Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
Facing the Court
As we saw in verse 11 of chapter 23, Jesus? will was for Paul to go to Rome. Paul may have not known just how he was going to get there but here he was in Roman custody, having barely escaped being torn to death twice?first by the Asian Jews in the Temple and second by the Sanhedrin itself.
What follows for the balance of the book of Acts are the events that swept Paul from Jerusalem to Caesarea and on to Rome. Paul did not have a travel plan, only his faith and trust in the Lord Jesus to guide him. Forces all around will try to stop God?s mission for Paul, and it?s wonderful to see how Paul and those around him, actually end up helping out God?s plan, even when they may have had no idea what they were doing!
23:12 ? 22
This is the only mention of Paul?s relatives. Usually when a Jew became a Christian their entire family would disown them. But apparently Paul?s young nephew is too innocent to buy into any of that stuff. He still loves Uncle Saul. Paul could receive visitors while under protective custody, so the boy comes to warn Paul of the plot.
Just a word about that plot ? I?ve never quite understood why you would not eat or drink anything until you had accomplished a physical task. King Saul of Israel made his troops take a similar vow in 1 Samuel 14. It made the men weak and unable to do all that God had planned. Anyway, this vow is even more rash because they are fighting against the Apostle Paul, a servant of Jesus! Most likely the plot was hatched by the same people who caused Paul problems in the first place?the Asian Jews who had come to Jerusalem. The Sanhedrin goes along with, a plot to murder Paul (against the 10 Commandments) just like they plotted to murder Jesus rather than risk giving up their position.
Well, the Roman tribune now realizes how serious the situation is and to have a prisoner assassinated while in Roman custody would not look good on his service record so he gets Paul out of Dodge!
23 ? 24
The word ?spearman? could actually mean ?extra mounts and pack animals.? If that?s so, the tribune could have been sending almost half of the garrison at the Fortress Antonia to escort Paul. So the commander writes a letter to go along with Paul. Luke would not have had access to the letter so he says it was ?a letter to this effect.? Paul would have probably known most of its rough contents so he presumably related it to Luke. Notice now how he puts the situation:
25 ? 30
I love how suddenly it?s Lysias himself who discovers the plight of poor Roman citizen Paul and rescues him gallantly from the horrible mob. No mention of the fact that they bound and almost flogged Paul!
We do know a little about this man. Lysias was a freeborn Greek who?d worked his way up through the ranks and at some point paid an official of Claudius?s government to receive Roman citizenship. He then added the Roman name Claudius to his own in honor of the emperor.
Notice that Lysias finds nothing against Paul except a religious disagreement with the Jews. This is important as Paul makes his way up the Roman justice system. He ?has not broken any Roman laws according to the chief law enforcement officer on the scene.
31 ? 35
Notice balance between trusting God and seeing how He uses real people (like the Roman soldiers and Paul?s nephew) to bring about His will. Antipatris was a town built by Herod the Great for his father thirty five miles northwest of Jerusalem. The ruins of the fortress still exist today. It looks to be about halfway from Jerusalem to Caesarea. They left about 9pm and arrived by morning, then the next day went the final 40 miles to Caesarea. Since Felix was a provincial governor he felt competent to hear the case.
A little background on Felix. Antonius Felix was born a slave but freed by Antonia, the mother of Emperor Claudius. His brother Pallas was good friends as a boy with Claudius so Felix got himself appointed first to a subordinate post in Samaria, then in A.D. 52 Claudius appointed him as governor of Judea. He was a master of lust and cruelty. Insurrections and anarchy were common and the more Felix put down the people by killing them, the more problems would break out. He married Drusilla, the youngest daughter of Agrippa I, who had been married to Azisus, king of Emesa (in Syria).
Ananias is smart enough to know he needs a Greek to present the argument. Apparently Terullus was a lawyer who was sympathetic to the Jews but knew how to put together a case in Roman court.
2 ? 9
Tertullus starts out by lavishing praise on Felix?I?m sure none of the Jews with him would have agreed to any of it, but it was standard form to butter up the judge. He begins with lies, so why not continue with them to lie about Paul!
His basic argument is that Paul threatens the Pax Romana with riots, threatens the state with sedition, and is worthy of death by the Jews for trying to desecrate the temple. Felix had routinely crucified leaders of various uprisings, so perhaps Ananias hoped he would do the same without really looking at the evidence. This was probably just a summation of a much longer argument.
10 ? 21
Paul?s introduction is much truer than Tertullus?. For all his cruelty, Felix was pretty smart and not easily fooled ? he?d been around the block a few times.
Paul says ?I wasn?t in Jerusalem long enough to create a plot against Rome.? He says ?I came there to worship, not create a riot.? He also asserts that he was alone, not with a group of rioters, and that the accusation that he was trying to desecrate the temple was completely without foundation. Sometimes the seriousness of the charge trumps the examination of the facts, but not in this case.
Paul admits readily that he is a Christian?and it is this part of the case that ends up being central. Paul never loses an opportunity to preach the gospel.
Notice the absence of the Asian Jews. Most of the time the case would be dropped if the actual accusers were not present. In this case, though, Felix will do neither, condemn or acquit Paul.
22 ? 23
Felix solves the problem by removing the possibility of further confrontation and keeping Paul under protective custody.
24 ? 27
Apparently Drusilla was curious about ?the Way? or maybe she was feeling guilty about divorcing Azisus and marrying Felix. Paul talked about faith in Christ but also what that faith did?changing our character. This must have offended Felix. Perhaps he grew concerned that Drusilla might become a Christian and leave him!
He sends Paul away thinking that somehow he had access to money so he could buy his way out of prison.? Eventually Felix was removed from power (according to Josephus) after an outbreak between Jews and Greeks there at Caesarea. Each group claimed civil authority over the place. Felix retaliated against the Jews so strongly that a delegation when to Rome to complain and that was it for Felix.
His replacement, Festus, came in A.D. 60 and left Paul in prison.
It?s possible that while there Luke got lots of details from Paul he used to write the gospel of Luke and the first half of Acts. Even when we are sitting on our hands, God can be at work!
What are you charged with?
In some ways are we not all standing before a court for our beliefs in Jesus Christ? Tertullus accused Paul of being a trouble maker, undermining the status quo, and being part of something controversial. When we live a visible Christian life, when we are free to talk about our undying faith in Jesus?it is bound to make people uncomfortable. You upset their world view, and they have to make decisions about things they?ve tried to ignore. People accuse Christians of going against where society is going?further down into the cesspool of immorality. With each passing year the difference between the righteousness of God lived out in his servants and the mores of our culture get starker. It becomes more controversial to be a Christian all the time.
So does that mean we just shut up? Do we go into a hole and go along with the culture? No, but nor do we just try to clean up a pig?we don?t just say ?be like us.? What we say is ?give your life to Jesus and let him change your nature.? People will be uncomfortable, but pray for them, that their conscience will spur them to repentance and faith. Remember this too?a light shines brightest when the night is darkest.
A couple of other things:
Be courageous ? Paul?s nephew, even the smallest things can make a big difference.
Defend yourself against false accusations, but plead guilty to the gospel.
Don?t be mean, but don?t pull punches when it comes to the truth of God (Drusilla)