Acts 24:1-21 – Paul & Jesus on Trial
Diving Deeper Lesson Outline for Acts 24:1-21
The title is drawn from Paul’s trial as revealed in our text.
It also deals with the root of the Jews disdain for Paul which is to be found in Jesus.
1) PAUL ON TRIAL BEFORE THE GOVERNOR
Acts 24:1-2a – 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. 2 And when he had been summoned, Tertullus began to accuse him saying:…
Tertullus was a “forensic orator” otherwise known as a lawyer hired by Ananias and company.
Their plan was apparently to accuse Paul of violating both Jewish & Roman laws.
Paul’s Roman Violations:
Acts 24:5a – For we have found this man a plague, one who stirs up riots among all the Jews throughout the world
Stirs Up is the Greek word kineo and it means “to set in motion.”
Therefore, they were arguing that Paul purposely set out to cause riots as he traveled throughout the Roman empire.
And if true, this could have been condemned as treason – crimen majestatis. – Easton’s Bible Dictionary
This is one reason Lysias (Acts 22:30) and Felix probably didn’t just let Paul go.
Another Biblical example of imprisonment due to riot/insurrection:
Luke 23:25 – He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will.
POI – Gallio, a Roman official, acted somewhat differently that Lysias or Felix.
Interestingly, Gallio (Acts 18) was less patient with the Jews efforts to “work the system”.
He saw what was really going on and had nothing to do with it.
Acts 18:14-15 – But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or vicious crime, O Jews, I would have reason to accept your complaint. 15 But since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves. I refuse to be a judge of these things.”
******** Paul’s defense ********
Acts 24:11-12 – You can verify that it is not more than twelve days since I went up to worship in Jerusalem, and 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.
Acts 24:17 – Now after several years I came to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings.
Paul made a few points to refute Tertullus’ 1st claim.
Witnesses could verify that:
A) He came to Jerusalem to bring alms and offerings – Paul’s business in Jerusalem was religious not political.
B) He had spent about 7 “days in purification”. – In obedience to James, he did this with some Jewish believers.
C) He had been in Caesarea 5 days. – Lysias and Felix himself were well aware of this.
D) He could not have begun an insurrection in 7 days – remember he had been out of Jerusalem for 3+ years. He didn’t have enough time.
How do we know the time frame?
Acts 21:26-27 – Then Paul took the men, and the next day he purified himself along with them and went into the temple, giving notice when the days of purification would be fulfilled and the offering presented for each one of them. 27 When the seven days were almost completed,
Acts 24:1 – And after five days…
Paul’s Jewish Violations:
Acts 24:5b – and is a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.
Acts 24:6 – He even tried to profane the temple, but we seized him.
“Ringleader” is a military term which means “one who stands in the front rank.”
“Sect” carries with it the idea of “heresy” or “false teaching.”
The implication here is that Paul is the leader of a heretical movement rooted in Jesus of Nazareth.
And the military imagery seems to be an attempt to paint this heretical movement as a political threat which relates to the Roman violations.
And picking up on the Asian Jews fabrication, He accuses Paul of desecrating the temple.
Acts 21:28b – Moreover, he even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.”
POI – It is significant to see how a Gentile’s physical presence in the temple would defile it, but under Jesus’ new covenant the converted Gentile is now in fact the temple – 1 Corinthians 3:16-17.
This is an outrageous thought to the Jew and a reason they had such animosity towards Jesus and Paul.
******** Paul’s defense********
Acts 24:14-15 – But 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, 15 having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.
Acts 24:18a – While I was doing this, they found me purified in the temple, without any crowd or tumult.
Paul made a few points to refute Tertullus’ 2nd claim.
A) I worship the God of our fathers.
B) I believe in the Law and the Prophets
C) I have a hope in a resurrection.
D) These are exactly what my accusers before you believe.
E) I was purified, in the temple & so there were no crowds (Paul wouldn’t be w/Gentiles during purification).
