(Again, there will be a lot of narrative in these chapters, much of which will be read without comment.)

Read the whole of Acts 24 (It may be best to share this reading among those happy to read, or simply read each section before commenting)

1 Five days later the high priest Ananias went down to Caesarea with some of the elders and a lawyer named Tertullus, and they brought their charges against Paul before the governor. 2 When Paul was called in, Tertullus presented his case before Felix: ‘We have enjoyed a long period of peace under you, and your foresight has brought about reforms in this nation. 3 Everywhere and in every way, most excellent Felix, we acknowledge this with profound gratitude. 4 But in order not to weary you further, I would request that you be kind enough to hear us briefly.

5 ‘We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect 6 and even tried to desecrate the temple; so we seized him. 8 By examining him yourself you will be able to learn the truth about all these charges we are bringing against him.’

9 The other Jews joined in the accusation, asserting that these things were true.

As has been suggested before, ‘the Jews’ seemed happy to bend the truth, but as someone once said ‘lies have no legs of their own, they need other lies to support them’. But as here, they were never able to support their lies with any concrete facts.

10 When the governor motioned for him to speak, Paul replied: ‘I know that for a number of years you have been a judge over this nation; so I gladly make my defence. 11 You can easily verify that no more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship. 12 My accusers did not find me arguing with anyone at the temple, or stirring up a crowd in the synagogues or anywhere else in the city. 13 And they cannot prove to you the charges they are now making against me. 14 However, I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, 15 and I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. 16 So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.

17 ‘After an absence of several years, I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings. 18 I was ceremonially clean when they found me in the temple courts doing this. There was no crowd with me, nor was I involved in any disturbance. 19 But there are some Jews from the province of Asia, who ought to be here before you and bring charges if they have anything against me. 20 Or these who are here should state what crime they found in me when I stood before the Sanhedrin – 21 unless it was this one thing I shouted as I stood in their presence: “It is concerning the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today.”’

22 Then Felix, who was well acquainted with the Way, adjourned the proceedings. ‘When Lysias the commander comes,’ he said, ‘I will decide your case.’

(Claudius Lysius was the commander of the cohort garrisoned in the Antonia Fortress at Jerusalem.)

Felix obviously had not believed any of the ‘evidence’. He couldn’t declare him guilty but at the same time he was reluctant to release Paul.

What do you think ‘well acquainted with the Way’ means?

From verse 1 we see that Felix lived at Caesarea where Peter had been instrumental in the conversion of the centurion Cornelius and his (Roman) friends A Christian church worshipped there without hindrance, and Felix may well have had conversations with Christians before this meeting with Paul.

23 He ordered the centurion to keep Paul under guard but to give him some freedom and permit his friends to take care of his needs.

Who was the centurion at Caesarea?

I wonder if it was still Cornelius?! If so this house arrest must have been relatively pleasant.

24 Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, ‘That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.’

What do you make of the phrase ‘Felix was afraid’?

When a heart is convicted by the Holy Spirit there are only two alternatives: accept Christ or reject him. Felix must have realised the consequences of those choices and it was this that caused him such fear.

What were these consequences?

Accept Christ: potentially lose all this world had to offer: his status, his friends, his work, his income, possibly his life.

Reject Christ: lose all the benefits of life with Christ on this earth, and suffer eternal damnation in the life to come.

26 At the same time he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him.

27 When two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, but because Felix wanted to grant a favour to the Jews, he left Paul in prison.

It seems there was no ‘freedom’ for Felix either! He had sent for Paul frequently over a space of two years, but it seems he never gave his heart to the Lord. He was recalled to Rome and replaced with Porcius Festus.

(As before, now read the whole of chapter 25. It may be best to share this reading among those happy to read, or simply read each section before commenting)

Chapter 25

1 Three days after arriving in the province, Festus went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem,

It was now about AD60, the Jewish wars with Rome would take place in six years’ time, and already there were continual stirrings of discontent. Added to that, over the years a system of Civic Privileges has been granted to the Jewish leaders which was a continual source of aggravation to Rome.

