Monday, July 9, 2012

Acts 24 – Paul on Trial Before Felix

(read Acts 24)

Acts begins with a bang, but it's end is open. As we begin to pull toward the final words of Acts, we begin to feel the looming future trial before a high court that will decide Paul's fate. This trial will never come in this account.

Luke records trial after trial over years of Paul's imprisonment. He appeals to higher courts, and becomes a victim of the machinations of corrupt politicians.

In chapter 24, Paul becomes the prisoner of Roman governor "Most Excellent" Felix. Though Paul's accusers pander to the governor by suggesting he has brought peace and prosperity, history tells us that he was in fact a violent and horrible ruler, worse than many before and after him, and known for taking bribes. His title, "Most Excellent", is the same as the recipient of both the books Luke and Acts. For this reason, and the missing story of Paul's final trial before Rome, many Bible scholars have suggested that Luke and Acts may have been written as a testimony of defense for Paul in that very trial. If so, Theophilus may have been an important figure in Paul's trial, or a person of influence who could bring Paul favour.

Paul does not pander, manipulate, or act any way but truthfully in Luke's account. He makes no apology for his faith, and makes sure to convincingly explain that he believes his faith is the same as those who accuse him. He has no personal quarrel with the Jews, and identifies as one himself both ethnically and religiously. His defense before Felix is reasonable, strong, and accurate. Citizens of the Kingdom need not fight or strive. The Kingdom makes it's own way. Paul is given opportunity to share the Good News of the Kingdom again with authority and conviction. His chains are nothing.

His defense does not free him. The governor is no fool. He is aware of the history of the Way's communities, and doesn't believe they or Paul would seek to riot or caus trouble as Paul's accusers suggest. Felix keeps him in chains for political reasons. For two years Paul is under arrest. But in this time he has opportunity to share with Felix multiple times. He is given special privilege as a prisoner, and therefore can continue his teaching ministry though in custody. It is also while Paul is in chains that he turns to writing, and most of the books of Christian scriptures are written while Paul is a prisoner of the empire.

The Kingdom of God makes it's own way. In chains or free, before the elite of Mars Hill or in a letter from a jail cell, the Kingdom message of Freedom and Justice will go forth.

Acts 24:24-27 (ESV)
24 After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.” 26 At the same time he hoped that money would be given him by Paul. So he sent for him often and conversed with him. 27 When two years had elapsed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And desiring to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison.

(read Acts 24)


v10 – Paul makes his defense before a secular judge.
vv14-15 – Paul is clear were his faith is the same as the Jews.
vv24-26 – Even in prison, Paul was given opportunity to share the gospel at length with Felix – a person of great influence.
v27 – Two years in prison.

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