How Do You Respond?
But some days later Felix arrived with Drusilla, his wife who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. But as he was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, "Go away for the present, and when I find time I will summon you." At the same time too, he was hoping that money would be given him by Paul; therefore he also used to send for him quite often and converse with him. But after two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, and wishing to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul imprisoned. (Acts 24:24-27 NASB)
Felix, the governor, was quite the character. Married to a Jewish woman would make him sympathetic to the Jews. Being a person of Roman authority would tend to make him arrogant and greedy. He would often use his authority to force people into bribery for his own personal gain. He wasn't a righteous man.
God was using Paul to preach the gospel, even to the Roman officials. Isn't it just wonderful how our Lord cares about all souls, even those who reject Him. Governor Felix was presented the gospel and it apparently got him under conviction of his sin. He did not respond with acceptance. Only God knows whether he came to accept Jesus later. Heaven will tell.
What about you? Where do you stand with acceptance or rejection of the Lamb of God? He awaits your response!
God Takes Care Of Us
When the governor had nodded for him to speak, Paul responded: "Knowing that for many years you have been a judge to this nation, I cheerfully make my defense, since you can take note of the fact that no more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship. Neither in the temple, nor in the synagogues, nor in the city itself did they find me carrying on a discussion with anyone or causing a riot. Nor can they prove to you the charges of which they now accuse me. But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets; having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. In view of this, I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men. Now after several years I came to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings; in which they found me occupied in the temple, having been purified, without any crowd or uproar. But there were some Jews from Asia- who ought to have been present before you and to make accusation, if they should have anything against me. Or else let these men themselves tell what misdeed they found when I stood before the Council, other than for this one statement which I shouted out while standing among them, 'For the resurrection of the dead I am on trial before you today.'" But Felix, having a more exact knowledge about the Way, put them off, saying, "When Lysias the commander comes down, I will decide your case." Then he gave orders to the centurion for him to be kept in custody and yet have some freedom, and not to prevent any of his friends from ministering to him. (Acts 24:10-23 NASB)
God took care of His servant. He always has and always will!
Let God Fight Your Battles
After five days the high priest Ananias came down with some elders, with an attorney named Tertullus, and they brought charges to the governor against Paul. After Paul had been summoned, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying to the governor, "Since we have through you attained much peace, and since by your providence reforms are being carried out for this nation, we acknowledge this in every way and everywhere, most excellent Felix, with all thankfulness. But, that I may not weary you any further, I beg you to grant us, by your kindness, a brief hearing. For we have found this man a real pest and a fellow who stirs up dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. And he even tried to desecrate the temple; and then we arrested him. [ We wanted to judge him according to our own Law. But Lysias the commander came along, and with much violence took him out of our hands, ordering his accusers to come before you.] By examining him yourself concerning all these matters you will be able to ascertain the things of which we accuse him." The Jews also joined in the attack, asserting that these things were so. (Acts 24:1-9 NASB)
The Jewish representatives arrived in Antipatris and the case against Paul, before Felix the Governor, was presented. Tertullus, a lawyer, spoke as the representative of the Jewish council. The name "Tertullus" is Roman in origin. However, it wasn't unusual for Jewish people to have a Roman name. He could have been a Jew or he could have been a Roman. We aren't certain. Either way, he was a hired representative to eloquently present Ananias' case before Felix.
As Tertullus begins his address, he uses flattery to set up his following remarks. As I read this passage, it strikes me as nauseating to listen to the rhetoric of those who desire to gain favor from a ruling authority by buttering them up. The Jews didn't particularly like the Romans or their rule over them. Furthermore, it disgusts me that religious leaders would stoop to Satans level to attack someone simply because they disagreed with his theology. Although these Jewish leaders were trying to defend their faith and customs, they were unwilling to listen to, and submit to, the truth. They had gotten so wrapped up in their own religious practices that they couldn't see the truth when it stated them in the face. Our faith must be defended, but not in an ungodly, hateful, murderous manner. We must speak the truth, live the truth, and never compromise the truth. We must, however, never allow our conduct to be anything less than what would be acceptable to Jesus Christ. We should ask ourselves, "How would Jesus handle this"?
False accusations and misrepresentation of the story was what Tertullus told Felix.
When we are falsely accused, let's let God fight our battles. We must not let the devil cause us to react in a way that compromises the integrity of Jesus name.
"Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you." (Matthew 5:11-12 KJV)
Let Us Not Forget
“From Claudius Lysias, to his Excellency, Governor Felix: Greetings! “This man was seized by some Jews, and they were about to kill him when I arrived with the troops. When I learned that he was a Roman citizen, I removed him to safety. Then I took him to their high council to try to learn the basis of the accusations against him. I soon discovered the charge was something regarding their religious law—certainly nothing worthy of imprisonment or death. But when I was informed of a plot to kill him, I immediately sent him on to you. I have told his accusers to bring their charges before you.” So that night, as ordered, the soldiers took Paul as far as Antipatris. They returned to the fortress the next morning, while the mounted troops took him on to Caesarea. When they arrived in Caesarea, they presented Paul and the letter to Governor Felix. He read it and then asked Paul what province he was from. “Cilicia,” Paul answered. “I will hear your case myself when your accusers arrive,” the governor told him. Then the governor ordered him kept in the prison at Herod’s headquarters.
(Acts of the Apostles 23:26-35 NLT)
The Roman commander sent Paul, with massive military protection to Antipatris to be examined by Felix, the Roman Governor in the region. Antipatris was 42 or 43 miles from Jerusalem. What a journey to make on horseback during the night! The soldiers and Paul must have been exhausted.
The price paid by those who have blazed the trail before us is huge. Let us never forget what God has done to bring us the gospel!
A Way Out
But Paul’s nephew—his sister’s son—heard of their plan and went to the fortress and told Paul. Paul called for one of the Roman officers and said, “Take this young man to the commander. He has something important to tell him.” So the officer did, explaining, “Paul, the prisoner, called me over and asked me to bring this young man to you because he has something to tell you.” The commander took his hand, led him aside, and asked, “What is it you want to tell me?” Paul’s nephew told him, “Some Jews are going to ask you to bring Paul before the high council tomorrow, pretending they want to get some more information. But don’t do it! There are more than forty men hiding along the way ready to ambush him. They have vowed not to eat or drink anything until they have killed him. They are ready now, just waiting for your consent.” “Don’t let anyone know you told me this,” the commander warned the young man. Then the commander called two of his officers and ordered, “Get 200 soldiers ready to leave for Caesarea at nine o’clock tonight. Also take 200 spearmen and 70 mounted troops. Provide horses for Paul to ride, and get him safely to Governor Felix.” (Acts of the Apostles 23:16-24)
Paul's nephew was strategically placed by God so he could hear the plans of the Jewish men who planned on killing Paul. He reported to Paul the plot. Paul, then, calls the centurion (Roman officer over 100 men) to ask him to take his nephew to he commander. The centurion takes him (Paul's nephew) to the Roman commander. The centurion explains, to the commander, that Paul had sent him to bring the nephew so he could share something with the commander. The commander called Paul's nephew aside to speak privately. Paul's nephew shares the story. As a result, the commander orders two centurions to take their 200 soldiers, along with 200 spearmen and 70 horse mounted troops to take Paul to Felix. Wow! What a force to have escort you out of town. God provided the best for Paul. The gospel needed to reach Rome. Rome was the epicenter of the known world. It was the political capital and largest city of the time. No matter what Satan tried to do to Paul, God always made a way out. Until God was finished with His purpose in Paul, he was invincible. Paul was taken by night, from the city in Jerusalem, to the Roman Procurator (Governor) Felix. Felix was a corrupt leader that was susceptible to bribery. We will deal more with this tomorrow. The plot of the Jews was spoiled and God had future plans for Paul.
Today, no matter what you are facing, if you are trusting in God and walking in His will, He has planned a way out of the situation. He will deliver His children!
