While Paul was being held for trial, some Jews plotted to kill him. When the commander learned of their scheme through Paul’s nephew, he immediately dispatched a cohort of soldiers, horsemen, and spearmen to bring Paul down to the governor Felix at Caesarea by night. He also commanded Paul’s accusers to appear before the governor to present their case against Paul.
Did You Know...?
1. Third hour of the night (23:23): 9:00 PM
2. Soldiers…horsemen…spearmen (23:23): “Heavily armed infantry, cavalry and lightly armed soldiers….” [ref]
3. Felix the governor (23:24): “Antonius Felix. The emperor Claudius had appointed him governor of Judea c. AD 52, a time when Felix’s brother was the emperor’s favorite minister. The brothers had formerly been slaves, then freedmen, then high officials in government. The historian Tacitus said of Felix, ‘He held the power of a tyrant with the disposition of a slave.’ He married three queens in succession, one of whom was Drusilla (24:24).” [ref] “During his governorship, insurrections and anarchy increased throughout Palestine. Try as he would to put down the uprisings and regain control, his brutal methods only alienated the Jewish population more and led to further disturbances.” [ref]
4. Antipatris (23:31): “a city built by Herod the Great, and called by this name in honour of his father, Antipater. It lay between Caesarea and Lydda, two miles inland, on the great Roman road from Caesarea to Jerusalem.” [ref]
5. Herod’s Praetorium (23:35): “Erected as a royal residence by Herod the Great but now used as a Roman praetorium—the place for the official business of the emperor and/or to house personnel directly responsible to the emperor. Praetorium were located in Rome (Php 1:13), Ephesus, Jerusalem (Jn 18:28), Caesarea and other parts of the empire.” [ref]
6. Orator (24:1): lawyer acquainted with the procedures of the Roman court. [ref]
7. Great peace (24:2-3): “The expected eulogy with which to introduce a speech before a judge. In his six years in office Felix had eliminated bands of robbers, thwarted organized assassins and crushed a movement led by an Egyptian (see note on 21:38). But in general his record was not good. He was recalled by Rome two years later because of misrule. His reforms and improvements are hard to identify historically.” [ref]
8. Creator of dissension (24:5): “To excite dissension in the empire was treason against Caesar. To be a leader of a religious sect without Roman approval was contrary to law.” [ref] “Sedition was severely punished by the Romans, being what they carefully watched and guarded against, and was what the Jews were supposed to be very prone unto; and Tertullus would suggest, that the several riots, and tumults, and seditions, fomented by the Jews, in the several parts of the Roman empire, here called the world, were occasioned by the apostle: the crime charged upon him is greatly aggravated, as that not only he was guilty of sedition, but that he was the mover of it, and that he stirred up all the Jews to it, and that in every part of the world, or empire, than which nothing was more false.” [ref]
9. Drusilla (24:24): “third and youngest daughter of Herod Agrippa I. (Acts 12:1-4,20-23). Felix, the Roman procurator of Judea, induced her to leave her husband, Azizus, the king of Emesa, and become his wife.” [ref]
10. Festus succeeded Felix (24:27): “Felix was recalled to Rome in AD 59/60 to answer for disturbances and irregularities in his rule, such as his handling of riots between Jewish and Syrian inhabitants. Festus is not mentioned in existing historical records before his arrival in Palestine. He died in office after two years, but his record for that time shows wisdom and honesty superior to both his predecessor, Felix, and his successor, Albinus.” [ref]
11. “I appeal to Caesar” (25:11): “Nero had become the emperor by this time. It was the right of every Roman citizen to have his case heard before Caesar himself (or his representative) in Rome. This was the highest court of appeal, and winning such a case could have led to more than just Paul’s acquittal. It could have resulted in official recognition of Christianity as distinct from Judaism.” [ref]
12. Council (25:12): This was an advisory body to the Roman governor that consisted of officials and legal experts. [ref]
- Paul Sent to Caesarea by Night (23:23-35)
- Before Felix (24:1-27)
- Tertullus’ accusations (24:1-9)
- Paul’s defense (24:10-21)
- Paul’s preaching to Felix (24:22-27)
- Before Festus (25:1-12)
- The Jews’ accusations (25:1-7)
- Paul’s defense (25:8)
- Paul’s appeal to Caesar (25:10-12)
How were Felix and Festus both people-pleasers?Hide Answer
Felix left Paul in prison in order to please the Jews, even though he knew that Paul was innocent (24:27). Festus also wanted to do the Jews a favor, and asked Paul if he was willing to be tried in Jerusalem, even though he knew that Paul should be tried at a Roman court, not in the Jewish council (25:9-10).
