Acts 24: 1 - 27
1 And after five days the high priest Ananias came down with some elders and a spokesman, one Tertullus. They laid before the governor their case against Paul. 2 And when he had been summoned, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying: “Since through you we enjoy much peace, and since by your foresight, most excellent Felix, reforms are being made for this nation, 3 in every way and everywhere we accept this with all gratitude. 4 But, to detain you no further, I beg you in your kindness to hear us briefly. 5 For we have found this man a plague, one who stirs up riots among all the Jews throughout the world and is a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. 6 He even tried to profane the temple, but we seized him. 8 By examining him yourself you will be able to find out from him about everything of which we accuse him.” 9 The Jews also joined in the charge, affirming that all these things were so.
He opens his speech by flattering the governor for his excellent leadership. Whether or not Felix believed it, we don't know. Romans and Jews knew that they didn't like each other, but in the realm of politics a little sweet talk goes a long way.
Then he makes his case against Paul by:
#1 - Stating how they see Paul, proclaiming that he was a plague on their society. The only thing that I can think of that is similar to our culture today is how we view people who are uninhabitable. In other words, lock them up and throw away they key.
#2 - He has started riots all over the known world. That would be the empire of Rome. So this problem isn't localized to Jerusalem, Tertullus attempts to make this a federal problem. Remember, he didn't start any riots, only those who conspired against him did.
#3 - He is the ring leader of the Nazarenes. While Romans tolerated other religions in their empire, they didn't like it very much.
#4 - He tried to desecrate the Temple. But they caught him before he could do it. Of course, there is no evidence offered to back this claim up. Also note that he doesn't mention that they tried to kill Paul on the stop. Something that Felix would have been very upset about if he knew it.
When you stand accused of something that you didn't do. Stop and think about what is going on before you defend yourself. Ask yourself questions, why am I here? What should I say? And the big one. How can I honor God through this?
When under pressure, what you are really made of, what your attitude really is, what is really going on will reveal itself. Now let's see what Paul is made of.
10 And when the governor had nodded to him to speak, Paul replied: “Knowing that for many years you have been a judge over this nation, I cheerfully make my defense. 11 You can verify that it is not more than twelve days since I went up to worship in Jerusalem, 12 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. 13 Neither can they prove to you what they now bring up against me. 14 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 and written in the Prophets, 15 having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. 16 So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man. 17 Now after several years I came to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings. 18 While I was doing this, they found me purified in the temple, without any crowd or tumult. But some Jews from Asia— 19 they ought to be here before you and to make an accusation, should they have anything against me. 20 Or else let these men themselves say what wrongdoing they found when I stood before the council, 21 other than this one thing that I cried out while standing among them: ‘It is with respect to the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you this day.’”
#1 - I arrived in Jerusalem 12 days ago.
#2 - I didn't preach or teach at anytime while there ( which usually causes arguments ). In other words, they cannot prove that I did anything in Jerusalem to cause a riot.
#3 - Through personal choice, he chooses to follow this faith through the religion called The Way. According to Roman law, he can do that.
#4 - That he freely and openly declares, by faith, that he believes in a resurrection of the dead, both evil and just.
#5 - I have been away for quite some time, so I returned to bring offerings to help need people in Jerusalem and to worship at the Temple.
#6 - While in the Temple, certain Jews from Asia accused him falsely, they are the real accusers and they are not here.
#7 - None of these people here are actual witnesses to the accusations or so called crimes I have committed.
#8 - The only thing these men have seen me do before them is say that I believe in the resurrection. That is the only reason why I am on trial today.
Everything that Paul said is true and Felix knew that he couldn't make a ruling either way. Let Paul go and the leadership in Jerusalem will blow their top. If word got back to Rome, it would be his head on a platter. If he rules against Paul, then he would be making a ruling about religion, not law. The Sadducees would be ecstatic and Pharisees would be livid. Another complaint to Rome with the same result. Felix could not win.
22 But Felix, having a rather accurate knowledge of the Way, put them off, saying, “When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case.” 23 Then he gave orders to the centurion that he should be kept in custody but have some liberty, and that none of his friends should be prevented from attending to his needs. 24 After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.” 26 At the same time he hoped that money would be given him by Paul. So he sent for him often and conversed with him. 27 When two years had elapsed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And desiring to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison.
So Felix did what Felix had to do. Lock Paul up saying, "I'll make a ruling when the tribune from Jerusalem comes to tell me the rest of the story." However, there is no record that Felix ever asked for the tribunes help.
But over the course of time he summoned Paul again and again. Felix was hoping that Paul would buy his way out of prison. (Bribe) But Paul obviously wasn't interested in getting out, he was interested in leading Felix (and all of his prison guards) to a relationship with Jesus.
If you think that our justice system in America is unfair, think about this. Paul is being held in prison for 2 years without any formal charges against him. He has to pay for his own food and needs. He keeps meeting the judge, but to no resolve. I don't know about you, but I would be a little upset. Yet we see Paul taking it all in stride.
Felix is succeeded by Porcius Festus. Because Porcius wanted to keep the peace in Jerusalem, he left Paul in prison.
English Standard Version (ESV)