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The Way – Acts 24:10-21


The Way and The Resurrection

Text: Acts  24:10-21

Caesarea, the Governor’s Court.  Felix beckons him to speak, and Paul, knowing that now he is under the protection of the court addresses his defence directly to his accusers, the Temple rulers of the Jews.  Let’s look at Paul’s defence.

Are you searching for the way? Jesus said, “I am the way…”

1 Paul’s Opening RemarksForasmuch as I know that thou hast been of many years a judge unto this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself:  

Like Tertullus, Paul opens with a salutation, but while Terulullus opens with a diatribe of crawling obeisance, lies and flattery that he knows is not true, Paul’s speech is a simple statement of the truth.  Respectfully, he states that Felix, for a long time, has been sitting in this court, judging the affairs of the Jews, and because of that, Paul is happy enough to make his case before him.  “M’Lud, – You’ve been around here long enough, to know the score.  To know these Jews, and to know the lawyer and to know that I have no record of criminal behaviour!”

2 Paul’s Defence. v12ff

Now, let’s see Paul actual defence.  Here’s what he said to the court:-

a) His Rebuttal Evidence!  He’d been charged with sedition.  He denied the charges. V12-13  Ideally, for the Jews, they would like if Paul was dismissed by the court back into their custody, for they knew that the Roman administration knew little about Jewish laws and customs and cared even less.  But Paul wants the court to make its own enquires into the truth of what the Jews have alleged against him.  So he lays before the court his case.  

  • At the Temple.  He came to Jerusalem to worship God in peace. He had no crowd or mob with him in the temple, he had made no inflammatory speeches.  He had come to have fellowship with the Jews, not to enter into dispute with them.
  • In the City. At Jerusalem he had been peaceful and quiet and kept himself to himself. He had no political party, to cause sedition, was not found in dispute with anyone in Jerusalem, never picked a quarrel with any one.   cf 2 Corinthians 10:4  

So Paul maintains his own innocency against the charges of Tertullus and the Jews..  

b) His Theological Evidence.  Paul now turns to what he considers to be the real reason for the Jews’ persecution of him.  The Jews had charged him with heresy – being a leader in a deviant sect of Judaism.  Note carefully:-

  • The Gospel is a way of life! v14  The Jews had claimed Christianity is a deviant sect of Judaism.  Something to be suppressed and brought into line, by the persecution and prosecution of its leaders.  It’s not!  It is THE WAY.  It is a new life in Christ, a completely new way to live.  And there is no other way to eternal life. Cf John 14:6.  It was how the Christian life was referred to in the early church, cf Acts 19:23 Acts 22:4.   
  • The Gospel is the fulfilment of the OT.  Paul stresses that he believed all the OT! believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets: This is vital.  As Christians, we like Paul believe all the law and the prophets.  So Paul worships the God of the OT, the same as we do, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, the God who revealed himself to Moses in the Burning Bush, the God whom the Jews had rejected over and over again, the God who fulfilled all the promises of the OT when he sent His own Son into this world to be our Saviour.  In fact it was not Paul who was part of a deviant sect –  that was these Jews themselves!  Christianity is the legitimate fulfilment of the OT.
  • The Gospel declares the resurrection of the dead.  v15 This is the only time that Paul affirms his belief in the simultaneous resurrection of both the just and the unjust.  There are , of course, many Christians who believe in two separate resurrections.  They believe that there will be a ‘rapture,’ when Christ shall return, and the dead in Christ alone shall be raised, – then, after a period of years, perhaps seven years, the remainder of the dead will be raised, to perhaps participate in a great battle, and to face eternal damnation.  They partially base this on  1 Corinthians 15:23 and 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18,  But that’s not what Paul believed, as we see in his defence before Felix. ‘there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.’ Remember he was addressing the orthodox OT beliefs of the Jews.  They derived that belief from, Daniel 12:2  That was the orthodox Jewish position on the resurrection.  It was Paul’s position too – if he believed otherwise, – that it was a resurrection for Christians only – a Rapture, his defence would fall and the Jew’s case would be proved – this man is part of a deviant sect!  Incidentally, Jesus too affirmed this orthodox OT position on the resurrection, in John 5:28-29   So, why then in his letter did he talk about the resurrection of believers only?  Because of CONTEXT.  He’s writing to Christians.  And that’s the whole tenor of the 1st Thess passage, – that’s why he advises them to ‘comfort one another with these words.’  There’s NO comfort on that day for unbelievers!
  • The Gospel deals with the conscience! v16  Even those who don’t know the law, have a God given sense of right and wrong. It’s called the conscience, Romans 2:12-15 and it bothers us when we sin – and we are forced to obey it or ignore it.  We are without excuse before God.  But Paul’s conscience is clear!  How?  Is it because he has fully kept the law or because he has reached such a state of perfection that he never sins?  NO (As we have seen!). It is because of CHRIST.  It is because all of our sins are forgiven in Jesus alone.  Hebrews 9:14  

So Paul has presented his rebuttal of Tertullus, and his theological arguments to the court.  Finally we must see:-

c) His Legal Evidence. We must make a few brief references, that you can follow up later in your personal study:-

  • Paul’s honest intention. v17   Paul raises the issue of his collection for the saints here, and Luke records it as part of his defence, it could be PROVED.
  • Paul’s wrongful arrest.  It would be easy to prove that his arrest in the temple was unwarranted.  The temple records would show what he had been up to – he was observing the Jewish purification ritual with four other men.  v18  He had no mob with him, and had started no riot.  It could be PROVED.
  • Paul’s false accusers.  Where were the eye-witnesses, the Jews from Asia who had initiated the original arrest in the Temple courts?  Shouldn’t they be standing in the witness box? 19-20 The Jews weren’t there at the time.  It could be PROVED!  
  • Paul’s admission of guilt. There was one thing that Paul was guilty of, and which the Temple delegation could prove, and one thing alone, and that was that Paul had shouted, in the presence of the priests, that he believed in the resurrection of the dead.  If that was an offence – then he’s guilty, – but he knew that under Roman Law, no offence had been committed.

So, the trial has progressed, and Paul has answered the charges put to him.  Legally the Jews have no case.  But as we shall see, Paul will be remanded under house arrest, and that will bring him yet another opportunity to witness for Christ.

© Bob McEvoy October 2021

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