Finally, Paul went on to make some basic observations about his accusers.
Acts 18b-21 – But some Jews from Asia—19 they ought to be here before you and to make an accusation, should they have anything against me. 20 Or else let these men themselves say what wrongdoing they found when I stood before the council, 21 other 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.’ ”
He rightly pointed out that the Asian Jews, who were supposedly the witnesses to these so-called transgressions, weren’t even there to testify.
In fact, the ones present and making accusations weren’t witnesses to any of the things they are claiming.
The only thing they witnessed was the council meeting.
So the only legitimate gripe they had is that Paul started an argument concerning the resurrection of the dead.
2) THE ROOT OF THE JEWS PROBLEM WITH PAUL’S GOSPEL
Last week we examined the methods employed by the Jews to stop the Apostles and their message.
We determined that some of the reasons for this involved jealousy (Acts 13:45) and loss of status quo.
In our text today, we see they traveled 2 days and hired a lawyer to see to it that Paul was done.
It is clear that there is more going on than just jealousy and a power struggle.
The Jews believed that what they were trying to do was the right thing to do for God and for Judaism.
They believed that Paul’s teachings (and by extension Jesus’) were heresy.
And of course this all has to do with Jesus.
Paul’s sect of Judaism was rooted in Jesus.
The Jews had a problem with Paul because they had a problem with Jesus.
Very briefly, I want us to try and understand just one of many reasons why.
Remember, we already made mention of the Gentile & temple relationship.
With the help of William Lane Craig’s book Reasonable Faith, we can get an appreciation for why Jesus (and by extension Paul) was so problematic for the Jews.
Jesus’ View of His Authority:
A typical rabbi’s teaching style was seen to be authoritative because the source material from which they taught was deemed to have authority.
They would quote the law, the prophets or oral law and explain what it means.
Jesus, in stark contrast, taught as one who was the very source of authority – even above that of the law and the prophets.
The best example of this is seen in the Sermon on the Mount.
In Matthew 5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38, & 43, we see the following method:
“You have heard that it was said…///…But I say to you…”
Here we see that Jesus “placed his personal authority on a par with that of the divine law” and “he adjusted the Law on his own authority.” – Craig
We get a Scriptural glimpse of the crowds recognition of this authority in Matthew 7:28-29.
And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.
Jesus authority was evident to others.
But Jesus’ view of His authority is even more profound than this.
Take, for example, Matthew 5:31-32.
“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
Here, Jesus claims the authority to actually change, correct and reinterpret the law! (See Mark 10:2-9)
“Jesus seems to assume an authority over Torah that no Pharisee or OT Prophet assumed – the authority to set it aside.” – Ben Witherington.
The extent that this would have offended the Jew cannot be understated or exaggerated.
For a man to claim the authority to change, correct or reinterpret the law would have been outrageous!
In fact, Jewish Scholar Jacob Neusner says:
Jews believe in the Torah of Moses…and that belief requires faithful Jews to enter a dissent at the teachings of Jesus, on the grounds that those teachings at important points contradict the Torah. And therefore, because that specific teaching was so broadly out of phase with the Torah and covenant of Sinai, I could not then follow him and do not now either. That is not because I am stubborn or unbelieving. It is because I believe God has given a different Torah from the one that Jesus teaches; and that Torah, the one Moses got at Sinai, stands in judgment of the torah of Jesus, as it dictates true and false for all other torahs that people want to teach in God’s name.
Understanding Jesus view of himself as one who is the source of authority, i.e. God, really begins to help explain the layers of animosity the Jews held toward Jesus and His followers.
Only God could give law, and most of the Jews did not accept that Jesus was God.
And this, as I stated earlier, is just one of many ways that Jesus offended the Jews.
So it is no wonder that the Jews were so offended by Paul and his message.
And all of this makes Paul’s conversion (a Pharisee of all Pharisees) even more remarkable!