Paul’s Defense Before Felix And Festus
Book of Acts Chapters 24; 25
When we left Paul last week he was about to present his case to Felix, the governor of Judaea and Samaria but before this could take place Felix would hear from the High Priest and the Jewish charges against Paul.
The main characters of this lesson would be the Apostle Paul, Felix and Festus.
Felix was the Roman procurator of Judaea in 53 A.D. He had been appointed by the Emperor Claudius.
Felix held the position that was once held by Pontus Pilate. Felix was a mean and cruel man and his period of office was full of troubles and sedition.
Porcius Festus succeeded Felix as governor Judea and this probably took place in 60 A.D.
Paul had a been a prisoner of Felix for about two years by this time.
Before Paul was able to present his case to Felix, the Jews had brought themselves a lawyer named Tertullus to present their case against Paul.
An "orator" would be a skillful and an eloquent speaker. So even though this man was a lawyer, he was probably not a scribe but he would be fluent in Latin, the language of Rome. We can be sure that Tertullus was brought in in order to flatter and to sway Felix.
We can also be sure that Paul was also fluent in this language of Latin but these Jews may not have been aware of this.
Tertullus accused Paul of being "pestilent", which means that Paul was like some kind of disease that spread bad health to the public.
He also accused Paul of "sedition", which means Paul was causing a great commotion in Jerusalem. Not quite an "insurrection" and not quite a "rebellion" but would certainly soon lead to these things.
In other words, these Jews considered Christianity to be nothing "but some cult" and not a true religion with Paul being the ringleader!
He also accused Paul of profaning the Temple, which means he continued with the accusation that Paul had taken a Gentile into the Holy Place, which was also a lie.
And he went on to say that if the Roman commander had not stopped the Jews they would have settled these things by Jewish law.
Stoning was the preferred method of the Jews but in Paul’s case they would have physically beaten him to death!
We will also meet some other people during this trial of Paul.
We have already talked about Felix and Festus the governors of Judea. In addition there was the high priest Ananias, and we have mentioned Tertullus.
But we will also meet Drucilla, the wife of Felix, and also Agrippa, another Roman governor and his sister Bernice.
Now let’s hear what the Apostle Paul had to say.
*****Act 24:10 Then 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:
Tertullus Had finished his remarks and before making any judgment Felix beckoned with his hand for Paul to speak.
Paul did not flatter Felix as Tertullus had done, but he did acknowledge that the governor was a man of experience and therefore a man of knowledge.
Paul did emphasize that he was happy to "more cheerfully answer" for himself.
This shows that the Apostle Paul had the courage to defend Christianity before any government official and false religion though he considered Christianity to be the fulfillment of the Old Testament!
By this time Paul had already written much of the New Testament and it was in the hands of the Christian church.
The Bible teaches us:
Eph 6:13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, [to stand].
We cannot back down when it is time to take a stand. This has already caused much problems in America because we refuse to take a stand on the Word of God.
It is not the time to be passive Christians any more!
*****Act 24:11 Because that thou mayest understand, that there are yet but twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem for to worship.
Act 24:12 And they neither found me in the temple disputing with any man, neither raising up the people, neither in the synagogues, nor in the city:
Act 24:13 Neither can they prove the things whereof they now accuse me.
These 12 days refer to the time that Paul was in Jerusalem. Paul wanted Felix to have a clear understanding of the time that he had been in Jerusalem.
1) On day one Paul had arrived in Jerusalem.
2) On day two Paul had met with the church elders and James.
3.) On day three Paul had gone to the Temple with those Nazarites.
4) Days 4 and 5 were spent in the Temple for purification.
5) On day six Paul was arrested.
6.) On day seven Paul had appeared before the Sanhedrin court.
7) On day eight Paul had been escorted to Caesarea and it had now been five days until this day with Felix.
Paul was explaining to Felix that he had gone to the Temple to worship and not to lead anyone in a disturbance.
The Temple records would show that Paul had registered to pay the cost for those Jews who had taken a Nazirite vow. This had been the plan of James.
Paul had not preached in the Temple nor in any of the synagogues nor anywhere else in the city of Jerusalem!
