- Sermon Notes
Choose This Day
Intro: Decisions, decisions!
We are in Acts 24 this morning, Paul had come to Jerusalem, he went to the temple from which he was pulled out of, beaten, and then some Romans soldiers and a Roman commander came and saved him by arresting him. False charges were then brought upon him, he would stand before the Sanhedrin (Jewish Supreme Court), they were unable to come up with conclusive charges against him, so he is put back in prison, and then the next day, forty men took a vow that they were going to kill him. They came up with a plan, to have the Roman commander bring him back to the Sanhedrin for questioning, and while he was on his way, they would take to killing him. Paul’s nephew caught wind of the plot, and Paul has him take the information to the Roman commander. Upon hearing about the plot, the commander gets 470 men to escort Paul out of Jerusalem and over to Caesarea. Paul would ultimately be in Caesarea for the next two years. He would stand trial before two governors and then a king (Acts 24-26), all in Caesarea.
The governor, just like the Roman commander is trying to figure out what to do with Paul. The people were stirred up in Jerusalem about him. They had taken to beating him, lying about him, clearly, they were upset about him. The questions about him by those with the authority to free or release him, were what exactly is true about him? What exactly has he done to deserve death?
So, after standing before the Roman commander and the details about the validity of charges against Paul being inconclusive, we see Paul stand before a Roman governor in Caesarea. He had received a letter from the Roman commander in Acts 23 and told Paul he would give him a hearing once his accusers arrive from Jerusalem to Caesarea to pleat their case against him.
In Acts 24, the accusers arrive to town, and Felix, the governor will question them and then question Paul because he had a decision to make about him. But after the charges are pressed and the floor goes to Paul, Paul would press on a bigger decision the Roman Governor would make. That decision was not what he would do with the information he found out about Paul, but rather, what would the governor do with the information he would find out about life in Christ?
Paul points him to a decision that was not just one Felix needed to make, but one everyone must make. What will you do with the information we have been given about Jesus?
- Assess What is True
Acts 24:1-2, Now after five days the high priest Ananias came down with some elders and an attorney named Tertullus, and they brought charges against Paul to the governor.
- Ananias the high priest, the elders and their attorney, had traveled 65 miles from Jerusalem to come and bring their accusations in hopes of a prosecution of Paul.
- This is not the first time Paul had met Ananias the high priest. In Acts 23, under the authority of the Roman commander in Jerusalem, Paul had stood before the high priest and the Jewish supreme court. Things didn’t go so well.
- Here the group that had trouble cornering Paul on charges is before him again, but this time they bring needed reinforcement.
- The Jewish council hired and then brought a lawyer with them. This lawyer would communicate their case for them. Tertullus was a skilled lawyer, and due to the wealth and status of these clients, he is believed to be one of the top lawyers available in Jerusalem.
- There are two choices that Acts 24 will center on: 1. What Felix will do with Paul. 2. What Felix will do with Christ.
Acts 24:2-9, “Since we have attained great peace through you, and since reforms are being carried out for this nation by your foresight, we acknowledge this in every way and everywhere, most excellent Felix, with all thankfulness. But, that I may not weary you further, I beg you to grant us a brief hearing, by your kindness. For we have found this man a public menace and one who stirs up dissensions among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. And he even tried to desecrate the temple, so indeed we arrested him. By interrogating him yourself concerning all these matters, you will be able to ascertain the things of which we are accusing him.” The Jews also joined in the attack, asserting that these things were so.
- Those are quite the charges, there are three of them 1. He said that Paul was “a public menace,” the NKJV reads, this man is “a plague,” a disease. 2. He is the “ringleader of the Nazarenes,” and 3. he “tried to desecrate the temple,” so, the attorney said, “indeed we arrested him.”
- Let’s address the charges, Paul is a plague, a disease, a menace to society. The Roman governor would have placed a high priority on keeping peace in the Roman Empire. To hear that he was causing dissentions throughout the world would have been a persuative charge, but also a vague charge. Tertullus gave no specific instance. The actual word that Tertullus uses to describe Paul means a “pestilent person,” a disease on society.
- Next, he says Paul is the ringleader of a sect called the Nazarenes. “Ringleader” is a military term meaning, “the one who stands in front.”
- Nazarenes was a term that we only see applied to Christians one time in all of Scripture. It was likely a term of mockery and disrespect. To be called a Nazarene was not a compliment, when one of the disciples said he had found “Jesus of Nazareth,” Nathaniel responded, “can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
- While only seen once in Scripture, it was likely a designation some would use toward early Christians who associated with Jesus of Nazareth.
- The attorney was using this term to cast Paul in the most negative light possible. The word sect, means “heresy,” the attorney was attempting to separate Paul not only from Judaism, but from Christianity (Which was allowed by Rome).
- You have the high priest Ananias there, some of the Sanhedrin standing there, one of the best attorneys money could buy, then in verse 9 we read, “The Jews also joined in the attack, asserting that these things were so.”
