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Just the Facts



Acts 24:10-16

10And 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. 11You can verify that it is not more than twelve days since I went up to worship in Jerusalem, 12and 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. 13Neither can they prove to you what they now bring up against me. 14But 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, 15having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. 16So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.”

The Story: Paul’s accusers have just presented their “case” against him, based on hyperbole, innuendo, and lies. Paul determines to bring forward just the facts for the governor’s consideration. First, he explains that he does not resent this opportunity; rather, he welcomes it (v. 10). He says that Felix can “verify” his claims. Thereby he nods toward the governor’s fairness even as he reminds the court of how Roman justice works: facts, evidence, verification, then judgment. The facts of the case include Paul’s reason for being in Jerusalem (v. 11) and the circumstances surrounding his visit (v. 12). He challenges his adversaries to “prove” their case rather than simply assert it (v. 13). He admits his involvement in the Christian movement (v. 14), but he insists this is completely in line with the hopes even his adversaries embrace (vv. 14, 15). The final fact is that Paul is settled in his conscience. He’s not troubled about anything he’s done, whether toward God or toward men. Paul’s approach is reasoned, calm, clear, and concise, and he will hold to that tack through the rest of this trial.

The Structure: Paul was in a Roman court, and he understood Roman law, how it operated, and what it required. This was not a platform for preaching, even though Paul will get the Gospel out eventually. He was there to accommodate the interests and satisfy the demands of the Roman court, and so his speech was suitable for the context. In the same way, we need to learn how to assess the situations in which we find ourselves at any time and speak the truth in love accordingly.

In case the opportunity should arise, what would you explain as the “facts” about your involvement with Christ?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
Like He Says


Acts 24:1-9
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. 2And 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, 3in every way and everywhere we accept this with all gratitude. 4But, to detain you no further, I beg you in your kindness to hear us briefly. 5For 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. 6He even tried to profane the temple, but we seized him. 8By examining him yourself you will be able to find out from him about everything of which we accuse him.” 9The Jews also joined in the charge, affirming that all these things were so.

The Story: The Jewish leaders have engaged a Roman lawyer to plead their case. They’ve had five days to prepare—five days. And this is their case? Innuendo? Hearsay? Where’s the evidence (Paul will get them on that)? How about witnesses for the defense? Were they deposed? Are they to be allowed? Tertullus tries to flatter the governor, hoping for a quick judgment and an easy paycheck. The Jews do what Jews did in those days—chime in with “Like he says!” and assorted denunciations and threats. Tertullus invites the governor to “examine” Paul, but I don’t think he really expected him to do so. He misjudged Felix, for that is exactly what the governor turns to do, as we shall see.

The Structure: Felix is going to offer Paul a fair hearing and all the protection of Roman law. We can see the common grace of God at work here, restraining by civil statute and authority the evil intentions of wicked men. The enemies of the Gospel will always find that they can only act as God permits. They are at all times constrained by His Word and purposes. “Like He says.”

Paul wrote that government is a servant of God for good (Rom. 13:1-4). Can you see how that is the case in this situation? How can you see this in our own government today?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
To Caesarea


Acts 23:31-35
31So the soldiers, according to their instructions, took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris. 32And on the next day they returned to the barracks, letting the horsemen go on with him. 33When they had come to Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they presented Paul also before him. 34On reading the letter, he asked what province he was from. And when he learned that he was from Cilicia, 35he said, “I will give you a hearing when your accusers arrive.” And he commanded him to be guarded in Herod’s praetorium.

The Story: The first leg of Paul’s journey to Rome is complete. It’s probably the case that Paul didn’t know this situation would end him up in Rome, although it’s possible he may have hoped it would be so. He certainly, as we shall see, will soon enough play his citizenship trump card to get him there. Felix receives him and inquires about his citizenship and provenance, and promises a hearing once his accusers have arrived. Perfectly orderly: Felix won’t hear the case or any more of the details than what Claudius has related until all parties are present. Paul was kept in a prison in Herod’s palace, which probably suggests he was not regarded as a threat. He would be safe there and would enjoy considerable deference and hospitality for two years. Meanwhile, we can only wonder about those poor, hungry blokes back in Jerusalem.

