On Trial | Stating Your Case
Pastor Miles DeBenedictis
Stating Your Case
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We’re going to start with 23:33 for some context. “When they came to Caesarea and they had delivered the letter to the governor, they also presented Paul to him. And when the governor read the letter, he asked what province that Paul was from. And when he understood that he was from Cilicia, he said, ‘I will hear you when your accusers have come.’ And he commanded that Paul be kept in Herod’s Praetorium.
“Now after five days Ananias the high priest came down with the elders and a certain orator named Tertullus. And they gave evidence to the governor against Paul.
“And when he was called upon, Tertullus began his accusation, saying: ‘Seeing that through you, Felix, we enjoy great peace, and prosperity is being brought to this nation by your foresight, we accept it always and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness. Nevertheless, not to be tedious to you any further, I beg you to hear, by your courtesy, a few words from us. For we have found this man, Paul, to be a plague, a creator of dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. He even tried to profane the temple, and we seized him; we wanted to judge him according to our law. But the commander Lysias came, and by great violence took him from our hands, commanding his accusers to come to you. By examining him, you, yourself, may ascertain all the things of which we accuse him.’ And the Jews also assented, maintaining that these things were so.
“And then Paul, after the governor had nodded to him to speak, he answered: ‘Inasmuch as I know that you have been for many years a judge of this nation, I do more cheerfully answer for myself, because you may ascertain that it was no more than twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem to worship. And they neither found me in the temple disputing with anyone or inciting a crowd, neither in the synagogues nor in the city. Nor can they prove the things of which they now accuse me. But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, I worship the God of my fathers, believing all the things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. I have hope in God, which they themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. This being so, I myself always strive to have my conscience without offense toward God and men.’”
God, give us wisdom and insight. We come before Your Word today because we believe that Your Word is living, that it is powerful, that it is useful for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that we who are Your people would be equipped completely, totally, thoroughly for every good work. The good works that You have prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. So, Jesus, we pray that when we walk out of this room, at the top of the hour, that we would walk out ready to face the things that You’ve prepared for us on Monday, Tuesday, throughout the rest of this week, that we would be readied by You to be witnesses in glorying Your name in the world in which we live. So, God, work in us, by Your Word, and by Your Spirit, to transform our minds, for we ask this in Jesus’ name. And all God’s people agreed, saying, “Amen.”
You can be seated.
It was one of those moments that would become unforgettable, although, at the time, I certainly didn’t recognize it as such. But now, almost 20 years later, I can see that it is one of those unforgettable experiences. It was October 3, 1995; it was a Tuesday morning. Now, you may say to yourself, “How in the world can you remember October 3, 1995 being a Tuesday morning?”
Well, when I clue you in to what happened on that day, you too will probably remember it very well. I remember very well that I was sitting in my geometry classroom at Orange Glen High School, here in Escondido. And my teacher, Coach Cummings, he was talking probably about right triangles and Pythagorean’s theorem. But, at some point in that class, he decided to stop his discussion about those things, and he turned on News Radio, as myself and about 30 other students all sat there listening, as we heard, “We the jury of the above entitled action find the defendant, Orenthal James Simpson, not guilty of the crime of murder.” Any of you remember that? Any of you remember the white Ford Bronco on TV, the slow chase? We all remember that, don’t we? And with those 20 or so words, “We find the defendant, Orenthal James Simpson, not guilty,” millions of Americans could get back to their lives. And, I would say that Hollywood found that they could make money in what is now called Reality TV. People tune into these things. And then, after that was done, we got back to our work in our geometry class.
But we, as a people, we love courtroom dramas. We love to see someone’s life hanging in the balance. We love to witness justice be done. And I know there are many people who still now, nearly 20 years later, think that in that case, justice was not done. And there are so many people who are into those things because we are a people who long for justice. Even though we are told in the Scriptures that we’re to love mercy and to do, ourselves, do justly, we love to see justice come to pass in another person’s life. That’s why, when you’re driving down the freeway, and someone cruises by you doing 90 or 100 miles an hour, and weaving in and out of traffic, you go, “Oh, I wish that there was a Highway Patrolman!” You all know that feeling. Until you’re the one doing the weaving, and then you go, “Oh, I hope that’s not a Highway Patrolman!” Right? [laughter] We all know that to be the case. But, we love courtroom dramas, and Hollywood knows it, because there are so many different TV shows that are playing into that thing. We love to see the prosecution; and we love to see the defense. We love to see a witness on the stand, the judge in his seat; we love to see the jury there in the box. And we love to hear someone say, “Objection, your honor!”