Paul had made an agreement with Peter and the Jerusalem elders that he would not evangelize the Jews in Jerusalem and he would not go back on his word. (Gal 2:7-10)
In other words the high priest had no proof of the things that he accused Paul of!
These things that Paul had said were facts and could be easily proven!
So Paul next dealt with the charges of sedition and heresy.
*****Act 24:14 But 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:
Act 24:15 And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.
Act 24:16 And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.
These Jews saw Christianity as heresy!
The outside world saw Christianity as a cult!
Paul explained that the fact that he was a Christian did not mean he worshiped a different God from the God of his fathers. It only meant he worshiped the God of his fathers in a new and living way.
For the only acceptable way to worship the Father is through Jesus Christ.
Joh 5:23 That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father.[He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him].
Paul explained that his faith was still founded on the same scriptures that were honored by his accusers!
Paul had preached many a sermon on the coming "resurrection of the just".
Paul had rarely mentioned "the resurrection of the unjust", which was well documented in the prophecy of Daniel.
Dan 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].
There is little doubt that these words did not set well with Felix and more certainly with the Sadducees who did not believe in any resurrection and would not have look forward to any such event if it were true!
And it is true!
Paul explained that he accepted the Scriptures as they were written and that he was careful to avoid the offense of God and of men as he accepted God’s Word is the truth.
Paul was simply saying that it was his goal to keep his conscience clear and not stumble morally.
*****Act 24:17 Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings.
Act 24:18 Whereupon certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with multitude, nor with tumult.
Act 24:19 Who ought to have been here before thee, and object, if they had ought against me.
Now Paul explains why he had come to Jerusalem. Paul had come to present to Jewish believers an offering which had been received from the churches in Galatia and Macedonia and Achaia and Asia.
Instead of going about causing strife and dissension among the Jews, he had been collecting funds for this offering!
Instead of being harmful to his people, he had been trying to help them!
Paul explained that his purpose for being in the Temple was to participate in a particular Temple ritual which was open to all Jews.
This ritual, was a purification ritual and it had been completed just prior to his being apprehended by these that were accusing him this day.
As a Jew, who was ritually pure, Paul had as much right to be in the Temple courtyard on that occasion as any other Jewish man in all of Israel.
And Paul did not have around him neither a multitude nor a group of followers who were causing any disturbance.
These were facts that could be easily proven!
Paul corrected the accusation presented by Tertullus, "that it was the Jewish leaders that had seen him", when it was those certain out of town Jews from Asia and probably from Ephesus.
So any evidence they had was based on "hearsay" at best and if his conduct in the Temple courtyard was wrong or objectionable to the Jews who had seen him, then they themselves should be present to give eyewitness testimony.
We can be sure that they had returned to Asia thinking they had accomplished the destruction of the Apostle Paul.
*****Act 24:21 Except 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 knew that this whole thing was about Jesus and whether he was living or dead.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord was at the heart of this case against the Apostle Paul.
Peter had these words:
1Pe 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope [by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,]
Rom 4:25 Who was delivered for our offences, and [was raised again for our justification].
John wrote that we can know this truth:
1Jn 2:21 I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.
1Jn 2:22 Who is a liar but [he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ]? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.
These words of Paul brought Holy Ghost conviction upon Felix.
*****Act 24:24 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.
Act 24:25 And 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.
Drusilla was the third wife of Felix and was very young. She was the youngest daughter of Herod Agrippa I but she no doubt new of her father’s persecution of the Jerusalem church and may also have been more curious than Felix about the Christian faith.
Upon hearing the gospel Felix trembled.
Felix evidently came under terrified conviction.
His discomfort became so intense that he interrupted Paul saying "go thy way for this time when I have a convenient season I will call thee"
There is no indication that Felix ever found a convenient season that he could trust Christ as his Savior.
The Bible says:
Heb 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
*****Act 24:26 He 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.
In fact Felix reverted to his old self and assumed that Paul could if he wanted to purchase his freedom with a bribe, since he had possession of so much of God’s money.
Paul would never have given a bribe to Felix!