The Structure: Again we can see that Luke is a reliable historian. His attention to details—Roman protocol, places, individual people, contemporary social protocols, laws—help to bring reality to his story. Sometimes I get the impression Christians think the events of the Bible occurred in some kind of time other than the time/space continuum in which we live—“Bible time”, or something like that. But the Kingdom of God unfolds in real time, real history, and all history’s players and places are at the Lord’s disposal for His Kingdom purposes. Amazing.

In what ways can you see the Lord using the players and places of history to advance His Kingdom today?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
Handoff


Acts 23:23-30
23
Then he called two of the centurions and said, “Get ready two hundred soldiers, with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go as far as Caesarea at the third hour of the night. 24Also provide mounts for Paul to ride and bring him safely to Felix the governor.” 25And he wrote a letter to this effect: 26“Claudius Lysias, to chis Excellency the governor Felix, greetings. 27This man was seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them when I came upon them with the soldiers and rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman citizen. 28And desiring to know the charge for which they were accusing him, I brought him down to their council. 29I found that he was being accused about questions of their law, but charged with nothing deserving death or imprisonment. 30And when it was disclosed to me that there would be a plot against the man, I sent him to you at once, ordering his accusers also to state before you what they have against him.”

The Story: I rather suspect that Claudius Lysias was happy to learn about this plot to assassinate Paul. It gave him the opportunity he needed for two things: First to handoff the apostle to higher authorities, and, second, to flatter the local governor with the suggestion of his superior judging powers. But Claudius also took the threat seriously, as we see by his mustering nearly 500 soldiers to accompany Paul to Caesarea. How powerful must the Roman garrison in Jerusalem have been, that they could dispatch 500 soldiers north and still have enough power in place to maintain order? Note Claudius’ opening words to Felix: “Greetings.” Sort of like “Dear ____” today. If you look at Roman correspondence from this period, this is a typical opening line, either “Greetings” or “Greetings and good health.” Compare that with the way Paul began his letters: “Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” The Gospel changes everything, even down to the most mundane social protocols. And for the sake of getting the Gospel to Rome, King Jesus mustered Roman military power to begin his westward journey. How cool is that?

The Structure: It’s clear the tribune doesn’t understand what all the fuss is concerning Paul. Yes, matters of Jewish law had come into view – Paul had brought them into the fray. But it was for the Gospel that Paul was being threatened with his life. No matter. He was ready to die, if need be, for the faith of King Jesus. Although he must have been not a little amused to see how his plan to go to Rome was beginning to be accomplished.

What does it mean to be “ready to die” for the Gospel? Would you describe yourself as ready to die for the Gospel? Why or why not?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
Oh, Right, Another Plot


Acts 23:12-22
12
When it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. 13There were more than forty who made this conspiracy. 14They went to the chief priests and elders and said, “We have strictly bound ourselves by an oath to taste no food till we have killed Paul. 15Now therefore you, along with the council, give notice to the tribune to bring him down to you, as though you were going to determine his case more exactly. And we are ready to kill him before he comes near.” 16Now the son of Paul’s sister heard of their ambush, so he went and entered the barracks and told Paul. 17Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the tribune, for he has something to tell him.” 18So he took him and brought him to the tribune and said, “Paul the prisoner called me and asked me to bring this young man to you, as he has something to say to you.” 19The tribune took him by the hand, and going aside asked him privately, “What is it that you have to tell me?” 20And he said, “The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down to the council tomorrow, as though they were going to inquire somewhat more closely about him. 21But do not be persuaded by them, for more than forty of their men are lying in ambush for him, who have bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they have killed him. And now they are ready, waiting for your consent.” 22So the tribune dismissed the young man, charging him, “Tell no one that you have informed me of these things.”

The Story: Very shortly, there are going to be some very hungry Jews in Jerusalem. Approximately “more than forty.” Do you think the hosts in heaven chuckled a bit at this ridiculous oath? But their action shows that hatred of Paul was widespread, wherever he’d been or was. People wanted him dead, and even the religious leaders of the people were willing to conspire with this murderous plot. So how did Paul’s nephew find out about this? We don’t know. And why were the Romans so willing to receive his report and believe it? Would we not have expected Roman bravado to say, “We can handle this, young man”? The report of this plot, true or not, was the tribune’s chance to be done with this man and his troublesome presence. The tribune immediately makes preparations to move Paul out of the city. Meanwhile, are those grumbling tummies we hear in the background?