And him to say, “Sustained.” We like that stuff; we’re into that sort of stuff.
And as we come here to Acts Chapter 24, we have just such a situation before us again, a proceeding just like that. Now, prior to this, Paul has already stood before one council, a Jewish council there in Jerusalem, the Roman governor, Claudius Lysias had called for the council to come together. And Paul was brought there essentially for an arraignment, the charges to be read, them to state what are the formal charges against this man. Why should he stand trial? Why should he be judged? Why should he be even punished, killed, was what they were looking for, what they were hoping for.
But that arraignment didn’t go all that well. You remember in our study last time, that we saw that that arraignment ended with the prosecuting attorneys, if you will, getting in a fight with one another over an issue that Paul brought into the courtroom, as he says, “I’m being judged for the hope of the resurrection.” And there were some there that believed in the resurrection, but there was another group that did not. And so, there arose this contention. And it was so heated that, at a certain point, the authorities, the law, the Romans had to go in and secure the prisoner. They had to go in and secure the defendant, and to remove him for his own protection.
And then immediately following that, there was a plot that was unearthed, that now the prosecution, not only did they want to bring him before their judge and convict him of a crime, but now they’re going to plot to kill him, to assassinate him.
And so, Claudius Lysias, the governor of Rome there, uh, not the governor, but the commander of the Roman army there in Jerusalem, he knew that Paul would not get a fair and impartial hearing. And so he calls for a change of venue. And, in the middle of the night, he sends the prisoner, Paul, down to Caesarea – 60 miles away – with a full military escort – 470 Roman soldiers – 70 of them mounted on horses, 200 of them with spears, 200 of them just with swords – to carry Paul down to Caesarea for a hearing, a change of venue to get some form of an impartial hearing.
And so Paul goes down to Caesarea, as we’ve seen in this passage. And he’s waiting there for a few days as the governor, Felix, looks at the letter, and he says, “Well, I’m going to have to call them. I’m going to have to subpoena the Jewish council to come down here so that they can argue before me, and see what, exactly, is it that they are accusing you of.” And so Paul sits and he waits there in Caesarea for this.
This whole story is something that could be found on any primetime TV channel in the 21st Century. But it’s not a fictional drama; this is actual Christian history. And so, Verse 1 of Chapter 24, we read, “Now after five days Ananias the high priest came down with the elders and a certain orator named Tertullus. And these gave evidence to the governor, Felix, against Paul.”
I love how it says here that the high priest, when he came down with the elders, with the council, they came down to present evidence. And as we’re going to see, as we go through this passage, they really don’t present any evidence, because they have no evidence. And so, since they have no evidence, they have to try and find a way to bring about a conviction, and so, if you have no real evidence, then what do you do? Well, you hire a really good orator, and you flatter the heck out of the judge, hoping that maybe that might, in some way, work. But they had nothing that they could bring against the Apostle Paul, and this is so important, it’s instructive to you and I as Christians, as followers of Jesus, because, point Number 1 on your outline:
We Need To Walk Uprightly Before God And Men
We need to walk uprightly before God and men. Every individual that seeks to follow Jesus, every person who goes by the title, under the name, under the banner – Christian – will, at one point or another in their life, be called into question by those who are not Christians, by those who are outsiders to the faith, to the church, to the people of God. At some point in your life, if you are a follower of Jesus, and if you are outspoken in your faith, if you’re going to tell people, “I’m a Christian, I’m a follower of the Way of Jesus,” then you will be called into question. And when we do come under question, may it be that we have so fulfilled the exhortation that is given by the Apostle Paul to Titus, and those people that Titus would be teaching, in Titus Chapter 2. May it be that we have so fulfilled the words, the exhortation of Paul, that they have nothing evil to say of us. You can turn there if you’d like, Titus Chapter 2. It’s at the end of your Bibles, near the end. Right after 1 and 2 Timothy comes the small book of Titus, Chapter 2, look at Verse 6. Titus 2, Verse 6, Paul says to this young pastor, this young Christian leader, “Likewise, exhort the young men, that they be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, and incorruptibility.” “Listen, to those who are a part of the church, especially young men,” he says, but to anyone, “make sure that your life is a pattern of good works, that you are showing integrity, that you’re showing honor and reverence and respect, both to God and to authorities in this world, that you’re showing incorruptibility, that you have sound speech,” Verse 8. Why? “…sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent,” one who is outside, and unbeliever, “may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.”
