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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Acts 24

 

 

Verses 1-23

B.—JUDICIAL PROCEEDINGS BEFORE FELIX; PAUL DEFENDS HIMSELF AGAINST THE CHARGES THAT ARE BROUGHT FORWARD; THE DECISION IS, HOWEVER, POSTPONED

Acts 24:1-23

1And [But] after five days Ananias the high priest descended with the elders[FN1], and with a certain orator named Tertullus, who [Tertullus, and] informed the governoragainst Paul 2 And when he was called forth [summoned], Tertullus began to accuse him, saying, Seeing that by thee we enjoy great quietness [peace], and that very worthy deeds are done unto [that excellent arrangements are made for] this nation by thy providence [foresight), 3We accept it always, and in all places, most noble Felix, withall thankfulness 4 Notwithstanding, that I be not further tedious unto [But in order that I may not longer detain] thee, I pray thee that thou wouldest hear us of thy clemencya few words [wouldest in thy clemency for a brief season listen to us]. 5For we have [We have, namely,] found this man a pestilent fellow [man to be a pest], and a mover of sedition[FN2] among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader ofthe sect of the Nazarenes: 6Who also hath gone about [attempted] to profane the temple: whom we took [we also (χαὶ) seized; … Om. here the remainder of Acts 24:6, the whole of Acts 24:7, and the first clause of Acts 24:8, ending with “unto thee”[FN3]], and wouldhave judged according to our law 7 But the chief captain Lysias came upon us, andwith great violence took him away out of our hands, 8Commanding his accusers to come unto thee [here the version continues, after “seized,” Acts 24:6]: by examining of whom, thyself mayest take knowledge of [and thou canst thyself, if thou examinest him, learn from him] all these things, whereof we accuse him 9 And [But] the Jews also assented [Jews immediately joined in[FN4]], saying that these things were so.

10Then Paul, after that the governor had beckoned unto him to speak, answered, Forasmuch as [As] I know that thou hast been of [for] many years a judge unto [over] this nation, I do [can] the more [om. the more[FN5]] cheerfully answer for myself: 11Because that thou mayest understand [For thou canst ascertain], that there are yet but [that it is not more than] twelve days since I went [came] up to Jerusalem for [in order] to worship 12 And they neither found me in the temple [And neither in the temple did they find me] disputing with any Prayer of Manasseh, neither [or] raising up [a tumult of]the people, neither [nor] in the synagogues, nor in the city: 13Neither [Nor] can theyprove the things whereof [of which] they now accuse me 14 But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy [a sect (as in ver 5)], so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in theprophets: 15And have hope toward God, [for] which they themselves also allow [wait, namely], that there shall be a resurrection of the dead [om. of the dead[FN6]], both of the just and [of the] unjust 16 And herein [at the same time] do I exercise myself,[FN7] to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men 17 Now [But] after many [several] years I came [in order] to bring alms to my nation, andofferings 18 Whereupon certain Jews from Asia [Wherein[FN8] they] found me [after I had] purified [myself] in the temple, neither with multitude [noise, ὄχλον], nor with tumult 19 Who [But they were certain Jews from Asia, who] ought[FN9] to have been here [have appeared] before thee, and object [accused me], if they had aught againstme 20 Or else let these same here say, if they have found any evil doing [wrong act]in me, while [when] I stood before the [chief] council, 21Except it be for this one voice [word, φωνῆς], that I cried standing among them, Touching the resurrection ofthe dead I am called in question [I am tried] by you this day 22 And when Felix heard these things [But Felix deferred their case[FN10]], having [because he had a] more perfect knowledge of that [the τῆς] way, he deferred them [om. he deferred them], and said, When Lysias the chief captain [tribune] shall come down, I will know the uttermost of your matter [I shall inquire fully into your case]. 23And he [He also, τε] commanded a [the, τῷ] centurion to keep Paul [guard him[FN11]], and to let him have liberty [relief], and that he should forbid none of his acquaintance [friends, τῶν ἰδίων] to minister or come[FN12] [om. or come] unto him.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Acts 24:1-4. a. And after five days.—The other party very speedily obeyed the instructions of the tribune, Acts 23:30. It was not more than five days after the arrival of Paul at Cesarea [or, rather, after his departure from Jerusalem (Meyer, de Wette).—Tr.], when the high priest, with a deputation of the elders (οἱ πρεσβ. who were the representatives of the whole body of elders), also proceeded to that city. They took with them the rhetorician Tertullus, who was appointed to act as their counsel, and, in their name, to lodge a complaint against Paul. His name is a diminutive of Tertius [like Lucullus from Lucius], and, in its turn, furnishes the derivative Tertullianus; the name, which was often adopted by the Romans, indicates his Italian origin. Ῥήτωρ was at that time frequently applied as a title to professional advocates, who pleaded for clients before a court of justice. Ἐμφανίζω is here, as well as in Acts 23:15, to be taken transitively, in accordance with the established usus loquendi, in the sense of: to make known, to inform, [“in the forensic or judicial sense” (Alex.).—Tr.], and not in that of: to appear before (Vulg, Luther, Bengel), as, in the latter case, the middle voice would have necessarily been employed.

b. That by thee we enjoy great quietness[peace].—The rhetorician commences his address with gross flatteries, designed to secure the favor of the judge for the party which he represents1. He extols the profound peace, for which they are indebted to Felix. It was, in truth, the primary duty of a procurator to secure peace for his country, and his chief distinction, when he succeeded. Congruit bono et gravi præsidi, ut pacata sit provincia. (Ulpianus, De officio præsidis). Now Felix had, to a certain extent, put an end to the disturbances which had been caused in part by political discontent, and in part by a depraved thirst for plunder. But he did not hesitate, on the other hand, to employ sicarii in assassinating the high priest Jonathan; and his general conduct was characterized by such violent passions and such selfishness, that he rather aroused than calmed the spirit of rebellion. Hence the first sentence of Tertullus contained a falsehood2. The orator next mentions the excellent arrangements, the happy results (κατορθώματα), which the provident administration of Felix had secured for the people of Israel. [“The Vulgate version (multa corrigantur) which makes it mean reformatory measures, rests upon another reading (διορθωμάτων for κατορθωμάτων)found in several of the oldest manuscripts, but not regarded by the critics as the true text.” (Alex.).—Alf. retains κατορ. of text. rec. with G. H, but Lach, Tisch, and Born, read διορ. with A. B. E. and also Cod. Sin.—Tr.]. This statement, too, was, in view of the arbitrary rule of the Prayer of Manasseh, and his base character (servile ingenium, libido, Tac. Hist. V:9.) an impudent falsehood3. The falsity of the assertion that the Jewish nation was, at all times and in all places, grateful to Felix for his services, was subsequently demonstrated, when the Jews themselves accused him at Home, after he had been recalled (Jos. Antiq. xx89.). Ἐγκόπτω, Acts 24:4, means to hinder, interrupt, detain. [“The promise (of Tertullus) to be brief (συντόμως) might almost seem to have been caused by some appearance of impatience in the Procurator, at the prospect of a formal and elaborate harangue.” (Alex.).—Tr.]. And the ἐπιείκεια to which the speaker appeals, as a well-known feature of the character of the procurator (τᾖ σῇ ἐπιεικείᾳ) was by no means one for which he was distinguished.

