In our live class on Acts 24, we started out by setting the stage for where we had come to in the story. Paul had been delivered from the 40 men in Jerusalem (whom we saw in Acts 23) who had “bound themselves with a curse” (Acts 23:14) that they would kill Paul at a judicial hearing they were engineering to have the Romans hold. The full audio class on Acts 24 can be heard here.
The point was made in the class that, nowadays, we can think of the Romans as being the persecutors of Christians and the bad guys. But at this point in the early days of Christianity, Paul was safer with the Romans than with his brethren who were persecuting Christians at that time. As Jesus had told His disciples, “The time will come when whosoever kills you will think he does God service.” (John 16:2) That’s how Paul had been before his conversion and plenty of his fellow countrymen were still adamantly that way.
Again in Acts 24 it’s a court scene and a whole gaggle of accusers had journeyed to Caesarea to stand in condemnation against Paul, accusing him of sedition (a very serious crime against the state in the eyes of the Romans) “throughout the world” (Acts 24:5) and “a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes”. (Acts 24:5)
We mentioned briefly how that this is one of two places in Acts where the early Christian movement was called a “sect” by its detractors. Virtually every move of God, the early Christians, the followers of John Huss and later of Martin Luther, the Protestant Reformation, the Baptists of the 1500 and 1600’s, John Wesley and the Methodist, William Booth and the Salvation Army, all were called a sect in their earliest days. But many of those went on to be the major established religious of our times.
Then Paul stands to speak for himself, explaining that he’d actually barely been in Jerusalem a week and that the numerous false accusations made against him were just that: false. But he then did confess that he’d lived his life in full faith in the teachings of the Jewish Law and prophets. Paul defends himself by referring to his faith, saying that he believed in a coming “resurrection of the just and the unjust” (Acts 24:15). He didn’t attack his accusers, he didn’t pander to Roman ways; he just basically stood up for Jesus, for his faith and what he had been doing in his life, taking the conversation into the things of the Spirit and away from politics, nationalism and secularism.
And here again, when the chips were down, Paul would refer to how he had lived in a good conscious. In fact, that was one of the first things he said at his hearing in Acts 23:1, “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.” And he immediately was slapped by order of the high priest. But to Paul, living from a clean conscious was of utmost importance.
And there’s a great verse around here that sums up some witnessing experiences that we have. Paul “reasoned with him of righteous, temperance and judgment to come,” (Acts 24:15), at which point the Bible says Felix “trembled” and then kind of gave Paul the nervous brush-off by saying. “Go your way Paul; when I have a convenient season, I will call for you.” (Acts 24:15)
There’s a real lesson for us all here. Paul didn’t argue doctrine, he didn’t get into politics; he often just shared what had happened to him. Our own personal story and testimony are one of the most powerful things we can share with others.
“This is what happened to me.” When you tell people your own personal experience, and if you share it with sincerity in the power of the Holy Spirit, people will believe you. And if they believe it happened to you, then they’ll realize it can happen to them also.
So Felix got really under conviction. But he didn’t want to yield to the nudging and urgings of the Holy Spirit so he basically asked or told Paul to leave. This kind of thing still happens today when some people recognize the tug on their heart and soul but don’t want to yield to the Lord.
Then also we find out in the next verse that it seems like Felix was kind of holding out for or expecting some kind of bribe before he would release Paul. Things haven’t changed much, have they? And the chapter ends around there, Paul still in bonds, his fate still undecided by the Roman authorities. But in Acts 25, things come more to the climax as the “buck stops here” head of the Romans in that part of the world, King Agrippa, gives Paul an audience.
We’ll see in the next class that King Agrippa would actually have pretty much wrapped up the case against Paul. But instead, the seemingly “cruel hand of fate” had Paul end up being shipped off to Rome and ultimately to his martyrdom. Was it “the cruel hand of fate”? Actually no, since the Lord had already told Paul “Be of good cheer Paul. For as you have testified of Me in Jerusalem, so must you also testify of Me in Rome.” (Acts 23:11) It was all part of God’s plan, His much greater vision for Paul’s life and ultimately for the world as a whole.
Exciting stuff, no? The live class audio on Acts 24 can be heard here.