Church Extended – Message 10
June 13, 2021
I. Introduction: Continuing survey of Acts called, Church Extended.
A. Today’s message is entitled, On Trial (referring to Paul and also to us).
- In Acts 23, the Roman commander Lysias in Jerusalem learned of a plot to kill Paul, who was held in protective custody, so he sent him to Roman governor Felix in Caesarea, then told Paul’s accusers to take their charges to Felix.
- Theme verse: Acts 24:2 (NLT)—When Paul was called in, Tertullus presented the charges…
- I first heard this question many years ago, not long after I became a believer: “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” [Answer]
- Paul was tried for his faith, and so are we, usually informally, by people who are observing our lives and assessing the reality of our faith.
II. If tried for your faith…
A. #1 - Anticipate false accusations. (Acts 24:1–9. C/R: John 3:19; 15:18-21; 1 Corinthians 1:18; 2 Corinthians 2:16)
- Acts 24:1 (NLT)—Five days later Ananias, the [corrupt] high priest, arrived [Jerusalem, 65 miles away] with some of the Jewish elders [from the Sanhedrin] and the lawyer Tertullus [a Jew well-versed in Roman law], to present their case against Paul to the governor. [Felix, a former slave, was procurator of Judea from 52 to 59 AD.]
- Not content to merely drive Paul from Jerusalem, they wanted to see his ministry and life ended, so they hurried to Caesarea to prevent Governor Felix from releasing Paul.
- Acts 24:2-4 (NLT)— 2When Paul was called in, Tertullus presented the charges against Paul [prosecuting Paul] in the following address to the governor:
“You have provided a long period of peace for us Jews and with foresight have enacted reforms for us. 3For all of this, Your Excellency, we are very grateful to you. 4But I don’t want to bore you, so please give me your attention for only a moment.
- Began with flowery, complimentary, insincere, speech to this brutal, incompetent, ruler, removed from office two years after this hearing by Emperor Nero [Acts 24:27].
- Turning then to the case against Paul, Tertullus brought three charges.
- Acts 24:5a (NLT)—We have found this man to be a troublemaker who is constantly stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. [Throughout the Roman world.]
- This charge of inciting rebellion against Roman authority was sedition, a serious crime against Rome, punishable by death—and Felix had repeatedly crucified the leaders of various uprisings and killed many of their followers for disturbing the Pax Romana.
- Tertullus further attempted to portray Paul as a radicalized insurrectionist.
- Acts 24:5b (NLT)—He is a ringleader of the cult known as the Nazarenes. [He wanted Felix to view Christians as a fanatical political party, a rebellious terrorist group.]
- The lawyer did not cite any specific examples of Paul’s illegal acts because there were none, Paul was the victim of the riots, not their initiator.
- Felix asked no questions, because he had been informed by Commander Lysias that the conflict involved Jewish religious law, not worthy of Roman punishment. (Acts 23:29)
- Tertullus’ third charge involved blasphemy against the Jewish faith, which would authorize Jews, with Roman permission, to put Paul to death.
- Acts 24:6 (NLT)—Furthermore, he was trying to desecrate the Temple [by bringing in Gentiles; Acts 21:28] when we arrested him. [a lie, Commander Lysias arrested Paul]
- There was no evidence that Paul had actually done any of the acts he was accused of.
- Tertullus’ prosecution was an attempt to control the way Felix viewed Paul.
- Acts 24:8-9 (NLT)—8You can find out the truth of our accusations by examining him yourself.” 9Then the other Jews chimed in, declaring that everything Tertullus said was true. [Though they were not. Many people will be dishonest if it benefits them!]
- In an effort to silence your words, people may make false accusations against you, labelling you as an intolerant extremist to eliminate your influence. (John 3:19; 15:18-21)
- APP.: Has that ever happened to you? (1 Corinthians 1:18; 2 Corinthians 2:16)
If tried for your faith…
B. #2 - Assert faithful answers. (Acts 24:10–21. C/R: 2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Titus 1:9; 1 Peter 3:13-16; Jude 3)
- Acts 24:10 (NLT)—The governor then motioned for Paul to speak. Paul said, “I know, sir, that you have been a judge of Jewish affairs for many years [about five], so I gladly present my defense before you.
- Paul was not flattering Felix, he was reminding the governor that he had served long enough to be familiar with Jewish beliefs and customs.
- Paul then refuted the charges; first, he pointed out that he was not guilty of insurrection.
- Acts 24:11 (NLT)—You can quickly discover that I arrived in Jerusalem no more than twelve days ago to worship at the Temple. [In Caesarea for five days, during the 7 days he was in Jerusalem, his focus was on worship, not creating trouble; then, he added,…]
- Acts 24:12-13 (NLT)—12My accusers never found me arguing with anyone in the Temple, nor stirring up a riot in any synagogue or on the streets of the city. 13These men cannot prove the things they accuse me of doing.