Acts 24:5-9. For we have found this man.—Εὑρόντες is not employed, as Bengel and others have supposed, for εὕρομεν, but is anacoluthic.—[The regular construction would be: ἐκρατήσαμεν αὐτόν, in Acts 24:6; see Winer: Gram. on the passage, § 456. b, and § 63. I:1.—Tr.]. The heavy charge here brought against the apostle, contains three specifications: 1. That he created disturbances in the Roman empire, among the Jews; comp. Acts 17:6; Acts 2. That he was a leader of the sect of the Christians; 3. That he had attempted to profane the temple. This is the first occasion on which the name Nazarenes is introduced, as that of a sect, i.e., of the adherents of Jesus of Nazareth; it originated in Jewish views. [“His supposed birth in Nazareth was regarded as evidence that he was a false Messiah, John 7:42.” (Meyer).—Tr.].—Πρωτοστάτης was originally a military term, applied to a soldier at the front of the army, a file-leader. [For sect, αἱρέσεως, Acts 24:5, see below, Exeg. note on Acts 24:14-16.—Tr.]. The expression ἐπείρασε, Acts 24:6he attemptedIsaiah, in a juridical point of view, very skilfully chosen; it charges the prisoner only with the attempt, and not with the [overt] act itself, as was done in Acts 21:28; if the prisoner should deny even the attempt, the expression would at least indicate his animus. Παρʼ οὖ δυνήσῃ - - ἐπιγνῶναι, i.e., Paul himself would not be able to deny the facts as stated by Tertullus. [But “if the disputed words (see note 3 above, appended to the text) be inserted, παῤ οὖ refers naturally enough to Lysias,” (Alf.).—Tr.]. Συνεπιτίθεσθαι means: to join in the attack; the Jews united, at the close of the speech of their advocate, in making the same complaints. [“The drift of this representation (of Tertullus) was evidently to persuade Felix to give up St. Paul to the Jewish courts, in which case his assassination would have been easily accomplished.—Compare the two attempts, Acts 23:15, and Acts 25:3.” (Conyb. and H. II:291.)—Tr.]

Acts 24:10, Forasmuch as I know, etc.—Paul does not, like his opponent, commence with flatteries, but, by way of introduction, mentions a single well-known fact, namely, that Felix had already for a considerable time possessed the highest judicial authority in the country; he had thus acquired a personal knowledge of its public affairs, and this circumstance enables Paul, as he now remarks, to defend his cause with confidence before Felix. As the latter had obtained the office at the close of A. D52, or the beginning of A. D53 [Jos. Ant. xx71; War, ii128, during the twelfth year of the reign of Claudius (de Wette).—Tr.], and as the occurrence here related took place in A. D58, the πολλὰ ἔτη are, to speak more definitely, about six years—a comparatively long period, when it is considered that frequent changes of governors constituted at that time the rule. Felix had undoubtedly found many favorable opportunities for becoming acquainted with the character of the leaders of the Jews, and of the people generally; and Luke himself remarks, Acts 24:22, that he had also a certain amount of knowledge respecting Christianity.

Acts 24:11. Because that thou mayest understand [For thou canst ascertain] that, etc.—Paul refers to an additional circumstance which aids him in making his defence, namely, that he had very recently reached Jerusalem, and that it would therefore be very easy to investigate his whole course of procedure during the short period which had succeeded his arrival at Jerusalem. The twelve days which the apostle mentions as having since elapsed, are to be reckoned, in the following manner:—

I. The day after the arrival; visit to James, Acts 21:18.

II. Levitical purification, and first visit to the temple, Acts 21:26.

III. IV. V. VI. VII. The days of the Nazarite-offerings; assault on Paul, and seizure of his person, Acts 21:27 ff.

VIII. The apostle before the Great Council Acts 22:30; Acts 23:1 ff.

IX. The conspiracy, and the discovery of it; in the evening Paul is removed from Jerusalem. Acts 23:12 ff, Acts 23:23; Acts 23:31.

X. Arrival at Antipatris, Acts 23:31.

XI. Arrival at Cesarea, Acts 23:32 ff.

XII.

XIII. Proceedings before Felix, Acts 24:1 ff.

Hence, the last was the fifth day (μετὰ πέντε ἡμέρας, Acts 24:1) since Paul had been removed from Jerusalem, if the day of his departure be included; but the fifth had not yet elapsed, and, therefore, is not one of the whole number of twelve days; the day of his arrival at Jerusalem is also excluded. Anger: De temp. rat. p109 f. [The computations of various writers are noticed by Meyer, de Wette, etc.; on 1 of these Alexander remarks: “A vast amount of calculation and discussion has been lavished on the question, how these twelve days are to be reckoned, all agreeing in the only point of any moment, namely, that Paul’s statement may be justified in several ways, the variation having reference chiefly to the seven days spoken of in Acts 21:27, and to the admission or exclusion of the days which had elapsed since his return to Cesarea.”—Tr.]

Acts 24:12-13.—And they neither found me in the temple, etc.—[In Acts 24:13, the reading of text. rec. is οὔτε παραστῆσαι, with A. E. G. H, while Lach. and Born, read οὐδέ with B. which is also the reading of Cod. Sin. Winer remarks, (Gram. N. T. § 556) on the passage: “Οὐδέ is not here used like οὔτε, but begins a new proposition thus: ‘neither in the temple did they find me … nor in the synagogues … and they can also not prove, etc.’ But most of the manuscripts read οὔτε in Acts 24:13. If that be the correct reading, οὔτε—εὖρόν με, in Acts 24:12, and οὔτε παραστῆσαι—δύνανται, in Acts 24:13, regularly correspond, and the words οὔτε ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς οὔτὲ κατὰ τὴν πόλιν constitute subordinate members of the former proposition.”—Tr.]. With respect to the occurrence itself, and to the accusation founded upon it, to which latter Paul now replies, he emphatically declares that he had come to Jerusalem in order to worship (προςκυνήσων); he had, therefore, not opposed the worship of God in the sanctuary, as appointed by the law, but had, on the contrary, engaged in it himself; his journey had been, according to its design, a pilgrimage to the place of worship. He also denies in direct terms that he had in any manner polluted the temple, or had been the author of any disturbance, Παραστῆσαι [“after which supply ταῦτα” (de Wette)—Tr.], is occasionally employed by classic writers in the sense of ostendere, persuadere, probare.

Acts 24:14-16. But this I confess unto thee.—These verses contain Paul’s reply to the invidious charge of Tertullus, that he was a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. He boldly and joyfully confesses (ὁμολογῶ) that he is a Christian, but at the same time declines, in mild terms, to acknowledge the term αἵρεσις, which had been used by Tertullus in an unfavorable sense, as descriptive of a sect of separatists, (λέγουσι; opponents—Paul means—give that name to Christianity, but it is not, in reality, a sect). [“It is a vox media, indicating a school, party, but had been used by Tertullus, Acts 24:5, in a bad sense, i, e, a schismatic sect.” (Meyer).—Tr.]. While he confesses his faith, and describes his Christianity, he intentionally and unequivocally avows the unity of the new covenant with the old. Λατρεύω τῷ πατρ. θεῷ, i.e., his religion is not an apostasy from the God of his fathers, but Isaiah, on the contrary, fidelity to Him. Πιστέυων πᾶσι, i.e., his religion does not teach him to regard the sacred writings of Israel with doubt and unbelief, but requires him to receive the Scriptures with entire faith. When he proceeds to state the subject-matter of his faith, he describes it as a devout hope of the resurrection, and here again he lays stress on his agreement with Israel—καὶ αὐτοὶ οὖτοι i.e., my opponents also entertain this expectation. Here, however, προςδέχεσθαι and ἐλπίδα ἔχειν differ subjectively; the former denotes rather an external attitude with respect to the truth in question, without indicating warmth of feeling, but the latter, ἐλπ. ἐχ., describes that hope as a personal and very precious treasure. The confession, finally, Acts 24:16, refers to the practical, the moral, features of his Christianity. The words ἐν τούτῳ are not to be restricted in their application, to the hope already mentioned (Bengel), but refer to the whole foundation of the apostle’s faith, as far as he had hitherto indicated it. Καὶ αὐτός, i.e., I, too, like all my brethren in the faith.

