Ac 24:1-27. PAUL, ACCUSED BY A PROFESSIONAL PLEADER BEFORE FELIX, MAKES HIS DEFENSE, AND IS REMANDED FOR A FURTHER HEARING. AT A PRIVATE INTERVIEW FELIX TREMBLES UNDER PAUL'S PREACHING, BUT KEEPS HIM PRISONER FOR TWO YEARS, WHEN HE WAS SUCCEEDED BY FESTUS.
1. after five days--or, on the fifth day from their departure
Ananias . . . with the elders--a deputation of the Sanhedrim.
a certain orator--one of those Roman advocates who trained themselves
for the higher practice of the metropolis by practicing in the
provinces, where the Latin language, employed in the courts, was but
imperfectly understood and Roman forms were not familiar.
informed . . . against Paul--"laid information," that is, put in the
2-4. Seeing that by thee we enjoy great quietness, &c.--In this
fulsome flattery there was a semblance of truth: nothing more. Felix
acted with a degree of vigor and success in suppressing lawless violence
[JOSEPHUS, Antiquities, 20.8.4; confirmed by
by thy providence--a phrase applied to the administration of the
5-8. a pestilent fellow--a plague, or pest.
and a mover of sedition among all the Jews--by exciting disturbances
throughout the world--(See on
This was the first charge; and true only in the sense explained
a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes--the second charge; and
6. hath gone about--attempted.
to profane the temple--the third charge; and entirely false.
we . . . would have judged according to our law.
7. But . . . Lysias came upon us, and with great violence
took him out of our hands--a wilful falsehood and calumnious charge
against a public officer. He had commanded the Sanhedrim to meet for no
other purpose than to "judge him according to their law"; and only
when, instead of doing so, they fell to disputing among themselves, and
the prisoner was in danger of being "pulled in pieces of them"
--or as his own letter says "killed of them"
--did he rescue him, as was his duty, "by force" out of their
8. Commanding his accusers to come unto thee--Here they insinuate that,
instead of troubling Felix with the case, he ought to have left it to be
dealt with by the Jewish tribunal; in which case his life would soon
have been taken.
by examining whom--Lysias, as would seem
thyself mayest, &c.--referring all, as if with confidence, to Felix.
9. the Jews assented, &c.--See on
10. thou hast been many years a judge to this nation--He had been in
this province for six or seven years, and in Galilee for a longer
period. Paul uses no flattery, but simply expresses his satisfaction at
having to plead before one whose long official experience of Jewish
matters would enable him the better to understand and appreciate what he
had to say.
11. thou mayest understand--canst easily learn.
that there are yet but twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem--namely, 1.
The day of his arrival in Jerusalem
2. The interview with James
(Ac 21:18-26); 3. The assumption of the vow
4, 5, 6. Continuance of the vow, interrupted by the arrest
&c.); 7. Arrest of Paul
(Ac 21:27); 8. Paul before the Sanhedrim
(Ac 22:30; 23:1-10);
9. Conspiracy of the Jews and defeat of it
and despatch of Paul from Jerusalem on the evening of the same day
(Ac 23:23, 31);
10, 11, 12, 13. The remaining period referred to
This short period is mentioned to show how unlikely it was that he
should have had time to do what was charged against him.
for to worship--a very different purpose from that imputed to him.
12, 13. they neither found me . . . Neither can they prove
&c.--After specifying several particulars, he challenges proof of any
one of the charges brought against him. So much for the charge of
14, 15. But this I confess to thee--in which Felix would see no crime.
that after the way they call heresy--literally, and better, "a sect."
so worship I the God of my fathers--the ancestral God. Two arguments
are contained here: (1) Our nation is divided into what they call
sects--the sect of the Pharisees, and that of the Sadducees--all the
difference between them and me is, that I belong to neither of these,
but to another sect, or religious section of the nation, which from its
Head they call Nazarenes: for this reason, and this alone, am I
hated. (2) The Roman law allows every nation to worship its own deities;
I claim protection under that law, worshipping the God of my ancestors,
even as they, only of a different sect of the common religion.
believing all, &c.--Here, disowning all opinions at variance with the
Old Testament Scriptures, he challenges for the Gospel which he preached
the authority of the God of their fathers. So much for the charge of
15. And have hope . . . as they themselves . . .
allow, that there shall be a resurrection, &c.--This appeal to the
faith of his accusers shows that they were chiefly of the
Pharisees, and that the favor of that party, to which he owed in
some measure his safety at the recent council
had been quite momentary.
16. And herein--On this account, accordingly; that is, looking forward
to that awful day (compare
I exercise myself--The "I" here is emphatic; "Whatever they do, this
is my study."
to have always a conscience void of offence, &c.--See
2Co 1:12; 2:17,
&c.; that is, "These are the great principles of my life and
conduct--how different from turbulence and sectarianism!"
