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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible

Acts 24

 

 

Verses 1-27

The Jews did not delay long just taking enough time (5 days) to make plans by which to influence Felix against Paul. The high priest and elders of the people came down, bringing with them an orator named Tertullus, whose name means "triple-hardened." He took the lead in speaking, beginning his flowery discourse by flattering Felix contrarily to what he, or any of the Jews would have done behind the governor's back. He speaks of Israel enjoying great quietness through the authority of Felix, yet it had been they who had disquieted Jerusalem in their violence against Paul.

He first makes three charges against Paul personally, and then one charge that he had "gone about to profane the temple." Of course the first three charges cannot even be considered by a court of justice. They considered Paul to be a pest. What difference would this make to a judge? They said he was a mover of sedition. But they have not one specific act of sedition to lay to his charge. They claimed that he was a "ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes." But this means nothing unless he had done something unlawful. The fourth charge does refer to his actions, but only that he had "gone about to profane the temple," not even that he had actually profaned it. In Chapter 21:28 the Asian Jews had charged Paul with actually polluting the temple. By this time Tertullus had probably learned that this could not be substantiated, yet he realized he ought to have some charge against Paul, therefore put it in this indefinite way. He did not say that Paul may have brought a Gentile into the temple, for the Gentile Felix would hardly consider this a charge at all! The only thing that the Jews could count on having any effect at all on Felix was the smooth speech of Tertullus.

He adds a plain falsehood, that the Jews had taken Paul with the intention of trying him according to their law. They were beating him, hoping to kill him, when Lysias rescued him from them, though Tertullus claimed that it was Lysias who had used great violence! He ends his discourse by saying that Felix will find by examining Paul that the accusations he made were true. The Jews, ignoring any qualms of conscience, gave their word that these charges were true.

Of course Felix realized that there was virtually nothing about which it was necessary to examine Paul, for Tertullus had brought no definite charge that Paul had broken the law. However, the governor then gave Paul permission to speak. He did not at all flatter Felix, but told him he could more cheerfully speak for himself since Felix had for many years been a judge appointed over Israel, therefore would know something of the nation's culture, etc.

Only twelve days previously he said he had come to Jerusalem to worship. He had not been found in the temple even disputing with anyone, nor raising up the people either in the synagogues or in the city. As to the Jews' charges he said that they could produce no confirmation of them. However, he confessed what was the actual reason for their hostility, the fact that he worshiped the God of his (and their) fathers in a way they called heresy, believing all things written in the law and the prophets, and specifically having unquestioned hope toward God as regards the truth of the resurrection of the dead, both just and unjust, which in fact the Pharisees themselves professed to believe. He did not come out clearly to speak of his confession of Christ nor of his preaching Christ, which was the direct cause of the Jews being inflamed against him; but of course these things were rooted in the law and the prophets of which he spoke, and which the Jews claimed to believe. In defense of himself he adds that he exercised himself to always have a conscience honest and unoffensive as regards both God and man.

Now he says that after many years of absence from Jerusalem he had come to bring alms and offerings to his own nation. Romans 15:25-28 speaks of this, though no doubt Paul also desired to win the Jews to the Lord. But Jews from Asia, finding him in the temple, not engaged in any contention or controversy, had initiated his arrest. As Paul insists, these were the men who should be present to advance their charges against him. Or, let the Jews then present declare if they had found any criminal reason in Paul for arresting him, when he had stood before their council, unless it could be in his declaration, "Touching the resurrection of the dead I am called in question by you."

After hearing both Tertullus and Paul, Felix ought to have had no difficulty in dismissing the case immediately, for the accusations themselves were of no significance to a court of law, but he delayed this by saying that when he conferred with Lysias he would have more full knowledge of the case. He did however put Paul into the care of a centurion, with instructions to allow him comparative liberty with full visitation privileges. Nothing more is said of Lysias coming down, and Felix shows no concern to free an innocent man. He may have given Paul such liberty because hoping for a bribe from him, as was the case later at least (v.26).

However, he had some interest in Paul and his teaching, possibly awakened through his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish. Fausset's Bible Encyclopedia reports that Felix had seduced her from her husband (Ps.229). It may be that Felix agreed that he and his wife should listen to Paul with the very intention of inducing Paul to bribe him. Still, God gave this opportunity to Paul to preach Christ with particular emphasis on righteousness, self-control and judgment to come. It was this that was needed to strike the conscience of this irresponsible man, and at least it produced such fear as to make him tremble. Yet neither fear nor conscience in him was sufficient to overcome the greed that still wanted money from Paul.

Politely he indicates to Paul his decision to procrastinate, for at the time it was evident that he preferred his sinful life-style to Christ. Yet he very often sent for Paul to talk with him, not because he had a concerned conscience, but a concerned lust for money. No doubt he remembered that Paul had said he came to Jerusalem to bring alms to his nation, and Felix was not averse to receiving alms. Two years of this unrighteous imprisonment passed by and Felix still left Paul bound when he was replaced by Festus. He did this merely to ingratiate the Jews.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Acts 24:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/acts-24.html. 1897-1910.

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