May it be that my life and your lives would be lived in such a pattern that people who don’t believe in Jesus, that don’t go to a church building on a Sunday, or ever, that they have nothing evil to say of us, that we walk uprightly before both God and men. May it be that we, as Christians, fulfill what Philippians Chapter 2 says, that we “become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a wicked and perverse generation, a crooked and perverse generation, that we would shine as lights in a dark world.”
How many of you today would say we live in a dark world? Now, that is true of every generation; that is true of every place, because the world, through the Fall that is described in Genesis Chapter 3, walks in darkness. And Jesus says, and His word is authoritative, He says, “Men love darkness rather than light.” And we know that’s true. And we are children of God, which means we are children of light, and we live in the world that is dark. And he says, “Make sure that you become blameless and harmless, to the point that you shine as lights in a dark, crooked, and a perverse generation and world.” And so, may it be that God does that in our lives, that as much as is possible, as it depends on us, that we would live at peace with all men, not just those that are in the Body of Christ.
So point Number 1 says that we should walk uprightly before God; which is a given. I think every single one of us say we want to walk uprightly before God; we want to live in a way that is honoring to Him. But also before men, and this is not saying just men within the church, this is people that are inside or outside the church – anybody – that we walk in such a way that when people look at our lives, they say, “That is a person of integrity. That is a person that has self-control. That is a person that has love, joy, peace, kindness, gentleness, self-control,” the things that are the evidences of God’s Spirit being within us. May it be that people who don’t even know God, look at my life and say, “That’s what I see, I see integrity,” in the community, in the workplace.
Well, we know that the high priest here, and the elders, they appear before the Roman governor there in Caesarea, the capital of the province of Judea. They come to present evidence, but they really have no evidence, and so what do you do when you have no evidence? Well, they hired a dynamic orator. Verse 2, it says, “And when they came, they brought Tertullus.” And he now stands before them, “he was called upon, Tertullus, he began his accusation.” And when you hire this dynamic orator, then he’s going to flatter the judge, and so that’s exactly what he does. “Seeing that through you, Felix, we enjoy great peace, and prosperity, prosperity is being brought to this nation,” the nation of Israel, “by your foresight, it’s because of your leadership that we have prosperity among us, we accept it always and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness.”
Now, that may sound good, but none of it was true, none of it was true. History records that this governor, Felix, who ruled from about AD 52 until AD 58, and we believe that these events were taking place in about this time of year – May of AD 58 – just before he was called upon by Caesar Nero to relinquish his post there in Judea. We know, historians tell us, that this guy was a terrible leader. He was given to accept bribes. He even is seeking a bribe from the Apostle Paul at the end of this passage, in Verse 26. You can look at it later, if you’d like. He was given to receiving bribes, and as a result of his, you know, tendency towards receiving bribes, we’re told by the Jewish historian, Josephus, and others, that Judea, during this time, crime had increased exponentially, because people knew you could do whatever you want, and you just pay off Felix, “It’s all good.” We know that there was no prosperity during this time, under Felix, because things were so difficult in Judea that Paul, a Christian man, received an offering to bring alms to Jewish individuals there in Jerusalem, because they were suffering under a bad economy.
And so here Tertullus stands up and says, “Oh, listen Felix, you know, through you we have great peace.” Not true. “Through you we have great prosperity.” Not true. “Because of your great leadership…” Not true. Felix would be relieved from his post by Caesar Nero because He was a terrible leader. He’d be replaced by a guy by the name of Festus, which we’ll be introduced to in the future.
Not only was this guy not a good leader, but he was an immoral man. At this point in time, he’s married to a gal who, she appeared before him when she was somewhere around 20 years old, a little bit younger than that. And she was so incredibly beautiful to him, although she was already married, he found a way to seduce her, and he stole her from her husband. And she was his second wife. He would go on to divorce her, and be married a third time. But this was an immoral, wicked man. And yet, here Tertullus stands up and says, “Oh, you’re so wonderful, you’re so wonderful.” Flattery will get you nowhere, we know that to be the case.
But now Tertullus turns in Verse 4, and he presents his accusations, the charges coming from the high priest, and from the people there from the council. And, if you notice carefully, they present three charges. Verse 4, charge Number 1: “Nevertheless, not to be tedious to you any further, now I’ll get to the point, I beg you to hear, by your courtesy, a few words from us. For we have found this man, Paul, to be a plague.” The King James Version says, “We have found this man to be a pestilence. He’s a pest, and everywhere he goes he brings sickness, he brings destruction, he brings pestilence, he is a plague. He is a creator of dissension among all the Jews throughout the world.”
