Monday, October 19, 2020

Acts Study | Session 36 | 23:1-24:27

In today's study, we find Paul before the council in Jerusalem attempting to give a defense of himself in regard to the accusations that were laid against him. However, the council was divided over the issue of the resurrection. Upon hearing that some of the Jews had made a pact to kill Paul, he escorted him to the governor, Felix, before whom Paul would again explain his innocence in regards to all that he was accused of except being a follower of Jesus who had resurrected from the dead.

Chapter 23

VERSES 1-2: And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day. (2) And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth. Well, that didn't go far! Ananias was historically crooked as a dog's hind leg. 

Josephus records that later he and his brother were murdered by a band of the Sicarii some years later after being caught in an aqueduct where he had concealed himself. What goes around comes around. 

VERSE 3: Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law? Interestingly, Paul uttered prophetic words at this point. 

VERSES 4-5: And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God's high priest? (5)  Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people. Paul apologized, not because his words were not true, but because he did not realize who this idiot was. His point seems to be that he was being accused of violating the Law and yet they were violating the Law by condemning him without a fair trial (Deu 25:1-2). Paul's apology seems to stem from Exo 22:28. To me, it is the same thing as respect the office even if you do not respect the man. 

VERSE 6: But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question. Paul immediately perceived that his audience was divided and he was going to take advantage of it. The Greek word for perceived speaks of intimate knowledge or absolute knowledge. Remember, he ran with these guys and knew them well. 

They both were influential Jewish sects in Israel very much like our system today. The Pharisees were the "Constitutionalists" in that they believed that the Torah had to be obeyed to the letter. The Sadducees were the leftist elites who believed that the Torah was a good guideline, but were much more secular in their views.  

The Pharisees were members of the middle class and were committed to upholding the Mosaic Law. On the other hand, the Sadducees represented the aristocracy, and leaned to the left and embraced Hellenism. Leaders among the Pharisees were referred to as Rabbi, while most of the Sadducees operated as priests and were members of the Sanhedrin. 

The Pharisees believed in the afterlife, heaven, hell, and that man will be judged on the basis of his adherence to the Torah and his works while on earth. The Sadducees did not believe that man would experience resurrection after physical death. Paul knew this and used it to pull the Pharisees over to his side. 

VERSES 7-8: And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided. (8)  For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both. It worked! Understand that in the end, both of these groups had rejected the Messiah of Israel. 

VERSES 9-10: And there arose a great cry: and the scribes that were of the Pharisees' part arose, and strove, saying, We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God. (10)  And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle. The Romans had to intercede again to save Paul's life. 

VERSE 11: And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome. Now, once again, just like back in Acts 18:9-10, the Lord steps in to encourage him to keep plugging away because he has to go to Rome to bear witness of him. 

VERSES 12-15: And when it was day, certain of the Jews banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. (13)  And they were more than forty which had made this conspiracy. (14)  And they came to the chief priests and elders, and said, We have bound ourselves under a great curse, that we will eat nothing until we have slain Paul. (15)  Now therefore ye with the council signify to the chief captain that he bring him down unto you to morrow, as though ye would enquire something more perfectly concerning him: and we, or ever he come near, are ready to kill him. They are after him again. Remember, he, like Peter, and Stephen, is accusing the nation of rejecting their Messiah. That was not a popular message. 

VERSE 16: And when Paul's sister's son heard of their lying in wait, he went and entered into the castle, and told Paul. Machiavelli said that in order for conspiracies, to be successful, it must pass through all three stages (initiation, the plot itself, and the period after the plot). Conspiracies fail because so few can navigate all three stages successfully. Conspirators who wish to succeed should keep silent about their intentions until the last possible moment: The first, the safest and, to tell the truth, the only [remedy against being discovered], is not to allow the [fellow] conspirators time to give information against you, and to tell them of your plan only when you are ready to act, and not before. Machiavelli did not write these words until the 1500s, so they were not aware of these pitfalls. 

VERSES 17-22: Then Paul called one of the centurions unto him, and said, Bring this young man unto the chief captain: for he hath a certain thing to tell him. (18)  So he took him, and brought him to the chief captain, and said, Paul the prisoner called me unto him, and prayed me to bring this young man unto thee, who hath something to say unto thee. (19)  Then the chief captain took him by the hand, and went with him aside privately, and asked him, What is that thou hast to tell me? (20)  And he said, The Jews have agreed to desire thee that thou wouldest bring down Paul to morrow into the council, as though they would enquire somewhat of him more perfectly. (21)  But do not thou yield unto them: for there lie in wait for him of them more than forty men, which have bound themselves with an oath, that they will neither eat nor drink till they have killed him: and now are they ready, looking for a promise from thee. (22)  So the chief captain then let the young man depart, and charged him, See thou tell no man that thou hast shewed these things to me. Fortunately, for Paul, God's providence no doubt, his nephew was able to bring the captain up to date in regards to the conspiracy. Amazing how God used this captain in Paul's life! Hard to believe he will not be in Heaven as much time he had spent with him. 

