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Bible Commentaries

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary

Acts 24



Verses 1-27

THE LETTER WRITTEN by Claudius Lysias is quite a typical document, in which he presented his own actions in the most favourable light; but on the other hand it entirely exonerated Paul of anything really evil or worthy of death. The only accusations against him were as to “questions of their law.” Thus it is made clear that the first Roman official into whose hands he fell was quickly convinced that the charges against him were as to his faith, and there was no fault in him as to matters of conduct. God evidently took care that this should be made abundantly plain.

Thus it was ordered that the forty men failed in their purpose in spite of their vow and curse. Paul was safely in the strong hands of Rome, and in due time would be able to state his case in a calmer atmosphere, and bear the Name of his Master before “the Gentiles, and kings,” as well as the children of Israel, as had been predicted to Ananias. First of all he had to appear before Felix, the governor.

The arraignment of Paul before him bears all the marks of bitter animus and prejudice. That not only elders but even Ananias the high priest should have thought it necessary to go down to appear against him, shows the importance they gave to his case. Then they employed an advocate who, to judge by his name, was a Roman and not a Jew. Tertullus, they doubtless felt, would know better than themselves what would appeal to the Roman mind, and so be more likely to secure a conviction. Tertullus did know, and began with fulsome flattery, for the account given of Felix’s administration in secular history is in flat denial of what he stated. This he followed by a fourfold charge against Paul. All four charges were vague, particularly the first, that he was a pest, and the second that he was a mover of sedition. Vague charges were preferred, for he knew they could not be easily disproved as plain definite charges often can be.

The third and fourth charges were a little more definite. The fourth, as to profaning the temple was false, as the previous chapter showed: the third was the only one with some semblance of truth. He had proved himself a leader amongst the Christians, who were known by the Jews as the sect of the Nazarenes. They were indeed followers of the despised Nazarene, but they were emphatically not just a new sect amongst the Jews. The book of Acts was written to show us they were not this but rather something entirely new. The world never understands any genuine work of God.

Tertullus took care to present the action of Lysias in an unfavourable light, since he had baulked the violence of the Jews; and the Jews supported the assertions of their advocate. The Jews supplied the animus and used the Gentile as their tool, as they did in the case of the Lord.

Paul’s answer was in every way a contrast to the oration of Tertullus. He acknowledged that Felix had had many years experience as judge among the Jews, but he refrained from flattery. He avoided vague assertions, denying explicitly any disputations and sedition, and pointing out that only twelve days had elapsed from the moment he had set foot in Jerusalem. He showed that while they had made plenty of accusations they had furnished no proofs, and could not do so. Then by making a plain and simple confession of what had characterized him, and what lay really at the bottom of their hostility, he threw into relief that which lay at the foundation of the Gospel that he preached. They called it heresy, but it was the very foundation of the truth.

In this skilful way did Paul announce his belief in all that had been written in the Old Testament, and show that all Christian hopes are based upon the resurrection, which of course has been verified in Christ. And it is just as certain that there shall be a resurrection for the unjust. That was evidently a shot directed at the conscience of Felix, as well as all others present. No one shall remain buried in the grave to escape the mighty hand of God in judgment.

Having proclaimed his faith in the Scriptures and in the resurrection, Paul went on to affirm that his conduct had been in keeping with what he believed. His conscience was clear, and he had only come up to Jerusalem on a mission of mercy, and when in the temple his behaviour had been perfectly orderly and correct. It was the Jews from Asia who stirred up the tumult, not he; and now that there was opportunity for them to present their charges against him in an orderly way, they were not there to do so.

But there were Jews present who had seen him appear before the council, and he knew that they found no fault in him, save that he avowed his belief in the resurrection. Paul knew no doubt that it was the Sadducean faction who were pursuing him so relentlessly and appearing against him, and he took care to make it very plain to Felix that his belief in the resurrection of the dead, as verified in the resurrection of Christ, was the real matter at issue. It may be also that Paul wished to acknowledge that the way in which he had cried out in the council had not been quite free from blame.

Felix, as we learn from verse Acts 24:24, had a Jewess as wife, and so was well informed as to things, and realized at once that there was nothing evil in Paul. He adjourned the court under pretext of waiting for Lysias the chief captain, so once more the accusers were foiled, especially as the adjournment was sine die, as our courts put it. Meanwhile Paul was given an extraordinary measure of liberty, in which again we may see the overruling hand of God.

There is no record of Lysias coming down, but we are told how Felix, with Drusilla his wife, sent for Paul and gave him a private audience while he testified of the faith in Christ. This was a great opportunity, and Paul evidently knew the weak and crooked character of the governor, and so he emphasized righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come. We may take righteousness as summing up the Gospel message, as Romans 1:16, Romans 1:17, shows so clearly. Temperance or self-restraint is the result of the Gospel in the life of the one who receives it; and judgment to come is what awaits those who refuse it. So though the summary given of Paul’s address is exceedingly brief, we can see that the three words are such as cover the salient facts of the Gospel.

There was great power with the message and Felix trembled, yet he deferred the matter to that “convenient season,” which so often never comes. It was so in this case. Though two years passed before Felix was superseded by Festus, and during that time there were a number of interviews, nothing came of them, and Felix left Paul bound in the effort to curry favour with the Jews. The real canker at the heart of Felix was the love of money. His case strikingly illustrates how there may be a powerful working of the Spirit through the Gospel from without upon a man, but how any working upon heart and conscience within may be smothered by some active lust, such as the love of money. True conversion takes place when the Spirit’s work from without is supplemented and answered by the Spirit’s work within.


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Bibliography Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Acts 24:4". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". 1947.

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