When the governor motioned for Paul to speak, he began his response: "Knowing that you have been a judge over this nation for many years, I gladly make my defense.
negative; positive. The accusations met by a clear and bold denial. Over against the false representation a simple and candid statement of his position as a private and public man. Notice -
I. The apostle stood firmly on the ground of LIBERTY OF CONSCIENCE. They accused him of heresy; he maintained that his conscience was void of offence towards God and man.
II. The foundation of confidence is THE WORD OF GOD - the Law, the prophets, the true tradition of the fathers. All these things the apostle believed.
III. THE RESURRECTION was the great stumbling-block to the Jews, but the great support of the apostolic faith. The position taken in the Sanhedrim is maintained before Felix. The resurrection is the vital point of the new faith.
IV. The zeal of the Christian was quite consistent with PATRIOTISM. There was nothing revolutionary in the method of Christian teaching. The disturbance was simply due to the presence of a new element of life among old corruption. So always, the world is turned upside down by earnestness, because it is already the wrong side upwards. - R.
Then Paul, after that the governor had beckoned unto him to speak, answered.
I. THE CHRISTIANITY OF OLD JUDAISM. The apostle —
1. Worshipped the Jews' God. "So worship I the God of my fathers." He propounded no new Divinity.
2. Believed in the Jews' Scriptures. "In all things which are written in the law and in the prophets." He not only did not reject them; through Christ he saw them in a new and higher light.
3. Believed in the Jews' resurrection (ver. 15). The resurrection, which was dimly seen by the Hebrews, he saw in clear reality through the resurrection of Christ. Christianity is Judaism ripened into fruit, and brightened into noon.
II. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF A GREAT MAN.
1. He is not ashamed of an unpopular cause (ver. 14). All new sects have been heretics, seceders, schismatics. Thus Luther and Calvin were rank heretics in the eyes of Rome; the Puritans and Methodists in the eyes of the Episcopal Church. Thus every new offshoot is a sect, a heresy from the old stock. Providence permits all this refinement from age to age in order that the Church at last might be without spot or blemish.
2. His highest aim is moral rectitude (ver. 16). Note here —(1) The greatest power in man. "Conscience" is not so much a faculty, a law, or a function of the soul, as its very essence, the moral self. That which connects us with moral government, constitutes our responsibility, and originates our weal or our woe. As is a man's conscience, so is he. The New Testament attaches immense importance to conscience; no less than thirty times is it mentioned. Wherever he went Paul sought to commend himself to "every man's conscience in the sight of God."(2) The divinest condition of man. What is this? To have a conscience "void of offence," i.e., not striking against stumbling stones. It is formed from that verb in Psalm 91 (as quoted in our Lord's temptation), "In their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest at any time Thou dash Thy toot against a stone." St. Paul desires to have a conscience free from collision with rocks impeding its course. The conscience, not the life only, must be kept void of offence. He would be able to say, "I know nothing by [against] myself." The two chief departments of this unstumbling conscience correspond to the two great divisions of human duty — "toward God and toward man." The apostle does not say he has gained this blessed condition, but it was his grand aim. When a man's conscience gets into this state, he has reached the true blessedness of his being. A good conscience is heaven.(3) The chief work of man — to get into this state. "Herein do I exercise myself" by methodical and systematic effort. The greatest work that a man has to do is with his moral self. Paul felt this; his outward battles were as nothing compared to those that he fought on the arena of his own soul. "So fight I as not beating the air."
3. He is frank in explanation of himself. The apostle now reverts to the purpose of his journey to Jerusalem, and to the charge as having come as a mover of sedition.(1) That his recent visit to the metropolis, after many years, was a benevolent one (ver. 17).(2) That he was found in the temple by certain Jews from Asia "purified," not gathering a multitude and creating a tumult, and that those Jews who found him there ought to have been present (vers. 18-21).
