Paul’s Trial before Felix – Our hope concerning the resurrection of the dead
Acts 24:1-27 KV:21
1. Summarize the previous passage’s events (23).
In the previous passage Paul was on trial for his belief in the resurrection of the dead. During the ensuing riot Paul became fearful and lost sight of the vision the Lord had given him. The Lord visited him and told him to take courage. This enabled Paul to see his purpose again and overcome his fear. Paul also experienced God’s sovereignty by seeing the Lord use the Roman army to escort Paul on his way to Rome.
Who accompanied the High Priest to the trial (1)?
“Five days later the high priest Ananias went down to Caesarea with some of the elders and a lawyer named Tertullus, and they brought their charges against Paul before the governor. ”
A lawyer named Tertullus was employed by the high priests to argue the case in a Roman court.
What were the 3 charges against Paul (5-8) (compare 23:29)?
“We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect 6 and even tried to desecrate the temple;so we seized him.  [a] 8 By examining him yourself you will be able to learn the truth about all these charges we are bringing against him.””
a. That Paul was a terrorist starting riots all over the empire
b. That Paul was starting an illegal new religion—not under Roman approval or authority. The Romans had agreed to allow the Jews to have their own religion without Roman interference inexchange for certain guarentees—taxes and order. This accusation would put Paul in violation of Roman law.
c. Desecrating the temple. Which belonged to the Jews under Roman authority and would be a violation of Roman authority to desecrate the temple.
These were serious charges but notice how they were not the same charges that Lysias the commander wrote about in Acts 23:29. Here we see that the accusers were not interested in the truth.
What does it show that the accusers brought a lawyer instead of eye-witnesses?
If there were truth to the allagations, a few eye witnesses would have done the job. But here we see that treachery and the destruction of Paul were all that were desired. They brought a lawyer to press charges based on Roman Law because there were no violations of Jewish Law. Much in the same way that the leaders (Ananias and Caiaphas) turned Jesus over to Pontus Pilate.
What was the religious leaders hope for the trial?
These religious leaders should have been praying, helping people, preparing sermons, teaching the scriptures. Instead they were plotting the death of one man. They were motivated and had a hope only in murder to secure their political position. Like small time dictators they saw that their hope to continue their worldly lives was to orchestrate the murder of one man. Their hope was evil and based on their situation.
2. How did Paul respond before Felix (10)?
“When the governor motioned for him to speak, Paul replied: “I know that for a number of years you have been a judge over this nation; so I gladly make my defense.”
Paul did not engage in flattery, but went straight to the point revealing the truth–knowing the accusations against him. Perhaps Paul knew of Felix’s corrupt nature and saw no need for a grand opening statement—knowing that it would not do him much good.
How did Paul defend against the first charge (11-13)?
“11 You can easily verify that no more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship. 12 My accusers did not find me arguing with anyone at the temple, or stirring up a crowd in the synagogues or anywhere else in the city. 13 And they cannot prove to you the charges they are now making against me.”
Paul testified that it was easily verifiable that he had gone up to Jerusalem not but 12 days ago and had done nothing wrong. No witnesses. Paul simply told the truth.
When charged with leading a new illegal religion how did Paul respond (14-15)?
“14 However, I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, 15 and I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.”
Paul here clearly testified that he was not part of a new religion but had the same belief in the God of Abraham as did his accusers. He stated that he believed everything in the Scriptures and has the same hope in the resurrection of the dead. Paul’s point was that he operated as a Jew who believed everything a Jewish person should believe as the conclusion of Judaism.
What was Paul’s conclusion (16)?
“16 So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.”
These are not the words of a terrorist or a ringleader. Paul would have said, “Death to Rome!” or “Long live the new religion!” But he didn’t. He stated that his conscience was clear and what he was doing was clear because he was following what was revealed to him by God. As a follower of the Way, you and I must live in good conscience that we are living according to the will of God. A follower of the Way lives with a good conscience.
3. How did Paul respond to the third charge (17-19)?
“17 “After an absence of several years, I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings. 18 I was ceremonially clean when they found me in the temple courts doing this. There was no crowd with me, nor was I involved in any disturbance. 19 But there are some Jews from the province of Asia, who ought to be here before you and bring charges if they have anything against me. ”
Paul mentions that for the third charge he was brining gifts for the poor and ceremonially clean. Paul also noted the lack of any detailed accusers.
What did Paul say the real reason for his trial (21)?
“21 unless it was this one thing I shouted as I stood in their presence: ‘It is concerning the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today.’””
Paul could see through all the false claims and realized that the reason he was on trial was only because of his faith in the resurrection of the dead—meaning the resurrection of Jesus. Paul was a witness to Jesus, heard words from his mouth, and Paul’s entire hope was in carrying out this mission.
What does it mean to have a hope in the resurrection of the dead (21) (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) (Colossians 1:17-19) (Psalm 16:10) (Isaiah 53:9-10) (Romans 6:23)?
“3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,”
“17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,”
“because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful[a] one see decay.”
“He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes[a] his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.”
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in[a] Christ Jesus our Lord.”
To have hope in the resurrection means to have an eternal hope. And hope not a “wishing” or “fairy-tale” hope but a sure knowledge. Paul’s hope in Jesus was sent from God. This hope changed his life entirely and was the catalyst for Paul’s mission. Those who live with a hope in the resurrection are changed and have a clear difference from those who do not have a hope in the resurrection. Compare Paul to that of the religious leaders and their hopes.
Do you have a hope in the resurrection of the dead (John 11:23-26)?
“23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?””
Martha and Mary had a hope in the resurrection at the end times—but when faced with the death of their brother—their faith in Jesus weakened. But Jesus told them, “I am the resurrection and the life.” What kind of hope do we have? What hope makes you live differently than those without hope? We need to answer Jesus’ question—“Do you believe this?”
4. What hint makes you think that Governor Felix thought Paul was innocent (23)?
“He ordered the centurion to keep Paul under guard but to give him some freedom and permit his friends to take care of his needs.”
Even Felix saw that Paul was not a criminal and allowed for him to be kept under lax guard.
What was the result of Felix’s corruption (25-27)?
“As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” 26 At the same time he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him. 27 When two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, but because Felix wanted to grant a favor to the Jews, he left Paul in prison.”
a. Paul seeing Felix’s corruption – delivered sermons on self-righteousness and judgment to come
b. Felix did not seek justice but instead a bribe and kept Paul in prison for two years.
What can we learn about the potential fate of those who have faith in the resurrection of the dead?
In this fallen world we may suffer when we want to live righteously. But we suffer for the name of Jesus—not for being a trouble maker or terrorist.
Where is your hope and faith?
If our hope is on the earth—we will follow wherever we have benefits. If our hope is in the resurrection—we will act for the benefit of the kingdom first. Our hope will be intangible not edible.