Before Felix

Acts 24 – 26

Talk introduction  Witnessing before governors and Kings

We are now coming to the end of Acts, Paul has been travelling around the eastern Mediterranean; starting and then building churches based on Jesus being the Jewish Messiah. Jesus had taught God’s commands to men was crucified yet came back to life he stated whoever accepted him as their Lord would have eternal life. As an ex-Pharisees Paul was now the leading missionary for Jesus’ followers and had been targeted by the Temple priests to be killed. He had left Jerusalem by revealing his was a Roman and now he’s being held for trial by Felix who wanted to keep the Jewish leadership happy making Paul stand trial but under Roman law.

Talk       Acts 24 – 26 Before Felix

Paul’s Trial Before Felix

Paul had been taken to Caesarea to protect him from the plot to kill him by the temple priests, being a Roman citizen had saved him from a mob in Jerusalem. Paul was now a figure head of the Christian church and had to be eliminated after all he had been a Pharisee, and therefore more dangerous since he knew God’s law. Now like Jesus he didn’t accept the authority of the Temple leaders but with his background and knowledge of the faith he was seen as having more credibility.

Charges against Paul 24:1 The Temple leaders went to Caesarea to bring charges against Paul before Felix the governor. Their lawyer presented his case first, after extolling Felix with the peace he had overseen, he then accused Paul of being a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world, of being a ringleader of the Nazarene sect who was about to desecrate the temple.

As ordered the Temple leaders went up to put their charges against Paul before Felix. They knew that Rome wanted their Taxes along with no rebellions, so peace was a prime aim of any Roman governor, yet like Pilate, Felix rule was marked by internal feuds and disturbances, these he quashed with severity, troublemakers, whoever they were, were eliminated as soon as possible so by wining the case against Paul they could also include the followers of Jesus.

Jesus was brought to trial because he firstly rejected the authority of the Temple priests, neither did he accept the laws as interpreted by them, but mainly since he called himself the Son of God making him equal to God. The followers of Jesus were growing and Paul as a theologian and intellectual had far greater status in the minds of the Chief priests than the initial disciples who were all working men.

At the heart of the charges are that Paul said things the Temple authorities didn’t like for to them a troublemaker, a rebel, someone wanting change. Paul had been a fundamentalist who absolutely believed he knew God’s truth, it was only when he experienced the real truth as given by Jesus did he change and then he wanted to tell others of the real truth he had experienced.

The issue Jesus had with the traditionalist was they embellished God’s commands adding duties and responsibilities that were not intended, for example Jesus taught keeping the Sabbath Holy meant showing Gods love; that is doing those thing that pleased and honour God. However the Jews added so many rules about what you could and could not do which did not reflect God’s Word. The best example of this is what you could or not do on a Sabbath

Paul defends himself  24:10 Paul answered, “I came to Jerusalem to bring gifts for the poor and to present offerings also to worship. As a follower of ‘The Way’ I worship the God of our ancestors, I believe as these men do in the Law as written by the Prophets, in the resurrection of both the good and bad as such I strive to keep my conscience clear before God and man. My accusers didn’t find me arguing at the temple, nor stirring up a crowd in the city, neither have they accused me of any crime maybe I am on trial because I shouted at the Sanhedrin I believe in the resurrection of the dead?”

Paul’s defence was factually, not only refuting their accusation but stating no crime was committed nor was their charge valid, referring himself as a Follower of The Way, the first name given to Christians. This was taken when Jesus said his was The Way the Truth and the Life. When asked what our faith is, we would normally say Christian, we could then be asked which Christian church we belong to. I do wonder to reaction if we said, I’m a follower of Jesus, who is ‘The Way’

Paul was in court, with a judge that could free him or hand him over to the Jews. Why did he have to at that time in the trial try to disrupt proceedings? By bringing up the theological disagreements about the resurrection of the dead may well have been a ploy to turn the trail into a personnel vendetta against him rather than a trail about breaking laws which may be more difficult to defend

The adjournment 24:22 Felix, who knew of ‘The Way’, adjourned the proceedings to wait for Lysias the commander. Paul was given some limited freedom with friends taking care of his needs yet still kept under guard.  Felix with his Jewish wife Drusilla sent for Paul several days later, listening to him speaking about his faith in Jesus the Messiah. As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was troubled and sent Paul away. Hoping Paul would offer him a bribe, he frequently talked with him. After two years Felix was succeeded by Festus, but Paul was left in prison as a favour to the Jews.

History has Felix as cruel, immoral and someone prepared to accepted bribes but Paul’s way forward was to use his Roman citizenship which Felix couldn’t ignore. Yet we still see the extent of corrupt leadership, when a person cares more about themselves than the role they should be playing as well as also telling us of the misuse of power by a society that dominates by force.

Most people can’t handle the power of having influence over people and situations. It seems that when a person is handed authority they think they are the expert able to make the right decisions, creating an extended ego for themselves. Some will see a weakness in themselves if they are not making all the decisions then over time their personality change when they feel they deserve to use the power for their own ends

Felix was corrupt yet was troubled hearing Paul talk on righteousness & self-control. He could not find him guilty because he knew Paul was innocent and Roman, but nor could he find him innocent because he didn’t want to upset the priests so Felix just abused his power and kept Paul in Prison. A word of warning Power does tend to corrupt into greed and abuse, this then can cause stress leading to both physical and mental illness, not only for those in power but those affected by it. It is by knowing and practising God’s love that we can handle power and in using it through Jesus’ teaching, we end up with a community of trust and love.