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
I. PAUL, THE STRONG SERVANT OF GOD. Paul stood before the highest tribunal in Judaea. His accusers were his own countrymen, his judge was an unprincipled Roman. According to Tacitus, Felix "exercised the power of a king with the temper of a slave." Drusilla was another man's wife whom he bad enticed from her husband. Jonathan, the high priest, had ventured to remonstrate with this immoral ruler, and forthwith assassins sought out the reprover and struck him down in the sanctuary. It required fortitude for an accused Jew to be calm before Felix the unrighteous. Of justice for Paul there was no hope; a low self-interest would shape this judge's decision. Paul had no Tertullus to speak for him; he made no plea for clemency, but boldly maintained his innocence. Here was genuine courage. Before this example of heroism all shivering cowardice in the Lord's service should loathe itself. Something braver than running to a hiding place when threatened is expected of true Christians. Christ is not satisfied merely with our repentance and submission. He would arouse us to lofty and Divine courage. "Be not afraid of them that kill the body." The example of Paul in the circumstances before us ought to impel us to the active virtues, courage, self-reliance, zeal. We cannot but admire it, and we ought to be moved to imitate what we admire.
1. There is pressing need of such virtues. Sin is about us in force: it must be resisted and put down. Are we to wait motionless for a deliverer? We do ourselves and others a deep wrong when we represent the power of sin, strong as it is, as so great that the soul is helpless before it. Besides this personal struggle against evil, there is an arduous positive work to be done for righteousness on earth. The conflict between good and evil is continually at full heat. Here is the gospel: it must be lived and preached. Multitudes around us wait to be won to God. Earnestness and self-sacrifice must be had for their salvation. What labour, demanding zeal and persistency, is called for to evangelise the world!
2. Such courage and self-reliance are not opposed to reliance on God. Precisely with the men who have self-reliance God elects to work, men who count it but reasonable that they should put their utmost exertion into effort on which they crave the blessing of Heaven. God will bless our efforts if there are any worthy efforts to be blessed. Why the perpetual complaint by Christians of deficiency and weakness? Are God's people the feeblest folk on earth? Who is not weary of this plaintive cry of feebleness from the lips of God's saints? Moral strength does not come up in a night even in the heart of a saint. The shout of courage should be oftener heard in our camp. A different ideal of true humility must grow luminous before our imagination. The apostle supplies this. He deemed a certain reliance on self justifiable and obligatory, because into that self God had put so much of His own power. Is the sacred fire burned in vain? Is there not a new hero's devotion kindled, a new conqueror fitted for achievement? Manly reliance on self is, for the Christian, only reliance on what God has already done to equip him for service.
II. FELIX, BOLD ONLY IN DELAY. The preacher had not left it uncertain that what God demands is repentance. Felix trembled, but he did not repent. Sin never before seemed to him so perilous, and he decided that sometime he must leave it. There is not one hint in Scripture that Felix ever became a Christian. Here is warning against putting off repentance.
1. Repentance may never come.
2. With Felix before us, we will consider this weighty truth, too seldom urged, that impenitence every day it lasts produces irreparable loss. Delayed conversion means continued sin, and sin damages the sinner himself and others. We drag along into the Christian life the enfeebled will, the grown-up selfishness, the impaired capacity which we acquired in the years of impenitence. Forgiveness releases us from Divine condemnation; it does not at once, if ever, repair the damage of a sinful course.
3. Again, the ill influence of the old bad life on others is not arrested. Delaying repentance, we throw the weight of our example against our friends' conversion and encourage others in sin, and our pardon does not undo what we have thus done.
4. Delayed conversion means lost opportunities. Along our path from childhood to age there are many occasions for heavenly deeds. The hours require a soul loyal to God, instantly ready to speak and act with firm courage, able to look sin into shame. How often, when called, have we been unprepared for such holy achievements? We could not be heroic, for we still wore captive's chains, and the opportunities were lost. The precious season of preparation for future power may be wasted by daily disobedience to God's call. It is clear that in secular life neglect of preparation in youth stands at many a parting of ways in later years and forbids a man's choice, saying, "You cannot take the path up the heights. You must go the lower road." Many a man in such case has bowed to the inevitable, sorrowing in vain over his loss. But men dream that in the spiritual life, under redemption, they may escape in later years the weakness resulting from youthful impenitence.