The first charge that they bring against him is that Paul is a troublemaker wherever he goes. He stirs up problems, “and we just don’t like him.” Now, as I said a few weeks ago, this is actually the reality among anyone who’s a follower of Jesus Christ. Why is that? Well, if your faith is alive, and if your faith in Christ is active, it will be disruptive to the status quo, because living for Jesus will cause a stir. You see, the faith of Christ, and the way of the kingdom of God, is so counter to the culture of this world, that you, who are walking according to the kingdom of God, will be going against the flow of this world, going against the course of this world, that is under the sway of the wicked one. Therefore, wherever you go, it’ll cause a stir, it’ll cause a problem. But that’s not necessarily a convictable offense. The reality is that the Christian carries about with them a certain fragrance. Paul, in 2 Corinthians Chapter 2, he describes this, he says that you and I, as believers in Jesus, as Christians, have the fragrance of Christ upon us. And he says to those who are Christians, it is the aroma of life leading to life. When you meet someone, maybe they don’t go to this church, but you meet someone who goes to another church, and you realize they’re a Christian, and immediately you have a joining, a community, a fellowship, the Bible describes it as, because there’s the aroma of life leading to life. And you go, “Man, I just [smelling], I love to breathe that in.”
But Paul says in 2 Corinthians Chapter 2 that to those who are perishing, that is, people who don’t know Jesus, that same fragrance, the fragrance of Christ, is like the aroma of death leading to death. How many of you have ever smelled the smell of death before? This last week, myself and Pastor Josh and Pastor Jason, Pastor Mark, Pastor Nick, we went to Catalina Island for kind of a scouting trip. And we camped on the ocean side of Catalina Island. And when we got to our campsite, there’s no one there. But when we got to our campsite, there was this smell, terrible smell. And we were just a couple hundred yards from the water, and we walked down to the beach, and as we did, we found the origin of the smell. There were, on the beach, three dead seals that had been in the sun for a time. Now, let’s be honest, when you have a group of boys, as we did – my son, Josh had three of his sons, Jason had three of his sons, we had another guy on our team that had his son – what do boys do when they find dead seals on the beach? Well, of course, they throw rocks at them. [laughter] I won’t describe what happened as they threw rocks at these carcasses, but let me tell you, the smell was hideous – the smell of death. You see, if you’re a Christian, you have the fragrance of Christ upon you, and for someone who does not know Christ, that is the smell of death leading to death, and they don’t want anything to do with it. And so, wherever you go, there will be a stir. But, we need to make sure that we are those who are walking uprightly before God and men, that they have nothing evil to say of us. There’s nothing that they can hold against us, the charges won’t stick.
The second charge is given here in Verse 5 also. Tertullus stands up and he says, “This guy’s a plague, he’s a pestilence, we don’t like him, he stands for something that we hate.” Number 2, “He is a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes, a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.” Now, Nazarenes, because those who were called Christians, in the city of Antioch, in the region of Syria, they were called Nazarenes by those who were in Jerusalem and Judea, because they were the followers of one Jesus of Nazareth. Now, you may look at this and say, “How is this a charge? Why is this even something to be brought up, that Paul is the ringleader of a sect of the Nazarenes?”
Well, we understand that among the Jews, Nazareth was viewed poorly, they looked down upon that region there in Galilee. That was kind of the backwater sort of Valley Center – I apologize to you “Valley Centerites.” But it was that backwater place that, in the Gospel of John, one who would ultimately become a disciple and follower of Jesus, when he was told that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, he said, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” But, more than that, what was being said by Tertullus, what was being said by the chief priest and the elders of Israel, was that this guy, Saul of Tarsus, Paul, an ambassador of Jesus of Nazareth, a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes, he is an outsider. He is outside the norm of Christian life. He is outside the mainstream. What they’re essentially saying is, “This guy is a cult leader of some wacky group that is outside the norm, and outside the mainstream.”
Now, in a certain sense, that was somewhat true; Paul was a leader among this group who were followers of Jesus of Nazareth. But, there is something that is not true here – those followers are not outside the norm, they’re not cultic, they’re not outside the mainstream of that which is right. But they were outside the mainstream of that which was going on in the religion of the Jews of that day. And it speaks to us because, the reality is, you and I, point Number 2 on your outline:
We Are In The World, But We Should Not Be Conformed To It
We are in the world, but we should not be conformed to it. You see, as a Christian, whether you lived in the 1st Century or you live in the 21st Century, we are outside of what people in this world, moving according to the course of this world, we are outside the mainstream, we are outside the norm, and in many ways we are countercultural to it, we’re revolutionary in it, we’re moving in a different direction. And, therefore, people who are a part of this system in the world will look at you as a Christian and say, “There’s something weird about you. There’s something we don’t like about you, because you’re not normal like us.” As if that’s a bad thing.
