Grace Notes

Acts Chapters 23:22-26:32 Notes

Paul on Trial 

Introduction:  Have you ever felt like a prisoner of circumstance?  Luke has taken great pains to let the reader know that Paul was a prisoner of circumstance but that his spirit was free as a bird!  The Lord Jesus had visited him with comfort and courage as He stood near and outlined that Paul’s mission work was not finished…Paul was to go to Rome and testify to the truth of Christ!

Chapter 24 – Trial Before Governor Felix:

  • Commander Claudias Lysias understood that there was a determined hostile group among the Jews who were seeking Paul’s life so he transferred him under guard to Caeserea to stand trial before Governor Felix.
    • Lysias sent a letter to Felix stating that there were no charges that warranted imprisonment or death. (vs. 29)
  • Felix sent back to Jerusalem and asked for Paul’s accusers to come and present their case.
  •  Five days later, Tertullus a lawyer for the Sanhedrin went to present the case before Felix.
    • Using flattery for self serving purposes, Tertullus spoke words that were as untrue as the charges that he tried to press against Paul.
      • Paul was accused of being a troublemaker and the leader of a sect of people following the Nazarene–a nickname used for Jesus.
      • He was also accused of desecrating the Temple by brining unclean people in.

Paul’s Response to the Charges:

  1. You can verify whether I am trouble maker or stirred up trouble or defiled the Temple when in Jerusalem–I say the charges are untrue.
  2. In fact, I have much in common with these who accuse me.  We worship the same God and though they say I have blasphemed — I say my conscience is clear and that I am being more obedient to God now than ever I have been.
  3. I agree with them when they say I am a follower of the Way which they identify as a sect.
  4. The truth of the matter is I am actually on trial because I believe that the promises made in our faith regarding resurrection have been fulfilled in Jesus.

Q:  Why is Resurrection the crux of the issue for Paul?

A: A quote from scientist G.B. Hardy helps to answer that question.

Jesus_ResurrectionWhen I look at religion I have two questions. One, has anybody ever conquered death and two, if they have, did they make a way for me to conquer death?

I checked the tomb of Buddha, and it was occupied, and I checked the tomb of Confucius and it was occupied, I checked the tomb of Mohammed and it was occupied, and I came to the tomb of Jesus and it was empty.

And I said, there is one who conquered death. And I asked the second question, did He make a way for me to do it too?

And I opened the Bible and discovered that He said, ‘Because I live you shall live also.’

For Paul, the vainness of natural religion had been joyfully superceded by a supernatural reality –the triumph of life over  death.  His encounter with the Living Resurrected Jesus made him sure that there was a reality beyond what he could see, touch and hear–the greatest reality to Paul was the Living Savior Jesus Christ!

Outcome:  Felix adjourned the proceedings without settling the real issue–who is telling the truth–Paul or his accusers?

Q:  Does it matter if we ignore the truth when it is presented to us?

A: Luke presents an answer that warns in his account of Felix and his visits to hear Paul speak in verses 22-27.

  • Luke warns us to not mistake “being acquainted with” the truth as the same as “embracing” truth.
    • Felix was “well acquainted” with the Way (vs.22) but that acquaintance was intellectual not transformational–he had ideas about the Way but they did not affect how he lived.
    • Luke has written the whole book of Acts to highlight that the good news is focused on a new relationship not a new religion.
    • The result of this relationship is a changed heart and new affections for Jesus. 
    •  Felix shows no evidence of this experience–his greatest affection was for money–he was satisfied with a mere acquaintance with The Way. 

Application:  Test yourself to make sure you are more than acquainted with Christianity–make sure you have encountered the living Christ.

  • Luke warns us not to put off responding to the Word of truth if it is stirring our heart.  Felix was being moved to fear and he stopped Paul by saying, “That’s enough for now!”
  • Postponing receiving the truth is the same as rejecting it–the convenient time for responding is now! (vs. 25)
  • Each time we postpone receiving the gift of truth–we harden our hearts so that next time we are actually less able to be responsive.  (Read Paul’s description of this in Ephesians 4:17-24)
  • We need to beware of this attitude of postponement even after we have become followers of Jesus–procrastination and the inclination to put off responding to opportunities until a more “convenient” time makes us a lethargic and luke warm rather than vibrant disciple.

