Paul accused by Tertullus, answereth in his Defence. Felix defers judgment. Paul preacheth before Felix and his Wife. The Governor is superseded in Office, and leaves Paul in Bonds.
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. (2) 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. (5) 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 judge d according to our law. (7) 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. (9) And the Jews also assented, saying that these things were so.
In all this flaming speech there is not a single charge except that of being a follower of Christ, whom by way of contempt they called the Nazarene. A pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition, were general words of abuse, and without proof. And although this orator prefaced his accusation of Paul with a fulsome compliment to Felix, yet the whole offence of the Apostle was for preaching Christ. And the chief priest, Ananias, and the Jews, could find nothing beside to criminate the Apostle!
But they were all unconscious, while charging Paul as a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes, what indirect honor they were thereby conferring on the Apostle. If the Reader will consult my Poor Man's Concordance, under the article Nazarene, he will there see the subject treated somewhat largely. I shall only here therefore observe, that as the Lord Jesus was specially and peculiarly called the Nazarene, being in fact in his human nature the only Nazarite to God; it was the highest of all possible honors to call Paul a ringleader of the holy order. The word is derived from Netzar, signifying separated. And in reference to Christ, it means the peculiar separation of that holy portion of our nature, underived from the fallen stock, but formed by the overshadowing power of the Holy Ghost, and sanctified to the vast purpose of union with the Godhead. So personally and peculiarly is Christ, as Christ, the true Nazarite, yea, the only Nazarite, to whom all others were but types and shadows, Lamentations 4:7.
And it is worthy our closest observation, in proof of this, as if Jehovah would have Christ specially known by this name, that the Lord Jesus is by way of eminency so distinguished both in heaven and earth, by angels, devils, yea, by the Lord himself, who sweetly called himself by the name from heaven, when speaking to the Apostle Paul, The Apostles: John 1:45, Angels: Mark 16:6, Roman soldiers: John 18:5, The servant maid in Pilate's hall: Matthew 26:71, Pilate himself: John 19:19, Christ's servants in working miracles: Acts 3:6 and Acts 4:10, Devils: Mark 1:24, And our dear Lord himself: Acts 22:8. Reader! these are sweet testimonies to this one great point, when that point is considered in terms equal to its importance, that Jesus Christ is the one and only Nazarite to God.
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: (11) 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. (14) 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. (16) And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offense toward God, and toward men. (17) 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. (19) Who ought to have been here before thee, and object, if they had aught against me. (20) 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.
Let the Reader behold the composedness which marked Paul's conduct before this unjust assembly. Until Felix waved his hand to him to speak, the Apostle stood silent. Indeed there was nothing to answer. For if the Reader will count the time as Paul stated, from the day he left Caesarea, to the then present hour, it was only twelve days, nine of which they had confined him. What pestilence or sedition could he have been guilty of in such an interval, three-fourths of which he had been a prisoner. And the three first days he was engaged in performing the religious worship in the temple, for which he came up to Jerusalem. But I hope the Reader will not overlook the chief and leading point which Tertullus labored at, which was to insinuate, that this sect, as he called the followers of the Lord Jesus, were enemies to government. This was the master-piece of Satan, in the accusation brought against our Lord, Luke 23:2; John 19:12. And this, more or less, in every age of the Church, hath been the grand means made use of to undermine the cause of Christ, Psalms 2:1-2; Exodus 1:10; Nehemiah 5:17. How little do these men know that the real stability of earthly kingdoms is founded in the interests of Christ's. Indeed the very purposes for which all monarchies of the world are carried on, are in a way of ministry to promote the ultimate end of the kingdom of the Lord Jesus. The earth helped the Woman, Revelation 12:16-17; Proverbs 8:15-16.
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 uttmost 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. (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. (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. (26) He hoped also that money should have been given him of Paul, that he might loose him: wherefore he sent for him the more often, and communed with him. (27) But after two years Porcius Festus came into Felix' room: and Felix, willing to show the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound.
