Paul has been brought by night to Felix to stand before him. Felix’s judgement will determine Paul’s fate, at least for a while.
It only took Paul less than a day to arrive in Caesarea from Jerusalem but it takes Ananias and the elders five days to get there. Were they busy working on how to present their case so Felix would agree with them? They even enlisted the help of a “spokesman.” I would expect Ananias to fill that role as the leading member of the ruling body of the Jews. Was the spokesman a Roman and they thought he would be better received by Felix?
As expected, extreme flattery is employed first when presenting their case. Their case consisted of three points.
- Paul “stirs up riots among all the Jews throughout the world”
- Paul “is a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes”
- Paul “tried to profane the temple”
Ananias and the elders who came with him chimed in their agreement on these charges. Nowhere does the charge of not following the law come up in their litany, which was what was communicated in the tribune’s letter. Maybe it is implied in the second charge.
It has been years since Paul was even in Jerusalem so how could they sustain their charges. Let’s take them one at a time.
- Stirring up riots: Paul was the victim of their riot. Wherever Paull went he spoke first to the Jews then to the Gentiles. He was the object of their plots to kill him and their mob mentality on more than one occasion. In Jerusalem the Jews themselves are the ones who grabbed Paul and started the riot, NOT the other way around.
- This one has a closer leaning towards truth. Paul was the voice of the truth of Jesus to the Gentiles but he was not the one in charge or the “ringleader.” He deferred to the apostles for their decisions on matters of doctrine. Jesus taught His disciples firsthand and they were the ones that made the final ruling on the issues that arose in the new body. Paul shared their decisions and directions with those he ministered to. But in the end JESUS was the “ringleader” and always will be. The Holy Spirit shared God’s will and Jesus’ heart with the apostles to pass on to the people.
- Paul was very careful in following the law, especially when it came to the temple. He had just completed his purification process when he was grabbed. The Jews had made an incorrect and damming assumption based on their own desire to rid themselves of Paul. They didn’t even attempt to ascertain the truth before grabbing Paul.
So how does Paul answer these charges? He presents the true facts. He challenges the Jews present to point out one instance that fits their charges.
- “I went up to worship I Jerusalem, and they did not find me disputing with anyone or stirring up a crowd, either in the temple or in the synagogues or in the city” (verse 13). In other words, “I was not causing riots or even having arguments.”
- “But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law an written in the Prophets, having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust” (verse 14-15). In other words, “This one I’ll own. I’m a follower of Jesus who is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophet and doesn’t contradict their own belief in the resurrection. So what’s wrong with that?”
- “So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man… They found me purified in the temple, without any crowd or tumult” (verse 16 & 18). Again, in other words, “I was minding my own business and doing exactly what the law required, including purifying myself according to the Law.”
Paul challenged those accusing him to bring those who started all this to stand before Felix too. Their absence is very obvious in this situation. They were the ones instigating all the rumors about Paul’s behavior “throughout the world” yet they didn’t see fit to testify to it before Felix. I wonder whose decision that was.
Paul did admit to being the cause of the argument in the counsel by his remarks about the resurrection. That one we can lay at his feet but it was done in self-defense and as a witness for God.
Father God, You gave Paul amazing boldness to stand in all these situations and proclaim Your truths. He didn’t back down or stretch the truth to “protect” himself. He trusted You to do that for him. Jesus promised the disciples that the Holy Spirit would do just that for them when the time came. Once again, You give me evidence to back up Your words.
When I walk according to Your word I don’t have to stretch the truth either to “defend” myself. I have never faced a situation like Paul’s but observing how You protected him gives me confidence in Your protection for me IF (maybe when) I face similar issues. Mine may not be life and death issues but standing for the truth is just as important. I want to live my whole life in Your light and truth. “Whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God” (Cor. 10:31).