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Bible Commentaries

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible
Acts 24

 

 

Introduction

THE BOOK OF ACTS | CHAPTER 24

OUTLINE AND COMMENTARY - MARK DUNAGAN

I. OUTLINE OF CHAPTER 24:


Verse 1

"After five days" When on the next day the Jews came to request that Paul be brought and reexamined by the Sanhedrin (23:15), they found that he had been moved to Caesarea, and that the Roman governor had ordered them to appear there and present their case (23:35). This expression can mean either after five days from Paul"s departure from Jerusalem or five days after his arrival in Caesarea. "With an attorney named Tertullus" This man"s name is pronounced tur tuhl uhs. The name is Roman and it appears that the Sanhedrin had hired a Roman attorney, "because they now had to appear in a regular Roman court, and they must have a man familiar with the proceedings in such a court to represent them" (McGarvey p. 234).


Verse 2-3

"Since we have through you attained much peace, and since by your providence reforms are being carried out for this nation, we acknowledge this in every way and everywhere, most excellent Felix, with all thankfulness" "As a trained and experienced professional lawyer, Tertullus began with what was called a captatio benevolentiae, that is, an endeavour to capture the judge"s good will. Traditionally, it was complimentary to the point of hypocrisy and often included a promise of brevity. Tertullus expressed gratitude for the "peace" Felix had secured and the "reforms" he had introduced, whereas in reality he had put down several insurrections with such barbarous brutality that he earned for himself the horror, not the thanks, of the Jewish population" (Stott pp. 359-360). "So was such flattery as the reference to Felix"s clemency or moderation - a reference singularly inappropriate to a governor whose ferocity is attested by Josephus and Tacitus alike" (Bruce p. 464). "Peace" Felix had broken up various robber bands and had dwelt with the Jewish assassins for the moment, yet it was "his corruption and cruelty while in office that finally caused the attitude of rebellion to jell in the hearts of the average Jew" (Reese p. 837). "Providence" Men spoke then, as now, of the "providence" of God, and already the empire had the tendency to apply such terms that meant "divine action" to the rulers of the empire. The expression "providence of Caesar" will appear on many Roman coins. Tacitus sums up the career of Felix in the following words, "He exercised the power of a king with the mind of a slave" (Histories v.9). "Reforms" Such reforms were very few, for within two years of this time Felix will be removed from office and summoned to trial in Rome.


Verse 4

"But, that I may not weary you any further, I beg you to grant us, by your kindness, a brief hearing" It was customary among professional lawyers of the time to claim that their speech would be very brief. "Felix is so busy keeping the peace, that it would be a shame to keep him away from his duties much longer!" (Reese p. 838). "By your kindness" As already noted, Felix was not noted for his kindness, rather he was well known for being a cruel, severe and greedy man who allowed himself to indulge in excess.

THE CHARGES


Verse 5

"For we have found this man a real pest and a fellow who stirs up dissension among all the Jews throughout the world" "The Greek gives the more emphatic noun - a pestilence, a plague, an epidemic... Everywhere he goes there have been extensive disturbances of the peace" (Reese p. 838). Thus this lawyer would have attempted to argue that the disturbances in Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Thessalonica and Ephesus were all Paul"s fault, rather than disturbances caused by the hatred and jealousy of the unbelieving Jews and Gentiles.

"A ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes" This is the first time in Scripture that the term "Nazarene" is used in reference to Christians. Paul is so prominent in preaching the gospel that he is viewed as the leader of this movement. The accusation is that Paul has invented a new religion that is unauthorized, that he is not advocating Judaism, but rather a religion that is not licensed by the state. "To this day Christians are known in Hebrew and Arabic as "Nazarenes"" (Bruce p. 465).