It was back in the 90s that it was popular among Christians, especially Christian teenagers, to wear a bracelet – some of you probably had one of those, and if you looked around your house, you’d probably find it in a drawer somewhere. It had four letters on it – WWJD. Anybody wear one of those once upon a time? Be honest, we won’t laugh. What Would Jesus Do. Well, then, right around the early 2000s, there was a new four-letter acronym that people started to wear about, that were Christians, and it was a new one, and it said – NOTW – Not Of This World – in accordance with some of the passages of Scripture found in the Gospel of John, where Jesus says, “I am not of this world, and since you’re a follower of Me, you’ll not be of this world either.”
And so Christians would say, “I’m not of this world.” And there is some truth to that, but the reality is it’s far easier to stick a sticker on your car that says, “NOTW,” than to actually live in a way that you’re in the world, but not conformed to the world, to live in such a way that you’re not following after the patterns of this world. You see, all the pressures of this culture, all the pressures of this world, are trying to get you and I to conform to what is normal to the world. But, as a Christian, you just can’t do that, because we are of another kingdom. Paul, in Philippians Chapter 3, says you and I are citizens of heaven. In 2 Corinthians Chapter 5, he says we are ambassadors, that is representatives of another kingdom. We are in this world, Hebrews says, as pilgrims, as sojourners, we’re passing through. And even if you were born in America, even though you may have been born in San Diego County, and you’ve grown up in this culture, even though you know the ins and outs of, you know, what it’s like to live “beach culture,” Southern California, you’re in this world, but you’re not to be of this world, because we represent another world. And because that is the case, we will be seen as outsiders. And there’s so much pressure, because we like comfort, let’s be honest, we like comfort, and it’s uncomfortable to be seen as the outsider, the abnormal. And so because we’re so tempted to be comfortable, a lot of times we just, “Well, you know, I’ll just do what they do, I’ll talk like they talk, I’ll go where they go and watch what they watch, because I don’t want to be labeled as outside the mainstream.”
Well, Paul was certainly outside the mainstream, and because he was outside the mainstream, he was disruptive to the status quo, he was countercultural, he was revolutionary, and the people that he came in contact with didn’t like that. So they said, “He’s a ringleader of the outsiders, the others. And we’re not too sure we like them. We want them gone because they make us uncomfortable.” I mentioned it just recently, a bumper sticker that Josh saw a number of years ago that said, “I Can’t Wait For The Rapture,” in big letters, and then underneath it said, “Because Then We’ll Have The Whole World To Ourselves.” There’s a certain way in which people in the world – and it will grow in this way in our own nation – that they’ll look at people who are Christians seeking to live out their faith, and say, “You know we don’t want anything to do with you. You ruin everything.”
Well, the third and final charge is leveled against Paul in Verse 6. Tertullus stands up and says, “He even tried to profane the temple. He tried to profane the temple.” Now, among the three charges that were brought against Paul, this was the only one that actually was a punishable offense. If it were true – and Paul will show that it’s not – if it were true, he could be subject to punishment under Jewish law, because there were certain areas in the temple that only Jewish individuals could go, no Gentiles could go there. The accusation was that Paul had brought a Gentile into the temple, which was not the case. But, if he had, he could have been punished, he could have even been killed. So this is the only charge that is prosecutable, punishable. But it is not true, as Paul will show.
And so those formal charges are brought against Paul. The Jewish prosecution stands up and they say, “Paul is a nuisance, he is an outsider, he is not mainstream, and he has tried to profane the temple. And so we were going to judge him according to our law, but,” Verse 7, “the commander Lysias, the Roman commander, came by and with great violence he took him out of our hands. How dare he do such a thing, that he came in here, and we were going to judge him, and now he pulled him away from us, and we couldn’t judge him.” “’…commanding his accusers, my clients, commanding his accusers, the chief priests, the council of Judaism, to come and appear before you. By examining him yourself, Felix, you may ascertain that all these things of which we accused him are so.’ And the Jews also assented, maintaining that these things were so.”
And so, Tertullus says, “He’s a nuisance, he’s a plague, he’s outside the mainstream, he tried to profane the temple, and if you look into these things, Felix, you will find this is so, and the prosecution rests.” And all of the Jewish council, his clients, go, “Uh-huh. Uh-huh, yes, uh-huh. Uh-huh, you get him. Uh-huh. Look into these things, Felix, look into them.”
