Acts 24:1-27
The Hope Of The Resurrection

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

1.  Today we read the entire twenty-fourth chapter.  It is a long passage, but it is simple as far as the structure of its sentences.  After the words of prosecution by the lawyer Tertullus from verse two to verse nine comes the personal defense of Paul from verse ten to verse twenty-one. After verse twenty-two, we have the consequences of it.  So, this chapter ends with the following words.  "Well, after two years as successor to Felix, Porcius Festus took the new appointment, but Felix decided to keep Paul just as he was in confinement so as to be popular with the Jews," (verse twenty-seven).  After two years pass Paul still is confined the same way.  In the mean time, Luke records almost nothing about the progress of the church and the course of evangelism.  Paul only talked together with Felix who summoned him wanting money.  Even with that the Palestinian governor-general Felix did not convert or change his location.  How so diametrically opposite has been the accounts of the mission trips of Paul up to here.  It is felt that not even one stimulating and exciting item was written for this time period.  As for the color of this text, shall we call it just drabby?  But though it seems flat, there may be a message that we ought to hear.  We also have lack luster times.  So right here we do have the truth of the gospel that we really ought to listen to.

The Charge Against Paul

2.  Five days after Paul arrived, the high priest Ananias brought the lawyer Tertullus with several of the elders down to Caesarea, and began to accuse Paul to the general-governor Felix.  When Paul was summoned, the lawyer began his prosecution. That message is recorded from verse two on.  Of course, this will not be more than a digest of everything.  But, the lengthy preface to it does attract attention.  Luke was not recording the message which tries to get the favor of the judge as some example of the customs of that time.  For what is spoken about here clearly goes against the historical facts.  Tertullus began to speak by saying, "Thanks to your Excellency, we have been afforded peace quite sufficiently.  And through your Excellency's considerations various reforms have been advanced in this country." However, in reality during his term in office rebellions based on anti-Roman struggles by the Jews had increased.  The ancient historians Josephus, Tacitus and others all referred to the atrocities of Felix.  He showed no pardon to rebels but punished them, and all the more, he practically poured oil on the fires of the opposition movement.  Tertullus continues, "We, on all sides and places where it has reached, recognize this fact and give you admiring praise and go as far as thanking you from the heart."  In actuality, the Jews did not have thanks nor admiration for Felix.  Rather, the ancient historians had recorded how Felix was eventually overthrown by a direct appeal to the emperor by a Jewish delegation. Certainly, even Luke ought to have known that.  However, he still records this preface even though it contradicts history.  He uses it because the preface shows the true character of the whole speech of the prosecutor.  That is, it shows how empty of truth were the accusatory words of the Jews.

3.  Well, as we look at the contents of the prosecution of Tertullus, the charges against Paul stem from three areas.  First, Paul was "a person like an infectious disease stirring up uproars among Jews through out the world."  They knew that Felix had no pity on insurrectionists.  So they first made this accusation there describing Paul as a character  who incites social upheavals.

4.  Let's continue on this and touch on the second point.  Paul was a ringleader of the "Nazarene sect."  Here the word translated as "sect" was used even with reference to the likes of the Pharisees and the Sadducees; but, here we should see it as an emphasis clearly on a heresy that had broken off from a Judaic framework. Under the Roman empire Judaism was an officially recognized religion and received protection.  Therefore, they are emphasizing in their charge that they are not connected with the Nazarenes, that is they are an illegal entity and a target of punishment.

5.  So, lastly, they bring up the point that Paul "tried to defile the temple."  Why did they make an accusation which at first glance has nothing to do with the Romans?  They did it because what they ultimately was hoping for was not for Paul to be punished by the Romans.  They did it so Paul would be returned back over to the hands of the Jewish national assembly.  "This is an issue for our religion and deals with our God.  So we want you to entrust to our hands the trial."  So, a version of the text adds:  "And, when we tried to judge him according to our law, the commander Lysias came and separated this man from our hands without just cause, then he ordered the prosecution to come to your Excellency," (Reference Notes To The Acts Of The Apostles In The New Interconfessional Version).  They made the appeal that Paul ought to be tried by God's law alone.

6.  Well, the charge that he defiled the temple at first glance seems to be a religious problem, a legal problem, and a problem having to do with righteousness before God.  In other words, they were angry for the name of God, and it seemed their interests were right there.  But, that 's not exactly right. This very charge, along with the flattering preface, clearly shows how untrue their prosecution is not only to men but to God as well.  When it says Paul "tried to defile the temple" it definitely means that "Paul tried to bring into the grounds a Gentile," (21:29), because they considered Gentiles as dirty people. Moreover, it was considered a sin worthy of death in God's sight when bringing into the temple such ceremonially unclean people, and while they were emphasizing that God is looking to punish those persons, the truth was they were on the other hand appealing to Felix who was "a defiled Gentile."  What could this mean?  Besides that, they are making a charge using flattery which contradicted the long arm of the truth.  We see that while they judge in God's name in the final analysis they are losing whatever is just and righteous before God, and the name of God is there just as a pretext.  When such hearts are separated from God one can not depend on human righteousness in any way because truly humans bring up references to God's name and righteousness too often in order to achieve their personal wishes.

Paul's Defense And It's Effects

7.  Paul gave his defense regarding the charges made by those previously described persons.  With reference to the first point that "he was inciting upheaval among the Jews through out the world like a person with an infectious disease," Paul touches upon only the event in Jerusalem.  What happened at Jerusalem was that the trial itself led to the big uproar that occurred in Jerusalem.  Paul points out that when he came to Jerusalem it was but for a brief period of time.  In that period he had not made any disputes, not to mention he could not have done any agitating of the people in the brief period of his stay.  He makes his rebuttal by pointing out that fact.