VERSES 23-24: And he called unto him two centurions, saying, Make ready two hundred soldiers to go to Caesarea, and horsemen threescore and ten, and spearmen two hundred, at the third hour of the night; (24)  And provide them beasts, that they may set Paul on, and bring him safe unto Felix the governor. This was a pretty huge escort. No doubt, the chief captain took this threat seriously. 

VERSES 25-26: And he wrote a letter after this manner: (26)  Claudius Lysias unto the most excellent governor Felix sendeth greeting. Now for the first time, we learn the chief captain's name who first appeared in chapter 21 when he first saved Paul's life from their hands. I find it amazing how well this Roman officer had treated and protected Paul. 

VERSES 27-30: This man was taken of the Jews, and should have been killed of them: then came I with an army, and rescued him, having understood that he was a Roman. (28) And when I would have known the cause wherefore they accused him, I brought him forth into their council: (29)  Whom I perceived to be accused of questions of their law, but to have nothing laid to his charge worthy of death or of bonds. (30) And when it was told me how that the Jews laid wait for the man, I sent straightway to thee, and gave commandment to his accusers also to say before thee what they had against him. Farewell. He just gives a recount of what had happened and how he had handled it. Understand that at this point, the Romans could have cared less how the Jews handled their religious issues, but when it crossed over into civil issues, that was Roman territory. 

VERSES 31-35: Then the soldiers, as it was commanded them, took Paul, and brought him by night to Antipatris. (32) On the morrow they left the horsemen to go with him, and returned to the castle: (33)  Who, when they came to Caesarea, and delivered the epistle to the governor, presented Paul also before him. (34)  And when the governor had read the letter, he asked of what province he was. And when he understood that he was of Cilicia; (35)  I will hear thee, said he, when thine accusers are also come. And he commanded him to be kept in Herod's judgment hall. Again, all of this was possible because Paul was a Roman citizen. 

Chapter 24

VERSE 1: And after five days Ananias the high priest descended with the elders, and with a certain orator named Tertullus, who informed the governor against Paul. Who is Tertullus? He was apparently an orator and was going to serve as the prosecuting attorney against Paul. My next question is why? His name is clearly Roman. It seems that the Jews hired him to make their case. Barnes points out that it was most likely because they were ignorant of roman law and needed his help to make their accusations stick. 

VERSES 2-4: And when he was called forth, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying, Seeing that by thee we enjoy great quietness, and that very worthy deeds are done unto this nation by thy providence, (3)  We accept it always, and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness. (4)  Notwithstanding, that I be not further tedious unto thee, I pray thee that thou wouldest hear us of thy clemency a few words. He obviously had lawyer skills in that he knew enough to butter up the judge. 

VERSES 5-6: For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes: (6) Who also hath gone about to profane the temple: whom we took, and would have judged according to our law. Now he lays out his accusations in that he accuses Paul of being a pestilent fellow, a mover of sedition among all the Jews, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.

First, they accuse him of being a pestilent fellow. The word literally means plague or disease. The accusation seems to be that Paul was a corrupting influence on the Jews. Of course, this goes back to the original accusation that taught them to forsake the law of Moses, not circumcising their children, nor walk after the customs (Acts 21:21). 

Also, they are accusing him of being a mover of sedition. Literally, this means that he sowed dissension among the Jews. Again, the accusation is that he was teaching doctrines contrary to the laws and customs of Moses. 

The last accusation is interesting in that he accused of being a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. The word ringleader means one standing first in the ranks. The point is that Paul was the primary instigator in this whole thing. The sect of the Nazarenes is interesting also. The word sect is where we get our word heresy. The Nazarenes is a reference to those who followed the Nazarene, Jesus. 

VERSES 7-8: But the chief captain Lysias came upon us, and with great violence took him away out of our hands, (8)  Commanding his accusers to come unto thee: by examining of whom thyself mayest take knowledge of all these things, whereof we accuse him. Tertullus pretends that they would have judged Paul righteously if Lysias had not intervened, but we all know that they were going to kill him on the spot a couple of times. 

