ACTS - CHAPTER 24 - Paul before Felix
ACTS – Chapter 24 – Paul before Felix
Tuesday Morning Bible Study
July 26, 2022, the Year of our Lord
Pastor Carolyn Sissom
Last week we finished our story with Claudius Lysias writing a letter to the Governor, Antonius Felix, stating that Paul was seized and accused by the Jews. He saw no crime committed according to Roman Law which was deserving of death. Paul was escorted to Caesarea with 70 horsemen, 200 soldiers and 200 spear-men. Felix provides Paul with an apartment in the governor’s palace.
This is a fulfillment of the Lord’s commission to his disciples. Mark 13:9b: …You shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them.
During the next two years, Paul is to witness of Jesus Christ before Governor Felix and his wife, Drusilla; Governor Festus; King Herod Agrippa II and his wife Berenice as well as other high officials and the palace guards.
Felix is unscrupulous. Historians say he exercised the power of a prince with the nobility of a slave. His third wife, Drusilla, was the youngest daughter of Herod Agrippa I and the great-granddaughter of Herod the Great. She had two older sisters, Mariamme and Berenice, the wife of Herod Agrippa, II. This makes Berenice and Herod Agrippa, II brother and sister, thus an incestuous relationship. Drusilla and Felix’s marriage was adulterous. History records she never got a divorce from her first husband. The lives of these rulers and kings are very well recorded in history and can be easily researched on the internet.
While royal marriages were being arranged; and royal politicians and rulers came and went, Christianity continued to be spread across the known world.
Five days after Paul arrived in Caesarea, Ananias, the high priest of the temple in Jerusalem arrived accompanied by some of the elders and an accomplished lawyer named Tertullus. They gave evidence of their case against Paul to the governor.
24:2-3: When he was called upon, Tertullus began his accusations, saying: “Seeing that through you we enjoy great peace, and prosperity is being brought to this nation by your foresight, we accept it always and, in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness.”
The Jews knew of Paul’s keen mind and penetrating oratory skill, as well as his ability to win audiences. Some today would call it charisma. We know it to be the anointing of the Christ, the Son of the Living God. So, they hired a Roman attorney to represent them. As with all silver-tongued lawyers, he begins his address with gross flattering. He was an unscrupulous flatterer who didn’t hesitate to pervert the truth to accomplish his purpose. Felix was a cruel and lustful man. He was thoroughly corrupt, with a depraved thirst for plunder. He then makes three charges against Paul.
24: 4-9: Nevertheless, not to be tedious to you any further, I beg you to hear, by your courtesy, a few words from us. For we have found this man a plague, a creator of dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. He even tried to profane the temple, and we seized him, and wanted to judge him according to our law. But the commander, Lysias, came by and with great violence took him out of our hands, commanding his accusers to come to you. By examining him yourself, you may ascertain all things of which we accuse him. The Jews also asserted, maintaining that these things were so.
This is the first recorded use of the plural “Nazarenes” (the plural form of the lesous ho Nazoraios, “Jesus of Nazareth,”) to refer to Christians, though the use of the term “Christians” is already used at Antioch and will be used by Herod Agrippa, II in the next trial before Festus in chapter 25.
The charges against Paul are:
1. He was a dangerous pest/plague who caused uprisings among the Jews throughout the empire.
2. He was a ringleader among the Nazarenes.
3. He was caught attempting to defile the temple.
The first charge was serious. Should it be proved to be true, Felix would have to deal with it severely. It was a crime against the emperor. The Romans considered Christianity a part of the Jewish religion. As such, it enjoyed the same protection under the law. Tertulles makes a mistake to try to put commander Lysias in a bad light.
24:10-11: Then Paul, after the governor had nodded to him to speak, answered: “inasmuch as I know that you have been for many years a judge of the nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself, because you may ascertain that it is no more than twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem to worship.
Twelve days! It has just been twelve days since he arrived in Jerusalem.
Four days of the seven were spent purifying himself in the Temple.
On the 4th day he was arrested.
On the 5th day, he gave his defense before the Sanhedrin.
That night he had a visitation from the Lord.
On the 6th day, the forty Jews plotted to kill him.
That night the soldiers took him to Antipatris, Caesarea.
The 7th day he arrived in Caesarea.
Five days later, he was on trial.
Paul’s defense was brief, but courteous. Paul’s concern here is proving the Christian faith to be a legitimate interpretation of the Old Testament. His wise and effective testimony is apparent to all. The high priest’s charges collapsed through lack of proof.
Paul’s affirmation of Felix is neither flattery nor extravagant praise. He is simply stating the governor is qualified to render a just decision based on his knowledge of the Jews and his experience.
14:12-21: They neither found me in the temple disputing with anyone nor inciting the crowd, either in the synagogues or in the city. Nor can they prove the things of which they now accuse me. But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men. Now after many years I came to bring alms and offerings to my nation, in the midst of which some Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with a mob nor with tumult. They ought to have been here before you to object if they had anything against me. Or else let those who are here themselves say if they found any wrong-doing in me while I stood before the council, unless it is for this one statement which I cried out, standing among them, concerning the resurrection of the dead, I am being judged by you this day.