[A comma should be placed after θορύβου, as Lachmann, Tischendorf and Bornemann (and Alford) have done, and not a full stop or period, which is the punctuation adopted by Griesbach, Scholz, and de Wette (and also the text. rec.), (Meyer.).—Tr.]. The sense is: “Certain Jews found me, not those who are here present (as they seem to say, Acts 24:5), but others who came from Asia, and these are precisely the persons who have not presented themselves here.”—Paul refers, in conclusion, to his opponents who are present, for the proof that the assembled Sanhedrin could not convict him of any offence, περὶ, i.e., unless it was the exclamation which he had uttered in the midst of the assembly, Acts 23:6.

Acts 24:22-23. Felix … having more perfect knowledge … deferred them.—Ἀναβάλλεσθαι was the current technical term for “to adjourn;” this verb is usually followed, it is true, by sentence, decision, as its object, but occasionally also, as in this instance, by αὐτούς, referring to an assembly which is adjourned. The words ἀκριβέστερον ἐιδώς, etc, can be only intended (as the construction of the sentence shows), to assign the reason of the act implied by ἀνεβάλετο, that Isaiah, Felix adjourned the meeting, because he had a fuller knowledge of Christianity [than that with which the present proceedings could furnish him. (Meyer).—Tr.]. This is the interpretation of Chrysostom, Luther, Wetstein, Meyer, and others. It is an error to suppose, with Beza, Grotius and Ewald, that these words themselves belonged to the concluding sentence of Felix, as if he should have said: “After I shall have more perfectly acquainted myself with this way, and after the arrival of Lysias,” etc. For if that were the sense, εἰπών could not possibly have been introduced at such a distance from the beginning of the sentence. The procurator must have acquired a more than mere general knowledge of Christianity during his administration, which had already lasted at least six years, [“The Christian religion had been known for many years in Cesarea ( Acts 8:40), where Felix resided, and had penetrated even among the troops ( Acts,, Acts 10).” (Conyb. et. II:293).—Tr.]. Hence he did not condemn Paul. Still, he did not acquit him, on account of considerations connected with the Jews. He accordingly postponed the matter, on the pretext that he was desirous of hearing the tribune Lysias, before he decided. Thus Paul remained in military custody (ἑκατοντάρχῃ τηρεῖσθαι), but with a certain alleviation (ἄνεσις) of his confinement, since he was permitted to receive the visits of his own people (οἱ ἴδιοι), i.e., no doubt, of intimate Christian friends, and of relatives, like the nephew mentioned in Acts 23:16; their personal services in unimportant matters were also allowed (ὑπηρετεῖν). Perhaps, too, there was a certain relaxation manifested in the manner in which he was guarded and shackled. See Wieseler: Apost. Chron., p380 ff.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. The speech of Tertullus—the only man who receives in the Scriptures the professional title of an orator (rhetorician),—is an example of that eloquence which should not be regarded as genuine; it is insincere and untrue in its matter, and artful and tinselled in its form. The address of the apostle resembles the discourses of Jesus, and all the discourses and writings of the other apostles; its matter is characterized by truth and sincerity, and its form by plainness and simplicity.

2. The apostle demonstrates that godly sentiments control him, by not being satisfied with merely refuting the false charges brought against him, and defending himself personally, but by also availing himself of the earliest opportunity for confessing and defending the Christian faith. It is not so much his own honor, as the honor of God and of His appointed way of salvation, for which he is concerned.

3. The confession of faith made by the apostle furnishes a sketch of the reply which Christianity makes to Judaism, and, specially, it shows that the former is not an apostasy from the old covenant, but rather the fulfilment of it. The fundamental principle of the apostle Isaiah, in reality, precisely that which is expressed in the words of Jesus: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil,” Matthew 5:17. In perfect accordance with these words of the Master, his disciple confesses that he believes all that is written in the law and in the prophets, that he holds fast to the hope, which Israel also entertertains, as to a precious treasure, and that he serves none other than Jehovah, the God of his fathers. This is precisely the position which the Reformers assumed in the Augsburg Confession, in opposition to the Catholic church; it was the main object of that Confession of faith, on the one hand, to refute the charge of sectarianism and of apostasy on the part of the evangelical Christians, and, on the other hand, to demonstrate the unity of the latter with the ancient, true, apostolical, and catholic Church.

4. There is a deep meaning in the apostle’s declaration that, with regard to his faith and his hope, he endeavored to maintain a good conscience in his relations both to god and to men. Such a statement was not only of great importance with respect to his defence of himself against the several charges of profaning the temple, and of creating tumults; it was also of the highest value as honorable testimony in favor of Christianity. Indeed, Christianity is “the conscience of the conscience.” When the Gospel of Christ reaches Prayer of Manasseh, it does not fully control him, until it penetrates his conscience. And man does not fully take hold of Christianity, and appropriate it to himself, until be avails himself of it as a power of God in his moral exercises—in preserving a conscience void of offence. In every other case, Christianity is only a color, a form, mere chaff, and not the substance, the power, the essence, and the life.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Acts 24:1. The high priest … with a certain orator named Tertullus.—This is the only passage in the Scriptures in which an orator and the name of an orator are introduced. (Bengel).—The preachers of God are not speakers who utter words which they have merely learned, but who are witnesses of things revealed. (Besser).—No cause is so bad that it cannot find an advocate. (Starke).—Eloquence is a gift of God ( Exodus 4:11), but the eloquence of a bad man is poison in a golden cup. (Augustine).—Malice continually adorns itself with new colors, and adopts new weapons. When cunning, assassination, and conspiracy are of no avail, it employs the tinsel of oratory, and attempts to gain its object by means of the weapons of flattery. But faith and truth retain their simplicity and integrity. The high priest appears with his orator Tertullus, but Paul meets them with his good conscience and his believing heart. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 24:2-3. Tertullus began to accuse him.—How artful and cunning are the children of darkness! “As a cage is full of (decoy) birds, so are their houses full of deceit.” Jeremiah 5:27. They hope to oppress the innocent and the poor. But are not the palaces of princes and great lords, and the offices of judges and counsellors full of such decoy-birds? (Starke).—Seeing that by thee we enjoy great quietness [peace].—Tertullus overwhelms Felix with compliments, in order to gain his favor. (Starke). Wicked men never utter the word peace more loudly, than when they intend to disturb the peace, and to create confusion, Psalm 55:21. (id.).—Tertullus prepares the way for his accusation by base flattery. Felix was enslaved by vice, and was hated by the people; they subsequently complained of him to the emperor. And yet this flatterer deifies him, in order to gain his favor, and declares that he is the author of blessings for which the Jews were indebted to God alone. This desire to flatter men still governs false and unfaithful teachers. (Ap. Past.).—How great an influence flattery exercises in the world! It is a wonderful instrument in the hands of men. Great men employ it, when they wish to gain their ends, and avail themselves of the infirmities of inferior men; and, on the other hand, inferior men discover a weak side in a great Prayer of Manasseh, and thus acquire power over him. (Rieger).

Acts 24:4. That I be not further tedious unto thee.—This course was very welcome to Felix—an introduction, full of flattering expressions, and then a statement of the case as brief as possible; he disliked business ( Acts 23:35), and now received the promise that he should not be long detained. (Williger).

Acts 24:5. For we have found this man a pestilent fellow [to be a pest].—The beautiful image of a witness of Jesus seems to the world to exhibit distorted features. His gracious message is called “a pest”; his zeal in addressing those who are spiritually dead, results in giving him the character of “a mover of sedition.” To preach Jesus is “sectarianism”; to build up the kingdom of God is “to profane the temple.”—If such was the experience of Christ and his apostles, why should it not be our own? But we are consoled when the Spirit of truth gives us the testimony: “as deceivers, and yet true.” [ 2 Corinthians 6:8]. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 24:6. Whom we took.—Tertullus does not even remotely refer to the intended assassination; over all these iniquities he artfully spreads a veil. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 24:9. And the Jews also assented.—They said “Amen!” to the edifying sermon of Tertullus! (Williger).—Falsehood finds supporters sooner than the truth. But if even thousands assent to a lie, it still remains a lie. (Starke).