(T. E. Bartlett.)I. FELIX'S IMPRESSION OF PAUL.
1. Paul's address. He was in trouble. There had been a tumult. As to the cause of it there were two sides to be heard. Every advantage had been taken of whatever in the circumstances seemed against Paul. Paul's reply has in it four heads.(1) Introduction. Tertullus had begun with flattery. Paul begins with respect.(2) Rebuttal. He mentions the brief time he had been in Jerusalem — entirely insufficient to accomplish all the deep plots alleged against him by the Jews.(3) Explanation. How had he happened to be in Jerusalem at all, and what was he doing in the temple?(4) Demand for evidence.
2. The characteristics of this speech probably made a deeper impression on Felix than its contents.(1) Candour. Paul was evidently telling as plainly, fully, and simply as he could the very truth. He did not overdo the matter. An experienced judge is not often deceived as to the honesty of a witness.(2) Fearlessness was evident in every word of Paul's. He was not overcome by the danger of his situation.(3) Uprightness was written over every word which Paul uttered. Paul was one who, without counsel, might say all he would; for he was a good man.
3. What was the effect of this speech upon Felix?(1) He recognised that no case had been made out against Paul. The main witnesses had, for some unaccountable reason, not been brought into court.(2) A postponement for further inquiry followed.(3) At the same time his sense of right, being still feebly operative (as in Pilate), will not allow him to treat the prisoner as though he had been convicted of crime.
II. FELIX'S IMPRESSION OF CHRISTIANITY.
1. He had some curiosity about it, and after certain days came and sent for Paul and heard him speak about Jesus Christ.
2. Paul's speech.(1) The subject. The whole of Paul's address is not preserved.(a) Righteousness is the aim of the Christian life. Christ died that He might purify from us the guilt of sin and impute to us His own righteousness. To be holy as God is holy, and so to glorify Him by reflecting His excellence, is the chief end of man.(b) Temperance, or self-control; referring to the subjugation of the passions and the holding of the whole life in submission to the will of God. This in a certain sense is the negative side of the righteousness which Paul has just mentioned.(c) Judgment to come. Christianity derives its hold upon many men by appealing to high motives and ambitions.(2) These themes, doubtless treated in a general way, had also their personal application. Preaching truth is preaching such truth as the hearers ought to have preached to them. Yet Paul was not offensive. He was personal in the way he chose his subject, but not in the manner of its delivery, so far as we can see.
3. No wonder that Felix was convicted by this address, No wonder his heart was smitten with fear. He had been used to association with sycophants, who would flatter him in the face and stab him in the back. What a privilege to truly know one's self, even if it be to find defects, for that is the way to perfection. But such an experience is not comfortable.
III. FELIX'S DISPOSAL OF CHRISTIANITY.
1. He let the bad elements in him prevail.
2. Consequently he was led to postpone his dealing with the matter of his relation to God.
3. Why is it that postponing the receiving of salvation is so apt to be its complete rejection? Because —(1) It is going back again to the ever-increasing domination of sin;(2) Conscience unanswered becomes deadened and its voice is more and more feeble;(3) The desire for a nobler life awakened in us by the Holy Spirit is subdued when unsatisfied;(4) We are not so susceptible to the presence of the Spirit when we do not obey Him. So far as we know men, they do not mean to be lost.
1. The Word of God is sharper than a two-edged sword. It searches us out. It "finds" us (as Coleridge said).
2. Selfishness is the cause of men's rejection of Christ. They love their sinful ways too well to deny self and follow Him.