- Paul admitted his Christian faith, but denied it violated Jewish law or Scripture.
- Acts 24:14-15 (NLT)—14“But I admit that I follow the Way [not Nazarenes], which they call a cult. I worship the God of our ancestors [historic title for the God of Israel], and I firmly believe the Jewish law and everything written in the prophets. [in contrast to his Sadducee accusers] 15I have the same hope in God that these men have, that he will raise both the righteous and the unrighteous.” [Pharisees believed that, Sadducees didn’t.]
- Paul was more scriptural than his accusers; he believed the authority of the entire Old Testament, and accepted everything it taught in the Law and the Prophets. (John 5:39,46)
- Paul’s beliefs were not mere acceptance of abstract theology; it impacted his life!
- Acts 24:16 (NLT)—“Because of this, I always try to maintain a clear conscience before God and all people.” [1John 3:2-3]
- To rebut the final accusation of profaning the temple, Paul told of his visit to Jerusalem.
- Acts 24:17 (NLT)—“After several years away, I returned to Jerusalem with money to aid my people and to offer sacrifices to God.” [Devotion to God, His temple and His people.]
- Paul did not come to Jerusalem to cause trouble, but to bring offerings from the Gentile churches for the needy Christians there.
- Paul then participated in a temple ceremony marking the end of Nazarite vows for four Jewish Christians (Acts 21:20-27), proving his obedience and respect for the Jewish law.
- Acts 24:18 (NLT)—“My accusers saw me in the Temple as I was completing a purification ceremony. There was no crowd around me and no rioting.”
- Then Paul told the real cause of the disturbance at Acts 24:19 (NLT)—“But some Jews from the [Roman] province of Asia were there [Acts 21:26ff.]—and they ought to be here to bring charges if they have anything against me!” [But they didn’t appear to testify.]
- Paul challenged the Sanhedrin at Acts 24:20-21 (NLT) — 20 “Ask these men here what crime the Jewish high council found me guilty of [when assembled by Commander Lysias; Acts 22:30-23:10], 21except for the one time I shouted out, ‘I am on trial before you today because I believe in the resurrection of the dead!’” [There was nothing.]
- Belief in resurrection was not a crime, even under Jewish law, much less Roman law; the issues were theological, not civil or criminal, so it did not belong in a Roman court.
- Paul explained his actions reasonably, not angrily, and defended his faith scripturally.
- If accused of wrongdoing, we too, must answer truthfully, reasonably, but humbly, and explain our actions and our attitudes from the Bible, not our opinions. (1 Peter 3:13-16)
- APP.: Have you ever defended an action or attitude according to the Bible? Could you?
If tried for your faith…
C. #3 - Address foolish attitudes. (Acts 24:22–27. C/ R: Luke 6:46-49; 1 Corinthians 3:18-19; 2 Corinthians 6:2; Hebrews 3:12-15)
- Acts 24:22 (NLT)—At that point Felix, who was quite familiar with the Way [so he knew the charges about Christians were false], adjourned the hearing and said, “Wait until Lysias, the garrison commander, arrives. Then I will decide the case.”
- With no eyewitnesses and no verdict by the Sanhedrin, Felix should have released Paul.
- Such a result would have infuriated the Jewish leaders and led to further unrest, something Felix did not want to happen, so he adjourned the hearing without ruling on the case, using the excuse that he was waiting for Commander Lysias’ arrival.
- Acts 24:23 (NLT)—23He ordered an officer to keep Paul in custody [to satisfy Jews] but to give him some freedom and allow his friends to visit him and take care of his needs [Because he was a Roman citizen and not convicted of a crime].
- Acts 24:24-25a (NLT)—24A few days later Felix came back with his wife, Drusilla, who was Jewish. Sending for Paul, they listened as he told them about faith in Christ Jesus. 25aAs he reasoned with them about righteousness and self-control and the coming day of judgment, Felix became frightened….
- Felix had lured 16-year-old Drusilla away from her husband to become his third wife, so, lacking righteousness and self-control, he faced judgment.
- Despite his fear, Felix foolishly ended the conversation instead of inquiring about faith.
- Acts 24:25b-26 (NLT)— 25b “Go away for now,” he replied. “When it is more convenient, I’ll call for you again.” 26He also hoped that Paul would bribe him [illegal], so he sent for him quite often and talked with him. [Spiritual conviction left, corruption returned.]
- Acts 24:27 (NLT)— 27After two years went by in this way, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. [Nero removed for brutal suppression of rioting Jews.] And because Felix wanted to gain favor with the Jewish people, he left Paul in prison. [Though innocent.]
- APP.: Felix foolishly missed the opportunity to hear about Jesus, to decide; have you?
- 2 Corinthians 6:2 (NLT)—For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.
Memory verse: 1 Peter 3:15 (NLT)—Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.