And so Felix, having presided, no doubt, over things like this before, he hears the prosecution, and they say, “We rest our case.” And now he looks over to Paul, and with a simple nod, “Go ahead.”
Verse 10: “Then Paul, after the governor had nodded to him to speak, answered: ‘Inasmuch as I know that you have been for many years a judge of this nation, I do more cheerfully answer for myself.’” Paul, after receiving the go-ahead, having received in his life plenty of legal training, he didn’t need someone to stand as his expert orator to stand in his defense, he stands to defend himself, with no pomp, no flattery, he simply conveys to Felix, “Hey, I’m pleased to appear before you because I know that you’ve got experience in matters like this. You’ve judged things like this before, and so I’m glad that I can talk with you. You’re not a rookie judge here. You know what’s going on here,” is essentially what Paul is saying.
And so he begins to state his case. And in Paul’s stating of his case, there are five important lessons that we can glean about how we, when we stand before others to state our case, ought to state our case. And point Number 1 is given in Paul’s opening words in Verse 10, where he says to Felix, “Inasmuch as I know that that you have been doing this for many years as a judge of this nation, I cheerfully stand before you.” Point Number 1, Letter A under Stating Your Case:
Acknowledge The Intelligence Of Your Hearers
Acknowledge the intelligence of your hearers. You know, one of the things that Christians in our day have been accused of, it’s an accusation that actually could stick, is that we have a tendency to belittle non-Christians. We have a tendency to belittle their intelligence. We have a tendency to belittle their questions of the faith, not realizing that they have valid questions, and they’re not idiots. And so, when you interact with someone in your workplace, or a family member that doesn’t know Jesus, and they have questions, maybe even accusations against the Bible or against you, well, acknowledge that they’re not foolish people, acknowledge that they are intelligent, and recognize that the questions that they may bring to you may actually be valid. Sometimes Christians are guilty of looking at someone who’s asking questions and say, “Well, that’s such a dumb question. Don’t you understand? Don’t you…?”
No, no, they don’t understand. No, they don’t know. And so when we are stating our case, we need to acknowledge the intelligence of those who are listening to us. Don’t belittle them. I suggest to you, as we’re going to see in a further study of this passage, that Paul later on is going to have an opportunity to speak privately with Felix and his wife, and the reason he has an opportunity to speak openly and privately with Felix, not in front of the Jewish council, and not standing there to defend himself, but an opportunity to share the Gospel with Felix, is because he didn’t belittle the intelligence of this carnal, Roman governor sitting before him. And sometimes we do that, and it cuts off the opportunity for us to be able to share more fully with someone about the faith. Well, Paul answered him in truth and with sincerity.
Going on, Verse 11, Paul says, “Because you may ascertain that it was no more than twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem to worship. And they neither found me in the temple disputing with anyone nor inciting a crowd, either in the synagogue or in the city. Nor can they prove the things which they now accuse me of.” Secondly, in stating your case, Letter B:
Encourage Others To Examine The Facts
Encourage others to examine the facts. Paul says, “Listen, Felix, I know you’re a smart guy. You’ve seen these sort of things before; you have experience with this sort of stuff. They’ve just leveled some charges, I encourage you to look into the facts. I went up to Jerusalem about 12 days ago, I went into the temple to worship. I was there, in and out of the temple, throughout the city, I wasn’t causing problems. You can find witnesses to support that; ask anyone, they know that I was not doing what these guys are saying that I was doing.”
We should learn from Paul’s example here. If someone that you and I are interacting with over the Gospel, has sincere questions about Christ, one of the things that we can do is just encourage them to examine the facts, look into these things. I am surprised by how many people I’ve talked to, over the years, that don’t believe in Jesus, that have challenging things to say about the Bible. They’ll say, “Well, the Bible is full of error, and the Bible is full of fables, and all this stuff in there’s not true.”
And I simply say, “Have you ever read it?”
And sheepishly they respond, “Well, no.”
And you say, “So you have an opinion about something you’ve never actually looked into.”
“Might I just encourage you to look into it? Don’t take my word for it, just look into it for yourself, the evidence is there.”
