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Acts 24

The unbelieving Jews had discovered Paul in the temple in Jerusalem, and fueled by false accusations
against him, dragged him out of the temple and beat him. The Roman commander, Claudius Lysias, was
quickly informed, and arrived on the scene in time to rescue Paul from his persecutors – and arrest him.

With Lysias’ permission, Paul spoke to the people, giving his personal testimony to them, only to have their
rage rise up against Paul with renewed strength. With the people practically at riot-level, Lysias was
determined to find out why the Jews bore such malice toward Paul. Lysias decided that scourging would
get to the root of the matter most effectively, only to discover that Paul was a Roman citizen – even the act
of binding him, as Lysias did, was a violation of his rights.

So Lysias took a different approach. He ordered the Jewish high court, the Sanhedrin, to meet, and they
held an informal inquiry of Paul. The president of the Sanhedrin was the high priest Ananias, a ruthless and
corrupt man, who did not hesitate to violate Paul’s rights in the Jewish court – simply because he didn’t like
his opening statement.

The court itself, composed of Sadducees and Pharisees, then proceeded to demonstrate their inability to
render justice in like manner to the high priest, as they dissolved in contention over the issue of the
resurrection of the dead. As the debate became more and more heated, Lysias decided to forcibly remove
Paul before the members of this court of “justice” tore him to pieces.

That evening, the Lord had come to Paul and encouraged him, affirming that Paul had done His will in
testifying for Him in Jerusalem, and indicating that Paul would do so also in Rome.

Armed with these words of comfort, Paul was not shaken to learn from his nephew that there was a plot
against his life on the part of the Jews – and that the Sanhedrin was even involved. Paul sent his nephew to
Lysias, who quickly arranged for Paul to be removed from Jerusalem – with an escort of about 500 armed
soldiers.

They went under cover of night, and arrived the next day in Caesarea – the seat of the provincial
government of Judea, where the current governor, Felix, resided. Lysias’ letter to Felix updated him on the
prisoner, and the governor determined to try the case once Paul’s accusers came down from Jerusalem.

It didn’t take his accusers long.

24:1 Five days was a very short time for the Jewish rulers to put together a case against Paul. They had to
gather evidence and witnesses, if any, and hire an attorney to prosecute the case.

The trip to Caesarea would ordinarily take two days – so the rulers had prepared the case in just three days.
This may indicate that there wasn’t much to prepare, or that the Jewish rulers were in a hurry – perhaps
they were concerned that Felix might dismiss the case. Both may have factored in, and both reflect that
there was not much of a case against Paul.

But the Jewish rulers had no doubt hired the best attorney to be had in Jerusalem. By his name, we know
that Tertullus was either a Roman or a Hellenistic Jew. Regardless of his cultural background, his legal
background fitted him well for this case, for he was an orator – a man who had been trained in rhetoric,
who was very familiar with presenting cases in Roman courts. For the high priest to accompany the group
to Caesarea shows just how important the prosecution of Paul was to the rulers.
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We read that “these gave evidence” to the governor against Paul. It is likely that the rulers were questioned
either by the governor or the prosecuting attorney; but Luke just records the words of Tertullus for the
reader, in summary fashion, to give the essentials of the rulers’ charges against Paul.

v. 2-4 So Tertullus was summoned by Felix to begin his accusation. In a Roman court, the prosecution
began by stating the charges; but before that, it was standard procedure for both the prosecution and
defense to flatter the judge, with the idea of securing his favor. And that is certainly what Tertullus was
doing here, because virtually everything he said about Felix was utterly false.

The “noble” Felix was formerly a slave of Antonia, the mother of Claudius. He and his brother Pallas had
somehow won their freedom, and when Claudius became emperor, he had appointed each to high posts in
the government: Pallas, in Rome, as finance minister to Claudius, and Felix, in the Middle East, first as
assistant to the governor of Samaria, then as governor of Judea. Felix held this position from about 52-60
AD.

Felix’s tenure in office as the governor of Judea was marked, not by peace and prosperity, but by troubled
times. It was during this period that the sicarii came into being – the Jewish zealots who carried out
assassinations of Romans and their Jewish collaborators. Felix brutally suppressed this and other forms of
Jewish civil disorder by crucifying the perpetrators. This served to inflame the Jews all the more against
the Roman government, and led to further civil disobedience.

The fact that the Felix was unable to resolve this strife, and in fact caused it to escalate, is thought to have
contributed to the onset of the war between the Jews and Rome in AD 66. Even the Roman historian
Tacitus wrote of Felix that “through cruelty and licentiousness he exercised the power of a king with the
mind of a slave” (Histories 5.9).