VERSE 9: And the Jews also assented, saying that these things were so. Of course, all of the Jews present nodded in agreement with Tertullus' assessment of how things would have gone. 

VERSE 10: Then Paul, after that the governor had beckoned unto him to speak, answered, Forasmuch as I know that thou hast been of many years a judge unto this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself: Now Paul is asked to speak for himself. 

VERSES 11-13: Because that thou mayest understand, that there are yet but twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem for to worship. (12)  And they neither found me in the temple disputing with any man, neither raising up the people, neither in the synagogues, nor in the city: (13)  Neither can they prove the things whereof they now accuse me. Paul, of course, disavows the charges that had been laid against him. Of course, his defense is that they can not prove anything that they were accusing him of. 

VERSES 14-15: But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets: (15)  And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. While he denied being a seditionist and pestilent, he does confess that he was a follower of the way. Remember, it was called the sect of the Nazarenes in v.5. 

He goes on to say that he worshipped the God of his fathers and believed everything that was written in the law and the prophets. And that he has hope in regards to the resurrection of the dead, both the just and the unjust. I believe Paul is merely pointing out that he believes the law and the profits point to Jesus. 

VERSE 16: And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men. Paul is merely saying that he lives his life without consciously offending others. That doesn't mean that he didn't offend, but that he never purposefully offended (Rom 12:18). 

VERSE 17-18: Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings. (18)  Whereupon certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with multitude, nor with tumult. Now he begins to recount what actually happened in the temple. He was there to merely bring the offerings that were required to complete the vow that he had made. Notice that he calls out the Jews from Asia. 

The very fact that we are in chapter 24 and Paul is still purifying himself in the temple is further proof that he was still living under the Law. Here he is denying that he was a mover of sedition or profaning the temple as he was accused in vv.5-6.

VERSE 19: Who ought to have been here before thee, and object, if they had ought against me. He then points out that the the Jews from Asia who made the charge should be there right now. 

VERSES 20-21: Or else let these same here say, if they have found any evil doing in me, while I stood before the council, (21)  Except it be for this one voice, that I cried standing among them, Touching the resurrection of the dead I am called in question by you this day. Since the "eyewitnesses" aren't there, they have nothing against Paul, unless they are just accusing him of believing in the resurrection of the dead which was no reason for him to be in front of Felix. 

VERSES 22-23: And when Felix heard these things, having more perfect knowledge of that way, he deferred them, and said, When Lysias the chief captain shall come down, I will know the uttermost of your matter. (23)  And he commanded a centurion to keep Paul, and to let him have liberty, and that he should forbid none of his acquaintance to minister or come unto him. Felix was beginning to understand that this was a religious matter and not a Roman one. Therefore, he would wait to hear again from Lysias, and Paul is placed under house arrest until he could do that. Obviously, Felix did not see Paul as a threat. 

VERSE 24: And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. Historically, Drusilla had divorced her first husband, Gaius Julius Archelaus Antiochus Epiphanes, to marry Felix. She was the granddaughter of Herod the Great and daughter of Herod Agrippa. She was also the sister of Agrippa II. Old Felix had for sure married up. Interestingly as well,  both she and their son, Marcus Antonius Agrippa, died in the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 99 AD.

VERSE 25: And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee. There is no doubt in my mind that Paul teaching righteousness, temperance (self-control), and the judgment to come implies that Paul had been teaching the Kingdom to the Jews. The judgment to come refers to what will happen at the Second Coming in Rev 19:11-21). That message is hardly a grace message. In response, Felix trembled. Understand that the Kingdom message was a threat: repent or else. Grace is just the opposite. 

VERSE 26: He hoped also that money should have been given him of Paul, that he might loose him: wherefore he sent for him the oftener, and communed with him. Close, but no cigar. While Felix did feel some conviction and even fear over the prospect of what Paul had to say, in the end, the crooked politician rose to the surface. 

VERSE 27: But after two years Porcius Festus came into Felix' room: and Felix, willing to shew the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound. Acts 28:30 makes it clear that Paul remained under house arrest the entire time. He stayed that way until Felix was removed and replaced by Porcius Festus. 

Historically, Felix was accused of using a dispute between the Jews and the Syrians of Caesarea as a pretext to slay and plunder the inhabitants. Though he was not immediately punished by Nero, Porcius Festus decided his was too tarnished to remain in that capacity. He eventually died of tuberculosis. To appease, Paul's accusers, on his way out, he left Paul under house arrest. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

I do appreciate any observations or questions you may have.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.