Daily Bible Studies
|Series Theme: Acts Studies|
Chapters 24 to 26
Chapter: Acts 24
Passage: Acts 24:1-9
A. Find Out:
1. Who came to bring charges against Paul? v.1
2. What did the lawyer say about Felix? v.2,3
3. What did he first say about Paul? v.5a
4. How did he describe Paul? v.5b
5. What also did he say Paul had done? v.6
6. Who else confirmed these things? v.9
That official Judaism is out to get Paul is evidenced by the presence of the high priest himself coming to Caesarea with a Jewish lawyer to oversee the proceedings. This lawyer starts out with an ironic appeal to win over Felix. He praises Felix for his rule which had brought peace (in fact by brutally putting down a number of Jewish insurrections!). This irony is double edged because it will also remind Felix of what he has had to do with troublesome Jews and the implication is going to be that here is another troublesome Jew of the same ilk that you will have to deal with.
Indeed he proceeds to lay the charges about Paul: that he is a Jewish agitator, a sect leader and one who had come to desecrate the temple in Jerusalem. In the way he puts these charges, although they are what the Jewish leaders believe about Paul, more importantly they are charges that Felix could identify as being the sort of thing he was constantly having to deal with as rebel Jews kept rising up to try to overthrow their Roman overlords. He declares that Paul stirs up Jews everywhere to riot (Jews had rejected Paul's message violently all over Asia Minor!), is a cult leader (a potential rebel leader?) and sought to desecrate the temple (to cause riotous upset?). Dangerous claims!
1. The truth can be slightly twisted to give a different picture.
2. Zealous religiosity will go to any lengths for its own ends.
A. Find Out:
1. What did Paul say he had not been doing? v.12
2. Why had he come to Jerusalem? v.17
3. In what state was he? v.18
4. What did he admit? v.14a
5. What did he believe? v.14b,15
6. What did he say ought to happen? v19,20
Paul confirms first of all that he had been in Jerusalem and that he had come back after several years' absence, specifically to worship in Jerusalem, to give thanks to God, and to provide for the poor. In each of these things Paul is showing the sort of person he is - a devout Jew and certainly not a rebel leader.
As to what went on in the temple, he asserts that he was ritually clean according to the Jewish ceremonial laws, and that he was in the temple for legitimate reasons and was not arguing with anyone or stirring anyone up, either in the temple or in the city itself. These are facts that can be clearly verified. He does confirm he is a member of the Way, as the early Christian church was called, but that simply involves much orthodox belief that his accusers believe.
No, says Paul, it was certain Jews from Asia Minor who were the ones who were causing the upset and they are the ones who ought to be brought before the court, because they were the ones causing the dispute. And while we're at it, he continues, if these accusers here in court have got any crime in mind they should state it. When I was before the Sanhedrin I committed no crime - unless calling out about the resurrection from the dead is a crime!
1. When we are in the clear we need not fear the truth.
2. Answering an accusation is an opportunity for testimony.
A. Find Out:
1. Why did Felix adjourn the case? v.22
2. What was to happen to Paul in the meantime? v.23
3. What happened, when? v.24
4. What did Paul do, with what effect? v.25
5. What was Felix hoping? v.26
6. How long did this go on for? v.27
The prosecutor has spoken and Paul has made his defence, but Felix sits on the fence! He says he needs the army commander there, presumably as a witness, so the case is adjourned. And there we have a frustrating mystery. Why did the commander not come? Why did God allow Paul to remain out of action for two whole years? What was happening to the churches that Paul had helped establish in the meantime? Why? Why? Why? Answer: we don't know! We could speculate: perhaps God wanted the churches to stand on their own two feet? Perhaps Paul still kept contact by writing to them? Perhaps Paul's health wasn't up to him travelling? We just don't know!
All we do know is that for two years Paul seems to have faithfully shared with Felix and his wife, and yet not to any satisfactory conclusion. At the end of two years neither seem to have become believers, Paul is still in prison, and is then just handed on to the next governor. Why? Perhaps to have an ongoing purifying influence on these Roman governors. We just don't know, but the lesson is clear: when we seem stuck in one place, when we don't know what the outcome will be, when we can't see any fruit coming forth, STILL REMAIN FAITHFUL ON A DAY TO DAY BASIS!
