Key Verse: 24:15
“...and I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.
In chapter 24 Paul stands on trial again. By observation he is a prisoner with little hope. However in his defense he shares his hope that God will raise both the righteous and the wicked. Moreover he was a prisoner under Governor Felix. He could have pleaded with Felix to free him. Instead he used his time with the governor to study the Bible with him. Tomorrow begins a new semester. From Paul let us begin the semester by being remind of placing our hope in God for the resurrection. Also let us learn the importance to keep studying the Bible for ourselves and with others.
Part 1. I Have the Same Hope in God as These Men….
Verse 1 tells us: “Five days later the high priest Ananias went down to Caesarea with some of the elders and a lawyer named Tertullus, and they brought their charges against Paul before the governor.” Ananias and the elders’ plot to kill Paul with the help of 40 Al Queda-type of fanatics failed. Jesus was faithful to his promise to protect Paul by using 470 armed Roman soldiers. Now Ananias and the elders hoped to kill Paul through the use of the Roman judicial system and a lawyer named Tertullus. Tertullus was one of those lawyers who could make someone as harmless as Mother Teresa look like a traitor and serial murderer. Look how this man begins to soften up Felix to their side of the case. Verses 2b-4 he tells Felix. His opening remarks flatter the governor to the point of nausea. Felix was no less a barbaric ruler than Herod was. The peace and reforms he brought to Israel was through the use of slaughtering anyone who opposed him. For Tertullus this was a good thing. He knew all he had to do was to paint Paul out to be an enemy to Felix’s reforms; Felix would feel compelled to executed Paul.
Now let us look at the charges Tertullus brings against Paul. Verses 5-8 he tells the court. Looking at these charges unemotionally we find they are unsubstantiated accusations filled with words such as troublemaker, stirring up riots, ringleader and desecrate the temple. Tertullus knew the famous Pax Romana or the peace of Rome was established by Roman rulers’ brutal execution of all suspected troublemakers and ringleaders. Normally Tertullus’ crafty use of words would allow him win his cases even if there was no truth to them. This day in court was different. Felix wasn’t so easily swayed. We find out why in verse 22: “Felix was already well acquainted with the Way.” Felix knew if there was one group of people who never caused trouble it was those who followed the Way. Therefore Felix allowed Paul his turn to make a defense. First Paul categorically denies every charge just made against him based on time, place, motive and evidence. Verse 10b Paul begins: “I know that for a number of years you have been a judge over this nations; so I gladly make my defense.” Paul was glad to make his defense before Felix, because he knew being a judge wasn’t something new for Felix. Paul believed Felix's experience as a judge would allow him to easily recognize the truth. Verse 11 “You can easily verify that no more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship.” There were many witnesses who could testify Paul’s only purpose in Jerusalem was to worship God in the temple. Paul said: “My accusers did not find me arguing with anyone at the temple, or stirring up a crowd in the synagogues or anywhere else in the city. And they cannot prove to you the charges they are not making.” Basically in this part of Paul’s defense he is saying: None of the charges Tertullus so eloquently brought against him could be proven. Actually the only reason these charges are brought against Paul is because he belongs to Jesus. Sometimes we Christians find it difficult to understand why people hate us just because we believe in Jesus. What we should remember is that if the world hated Jesus then of course it will continue to hate anyone who belongs to Jesus. Hate from the world is actually the badge of identification proving we belong to Jesus Christ.
Paul could have ended his defense here if he only thought about getting himself out of this situation. Paul however was Jesus Christ sounding board. He was now given the opportunity to testify and he was not going to use it to testify about God’s truth. Look at verse 14: “However, I admit that I worship the God of our fathers as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect.” Tertullus called Paul a ringleader of a Nazarene sect. That would be like someone calling UBF a cult. It was made to make Paul ashamed of his following Jesus Christ and the work he did for Jesus Christ. Paul wanted it to be known he wasn’t ashamed. He admitted he worshipped the God of our fathers as a follower of the Way. He was proud to worship God through Jesus Christ. Have you noticed it is easy for people to say God bless you. How often do you hear people say; “God bless you through Jesus Christ.”? People are too ashamed to use the name of Jesus Christ. We’re afraid to use Jesus Christ name for fear people may label us as being part of a cult. Nevertheless the only way to worship God or follow God is through Jesus Christ. Jesus said in John 14:6: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to Father except through me.” Without Jesus no one can come to God. It was when Jesus died on the cross the curtain that separated the Holy God from all men was torn in two from top to bottom. This curtain represented the wall of separation between God and men because of sin. God tore this curtain into two when he arranged his one and only Son Jesus to die for our sins on the cross. The question now is; "Are you or I too ashamed to admit we worship God through Jesus Christ?” If someone gave us an opportunity to talk about our faith, would we say: I believe in God and leave it at that. Or would we go that one more critical step and say: “Yes, I believe or I worship God through Jesus Christ.” Paul didn’t end his confession of faith here. He adds in verse 14b: “I believe everything that agrees with the Law and that is written in the prophets.” Paul’s faith in Jesus Christ was not just based on his personal experience. Most importantly it was rooted in Scripture.
Now look at verse 15: “and I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.” As a prisoner Paul could have hoped God would foil his enemies and work to set him free. Instead he helped all who listened to him share in his hope God would one day raise both the righteous and the wicked. This is true hope in God. True hope in God is when we no longer can hope in men or ourselves. The only hope left is hope in God. This hope comes in the form of hoping God will raise both the righteous and the wicked. No man alive can raise the dead. Especially those who have died cannot raise the dead. Only almighty eternal God can raise the dead. If we can really have hope God will raise both the righteous and the wicked then we can have hope God can do all things. For apostle Paul this hope in God had dramatic effect on his life. Look at verse 16: “So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.” The resurrection of the righteous and the wicked has serious implications for every single person who lives on this earth. God raises the righteous as his show of faithfulness to them. He then brings them to live with him forever in his kingdom. He will also raise the wicked to hand out his eternal punishment to them. No wicked person can escape God’s punishment. It is an undeniable principle of life what we reap what we sow. If we allow Jesus to use our lives to sow God’s righteousness we will reap eternal life. On the other hand if we use our lives to sow wickedness we will reap destruction. How did Paul make sure he used his life to sow for righteousness? Look at verse 16: “So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.” It is no easy life to keep our conscious clear before God and man. We need God’s help. We must pray daily Jesus will help us to keep our conscience clear before God and man. Then we can live with a joyful hope in God that he will one day, at his right time raise both the righteous and the wicked.”
Part 2. Paul Studies the Bible with Felix.
When Paul was done with his defense, verses 22-24 read: Because Felix was well acquainted with the Way” he knew Paul’s defense was true. Nevertheless Felix was not only a judge he was a politician. He found himself in a dilemma of not wanting to condemn Paul at the same time leaving the Jews feel he would help them in this matter. Therefore he kept Paul in prison hoping the Jews’ anger and rage over this matter would soon die down.
Look at verse 24: “Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Jesus Christ. Paul was a prisoner. Felix was a free man and a governor. This did not discourage Paul to share with Felix and his wife their need to have faith in Jesus Christ. Many people are very successful in this life without Jesus Christ. While many who have faith in Jesus Christ are poor in this life. The Christians’ poor life in this life should not discourage them from sharing faith in Jesus Christ with those who look successful. From the president of the United States to the professor to the homeless person to the prisoner inside a jail everyone needs faith in Jesus Christ. Paul explained in Romans 1:16 why he was never ashamed to speak about faith in Jesus Christ. “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” Found in faith in Jesus Christ is the power of God for Salvation. Salvation is not the only gift of God associated with faith in Jesus Christ. Look at verse 25: “As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, ‘That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.’” First, notice the points Paul discoursed in; Righteousness, self-control and judgment to come. Paul as a spiritual Bible teacher could see Felix needed to work on these three areas in his faith in Christ. For example self-control is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless Paul had a discourse in it. Felix had married three wives. We can imagine he was like Donald Trump who keeps divorcing one beautiful wife for another whenever he was bored with one wife and turned on by another woman. All people have different areas we must work on in this area of self-control. For example I find when I’m working on my car I become easily angered with my family when they do not do exactly what I want. I must work more on being more self-controlled with my quick tamper. Others need to work on self –control on watching videos, TV and doing things like shopping. Many students have failed out of school because they spent all their time on extra curricular activities. Self-control is a gift our faith in Jesus Christ gives us. However like all gifts we lose it if we do not use it.
Ultimately the judgment to come is why we should come to Jesus and pray to accept faith in Christ. Just as a final exam always is to come in every class we take, God’s judgment is an event one day we will have to face.
Look again at verse 25: “As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” Felix was convicted of his sin. He should have repented. But he postponed until a more convenient time. He is like some who study the Bible until it touches their sin problem. Then they say, “Don’t call me. I will call you when I am ready.” The gospel requires a personal decision to repent and believe in Jesus. Parents cannot do this for their children. Shepherds cannot do this for their sheep. Sooner or later each person must decide to accept Jesus Christ. Those who postpone this decision run a great risk. We don’t know if we will live through tomorrow. What the future holds for our life is uncertain. The only thing that is certain Hebrews 9:27 teaches is that all men are destined to die once and after that to face judgment.
Verse 27 shows us what the future held for Felix: “When two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, but because Felix wanted to grant a favor to the Jews, he left Paul in prison.” Felix lost his job as governor. Some people believe he was executed in Rome. Felix lived in indecision for two years. Then his indecision became a rejection of Christ. Without Christ he could not escape the fires of hell.
In this passage we learn we should place our hope in God for the resurrection of the righteous and the wicked. This semester let us place our hope in God. We must also accept faith in Jesus Christ today. Only in this way can we at all times be ready for the judgment to come.