Acts 24:10. Then Paul … answered, Forasmuch as I know … a judge unto this nation.—Be sparing in giving titles, as Paul here was. When an enemy of God, an unrighteous Judges, an arrogant Haman, or an Ahab, a slave of sin, is before thee, shouldst thou tell him that he is an excellent, highly esteemed, and incomparable man? Shouldst thou talk of his great merits? ‘He shall never be moved, in whose eyes a vile person is contemned.’ Psalm 15:4-5. (Starke).—Paul undoubtedly shows respect to Felix, in so far as he holds a public office, the dignity of which is not derived from the personal merits of the person who is invested with it, but from the ordinance of God; nevertheless, when he addresses Felix as a “ Judges,” he reminds him of law and justice. Thus he practises himself all that he teaches us in Rom. Acts 13. (Leonh. and Sp.).

Acts 24:11. I went up to Jerusalem for to worship.—Paul does not here employ a common mode of expression; he really intended, if it were possible, to be at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost; Acts 20:16.

Acts 24:12-13. And they neither found me in the temple, etc.—Observe the course which Paul adopts. He modestly expresses his respect for the office of the judge; he honestly and briefly states the case; he calmly denies the truth of the charge, and as calmly asserts that the opposite is the truth; he boldly demands an investigation and the proof; he distinctly exposes the true reason of the complaint. Take the same course before a court of justice. (Starke).

Ver14. But this I confess unto thee, etc.—When Paul was allowed by Felix to speak, he replied to the accusations of his enemies, but, above all, availed himself of the opportunity to “witness a good confession” [ 1 Timothy 6:13]. (Rieger).—That after the way which they call heresy [a sect], so worship I the God of my fathers.—Paul is not ashamed of being a “Nazarene,” but he denies that Christianity is a false doctrine recently introduced, and that the church of God is a sect that has apostatized from the faith of the fathers, inasmuch as the Gospel of Christ is the heart and soul—the great object and end—of the entire old covenant. (Leonh. and Sp.).—The true church of God has always produced the same evidence, whenever it was called a sect. Thus the Evangelical Church could always with confidence reply to the Catholic, when the latter termed it a new party, that it was precisely the old, apostolical church. (Williger).—Thus Christians of our day, who possess spiritual life, may demonstrate, when they are termed “sectarists,” “pietists,” etc, that, according to the Scriptures, their sectarism, or their pietism, is simply the imitation of Christ, an earnest walk in that way of salvation which Jesus has marked out in His word, in His own walk, and in His blood.

Acts 24:15. And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow.—The hope of the resurrection is established on a doctrine, the glory of which did not arise for the first time in the New Testament; this golden thread of eternal life passes, on the contrary, through the whole of the Old Testament. The Creator, who animated the dust of the ground with His breath—the covenantal God, who made “an everlasting covenant” [ Genesis 17:7] with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is not a God of the dead, but of the living. That hope was a source of comfort to Job ( Acts 19:25-27); Isaiah ( Acts 26:19) foretold it; Daniel ( Acts 12:2) bore witness to it. It Isaiah, however, true, that, in the case of Paul, this hope first of all acquired a firm foundation, and was endowed with life and productive power through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead [ 2 Timothy 1:10]. (Leonh. and Sp.).—The resurrection is the foundation on which our Christianity rests; if the former yields, the latter would pass away with it [ 1 Corinthians 15:14]. (Starke).—I have hope toward God, etc.—Hast thou this hope? If the Spirit has not yet imparted it to thee, pause not until thou art assured of thy blessed resurrection; pause not, for there can be nothing more awful than to die without the hope of the resurrection. (Kapff.).

Acts 24:16. And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.—The apostle shows us the use which he makes of his religion. Here is the true object or aim of all religion. As long as our confession of faith is merely a matter of the judgment, or an inherited custom, or an apple of discord and source of contention, it is chaff without grain, a shadow without life. It then only deserves the name of a true faith, when it urges and assists us in so exercising ourselves that we may become righteous, devout, and holy before God. (Ap. Past.).—Why should that man not love God with all his heart, who believes in God and has an assurance of His gracious purposes, since He has given us His Song of Solomon, and with him the hope of eternal life? Why should he not fear and honor Him? Why should he not make every effort, in order to show his gratitude for such great gifts and mercies? Why should he not exhibit patience and obedience in seasons of affliction? Thus faith is always accompanied by many very brilliant and exalted virtues, and is never alone. (Luther).—Although Paul deals very strictly with his conscience, insomuch that he desires it to be void of offence at all times both toward God and toward men, he nevertheless speaks with great humility. He does not say that he has or possesses such a conscience, but, with great consideration, says that he exercises himself to have it. It is very profitable to deal strictly with the conscience and never allow it to relax its watchfulness. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 24:17-18. I came to bring alms to my nation … found me purified in the temple.—If Hebrews, who thus confers benefits on his neighbor, is called “a pest” [ Acts 24:5] of the community, what must that man be, who does injury to his neighbor? And if he who thus keeps his vow in the temple, is described as a man who “profanes the temple,” what name shall be given to the Prayer of Manasseh, who, in the temple, violates his baptismal vow? (Starke).

Acts 24:20. Or else let these same here say, if they have found any evil doing in me.—The apostle, in his defence, demands of all those who had seen and known him, or had associated with him, and been witnesses of his conduct, whether they can lay anything to his charge. He was impelled to adopt this course by a good conscience, which was void of offence toward God and men. Many a teacher would be put to shame if his acquaintances, or those confidential friends who are aware of his secret Acts, should arise and bear witness against him. But it is precisely from sources like these that the dread or fear proceeds, in consequence of which the duties of the sacred office are fulfilled in such a lukewarm manner. (Ap. Past.).—The whole discourse of the apostle shows the calmness of a heart which the Lord had strengthened. Here notice, I. The composure with which he listens to the accusasation of Tertullus; he does not open his mouth, until Felix beckons to him to speak; II. The uprightness, which leads him to avoid all flattering terms in addressing Felix, while he shows respect to his office; III. The fearlessness with which he repels every unjust charge; IV. The simplicity of the manner in which he states the facts, without resorting to any artifice; V. His courage as a witness; the defence which he makes, affords him an opportunity also to make a confession, with a joyful spirit, of his faith, of his hope, and of his love to God and Prayer of Manasseh, and, indeed, of his whole true and life-giving religion. (From Ap. Past.).

Acts 24:22. Felix … deferred them.—Various forms of the natural heart, which a teacher, to whom the care of souls is intrusted, should thoroughly understand, are developed in Felix. He presents an image of a man of the world, and illustrates by his conduct the manner in which such men deal with the Gospel. They have a “knowledge of that way,” but their knowledge exercises no influence on their hearts. Even when they occupy themselves with the things which belong to the kingdom of God, they are actuated solely by curiosity. They wish to be regarded as impartial, but their only object is to derive advantage from the one party or the other. Such is the character of the men of the world; and here a teacher needs great wisdom and godly sincerity, when he is in their presence, so that he may be neither too credulous, nor too timid. (From Ap. Past.).—Felix here exhibits himself, to a certain extent, as a second Pilate. (Besser).

Acts 24:23. And to let him have liberty [relief]; (repose, in Luther’s version). A servant of Jesus at length grows weary, when he has been long occupied in the world, and has struggled amid the tumult and confusion of its carnal passions. Happy is he when his Saviour grants him repose, so that, in communion with other members of Jesus, his soul may be refreshed and strengthened in faith and grace. (Ap. Past).