Why did the commander want to protect Paul? How were his actions commendable?Hide Answer
According to the commander himself, he rescued Paul from those who conspired to kill Paul because Paul was a Roman citizen (23:27). The commander was faithful to his duty of guarding his prisoner, as can be seen by the extra effort he put in to ensure Paul’s safety.
Do you see the Lord’s hand at work behind the commander’s elaborate security precautions?Hide Answer
Behind the commander’s protection was the Lord’s protection. Before this, the Lord had assured Paul that he would finally bear witness for Christ in Rome. So the Lord Himself was watching over Paul every step of the way and did not allow those who hated Paul to harm him.
According to his letter to the governor, what was the commander’s opinion about the charges against Paul?Hide Answer
In his view, none of the things that were charge against Paul was deserving of death or chains (23:29).
Compare the way Tertullus and Paul addressed Felix. What do you see?Hide Answer
Both Tertullus and Paul complimented the governor in their opening remarks. Tertullus’ words were long-winded flatteries. Words such as “through you we enjoy great peace” and “we accept it always… with all thankfulness” couldn’t be further from the truth (See Did You Know 5). Tertullus was obviously appealing to Felix’s vanity. His flatteries, which were outright lies, certainly say much about the nature of his charges against Paul.
On the contrary, Paul did not try to flatter the governor. He simply addressed the governor politely before stating his defense. Instead of counter-attacking his accusers, he presented the facts, which made it obvious that the charges against him were unfounded.
What does the fact that the high priests and elders’ hiring of an orator tell you about them and their case against Paul?Hide Answer
Because their charges were not grounded in the truth, they had to resort to eloquence and flatteries to make their case.
What did Tertullus accuse Paul of?Hide Answer
1. Creator of dissension among all the Jews throughout the world (24:5).
2. Ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes (24:5).
3. Tried to profane the temple (24:6). These accusations portrayed Paul as not only a capital offender against the Jewish religion, but also an insurrectionist threatening the peace of the Roman empire. The high priest and elders probably hoped that Felix would execute Paul as another insurrectionist.
How did Paul’s defense address the false charges?Hide Answer
1. It had been only 12 days since he went up to Jerusalem to worship (24:11). There was no way for him to form a mob in such a short period of time
2. The accusers could not cite any incidents where Paul had disputed with anyone or incited the crowd (24:12).
3. The accusers could not prove their accusations (24:12).
4. He worshiped God according to the Way, which the accusers called a sect. He believed in the Law and in the Prophets, and hoped in the resurrection of the dead just as their accusers believed. Because of his faith, he always strove to have a conscience without offense toward God and men. Paul explained that he was serving God according to the way of Jesus Christ and shared in the same hope as that of the Jews. Christianity was not aimed at creating any political uprising. He was not a troublemaker, but he aimed to be right with God and with all men.
5. He came to Jerusalem to bring alms and offerings to his nation (24:17), not instigate a riot. The Christian faith was one of giving and sharing.
6. Paul had actually been purified according to the law when he went into the temple. The Jews from Asia, who incited the whole city against Paul (Acts 21:27-30), did not see Paul with a mob nor with tumult (24:19). They did not even come forward to testify because their accusations were unfounded (24:20).
