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Bible: What Does Acts 24 Teach Us About Paul's Trial Before Governor Felix?

Updated on December 30, 2016

The Apostle Paul


Name of City Hosting Paul's Trial

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Tertullus' Opening Remarks

Procurator Felix hears that Paul’s hometown province was Cilicia, so he decides to house the apostle in Herod’s Praetorium (headquarters) until his accusers arrived (23:34-35).

Five days later, a small company of Jewish antagonists (Ananias, the elders, and a certain lawyer named Tertullus) travel to Caesarea to accuse Paul before Governor Felix (v. 1; cf. 23:30).

Asked to present his opening remarks,Tertullus first flatters Felix, crediting the latter with Caesarea’s civil peace and social reforms (prosperity, NKJV) and thanking him for his service [vv. 2-3].

He must have sensed that Felix was unimpressed with his rhetoric, for he states, “Nevertheless, not to be tedious to you any further . . .”; still, Tertullus’ flowery speech continues (“I beg you to hear, by your courtesy, . . . ”) [v. 4].

Speaking on the Jews’ behalf, for Tertullus perhaps did not even know Paul, the orator labels the apostle “a plague,” “a creator of dissension,” and “a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes” (v. 5).

Comment: Ryrie believes that “Tertullus broadened the charge” by calling Paul an insurrectionist (New Testament Study Bible 253).

He also accuses Paul of profaning the temple, for which crime the Jews arrested him (v. 6a).

Comment: For some reason, the NU does not contain verses 6b-8a—a passage pertaining to Lysias’ supposed harsh treatment of the Jews. Notice how Tertullus makes the Jews out to be victims of Lysias rather than persecutors of Paul.

With the Jews’ agreement, Tertullus maintains that Felix will find Paul guilty when he himself examines him (vv. 8-9).

The Name Given to Believers in Christ

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Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Paul Begins His Defense

Felix now offers Paul an opportunity to defend himself (v. 10a). The apostle first indicates that he felt comfortable testifying before the official, because he believed Felix to be an experienced judge who would ascertain the facts fairly (v. 10b). Paul's decision was misplaced trust, as it turned out (cf. 24:27).

Paul then contends that the Jewish leaders could not prove that he had caused dissension anywhere in Jerusalem during the past twelve days (vv. 11-13). He, however, does acknowledge his membership in “the Way”: a so-called sect that worships the God of the patriarchs and believes the Old Testament (v. 14).

Paul argues that his “hope in God” and his belief in “a resurrection both of the just and the unjust,” differed not at all from traditional Jewish belief; he, therefore, endeavors to keep his conscience clean toward God and men (vv. 15-16). Continuing his defense, the apostle relates how he returned to Jerusalem after a long absence to help his people’s needy, and certain Asian Jews found him peaceable, having been "purified" in the temple (vv. 17-18; cf. 21:26-27).

He contends that neither these Asians (who have not appeared in Jerusalem to object to Paul) nor his present company has found any wrongdoing in him, unless it pertained to a statement he made before the Sanhedrin concerning the resurrection of the dead (vv. 19-21;. 23:6). Thus, the apostle completes his remarks.

Reason for Paul's Trial

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Paul: False or True?

Do you think that Paul was a false apostle?

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Felix's Lack of Integrity; Paul Remains Under House Arrest

Deciding to wait to hear Lysias’ testimony before delivering a verdict in Paul’s case, Felix adjourns the hearing and puts the apostle under a lenient house arrest (vv. 22-23).

Comment: Ryrie calls this detention “a relatively loose military confinement” (New Testament Study Bible, 254).

An unspecified while later, Felix and his Jewish wife Drusilla bring Paul before them to hear the gospel (v. 24). Seemingly expecting to carry on a pleasant conversation with the apostle, Felix becomes afraid when Paul begins discussing “righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come” (v. 25a); consequently, he sends the apostle away (v. 25b).

Ryrie notes that Felix had stolen Drusilla from her first husband, and was a corrupt governor (254). Felix repeatedly sends for Paul, thinking that the latter would seek to buy his release (v. 26). However, after two years of futile attempts, he leaves the apostle in prison, and Porcius Festus replaces him as procurator (v. 27). Festus succeeds Felix around A. D. 58 (254).

© 2013 glynch1


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