Verse 6

"And he even tried to desecrate the temple" At this point the Jews do not argue that Paul had actually done this (compare with Acts 21:28 where the claim is that he had defiled the temple), but rather they had prevented such action by arresting him. "Then we arrested him" The truth of the matter is that the mob was trying to beat him to death (Acts 21:32), and the Roman soldiers had made the arrest. "We wanted to judge him according to our own Law" Some manuscripts do not have this statement along with verse 7 and the first part of verse 8, but other manuscripts do. "If we recollect the narrative of events in 21:27ff, it is amusing to read this complaint of the "great violence" with which Lysias snatched Paul from the custody of those who were about to give him a fair trial in accordance with Jewish law!" (Bruce p. 466). Acts 21:1-40 reveals that the Jews did not want to judge him; rather they wanted to kill him in a mob action.


Verse 7

"But Lysias the commander came along, and with much violence took him out of our hands" This accusation against Lysias is probably an act of revenge on the part of the Jews, because it was Lysias who had moved Paul to Caesarea and spoiled their plot. Tertullus is engaging in rewriting history, what actually happened was that the great violence was being done by the Jews, and Lysias rescued Paul (21:32-33).


Verse 8-9

"By examining him yourself concerning all these matters you will be able to ascertain the things of which we accuse him" This may be a hint from Tertullus that Felix needs to torture Paul. "A hint of the examination by scourging, which Paul had escaped, Tertullus knew not how, at the hands of Lysias. The witnesses supported the charges (24:9) by affirming that these things were so" (McGarvey p. 235).


Verse 10

Apparently with any previous notification of the charges and without time to put together his defense, Paul is expected to defend himself without having any legal counsel of his own. Yet, Jesus had promised the apostles inspiration during such times (Luke 21:15). "Knowing that for many years you have been a judge to this nation" Paul"s introduction is respectful but it is not hypocritical and neither does he lie and flatter. Paul is grateful that he is speaking to a man who is not a newcomer to the area, but rather a man who had experience in dealing with the Jewish nation and thus he would be more prepared to correctly access the charges. Felix had been governor of Judea for six years before this trial; in addition he had been in Palestine as ruler over Samaria all the way back to A.D. 48. "Paul"s tone was one of frankness and truthfulness, not of lying flattery and distorted facts" (Reese p. 842).


Verse 11-12

"No more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship" With a little investigation Felix could easily find out how long Paul had been in Jerusalem. The seven days of Acts 21:17 plus the 5 days of 24:1 account for these 12 days. Seeing that five of these days had already been spent away from Jerusalem, that leaves only seven, but seven days are completely insufficient to have started some seditious movement. "To worship" Paul had not come to Jerusalem to start a riot; rather he had come to worship. "Moreover, he had not engaged in disputation with any one, in the temple, in the synagogues, or in any part of the city" (McGarvey p. 237).


Verse 13-14

"According to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets" Here Paul answers the insinuation that Christianity is some heretical sect or illegal offshoot of Judaism. Christianity is the Way that a true and faithful Jew continues to serve God; Christianity is the fulfillment of all that is written in the Scriptures. It is not a "sect" or some little party, rather it is the Way. He is not a sectarian or innovator, rather he believes in the true God, is on the narrow way, and believes everything written in the Law and the prophets.


Verse 15

"Having hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked" Remember, Ananias (a Sadducee) had come down to Caesarea (24:1). So who is the heretic? Paul believes what the Scriptures teach whereas Ananias and the Sadducees denied fundamental teachings. Cleary, there will be a resurrection of all the dead, both righteous and wicked (John 5:28-29). Thus, he served the same God, believed the same Scriptures, and had the same hope in a coming resurrection as the great majority of the Jews did, so how could he be considered a heretic? Paul was not guilty of doctrinal deviation, rather his accusers were.


Verse 16

"In view of this" That is, in view of the coming resurrection and judgment. "I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men" What a wonderful goal! Notice that Paul digs in again and continues to hit upon the same themes that he pursued in 23:1,6. Paul bears down on the same themes of a clear conscience and the resurrection of the dead, because in Caesarea there will be no slap from the high priest or outburst.