Now let’s see Paul present himself before Festus:
*****Act 25:1 Now when Festus was come into the province, after three days he ascended from Caesarea to Jerusalem.
Act 25:2 Then the high priest and the chief of the Jews informed him against Paul, and besought him,
Act 25:3 And desired favour against him, that he would send for him to Jerusalem, laying wait in the way to kill him.
Act 25:4 But Festus answered, that Paul should be kept at Caesarea, and that he himself would depart shortly thither.
Act 25:5 Let them therefore, said he, which among you are able, go down with me, and accuse this man, if there be any wickedness in him.
Act 25:6 And when he had tarried among them more than ten days, he went down unto Caesarea; and the next day sitting on the judgment seat commanded Paul to be brought.
History tells us that’s Festus served as governor of the province only two years before he died but Festus appeared to have been a good ruler.
Luke was apparently near Paul during the two years that Paul was kept in Caesarea.
Tradition tells us that Luke wrote much of the Book of Acts during this period of time and probably also wrote the gospel of Luke.
Festus spent about two weeks in Jerusalem before going back down to Caesarea.
*****Act 25:7 And when he was come, the Jews which came down from Jerusalem stood round about, and laid many and grievous complaints against Paul, which they could not prove.
Once again Paul had to stand before a Roman authority for judgment while these same Jews would seek to have him convicted of a crime worthy of death.
While the Jews still laid many grievous complaints against Paul this verse also says that they were still unable to prove any of their charges.
It had been two years since their previous attempt to convict Paul and it is probable that they had conjured up additional accusations.
These Jews sole purpose was to murder Paul.
*****Act 25:8 While he answered for himself, Neither against the law of the Jews, neither against the temple, nor yet against Caesar, have I offended any thing at all.
Paul’s response tells us about the charges that were made against him.
He was accused of breaking the laws of Moses.
He was accused of desecrating the Temple.
He was accused of violating Roman law.
The Greek word for "offended" is in most places in the Bible was translated "sinned".
Paul was not perfect by any means but he was not guilty of any crime against the Jews, nor the Romans and he was certainly not worthy of having the death sentence imposed upon him.
*****Act 25:9 But Festus, willing to do the Jews a pleasure, answered Paul, and said, Wilt thou go up to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these things before me?
Earlier Festus had refused the Jews request for Paul to be sent to Jerusalem for trial.
However now he seemed agreeable to do so, but since Paul was a Roman citizen, he needed Paul’s consent.
Festus was trying to gain favor of the Jews by offering to conduct the trial in Jerusalem not knowing he would be jeopardizing the life of the Apostle Paul.
These Jews were so caught up in their hatred they had no problem in planning an ambush to assassinate Paul in his transit to Jerusalem if it took place.
*****Act 25:10 Then said Paul, I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest.
Act 25:11 For if I be an offender, or have committed any thing worthy of death, I refuse not to die: but if there be none of these things whereof these accuse me, no man may deliver me unto them. I appeal unto Caesar.
The Jews had blundered when they accused Paul of sedition and rebellion against the Roman Empire!
There were no witness to prove any such charge but this charge made it a Roman issue rather than one merely of the Jews religion, so Paul is a Roman citizen had the right to appeal to a higher tribunal and he appealed to Caesar.
*****Act 25:12 Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, Hast thou appealed unto Caesar? unto Caesar shalt thou go.
All Roman governors had a council appointed to aid them in dispensing justice and Festus conferred with his own counsel.
Again Paul was saved from death by his understanding of Roman law!
Festus may have wanted to gain favor with the Jews, but Roman law demanded that a Roman citizen be given a fair trial.
In all his court appearances we will see that Paul made an adequate and an able defense.
These trials clearly reveal that Paul was not guilty of anything at all. He had done nothing wrong and no provable charge had ever been brought against him.
He had not violated the Temple!
He had not in-sighted rebellion against Roman authority and both the accusers and the judge at these trials knew this to be the truth.
The only thing the that was correct, was that when Paul preached it was a threat to Judaism!
Next week we will see Paul’s defense before King Agrippa. It seems that Festus was at a complete loss as to what to report to the Emperor.
He could find no reason to continue to hold Paul yet the Jews demanded Paul’s life.