Acts 24.10-21

Today we see Paul launch his defence:

When the governor gestured for him to speak, Paul replied, “Because I know that you have been a judge over this nation for many years, I confidently make my defense. As you can verify for yourself, not more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship. They did not find me arguing with anyone or stirring up a crowd in the temple courts or in the synagogues or throughout the city, nor can they prove to you the things they are accusing me of doing. But I confess this to you, that I worship the God of our ancestors according to the Way (which they call a sect), believing everything that is according to the law and that is written in the prophets. I have a hope in God (a hopethat these men themselves accept too) that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous. This is the reason I do my best to always have a clear conscience toward God and toward people. After several years I came to bring to my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings, which I was doing when they found me in the temple, ritually purified, without a crowd or a disturbance. But there are some Jews from the province of Asia who should be here before you and bring charges, if they have anything against me. Or these men here should tell what crime they found me guilty of when I stood before the council, other than this one thing I shouted out while I stood before them: ‘I am on trial before you today concerning the resurrection of the dead.’”

(Acts 24.10-21, NET)

Paul clearly states that no witness can be found that he was arguing with anyone or stirring up the crowd and that the things he is accused of are unable to be proven (v.13). He identifies himself with those accusing him rather than as a dangerous radical (v.15) and presents truths about his recent visit to Jerusalem (vv.17-18, cf. Romans 15.26).

Paul then states that those who had real issues with him were not even present and that his alleged ‘heresy’ was actually something that some of those present also believed (vv.19-21, cf. Acts 23.8). F.F. Bruce writes:

“This was a strong point in his defense: the people who had raised the hue and cry in the first instance, claiming to be eyewitnesses of his alleged sacrilege, had not troubled to be present.”

By simply stating the facts of the case Paul’s position looks instantly stronger.

Truth is a powerful tool.

As believers we are called to be humble and meek, yes, but never a pushover (Matthew 5.5). The idea is power under control. Think of a huge horse calmly carrying a child on its back: powerful enough to throw them off, but in-control enough not to. We should never be afraid to display the power of the truth, whether that is in situations where we are falsely accused (as Paul was) or bigger picture when saying what we believe about life, death, life, and love.

Acts 24.4-9

The case against Paul is now brought to Felix. The flattery stops (vv.1-4) and the accusations begin. How often will those who flatter based on their own motives then accuse based on the same…

Paul is charged with some pretty serious stuff:

“…we have found this man to be a troublemaker, one who stirs up riots among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. He even tried to desecrate the temple, so we arrested him. When you examine him yourself, you will be able to learn from him about all these things we are accusing him of doing.”

The Jews also joined in the verbal attack, claiming that these things were true.”

(Acts 24.5-9, NET)

Did you notice the seriousness of the language used against Paul? Troublemaker…riots…ringleader…sect…desecrate…arrested…accusing…Tertullus has laid a heavy case against Paul and as the chapter continues Paul will have his opportunity to defend himself (vv.10-21).

Importantly, none of these accusations are presented with any evidence. The same men who would so easily flatter Felix have so easily fabricated charges against Paul. Paul had nothing to fear from the truth of the matter, but we can’t help but wonder if he was still worried or anxious in this situation.

Whilst we may never find ourselves in the self-same situation – being on trial before a Roman governor – we can certainly find ourselves in times where we are standing for truth against a web of lies and deceit. When we do, it’s important for us to remember what Jesus said about truth: it will set you free (John 8.32). As difficult and as anxiety-ridden as those situations can be, as tempting as it can be to lower yourself to the level of your accusers and be drawn into their shady game of lies, stick to the truth and remember that light shines brightest in the dark (John 1.5).

Acts 24.1-3

After a few short days a party arrives to, simply, persecute Paul. There was the high priest Ananias…some elders and a spokesman…Tertullus. The presence of these three (high priest, elders, and a skilled lawyer) leaves the deck stacked against Paul, for sure.