Festus, the new Governor had to quickly make contact with the Jews of Jerusalem.

2 where the chief priests and the Jewish leaders appeared before him and presented the charges against Paul. 3 They requested Festus, as a favour to them, to have Paul transferred to Jerusalem, for they were preparing an ambush to kill him along the way. 4 Festus answered, ‘Paul is being held at Caesarea, and I myself am going there soon. 5 Let some of your leaders come with me, and if the man has done anything wrong, they can press charges against him there.’

One of the matters discussed was the fate of the prisoner, Paul. Very wisely Festus was not prepared to give up his prisoner into the dubious outcome of a Jewish religious court. He would exercise his authority and would himself be Judge in his own court.

6 After spending eight or ten days with them, Festus went down to Caesarea. The next day he convened the court and ordered that Paul be brought before him. 7 When Paul came in, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood round him. They brought many serious charges against him, but they could not prove them.

Festus had only been Governor for two weeks. He had been left a Roman Citizen in house arrest in Herod’s palace, so he arranged a trial so he could finally settle the matter, and start with a clean slate.

The problem soon became apparent – no-one could explain what crime he had supposedly committed. The Jews accused him of more and more serious offences, but all with no evidence – and with each new accusation, their case against him seemed weaker.

8 Then Paul made his defence: ‘I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar.’

9 Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favour, said to Paul, ‘Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there on these charges?’

10 Paul answered: ‘I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. 11 If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!’

Paul knew that the only outcome of a trial before the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem would be his death. He wasn’t afraid to die but if a Roman citizen had been accused of a capital offence he was entitled to appeal to Caesar himself.

12 After Festus had conferred with his council, he declared: ‘You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!’

For Festus, that was an easy solution to his problems and he could happily refer the case to a higher court. But immediately he realised that it wasn’t that simple: to even arrest a man, he needed a reason and so far he didn’t have one.

13 A few days later King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea to pay their respects to Festus. 14 Since they were spending many days there, Festus discussed Paul’s case with the king. He said: ‘There is a man here whom Felix left as a prisoner. 15 When I went to Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews brought charges against him and asked that he be condemned.

16 ‘I told them that it is not the Roman custom to hand over anyone before they have faced their accusers and have had an opportunity to defend themselves against the charges. 17 When they came here with me, I did not delay the case, but convened the court the next day and ordered the man to be brought in. 18 When his accusers got up to speak, they did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected. 19 Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus whom Paul claimed was alive. 20 I was at a loss how to investigate such matters; so I asked if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial there on these charges. 21 But when Paul made his appeal to be held over for the Emperor’s decision, I ordered him to be held until I could send him to Caesar.’

22 Then Agrippa said to Festus, ‘I would like to hear this man myself.’

He replied, ‘Tomorrow you will hear him.’

Perhaps this will now provide a solution; effectively the case had been taken on by King Aggrippa who probably understood the Jews better than him.

23 The next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp and entered the audience room with the high-ranking military officers and the prominent men of the city. At the command of Festus, Paul was brought in. 24 Festus said: ‘King Agrippa, and all who are present with us, you see this man! The whole Jewish community has petitioned me about him in Jerusalem and here in Caesarea, shouting that he ought not to live any longer. 25 I found he had done nothing deserving of death, but because he made his appeal to the Emperor I decided to send him to Rome. 26 But I have nothing definite to write to His Majesty about him. Therefore I have brought him before all of you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that as a result of this investigation I may have something to write. 27 For I think it is unreasonable to send a prisoner on to Rome without specifying the charges against him.’

unreasonable’ ! Actually inconceivable for a Roman Governor to send a Roman citizen, under arrest, to be tried before Caesar without specifying the charge against him!

Acts 26Acts 22

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Acts 24:1-27 and 25:1-27Ananias & Tertullus accuse Paul before Felix. Paul gives testimony. Case adjourned. Felix and Drusilla discuss with Paul. New governor Festus arranges trial. Paul appeals to Caesar. King Agrippa & Bernice meet Paul.