google-site-verification: google3e8cc4742c5fd8a2.html The Spirit Explodes 21
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The Spirit Explodes

Part 21 of 22 - Roman Justice.

Acts 23:12 – 26:32


by Roger Kirby

This lengthy section, though important in showing to Theophilus that Paul was innocent of any crime against Roman law and providing the opportunity for Luke to recount the story of Paul’s conversion for the third time, is of no great interest to us. So we will take it at the gallop.

First there is the rather amusing account of how Paul started out on his much desired journey to Rome.

Read Acts 23:12 – 35.

What is interesting here is that the young man, Paul’s nephew, is able to gain access to the commander of the garrison. This suggests that he, and therefore Paul’s family, were of some considerable status and rank. Their society was exceedingly status conscious. Everyone knew where they stood in the hierarchy and acted accordingly. We have already seen this in the way that the commander reacted to the information that Paul was born a Roman citizen while he had to purchase his. That this comparatively young man is able to speak to the senior authority suggests he was from a well known and respected family.

So late in the evening Paul set off for Rome escorted by 470 Roman soldiers.

Question 1: What would Paul’s reaction to this have been likely to be?

I don’t know about you but I think he would have seen this as a great comedy and have been finding it hard not to roar with laughter! ‘I want to go to Rome, Lord. Please could you supply me with a Roman escort? Oh, dear! 470 is rather more than I expected.’

The letter from commander Lysias is interesting. He puts the best possible slant on what happened though it is not all strictly accurate; he rescued Paul before, not after, he realised that he was a Roman citizen.

The foot soldiers turned back after they had completed the more dangerous half of the journey to Caesarea.

From the possible clash of arms we turn to the clash of words as two men accomplished in the art of rhetoric speak before governor Felix.

Read Acts 24:1 – 9.

First Tertullus, a hired lawyer - His praise of Felix is a pack of lies! Felix was not one of the best Roman high officials. He was a brutal and sadistic man who eventually dealt with the Jewish people so badly that he had to be recalled to Rome. His accusations against Paul were all similarly wrong, at least the only ones he could bring evidence about were. Paul had not done anything to desecrate the temple, but he had stirred up riots amongst the Jews in all the places he had visited.

Paul is quick to latch on to the fact that they could prove nothing against him in Jerusalem. Obviously he had realised that they had no witnesses against him from his missionary journeys. Roman court procedure insisted that accusers had to be present in court in person and there were none such in this court.

Read Acts 24:10 – 21.

Now Paul’s reply. All that Paul said was true. But it was all carefully related to events in Jerusalem. He said nothing about events during his travels except for pointing out that there was nobody there with first hand evidence of those events. He could have been found guilty of stirring up riots if his progress through Asia Minor and Greece had been considered!

Read Acts 24:22 – 26.

Felix is intrigued by this unusual prisoner and was prepared to argue with him, but soon found that this amounted more to listening than talking. Presumably Paul could have easily obtained his freedom with a bribe but he did not want to do so. It is likely that his family back in Jerusalem or the church in Judea and Galilee would have been able to raise enough money for that.

Question 2: In countries where bribes are expected even for things like justice, should Christians be prepared to pay them?

That is a difficult question to answer to cover all situations. Probably most local churches in such countries have decided what their policy is on such matters and the individual Christian should fall into line with that collective decision.

Read Acts 24:27 – 25:12.

This passage is all complicated political manoeuvring. Festus was a much better man than Felix but he came to the job presumably with no background and the Jews attempted to manipulate him without success. Paul realised that, if he was taken to Jerusalem he would be unlikely to come out alive and therefore his best chance of getting to Rome was as a prisoner of the Romans. That this would also mean that he would be on trial for his life was of no consequence to him. So he appeals to Caesar, as every Roman was entitled to do under certain circumstances. Festus checks with his advisers and decides this case is of that type.

But now the local king, Agrippa II, great-grandson of Herod the Great turned up with his sister Bernice, a lady of easy virtue, to welcome Festus.

Read Acts 25:13 – 22.

Festus sensibly asked for advice from Agrippa with his local knowledge.

Read Acts 25:23 – 27.

Notice how Luke was carefully building up the case that Paul had done nothing wrong in Roman law. He was reminding Theophilus that a respectable Roman could become a Christian.

Read Acts 26:1 – 23.

This third description of Paul’s conversion follows much the same pattern as the previous ones. The bit about ‘kicking against the goads’ is new, goads were pointed sticks used to prod slow moving beasts into moving faster. More interesting is the fact that Ananias does not figure in this account; the statements attributed to him previously being given as direct and more detailed statements from the Lord. Perhaps this was to protect Ananias from any interest by the authorities.

Question 3: What is the crux of what Paul said?

One again it is the resurrection of Jesus as the first to rise from the dead. Should this not still be the focal point of all evangelism?

Read Acts 26:24 – 32.

Luke doesn’t give up! Paul is innocent.


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