although this last point is debated.  Does v. 17 refer to that offering or ceremonial offerings?).  Paul was in Jerusalem primarily because in Acts 21:23-24, the leaders of the Jerusalem church told him to purify himself, pay for the temple expenses for four Jews who were under a vow.  In other words, these Jerusalem leaders wanted Paul to follow Jewish law to a T to communicate his respect for the temple.

So, the charges against Paul were bogus nor could they be substantiated.  So Tertullus, probably hired by the Jewish authorities, either outright lied or did not know what he was talking about.  He calls Paul a pest, plague, or troublemaker.  Then the Jews say, through Terullus, that Paul “stirs up riots among all the Jews throughout the world.  The opposite is true.  As we have seen, Paul is not the one who is pestered, but he was followed by angry Jews who stir up trouble.  While he is a leader, Tertullus employs the most pejorative term to describe Paul’s role: ringleader and sect.  Tertullus, though trying every trick he can think of, is unsuccessful.

Paul has a rather easy time to make his defense.  Regarding the 12 days, 5 days he was in prison in Caesarea and one day in Jerusalem.  He would have had a hard time causing that much trouble in less than a week.  Paul does say he is a follower of 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 . . . which they themselves accept” (vs. 14-15).  Then in v. 18, Paul says, “they found me purified in the temple, without any crowd or tumult.”  Paul’s defense was solid on both political grounds (since this was before a Roman official) and theological since the high priest was there listening (v. 1).

Once again a Roman official finds no fault in Paul.  This theme is repeated over and over to show to any government official in any land they have nothing to fear from believers.  Yet, reflecting on the history of Christianity around the world, leaders everywhere are threatened by Christians.  In our own country, Christians are mocked, prevented from positions of authority (look at media, higher education or politics.  Name one evangelical in the current administration of Biden in 2023).  Think of China, North Korea, Afghanistan, etc.  Luke stresses that Christians make the best citizens and obey all laws except those that unjustly violate truth and righteousness.

Notice that Drusilla came with Felix.  She was from a family that had done great harm to the faith.  She was the great granddaughter of Herod the Great who slaughtered baby boys in Bethlehem to kill a potential king (Matt. 2:1-15).  Her Father was Herod Agrippa I who had James killed in Acts 12.  Her older sister was Bernice is introduced in Acts 25:13ff.  She may have even had an incestuous relationship with her brother Agrippa II.  Not a great family.

Notice that Paul “reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment.  Paul spoke this way to Felix who was known for violence.  Paul is preaching these topics to a man who seduced a woman to leave her husband.  Paul’s preaching must have bothered Felix for Felix tells Paul to go away.  Sometimes, when we speak for God, people ask us to leave or sometimes people leave us.  I wonder if Paul talked about his predicament standing before Felix.  Did Paul remind Felix that he would stand before God who knows and sees all?  Did Paul press the both Felix and Drusilla on their appointed judgment and their names and title would mean nothing to the King who is above every King?

Dear Father, You called Paul to speak before Kings and that he did.  He was so fearless and yet so loving.  Thank you that You still change the lives of those around us.  Help us to look at our own culture and see how lost it is.  We need to speak up for Christ and let “goods and kindred go, this mortal life also.”  Give us a desire for Your glory that we have never had before.  Make us to hunger and thirst after Your righteousness.  May the name of Christ be honored, loved, and worshipped.  Amen.