Acts 24:1-9-After 5 days the High Priest Ananias arrived...along with some elders and an attorney, named Tertullus. He begins by pouring complements on “most excellent Felix” in order to stroke his ego (:2-3). Tertullus presents the charges against Paul (:5-8)…
- he stirs up dissension wherever he goes;
- he is a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes (this infers that Christianity is a religion separate from Judaism and would not be covered legal under Roman law);
- he tried to desecrate the Temple (this is a lie referring to the accusation previously made that he had brought Gentiles into the Temple);
- they were going to deal with him in the appropriate legal manner, but Lysias, the Roman commander took him forcibly and interrupted the proceedings (in reality, they were about to murder him without giving him the benefit of a trial).
The Jews confirmed that what Tertullus said was true.
Acts 24:10-21-Felix then motioned for Paul to respond. Paul tells Felix that he is pleased that he is knowledgeable of the practices of the Jewish religion. Because of this, he believes that Felix will be able to easily discern the truth of what happened. His defense is…
- 12 days earlier he went to the Temple to worship and at no time did he start any kind of a disturbance…neither there, or in the synagogues, or in the city;
- his accusers have no evidence for the charges that they are making against him;
- he serves the God of the Jews according to the "Way" (identifying Christianity with its Jewish heritage and not as some new religion that was not recognized by Roman law);
- because of his religious convictions he tries to live a life that is blameless in view of both God and man;
- he had been gone for several years and when he returned he had gone to the Temple…having followed the traditions of purification;
- however, there were Jews from Asia who suddenly showed up and began to falsely accuse him…they are the ones who caused the riot…and now, they are not present to make their charges (because they would not hold up in a Roman court);
- the real reason that all of this had happened and they had wound up in front of Felix was because of Paul’s belief in the resurrection (Ananias was a member of the Sadducees…who did not believe in the resurrection). The only charge they actually have against him was that he shouted that he was being tried because of this belief when he was before the Jewish council and it resulted in their having an intense debate.
As Paul answers the heresy charge, he reveals the uniqueness of Christianity vis-à-vis first-century Judaism. All Paul did in his life as a service of worship to God, he did as a follower of "the Way." Both the Dead Sea Scroll community and the New Testament church via John the Baptist's ministry used as their mandate Isaiah 40:3, "prepare the way for the LORD" (Lk 3:3-6; 1QS 8:13-16). Christianity, or the lifestyle it commended, became known as "the Way" (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4, 22; compare 1QS 9:16-21). The Dead Sea Scroll community prepared "the way for the LORD" through the study of the law, but Jesus' teaching set his followers on a more eschatologically imminent, ethically radical, profoundly personal and dynamically evangelistic "way" (Lk 14:25-33; Jn 14:6; Acts 1:8; Pathrapankal 1979:537-38).
Paul also emphasizes the Christian's continuity with Old Testament Jewish faith. He worships the same God, the God of our fathers (3:13; 5:30; 7:32/Ex 3:6). He does so with the same belief. He believes all that is written according to the Law and in the Prophets (Lk 24:25-27, 44; Acts 26:22). His worship involves the same hope, . . . that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked (Is 26:19; Dan 12:2; 1 Enoch 51:1-2). And his worship has the same aim: to live with conscience clear before God and man, no conscious record of misdeeds, in light of the coming judgment at the final resurrection (Acts 23:1).
Acts 24:22-27-Felix, "having a more exact knowledge about the Way" (:22-this means that he knew enough about Christianity to realize that the Jews were not being totally honest in their accusations)...decided to wait for the commander, Lysia to arrive before making a judgment. Several days later he had Paul explain more of his beliefs to him and his wife, Drusilla (Ryrie-:25-he had stolen her from her first husband)...but became frightened when Paul began talking about righteousness and self-control…and rightfully so.
The judicial delay leads to gospel declaration (vv. 22-25). After several days, Felix and his Jewish wife Drusilla come to the section of the palace where the prisoners are kept and send for Paul.
Drusilla, one of the three daughters of Agrippa I (12:1-23), was born A.D. 38 and promised at a young age to Epiphanes, the son of Antiochus king of Commagene, if he would become a Jewish proselyte (Josephus Jewish Antiquities 19.354-55; 20.139-40). He refused to do so. So after the death of Agrippa I (A.D. 44), Drusilla's brother Agrippa II (Acts 25:13-26:32) gave her in marriage to Azizus, King of Emesa, a small domain on the Orontes. Azizus did consent to be circumcised. Enter Felix, whom Tacitus said indulged in "every kind of barbarity and lust" (Histories 5.9). Captivated by Drusilla's beauty, he wooed her away from Azizus with the aid of a Cyprian Jew named Atomus, who pretended to be a magician. Drusilla married Felix as much to escape the enmity of her sister Bernice, who abused her because of her beauty, as in response to his amorous spell (Josephus Jewish Antiquities 20.139-44). Felix was thrice married (Suetonius Claudius 28). This Drusilla replaced another Drusilla, granddaughter of Antony and Cleopatra. The couple would have been known to some in Luke's Roman audience, since they repaired to Rome after Felix was removed from his procuratorship in A.D. 59.
For two years Paul was there in prison...and Felix would on occasion talk with him. Felix did nothing to release Paul, but instead allowed time to pass because he was hoping that Paul would give him some bribe money to release him. But it never happened. After that time, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus (A.D. 58). It was up to him, as the new Roman magistrate, to decide when to have a trial. In order to maintain stability and peace in his region, Festus wanted to please the Jews…so he left Paul in prison.
Prayer: Lord, even in prison Paul continued to witness for you. He did not allow his circumstances to stop him. Please give me the faith and commitment to continue in Your work even when there appears to be no progress.