ON THE WHOLE SECTION, Acts 24:1-23.—‘The sect that is every where spoken against.’ [ch. Acts 28:22], Acts 24:5 : I. It believes all that is written in the word of God, Acts 24:14; II. It confesses all that for which the grace of God permits it to hope, Acts 24:15; III. It exercises itself in all those duties which the commandments of God have established, Acts 24:16. (Florey).

By what means does the Christian refute the groundless accusations of his enemies? I. By unfeigned faith, Acts 24:14; II. By a joyful hope, Acts 24:15; III. By a godly life, Acts 24:16 (Leonh. and Sp.).

The power of the hope of a resurrection of the dead: it endows us, I. With courage and wisdom in our labors; II. With patience and strength in our afflictions; III. With steadfastness and joy in the hour of death, (id.).

How does the Christian defend himself against the charges which the world so often makes against him? I. He avoids all well-deserved reproach, so that the Gospel may not be blasphemed on his account; II. He puts the causeless enmity of the world to shame by a joyful confession of his faith; III. He directs attention to his life, which furnishes the evidence of the truth of his faith. (Lisco).

The Christian’s answer to the accusations of the world: I. When should he answer them? (a) When the Lord, and not he himself, is reviled; (b) when he can hope to pacify his accusers, and not increase their animosity. II. How should he answer them? (a) Without the fear of man; (b) convincing them by witnessing a good confession. (Langbein).

The orator Tertullus, and the preacher Paul, or, False, and true, eloquence: I. False eloquence resorts to flattery, and addresses the self-love of the hearer, Acts 24:3; true eloquence does not flatter, but addresses the heart and the conscience, Acts 24:10; II. False eloquence is hypocritical; it dwells only on the lips; it carries honey in the mouth, but gall in the heart, Acts 24:5-6; true eloquence never flatters; it proceeds from the heart, and its words are those of truth and uprightness, Acts 24:10; Acts 24:14-16; III. False eloquence is deceitful; it misrepresents the facts, and distorts the truth, Acts 24:5-6; true eloquence never resorts to falsehood; it only repels false accusations, ( Acts 24:13), while it confesses the truth ( Acts 24:14-15), and presents facts rather than mere words, Acts 24:16-20.

Are upright Christians the sectarians which the world represents them to be? No! For, I. The Leader whom they follow, is not the founder of a sect, but Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church; II. The communion from which they withdraw, is not the church of the Lord, but only the ungodly world, within and without the church; III. The way in which they walk, is not a worship devised by men, but the original way of salvation appointed by the word of God; IV. The glory which they seek, is not empty worldly honor, but that of having a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men, Acts 24:16.

The Christian’s true glory consists in the possession of a conscience void of offence, Acts 24:16. I. When has he such a conscience? (a) When it is void of offence not only toward men, who look on the outward appearance, but also toward God, who looketh on the heart [ 1 Samuel 16:7]; (b) when it is also void of offence, not only toward God, whose judgment will be hereafter revealed in the eternal world, but also toward men, who judge him at present according to his fruits, Acts 24:13; Acts 24:17-20. II. How may such a conscience be acquired? (a) By first gaining a knowledge of the way of salvation from the word of God, and by receiving that knowledge with faith, Acts 24:14-15; (b) by diligently walking in that way, and by exercise in godliness, Acts 24:16.

The Christian’s best defence against the poisoned darts of calumny: I. A joyful confession made with the mouth, Acts 24:14; II. A conscience void of offence, and a peaceful heart. Acts 24:16; III. A blameless life, in the past, Acts 24:17-20; IV. A righteous judgment of God in the future, Acts 24:15.

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Acts 24:1. The reading τῶν πρεσβυτέρων [of text. rec.] is attested only by G. H, and most of the minuscules, but is sustained by internal evidence, rather than the reading πρεσβ. τινῶν, as the latter very distinctly appears to be an attempt to correct the original text. [The latter reading is adopted by Lach, Tisch. and Born, on the authority of A. B. E. several minuscules, and Vulg.; it is also found in Cod. Sin.—Alf. adheres to the text. rec.—Tr.]

FN#2 - Alf. retains the sing, but Lach, Tisch. and Born. adopt the plural. Cod. Sin. exhibits στασις—a defective form of the plural.—Tr.]

FN#3 - Acts 24:6-8. The textus receptus here exhibits an interpolation of considerable length, which is found only in one of the uncial manuscripts [E.]; all the others [A. B. G. H.] together with that classic witness, the Cod. Sin, omit the passage. [The Vulg. introduces it in the printed editions, but some of the MSS. omit it.—Tr.]. Besides, the uncommonly numerous variations in the readings [in the minuscules], betray that the whole is spurious. The words are: καὶ κατὰ τὸν ἡμέτερον νόμον ἐθελήσαμεν κρίνεινʼ παρελθὼν δὲ Λυσίας χιλίαρχος μετὰ πολλῆς βίας ἐκ τῶν χειρῶν ἡμῶν ἀπηγάγε καὶ πρός σε ἀπέστειλε, κελεύσας τοὺς κατηγόρους αὐτοῦ ἔρχεσθαι ἐπί σε. If these words had been genuine, the omission of them would be inexplicable, while the insertion may be readily explained from Acts 21:32; Acts 23:27; Acts 23:30. Mill, Bengel and Griesbach had, already at an earlier period, regarded the whole as an interpolation, and, more recently, Lach. and Tisch. erased it from the text. [Alford introduces the passage into the text, but incloses it in brackets.—Cod. Sin. exhibits no traces of the insertion of any part of the words by a later hand.—Tr.]

FN#4 - Instead of συνέθεντο, of text. rec. with some minuscules, recent editors read συνεπέθεντο with A. B. E. G. H. Cod. Sin.—Tr.]

FN#5 - Acts 24:10. The weight of authority is in favor of εὐθύμως [found in A. B. E, and Cod. Sin. Vulg. (bono animo)]. The comparative, εὐθυμότερον [text. rec.], which is found only in two uncial manuscripts [G. H.], seems to be a well-meant attempt to improve the text, in so far, namely, as it was supposed that, while the circumstances stated in the verse, might in truth enable the apostle to speak more cheerfully, he was, independently of them, already cheered in spirit. [Lach, Tisch. and Born. adopt the positive; Alf. retains the comparative, and Meyer also regards it as probably the original reading.—Tr.]

FN#6 - Omitted by Lach, Tisch.. Born. and Alf.—Tr.]

FN#7 - Acts 24:16. The authorities are decidedly in favor of καὶ αὐτός, rather than δὲ αὐτός [of text. rec. with H.; recent editors adopt the former in accordance with A. B. C. E. G, Cod. Sin, Vulg. (et ipse).—Tr.]

FN#8 - Acts 24:18. The reading ἐν οἶς [of text. rec. with G. H.], is preferable to ἐν αἶς, which is unquestionably a correction [to suit the gender of προςφοράς; Lach. and Tisch. read ἐν αἶς with A. B. C. E. Cod. Sin. but Alf. retains οἶς, and, with Meyer, regards the other, αἶς as a correction.—Tr.]

FN#9 - Acts 24:19. ἔδει [found in A. C. E. Cod. Sin, Vulg. (oportebat), and generally adopted by critics, except Alf.] should be regarded as the genuine reading rather than δεῖ [of text. rec. with B. G. H.], although the testimony in favor of the respective readings is evenly balanced.