8.  Paul's defense, which deal with the second point that "he was a ringleader of the Nazarene sect," is recorded from verse fourteen on.  Paul came right out and admitted he was of "the Nazarene sect," that is, he was a Christian. Therefore, he relates how this never had been a heresy split off from Judaism, but they had worshipped the same God, believed what was written in the same Bible, and embraced the same hopes.  No, rather, the Sadducees did not recognize what was written in the books of the prophets, including the high priest Ananias who was there, and they did not recognize the resurrection. Consequently, if it's the case that one says Paul was on the outside of the main frame of Judaism, it will turn out that the Sadducees are all the more outside it.  So that's how he made his rebuttal to the second argument.

9.  Thirdly, regarding the charge that Paul defiled the temple, to start with, he showed that "several of the Jews from Asia" who had accused him had not come there at all.  That they had not come could be understood as the fact that their presence at the trial would be unprofitable.  Even if they had appeared, it was impossible to support any basis that Paul defiled the temple.

10.  In shifting back and forth between the charges and his defenses, it becomes clear that Paul was guiltless.  According to Roman law, there was no basis at all to convict Paul of any crime, and neither was there any basis to determine the criminality of Paul even with respect to God's law.

11.  However, what kind of effect did this have?  Please look from verse twenty-two on.  It is written that Felix "knew in quite some detail about this way."  In short, he knew about Christianity and for him the charges from the Jews were nothing new.  However, Felix did not pronounce Paul not guilty, though Paul was under an accusation that had no basis in fact.  The governor-general says, "Wait for the commander Lysias to come down, he will provide a ruling concerning your allegations."  After that, Lysias had been summoned in.  But, it seems the judicial ruling was postponed further.  Paul's confinement lasted for two years.  So, when Felix lost his position and was dismissed from it, he still kept Paul confined as he had been.  Why did things turn out like this?

12.  We can come up with at least two motives for Felix.  The first motive, we think, was that he finally had obtained the good will of the Jews.  In addition, the repeated disturbances by the Jews had annoyed him enough.  He didn't want to do anything to spoil the good mood of the Sanhedrin here.  And, one more thing, he had been trying to take bribe money from Paul.  In verse twenty-six, the way it reads is that "He had a secret intention to try to receive money from him."  In verse five Paul was accused as "the ringleader of the Nazarene sect."  So, in verse seventeen Paul says that he went up to Jerusalem "in order to deliver the relief money to his country men."  Paul was sure to transfer the proper funds. As for hastening Paul's acquittal and release, it must be related to how much money he would collect.  Felix kept his eyes on this.

13.  Having been accused under a semblance of justice, his defensive explanation when stacked up against reasoning like that would be trampled under the feet of human consumption and convenience.  After that kind of "justice," Paul could consider his spending time as a confined prisoner as several years of wasted time.  Indeed, after this, though he gets transferred to Rome, still he does not get released. But, regardless of the peculiar nature of Paul's circumstances, how familiar are we with this kind of pitiable ending? In our own surroundings are they not filled with so many things that can't be understood, so many illogical pains and distresses and so on and on?  How often then must we pass through times when we only feel vortexed in by futility?  After all, the gloominess of this scene which we feel is very much present with us.

The Hope Of The Resurrection

14.  However, we should turn our eye to the figure of Paul here.  Paul had the option to simply pay the bribe and be released, but of course he was not that type of character.   Thinking of Paul's desire to go to Rome after this and even more his ambition to spread the gospel as far as Spain (Romans 15:24), it may sound reasonable to anyone that he should get out by any means necessary.   Anybody would consider it quite a loss of his or her limited and brief life span to spend time wasting not knowing when he or she would be freed.  But, here we see the figure of Paul while he stood in illegal confinement telling Felix , who had summoned him repeatedly asking for a bribe and Drusilla his wife, about "righteousness, self-control, and the judgment which is to come."  In other words, we have the figure of Paul who sees the period of his illegal confinement as a time he was sent to share the gospel with them.  So, while waiting out "time" where one can advance forward, he fulfilled his duties as a missionary which had been allotted to him from above.  What does it mean that Paul acted as a "person who waits?"  This waiting was the hope of the resurrection which none other than Paul himself had been talking about.

15.  Please look again at verse fifteen.  "Moreover, I hold before God the hope that before long the righteous and the unrighteous will be resurrected.  These persons themselves also hold this particular hope in the same way."  We should not take this message as just a message for his defense.  Paul was living this belief.  Paul was certainly living and looking towards the resurrection.  People who think their life in this world is all there is cannot wait.  People who look for the resurrection become people who wait in God's time.  He said, "These persons themselves also hold this hope in the same way."  Belief in the resurrection was certainly an article of traditional faith even in Judaism.  But, in this situation truly living by such a hope was something only Paul had.  Why was that?  It's because the hope of the resurrection which Paul was embracing was grounded on the event of the resurrection of Christ.  It's because after he had been summoned by the risen Christ his very own life was a life of serving the risen Christ.

16.  "Before long both the righteous and the unrighteous will be resurrected," which means in short that death is not the end.  So, both the righteous and the unrighteous must appear before God.  When the Bible says, "righteous," this is not simply speaking about morals of the world.  This word has to do with a relationship with God.  In other words, your relationship with God will be asked about in the end.  Therefore Paul said, "I am endeavoring to constantly preserve a guilt-free conscience before both God and man."  For him, the greatest subject was just having a righteous relationship with God and properly carrying out the way which God had given to him.  When we think again about the figure of this particular Paul, we also are made to think about how we must live turning our eye towards the place we ought to turn our eye.

Home | Translations | Both J-E | Chapel | Email