Verse 17

"Now after several years" Paul could not be stirring up trouble in Jerusalem, he had only been there for a little over a week and this visit came after years of being absent from Jerusalem. Five years had gone by since his last visit mentioned in 18:22, eight years since his visit at the time of the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:1-41). "I came to bring alms to my nation" That is, he was bringing the collection from the churches for the poor Jewish Christians in Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:1-3). "This is the only direct notice in Acts of this offering about which so much was written in the epistles that issued from the third missionary journey (Romans 15:25; 1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8:1-24; 2 Corinthians 9:1-15)" (Reese p. 846). "And to present offerings" Probably those mentioned in Acts 21:23-24.


Verse 18

"In which they found me occupied in the temple, having been purified, without any crowd or uproar" This answers the charge that Paul had defiled the temple. At the very time when the Jews from Asia found him, he was not in the midst of defiling the temple, rather he was presenting offers and in a purified condition. "Far from being there to profane the temple, he had gone through all the process of purification required for such vows as he had attached himself to" (Reese p. 847). "But there were some Jews from Asia" And not Jews from Jerusalem. Notice that Tertullus had left the impression that the Jews in Jerusalem had discovered Paul in the temple (24:6).


Verse 19

"Who ought to have been present before you and to make accusation, if they should have anything against me" Excellent point. None of the people present were the actual eyewitnesses of this accusation against Paul. Neither Ananias, nor the elders nor Tertullus had seen Paul do anything in the temple. Where are the eyewitnesses who claimed that they had seen him defile the temple? "Those who first seized him, and who were the only personal witnesses of what he did in the temple, were not present to testify" (McGarvey p. 237).


Verse 20

"Or else let these men themselves tell what misdeed they found when I stood before the Council" The Jews present only had knowledge of what Paul had said in the trial before the Council. "They found" The truth is that the meeting in chapter 23 had ended with a great debate with some saying Paul was innocent and others saying the opposite.


Verse 21

"Other than for this one statement which I shouted out while standing among them, "For the resurrection of the dead I am on trial before you today"" Once more the Holy Spirit cleverly pricks the conscience of the Sadducees. Notice that Paul had to shout just to get this statement out; this infers that the Council was already in an uproar before he made the statement. Hence, this is the crux of the matter, the teaching concerning the resurrection. If there was anything that had caused any additional uproar it was this statement, but many Jews would have admitted that any believing Jew should have embraced such a statement.


Verse 22

"But Felix, having a more exact knowledge about the Way" Remember, Felix had been in Palestine for some time, in addition he was living with Drusilla, a member of the Herodian family and he had probably heard many things about Christianity going all the way back to John the Baptist or even before. "Having been in Judea now for six years more, he had been compelled, whether willing or not, to become acquainted with the religious parties into which his subjects were divided, and he well knew the jealousies which existed among them" (McGarvey p. 238). "Put them off, saying, "When Lysais the commander comes down, I will decide your case"" This looks like nothing more than an expedient compromise. Felix cannot condemn an innocent man, yet he cannot let Paul go either, else the Jews might start a riot so he simply buys time. We are never told if Lysais comes down because when Felix is removed from power, Paul is still in prison (24:27).


Verse 23

Yet Paul is treated with courtesy. He is allowed to be visited by friends during his imprisonment. During this time some feel that Luke traveled through Palestine gathering information, interviewing eyewitnesses, and collected material for the gospel that he would write (Luke 1:1-4). Such a degree of freedom was reasonable for a Roman citizen against whom no crime was proved.


Verse 24

"Some days later Felix arrived with Drusilla" The word arrived suggests that after his trial Felix and his wife had been away for a time and now had returned. "Drusilla, his wife who was a Jewess" Drusilla was the youngest daughter of Herod Agrippa I, and at this time (57-58 A.D.) she was around twenty years old. As a small girl she had been betrothed to the crown prince of Commagene, in eastern Asia Minor, but the marriage did not take place, because the prospective bridegroom refused to embrace Judaism. Then her brother Agrippa II gave her in marriage to the king of Emesa, a petty state in Syria. But when she was still only sixteen, Felix, with the help of a magician, persuaded her to leave her husband and marry him. She was the third wife that Felix had, and bore him a son named Agrippa, who died in the eruption of Vesuvius in A.D. 79. Therefore, Drusilla was the youngest daughter of the Herod who had been struck by God in Acts 12:1-25, her brother is the King Agrippa that will be mentioned in the next chapters (25:13,23; 26:30), and she and Felix are living in open adultery.

