Acts 24 Bible Study

Bible study of Acts chapter 24

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Acts 24 Bible Study

ACTS 24:1  1 Now after five days Ananias the high priest came down with the elders and a certain orator named Tertullus. These gave evidence to the governor against Paul.

Who came to Caesarea from Jerusalem with "Ananias the high priest" (Acts 24:1)?
Given the "great dissension" (Acts 23:10) that arose between the Pharisees and Sadducees over Paul, most if not all of "the elders" (Acts 24:1) who accompanied Ananias and stood behind the accusation against Paul most probably were from the Sadducees faction of the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of Israel.

Who was "Tertullus" (Acts 23:1)?
Tertullus was an "orator" (Acts 24:1), a lawyer for the era. While the name, "Tertullus" was Roman, it wasn't uncommon for Jews and Greeks to take Roman names, so Tertullus may not have been a Roman. And while Tertullus speaks from a Jewish perspective, it wasn't uncommon for orators/lawyers to speak directly from the perspective of their clients, so Tertullus wasn't necessarily a Jew either. Regardless of his nationality, Tertullus had been deemed best able to present Ananias and company's case against Paul.

Why didn't Ananias present the case himself?
Since this was a Roman trial, Ananias may have wanted to take no chances regarding Roman trial law and protocols. It was probably also conducted in Latin, which would have been Ananias' second language at best.

ACTS 24:2-4  2 And when he was called upon, Tertullus began his accusation, saying: “Seeing that through you we enjoy great peace, and prosperity is being brought to this nation by your foresight, 3 we accept it always and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness. 4 Nevertheless, not to be tedious to you any further, I beg you to hear, by your courtesy, a few words from us.

Did the Jews in Judea "enjoy great peace" (Acts 24:2)?
If so, 470 Roman soldiers wouldn't have been needed to protect the transfer of one prisoner. Judea was a hotbed of simmering rebellion that often boiled over, not a place of great peace.

Was "prosperity ... being brought to this nation" (Acts 24:2)?
If so, Paul's companions wouldn't have had to bring famine relief donations for the church in Jerusalem.

Did the Jews "accept it always and in all places ... with all thankfulness" (Acts 24:2)?
Paul had been sent to Caesarea because the Jews had plotted to kill Paul in Jerusalem, which would have required them to fight against and probably kill the Roman soldiers protecting Paul.

Was Felix "most noble" (Acts 24:2)?
Marcus Antonius Felix was originally a slave from Cilicia, Paul's home province, but had gained his freedom thanks to his brother, Marcus Antonius Pallas, a freedman well-liked by Emperor Claudius. As Felix' political fortunes rose, so did his reputation for corruption, cruelty and base lusts. He governed Judea from 52 AD to 60 AD with "the power of a king but the mind of a slave", according to Tacitus, the Roman historian.

What was Tertullus trying to achieve with his lies?
In Roman court, it was customary for orators to start with flattery to win the favor of the judge. In this case, however, Tertullus' flattery may also have been made and/or received with a veiled threat against the peace of the region, should Felix not side with the Jews.

ACTS 24:5-9  5 For we have found this man a plague, a creator of dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. 6 He even tried to profane the temple, and we seized him, and wanted to judge him according to our law. 7 But the commander Lysias came by and with great violence took him out of our hands, 8 commanding his accusers to come to you. By examining him yourself you may ascertain all these things of which we accuse him.” 9 And the Jews also assented, maintaining that these things were so.

Did Paul try to "profane the temple" (Acts 24:6)?
To the contrary, he spent almost seven days in it in ritual purification.

Did they want to "judge him according to our law" (Acts 24:6)?
"They were seeking to kill him" (Acts 21:31) contrary to their law.

Did the commander Lysius "with great violence" (Acts 24:7) take Paul out of their hands?
He took Paul from their great violence against him.

Why does Tertullus call Paul a ringleader of "the sect of the Nazarenes" (Acts 24:5)?
Because Jesus grew up in Nazareth, the Jews called Christian "the sect of the Nazarenes" in derogation.

ACTS 24:10-13  10 Then Paul, after the governor had nodded to him to speak, answered: “Inasmuch as I know that you have been for many years a judge of this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself, 11 because you may ascertain that it is no more than twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem to worship. 12 And they neither found me in the temple disputing with anyone nor inciting the crowd, either in the synagogues or in the city. 13 Nor can they prove the things of which they now accuse me.

What is missing from Paul's opening words?
The flattery. He simply acknowledges that Felix had "been for many years a judge of this nation" (Acts 24:10). Since Felix was at this time also married to Drusilla, one of Herod's daughters, he should have had at least some knowledge of Judaism and Christianity.