FN#10 - Acts 24:22. Five uncial manuscripts [A. B. C. E. H, also Cod. Sin. and Vulg.] exhibit the following reading; Ἀνεβάλετο δὲ αὐτοὺς Φ.; whereas the more extended reading which has been introduced into the textus receptus, namely: Ἀκούσας δὲ ταῦτα Φ. ἀνεβ. αὑτ. is supported by only one uncial manuscript [G.], and is unquestionably an interpolation; it Isaiah, besides, not found in Cod. Sin. [Recent editors generally adopt the former reading.—Tr.]

FN#11 - Acts 24:23. a. αὐτον [found in A. B. C. E. Cod. Sin, Vulg. (eum)] is undoubtedly the original reading, and τὸν Παῦλον [of text. rec. with G. H.], is spurious. [This is the view of recent editors generally.—Tr.]

FN#12 - Acts 24:23. b. προςέρχεσθαι [of text. rec. with G. H.], is a later addition, and is wanting in four uncial manuscripts [A. B. C. E, and also Cod. Sin, Vulg.—“perhaps derived from Acts 10:28.” (Meyer).—Tr.].


Verses 24-27

C.—A SECOND HEARING BEFORE THE PROCURATOR IS ALSO WITHOUT RESULT; AND FELIX LEAVES PAUL AS A PRISONER TO HIS SUCCESSOR

Acts 24:24-27

24And [But] after certain [some] days, when Felix came with his[FN13] wife Drusilla, which [who] was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ[FN14]. 25And as [But when] he reasoned of [discoursed concerning] righteousness [justice], temperance [continence], and judgment to come [the future judgment][FN15], Felix trembled [became afraid], and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have aconvenient season [when I find a convenient time], I will call for thee 26 He hoped also [He also hoped, at the same time, ἅμα δὲ καὶ,[FN16]] that money should have been given him of [money would be given to him by] Paul, that he might loose him [om. that he might loose him[FN17]]: wherefore he [also, χαὶ] sent for him the oftener, and communed [conversed] with him 27 But after two years [had elapsed, πληρωθείσης] Porcius Festus came into Felix’ room [Felix received a successor in Porcius Festus]: and Felix, willing to show the Jews a pleasure [wishing to place the Jews under obligations[FN18]], left Paul bound [Paul in confinement].

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Acts 24:24 a. Felix came with his wife, i.e., to the apartment in which he intended to hear Paul [“probably the ἀκροατήριον mentioned below Acts 25:23.” [Conyb. and H. II:294. n5.—Tr.]; or the sense may be: he came back to Cesarea, after having been engaged elsewhere, in the province, during the interval.

b. Drusilla.—She was a daughter of Herod Agrippa I, who had commanded that James should be executed, and who afterwards died in Cesarea. Acts 12:1 ff.; Acts 24:21 ff. She was distinguished for her beauty, and had been married to Azizus, the king of Emesa. Felix became acquainted with her, and, with the assistance of a Jewish sorcerer, named Simon of Cyprus, induced her to forsake her husband and marry him (Jos. Antiq. 20:71, 2.). The summons which Paul received, was no doubt suggested by her; as a Jewess and a member of the Herodian family, she had unquestionably heard the Christian religion mentioned on many occasions, and may have been desirous of seeing and hearing for herself one of the principal representatives of the Church. It is obvious that the questions addressed to Paul, did not specially refer to the accusations which had been brought against him.

Acts 24:25-26. a. And as he reasoned of. etc.—When Paul received liberty to speak, he did not confine himself to those points on which Felix or his wife wished to hear him; he also introduced certain subjects of which Felix did not wish to hear, but on which the apostle’s conscience, precisely for that reason, constrained him to discourse. He spoke of justice to a Judges, of continence to a prefect, whose recklessness and licentiousness had made him notorious [per omnem sævitiam et libidinem, Tac. Hist. V:9.—Tr.], and of the future judgment to a man who needed that he should be reminded of his future account. The word διαλεγομένου is here employed, as the proceedings were not, strictly speaking, official and public, but rather assumed the character of a private interview between Paul and the procurator, together with the wife of the latter.

b. Felix trembled [became afraid].—[“Trembled is merely Tyndale’s loose translation of a phrase denoting inward feeling, not its outward indications.” (Alex.)—Tr.]. He was alarmed, as he had not for a long time heard such language from any one, and least of all from the mouth of a prisoner of whom he was the acknowledged judge. But he abruptly terminated the interview, and sent Paul back to his prison. Τὸ νῦν ἔχον, i.e., for the present; this expression occurs very frequently in the later Greek writers, as Lucian, Diodorus, Chrysostom, etc. The participle ἐλπίζων is connected with ἀπεκρίθη, although other words intervene. There can be no doubt that Felix was aware of the deep interest which the Christians took in the fate of Paul, and knew that they would make the most costly sacrifice in order to aid him. [But his hopes of receiving money from Paul, furnished by the Christians, were unfulfilled; for while the apostle was ever ready to claim the protection of the law, he never resorted to dishonorable means. (Conyb. and H. II:295).—Tr.]. Felix would, indeed, have gladly received a bribe from Paul, although it was expressly forbidden by the Lex Julia, De repetundis, that any person should receive pay in any form for the arrest, the condemnation, or the acquittal of any individual. [“It is remarkable that Tacitus uses of Felix [Ann. XII:54) the expression: ‘cuncta malefacta sibi impune ratus.’ (Alf.).—Tr.]

Acts 24:27. But after two years [had elapsed].—These two years are naturally to be reckoned from the beginning of Paul’s imprisonment, and not from the time of the appointment of Felix to office, the latter being here of no importance whatever. [“The events of these two years of the life of the apostle are so entirely unknown, that the assertion cannot be made with confidence (Ewald), that none of his epistles, written during this period, can be extant.” (Meyer).—“Many messages, and even letters—may have been sent from Cesarea to brethren at a distance. And a plausible conjecture fixes this period and place for the writing of St. Luke’s Gospel, under the superintendence of the Apostle of the Gentiles.” [Conyb. and H. II:295).—Tr.]. Felix was recalled by Nero, without any agency of his own, probably in the summer of the year60. He left Paul behind him, a prisoner, and in chains; he adopted this course in order to confer a favor on the Jews, and thus induce them, in view of the obligation, to treat him with forbearance, and withhold complaints. Χάριτα [χάριν] κατατίθεσθαι is a classical expression, equivalent to beneficium conferre, literally, to deposit thanks (lay up favor) with any one. But this object was not attained, for Felix had scarcely departed, before the Jews sent a deputation commissioned to accuse him before the emperor. [See Exeg. note on Acts 23:25-30. a.—Tr.]. Porcius Festus, who was now invested with the procuratorship, fulfilled his duties with integrity, but retained the office at most only two years, when he died. Albinus succeeded him in the autumn of the year62.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. It contributes to the honor of Christ, that the apostle cannot speak of Him, without alarming the conscience of Felix. Persons may sometimes be found, who are very willing to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, although we might not previously have supposed that they entertained such a wish; thus Herod Antipas desired to see Jesus [ Luke 9:9; Luke 23:8]. But they are governed by a carnal feeling, and expect to find in Christianity a religion suited to their own particular views. The word of Christ, however, is essentially of such a nature, that it takes hold of the conscience.

2. Felix is alarmed. He accordingly felt one edge of the word of God, but not the other edge, which, in its turn, heals through the power of God, through reconciliation, forgiveness, and renewing grace; for he withdrew himself from the powerful and penetrating influences of the word, and sought to evade the whole subject, rather than to acquire a knowledge of his sins, and to repent. A single sin, of which an individual is the willing servant, places him under a secret ban, which renders his conversion and deliverance impossible.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Acts 24:24. After certain days Felix … sent for Paul.—As men are fond of change, they are occasionally willing to hear the Gospel in its turn; sometimes they simply wish to gratify their curiosity, even as Herod had for a long time desired to see Jesus; but sometimes, too, they hope that the Gospel will furnish them with a cooling application for an uneasy conscience. Thus many in our day listen to one witness of the truth after the other, while they fully obey none; their only object is to obtain from every one of these witnesses some principle or point of doctrine, which, when all are combined, will render religion endurable to the flesh. (Rieger).—Paul again appears before Felix, not, however, at a public trial, but at a confidential and private interview. Hence the apostle does not on this occasion speak in his own defence, but seeks to win the heart of his judge for Christ through repentance and faith. He stands before Felix at this moment, not as a man accused of offences, but as a herald of the Gospel. (Leonh. and Sp.).