- They were all standing there, nodding their heads in agreement, trying to get the governor to rule in their favor.
- Next Paul is going to stand up, but Paul did not call on an attorney, he had no friends there nodding their heads. What he did have, however, was the Holy Spirit who would guide his words, as he made his defense.
- They have their lawyers, their elders, making the case, joining in the attack, nodding and agreeing, but Paul had the Lord with him. Martin Luther once said, “with God, one is a majority.”
Read: Acts 24:10-15
- As Felix is trying to assess the truth, Paul points him to the facts, “12 days ago they found me in the temple, I was not stirring anyone up, I was there to worship, I wasn’t even talking to anyone.” He continued, “nor can they prove what they are telling you, but I will confess this to you, I do serve God, I believe in Him, my hope is in Him.”
- Paul is assessing what is true. Their accusations aren’t true, but I will confess to you what is true, my hope is in the Lord.
- This is important to see what Paul is doing. He is making the most of his opportunity.
Ephesians 5:15-17, Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. (NIV)
- In that moment, the Lord was surely with Paul, but I also believe Paul was trying to understand what the will of the Lord was. Not just for him, he knew that he was headed to Rome someday, but what the will of the Lord was in that moment.
- This helps shape what happens for the rest of the chapter. Paul here, is planting a seed.
- The reality was, there were truths to Paul’s story, but also truths associated with the life of the one questioning him.
- Governor Felix had a backstory, and Paul is going to begin pointing him beyond the decision of “what to do with Paul, and to the most important decision of what to do with Jesus Christ.”
- Despite the flowery language used by the attorney to governor Felix, his life did not smell much like roses.
- His name means “Happy”, but he was not known as a happy man, he was known as a hurtful and harmful man.
Illus. Governor Felix.
- He was brutal and everyone knew it. This brings the introductions in this section of Scripture all the more interesting.
- The attorney, hired to win the case, was trying to win the favor of Felix. “Oh, things are so peaceful with you, you have great foresight, oh most excellent Felix, we are thankful for you, we don’t want to weary you further, give a brief hearing in your kindness.”
- Felix did not ultimately bring peace due to his brutal methods, there are no reforms recorded that he actually carried out, and the people were not thankful for him. That was the truth about him. Paul knew it too.
Acts 24:10, “Knowing that for many years you have been a judge to this nation, I cheerfully make my defense…”
- Felix was assessing what was true, and so was Paul. Felix needed Jesus. So Paul, assessed the situation, speaks to the things they said about him, and then begins to direct the attention to what he believed in.
- What we see is that Paul would plant a seed in him.
- See the Importance of What You Believe
Acts 24:14-17, But I confess this to you, that in accordance with the Way, which they call a sect, I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and is written in the Prophets; having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. In view of this I also do my best to maintain a blameless conscience both before God and before other people, always.
- As Paul begins to speak on what he does believe, he is addressing the second accusation that he was a part of a “sect called the Nazarenes” he responds with what he does believe.
- Paul calls Christianity “the Way,” which was a more common identification of early Christians who proclaimed what Jesus himself said that He is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
- “The Way” was term known by Felix, and a more positive reflection Christianity which provided a way to the Father, a way to forgiveness for sin, and a way to live.
- He continued, “I do serve the God of our fathers,” which means he served the God of the Old Testament Scriptures, the God of Israel (Deuteronomy 26:7; 2 Chronicles 20:6; Ezra 7:27; Acts 5:30).
- Paul was saying, to be a Christian, a part of the Way, was not to deny or divide from God, but in devotion to God.
- He continued, “believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and is written in the Prophets. The Law and the Prophets is a reference to the entirety of the Old Testament…Paul says, I believe it, I am devoted to it.
- His understanding of Scripture and belief in all that was written in it, allowed him to have hope in God, it shaped his views on what was true in his day, the resurrection that had come and was to come on the final day and for eternal days, and it was what guided the way he lived out his days.
- He said, “in view of this, I do my best to live according to what I know from his Word to be morally right before God and others.”
- This is important for us to see. What you believe shapes the way you live today, your views about tomorrow, and for all eternity.
- Paul says, I believe everything written in the Scriptures, my hope is built there, with that in view, I do what I do.
Illus. What do you believe?
- Paul said, I believe all things in the Scriptures, and my hope is in God, so I am going to live for God.
Hebrews 6:18-19, We who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.
- What Paul believed mattered, what you believe matters. Paul’s hope was tied to his belief.
- What is your hope in? Is it hope with doubt, “I hope so?” or is it a hope that is sure, an anchor for your soul?
Read: Acts 24:17-23
- As Paul winds down his defense, he speaks about the charitable gifts he had brought to Jerusalem from other churches throughout the known world.
- And then, while in the temple, helping others by going along with their vow keeping, some Jews from Asia minor came and stirred up the people in Jerusalem.