17. Now after many--several
years absence from Jerusalem--I came to bring alms to my of Macedonia
and Greece, which he had taken such pains to gather. This only allusion
in the Acts to what is dwelt upon so frequently in his own Epistles
(Ro 15:25, 26;
throws a beautiful light on the truth of this History. (See PALEY'S Horæ Paulinæ).
and offerings--connected with his Jewish vow: see
18-21. found me purified in the temple--not polluting it, therefore,
by my own presence, and neither gathering a crowd nor raising a stir: If
then these Asiatic Jews have any charge to bring against me in
justification of their arrest of me, why are they not here to
20. Or else let these . . . here say--"Or, passing from all that
preceded my trial, let those of the Sanhedrim here present say if I was
guilty of aught there." No doubt his hasty speech to the high priest
might occur to them, but the provocation to it on his own part was more
than they would be willing to recall.
21. Except . . . this one voice . . .
Touching the resurrection,
&c.--This would recall to the Pharisees present their own
inconsistency, in befriending him then and now accusing him.
22, 23. having more perfect knowledge of that--"the"
Ac 19:23; and
When Lysias . . . shall come . . . I will
how, &c.--Felix might have dismissed the case as a tissue of
unsupported charges. But if from his interest in the matter he really
wished to have the presence of Lysias and others involved, a brief
delay was not unworthy of him as a judge. Certainly, so far as
recorded, neither Lysias nor any other parties appeared again in the
however, seems to show that at that time his prepossessions in
favor of Paul were strong.
24, 25. Felix . . . with his wife Drusilla . . .
a Jewess--This beautiful but infamous woman was the third daughter
of Herod Agrippa I, who was eaten of worms (see on
and a sister of Agrippa II, before whom Paul pleaded,
&c. She was "given in marriage to Azizus, king of the Emesenes, who had
consented to be circumcised for the sake of the alliance. But this
marriage was soon dissolved, after this manner: When Festus was
procurator of Judea, he saw her, and being captivated with her beauty,
persuaded her to desert her husband, transgress the laws of her
country, and marry himself" [JOSEPHUS,
Antiquities, 20.7.1,2]. Such was this "wife" of Felix.
he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in
Christ--Perceiving from what he had heard on the trial that the new
sect which was creating such a stir was represented by its own
advocates as but a particular development of the Jewish faith, he
probably wished to gratify the curiosity of his Jewish wife, as well as
his own, by a more particular account of it from this distinguished
champion. And no doubt Paul would so far humor this desire as to
present to them the great leading features of the Gospel. But from
it is evident that his discourse took an entirely practical turn,
suited to the life which his two auditors were notoriously leading.
25. And as he reasoned of righteousness--with reference to the
public character of Felix.
temperance--with reference to his immoral life.
and judgment to come--when he would be called to an awful account
Felix trembled--and no wonder. For, on the testimony of
Roman Annalist [Annals, 9; 12.54], he ruled with a mixture of
cruelty, lust, and servility, and relying on the influence of his
brother Pallas at court, he thought himself at liberty to commit every
sort of crime with impunity. How noble the fidelity and courage which
dared to treat of such topics in such a presence, and what withering
power must have been in those appeals which made even a Felix to
Go thy way for this time; and when I have a convenient season I will
call for thee--Alas for Felix! This was his golden opportunity,
but--like multitudes still--he missed it. Convenient seasons in
abundance he found to call for Paul, but never again to "hear him
concerning the faith in Christ," and writhe under the terrors of the
wrath to come. Even in those moments of terror he had no thought of
submission to the Cross or a change of life. The Word discerned the
thoughts and intents of his heart, but that heart even then clung to its
idols; even as Herod, who "did many things and heard John gladly," but
in his best moments was enslaved to his lusts. How many Felixes have
appeared from age to age!
26. He hoped . . . that money should have been given him . . .
wherefore he sent for him the oftener, and communed with him--Bribery
in a judge was punishable by the Roman law, but the spirit of a slave
(to use the words of TACITUS) was in all his acts, and his communing
with Paul"--as if he cared for either him or his message--simply added
hypocrisy to meanness. The position in life of Paul's Christian
visitors might beget the hope of extracting something from them for the
release of their champion; but the apostle would rather lie in prison
than stoop to this!
27. after two years--What a trial to this burning missionary of Christ,
to suffer such a tedious period of inaction! How mysterious it would
seem! But this repose would be medicine to his spirit; he would not, and
could not, be entirely inactive, so long as he was able by pen and
message to communicate with the churches; and he would doubtless learn
the salutary truth that even he was not essential to his Master's cause.
That Luke wrote his Gospel during this period, under the apostle's
superintendence, is the not unlikely conjecture of able critics.
Porcius Festus--Little is known of him. He died a few years after this
[JOSEPHUS, Antiquities, 20.8.9-9.1].
came into Felix' room--He was recalled, on accusations against him
by the Jews of Cæsarea, and only acquitted through the intercession of
his brother at court [JOSEPHUS,
Felix, willing to show the Jews a pleasure--"to earn the thanks of
the Jews," which he did not.
left Paul bound--
--which does not seem to have been till then.