1. We must just leave the outcome to God. We can but be faithful.
2. Present inaction will not go on for ever, it's just a part of the plan!
A. Find Out:
1. Where did Festus go & who came to do what? v.1,2
2. What did they want, and why? v.3
3. What was the reply of Festus? v.4,5
4. So what then happened? v.6
5. What followed? v.7
Festus is the new governor over the area. Shortly after he arrives in the province, he decides to go up to Jerusalem and while he is there the Jewish authorities (the religious leaders) came to him to ask for Paul to be brought there to be tried. This wasn't simply a plea for justice but part of a plan to kill Paul on the way to Jerusalem. We find, therefore, this incredible hatred for Paul that is still there, going as far as a desire to actively seek his death. Such is the threat, they feel, to Judaism.
Festus, however, is not going to be pushed into making arrangements that will cause work for his men. No, I'm going back to Caesarea soon, so you come there if you want to press charges against this man. So after spending another week and a half at Jerusalem, Festus returns to the provincial capital, Caesarea. Eventually the Jews arrive and start bringing their charges against Paul again, but it is obvious that they cannot prove the things they are saying; their accusations are baseless.
We see in this passage another form of persecution that comes against Christians, because they are a threat to unbelievers, because they challenge the old ways. Groundless accusations are often brought and we should be careful not to believe them.
1. The world feels threatened by the truth and therefore attacks us.
2. When we hear baseless accusations, be careful. Don't believe it.
A. Find Out:
1. What 3 things did Paul deny doing? v.8
2. What did Festus then ask, and why? v.9
3. What was Paul's answer to this? v.10
4. What was his argument? v.11a,b
5. So what did he do? v.11c
6. What was the conclusion of Festus? v.12
There are times in the Christian life when we seem to have our backs against the wall, and this seems one of those times for Paul. The Jews were unable to prove their claims against Paul and Paul is clearly innocent. Yet he is still in the hands of a Roman ruler who doesn't seem very concerned about justice, only about pleasing the Jews (shades of Pilate about this man!).
Festus suggests transferring the case to Jerusalem but everyone knows why it was transferred from Jerusalem so this is clearly just an opt-out suggestion. Paul will have none of this. He is a Roman and he is standing in a Roman court where Roman justice should prevail. He knows he has done nothing wrong and so if the judge of the court (the governor) seems like he is willing to bend the rules, there seems there is only one thing left to do, appeal to the head of the Roman court system, Caesar himself! Every Roman had that right if there appeared to be injustice.
Why is God allowing this to happen? (Oh yes, it is very easy to forget about God in the midst of unnerving circumstances!) Well the answer must be that He wants Paul to testify in Rome (see 23:11). This may all seem to be the will of men at work but behind it is the sovereign will of God. Never forget that.
1. Men may appear to predominate but Jesus still rules!
2. Behind the circumstances look for the will of God.
A. Find Out:
1. Who next arrived at Caesarea? v.13
2. How had Festus gone against the Jews? v.14-16
3. What had surprised Festus? v.17-20
4. So why was Paul still there? v.21
5. So what followed? v.22,23
6. What is the problem Festus now faces? v.24-27
Agrippa was only seventeen when his father died and having been considered too young to rule over Judea, had been given a small insignificant northern kingdom to look after, as well as the responsibility for the temple in Jerusalem and appointing the high priest. Bernice was in fact his sister. The two come to pay their respects to the new procurator at Caesarea. While talking he explains the problems he has been having.
His first problem had been understanding why the Jews had brought Paul to him in the first place. It seems their dispute is only over belief. The trouble was that Paul then appealed to Caesar so Festus has now got to make arrangements to send Paul to Rome. Agrippa shows interest so Festus agrees to present Paul. In so doing he explains his present problem. As Paul has appealed to Caesar, Festus will have to send him to Rome but he's at a loss as to what he should say in the letter to Rome. He's going to appear rather foolish sending a Roman citizen to Caesar on grounds of Jewish belief disputes. The obvious answer would be to release Paul but Festus would lose face if he did that and also manage to upset the Jews. Perhaps this Jewish “king” might to be able to help clarify the situation.
1. Injustice requires its perpetrators to go to great lengths.
2. Sin requires more sin to cover it up! Beware the cycle!
A. Find Out:
1. How did Paul approach Agrippa? v.2,3
2. How does Paul introduce himself? v.4,5
3. What was it that Paul said caused this trial? v.6-8
4. What had Paul felt he originally should do? v.9
5. How had he done that? v.10,11
This Herod Agrippa II was the great grandson of Herod the Great. Herod the Great had tried to kill the baby Jesus (Mt 2:16), his son Herod Antipas had killed John the Baptist (Mt 14:3-), his grandson Agrippa I killed James (Acts 12:2), and now his great grandson sits before Paul. With a family reputation like that Paul could have cause to worry, but instead he seems to be grateful that a Jewish king is there to hear his defence, someone who would understand the Jewish customs.