There is somewhat truly awful in the character of Felix, as here given. He had been governor under the Roman emperor in this province many years. Some writers state thirteen. And from what is here said of him, that he had a more perfect knowledge of that way, that is, the Christian way, than Lysias, the chief captain, who sent Paul to him for judgment, or Tertullus, and the other accusers, it should seem that he had informed himself of some of the leading points of the Gospel. This was the more probable, because the event of the conversion of Cornelius, (Ac 10) which took place at Caesarea, he must have heard of; and the Church of Christ formed there in consequence thereof, was now under his own government. See Acts 18:22. Philip the Evangelist, also lived under his government, Acts 21:8. So that it was hardly possible Felix could have been ignorant, either of the doctrines of the Gospel, or of the exemplary lives of the followers of the Lord Jesus, Philippians 4:8-9.
It appears from history, that this Drusilla, whom Felix had taken to wife, was married at the time he took her to another man, so that he was living in open adultery. Strange that such characters as Felix and Drusilla, should desire to hear anything of the Lord Jesus Christ! And no doubt the motive was more for curiosity or ridicule than seriousness. But whatever they proposed to themselves from Paul's discourse, the effect on Felix's conscience turned out the very reverse, as his trembling manifested. Reader! it is very blessed at times to behold, as in the instance here shewn, how the guilty minds of sinners are alarmed in the dreadful prospect of that judgment to come! It becomes an additional testimony to the faith. The Lord even now doth not leave himself without witness in the hearts of sinners!
But, Reader, do not fail to observe also, how totally different from grace in the soul is this trembling of a guilty conscience, as in the instance of Felix, unawakened by the Holy Ghost. Had the work been of the Lord, like the Jailor at Philippi, when Felix trembled at the apprehension of a judgment to come, like him, though a governor, he would have sprung from his seat, and fell down before his prisoner, and unawed by all around, he would have cried out in words, to the same effect as his, what must I do to be saved? Acts 16:23-34. We hear nothing al the kind from Felix. He trembled for the hour, and the conscience hardened again! like the thaw made by the sun on the frost which freezes again at night.
And it forms an exact correspondence, to such a character, in what followed in Felix's life. Paul had said in his defense, that he had come up to Jerusalem to bring alms and offerings, (Acts 24:17.) Felix concluded, that from the little time Paul had been at Jerusalem, this money could not be all gone. Under this impression he gave liberty for Paul's friends to visit him. And he sent for Paul the oftener to commune with him, but not it should seem about righteousness, temperance, and a judgment to come, but with an hope that the poor prisoner would have help from his friends, and would offer him money that he might loose him. But though this attempt of Felix was carried on for two whole years, during which space he found Paul too poor to get anything from, and too honest to purchase a liberty unjustly kept from him by money; at his departure from his government, so regardless was he of all that was right, and so unfeeling to the sufferings of his prisoner, that to gratify the Jews, he left Paul bound. Thus he closed his last act of government with injustice and cruelty. And how he closed his last act of life, to go before that judgment Paul had made him tremble only in describing, is better conceived than expressed. If the Reader would see what the word of God hath said of all such men, he will find some strong representations of their awful departure in Job 21:7-15; Psalms 49:6-14; Isaiah 14:4-18.
READER! dismiss not this chapter without taking one short view more of this mock court of pretended justice, before whom the Apostle Paul was brought to answer for his life. Behold, on the one side, Tertullus hired for this purpose, that by his eloquence he might lead the minds of his hearers from what was right; and Ananias the high priest, to give weight by his presence to the accusations against Paul, and the whole body of the Jews with open mouth forming a clamorous cry to criminate the Apostle! On the other hand, behold the poor defenseless prisoner, while hearing their violent abuse, standing silent, and not presuming to open his mouth, until commanded by the governor. And, behold this time-serving prince presiding at such a court, whose object was to get money, and not administer justice! And where are the different parties now? What is become of the oratory of Tertullus? What are his present views of the sect of the Nazarenes, or of Paul, the ringleader? And what hath Felix, and all the characters of his complexion found of judgment, when from the trembling at the representation only, they have now entered into the full manifestation of it in reality, in the eternal world?
Blessed Lord Jesus! how sweet to the souls of all thy redeemed ones, is the recollection that thou art judge of the quick and dead! And amidst all the unjust decisions, and painful perversions, thy people are not unfrequently brought under, in the present time-state of the Church, the thought of thy righteous judgment brings relief to every case. He that is the believer's judge, is in the same moment his advocate and brother. He will vindicate the cause of his people, and finally and fully restore perfect order among all the works of God.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Acts 24". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany