The high priest Ananias came down for Ananias the high priest descended, A.V.; certain elders for the elders, A.V. and T.R.; an orator, one Tertullus for a certain orator named Tertullus, A.V.; and they for who, A.V. After five days. Of which the first was the day on which St. Paul left Jerusalem, and the fifth that on which Ananias and his companions appeared before Felix (see Acts 24:11, note). Tertullus. A Latin name, formed from Tertius, as Lucullus from Lucius, Catullus from Catius, etc. Informed; ἐμφανίζω, in the sense of "laying an information" before a magistrate, only occurs elsewhere in Acts 25:2, Acts 25:15 (see above, Acts 23:15, note).
Called for called forth, A.V.; much peace for great quietness, A.V.; evils are corrected for for very worthy deeds are done unto, A.V. and T.R.; there is also a change in the order of the words, by thy providence is placed at the beginning instead of at the end of the sentence. When he was called. We see here the order of the trial. As soon as the charge is laid against, the prisoner, he is called into court, to hear what his accusers have to say against him, and as it follows at Acts 24:10, to make his defense (see Acts 25:16). We enjoy much peace. The groan flattery of this address of the hired orator, placed at the beginning of his speech, in order to win the favor of the judge, is brought into full light by comparing Tacitus's account of the misconduct of Felix in Samaria in the reign of Claudius, who he says, thought he might commit any crime with impunity, and by his proceedings nearly caused a civil war ('Annah,' 12.54); and his character of him as a ruler of boundless cruelty and profligacy, using the power of a king with the temper of a slave ('Hist' 5. 9.); and Josephus s statement that no sooner was Felix recalled from his government than the chief men among the Jews at Caesarea went up to Rome to accuse him before Nero, when he narrowly escaped punishment through the influence of his brother Pallas. By thy providence. "Providentia Caesaris" is a common legend on Roman coins (Alford). Evils are corrected. The reading of the R.T., διορθώματα, meaning "reforms," occurs only here, but, like the kindred κατορθώματα of the T.R., is a medical term. διόρθωσις, reformation, is found in Hebrews 9:10. The κατορθώματα of the T.R. (which also occurs nowhere else in the New Testament) means, in its classical use, either "successful actions" or "right actions;" κατορθόω is to "bring things to a successful issue." Possibly Tertullus may have had in view the successful attack on the Egyptian impostor (see Acts 21:38, note), or the wholesale crucifixion of Sicarii and other disturbers of the public peace.
In all ways for always, A.V.; excellent for noble, A.V. Meyer connects in all ways and in all places with the preceding διορθωμάτων γινομένων: "reforms and improvements that have taken place on all sides and in all places." πάντῃ or πάντη, found only here in the New Testament, means "on all sides," " in every direction."
But for notwithstanding, A.V.; I entreat thee for I pray thee, A.V.; to hear for that thou wouldest hear, A.V. Of thy clemency ( τῇ σῇ ἐπιεικείᾳ). The word is rendered "gentleness" in 2 Corinthians 10:1, where alone it occurs in the New Testament; ἐπιείκης is most frequently rendered "gentle" (l Timothy 2 Corinthians 3:3 (R.V.); Titus 3:2; James 3:17; 1 Peter 2:18). A few words. The Greek has συντόμως, briefly, concisely, found only here in the New Testament, but common in classical Greek and especially in medical writers, where it means "rapidly," "in a short time."
Insurrection for sedition, A.V. and T.R. We have found ( εὑρόντες). The construction of the sentence is an anacoluthon. The participle is not followed, as it should be, by a finite verb, ἐκρατήσαμεν (in Acts 24:6), but the construction is changed by the influence of the interposed sentence, "who moreover assayed to profane the temple," and so, instead of ἐκρατήσαμεν αὐτόν, we have ὅν καὶ ἐκρατήσαμεν. A pestilent fellow ( λοιμόν); literally, a pestilence; as we say, "a pest," "a plague," or "a nuisance," like the Latin pestis. It only occurs here in the New Testament, but is of frequent use in the LXX., as e.g. 1 Samuel 2:12, 1 Samuel 10:27, and 1 Samuel 25:25, υἱοὶ λοιμοὶ, "sons of Belial;" 1 Macc. 10:61; 15:3 ἄνδρες λοιμοί: and 15:21, simply λοιμοὶ (rendered "pestilent fellows" in the A.V.), and elsewhere as the rendering of other Hebrew words. It is occasionally used also in this sense by classical writers. A mover of insurrections ( στάσεις, R.T.). This was the charge most likely to weigh with a Roman procurator in the then disturbed and turbulent state of the Jewish mind (camp. Luke 23:2; John 19:12). Felix himself had had large experience of Jewish insurrections. The Jewish riots at Philippi (Acts 16:20), at Thessalonica (Acts 17:6), at Corinth (Acts 18:12), at Ephesus (Acts 19:29), and at Jerusalem (Acts 21:30), would give color to the accusation. The world ( ἥ οἰκουμένη). The Roman, or civilized, world (Luke 2:1; Luke 4:5, etc.). Ringleader; πρωτοστάτης, only here in the New Testament, but used by the LXX. in Job 15:24, and not uncommon in classical Greek, as a military term, equivalent to the first, i.e. the right-hand man in the line. Also, in the plural, the soldiers in the front rank. The sect of the Nazarenes. As our Lord was contemptuously called "The Nazarene "(Matthew 26:71), so the Jews designated his disciples" Nazarenes." They would not admit that they were Christians, i.e. disciples of the Messiah.
Moreover assayed for also hath gone about, A.V.; on whom also we laid hold for whom we took, A.V. To profane the temple. The same false charge as was made in Acts 21:28. The remainder of Acts 21:6, after the words "on whom we laid hold," the whole of Acts 21:7, and the first clause of Acts 21:8, are omitted in the R.T. on the authority of א, A, B, G, H, etc. But the propriety of the omission is doubtful (Alford, Bishop Jacobson, Plumptre), though sanctioned by Mill, Bengel, Griesbach, Lachmann, and Tisehendorf (Meyer). If the words are not genuine, it is a marvelously skilful interpolation, fitting into the place so exactly both at the beginning and at the end, and supplying a manifest want in the speech of Tertullus. (For the statement in Acts 21:8 A.V., camp. Acts 23:30.)
From whom thou wilt be able, by examining him thyself, to take for by examining of whom thyself mayest take, A.V. According to the R.V., whom refers to St. Paul, but according to the A.V., to Lysias. This last agrees with Acts 24:22. By examining him; ἀνακρίνας (Luke 23:1-56. 14; Acts 4:9; Acts 12:19; Acts 17:11; Acts 28:18; elsewhere only in St. Paul's Epistles). In Acts 25:26 the kindred ἀνάκρισις, examination, is used.
Joined in the charge for assented, A.V. and T.R.; affirming for saying, A.V. Joined in the charge. The reading of the R.T., συνεπέθεντο, means "joined in the attack upon," as in the LXX. of Deuteronomy 32:27 ("behave themselves strangely," A.V.); Psalms 3:6 (Codex Alexandrinus; "set themselves against me," A.V.) The συνέθεντο of the T.R. means "agreed" (as John 9:22), "assented."
And when the governor, etc., Paul answered for then Paul, after that the governor, etc., answered, A.V.; cheerfully for the more cheerfully, A.V. and T.R.; make my defense for answer for myself, A.V. Forasmuch as I know, etc. St. Paul, with inimitable skill, pitched upon the one favorable side of his judge's person, viz. his long experience in Jewish affairs, and made it the subject of his opening reference—a courteous and conciliatory reference, in striking contrast with the false, fulsome flattery of Tertullus. Of many years. If Paul was speaking in the year A.D. 58, and Felix had been governor only since A.D. 53, "many years" was rather an hyperbole. But Tacitus expressly states that Felix was joint procurator with Cumanus; and therefore he had been a judge to the Jewish nation long before the banishment of Cumanus. Tacitus's authority is infinitely superior to that of Josephus, and this passage strongly supports the statement of Tacitus ('Annal.,' 12.54). Make my defense ( τὰ περὶ ἐμαυτοῦ ἀπολογοῦμαι). For the word ἀπολογοῦμαι, and for the situation of St. Paul, and for the gracious promise provided for such situation, see Luke 12:12; Luke 21:15; see too Acts 19:33; Acts 25:8; Acts 26:1-32. l, 2; and for the use of ἀπολογία, see Acts 22:1, note.
Seeing that thou canst take knowledge for because that thou mayest understand, A.V. and T.R.; it is act more than for there are yet but, A.V.; I went up to worship at Jerusalem for I went up to Jerusalem for to worship, A.V. Twelve days. These days may be thus reckoned:
Neither in the temple did they find me for they neither found me in the temple, A.V.; or stirring up a crowd for neither raising up the people, A.V.; nor … nor for neither … nor, A.V. Stirring up a crowd. The reading of the R.T. is ἐπίστασιν ποιοῦντα ὄχλου, which must mean "a stoppage of the crowd," in which sense it is a medical term. But Meyer thinks it is a mere clerical error for the reading of the T.R. ἐπισύστασιν, which is used in the LXX for "a tumultuous assembly" (Numbers 26:9; 3 Esdr. 25:9), and in Josephus, 'Contr. Apion.,' 1.20, of a conspiracy or revolt. In the LXX. also the verb ἐπισυνίσταμαι means "to rise in revolt against" (Numbers 14:25; Numbers 16:19; Numbers 26:9).
Prove to thee for prove, A.V. Prove ( παραστῆσαι); see Acts 1:3, note.
A sect for heresy, A.V.; serve for worship, A.V.; our for my, A.V. (my is better, as following "I serve," and addressed to a Roman judge); which are according to the Law, and which are written in the prophets for which are written in the Law and in the prophets, A.V. A sect, This, of course, refers to this expression of Tertullus in Acts 24:5, πρωτοστάτης τῆς τῶν ναζωραίων αἱρέσεως, "Ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes." The word αἵρεσις, which means primarily "choice," has not necessarily or even ordinarily a bad sense. In classical Greek its secondary sense was a "sect" or "school" of philosophy, Academics, Peripatetics, Stoics, Epicureans, etc. The Jews applied it to their own different schools of thought. So in Acts 5:17 we read, αἵρεσις τῶν σαδδουκαίων, "The sect of the Sadducees;" in Acts 15:5, αἵρεσις τῶν φαρισαίων, "The sect of the Pharisees;" in Acts 26:5 St. Paul speaks of himself as having been a Pharisee, κατὰ τὴν ἀκριβεστάτην αἵρεσιν τῆς ἡμετέρας θρησκείας, "After the straitest sect of our religion" (see too Acts 28:22). It begins to have a bad sense in St. Paul's Epistles (1 Corinthians 11:19; Galatians 5:20; and 2 Peter 2:1, αἱρέσεις ἀπωλείας, where, however, it gets its bad sense from the ἀπωλείας joined to it). In ecclesiastical writers it came to have its worst sense of "heresy" as something worse even than "schism.'' In this reference to Tertullus's phrase, St. Paul seems hardly to admit that Christianity was properly called "a sect" by the Jews, but gives it the milder term of "the Way" (see Acts 9:2, note). The God of our [my] father ( τῷ πατρῳ θεῷ); comp. Galatians 1:14; and Acts 22:3; Acts 28:17. Observe how St. Paul throughout insists that, in becoming a Christian, he had not been disloyal to Moses, or the Law, or the prophets, or to the religion of his fathers, but quite the contrary. According to the Law. κατὰ τὸν νόμον may mean either, as in the R.V., "according to the Law," or, as Meyer takes it, "throughout the Law," and then is better coupled, as in the A.V., with τοῖς γεγραμμένοις. The Law, and … the prophets (as Matthew 5:17; Luke 24:27, Luke 24:44).
Having for and have, A.V.; these also themselves look for for they themselves also allow, A.V.; resurrection for resurrection of the dead, A.V. and T.R. Which these also themselves look for (see Acts 23:6). Both of the just, etc. This is distinctly taught in Daniel 12:2 (comp. Matthew 25:46; John 5:29).
Herein … also for and hereby, A.V. and T.R.; to have a conscience … always for to hare always, etc., A.V.; and men for and toward men, A.V. (For the sentiment, comp. Acts 23:1.) Herein ( ἐν τόυτῳ); i.e. on this account, under these circumstances supplying the ground and cause of my action (comp. John 16:30). So, too, Matthew 6:7, ἐν τῇ πολυλογίᾳ αὐτῶν means "On account of their much speaking." I exercise myself; ἀσκῶ, here only in the New Testament, but frequent in medical writers for "to practice" the medical art.
After many years; or, several years. St. Paul's last visit to Jerusalem was that mentioned in Acts 18:22. Since then he had spent "some time" ( χρόνον τινά) at Antioch, had gone over all the country of Phrygia and Galatia, had come to Ephesus, and stopped between two and three years there, had gone through Macedonia, had spent three months at Corinth, had returned to Macedonia, and from thence had come to Jerusalem in about fifty days. All which must have occupied four or five years—from A.D. 54 to A.D. 58—according to most chronologers. Evidently Paul had not been plotting seditious movements at Jerusalem, where he had only ,arrived twelve days before, for a purely benevolent and pious purpose, after an absence of four or five years Alms … and offerings. Those of which he speaks in 1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8:1-24; Romans 15:25, Romans 15:26, Romans 15:31. To this may be added "the charges" for which he made himself answerable for the poor Nazarites (Acts 21:24, Acts 21:26).
Amidst which for whereupon, A.V. and T.R.; they found me purified in the temple with no crowd, nor yet with tumult: but there were certain Jews from Asia for certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with multitude, nor with tumult, A.V. and T.R. Amidst which ( ἐν αἶς, R.T.) refers to the alms and offerings The T.R. has ἐν οἶς, "under which circumstances," "at the transaction of which deeds," or, briefer, "whereupon," A.V. But there were. Most manuscripts followed by the R.T., read τινὲς δὲ ἀπὸ τῆς ασίας, thus giving a broken unfinished sentence instead of the plain and complete one of the T.R., which agrees, moreover, exactly with Acts 21:27.
To make accusation for object, A.V. The sense is exactly the same.
Men themselves for same here, A.V.; what wrong-doing they found for if they have found any evil doing in me, A.V. and T.R.; when for while, A.V. Let these men themselves. Since the Asiatic Jews are not here to bear witness, let these men who are here speak for themselves as to what they witnessed in the Sanhedrim.
Before you for by you, A.V. and T.R. ( ἐπί for ὑπό). Except ( ἤ): ἄλλο, else, is understood after τί, so that ἤ is equivalent to εἴ μή. Touching the resurrection (see Acts 23:6, where the exact words are," Touching the hope and resurrection of the dead, I am called in question ").
But Felix, having more exact knowledge concerning the Way, deferred them, saying for and whoa Felix heard these things having more perfect knowledge of that way, he deferred them, and said, A.V. and T.R.; determine for know the uttermost of, A.V. Having more exact knowledge, etc. At Caesarea, Felix must have seen and heard something of Christianity. The conversion of Cornelius with his household and friends, men belonging to the dominant Roman power; the work of Philip the evangelist, residing probably for some years at Caesarea, and working among Romans as well as Jews, must have given Felix some knowledge of "the Way." He would learn something, too, both of Judaism and Christianity from Drusilla, his wife (verse 24, note). When Lysias … shall come (see verses 7, 8, and note). I will determine ( διαγνώσομαι); see above, Acts 23:15, where the verb is in the active voice, and is rendered in the R.V. "to judge." The idea of the word is "to know with discrimination;" and this is the sense it has in medical writers, who use it very frequently; as e.g. Galen says, πρῶτον γὰρ διαγνῶναι χρὴ τί ποτέ ἐστὶ πάθος (quoted by Hobart). Hence the "diagnosis" of an illness (Acts 23:1-35. 15).
Gave order to the for commanded a, A.V.; that he should be kept in charge for to keep Paul, A.V. and T.R.; and should hare indulgence for and to let him have liberty, A.V.; not to forbid any of his friends for that he should forbid none of his acquaintance, A.V.; to minister unto him for to minister or come unto him, A.V. and T.R. Indulgence ( ἄνεσις); literally, relaxation, viz. of the prison restraints and confinement. The word is used in the LXX. of 2 Chronicles 23:15, ἔδωκαν αὐτῃ ἄνεσιν, i.e. those who had taken Athaliah prisoner, "let her loose" till she got out of the temple court. It is also a common medical term for the cessation or remission of pain or disease. St. Paul uses it four times in his Epistles for "rest" or "ease" (2 Corinthians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 7:5; 2 Corinthians 8:13; 2 Thessalonians 1:7). Doubtless St. Luke was thus enabled to be much with St. Paul during his imprison merit, and, as suggested above, to have his help in writing his Gospel.
But for and, A.V.; Felix came for when Felix came, A.V.; Drusilla, his wife for his wife Drusilla, A.V.; and sent for he sent, A.V.; Christ Jesus for Christ, A.V. and T.R. Came; παραγενόμενος, a very favorite word with St. Luke, occurring twenty-nine times in his Gospel and the Acts. It implies that Felix had been absent from Caesarea for some days after the trial. Drusilla. She was, according to Josephus ('Ant. Jud.,' 20. 7.1, 2) the daughter of Herod Agrippa I., who "killed James with the sword" (Acts 12:1, Acts 12:2), and died shortly afterwards. She was first the wife of Azizus, King of Emesa; but Felix, becoming enamored of her on account of her singular beauty, employed a certain magician, a Jew named Simon, to entice her away from her husband, and persuade her to marry him, contrary, as Josephus says, to the institutions of her country. She perished, with Agrippa, her only son by Felix, in the eruption of Vesuvius, in the reign of Titus (Josephus, as above). Tacitus says that Drusilla, the wife of Felix, was granddaughter of Antony and Cleopatra. But he seems to have confounded her with another of the three royal wives of Felix, mentioned by Suetonius in 'Claudius;' unless, perchance, as has been conjectured, be had two wives of the name of Drusilla, of whom one was, as Tacitus says, granddaughter of Antony, by being the daughter of King Juba and Cleopatra Selene, Antony's daughter (see note in Whiston's 'Josephus,' and in Kuinoel, on Acts 23:24). But there is no certainty on the subject. Only Josephus's detailed account of Drusilla, the wife of Felix, agrees with St. Luke's statement that she "was a Jewess," and is beyond doubt true.
And temperance for temperance, A.V.; the judgment for judgment, A.V.; was terrified for trembled, A.V.; and when for when, A.V.; call thee unto me for call for thee, A.V.
Withal for also, A.V.; would be for should have been, A.V.; that he might loose him is omitted in the R.T. and R.V.; wherefore also for wherefore, A.V. Sent for him the oftener. The mixture of conviction with covetousness in the mind of Felix as the motive for seeing Paul is observable. As in other cases of double-mindedness, the convictions were doubtless stifled by the corrupt avarice, and so came to nothing.
When two years were fulfilled for after two years, A.V.; Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus for Porcius Festus came ,into Felix' room, A.V.; desiring to gain favor with the Jews for willing to show the Jews a pleasure, A.V.; in bonds for bound, A.V.; Felix is also transposed. Was succeeded by; ἔλαβε διάδοχον. This word occurs only here in the New Testament, but is used twice in Ecclesiasticus. It is also, as above noted, the identical word used by Josephus of Festus. But in Acts 25:1 Festus's government is called an ἐπαρχία, and Josephus ('Ant. Jud.,' 20. 8.11) calls Festus an ἔπαρχος, instead of the more usual ἐπίτροπος. Could Josephus have seen the Acts of the Apostles? Porcius Fetus. Josephus speaks of him as sent by Nero to be the "successor" ( διάδοχος) of Felix ('Ant. Jud.,' 20. 8.9; 'Bell. Jud.,' 2. 14.1). Nothing is known of him from Tacitus or other Latin historians, and he appears from Josephus's account to have held the government for a very short time, probably less than two years, when he died ('Ant. Jud.,' 20. 9.1). But the impression derived from Josephus is the same as that conveyed by St. Luke, that he was a just and upright ruler, in marked contrast with Felix his predecessor, and his successors Albinus and Gessius Florus. Desiring to gain favor χάριτι καταθέσθαι); literally, to lay up in store good will, or favor, or a boon, to be requited at some future period. A frequent phrase in the best classical authors. Felix had good reason thus to try and put the Jews under obligation to him at the close of his government. For the danger was great to the retiring governor of complaints being sent to the emperor of oppression and plunder, which were often listened to and punished. Josephus relates, in point of fact, that the chief Jews in Caesarea sent an embassy to Rome to lodge a charge against Felix before Nero; and that he only escaped punishment by the influence of his brother Pallas ('Ant. Jud.,' 20. 8.9).
The scene in this chapter is a very striking one, depicted with admirable simplicity and force. The bloated slave sitting on the seat of judgment and power, representing all the worst vices of Roman degeneracy. The beads of the sinking Jewish commonwealth, blinded by bigotry and nearly mad with hatred, forgetting for the moment their abhorrence of their Roman masters, in their yet deeper detestation of the Apostle Paul. The hired advocate with his fulsome flattery, his rounded periods, and his false charges. And then the great apostle, the noble confessor, the finished Christian gentleman, the pure-minded, upright, and fearless man, pleading his own cause with consummate force and dignity, and overawing his heathen judge by the majesty of his character. It is a graphic description of s very noble scene.
"Not this man, but Barabbas."
There are many gradations of the truth stated in 1 Samuel 21:7, "The Lord sooth not as man seeth," and the corresponding truth, "That which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God." But both passages mark distinctly how often the judgment of man diverges from the judgment of God, or in other words, how far men often are from "judging righteous judgment" concerning persons and things which come under their notice. This false or erroneous judgment proceeds from two causes. The first is the comparative ignorance of man. He forms his judgment oftentimes on insufficient grounds. His mental vision only takes in a portion, sometimes a very small portion, of the materials upon which a sound judgment should be based. In the instances to which 1 Samuel 16:7 refers, Samuel, judging by the fair looks and commanding stature of Eliab, thought he must be fit to be the ruler of Israel. His eye could not discern the heart, the hidden character of the man. And so it continually happens. We base our judgments on insufficient premises, being ignorant of those things which, if known, would influence them m an opposite direction. The practical lesson to be drawn from this view of the erroneous judgments of men is threefold.
1. To be diligent in adding to our knowledge whenever we are called upon to form a judgment.
2. To be always diffident and modest in regard to our own conclusions.
3. Whenever our judgments do not agree with those of Holy Scripture, to be sure that the disagreement arises from our own ignorance, and to submit ourselves accordingly. But the second cause of men's erroneous judgments is not mere ignorance, but injustice and unfairness of mind. Men misjudge others because they are influenced by hatred, prejudice, self-interest, and other corrupt motives. They are like the unjust judges spoken of by Isaiah (v. 23), "who justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him." A large part of the favorable and unfavorable judgments of the world are of this character. We have a typical example of this in the chapter before us. Here are two men standing on the stage of observation. One is Felix. We know him as a cruel, licentious, unrighteous man, steeped in blood, rich by oppression, profligate in conduct. We know him as one the meanness of whose servile origin broke through the crust of the splendor of his official greatness. We know him as a man raised to power by the most corrupt and shameful influences which have ever prevailed in national affairs, and abusing that power to the utmost under the screen of an infamous security. By his side stands another man, certainly one of the greatest figures among the great men of the world, and one of the very best among the very good of the children of men. It is the Apostle Paul. For his mighty victories in the world of mind and spirit he might have borne surnames from provinces of the Fast and of the West, more glorious than those of the Africani and Germanici of the Roman commonwealth. For energy of action, for dauntless courage, for inexhaustible resource, for masterful vigor of character, for lofty eloquence, for influence over the minds of other men, he stands abreast with the greatest of the earth's heroes. For absolute disinterestedness, for unsullied purity, for overflowing benevolence, for ardent and glowing kindness, for self-sacrifice, for self-restraint, for uprightness, for truth, for generosity, for laborious well-doing, for consistency of life, for perseverance through every hindrance and contradiction in a sublime and noble purpose, for tenderness and faithfulness to friends, and for ungrudging service to his Divine Master, where shall we find his equal? What, then, was the judgment passed on these men respectively—this Felix and this Paul? Felix is thanked and belauded for his "very worthy deeds;" Paul is "a pestilent fellow;" "Away with him from the earth: it is not fit that he should live!" And so we are reminded of another judgment, the unanimous judgment of a great multitude: "Not this man, but Barabbas!" and we are rut upon our guard against the judgments of men.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
Acts 24:1 -28, 26, 27
Malice, innocence, and power.
We have illustrated here—
I. THE WEAPONS OF MALICE.
1. Persistent hatred. It was a long journey to Caesarea, and it was a most humiliating thing, to which they were utterly averse, for the high priest and the elders to appear before the Roman judge to get their countrymen into their own power; nevertheless the undying hatred, the animosity which did not diminish by time carried them through their distasteful work.
2. Disgusting flattery (Acts 24:2, Acts 24:3).
3. Gross misrepresentation (Acts 24:5). Paul had caused no little dissension and conflict among his fellow-countrymen, but it was simple perversion of the truth to call him a "pestilent fellow," etc.
4. Offensive characterization (Acts 24:5). Paul was "a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes;" but malice put his position into the most offensive form it could command.
5. Downright falsehood (Acts 24:6). He had not "gone about to profane the temple." These various falsities came from the lips of Tertullus, but they were owned and adopted by the Jews (Acts 24:9). To such baseness malice will stoop to compass its ends; to such iniquity professed piety will condescend when inflamed by the unholy heats of bigotry.
II. THE DEFENSE OF INNOCENCE.
1. Courtesy (Acts 24:10). We may not flatter, but we must be courteous and conciliatory (1 Peter 3:8; 1 Samuel 25:23-33).
2. Straightforward statement (Acts 24:11, Acts 24:14-17). There is no better way by which to prove our integrity than telling the whole truth from beginning to end, with perfect frankness.
3. Fearless denial (Acts 24:12, Acts 24:13, Acts 24:18). We should solemnly deny, in calm and dignified language, that which is falsely alleged against us; in quietness and composure rather than in vehemence and loud protestation, is our strength.
4. Righteous challenge (Acts 24:19, Acts 24:20). We may do well to face our accusers with bold and righteous challenge (John 8:46).
III. THE PITIFULNESS OF UNRIGHTEOUSNESS IN POWER. Felix
Acts 24:15, Acts 24:16
A powerful incentive to a noble life.
Between the life of the meanest and basest men on the one hand, and that of the purest and noblest on the other, what an immeasurable spiritual space intervenes! We look here at—
I. A NOBLE HUMAN LIFE. There are those who, in the ordering of their life, never rise above
1. A lofty aim. "To have a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men." This means something more than the avoidance of the darker sins and the greater crimes, of those misdeeds which stamp a man as a sinner and a criminal in the eyes of the world. It means
2. A comprehensive view. Paul aimed to be conscientious at all times, m all things ( διὰ παντός). And we know that this was more than a figure of speech; it could hardly be said to be in any way hyperbolical. He did strive to act with a good conscience always. With whomsoever he had to do, in whatsoever he was engaged, he sought to act faithfully. And the truly noble life is one in which the humbler as well as the higher activities and endurances are regulated by holy and heavenly principles.
3. An earnest endeavor; "I exercise myself," i.e. "I strenuously endeavor," "I put forth my whole energy," "I labor." Paul's action amounted to something vastly more than an occasional sentiment or a feeble futile effort; it was an earnest aspiration spending itself in vigorous exertion. He cultivated his spiritual powers; he trained himself in holy habits; he wrestled with the adversaries of his soul; he did stern battle with the lower propensities; he strove to exhibit the graces which are dear to God, the virtues which are valuable to men.
II. A POWERFUL INCENTIVE TO LIVE IT. (Acts 24:15.) We may draw many powerful and all-sufficient incentives to rectitude from considerations which are at hand.
1. Our supreme obligation to God, the Divine Author of our being and Source of all our joy.
2. Our influence upon our fellow-men, and the effect our life has on theirs.
3. The elevated joy we have in the consciousness of rectitude, both of integrity of heart and innocency of life. But we shall do well to add this other also:
4. The hope of future blessedness; including
Acts 24:24, Acts 24:25
Rare heroism and common folly.
There are two main points well worthy of attention.
I. AN ACT OF MORAL HEROISM PARTICULARLY RARE. Paul "reasoned of righteousness, continence, and judgment to come." It requires some courage for a man to address a company of his fellows, even when he feels sure that they will be sympathetic; it demands other and far higher courage to address a number of men, when it is certain they will be unsympathetic; but it requires higher devotedness still, it demands heroism of a rare order for one man to use the language of remonstrance and rebuke when speaking to another man, particularly when that other is the stronger and higher of the two. For the poor man, the captive, the accused, the one who stood absolutely in the other's power, to "reason of righteousness, continence, and judgment to come," to the unrighteous and dissolute judge, who had so much ground for dreading the future,—for Paul thus to expostulate with Felix was heroism itself. Let us thank God that he gave us such a man, to do such a work, at such a time in the history of our race. Let us emulate his spiritual nobility. High courage is, in part, a gift to be thankfully accepted; but it is also, in part, a grace to be studiously acquired. Paul was the faithful man he proved himself at Caesarea, not only because his Creator endowed him with a fearless spirit, but because
II. AN ACT OF SPIRITUAL FOLLY PAINFULLY COMMON. "Felix trembled." His agitation should have passed at once into resolution; he should have said at once, "I will return on my way; I will turn my back on my old sins; I will be a new man, living a new life." But he did not; he made terms with his old self; he temporized; he played with his opportunity; he resorted to evasion, to self-deception; he excused himself; he said, "Go thy way; when I have," etc. O well-worn, much-trodden path of self-excuse, along whose pleasant way such thousands of travelers have gone on to their ruin! This is how we commit spiritual suicide, how we go to our death! We do not say presumptuously, "I will not;' we say feebly, falsely, fatally, "I will soon," "I will when." There are three strong reasons against delay under religious conviction.
1. It is a guilty thing. We blame our children when they hesitate or linger instead of rendering prompt and unquestioning obedience; but we are more bound than they to implicit and unhesitating obedience to the Supreme. "I will when—"means "I will not now." It is rebelliousness of spirit put in the least flagrant form; but it is still rebellion; it is a state of sin.
2. It is a delusive thing. We defer, imagining that we shall find ourselves able and willing to do the right thing further on. But we have no right to reckon on this; for:
3. It is a fatal thing. If vice has slain its thousands, and pride its thousands, surely procrastination has slain its tens of thousands. The man who is consciously and determinately refusing to serve God knows where he stands and what he is; he knows that he is a rebel against God, standing on perilous ground. But he who thinks he is about to enter the kingdom, or even dreams of so doing, shelters himself under the cover of his imaginary submission, and goes on and on, until sinful habit has him in its iron chain, or until "pale-faced Death" knocks at his door, and he is found unready.
"Oh, 'tis a mournful story,
Thus on the ear of pensive eve to tell,
Of morning's firm resolve the vanished glory,
Hope's honey left to wither in the cell,
And plants of mercy dead that might have bloomed so well."
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
Paul before Felix.
I. TERTULLUS AND PAUL: A CONTRAST. Between false and spurious eloquence. False rhetoric, as Plato taught, always owes its power to its flattering the passions of the audience. So here the orator addresses himself directly to the magistrate's self-love. It is pretty clear that Felix, instead of being the beneficent ruler he is described as being, must have been well hated by the people for his vices and oppression. Later they accused him to the emperor. Flattery is a great solvent. The great gain the little, and not less the little gain the great to their ends by it. "Great lords, by reason of their flatterers, are the first to know their own virtues, and the last to know their own vices" (Selden). "Know that flatterers are the worst kind of traitors" (Sir W. Raleigh). On the other hand, true eloquence speaks to the heart and conscience (Acts 24:10). Paul indulges Felix in no flattering complimentary titles. He respects the office and the existing order which it represents, true to his teaching in Romans 13:1-14.; but not the bad man in the office. He speaks with freedom and boldness. He avows himself the member of a despised sect. He is a Nazarene. But Christianity is no newly invented heresy, nor does the gospel depart from the faith of the fathers. Rather Christ's gospel their spiritual sum and substance, the end and goal of the old covenant. All that is true in any of our sects is continuous with the old; what is quite novel is probably not true. The simple words of Paul contain a fine defense of persecuted opinions.
1. They are not of yesterday.
2. The future belongs to them.
3. Meanwhile, the great thing we exercise is a good conscience. If they are really conscientious, force cannot put them down.
II. THE CHRISTIAN'S BEST DEFENSE.
1. "To have a conscience void of offence." Religion which does not aim at this and end in this, is vain; otherwise a mere matter of the head, or of hereditary habit, an occasion of contention and source of division, chaff without wheat, and a shadow without life. A life that will bear the inspection of men and of God, the only certificate of true religion; or rather, the endeavor for such a life. The "exercise of one's self" in worthy habits, to noble ends.
2. Hope is ever connected with the good conscience. The hope of the resurrection not a doctrine the splendor of which first appears in the New Testament pages; it appears in bright glimpses in the Old from the time of the Babylonian Captivity onward. In some form it lives and burns at the heart of all genuine faith and religion. With a joyous confession on the lips, a clear conscience in the bosom, an innocent life-record behind one, the just judgment of God before one's expectation,—here are the defenses of the Christian against the arrows of calumny.—J.
The Divine Word and the conscience.
I. LOVING THE SOUND OF THE GOSPEL, BUT NOT THE GOSPEL ITSELF. There is silver music in the message of reconciliation to man's distracted heart; but the call to repentance as the necessary condition of peace, this is discordant with passion and self-will. And there are grave errors here. Some suppose that the gospel renders the moral law superfluous; others, that the freedom of the conscience under the gospel means license; others take faithful reproof as personal affront; many are under the dominion of sense, and the will is captive to the lusts of the flesh.
II. WHY MANY NEVER BECOME SERIOUS CHRISTIANS.
1. They have not the resolution for thorough repentance, to break utterly with the evil past.
2. They neglect the acceptable time and the day of salvation. "The golden grace of the day" flees, and never comes back to them.
3. They thrust aside the thought of judgment to come. Though they know the vanity of the world, they are too indolent to tear themselves from its deceptive pleasures. Disgusted with the hateful bondage of sin, they are too weak to break off their fetters. Superficial impressions are felt, but frivolity admits no deep impressions.
III. THE EXCUSES OF THE SINNER.
1. Certain subjects are not in good taste. Speak to me of everything but that! Generalize on virtue and goodness, but let my favorite weaknesses or vices alone!
2. Procrastination. "Tomorrow!"
"To-morrow and to-morrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death."
"Procrastination is the thief of time.
Year after year it steals till all are fled,
And to the mercies of a moment leaves
The vast concerns of an eternal time."
The time of repentance is now and always for him who is willing. For God is ever calling, inwardly and outwardly; in every circumstance time can be found to obey. But never for him who cannot find it seasonable to listen to God at any time. "Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me, and shall die in yore' sins" (John 8:21).
IV. AN EXAMPLE OF GENUINE PREACHING.
1. He speaks of repentance and its fruits; justice towards our neighbor; personal purity; sober recollection of the Divine judgment.
2. Its powers. The preacher is a slight and insignificant man, yet he makes the powerful magistrate tremble. He is bound in one sense, yet in another free, and the lord is the real slave. He is the accused; yet quickly he changes parts with Felix. Paul is the hero in the light of truth and of eternity, Felix the coward and the abject. If we are on the side of truth, the Word of God becomes a sword in our hand. If we are opposed to it, we must be fatally pierced by it.—J.
HOMILIES BY R.A. REDFORD
The governor's court.
Time given to Paul for special preparation, possibly for communication with fellow-believers in Caesarea. The relation of the parties to one another. The Roman ruler; his character one of the blackest: "In the practice of all kinds of lust and cruelty, he exercised the power of a king with the temper of a slave" (Tacitus). The calm, heroic, lofty-minded apostle; rejoicing that an opportunity would be given him of proclaiming the gospel in such a place, and upheld by the Divine assurance that he was safe. The representatives of the Sanhedrim; Ananias, the elders, and the paid orator Tertullus, evidently feeling the weakness of their cause, half ashamed of their position in attacking a defenseless man, ready for hypocritical plotting, and yet knowing that no dependence could be placed on Felix.
I. A SAD PICTURE OF THE WORLD as it was at that time. The corruption of judges, the despotism of rulers, the furious hatreds and evil passions at work, the blindness of