The Jews were hardly thankful for Felix; they hated and despised him. The flattery pouring off the lips of
Tertullus must have been difficult for the rulers to stomach – but it was a necessary evil. Tertullus ended by
asking Felix to patiently grant them a brief hearing. It was certainly not as brief as Luke’s summary, but we
are given the essence of it.

v. 5-9 Understand that Tertullus would have given much more detail of these charges, and the Jewish
rulers would likely have added their testimony, as well.

So what were the charges against Paul? There were in fact three – just as there had been three charges
against Paul’s Lord, Jesus (Lk 23:2).

First, the prosecution accused Paul of being a plague (v. 5). Tertullus was using the term metaphorically
here, implying that, like a disease, Paul generated subversion of public law and order, and he spread it
among the Jews throughout the whole world – meaning the Roman Empire, in this context. This was
sedition – and by Roman law, it was a crime punishable by death.

There had been much civil unrest among the Jews throughout the Roman Empire during this period,
including two cities which had large Jewish communities – Alexandria, and at the heart of the empire,
Rome.

In Judea, Felix himself had dealt with a great deal of civil disobedience on the part of the Jews. Some
involved armed uprisings of Jewish zealots, who sought to establish Judean independence from Rome,
under the guise of bringing in the rule of Israel’s Messiah – so-called messianic agitators. Tertullus and the
Jewish rulers were trying to connect Paul with these political movements.
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Paul was not involved in these at all, of course – but there had been disturbances among the Jews in several
of the areas in which Paul preached the gospel – notably, the cities of Galatia, Thessalonica, Corinth and
Ephesus.

Now, had Paul caused these disturbances? No, the Jews themselves created the disturbance. Having
rejected the gospel of Christ themselves, they were furious that some believed it; and they were determined
to stop Paul. Was the disturbance directed against the Roman government? No, it was directed against
Paul.

If Felix looked into this charge, he would in fact discover that Roman legal precedent had been established
by Gallio in Corinth that exonerated Paul and those who believed in Jesus, granting them the same freedom
to pursue their religion as the Romans had extended to the Jews (Acts 17:14-16).

Notice that when Tertullus made his charge, he carefully avoided naming any of the places where there was
dissension created by Paul’s preaching of the gospel – why? Because if Tertullus named a locale, Felix
would have been able to transfer the case to the governor in whose jurisdiction the incident took place.

The Jews definitely did not want that to happen; they wanted Paul to be tried before a governor over whom
they had some influence. But in so doing, the charge was weak, and could not be substantiated. As for
witnesses and evidence, there would have been none to present.

The second accusation that the prosecution made was that Paul was a ringleader of the sect of the
Nazarenes (v. 5). The word “sect” here simply means party, like the Pharisees and the Sadducees. It was a
division within a religion; one that held a different view than the majority. But the way Tertullus framed
the word, he made it sound like this party was subversive, heretical.

This is the only place in the NT where the term “Nazarene” is used for believers. It was used widely to
describe those who were followers of Jesus, but was considered a derogatory term, because of the obscurity
of Jesus’ hometown. Tertullus was building on the idea that Paul was the leader of a home-grown
messianic sect that posed a danger to Roman rule.

Although Paul could certainly be considered a leader of those who believed in Jesus, the prosecution would
be hard-pressed to establish that this “sect” was a bunch of troublemakers. After all, believers were
exhorted by Paul and others to be subject to the governing authorities (Rm 13:1).

The third and final charge that the prosecution made was the most specific. It related to the false accusation
that the unbelieving Jews from Ephesus had made against Paul in the temple (v. 6).

Note that Tertullus used the phrasing, “he even tried to profane the temple”. Tertullus couldn’t say that he
did, because no Gentiles were ever discovered in the temple with Paul, and those who made the charge –
the Asian Jews – were not present at this trial. Again, this weakened the prosecution’s charge.

If Paul could be found guilty of profaning the temple, it would be a violation of Jewish law, and he could
have been turned over for trial in the Sanhedrin – who would likely have issued a death sentence. I can’t
see that “trying” to profane the temple would amount to anything.

The way Tertullus presented this charge is laughable. The Jews certainly did seize Paul, but – “they wanted
to judge him according to our law”? I guess Tertullus must have meant the law of mob rule. The only
thing the Jews wanted to do was to beat Paul to death – kill first, ask questions later.
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Instead, it was the Roman commander Lysias who Tertullus presented as being the aggressive one. He took
Paul out of their hands with great violence. Perhaps Lysias had to use force to overcome the determination
of the Jews to retain their grasp on Paul – at least long enough to finish what they had started.