One of the best things that you can do, as you’re stating your case with a person who is unbelieving, that would say they’re an opponent of the faith, is to acknowledge their intelligence, and then to encourage them to examine the facts. Whether someone has read the Bible or not, they have generally formed opinions and questions about the faith. Sometimes they have animosity towards Christians that has nothing to do with the Bible, but has something to do with someone who once said they were a Christian, and acted in an unbiblical way before them, and so they have issues with Christians. And one of the best things that we can do sometimes is simply say, “Hey, you know what, I realize that so-and-so may not have been a good example to you. And I’m really sorry that they were a bad example. But could you just look into the facts of the Scriptures, and consider what they say?”
Well, thirdly, Letter C, when people come and they have those questions:
Plainly Answer The Accusations And Questions
Plainly answer the accusations and questions. When someone does have a sincere and genuine question, when they say to you, and when they ask me, when they say, “Do you really believe these things?”
“Do you really believe that God created the heavens and the earth?”
“Yes, I believe that.”
“Do you really believe that Jesus raised from the dead?”
“Yes, I believe in the resurrection.”
“Is it really true that you believe that both unbelievers and believers will one day rise to stand before God for judgment for their sins?”
And so many Christians want to dance around that. “Well, yeah, well, goodness, I don’t know if I should say yes to that one, because I know it’s in the Bible, but, oh goodness, it’s going to offend them.”
“Yes!! Yes!!” We do believe that both the believer and the non-believer will one day, in the next life, rise to stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ to be judged for their actions.
There’s a temptation for us to step away from that truth, but when we do, Letter D on your outline:
Clearly Articulate The Truth Of The Gospel
Clearly articulate the truth of the Gospel. Verse 14, Acts 24: “But this I confess to you, Felix, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all the things which are written in the Law and the Prophets. I have hope in God, which, you know what, they do too, they themselves accept that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.”
Paul clearly articulates the truth of the Gospel. He says to Felix, “Listen, Tertullus has said, ‘This guy’s a ringleader of a sect called the Nazarenes. He says that we’re some sort of outsiders, some sort of outside the mainstream group that’s not normal. Let me tell you, it’s not a sect. I’m a follower of the Way.”
You say, “Well, what is the Way?”
Well, most Bible teachers accept and believe that it has something to do with Jesus saying, in John Chapter 14, Verse 6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father but by Me.” And so Paul was a believer in the resurrection, and he believed that the only way to be raised unto eternal life was to follow the Way, Jesus is the Way, and so he was an ambassador representative of the way, not just a ringleader of some strange outside the mainstream cult. He says, “I am a follower of the Way.”
You know, one more little point in Paul stating his case, that I didn’t necessarily put in the outline, but is important, notice that he here highlights the commonalities between him and his accusers. He says, “They also believe in the resurrection; there’s just one minor difference, I believe that Jesus is the Way.”
As I shared a couple of weeks ago on Easter, 81% of Americans believe that there is life after death. And when we’re interacting with friends, family members, co-workers who maybe don’t believe in the Way, but they would say, “I think there’s life after this,” well, you can highlight the commonalities. “Listen, we both agree that there is life after this. Let me ask you a question? If you died tonight, would you be in heaven for eternity?”
And they might say, “Well, I don’t know.”
And you would say, because you’re a Christian, a follower of the Way, “Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father but by Me,’ but He promised those who put their faith in Him that He would prepare a place for them, and come and receive them to Himself, that there we would be with Him for eternity. So I know the Way, and I know with certainty that I have hope in God that I will be there one day.” Let me tell you, when you talk to someone who says, “I’m not entirely sure I believe that Jesus is the Way, but I do think that there is life after this, and you say with confidence, “I have hope in God that I will be there,” it’s going to challenge them, because they don’t have that hope. They’re relying on their good works, they’re relying on their church attendance, they’re relying on the fact that they were baptized as an infant, they’re relying on any number of things to get them in, and so they would say, “I’m not necessarily sure I have absolute certainty, I’m just kind of hoping that maybe that might work out for me.”
“I,” Verse 15, “have hope in God.” Would you underline that in your Bibles? “I have hope in God, that there will be a resurrection.” Verse 16, notice this, notice the tie in between Verses 15 and 16: “I have hope in God that there will be a resurrection. This being so, because I believe that there is a resurrection, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense before God and men.” “Because I know that someday I’m going to stand before God to give an account for every thought, word, deed, or action, because I know that one day I’ll stand before Him, I want to live my life now without offense before God and men.”
“Now after many years,” Verse 17, “I came to bring alms and offerings to my nation, in the midst of which some Jews from Asia,” probably from the city of Ephesus, “found me purified in the temple, I didn’t have a mob or a tumultuous crowd with me. They ought to have been here to object if they had anything against me, but they’re not here to answer. Or else let those who are here themselves say if they found any wrongdoing in me while I stood before the council, unless it is for this one statement which I cried out, standing among them, ‘Concerning the resurrection of the dead I am being judged by you this day.’”