3. The great lesson is that postponing the acceptance of Christ is eternally dangerous. Suspect every motive that keeps you from Christ. No such motive is adequate and justifiable.
(D. J. Burrell, D. D.)
S. S. Times.I. GENERALLY. Paul defended himself —
1. Cheerfully, because he knew he was defending a good cause.
2. Skilfully, knowing that one is not excused for using bad arguments, because he is engaged in defending a good cause.
3. Confidently, having already been tried and acquitted at the bar of his own conscience.
4. Defiantly. Right-doing calls for no apologising. To submit is to admit, when one is openly charged with evil-doing.
5. Paul made his defence defiantly, knowing that he had given no occasion for the accusations brought against him. Conscious innocence makes a man bold; conscious guilt makes a man bluster.
1. He confessed Christ (ver. 14).
2. He served God (ver. 14).
3. He reverenced the Old Testament (ver. 14).
4. He believed in the resurrection (ver. 15).
5. He sought a clear conscience (ver. 16).
6. He helped the needy (ver. 17).
1. "I confess." What Paul had done he was ready to acknowledge. No man should be slow in pleading guilty when he is charged with being a follower of Christ.
2. "They call a sect." What if they do? Fear not the cry of sectarianism so long as only Christ's enemies are raising it against you.
3. "Believing...the law." Has that law been repealed? Then remember that it demands your allegiance as much as it did Paul's.
4. "Hope toward God." Toward God is the true direction for hoping. Hopelessness Godward means blank despair manward.
5. "Exercise myself." It requires constant effort to follow Christ closely. But it is the best kind of exercise. It made of Paul a giant in moral strength.
6. "Conscience void of offence...alway." Some one has wisely said, "It is always term time in the court of conscience."
7. "I came to bring alms." Paul had come among the Jews on an errand of mercy, and the merciless Jews had straightway sought to slay him.
8. "Certain Jews...ought to have been here." But they were not there. Such men prefer haranguing a lawless mob to testifying in a court of law. The devil's agents are constitutional cowards.
(S. S. Times.)1. A straightforward account is an honest man's best defence.
2. In such a case it is in the knowledge and not the ignorance of a judge that safety will lie (ver. 10,11). Apply this to the Great Judgment Day.
3. Christianity is involved in and anticipated Judaism (cf. Hebrews 11).
4. The Christian believes not less, but more than the Jew (vers. 14, 15).
5. Whatever our intellectual opinions may be, our moral character should be blameless (ver. 16).
6. Never does the world commit greater blunders in violation even of its own laws, than in persecuting the faith (ver. 19).
7. Many inquiries are made about the gospel through curiosity, and without a personal concern for sin (ver. 24).
8. A true preacher will seize every available opportunity for proclaiming the gospel; every sinner ought to fear the gospel; we ought not to delay coming to Christ (ver. 25).
9. People's motives with respect to Christ and His cause often get strangely mixed (vers. 25, 26).
10. In religion, as in many other things, it is true that "he that delays is lost." His heart hardens, and circumstances entangle him.
11. Christians are called into various experiences and situations for testimony and service (ver. 27).
(A. F. Muir, M. A.)I. THAT GOD PROTECTS HIS MESSENGERS. On one side was a multitude of enraged Jewish rulers, who had wealth, prestige, power, an eloquent advocate to plead their cause. On the other side, Paul alone was accused before a corrupt judge. How small the possibilities of his success! Yet God had promised that His messengers, when brought before governors, should be taught by the Spirit what to say. Here is one actual fulfilment of that promise. Paul showed triumphantly that what was criminal in the charge against him was not true, and that what was true was not criminal.
1. He was accused of exciting seditions among the Jews; but he showed that only twelve days before he had passed through Caesarea on his way to visit Jerusalem for the first time in many years.
2. He was accused of heresy. He replied, "I confess that I follow the opinion which they call a sect, and thus worship the God of my fathers."