Acts 24:25. And as he reasoned of righteousness [justice], temperance [continence], and [the] judgment to come.—Paul gave such a turn to his discourse on faith in Christ, that it ultimately referred to those truths respecting justice, chastity and the future judgment, which are so deeply seated in the conscience. A conversation on these topics would, no doubt, exercise a direct influence on such a Judges, and such a couple as Paul saw before him. [“His audience consisted of a Roman libertine and a profligate Jewish princess.” (Conyb. and H. II:295).—Tr.]. Such was a natural and necessary result; for when divine truth is properly set forth, it discerns and judges the inmost thoughts and intents of the heart. [ Hebrews 4:12]. (Rieger).—Paul here preaches before his Judges, a man of high rank, on whose favor much depended. Nevertheless, he proclaims to him the whole counsel of God, and holds nothing back. He does not represent to him the way to heaven as broader than it really is; he neither attempts to charm his ears, nor connives at his lusts. He preaches the Gospel, but does not observe silence respecting the law. He even attacks the favorite sins of Felix, and does not fear that he will give offence by his preaching. What a noble example of a faithful witness of the truth! (Ap. Past.).—The text and the theme are admirably suited to these hearers. He preaches on justice to a venal officer, on chastity to an adulterous pair, and on the future judgment to an unrighteous Judges, who was afterwards cited in a menacing manner before the imperial tribunal at Rome.—However, Paul did not speak with a special reference to the sins of the governor, but discoursed in general terms on those solemn subjects. It was not necessary that he should make a direct and personal application; the Holy Spirit himself applied the words to the heart of Felix. Sermons that are intended to rebuke, should not seem to be personally offensive; if they are of the right description, they will consist of such expositions of the command: “Repent,” as may penetrate the heart; those to whom the words apply, will then become fully conscious that it is not the preacher, but the Lord, who has reached them. (Williger).—Felix trembled.—Behold the power and majesty of the word of God! Here the judge is alarmed in the presence of the accused; the ruler of the country, in the presence of a tent-maker; the master, whom many servants surround, in the presence of a prisoner. Such an effect was not produced by the bold speech of Paul, but by the word of God, Psalm 119:120; Hebrews 4:12-13. (Starke).—Felix was alarmed—a proof that he was not a thoroughly bad, a wholly depraved man; there must have been still something good in him, which was conscious of an affinity with that which was good; he still retained a sense of shame, and could be moved by the truth. How happy it would have been for him, if he had made a proper use of this salutary alarm—if he had allowed himself to be penetrated by the piercing word of the truth, to be illuminated by its light, and to be purified in its fire! (Menken).—Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.—Great lords, great sinners! It is not safe to preach to them; for when their conscience is touched, they either dismiss the preacher in disgrace, or even proceed so far as to deprive him of life, Matthew 14:10. (Starke).—He wished to wait for “a convenient season,” and yet it was precisely now that the time accepted and the day of salvation [ 2 Corinthians 6:2] dawned upon him. How often the word meets with a similar reception among us! We are willing to use it as the means for amusing an idle imagination, or for drawing forth carnal tears. Men are willing to hear discourses on God’s paternal love, and listen with delighted ears to fanciful descriptions of a joyful recognition in the world to come. But when we hear the loud call: “Repent,” when the sermon refers to the strait gate of self-denial, to the narrow way of sanctification, and to the terrors of the judgment—when the sword of the word smites our favorite sins, and demands an entire change, a new birth of the whole Prayer of Manasseh, the exclamation is at once uttered: ‘This is a hard saying: who can hear it? [ John 6:60]. Such severe preaching does not at present suit me; when I am old, when I have enjoyed the pleasures of life, when death is near, I will crucify the flesh, be converted, and prepare for eternity.’ But woe unto us, if it then be too late, and if God’s response to our foolish words: ‘Go thy way for this time,’ is: ‘Depart from me!’ ( Matthew 25:41). “When I have a convenient season!” But when do we suppose that this convenient season will come? Our secret thoughts reply: ‘Never,’ and yet that season is always now here. O that we had but eyes to recognize it, and the courage to avail ourselves of it! But it is precisely here that we fail, and that thou, too, Felix, failest! The hour of thy salvation had arrived, but thou didst allow it to pass by, and didst wait for a more convenient season. But did it ever come? After two years, thou wast commanded to appear in Rome and give an account to the emperor; thou wast accused by the people. It occurred, according to the wonderful counsel of God, that thou wast once more in the same city in which Paul was. Didst thou then avail thyself of that ‘convenient season?’ Or didst thou again neglect it? And did death at length carry thee off at an inconvenient season? Let the case of Felix be a warning to us. Let us never, like him, say: ‘Go thy way for this time,’ that the lot of Capernaum, of Chorazin, and of Bethsaida [ Matthew 11:21; Matthew 11:23], may not be our own! Let us not wait for a convenient season, lest our end be like that of Pharaoh and Saul! Let us never be governed by impure motives, when we listen to the word of God, lest we share the fate of Simon the sorcerer ( Acts 8.)! When it comes to us, let us answer with Abraham: ‘Here I Amos,’ [ Genesis 22:1], or with Samuel: ‘Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth’ [ 1 Samuel 3:9], or with Cornelius: ‘Now are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God [ch. Acts 10:33].’ (Fr. Strauss.).

Acts 24:26. He hoped also that money should have been given him of Paul.—When avarice has taken deep root in the hearts of men invested with authority, justice is sold by them for money, and the innocent receive no aid unless they pay for it, while the guilty, who have bribed the Judges, escape punishment, Deuteronomy 16:19. (Starke).—Wherefore he sent for him the oftener.—It was really Paul who was flattered by Felix. His liberty was placed within his reach, provided that he was disposed to purchase it with money. But he chose rather to abide by the will of God, than effect his release by employing carnal means. (Ap. Past.).

Acts 24:27. But after two years.—Not only is the cross laid, in many cases, on the children of God, but many weary days also pass by, before it is removed, Genesis 39:20; Genesis 41:1-14; Psalm 13:1. (Starke).—The years of leisure passed by the man who labored more abundantly than all others [ 1 Corinthians 15:10], enriched his own soul with treasures of divine grace, and produced their appropriate fruit for the benefit of the church. But the condition of that man is awful indeed, to whom the grace of God has drawn near for two years, and who, at their close, resembles a barren landmark on which the rain has fallen. Unhappy Felix! (Besser).

ON THE WHOLE SECTION, Acts 24:24-27.—The causes which lead many to listen willingly to the Gospel, but not to the law: the cause may be, I. An error of the judgment; they suppose that the Gospel has rendered the preaching of the law superfluous. II. An error of the conscience—that our spiritual state no longer needs the law. III. A mistake of the feelings—they were wounded by every solemn admonition. IV. The dominion of the flesh, which holds the will in bondage. (Langbein).

Why is it that so many persons are found, who take no deep interest in religion? I. Because they cannot entirely break the ties which bind them to the past; II. Because they will not seize the present moment, but wait for a more convenient season: III. Because they refuse to entertain the thought of the future judgment, (id.)

When I have a convenient season:” this is the language, I. Of all those who know indeed the vanity of the world, but are too slothful to break loose from the lust of the world; II. Of those who are conscious indeed of the shame and the bondage of sin, but are too feeble earnestly to repent; III. Of those who have indeed experienced in some degree, the power of the divine word, but whose thoughtlessness prevents them from entirely yielding to it. (Leonh. and Sp.).

