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An Exposition Of The Acts Of The Apostles

ANALYSIS

Grave charges against Paul before the Governors by the Jews who came down to Cæsarea to accuse him, employing, at the same time, an advocate to plead their cause (1–9). Paul’s defence and reply, challenging proof and proclaiming his faith in the Resurrection (10–21). Felix puts off the discussion, and with his wife, Drusilla, a Jewess, heard from Paul the chief points of the Christian faith (22–24). Terrified at the teaching of Paul regarding judgment to come, he at once dismisses him with the declaration, he would hear him at a future day, and often conversed with him in hope of receiving money from him. On giving up the office of Governor, he leaves Paul in chains to gratify the Jews (25–27).

Commentary

1. “And after five days.” How these days are to be computed, or when they commenced, whether from the arrival of Paul at Cæsarea or his departure from Jerusalem, is not agreed upon by commentators, nor does it matter much one way or the other. Likely it means five days after Paul reached Cæsarea. A deputation from the Sanhedrim naturally headed by Ananias, the acting high-priest, came down from Jerusalem bringing with them one Tertullus, a Roman lawyer, to urge their accusations against Paul before Felix, as they themselves were not well acquainted with the forms of Roman pleadings.

2. “Called for” from his prison in Herod’s Hall. “We live in much peace.” He commences in a complimentary style, almost amounting to flattery, in order to gain the good will of the judge. Although Felix was by no means a good man, still some good acts were done under his administration, calculated to establish order in Judea. Among the rest he apprehended a band of robbers, headed by Eleazar, and sent them to Rome for punishment (Josephus, Antiq., lib. xii. c. vii.) and arrested the Egyptian false prophet (c. 21:38; De Bello, c. II. xiii.).

“Thy Providence.” Foresight, prudence.

3. “Accept it.” Admit that these blessings are owing to thy foresight. “Always.” Whether in your presence or absence. “Most excellent Felix.” A title of place or position.

5. “Pestilent man.” Turbulent, a very plague itself.

“And raising seditions.” Exciting tumults by his preaching against the Law of Moses, &c.

“And author.” In Greek, ringleader. The words “of the sedition” are not in the Greek, which runs thus: “ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.” The Greek for “sect” is heresy, a term taken sometimes in a good and sometimes in a bad sense.

“Nazarenes.” A term of contempt applied to the Christians, our Blessed Lord being from Nazareth.

6. “Gone about.” Exerted himself “to profane the temple.” An unfounded charge refuted by the Apostle (v. 18).

“Have judged.” Condemned and punished “according to our law,” which strictly interdicts the introduction of strangers into the temple.

7. Far from proceeding according to law or justice, they would have assassinated him on the spot only for the timely interference of Lysias.

8, 9. Whether they examined individually or spoke in a body, is not stated. They unanimously confirmed the false statements of Tertullus.

10. “Governor.” Procurator over Judea.

“Many years.” About seven (7) years, which might be termed “many,” compared with the short reign of others who preceded him. It was a time sufficiently long to enable him to become acquainted with Jewish usages. In his exordium, Paul, unlike Tertullus, refrains from flattering him, relying solely on the justice of his cause, which Felix had experience enough to be able to discern.

11. “Understand.” Ascertain from duly examining witnesses. “Twelve days.” A period too short for creating a tumult. He commences by absolutely denying the charges made against him.

“To adore.” His sole object, and not to excite tumult or sedition.

12. He denies the charges made by Tertullus (v. 5). His conduct everywhere was remarkably pacific.

13. He challenges enquiry and investigation.

14. In this and the following verse he addresses himself to the charge of being a “ringleader of the Nazarean sect” (v. 5), openly professing his Christian faith. He admits his Christian belief. But, in such a way, as to carefully observe the law of his Fathers, carrying out all that was propounded in the law and the Prophets, having the same hopes his adversaries themselves entertained and cherished.

“According to the sect.” In Greek, the “way,” the Christian religion (19:23; 9:2), the religious way in which they walked—“which they call heresy” (v. 5). I do adhere to it, without abandoning the worship of “the Father and my God.” The word “heresy” here does not imply “error of doctrine;” but a certain profession of faith, distinctive ideas on religious matters.

“So I serve.” Continue, as heretofore, “to serve the Father and my God.” The fact of my having been found in the temple worshipping, is a proof that in my new religious profession I have not abandoned the religion of my Fathers as propounded in the law and the Prophets.

15. “Having hope,” a firm hope, founded in the Divine promises, what some of those men themselves, members of the Sanhedrim, my accusers here present look to and expect to be realized, “that there shall be a Resurrection,” &c. He refers to such of the deputation as were Pharisees. Josephus (Bello, I. xxxiii. 2; II. viii. 14) tells us that the Pharisees maintained the resurrection of the just only. This is denied by others who assert that the body of the Pharisees held the general resurrection of all, though a few of them may have only believed in the resurrection of the just only.

16. “Herein.” With this view to future resurrection.

“Do I endeavour.” Exert myself to act up to the dictates of conscience, and lead a life such as will enable me to avoid giving offence to God or man in the discharge of my duty whether of a public or private nature.

17. “Many years’ ” absence from Jerusalem, far from having any intention of desecrating the temple, I came for quite a different object, to be the bearer of “alms,” charities collected from several churches, “to my nation,” to the distressed poor among the saints; “and offerings” to be presented to God in the temple, “and vows.” These latter words are not found in the Greek.