The Structure
: Paul knew Jesus had told him he was going to Rome. But that didn’t mean he didn’t have to take responsibility, as far as he was able, for getting there. He could have just told his nephew not to worry, Jesus had appeared to him, he was going to Rome, and all would be well. But Jesus works through human beings, and He expects us to take responsibility for our actions within the framework of His will, which is what we see Paul doing here.

What kinds of responsibilities is Jesus expecting you to fulfill?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
"Hang in There!"


Acts 23:11
11
The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”

The Story: This encounter with the Lord Jesus is interesting primarily for what it doesn’t include. We note that Jesus does not extricate Paul from this situation, as He had done for Peter and others of the apostles. He is content to let Paul stay put. Why? Because He is arranging the details of Paul’s safe and economical transport to Rome. Paul had already by this time told the Romans he was planning to come to see them (Rom. 15). That meant a good bit of expense for him and probably Luke and maybe one or two others. What better way to get to Rome free of charge than on the Romans’ nickel? Plus, along the way, there will be opportunities for witness before governors and a king that he might otherwise not have had. Paul would get to Rome, as was his objective, but not as he had planned. For now, he needed to be patient and hang in there. Jesus is the Lord of our plans, not we. And notice also the content of Paul’s testimony, as Jesus commanded it: Not his experience, that is, not merely some subjective report about how believing in Jesus made him feel. Paul was to testify the facts about Jesus, and this included the facts of his own experience as well as the historical facts of Jesus life, death, and resurrection. The Gospel is grounded in objective, historical facts, and its transforming power in our lives is another fact which demonstrates the truth of what we proclaim. Paul was undoubtedly greatly reassured by this encounter with Lord. Wouldn’t you have been?

The Structure: Jesus here endorses Paul’s apostleship and his ministry. Luke or others may have witnessed this encounter, but even if they didn’t, they certainly would have taken Paul’s word for it. Paul had been saved and called in order to take the Gospel to the Gentiles, and to center of world Gentile civilization he would certainly go.

Is Jesus speaking to us in His Word as reliable as if He spoke to us in a vision by night? Why?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
Divide and Delay


Acts 23:6-10
6
Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” 7And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. 9Then a great clamor arose, and some of the scribes of the Pharisees’ party stood up and contended sharply, “We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?” 10And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force and bring him into the barracks.

The Story: Paul quickly sized up this situation. His brain must have been going a hundred miles and hour: How to get out of this mess? So he shifts the accusations against him – even though they’re false – into a positive mode and declares himself to be a Pharisee and on trial for the beliefs of that party. Well, what were the Pharisees to do? Deny their beliefs? Condemn a man who held them (most of them doubtless had no clue why they had been assembled anyway)? They were not about to give the Sadducees even a small victory here, so they were ready to dismiss the charges and the case. But the Sadducees could not just deny their own views – they didn’t believe in the resurrection – and let the Pharisees grab the laurel wreath. So now everyone is shouting, but at least they’re shouting at one another and not at Paul. Pretty soon it’s fisticuffs, and the Romans are worried, and not just about Paul. So they rescue him from the scene and deliver him back to the barracks. We can imagine the Romans are becoming not a little put out over this situation, what with all this mustering and rescuing and the like. Our tribune is undoubtedly trying to find a way out of this mess, one that won’t disturb the overall peace of the city. By dividing the house Paul delayed any immediate action on his case. Pitting the various sects of Jewish leadership against one another was something Jesus was good at, too. Better they’re angry and arguing with one another than with us.

The Structure: We might think that Paul, in making his declaration before the court, was being a bit disingenuous. It’s more accurate to say he spoke as much of the truth about himself as the situation called for. He was, indeed, a Pharisee, and he certainly believed in the resurrection and the hope of the fathers. This, he reckoned, was not the time for a Gospel message.

What are some ways that you could identify with unbelievers in your life, without sharing the Gospel with them? What do you have in common with any unbelievers that might serve as a basis or bridge for a later conversation about Jesus?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
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