Tertullus begins with much flattery and deceit:

We have experienced a lengthy time of peace through your rule, and reforms are being made in this nation through your foresight. Most excellent Felix, we acknowledge this everywhere and in every way with all gratitude.”

(Acts 24.2-3, NET)

The lies are rolling right from the start. Felix was known to be a ruler who had the influence of a king but the heart of a slave ¹. To say that the Jews experienced a lengthy time of peace throughout his rule was, again, far from the truth. Jews were killed under his rule and homes were looted freely. This was certainly not, as Tertullus stated, a time of peace that was acknowledged with all gratitude.

Why then, the flattery?

The case against Paul, and the truth and faith he now represents is so heavily one-sided that we would be forgiven for assuming that the result of this trial is a foregone conclusion.

The same can be so true for you and for me in our day by day lives. Things can build up around us to the point where we feel there is no escape, no victory to be had, no light at the end of the tunnel. We can feel as if the enemy has the deck stacked so strongly against us in all ways possible that there is no chance of success.

In those moments it’s so important to remember the truths of the God we serve. Here are a few to take into your day:

You are from God, little children, and have conquered them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

(1 John 4.4)

What then shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

(Romans 8.31)

Even if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts, and He knows all things.

(1 John 3.20)

I am the Lord, I have no peer,
there is no God but me.
I arm you for battle, even though you do not recognize me.
I do this so people will recognize from east to west
that there is no God but me;
I am the Lord, I have no peer.
I am the one who forms light
and creates darkness;
the one who brings about peace
and creates calamity.
I am the Lord, who accomplishes all these things.

(Isaiah 45.5-7)

¹ – Historiae 5.9

Spiritual Depression – The True Foundation – Romans 3.28

…For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law…

Romans 3.28

The main take-home point last time was that we must turn to the Word of God when we feel down, when we doubt, or when we feel abandoned. If we rely on our own feelings, these change like the weather and will leave us open to every wind of change that blows past us.

Today, the true foundation: what are we built on? 

Lloyd-Jones writes about Christians who are very interested in Christian things, but don’t seem to be like the believers of the Bible; vibrant, excited, joyful, positive, and hopeful. He calls this group ‘miserable Christians‘.

Understanding what Christianity is all about and (for the majority) agreeing with it, the miserable Christian simply assumes that this is enough; to know, to understand, to outwardly agree with the major tenets of the faith. 

What is missing for the miserable Christian is an insight into self in light of a relationship with Jesus. 

When we see who He truly is, how He truly is, where He truly is, we cannot help but see ourselves in the cold light of day…and it’s not pretty is it.

The miserable Christian doesn’t really see the need for having a Saviour because they think they are not that bad, ‘but, you know, Christianity makes sense‘ to them so they go along with it. 

The believer who has seen himself or herself for who they truly are – a sinner who has fallen short of the glory of God – sees the need for a Saviour.

The believer who knows the truth about themselves is aware of their sinfulness and is convicted of their sinfulness. 

The miserable Christian has heard Christ preached and appreciated what was on offer.

The believer has heard Christ preached and has been brought to a point of knowing that this is an absolute necessity for them in their life. 

The believer then sees verses like Romans 3.28 wherein we are reminded that we are seen as right and just and holy by God purely through faith in Jesus and by nothing we have done, are doing, or can ever do. The believer who knows their own sinfulness then responds to this with vibrancy in their life, with excitement, with joy, with positivity, and with a sure and steadfast hope for the future.

Lloyd-Jones writes,

Would you like to be rid of this spiritual depression? The first thing you have to do is say farewell now once and for ever to your past. Realise that it has been covered and blotted out in Christ. Never look back at your sins again.

Say “It is finished, it is covered by the Blood of Christ”.

It is only then that true happiness and joy are possible for you.

Take that first step and you will find that immediately you will begin to experience joy and a release that you have never known in your life before.

The true foundation for the life that we all so deeply desire is faith in something sure, steadfast, supreme, and sufficient. 

The true foundation is faith in Jesus.