Paul starts by establishing that he comes from a Jewish background and became a Pharisee. Everyone could agree to that. He then went on to describe how he became a persecutor of the Christian group, going out with the authority of the chief priest to put them in prison. In this sense Paul's Jewish credentials are, at first sight, excellent. Every zealous Jew and Jewish leader ought to be able to identify with him. The only trouble with this approach is that when he comes to the latter part of his testimony it makes the Jews even more mad that such a man should have become a Christian (see what follows). It is because of his belief in raising the dead, he says, a belief that all Jews ought to have, that he is in this situation today. At this stage he simply mentions this in passing but will enlarge on it later on. So far they listen attentively to all he says. No problem - yet!
1. All of us can identify with the world. We came out of it!
2. Our testimony can thus be very powerful - I've been where you are.
Chapter: Acts 26
Passage: Acts 26:12-23
A. Find Out:
1. What does Paul next go on to speak about? v.12-15
2. Why did Jesus say he had chosen Paul? v.16
3. What would Paul do? v.17,18
4. So what had Paul done? v.19,20
5. What was he able to testify? v.22a
6. What was his message? v.22b,23
Having shown what a persecutor of the Christians he had been, Paul now goes on to recount his Damascus road experience, a divine encounter where he is shown that it is Jesus he is persecuting. Not only that, he goes on to explain the commission that he was given through this experience. In stating the commission, he summarises it and omits the details that part of it came through Ananias. He simply declares it as one piece: he was called to testify (be a witness) to what had happened to him, and he was to go to both Jew and Gentile so that all might receive forgiveness of sins following their response to his message.
Having had this divine vision, he was obedient to it and had gone to both Jew and Gentile, preaching for repentance and a turning to God. So far all he has said conforms to the Old Testament and to the preaching of John the Baptist. Next he moves on and speaks about Christ rising from the dead. He puts this in the context of the Old Testament, seeing it as a fulfilment of the prophetic Scriptures. Again and again he seeks to appeal to the Jewish side of Agrippa. Everything here ought to be quite reasonable for the Jewish mind - but isn't!
1. Paul's life was based on God's calling. Is yours?
2. Paul's life had been transformed by God. Is yours?
A. Find Out:
1. Who interrupted in what way? v.24
2. Who did Paul address himself to, saying what? v.26,27
3. What did that person reply, indicating what? v.28
4. What did Paul want? v.29
5. What was the king's assessment? v.31,32
Throughout most of Paul's discourse the rulers had listened attentively to all he said. When he comes to talking about Jesus rising from the dead, Festus is provoked. He can cope with all the Jewish belief stuff but when it comes to the Cross, something in him is provoked and he rejects it all.
Paul is not put off; he's had enough rejection in his travels to be able to cope with this man. Instead he turns to the Jewish “king” and appeals to him. Agrippa, we said previously, had been entrusted by the emperor with care of the temple in Jerusalem. He is a man who, despite his family background, does have knowledge of Judaism, he should have knowledge of the Old Testament prophecies of the coming messiah, and it is to this that Paul appeals.
Agrippa is quite aware of what Paul is doing and backs away. Paul confirms he wants everyone to believe as he does, but the royal entourage leave. As they go they are overheard to acquit Paul of any wrongdoing worthy of death or imprisonment. Yet again he has been declared innocent, but yet again he remains in chains. At this point Paul could withdraw his appeal to Caesar but he knows that it is God's will for him to go to Rome and testify there, possibly before rulers, even as he has done here. He remains silent.
1. Innocence does not necessarily mean freedom in a sinful world.
2. Awareness of God's purposes is helpful in trying circumstances.
RECAP: "Before Rulers" - Acts 24 - 26
In this second group of 9 studies we have seen :
There is a sense of frustration reading these chapters, that Paul is being held in prison and not going out and fulfilling his ministry to the Gentiles and forming churches. Yet he is still testifying to the Gentiles but now it is to rulers. Not only that, this in an interim stage to his going to Rome (courtesy of government transport) to testify there.
1. Frustrating circumstances can be within the purpose of God.
2. Take every opportunity to testify to Jesus.
3. Even though men appear to be in charge, Jesus is ruling.
4. Even if men reject your testimony, you've been faithful.
5. It is Jesus who saves men, not us. We're just witnesses.
Thank Jesus that he IS ruling over all things.
PART 3 : "To Rome"
In this next Part we'll see Paul making his way to Rome. Along the way there is opportunity to escape but he doesn't take that for that would be contrary to the purpose of God for him. In the midst of crisis watch him still in contact with heaven and in control of events on earth, even when others aren't!