The Trial Before Felix

Wednesday: Paul’s Reply to the Charges

Acts 24:1-27 In this week’s study Paul appears before Felix, and defends himself against the Jewish leaders’ accusations.
Paul’s Reply to the Charges

After a brief introduction, Paul began to answer the charges Tertullus had made. He dealt with each one in order. 

1. I am not a troublemaker. The first charge had been that Paul was a troublemaker, and his response to that charge is that it just was not so. “Moreover,” he said, “I can prove my assertion, and they are unable to prove theirs. How can I prove it? I can prove it in this way. First, it has only been twelve days since I arrived in Jerusalem.” Felix was aware that Paul had already been in prison in Caesarea for five days (cf. v. 1). He had been in prison in Jerusalem one day. So six of the twelve days are accounted for. At the most, then, Paul had six days—less than a week—to stir up the kind of trouble they were accusing him of starting. It was not Paul who was stirring up trouble but the Asian instigators and the Jerusalem mob. 

If they had been given time for a rebuttal, these men might have replied, “We are not so concerned about the trouble he was stirring up in Jerusalem as we are about the trouble he has been creating all around the world.” In fact, Tertullus had referred to worldwide troubles earlier. But these Jewish scribes and priests were not in a position to testify about what had been happening in other places. The Jews had to testify to what they knew, and the only thing they could testify to was what Paul had done during the six days he was in the Jewish capital. 

Then Paul said, “I am also clearly no troublemaker because during the six days I was in Jerusalem I was not even debating with the crowds. I was not lecturing. I have done that in other places. That is my line of work. But in Jerusalem I was not disputing with anybody. There were no crowds around me. As a matter of fact, the only reason I was at the temple was that I was trying to worship the very God these men also profess to worship, since I too am a Jew.” 

2. I am a follower of the Way. The second accusation was that Paul was a “ringleader of the Nazarene sect.” Paul admits to this accusation, although he phrases it differently. He does not say, “It is true; I am a ringleader.” That would have had bad negative connotations. He does not even change it to say, “It is true that I am one of the distinguished leaders of the movement.” That would have been vain. He does not refer to Christianity as “the sect of the Nazarenes” either. He calls it “the Way.” Yet in spite of those qualifications, the apostle nevertheless agrees with the substance of the accusation. 

But that was no problem, because the only substantial legal question was whether Paul’s following “the Way” was sufficient grounds for a punitive judgment, and this the Jewish leaders had not argued. Was Paul not permitted to practice his religion? Besides, if “the Way” was a sect within Judaism, as the accusation had tended to admit, and if Judaism was itself protected by the government, as it was, was Paul himself not protected also? If the governor was to rule against Paul for his adherence to Christianity, would he not also have to move against these very leaders of the Sanhedrin who had come to press their case against him? 

Moreover, Paul stressed the similarity between his beliefs and those of the men who were accusing him. “What I believe is what they believe,” he said. That is the sort of thing Christians can say today when witnessing to Jews. They can claim, especially if they are witnessing to a Jew who hardly practices his or her Judaism, that Christians are more Jewish than Jews. They can claim that they believe everything that is written in the Old Testament, adding that the Old Testament prophecies have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. 

“Moreover,” said Paul, “I also believe in the resurrection.” This was the matter he had raised when the Roman commander had brought him before the Sanhedrin. But Paul did not mention the resurrection only for this political purpose and, in any case, he certainly did not do that here. The resurrection was essential to Christian belief and practice. So when he had an opportunity, Paul testified that he believed in the resurrection not only as a matter of doctrine but as personal experience, since the Lord Jesus Christ, who was raised from the dead, had appeared to Him. 

Study Questions
  1. Why does Paul say how long he has been in Jerusalem?
  2. For what reason does Paul not dispute the charge of being a ringleader of the Nazarenes? What is his defense of that charge?

Prayer: Thank God for the example of Paul. Pray that if you are in a difficult situation, you will support your beliefs in such a clear way.

For Further Study: Download for free and listen to James Boice’s message from John 9, “We Know, We Know.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

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