Had it really only been "no more than twelve days since [Paul] went up to Jerusalem" (Acts 24:11)?
A more literal translations of the Greek phrase translated "since" (Acts 24:11) is "be to me". Paul is talking about the 12 days he spent in Jerusalem, a period rather short to be organizing and committing all that he is accused of committing, especially since 3 of those 12 days were spent in Roman custody: "And when we had come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly (Day 1). On the following day (Day 2) Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present." (Acts 21:17-18) "Then Paul took the men, and the next day, having been purified with them, entered the temple ... Now when the seven days (Days 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9) were almost ended, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him." (Acts 24:27) "The next day (Day 10), because he (commander Lysias) wanted to know for certain why he was accused by the Jews, he released him from his bonds, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down and set him before them." (Acts 22:30) "But the following night (Day 11) the Lord stood by him and said, “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome." (Acts 23:11) "And when it was day (Day 12), some of the Jews banded together and bound themselves under an oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul." (Acts 23:12) Paul was escorted out of Jerusalem that night.

ACTS 24:14-21  14 But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. 15 I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. 16 This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men. 17 “Now after many years I came to bring alms and offerings to my nation, 18 in the midst of which some Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with a mob nor with tumult. 19 They ought to have been here before you to object if they had anything against me. 20 Or else let those who are here themselves say if they found any wrongdoing in me while I stood before the council, 21 unless it is for this one statement which I cried out, standing among them, ‘Concerning the resurrection of the dead I am being judged by you this day.’"

Who are missing among Paul's accusers?
The "Jews from Asia" (Acts 24:18), Paul's original accusers who "... seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him, crying out, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, the law, and this place; and furthermore he also brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place." (Acts 21:27-28) "They ought to have been here before you to object if they had anything against me." (Acts 24:19)

Is it true that "there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust" (Acts 24:15)?
Yes, according to Jesus: "Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth - those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation." (John 5:28-29)

How does Paul defend Christianity - "the Way which they call a sect" (Acts 24:14)?
He references the Scripture, indicating that his Christian beliefs are in line with "all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets." (Acts 24:14)

How is this different for today's sects?
It isn't. Whether or not a group is truly Christian or a sect depends neither on its size nor longevity but on the adherence of its beliefs and practices to the Scripture, both the Old Testament law and prophecies that Paul referenced above, and their fulfillment in the New Testament. Groups whose beliefs and practices adhere to the Bible are Christian. Sects include all other groups whose beliefs and practices do not adhere to the Bible, which God closed with a stern warning: "For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." (Revelation 22:18-19)

ACTS 24:22-27   22 But when Felix heard these things, having more accurate knowledge of the Way, he adjourned the proceedings and said, “When Lysias the commander comes down, I will make a decision on your case.” 23 So he commanded the centurion to keep Paul and to let him have liberty, and told him not to forbid any of his friends to provide for or visit him. 24 And after some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. 25 Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, “Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.” 26 Meanwhile he also hoped that money would be given him by Paul, that he might release him. Therefore he sent for him more often and conversed with him. 27 But after two years Porcius Festus succeeded Felix; and Felix, wanting to do the Jews a favor, left Paul bound.

Why did Felix adjourn "the proceedings" (Acts 24:22) instead of rendering a verdict?
He said, "When Lysias the commander comes down, I will make a decision on your case." (Acts 24:22) Since Felix was succeeded "two years" (Acts 24:27) later without having rendered a verdict, either Lysias, the commander of the Roman garrison in Jerusalem, didn't come to Caesarea, where his legion was headquartered, for 2 years, which is highly unlikely, or Felix didn't want to render a verdict and used the absence of Lysias, who had already provided his account in writing, as an excuse.

Why wouldn't Felix want to render a verdict?
"Having more accurate knowledge of the Way" (Acts 24:22) after Paul's defense, Felix most likely knew that Paul wasn't guilty, but didn't want to alienate the people he needed to govern. True to his corrupt nature, "he also hoped that money would be given him by Paul, that he might release him." (Acts 24:26)

What would have happened if Felix had acquitted Paul and released him?
The Jews would have tried again to kill him.

If God wanted Paul to evangelize in Judea, wouldn't He have provided protection for Paul?
Paul's God-appointed apostleship was to the Gentiles - "He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles" (Galatians 2:8) - and the Gentile capital of Judea was Caesarea, its provincial capital. For two years, Paul stayed in Caesarea's Roman Praetorium, where he had "liberty" (Acts 24:23), where nobody could "forbid any of his friends to provide for or visit him" (Acts 24:23), and where he was protected against the Jewish assassins by Roman guards. Providing protection is exactly what God did.

Who were among the first to hear the Gospel from Paul?
The governor and his wife: "After some days ... Felix came with his wife Drusilla, ... sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ." (Acts 24:24)

How did hearing the Gospel affect Felix?
"Felix was afraid." (Acts 24:25)

Hearing about "righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come" (Acts 24:25) scared him, as it scares people today.

So what did Felix do?
He told Paul to stop talking - "Go away for now" (Acts 24:25) - not unlike what people tell to those who share the Gospel with them today.

What should they do instead?
Repent of what scares them and call upon Christ to save them. It isn't enough to understand and be scared of the Gospel, for if so, demons, who recognized and were afraid of Jesus, would be saved. To be saved, Jesus Christ must truly be your Master and Lord.

Is He?

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