3. He was accused of profanation of the temple. He replied that the object of his pilgrimage to Jerusalem was to worship in the temple; that the Jews found him in it purified in fulfilment of a special vow. The bold way was the safe way. If he had secretly gone to Jerusalem, and had secretly taught, he would have thrown away his defence, and have prejudiced his cause. The cause of Christ has nothing to do with secrecy. Only the open follower of Christ can claim His promises of protection.
II. GOD FURNISHES HIS MESSENGERS WITH OPPORTUNITIES TO DO HIS WORK. Paul's object was to spread the gospel through the world. But how could the gospel have reached the ears of Roman rulers except through Christian prisoners? Paul used his defence as an opportunity to preach Christ. The Christian measures his success by opportunities to spread saving truth. Paul's most glorious opportunities were in prison. The Christian often remembers scenes of suffering as the most wonderful marks of God's favour.
III. THE CHRISTIAN GROWS IN GRACE WHILE FIGHTING OUTWARD FOES (ver. 16). If you press the gospel on others, you will have the greater motive to illustrate its power over yourself by abstaining from sin, and showing the peace, joy, charity, which are its fruits.
(A. E. Dunning.)I. WHEN SHOULD HE DEFEND HIMSELF.
1. If the Lord is reviled and not himself.
2. If he may hope to conciliate men's minds and not to increase their bitterness.
II. HOW SHOULD HE DEFEND HIMSELF.
1. Without fear of men.
2. Convincingly by a good conscience.
(K. Gerok.)1. The Christian will keep himself pure from reproach, that the gospel be not blasphemed on his account.
2. He will, by the joyful confession of his faith, put to shame the groundless enmity of the world.
3. He will point to his life, that it may bear witness to the truth of his faith.
(Lisco.)I. A JOYFUL CONFESSION (ver. 14).
II. AN UNVIOLATED CONSCIENCE (ver. 16).
III. A BLAMELESS LIFE (vers. 17-20).
IV. A RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT OF GOD (ver. 15).
(H. C. Trumbull, D. D.)
I. THE CONTRAST BETWEEN PAUL'S INTRODUCTION AND THE PREFACE OF TERTULLUS. Christianity makes gentlemen; it is the religion of refinement. Wherein we are vulgar, we do but show the space which Christianity has yet to conquer. Tertullus began cringingly, fulsomely, falsely. Felix had been judge more than about twice the usual time, and Paul recognised that fact, as it was the only compliment he was able to pay the corrupt governor. Christianity is courteous — never rough; recognising whatever can be recognised in the way of excellence, or continuance of service, but never stooping to drag its own crown in the mire.
II. THE TEMPER WHICH PAUL DISPLAYED UNDER TERTULLUS' HURRICANE OF ABUSE. There is no excitement in his reply, no resentment; he contents himself with denial and with challenging proof. Fury would have created suspicion, and resentment would have been an argument on the other side; but the quietness of the consciousness of innocence must be taken as contributing to the establishment of an irrefragable proof that an innocent man was in the presence of Felix.
III. THE MANNER IN WHICH THE PERSONAL DEFENCE IS MADE TO CREATE ROOM FOR THE DOCTRINAL EXPOSITION. Paul does not spend much time upon himself. He will not tarry over little things; he is in haste to accomplish a sublime purpose. In his view, the whole world was only made for the one purpose of receiving the kingdom of Christ. Why do we not take our rule from his magnanimous method? Do not defend yourself, but preach and live, expound and exemplify the truth. The cruel part of it all is that some persons imagine that if stones are thrown at you, you deserve to be stoned. Do not let that trouble you.