Final point on stating your case, Letter E:
Don’t Be Offended If They Don’t Receive Him
Don’t be offended if they don’t receive Him. I think that sometimes we take it way too personally that people refuse to hear what we have to say about Jesus. They’re not rejecting you, they’re rejecting Him, and don’t be offended if they don’t receive Him. If you have acknowledged the intelligence of your hearers, you’ve encouraged them to examine the facts, and they have, you have plainly and accurately answered the questions and the accusations that they bring to you, and you’ve clearly articulated the truth of the Gospel, if they reject it, that’s before them and God. It they say, “I’m not interested in that.”
And you say, “Well, you know, that’s between you and the Lord.”
Now, I realize it might be a bother to some people that I’ve talked to, but this is what I’ve done in this case. Turn with me, if you would, to the Book of Hebrews, Hebrews Chapter 10. In conversation, and this has happened a number of times with me, in conversation with people who say, “You know what, I’m not interested in that, I’m not ready to receive the grace of Christ, I don’t think that I believe that He is the Way,” I say this to them: Verse 26 of Hebrews Chapter 10.
I say, “Listen, I’ve put you in mind today of the truth of who God is. I’ve shared with you the Gospel, that Jesus came and He died for our sins to cover and remove them. However, you’re rejecting this.” Verse 26, “Let me show you this verse in Hebrews Chapter 10, the Bible says this: ‘For if we sin willfully after having received the knowledge of the truth,’ I’ve just made you aware of the knowledge of the truth that Jesus died for your sins, and you’re rejecting His sacrifice, so ‘If you sin willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth,’ notice this, ‘there remains no more sacrifice for your sins.’ Your good works won’t work, your church attendance won’t work, your infant baptism won’t work, this is all you have to look forward to, Verse 27: ‘but a certain and fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries.’”
And they look at you and they say, “What?!”
“Yeah, I’m just letting you know what the Bible says. It’s not my opinion. If you reject this, the only thing you have to look forward to is damnation.”
They go, “I don’t like that.”
And I go, “I’m glad you don’t like that. I don’t like that either. But I want you to know that as you lay down on your pillow tonight, that’s all you have to look forward to.”
Am I wrong? I don’t know. I found it to be really effective. You can use that tactic if you like. [laughter] Hebrews 10:26, just so you know you’re rejecting the free offer of grace in Jesus Christ, the only thing you have to look forward to because you’re good works won’t work, is indignation and judgment. Amen.
May the Lord be the One who gives us the words in those moments to share, but we need to make sure that we state our case, state our case before those who are wondering, that have a question, and recognize that those in our workplaces, in our families that don’t know Christ, they want to know who you are, what you believe, and why you believe it. And so be ready to stand before them.
Would you stand with me as we close in prayer.
Father God, we thank You for Your good Word, Your Word which is powerful and challenging. Help us today, as we go from this place, and this week as we walk with You, to be ready in season and out of season, to state our case, Lord, to walk uprightly before those who are outside, to not be conformed to this world, even though we’re in it, to acknowledge the intelligence of those that we are talking with, encourage them to examine the facts, to answer their questions, to give the truth of the Gospel. But, Lord, to leave it with them between You and them, and to trust that Your Holy Spirit is able to convict the world of sin, or of righteousness, and of coming judgment. God, break us outside of the mold of our complacency, challenge us to share the truth of the Gospel with those that are outside.
Listen, as we’re standing here this morning, it may be that you would say, “I don’t have hope in God.” Paul said, “I hope in God for the resurrection.” If you would say, “I’m not sure that I’m certain that I will receive that resurrection,” Jesus came to die on the cross for our sins, to remove them as far as the east is from the west, and He has called us to confess our sins, to believe in Him, that He died and rose again for our sins, to accept what He did on the cross as the payment for our sins, to repent, to turn from our sin, willing to follow Him, and to do so publicly. If that’s you today, if you’ve not received the hope of God for salvation, I want to give you an opportunity to do that. And so you can do so by simply praying and calling out to Jesus in this way. If you want to do that, just pray with me, repeat after me, “Dear Jesus, I know that I’m a sinner. I believe that You died in my place. I believe that You rose from the dead. Please come into my heart, be my Lord, and my Savior. Help me to turn from my sin, and to turn to You in faith. Please save me from my sin. In Jesus’ name.”
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