In this verse, he refutes the charge of Tertullus (v. 6), that he intended profaning the temple.

18. “In which.” In the midst of which occupations. “Found purified.” Going through the process of finishing my vow (21:24) and this, in a quiet way.

“Certain Jews of Asia” Minor who, if they saw him guilty of any improper act or of any crime, should be present and come forward to prove it before the judge.

20. “Or,” else, in default to prove, on their part, that I desecrated the temple, let these very men here present testify as to my conduct anywhere else. “Standing before their council” (23:1). He challenges those present, in regard to his conduct when standing before their council.

21. Their only one subject of complaint against me, when standing before their council (23:6) was the declaration or utterance made by me, in a loud voice, “concerning the Resurrection of the Dead,” &c. If of this they complain, let them say so. This is more or less ironical. They impute to him as a crime, what many of themselves maintained.

22. “Put them off.” Adjourned further enquiry—“of this way” the tenets of the Christian religion, which he knew were not prejudicial to the public safety, nor could he with the knowledge he had, feel warranted in looking on Paul, the chief promulgator of Christianity, as a dangerous character.

As Governor or Procurator of Judea, he must have become acquainted with the teachings of a religion propagated and professed far and near. He could not, therefore, condemn Paul. On the other hand, it might not be prudent to release Paul and declare him blameless, as this would displease the Jews whose good will, on grounds of public policy, and personal safety, lest they might denounce him at Rome, he was anxious to gain. So, he adopts a middle course, viz., to await the arrival of Lysias, a most important witness, fully cognizant of the whole case, from its very inception.

23. Clearly, Felix, convinced of Paul’s innocence, wished to treat him most leniently, allowing his friends free access, who might furnish him with money to bribe Felix, and procure his release.

“Easy.” Freed from his chains, in free custody, in charge of the centurion.

24. “Drusilla, his wife.” She was daughter of Herod Agrippa, the elder, who put James the Greater to death and imprisoned Peter (c. 12). She was sister of Agrippa the younger, spoken of in the next chapter. She married Azizus, King of Emesa, and left him to marry Governor Felix, who fell in love with her, thus living in adultery (Josephus, Antiq., lib. xx., c. vii.). She bore a very bad reputation.

“Sent for Paul” Likely to gratify his adulterous wife, who, being a Jewess, was curious to know the teachings and principles of Christianity, as contradistinguished from those of Judaism, the religion she herself professed.

“The faith,” &c. The whole Christian teaching and principles of the Christian religion.

25. “Treated of justice,” &c. Among other points of Christian teaching, he, with Apostolic courage and intrepidity, discoursed fully on these unwelcome truths, the very points which came directly home to the souls of his hearers. Unlike pleaders who treat of topics calculated to please and conciliate the favor of their judges, Paul, fearing not the countenance of the mighty, standing a bound criminal, before a judge, who had power to release him, courageously sets before him the grave moral duties, which Felix signally outraged, and those leading virtues, in which he was notoriously wanting.

“Justice,” which involves not only interior rectitude and sanctification in regard to God; but also the relations of fair dealings with our fellow-men. In this, Felix was notoriously wanting. He was an unjust, partial judge, open to bribes in his official capacity (v. 26). Tacitus says of him, “cuncta malefacta sibi impune ratus” (Annal. xii. 54). “Per omnem sævitiam et libidinem jus regium servili ingenio exercuit.” (Hist. v. 9).

“And chastity.” The Greek word εγκρατειας‚ will mean this, in a special way. In general, it denotes self-control, mastery over the passions that subserve sensuality. It had special significance when addressed to this adulterous, sensual judge.

“Judgment to come,” treated heretofore in the Areogapus, at Athens (17:31). In order to stimulate them not to resist the warnings of conscience in regard to their sinful state, he proposes the dread judgment of God, who will hereafter sit in judgment on them and punish their crimes. The Greek has “the judgment” a topic well-known to Drusilla, a Jewess.

“Felix being terrified.” Considering his grievous sins and the punishment in store for him. Wonderful effect of God’s Word, which made a haughty judge, wielding supreme power, tremble in presence of his bound captive. It is not said, Drusilla, who trampled on the laws of God and of her Fathers, was affected. Having heard of this before, she became hardened and obdurate.

“A convenient time.” Felix was alarmed for the moment. Sunk in the mire of sensuality and sin, he became insensible to everything else, save present sensual gratification.

26. He knew the friends of Paul would make any sacrifice to obtain his release. It was solely with the view of getting a bribe, he sent for him and spoke with him so often.

The stern prohibition of the Julian Law, in regard to governors accepting bribes, and discrediting their government at home, thus turning their administration into mean traffic, was disregarded by the Roman governors, in distant provinces. Paul was proof against his base insinuations and hints, in regard to offering a bribe. Being innocent, he had a right to be set free. This was not to be purchased with money.

27. Paul was unjustly detained a prisoner for two years, the governor hoping to tire out his patience and have his own avarice gratified.

“Willing to show the Jews a pleasure.” Wishing to save himself from further accusations. In this, he did not succeed. They accused him at Rome, which caused his removal. Josephus tells us (Antiq. xx. 8), that some of the chief men of Cæsarea, accused him at Rome, before Nero, of wicked deeds and unjust administration. This caused his removal. But, the influence of his brother Pallas—himself too a manumised slave—Nero’s favourite, saved him from further and condign punishment.








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