Stand For Truth
That night the Lord appeared to Paul and said, “Be encouraged, Paul. Just as you have been a witness to me here in Jerusalem, you must preach the Good News in Rome as well.” The next morning a group of Jews got together and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. There were more than forty of them in the conspiracy. They went to the leading priests and elders and told them, “We have bound ourselves with an oath to eat nothing until we have killed Paul. So you and the high council should ask the commander to bring Paul back to the council again. Pretend you want to examine his case more fully. We will kill him on the way.” (Acts of the Apostles 23:11-15 NLT)
Paul had spoken about the resurrection to the Sanhedrin (Jewish Council). The council was comprised of Pharisees and Sadducees. The Sadducees did not believe in resurrection, angels, or spirit. Paul knew this very well. He used this to his advantage. He was a former Pharisee himself. He knew that this issue would cause great debate between the two groups and so he brought it up in order to bring the truth of Jesus resurrection to the table. The debate was so heated that Paul was removed from their midst. However, some of the Jews made a vow not to eat or drink until Paul was dead (I wonder how many kept that vow? If they did, they would have died). They were planning a set up. The council would ask for another meeting with Paul and then they would attack and kill him as he came (talk about your religious peers!!). It is terribly sad that those who profess to be religious can even think of murder. This was a definite indicator of their hearts. Paul was unflinching in his stand for truth. Not even death can threaten the truth!
May God help us to be the same.
The next day the commander ordered the leading priests into session with the Jewish high council. He wanted to find out what the trouble was all about, so he released Paul to have him stand before them. (Acts of the Apostles 22:30 NLT)
Gazing intently at the high council, Paul began: “Brothers, I have always lived before God with a clear conscience!” Instantly Ananias the high priest commanded those close to Paul to slap him on the mouth. But Paul said to him, “God will slap you, you corrupt hypocrite! What kind of judge are you to break the law yourself by ordering me struck like that?” Those standing near Paul said to him, “Do you dare to insult God’s high priest?” “I’m sorry, brothers. I didn’t realize he was the high priest,” Paul replied, “for the Scriptures say, ‘You must not speak evil of any of your rulers.’ ” Paul realized that some members of the high council were Sadducees and some were Pharisees, so he shouted, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, as were my ancestors! And I am on trial because my hope is in the resurrection of the dead!” This divided the council—the Pharisees against the Sadducees— for the Sadducees say there is no resurrection or angels or spirits, but the Pharisees believe in all of these. So there was a great uproar. Some of the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees jumped up and began to argue forcefully. “We see nothing wrong with him,” they shouted. “Perhaps a spirit or an angel spoke to him.” As the conflict grew more violent, the commander was afraid they would tear Paul apart. So he ordered his soldiers to go and rescue him by force and take him back to the fortress. (Acts of the Apostles 23:1-10 NLT)
Paul was sent to the Sanhedrin (the Jewish high council) by the Roman commander so he could find out, exactly, what the matter was that caused this uproar and behavior toward Paul. Paul began his statement with the proclamation that he had lived in clear conscience before God always. This infuriated the high priest, Ananias, and commanded Paul to be slapped. Paul responds by calling the high priest a white washed wall (KJV), hypocrite (NLT). A whitewashed wall was one that was actually dirty but made to look like it was clean. In other words, it was dirty beneath the surface. Paul was calling the high priest a hypocrite for his appearing to be right with God, yet wicked.
O, how the church needs more men of God who will call the religious people of our time what they are, white washed walls. Many of our religious leaders are caught up in their position and are, in reality, only holding a religious office without the relationship with God that the office requires. I'm sure many of them would say "I do have a relationship with God". If this was the case, they would not endorse homosexual marriage and they would not accept the killing of unborn babies. Furthermore, they would care more about seeing lives transformed by the power of Jesus rather than preaching a socially and politically acceptable gospel.
Let us not be afraid to proclaim the gospel in it's biblical form (pure and holy).
The commander brought Paul inside and ordered him lashed with whips to make him confess his crime. He wanted to find out why the crowd had become so furious. When they tied Paul down to lash him, Paul said to the officer standing there, “Is it legal for you to whip a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been tried?” When the officer heard this, he went to the commander and asked, “What are you doing? This man is a Roman citizen!” So the commander went over and asked Paul, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” “Yes, I certainly am,” Paul replied. “I am, too,” the commander muttered, “and it cost me plenty!” Paul answered, “But I am a citizen by birth!” The soldiers who were about to interrogate Paul quickly withdrew when they heard he was a Roman citizen, and the commander was frightened because he had ordered him bound and whipped.
(Acts of the Apostles 22:24-29 NLT)
Around 67 B.C., Tarsus (capital of the Roman province of Cilicia in Asia Minor - Turkey) became a city under Roman authority. Jews living in the area were allowed to become citizens. Paul was born in Tarsus in approximately 5 A.D. He, therefore, by birth, became a naturalized citizen of Rome.
