Sunday: Before Felix

Five days after Paul’s transfer to Caesarea, a group of important Jewish leaders—the high priest, some members of the Sanhedrin, and a professional lawyer named Tertullus—came down from Jerusalem and formally laid before Felix their case against the apostle (Acts 24:1-9).

This is the only trial in Acts in which the accusers employed a lawyer. In his speech, Tertullus tried an interesting strategy to win the governor’s favor.

Before Felix

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It was simply not true that, under Felix, the Jews had enjoyed a long period of peace. In fact, no other governor had been so repressive and violent, and this repression generated an enormous antagonism among the Jews toward Roman rule. With a lot of ingenuity, Tertullus used the governor’s own administrative policy to convince him that he would achieve political stability in this case also only by means of severe repression.

Then, he went on to press three specific charges against Paul: (1) that Paul was an agitator who was constantly fomenting unrest among Jews throughout the empire (Acts 24:5); (2) that he was a ringleader of the Nazarenes (Acts 24:5), which implicated Christianity as a whole as a kind of disruptive movement; and (3) that he had attempted to defile the Jerusalem temple (Acts 24:6).

Read Acts 24:10-19. How did Paul answer each one of the charges?

Two further points raised by Paul were devastating to the accusers’ case: (1) the absence of the Asian witnesses (Acts 24:18-19), which had the potential of rendering the trial invalid, and (2) the fact that the Jews there could speak only about Paul’s hearing before the Sanhedrin the week before (Acts 24:20), and as such they had nothing to accuse him of except that he believed in the resurrection of the dead (compare with Acts 23:6).

Felix immediately understood the weight of Paul’s arguments, also because he was somewhat acquainted with Christianity, probably through his Jewish wife Drusilla. The fact is that he decided to adjourn the proceedings until further notice (Acts 24:22).

Felix’s response (Acts 24:24-27) revealed much about his character: he procrastinated, he was able to be bribed, and he was opportunistic. Paul had little chance of a fair hearing with someone like Felix.

Read Acts 24:16. Paul said that he strove always to have a “conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.” What does that mean? What, if anything, would you have to change in order to say the same thing?
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Source: Daily Sabbath School Lessons