"And sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus" We not are told if Felix is sincere or whether he simply wants more information about this movement.


Verse 25

"But" While Felix had been flattered by Tertullus (24:2ff), he gets an ear full from Paul. "Paul was at liberty to choose for himself the special topic of discourse, and he did so with direct reference to the spiritual wants of his hearers" (McGarvey p. 240). "As he was discussing righteousness" That is, God"s standard of moral purity, and what a person must do to become righteous, which would include faith in Christ, repentance and baptism. "Self-control" And Felix had lived his life up to this point without much self-control, secular sources actually describe him as a man given to unbridled excess. "The judgment to come" This drives home the need to be righteous and exercise self-control. Felix and Drusilla desperately needed to hear these topics, in other words, morality, salvation, sin, and hell fire and brimstone. "Felix became frightened" Which tells us that Paul painted a very clear picture of eternity for someone who did not repent. Notice, nothing is said about Drusilla"s reaction. "As he glanced back over the stained and guilty past, he was afraid. He had been a slave in the vilest of all positions, and the vilest of all epochs, in the vilest of all cities. What secrets of lust and blood lay hidden in his earlier life; but ample and indisputable testimony, Jewish and pagan, sacred and secular, reveals to us what he had been---how greedy, how savage, how treacherous, how unjust, how steeped in the blood of private murder and public massacre. There were footsteps behind him; he began to feel as though the earth were made of glass" (Farrar p. 550). If one is not right with God, then one should be frightened when they hear about such topics. Being frightened is a good initial reaction, but how one deals with such fear is crucial.

"Go away for the present" This is the wrong choice. The right choice is, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30). "When I find time" As if getting ready for eternity is not a pressing matter. Felix will take the needs of his soul and bury them under all less important matters. "I will summon you" As far was the record goes, Felix never found this time. "The terror which seized him was the beginning necessary to a change of life; but lust and ambition smothered the kindling fires of conscience, and he made the common excuse of alarmed but impenitent sinners to get rid of his too faithful monitor. The "convenient season" to which he deferred the matter, never came, and it never could come: for how could it ever be convenient for a man to put away a beautiful women with whom he was living in sin. This change must be made at a sacrifice of such convenience" (McGarvey pp. 240-241).


Verse 26

"At the same time too, he was hoping that money would be given him by Paul; therefore he also used to send for him quite often and converse with him" A person cannot repent with such a divided heart. How can a terrified man repent when he is still holding on to such greedy desires? Remember Felix had heard about the collection for the poor Christians (24:17). Felix probably thought, "If Paul can raise such money then maybe I can convince him to bribe me to let him go". Oh how people will continue to listen to a preacher if they think that they might get something from him! What an irony, Felix is putting up with one convicting conversation after another in hope of material gain. The love of money not only results in all sorts of hurtful things, but it also causes people to do some really strange things. Paul of course refused to pay off Felix. In addition, Paul probably knew Felix"s motivation and thus knew that without payment Felix would keep coming around to hear him. To Paul, the salvation of this man was far more important than his freedom. What irony, that the real prisoner here is Felix.


Verse 27

"But after two years had passed, Felix was succeeded" He was removed from power because he was accused of misgovernment by the Jews. He was called to Rome to stand trial before Nero and barely escaped execution because of the influence of his brother and was banished to Gaul, where he died. Drusilla followed him into exile. This was Felix"s window of opportunity to be saved and he refused to open it. "Porcius Festus" This name is pronounced pour shih us fess tuss. He became the Roman governor of Judea in A.D. 60. "Wishing to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul imprisoned" That is, by leaving Paul in prison Felix hoped that the Jews would tone down their accusations against him. Thus, Felix not only coveted money, but he also coveted glory, and fame and in the end the only thing that mattered to him was his own skin. He is the type of person that Satan was talking about in the book of Job, the kind of man that will do anything to save his own skin.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Acts 24:4". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dun/acts-24.html. 1999-2014.

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Friday, May 29th, 2020
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