In this account, Paul was in Jerusalem, and was ordered, by the Roman military commander, to be lashed by whips to get him to confess the crime he had committed to cause the riot. As the soldiers strapped him down, Paul told the officer in charge that he was a Roman. Being a Roman citizen afforded someone certain rights, one of which was the right to due process of law. Beating a Roman citizen without that due process was an offense that carried punishment itself. When the officer heard Paul's statement of citizenship, he quickly went to the commander to inform him. The commander realized that he had made a serious mistake and immediately ordered the beating to be cancelled. The commander feared that punishment would be rendered for his rash actions.
Thank God that Paul was spared this brutal treatment.
No matter where we go or what we do, if we are serving Jesus, God will always watch over us no matter what. We may have to face adversity and unfair treatment but God promised to be with us (see Matthew 28:20) and to always work it out for our good (Romans 8:28). Are you truly and fully serving Jesus?
“Brothers and esteemed fathers,” Paul said, “listen to me as I offer my defense.” When they heard him speaking in their own language, the silence was even greater. Then Paul said, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, and I was brought up and educated here in Jerusalem under Gamaliel. As his student, I was carefully trained in our Jewish laws and customs. I became very zealous to honor God in everything I did, just like all of you today. And I persecuted the followers of the Way, hounding some to death, arresting both men and women and throwing them in prison. The high priest and the whole council of elders can testify that this is so. For I received letters from them to our Jewish brothers in Damascus, authorizing me to bring the followers of the Way from there to Jerusalem, in chains, to be punished. “As I was on the road, approaching Damascus about noon, a very bright light from heaven suddenly shone down around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’
(Acts of the Apostles 22:1-7 NLT)
I only wish I could have cited verses 1-23 in today's devotional (take a moment to read it). Paul recounts, in the people's own language (Hebrew or Aramaic), his personal testimony of how he came to know Jesus as his Savior and Lord! His testimony before them was in hope that they would clearly see how he, previously, was a devout follower of Judaism (the Jewish faith) and persecuted the faith that he now followed (Jesus Christ). He, meticulously, spoke about his being a part of Stephen's stoning and his encounter with Jesus on the way to Damascus to persecute and jail the followers of Jesus. He even told them that their leaders knew him and that they were the ones who gave him the authority to travel to Damascus to arrest followers of Jesus. He shared how he was struck blind on the road there and how Ananias, a devout Jewish believer in Jesus had laid his hands on him to restore his sight. He went on to describe how he was baptized and went back to Jerusalem. He described what happened as he was praying in the Temple. He was told, by Jesus, to leave Jerusalem because his message of Jesus would not be received. When he told them that he was told to go preach this message to the Gentiles, the crowd violently erupted as they shouted "Away with such a fellow! He isn't fit to live!". They cast off their coats, and threw handfuls of dust in the air in disgust. Nevertheless, Paul was faithful to share Jesus.
I don't know about you, but I have never had to deal with this kind of rejection and hostility. May God grant, to me, the willingness and the boldness to share Jesus with everyone no matter what he risks. In fact, my life isn't worth living if I do not share Jesus with others. He is the way to eternal life! There is no other option!
Worth Dying For
As Paul was about to be taken inside, he said to the commander, “May I have a word with you?” “Do you know Greek?” the commander asked, surprised. “Aren’t you the Egyptian who led a rebellion some time ago and took 4,000 members of the Assassins out into the desert?” “No,” Paul replied, “I am a Jew and a citizen of Tarsus in Cilicia, which is an important city. Please, let me talk to these people.” The commander agreed, so Paul stood on the stairs and motioned to the people to be quiet. Soon a deep silence enveloped the crowd, and he addressed them in their own language, Aramaic. (Acts of the Apostles 21:37-40 NLT)
Even in the midst of the tumult, Paul takes an opportunity to reach out to the crowd of Jews in order to present Jesus to them. No matter what the opposition, Paul was bent on sharing the gospel with anyone who would listen. Knowing the resistance, he still proceeded to address them. Tenacity is a good word for describing Paul's drive. Unashamedly, he stood resolved in his faith.
You and I will do well to do the same. We will not always be accepted by our peers, countrymen, or even among the religious. Standing for, and spreading, the authentic gospel of Jesus is our commission. Let's remain faithful and true to the truth even when it endangers our lives. The truth is worth dying for!!
Rev. Curtis Norris