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Bible Commentaries

William Barclay's Daily Study Bible

Acts 24

 

 

Verses 1-27

Chapter 24

A FLATTERING SPEECH AND A FALSE CHARGE (Acts 24:1-9)

24:1-9 Five days afterwards Ananias the high priest came down with some of the elders and with a pleader called Tertullus. They laid information against Paul before the governor. When Paul was called, Tertullus began to accuse him in these terms, "Since through you we enjoy much tranquillity and since through your foresight many reforms have been brought about for this nation in every place and in every way, Felix, your excellency, we welcome it all with gratitude. But not to trouble you any longer, I ask you in your kindness briefly to hear us. When we had found this fellow a pest, a man who fomented disturbances among all the Jews throughout the civilized world, a man who is the ring-leader of the sect of the Nazarenes--and he tried to defile the Temple, too--we arrested him. By examining him yourself, you can learn from him the charges of which we accuse him"; and the Jews agreed with him, alleging that the facts were as stated.

Tertullus (Greek #5061) began his speech with a passage of almost nauseating flattery, every word of which he and Felix knew was quite untrue. He went on to state things which were equally untrue. He claimed that the Jews had arrested Paul. The scene in the Temple court was far closer to being a lynching than an arrest. The charge he levelled against Paul was subtly inaccurate; it fell under three heads.

(i) Paul was a fomenter of troubles and a pest. That classed Paul with those insurrectionaries who continually inflamed the inflammable populace into rebellion. Tertullus well knew that the one thing that tolerant Rome would not stand was civil disorder, for any spark might become a flame. Tertullus knew it was a lie but it was an effective charge.

(ii) Paul was a leader of the sect of the Nazarenes. That coupled Paul with Messianic movements; and the Romans knew what havoc false Messiahs could cause and how they could whip the people into hysterical risings which were only settled at the cost of blood. Rome could not afford to disregard a charge like that. Again Tertullus knew it was a lie but it was an effective charge.

(iii) Paul was a defiler of the Temple. The priests were Sadducees, the collaborationist party; to defile the Temple was to infringe the rights and laws of the priests; and the Romans, Tertullus hoped, would take the side of the pro-Roman party. The charge was that most dangerous of things--a series of half-truths and of twisted facts.

PAUL'S DEFENCE (Acts 24:10-21)

24:10-21 When the governor had given him the sign to speak, Paul answered, "In the knowledge that you for many years have been a judge of this people, I confidently offer my defence of my case, for you can ascertain that it is no more than twelve days since I came up to Jerusalem to worship. Neither in the Temple nor in the synagogues nor throughout the city did they find me arguing with anyone or collecting a crowd; nor can they provide any truth of the accusations which they make against me. This I do admit to you--that, according to The Way, which they call a sect, I worship my ancestral God. At the same time I believe in all things that are written throughout the Law and in the prophets, and I have the same hope towards God as they themselves accept--I mean that there will be a resurrection of the just and the unjust. Because of this, I too train myself that I may always have an unharmed conscience towards God and towards men. After many years I came to bring alms and offerings to my people. In the course of these offerings they found me purified in the Temple, not with a crowd and not the centre of any disturbance. But some Jews from Asia--who ought to be present before you and who ought to be bringing whatever accusation they had against me--or let they themselves say what offence they found in me as I stood before the Sanhedrin, other than in regard to this one expression I used as I stood amongst them--'Concerning the resurrection of the dead I am on trial today before you.'"

Beginning at the passage, "But some Jews from Asia Paul's grammar went wrong. He began to say one thing and in mid-career changed over to another so that the sentence became quite disconnected. But its very disconnection shows vividly the excitement and tension of the scene. Paul's defence is that of a man whose conscience is clear--it is simply to state the facts. The tragedy was that it was when he was bringing the contributions from his churches for the poor of Jerusalem and when he was meticulously observing the Jewish Law that arrest came. One of the greatest things about Paul is that he speaks in his own defence with force and sometimes with a flash of indignation, but never with the self-pity or bitterness that would have been so natural in a man whose finest actions had been so cruelly and deliberately misinterpreted.

PLAIN SPEAKING TO A GUILTY GOVERNOR (Acts 24:22-27)

24:22-27 But Felix, who had a very good knowledge of the facts about The Way, put them off, saying, "When Lysias the commander comes down, I will go into your case." He instructed the centurion that Paul was to be held under guard, that he was to be allowed some freedom, and he instructed him not to hinder any of his friends from rendering him service. Some days after, Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul and listened to him about the faith in Christ Jesus. While Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and judgment to come Felix was afraid and said, "For the present, go your way. When I have time I will send for you." At the same time he hoped that money would be given him by Paul so he sent for him quite often and used to have conversation with him. At the end of two years Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus; but Felix, wishing to ingratiate himself with the Jews, left Paul a prisoner.

Felix (Greek #5344) was not unkind to Paul but some of Paul's admonitions struck terror into his heart. His wife Drusilla was the daughter of Herod Agrippa the First. She had been married to Azizus, King of Emesa. But Felix, with the help of a magician called Atomos, had seduced her from Azizus and persuaded her to marry him. It is little wonder that when Paul presented him with the high moral demands of God he was afraid.

For two years Paul was in prison and then Felix went too far once too often and was recalled. There was a longstanding argument as to whether Caesarea was a Jewish or a Greek city and Jews and Greeks were at daggers drawn. There was an outbreak of mob violence in which the Jews came off best. Felix despatched his troops to aid the Gentiles. Thousands of Jews were killed and the troops, with Felix's consent and encouragement, sacked and looted the houses of the wealthiest Jews in the city.

The Jews did what all Roman provincials had a right to do--they reported their governor to Rome. That was why Felix left Paul in prison, even though he was well aware that he should be liberated. He was trying to curry favour with the Jews. It was all to no purpose. He was dismissed from his governorship and only the influence of his brother Pallas saved him from execution.

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

 


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Bibliography Information
Barclay, William. "Commentary on Acts 24:4". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/acts-24.html. 1956-1959.

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