Chapter 25 – Trial before Festus

  • Felix did not succeed in getting a bribe from Paul but he did succeed in being succeeded by another Governor!
  • Festus came to Caesarea with an obvious desire to make a good impression so he began by trying to resolve the case with Paul who had been sitting in jail for two years.

Q: How was the trial before Festus different than the one before Felix?

A: This trial  serves to highlight the hearts of those involved in this matter with Paul.

  • Accusers – even after a two year cooling off period,  the chief priests and Jewish leaders urgently requested Festus to allow them transfer Paul to Jerusalem–not so they couuld give him a fair trial but so that could kill him along the way.
    • These men see themselves as law abiding, righteous, God fearers but the desire of their hearts is exposed and tells the real story; they have set aside the laws they supposedly love in order to do away with what they hate!
  • The Jews illustrate what I would call the corrupting effects of religion when it is not actually in contact with God.  This is because if the life of God is not actually present in the worshiper, then his or her religion can become a mere veneer, hypocrisy, and can be used as an excuse for doing what is obviously evil.” ((James Montgomery Boice, Acts, Baker Books 1997, p.395))

  • Festus – While an improvement over Felix in administrating Paul’s case,  his words and actions in this chapter reveal that he loves the praise of man and is weak as a leader and representative of law and order.
    • There were serious charges against Paul and this was a time to determine the truth of those charges but Festus reveals that he is more interested in ingratiating himself with the Jews and seeks to do them a favor.
    • Doing favors in the arena of justice does not lead to truth or justice but a twisting of both.
    • He reveals his weakness as a leader after deciding to send Paul back to Jerusalem by asking him if he was willing to go. (vs.9)  Who is leading whom?
    • God used this weakness in Festus to allow Paul to speak the words that would seal his destiny, “I appeal to Caesar!’ (vs.11)

Acts 25: 13-27   Paul before King Agrippa

  • King Agrippa with his wife/sister wanted to meet the new governor and Festus used this opportunity to seek guidance on what he should say about Paul as he was transferred to Caesar’s court in Rome.
    • Festus like Felix had difficulty seeing how a dispute over religious ideas was reason enough to imprison or kill a man.
    • Festus shared with Agrippa that this whole thing was “about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive.”  (vs. 19)
    • Ironically, Festus was in agreement with Paul that the real crux of the matter was the resurrection issue!

Acts 26:1-32

  • Agrippa gave Paul permission to state his case–instead of making a case for himself, Paul used this opportunity to plead the case for Christ.
    • Paul presses his audience to declare what they really believe about God when he asks in vs. 8, “Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?”
    • Paul highlights how his encounter with the risen Jesus made him a new man with a new purpose in life to go and share the news with Gentiles–the formerly excluded people.
    • Paul shares that the only reasonable thing for a man to do when he has heard from God is to be obedient and he did go and share this revelation with Jew and Gentile alike.

 Outcome: Festus calls this news of Paul’s insane and Agrippa pulls the same postponement tactic that Felix had used when Paul asked him if he believed.  Agrippa and Festus both agreed that Paul could have been set free if he had not appealed to go to Rome.

Q: What was Luke seeing to convey through these long chapters of Paul’s trials?

  1. He allows us to see what divinely en-couraged people look like in the face of threat and danger.  Paul was living out the courage that had been pressed into his heart by the Holy Spirit. (Acts 23:11 )
  2. He paints the picture of a man who is supposedly bound being the freeest person in the room–Paul is the picture of calm assurance pleasing God not man.
  3. He warns the reader of the danger of being unresponsive to the truth–of playing games and relying on our intellect rather than yielding our thoughts to the revelation of truth in Christ.
  4. Through story Luke teaches the message that Christ spoke when on earth, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the world, yet forfeits his soul.” (Matthew 16:26)
  5. He makes it crystal clear that belief in the resurrection is the dividing line between hope and despair.

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