Felix, a mournful image of many hearers of the word: I. He was alarmed, Acts 24:24-25; II. No change in him occurred, Acts 24:25-27 (Lisco).

The power of the divine word: I. It calls forth bold preachers (the fearless apostle); II. It awakens the sleeping conscience (the trembling Felix); III. It decides, and divides asunder [Hebr.] Acts 4:12], (Paulis dismissed with the words: “Go thy way;” Felix remains unconverted), (id.).

Two common excuses by which men attempt to evade the serious duty of repentance: I. ‘Everything—save one!’

Felix desired to hear Paul on every subject except the one that specially concerned him, justice, chastity, and the judgment. He was willing to do every thing except the one thing needful—to renounce his favorite sins. II. ‘Tomorrow—not to-day!’ Felix tells Paul to go his way for the present; he will call again for the apostle, when he shall find it convenient to himself. He delays his repentance—he never repented!

When is it a convenient season for repentance? I. At all times, for him who is willing to repent; for (a) God is calling us to re pentance at all times and in divers ways—by internal emotions and external experiences, by the law and the Gospel, by joys and sorrows; (b) man can find time to listen to the word of God, at all times, in every occupation and situation of life. II. Never, for him who is unwilling to repent; for (a) whenever God calls, he finds it in convenient to obey; (b) when he shall call on God with a fainting soul, in his extremity, or when, in eternity, he appears before the judgment-seat, God’s season will have already passed away; it will then be too late. The words will then be fulfilled: “Ye shall [will] seek me, and shall [will] die in your sins.” John 8:21.

Paul’s text, intended to call Felix to repentance, a text suited to our times: it refers to the fruits of a genuine repentance, namely, I. Righteousness in dealing with our neighbor. Is not this text suited to an age in which unrighteousness prevails far and wide, in every condition of life—an age in which the fidelity and honesty of an earlier period, are more and more rarely found, both among the high and low? II. Chastity—the duty of controlling our own flesh. Is not this text suited to an age in which the lust of the flesh, and corruption of morals, prevail far and wide—an age in which the modesty and decorum of an earlier period are less and less valued, both in the village and in the city—an age, too, in which many a pair enters the church, and appears before the altar of marriage, united by sinful bonds, like Felix and Drusilla? III. The future judgment, before the eternal God. Is not this text suited to an age of shameless infidelity, which mocks at God and eternity, at a future judgment and retribution, at heaven and hell—an age which belies and deceives itself with the Sadducean motto: “Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die !” ? [ 1 Corinthians 15:32; Isaiah 22:13].

Paul before Felix, or, The judicial power of the divine word; I. Paul stands before Felix, (a) as the inferior before his superior; (b) as the prisoner before the free man; (c) as the accused before his judge; nevertheless, all is reversed by the power of the divine word, of which the apostle is a minister. II. It is now Felix who stands before Paul, (a) as one accused by God’s word and his own conscience before an incorruptible judge; (b) as one bound by the cords of unrighteousness and the lust of the flesh, before the Lord’s freeman [ 1 Corinthians 7:22]; (c) as the inferior, alarmed, and irresolute man before the mighty hero of God, who, even in bonds, says, both in word and in deed: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth! me.” [ Philippians 4:13].

Paul’s imprisonment in Cesarea during two years, or, The painful and yet blessed seasons of repose and expectation, of the servants of God. (Compare the cases of Joseph in the prison, Moses in the wilderness, David in the mountains, Elijah at the brook Cherith, John the Baptist in the prison, John the Evangelist in Patmos, Luther in the Wartburg, faithful pastors on sick-beds, etc.). I. Painful (a) for the servant of God, when his hands are thus bound; (b) painful for the church of the Lord, when its pastors are thus withdrawn; and yet, II. Blessed, (a) for the servant of God, when he thus finds a season suited for quiet meditation and more thorough purification; (b) blessed for the church of the Lord, when it thus increases in its own strength, and learns alike to acknowledge with gratitude the value of the grace conferred by God through faithful teachers, and also to pray without ceasing both for the shepherd and the flock.

Footnotes:

FN#13 - Acts 24:24. a. [αὑτοῦ after γυναικὶ, of text. rec., with A. E, is omitted in B. C. G. H, and is dropped by recent editors generally. Lach. inserts ιδίᾳ before γυν., from A. B, but this word is not found in C. E. G. H, and is not adopted by others. Vulg. uxore sua.—Cod. Sin. read originally τῆ γυν. αυτοῦ; a later hand, A, prefixed ιδια to γυν., but Tisch. remarks here that this word was subsequently erased, apparently by C.—Tr.]

FN#14 - Acts 24:24. b. Ἰησοῦν after Χριστόν is found in three uncial manuscripts, it is true, [in B. E. G. and also Vulg.], but as it is wanting in three others [in A. C. H.], it ought to be regarded as spurious. [It is inserted by Lach, Scholz, Tisch, and Born, but not by Alf, who, with Meyer, regards it as a later addition. Ιησ. is found in Cod. Sin. (original), but Tisch. Says of it: “bis (ab A et C?) punctis notatum.”—Tr.]

FN#15 - Acts 24:25. ἔσεσθαι after μέλλοντος, has been adopted, it is true, by Tischendorf [in the edition of1849], as genuine; nevertheless it is found only in the two latest manuscripts [G. H.], while it is wanting in the four oldest [A. B. C. E. and also Cod. Sin.]; the word should therefore be rejected as a later addition. [Omitted by Lach, Scholz, Born, and Alf.; the latter say that it is “apparently a correction after Acts 24:15.”—Vulg. simply: futuro.—De Wette says: “ἔσεσθαι, Isaiah, according to Acts 11:28, and Acts 23:30, probably genuine.”—Tr.]

FN#16 - Acts 24:26. a. [δὲ after ἅμα, of text. rec., with some minuscules, is omitted in A. B. C. E. G. H. and Cod. Sin.; Vulg. simul et. It is dropped by recent editors generally.—Tr.]

FN#17 - Acts 24:26. b. The words ὅπως λύσῃ αὐτόν are undoubtedly an explanatory interpolation; they are wanting in the majority of the uncial manuscripts. [They occur in G. H, but not in A. B. C. E, nor in Cod. Sin, nor in the Vulg.; they are either dropped by recent editors, or are inserted in brackets. Alf, adopting Meyer’s views, says: “a gloss from the margin.”—Tr.)

FN#18 - Acts 24:27. The plural χάριτας [text. rec.] is found only in one uncial manuscript it is true [in H, and “in some fathers, but in no versions” (Meyer).—Tr.], but it occurs in by far the largest number of the minuscules. Of the other uncial manuscripts, three [A. B. C] exhibit χάρῖτα, and two [E. G.] χάριν. The singular Isaiah, however, obviously a correction, as the plural did not seem [to copyists] to be appropriate [“one favor only here being spoken of; see Acts 25:9.” (Alf.).—Tr.]. The more difficult reading here claims the preference. [De Wette regards the plural as referring to other attempts to gain favor, and Alf. retains it, while Lach, Tisch, and Born. read χάριτα.—Cod. Sin. originally read τε χάριτα, which was altered by a later hand, C, to δὲ χάριν.—Vulg. gratiam præstare. “The reading χάριτα, which is the best attested, should be the more readily received, as this form of the accusative was regarded with suspicion, since it does not usually occur in the New Test, although it is found in Jude, Acts 24:4.” (Meyer). In this passage of Jude, the text. rec. exhibits χάριν, with C. G. J, for which Lach. and Tisch. substitute χάριτα from A. B.—Tr.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Acts 24:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/acts-24.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
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