Paul’s Trial Before Festus 25:1 When Festus arrived in Jerusalem, the Jewish leaders presented their charges against Paul, wanting him transferred there in order to ambush and kill him. Festus agreed to the trail but in Caesarea, many serious charges were brought against Paul, His defence was there was no proof he had done anything wrong against the Jewish law, the temple or Caesar.” Festus, wanting to help the Jews asked, Paul, would he stand trial in Jerusalem. Paul answered: I’m standing at Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I’m innocent and cannot be tried by them, I appeal to Caesar! Festus declared: “You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!”

During Festus’ harsh administration, Jewish hostility to Rome was greatly inflamed taxes & civic privileges issue were areas that helped start the Jewish war in 66AD. Festus governor between 59 & 62 AD daren’t upset the political balance so again couldn’t find Paul innocent yet nor as Paul was Roman could he find him guilty. With the unrest already in the country he couldn’t risk offending the Jews so as this trail was having the same result as happen with Felix Paul could see that his only way of release was to go to a higher authority in Rome, but first he faces King Agrippa. It may be a coincidence that soon after Paul was in Rome, Festus was recalled.

Festus Consults King Agrippa 25:13  Festus discussed with King Agrippa Paul’s case particularly the claim Jesus’ had returned from the dead, adding the Jews had demanded Paul be put to death. Although not deserved he had appealed to Caesar and would be sent to Rome, so wanted Agrippa to help to draw the charges.

Paul, knowing King Agrippa knew Jewish ways stated he was a Pharisee, the strictest of Jews, and having the chief priests’ authority opposed the followers of Jesus imprisoned them and had them killed.

While on his way to Damascus a light blazed and he heard a voice say, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? ‘I am Jesus, and have chosen you to be my witness to both Jews and Gentiles to turn them from the power of Satan to God, and receive forgiveness of sins.  I obeyed that voice from heaven, everywhere I preached I also included Gentiles, for all need to repent, turn to God and show their commitment by their deeds. This is why Jews seized me in the temple courts to kill me. God has helped me to testify to small and great alike. Moses and the prophets told us the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead, bringing the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles.”

This was now some 30 years after Jesus had been crucified and the many thousands of his followers were mainly composed of Jews who accepted Jesus was their messiah. Some of the disciples like Peter were still about, Paul had helped to grow the church in what is now Turkey and Greece plus there were a growing number of churches in many parts of the Roman Empire with the life and teaching of Jesus being discussed in most household especially by the political leadership of the countries.

Paul kept his message consistent and had it centred on Jesus and his conversion making the point the Jewish priest hated him for taking his message to Gentiles. The temple priests would not nor could not accept that Jesus was the Messiah for had they done so then it would mean they had rejected and killed their own Messiah. Everything they stood for would be in ruins his blood would be on their heads

Have your own witness statement as to why and how you are a Christian ready to tell, make it short, about one minute, what you were like before becoming a follower of Jesus, then why you came to believe and what you have done about it. This is not to convert anyone but rather to plant a seed of interest so that it may prompt questions if not of you then maybe years later of someone else.

My statement: I was drifting along in life, married and had just got promoted, I was sent on a managerial course to learn how to manage my department and I was asked to put those things in life that were important to me into a priority. I looked deep into what I felt was my driving purpose in living, what was good and what was bad about who I was? Then what I wanted to do about it all. Next more questions, what was the reason I was living? What should my direction in life be? What are the gifts I have to offer God in return for the life I’ve been given? What followed was a commitment to follow Jesus and live by his teaching. Eventually I went back to church and joined others who wanted to grow as Christians and now I run a bible study group, have become an itinerate preacher and try to live to God’s Word.

Festus and Agrippa 26:24  Festus shouted; Paul, your learning is driving you insane. Paul replied, ‘I am not insane, what I say is true and reasonable, King Agrippa knows about these things as everything was done openly. King Agrippa, I know you believe the prophets.’ Agrippa said, “Don’t think you can persuade me to be a Christian so quickly.” Paul replied, “I pray to God all who are listening to me may stand as I do, except for these chains.” It was agreed Paul had done nothing that deserves death or imprisonment. Agrippa told Festus, He could be set free had not appealed to Caesar.”

It was beyond believability for Festus to accept a God would appear in such a way, giving personal messages to someone, to have anyone to come back from the dead. Festus couldn’t stand looking at his way of life as being corrupt. he didn’t want to see all he built up was worthless, didn’t want to hear about a God that would judge him, after all he was privileged, greedy, ruthless, domineering, a liar, able to handle himself in a corrupt society, by showing total obedience to those in authority right or wrong were not a concern.

Agrippa brought up in Rome also would not accept Jesus as the Messiah, his own way of life and the position he had in the country would make it too difficult for him to accept all the Paul was saying. Yet he was able to see that no guilty charge could be made against Paul and as a good politician he let the opportunity go and agreed with the man in power. They couldn’t recognise the truth of God’s Word to do so that makes people accept Jesus and when we do we have the certainty of God’s own Spirit to guide us in our lives.

Rome’s view at that time was that all religions and faiths were acceptable, the emperors had made themselves as god’s but then all god’s could be worshiped. The idea that there was a God that would judge people on their behaviour and they would only be accepted into heaven on his say so was intolerable. The Roman gods were never personnel and people were there for the God’s entertainment. We know through God’s Word, his prophets and Jesus his Son that we can have a personal relationship with God, be forgiven by Jesus and live with him forever