IV. HOW PAUL KEEPS HOLD OF HIS AUDIENCE, BY PREACHING CHRISTIANITY WITHOUT SO MUCH AS NAMING CHRIST. That would not suit a modern audience, because a modern audience is foolish. Inspiration guides a man quite as much in teaching him what not to say as in teaching him what to say; inspiration has to do with method as well as with matter. Is Paul, then, not preaching Christ? He is preaching Him all the time. He is developing a certain state of mind; he says mentally, "It is enough now to touch curiosity, to create interest; by and by I shall speak to that procurator in a way he never heard mortal tongue deliver itself; but now I have to answer this mean hireling, who would plead my cause if I only paid him enough to do so." So the merchant can be preaching Christianity in his business without ever letting it be known that he ever spent one moment on his knees. Men can preach Christianity and defend the Cross in temper, actions, family and commercial relations, and beget a state of mental wonder on the part of the observers as to how such things happen to be as they are. By and by such men may be sent for, that they may speak concerning the mystery.
V. HOW PAUL KEEPS TO THE SCRIPTURES (ver. 14). This was so much gained; but it was a generality that wanted accent, so he proceeds, in ver. 16, to supply the accent which was required. This was moral preaching? I would to God we had more moral preaching, then! The man who is severe with his own conscience will know how to treat the consciences of other men. Paul gives us a hint of the power which he will exercise by and by when he confronts Felix alone. Nothing will stand in the world's estimation forever but down-right in-and-out goodness.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
I. THE MANNER OF HIS ADDRESS.
1. He stands before a wicked ruler; yet he pays to him the respect due to his office. It is the same man who wrote lately to the Romans, "Render therefore to all their dues; fear, to whom fear; honour, to whom honour." There is all the difference in the world between servility and courtesy; between the flattery of Tertullus, and the manly respectfulness of St. Paul. Insolence to rulers is no part of the religion of Christ. "Render unto Caesar," our Lord said, "the things which are Caesar's," etc.
2. The present was dark, the future was ambiguous: and yet he answers for himself "cheerfully." If we are in Christ's hands, on Christ's side, what circumstance is enough to justify despondency? Pain of mind or body, want, weakness, anguish, impending death; all shall be well: for "I am Christ's, and Christ is God's."
II. THE MATTER.
1. We find two of the three charges calmly and earnestly repelled. The charges of sedition and sacrilege are refuted by an appeal to fact. None can dare to say of him, that his brief time in Jerusalem had been spent in creating insurrection. His supposed desecration of the temple was the opposite of truth, for he had frequented its courts to show his respect for the law.
2. But one charge he rather qualifies than repels. If it be a schismatical thing to be a Christian, then he avowed it and gloried in it. St. Paul worshipped God according to a particular system; not vaguely as the Creator and Preserver, not merely as the Lawgiver and the Judge, but definitely and precisely as revealed in Christ. What is there to mark our confessions, prayers, praises, thanksgivings, as offered according to the way of Christ? Does Christ really enter into all? And is there anything in our habits of speech and action which recognises and reminds men of our faith in the way of Christ?
3. But observe how Paul claims for himself, all the time, the position of the truly orthodox; the God whom he worships is "the God of his fathers." He "believes all things written" in the Old Testament Scriptures, and it is just because he does so he is a Christian. The true revelation of God is never at variance with itself. Everything which God has ever spoken will be true forever. His voice in nature, in reason, in conscience, to the Patriarchs, in the law, the prophets, the gospel, are all consistent and harmonious. Each one of these completes, fulfils something, in the one before it; but it destroys and it contradicts nothing. He who affects, unlike St. Paul, to despise Old Testament Scriptures, proves himself by that contempt to be not a full-grown man, but a very babe in Christ.
4. Paul claims for Israel under the law a glimmering at least of that hope, for which, as a Christian and an apostle, he was himself bound with his chain (ver. 15). It suited the occasion and the purpose of this heroic defence, to trace the hope of the resurrection to a dispensation earlier than the Christian. And we too must accept the declaration, and give thanks for it, that even the Old Testament is not silent as to this great restitution of all things.
5. The resurrection of the just is an expression used by our Lord. But He stopped not there, nor could Paul. There is also a resurrection of the unjust. The resurrection must be either the hope, or the fear, of each one of us. And which?
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