7. The real reason that the Jews wanted to put away Paul was his belief in the resurrection of the dead (24:21)—a central belief of the Christian faith that had been first fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus Christ the First Fruit.
How did Felix decide the case? Did he keep his word?Hide Answer
He adjourned the proceedings and claimed that he would make a decision when the Roman commander arrived. But he never did what he said he would do.
What did Paul preach to Felix about?Hide Answer
Paul preached to Felix concerning his faith in Christ (24). He took the opportunity to speak about righteousness, self-control and judgment (25), teachings that Felix needed the most considering his sexual immorality, greed, and cruelty.
What can we learn from Paul’s preaching?Hide Answer
Although Paul was in prison, he continued to make use of every opportunity to preach. In this case, he even preached to the cruel and immoral governor. He was also not afraid to speak the truth and point out the mistakes of Felix, who had the power to detain or release him.
When Felix heard Paul’s preaching, what was his reaction? Why do you think he reacted this way?Hide Answer
He was afraid (25). He knew how sinful he was before God and probably dreaded God’s final judgment.
Why is that sometimes, we tremble at God’s word like Felix but go away without doing anything about it?Hide Answer
Sometimes, we feel afraid because God’s word has exposed our sins and we fear God’s judgment. However, deep in our hearts, we may not sincerely want to repent of our sins, and we may not truly believe in God with faith. Then the words that we hear would have little effect in us, except perhaps giving us a temporary scare. Also, we may fail to change because we are reluctant to give up the pleasures of sin and submit to God’s command.
Why did Felix frequently sent for Paul to converse with him?Hide Answer
He hoped that Paul would bribe him to secure his release (26).
Why did Felix keep Paul in prison? What does this show?Hide Answer
Felix kept Paul in prison despite Paul’s innocence because he wanted to do the Jews a favor. He was so selfish that he sacrificed an innocent man’s freedom for his own gain.
How long was Paul in prison?Hide Answer
He was there for two long years (27).
If you were in Paul’s situation, how would you feel?
What did the high priest and Jewish leaders petition Felix? Why?Hide Answer
They asked Felix to do them a favor by summoning Paul to Jerusalem to be tried there. They hoped to set an ambush along the way and murder Paul (3).
What was Paul accused of? What evidence did the accusers present?Hide Answer
Paul’s accusers brought many serious complaints against him, but they could not prove any of it because they didn’t have any evidence and because their accusations were false (7). Inferring from Paul’s defense, the accusations had to do with transgression against both Roman and Jewish laws as well as defiling the temple.
How did Paul defend himself this time?Hide Answer
He proclaimed his innocence towards the law, the Jews, the temple, and Caesar (8). Paul was willing to be punished if he were indeed guilty. But because Paul did not commit any crimes, Festus had no right to deliver him into the hands of the Jews (11).
Why did Paul appeal to Caesar?Hide Answer
By this time, it was clear that Festus, like Felix before him, was not going to uphold justice. These governors wanted to please the Jews more than they cared about Paul’s fate. Paul also realized that the Jews would harm him if he was released. Thus, he felt that he had no other option except to appeal to Caesar (28:19). By appealing to Caesar, he could still hope for a release. More importantly it would allow him to testify for Christ in Rome, as the Lord had told him he would.
How would the incidents recorded in this passage serve to convince Luke’s readers that the Christian faith is legitimate and trustworthy?Hide Answer
From Luke’s recordings of Paul’s detention and trials, the reader can see for himself that Paul was innocent and that the allegations against him by the murderous Jews were either outright false or distortions of the Christian faith. The wrong motives of the governors, which led to Paul’s prolonged imprisonment, further proved that Paul was an innocent victim. All in all, Luke’s account allowed his reader to discern for himself that the Christian faith which Paul championed and suffered for was honorable and trustworthy.
Have you ever been falsely accused because of your faith? How did you deal with it? What can you learn from Paul?