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Recess


Acts 24:22-27
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.” 23Then 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. 24After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith bin Christ Jesus. 25And 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.” 26At the same time he hoped that money would be given him by Paul. So he sent for him often and conversed with him. 27When two years had elapsed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And desiring to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison
.

The Story: Felix puts the trial on hold for the time. He apparently intends to send to Jerusalem for Lysias, perhaps in the hope he might be able to verify Paul’s statement of the facts. But either he did not send for him or Lysias was unable to come, since we have no record of his arriving. Meanwhile, the court is in recess – for two years (wouldn’t we have loved a two-year recess as school kids?). For Paul this must have been a bit confusing, if not unsettling. But Felix is generous to Paul, allowing his friends to visit and provide for his needs, and entertaining him not infrequently, albeit with mixed motives (v. 26). Given the opportunity to explain his views more fully, Paul didn’t hold back. The Gospel is about the resurrection of Jesus and the coming of His Kingdom, and that means righteousness, self-control, and preparation for the coming judgment (v. 25). We note that Paul didn’t merely preach to Felix and his wife; he “reasoned” with them, thus implying a give-and-take that must have been more like an extended conversation (vv. 25, 26). Felix was “alarmed” at what he heard. The warning of judgment to come can have that effect on people. Felix drags this out as long as he can, until at last he is replaced by Porcius Festus. But he must have been going to remain in the area because he left Paul in prison as a favor to the Jews (v. 27).

The Structure
: The Gospel is Good News, it’s true. But it’s only Good News against the backdrop of the bad news about sin and judgment. Unbelievers who reject the Gospel when we tell it to them need to know that judgment is coming, and they’re in danger of not being ready for it. They may not believe that, either – may not become “alarmed” by it – but they need to hear it anyway.

How would you work the warning of judgment into your presentation of the Gospel?

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.
 
Dare Ya


Acts 24:17-21
17
“Now after several years I came to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings. 18While I was doing this, they found me purified in the temple, without any crowd or tumult. But some Jews from Asia—19they ought to be here before you and to make an accusation, should they have anything against me. 20Or else let these men themselves say what wrongdoing they found when I stood before the council, 21other 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.’”

The Story: Paul fairly dares his accusers to produce any facts or evidence contrary to his testimony. He was in Jerusalem to help his people, and he was in the temple in accord with all the pertinent regulations (vv. 17, 18). Then he turns the tables: Where, by the way, are these Jews from Asia who started all this ruckus anyway (vv. 18, 19)? Has anybody noticed – have you noticed, your honor – that anyone who might have any facts to substantiate the charges of my opponents is not present here? No? OK, then how about these gentlemen here: What fact-based charges – as opposed to these flimsy accusations – can they present (v. 20)? Paul dares them to make introduce their facts. Oh, well, OK, here’s something horrible I did: I cried out a word about the resurrection from the dead (v. 21). That surely elicited a laugh from the Roman court. “That’s a transgression worthy of death?” That reported fact did allow Paul to crack open a door for the Gospel, almost as if to say to Felix, “Dare ya to ask for an explanation of that.” Which he will.

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. He said as much as was needed, both to defend his innocence and to introduce his 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.
 
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.
 
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