- Paul then wisely continues, it is those men from Asia who should be here today bringing these charges, because they are not witnesses to what they are asserting.
- Remember I mention what Martin Luther says, “with God one is the majority?” Well, here is what is happening. Paul rightly points out that the things they are accusing him of, they did not personally see.
- According to Roman law, if you bring a prisoner to trial and the original accusers don’t show up, the case was compromised and those bringing the charges could be penalized.
- Paul says, “where are the witnesses? Where are the accusers?” And he continues, the only things that I declared as true when I previously stood before you was the declaration regarding my being on trial because of my believe in the resurrection from the dead. But that was a charge they themselves were divided on.
Acts 24:22-23, But Felix, having quite accurate knowledge about the Way, adjourned them, saying, “When Lysias the commander comes down, I will decide your case.” He gave orders to the centurion for Paul to be kept in custody and yet have some freedom, and not to prevent any of his friends from providing for his needs.
- Felix made the call of what would come next. There were no eyewitnesses on hand. Paul was a Roman citizen and the charges were vague. Additionally, he knew a great deal about The Way.
- Rather than give a verdict of innocent, however, which would have caused an uproar, Felix makes no decision.
- He adjourned the meeting and told Paul that when the commander from Jerusalem came down to Caesarea, he would decide his case.
Read: Acts 24:24-27
- Paul was not the only person Felix would not make a decision regarding, however, over the next two years, he would find himself intrigued by Paul, and for the next two years, which are summed up in four verses, Paul will tell Felix about the way of Christ, but Felix would never surrender his life.
- Over the next two years, or 730 days, Felix would send for Paul. He would bring his wife along.
- When he sent for Paul, Paul would preach to Felix, but what we see is that Felix, even with Paul’s powerful preaching, did not believe.
Illus. The Sower.
III. Don’t Delay, Choose Jesus as Savior this Day
- When Felix and his wife sent for Paul, we read in verses 24 and 25 what Paul spoke with them regarding.
- From verse 24, we know that Paul spoke to them about faith in Jesus.
- On trial, Paul had spoken about his hope. How could he have hope? By faith.
Hebrews 11:1, Now faith is the certainty of things hoped for, a proof of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:6, Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for the one who comes to God must believe that He exists, and that He proves to be One who rewards those who seek Him.
Ephesians 2:8-9, For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.
- In verse 25, we get some specifics of the topics Paul was discussing with the couple…Righteousness, self-control, and the judgement to come.
- Paul knew what the Holy Spirit would bring conviction to the world regarding. Paul is reasoning on these things.
John 16:7-8, But I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I am leaving; for if I do not leave, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world regarding sin, and righteousness, and judgment.
- The word used for “discussing” is the word translated “reasoned.” Paul reasoned with them. It is that word we have seen associated with Paul previously, it means to “mingle thought with thought.”
- Paul was getting their thoughts and then telling them his thoughts.
- Paul “reasoned” regarding righteousness, he told him about righteousness, how to get right with God.
- The life and career of Felix was marked by doing wrong, by injustice, by unrighteousness. Paul gave him the reason he could be right with God, despite what had been in his life.
- Next, he reasoned with him regarding self-control. The reality was, Felix was out of control.
Illus. For Example.
- A message from Paul on his people out of control, was not likely what he wanted to hear.
- Paul also spoke to him about the judgement to come. The fact that all will give an accounting of their life.
James 4:12, “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy.”
John 12:48, He who rejects Me and does not receive my sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day.
- It was Felix who was judging Paul’s case. Felix has the authority in judging his case, but Paul was pointing him to the Judge he would stand before that had power over him for eternal days.
- Paul was telling him about eternity, and doing so, he was giving him an opportunity.
- Felix responded with the same words people say today, ”go away!”
Acts 24:25, Felix became frightened and responded, “Go away for now, and when I have an opportunity, I will summon you.
- Other translations read, “go away and when I have a convenient time, I will call for you.”
- Is that you? Are you waiting for a convenient time?
- Perhaps that has been your posture with Christ… “go away for now, I will call on you when I have a time that is convenient.”
- The call to Christ is not going to be easy or convenient right now. But if you keep telling Him to go away, He at some point will say, “okay, have it your way.”
- In Genesis 6:3, God says, “My Spirit will not always strive, or wrestle, with man.” We know that there is a day when people can become so hard hearted, so convinced, that their defiant decision toward Jesus will stand.
- For the next two years he would call upon Paul and talk with him. But he never called upon Christ. He just continued to delay.
- Two years would go by, and Felix would be replaced as governor after handling a riot in Caesarea with brutality.
- He never found a convenient time to come to Christ. He learned about Him, heard about Him, but never gave his life to him.
- This is in contrast to the jailer in Acts 16 who asked Paul “what must I do to be saved?” Heard Paul says “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved..” and then responded that day.