There are several statements in his defense which should settle doctrinal disputes among Christian denominations today.
1. For those who do not accept the Old Testament, Paul clearly states that he worships the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets.
2. There will be a resurrection of the dead, of both the just and the unjust. That is a clear judgment between the two.
Paul knew that his good conscience was not based on the judgment of men and their rules. The conscience is planted by God in the hearts of men to witness to His existence as God; and to guide men with respect to right and wrong. Felix surely recognized Paul’s great inner-strength and would respect him for it. Paul was claiming that he lived life free from treachery, manipulation, craftiness, and deceit. He dealt openly and honestly with all men.
Paul’s last visit to Jerusalem was four years earlier. He had come to bring relief to his people and participate in the festival sacrifices.
Felix should have set Paul free. The facts were in. His was a political decision as well as the word says, he hoped Paul would give him money to set him free. History indicates right at this time; Nero had come to power at Rome. So, a lot is at stake in his career.
24:22: When Felix heard these things, having more accurate knowledge of the Way, he adjourned the proceedings and said, “when Lysias the commander comes down, I will make a decision on your case.”
It is unclear in this verse whether Felix had prior knowledge of the Way, or after the hearing, he now has more accurate knowledge of the Way. I am inclined to think it is the latter. From my vantage point, it appears the Jews shot themselves in the foot when they brought Commander Lysias into their accusation. According to Roman Law, it is now necessary for Lysias to tell his decision and defend it since his decision was challenged in court.
24:23: So, he (Felix) commanded the centurion to keep Paul and to let him have liberty, and told him not to forbid any of his friends to provide for or visit him.
Paul was set free. That is what “let him have liberty” means to me. The centurion is given charge over him. We can suppose he was let out without bail, but couldn’t leave the city, thus continuing to stay in the apartment provided by the Governor. Perhaps, Felix thought Paul had access through his friends to large sums of money. He was looking for a huge bribe.
24:24-25: After some days, when Felix came with his wife, Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. Now as he (Paul) reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, ‘Go away for now, when I have a convenient time, I will call for you.
King James reads, “when I have a convenient time, I will hear you.” So many people still delay accepting Jesus Christ for a more convenient time.
King James reads that “Felix trembled.”
Apparently, Felix was extremely interested in Christianity. Drusilla would have been educated in Rome and far removed from the assassinations performed by the male members of her family. Her father, King Agrippa I beheaded James and imprisoned Peter. She was known to be very beautiful. She had been married to the King of Emesa (Syria), but Felix saw her and connived with a magician to lure her away from her husband and marry him without her getting a legal divorce.
Felix hired assassins to murder Jonathan, the High priest, shortly after the latter took office. Jonathan had often criticized Felix about governing the Jewish affairs, and threatened to report to Caesar if Felix did not do well. Now Felix is face to face with his sins before Jesus Christ.
This is who Paul is preaching to about Christianity. He is preaching the message of judgment for sin both now and throughout eternity. Felix obviously came into conviction, but not enough to repent and receive Jesus Christ as his Savior.
24: 26-27: Meanwhile he (Felix) also hoped that money would be given him by Paul, that he might release him. Therefore, he sent for him more often and conversed with him. After two years, Porcius Festus succeeded Felix; and Felix, wanting to do the Jews a favor, left Paul bound.
Felix talked with Paul “more often and conversed with him.” However, Felix hardened his heart. His lust for money overpowered his desire to respond to the gospel.
John 12:37-40: Though he (Christ) had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him. That the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke, “Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” Therefore, they could not believe, because Isaiah said again, He has blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart, that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.
Eph. 4: 17-19: This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart, who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
After two years had gone by, Felix was summoned to Rome. He was recalled by Emperor Nero over an outbreak between Jews and Gentiles in the city of Caesarea during which he had killed many leaders of the Jewish party.
Drusilla and her son by Felix were consumed by an eruption of a volcano, Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD. It is one of the most well-known volcanic eruptions in history. The violent eruption came with little warning, ejecting monumental amounts of ash, mud and rocks into the air and onto the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
When Nero replaced Felix with Porcius Festus, ordering him to Rome, he made no effort to right the wrong he had done Paul. Instead, he added to the injustice. However, he didn’t dare turn him over to the Jews since he was a Roman. The Jews would have killed him. Paul was safer in the Roman palace than he would have been if he had been released.
Next week, we meet Governor Porcius Festus. He appears to be a better man than Felix. Seemingly he came to his post with a desire to have an honest administration. But he soon found himself in a hotbed of Jewish intrigue.
He didn’t last long. Josephus, the Jewish historian, tells us that he died in office after serving only two years. His death was the result of his despair in failing to cope with the plots of the Jews. He had no knowledge of Jewish affairs.
Next week, Paul is tried again before Governor Festus. The Jews try again. They do not know that Paul’s court case has already been decided in heaven.
Carolyn Sissom, Pastor
Eastgate Ministries Church
Scripture from N.K.J.V. – I entered into the labors of teaching notes from 7/9/2000; C. S. Lovett’s Lights on Acts; F. F. Bruce Bible Commentary. Comments and conclusions are my own and not meant to reflect the views of those who I entered into their labors.