This page is a verse by verse study of Acts 24:1-27. These verses describe how Paul was examined by Felix in Caesarea, with Tertullus and the Jews accusing Paul.
Paul examined by Felix in Caesarea.
¶ "Five days later, Ananias the high priest came down to Caesarea with the elders, and with an orator named Tertullus, who presented the evidence to the governor against Paul. And when Paul was summoned, Tertullus began to accuse him. Tertullus said to the governor, “Under you we enjoy much peace, and by your providence this nation benefits greatly. We always, everywhere, acknowledge this with gratitude, most noble Felix. Not wishing to weary you further, I plead with you to grant us by your kindness a brief hearing.”"(Acts 24:1-4).
After five days. From Paul’s first appearance before Felix, it took five days for his accusers to arrive. This delay was nicely calculated to give the appearance of coming to Caesarea when it pleased them. On the other hand, they did not risk offending Felix by delaying too long. They could excuse the delay by saying they needed time to engage a lawyer and prepare their case.
An orator named Tertullus. Tertullus was the barrister prosecuting the case against Paul on behalf of the Sanhedrin. Important members of the Sanhedrin were present as witnesses. Tertullus was probably a Roman. Tertullus would have been familiar with Roman law and Roman court proceedings. His opening remarks are a formal acknowledgement of the judge and a formal plea to be heard.
¶ "Tertullus then said, “Indeed we have found this man a pest and a trouble maker among all the Jews throughout the world. He is a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. He also attempted to desecrate the temple. We then arrested him. [We intended to judge him according to our law. However the commander Lysias fell upon us with much violence and snatched him from our hands, ordering his accusers to come before you.] So by examining him yourself you will be able to know that all our accusations against him are true.” At that point the Jews joined in, asserting that these things were so."(Acts 24:5-9).
Three accusations. There were three charges against Paul.
1. He was a trouble maker stirring up dissension among the Jews.
2. He was a ringleader of the sect that follows Jesus of Nazareth.
3. He attempted to profane the temple.
Paul is not accused of directly breaching any Roman law, however each of these charges does imply that Paul is a threat to the pax Romana—the peace and quiet which Roman rule imposed on all communities and nations under their rule. The accusations seem to be of little substance, even if they could be proven. However Tertullus offers no evidence and seems, with remarkable incompetence, to foist the responsibility of proof on to Felix the judge. (Tertullus also seems inept in accusing Lysias the commander of unreasonable violence.) Paul’s reply in his own defense shows the accusations against Paul to be nonsense.
Text missing. Some translations omit the end of verse 6, all of verse 7, and the beginning of verse 8, because the passage is missing from certain manuscripts. On the other hand, the new King James Version and others include this passage, deeming it to have sufficient manuscript support.
¶ "When the governor indicated that Paul should speak, Paul made his reply: “Knowing that you have served this nation as a judge for many years, I am pleased to make my defense. It will not escape your notice that it was only twelve days ago that I went up to Jerusalem to worship. And my accusers did not find me disputing with anybody or causing unrest either in the temple, or in the city, or in the synagogues. Nor can they prove any of the things of which they now accuse me.” "(Acts 24:10-13).
Paul’s reply to the trouble making charge. After making a formal acknowledgment of respect for the judge, Paul stated that he had arrived in Jerusalem only twelve days prior to this trial. He'd been detained in Caesarea five of those days, and had been at least three days in the custody of the army. So he'd had only four days in Jerusalem to find an opportunity to make trouble. In those four days nobody had observed him disputing or causing unrest anywhere in Jerusalem. As for causing unrest “throughout the world”, there was no proof of this at all.
¶ "Paul then said, “I do however confess to you that I worship the God of my fathers by following the way which they call a sect. I believe all things written in the law and in the prophets, and have hope toward God, which they themselves cherish, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. I discipline myself in order to always have a blameless conscience before God and men”"(Acts 24:14-16).
Paul’s reply to the sect ringleader charge. Paul did not deny this charge, but did show it to be no crime. Paul was a follower of Jesus, however he was a believer in all the law and the prophets, the Jewish scriptures. Furthermore he preached the resurrection of the dead which the majority of Jews believed in. He also practiced the righteous discipline that any good Jew followed. Clearly, if there was dissension among the Jews, Paul was not the one stirring it up.
¶ "Paul continued his defense to the governor: “After many years I came to bring alms and offerings to my nation. While I was thus engaged, certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, without any crowd or uproar. They ought to have come here before you to object if they had anything against me. Failing that, let those who are present tell you if they found me misbehaving when I stood before the Sanhedrin. The only thing they could say is that I stood up and shouted that I was on trial that day because I teach the resurrection of the dead.” "(Acts 24:17-21).
Paul’s reply to the temple desecration charge. Paul stated his purpose in coming to Jerusalem and entering the temple. It was to bring gifts of charity and religious offerings to the Jewish nation. He was purified in the temple and had brought no impure thing or person into the temple. While in the temple he was observed to be quiet and devout in his religious duties, not causing any disturbance. Those who observed his behaviour in the temple were remarkably absent from among the witnesses in the court. The witnesses who were in the court had observed Paul’s behaviour in the temple precincts when he was before them at the assembly of the Sanhedrin. They would have to admit that he did nothing profane on that occasion, unless it was that he'd shouted that he believed and taught the resurrection of the dead.
¶ "And when Felix heard these things, having superior knowledge of that way, he adjourned the hearing with these words: “When Lysias the commander comes down, I will be able to decide your case.” Felix then commanded a centurion to take custody of Paul, but to let him have some liberty and allow his acquaintances to help or visit him."(Acts 24:22-23).
Superior knowledge of that way. The second charge seems to have backfired on the accusers. Felix new a lot about the followers of Jesus and their message. He knew first hand that they were peaceful and law-abiding people. Their teachings were no threat to Roman governance. The charge that Paul was a ring leader of the Jesus sect, could have hinted that Paul was sowing seeds of sedition. However Felix knew better than to be fooled by that ploy.
Case adjourned. Felix sent the Jews away without deciding the case, on the grounds that he needed to consult Lysias the commander. Tertullus may have inclined Felix to take this course. Tertullus had unwisely accused Lysias of using undue violence when he took Paul from the Sanhedrin (Acts 23:10,Acts 24:7).
Paul allowed some liberty. Felix did not release Paul. Felix wanted to talk to Paul and also hoped that Paul might pay him a bribe for freedom (Acts 24:16).
¶ "Some days later, Felix arrived with his wife Drusilla who was a Jewess. Felix summoned Paul, and listened to him speak about faith in Christ. As Paul reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and judgment to come, Felix trembled. He said to Paul, ”Go your way for the time being; when I find time, I will call for you.“ Felix also hoped that Paul might give him a bribe for freedom, so he often sent for Paul and talked with him. But after two years went by, Felix was suceeded by Porcius Festus. Felix, to curry favour with the Jews, left Paul imprisoned."(Acts 24:24-27).
When I find time. Felix did often make time to talk with Paul (Acts 24:26). So Paul had plenty of opportunity to convert Felix. Paul apparently never succeeded, even though he managed to frighten Felix. It seems Felix was seeking to improve his knowledge of the Way, but not to commit himself to it. Also, as we are informed, Felix was visiting Paul in the hope of receiving a bribe.
Righteous, self-control, and judgment to come. These topics are not popular. However Paul was urging Felix to make changes in his life; to consider his standing before God. It is too easy for the rich and powerful to live this life in corruption and greed, and forget that shortly they will meet their Maker.