Of course, Tertullus might have been referring to the fact that the Jews wanted to judge Paul through their
official court – the Sanhedrin. And there, again, Lysias had to rescue Paul – because the justices were about
to settle their theological differences with their fists, and Lysias didn’t want Paul to get caught in the
middle!

As the commander Lysias was not present this day to refute what the prosecutor said, it was convenient for
Tertullus to paint him in an unflattering light, hoping to create sympathy with Felix, that the Roman
commander had treated the Jews unfairly. This was no doubt a vain attempt, for Felix had little to no
sympathy for his Jewish subjects.

In addition, Felix already had a preliminary report concerning the circumstances, in the form of the letter
from Lysias – and it showed the Jews in a somewhat less flattering light. His inclination would be to
believe his Roman commander, not his Jewish subjects.

Notice that Tertullus neglected to mention that the reason why Lysias had to command Paul’s Jewish
accusers to come to Felix (v. 8) – because the Jews were plotting an ambush to kill Paul, and Lysias could
see that the only way for Paul to get a fair trial was outside of Jerusalem. The ambush was something
Lysias mentioned in his letter (Acts 23:30).

The last statement that Tertullus made, beginning with “examining him yourself”, most likely refers to
Paul, not to Lysias. It is unlikely that the prosecution would have encouraged the governor to examine
Lysias, for his testimony would contradict their own. But in making this statement about Paul, the
prosecution was showing their confidence in their case – a confidence that none of them could have
genuinely felt inside.

The Jewish rulers nonetheless concurred with the prosecuting attorney in his presentation of the charges
against Paul. Tertullus may have had these Jews give evidence – whatever they might have come up with.
It would seem that there were no additional witnesses.

Next, the governor turned to Paul, to hear his defense in the case.

v. 10-13 Where is Paul’s statement of flattery to the governor? Well, Paul wasn’t trained in rhetoric. But,
as Paul wrote, even though he was untrained in speech, yet he was not untrained in knowledge (2 Cor 11:6)
– the knowledge of God. His speech was not with persuasive words of human wisdom – but in
demonstration of the Spirit and of power (1 Cor 2:4). The Spirit will speak with plain words through Paul –
the truth, and nothing but the truth.

The truth was that Felix had been an administrator in this region of the world for many years; first in
Samaria, and then in Judea. He had a great deal of experience with the Jews: with their laws, their customs
and their beliefs.

Because of this, Paul recognized that Felix was qualified to judge in this matter; and he was bound by
Roman law to give a just verdict. Therefore, Paul was filled with hope and confidence, because he knew he
was innocent, and he knew Felix would reach this verdict, as well. That was it – no flattery – just the plain
truth.
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Paul went directly to his first point, which Felix could easily confirm, by inquiry: Paul had only been in
Jerusalem for twelve days.

Now, I don’t want to bore you any more than Tertullus wanted to bore Felix, but I want you to see that what
Paul said was precisely true. Turn back to Acts chapter 21. At that time, Paul was in Caesarea with some
of the brethren.

In verse 15, Luke writes,” after those days we packed and went up to Jerusalem”. Then, in verse 17, “and
when we had come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly”. That was day 1.

Then look in verse 18 – “on the following day, Paul went in with us to James and all the elders were
present”. This meeting was day 2. Go to verse 26 – “Then Paul took the men, and the next day, having
been purified with them, entered the temple” – that’s day 3, the beginning of the purification rite, which
went on for seven days. Read the next verse, 27 – “Now when the seven days were almost ended” – that’s
day 9 (for day 3 is the first day of the rite).

Then Paul is mobbed, he’s arrested, he speaks to the Jews, and Lysias takes him into the fortress Antonia –
all on day 9. Skip down to verse 30 – “The next day, because he wanted to know for certain why he was
accused by the Jews, he release him from his bonds, and commanded the chief priest and all their council to
appear” – that’s day 10.

Look in chapter 23, verse 12 – “And when it was day, some of the Jews banded together” – that was the
plot to ambush Paul – on day 11. That night, Paul was escorted to Caesarea, where he arrived on day 12 (v.
32). So it was 12 days until Paul arrived in Caesarea. And Paul was a prisoner in the fortress Antonia for
the last two days, so he was really free in Jerusalem only nine days.

So what’s Paul’s point? Felix would be most concerned about the charge of sedition, for that was a
violation of Roman law – and a particular problem in his jurisdiction. The question Felix would have in his
mind was, could Paul possibly be a cause of some of the uprisings and disturbances that have been taking
place in Judea, and particularly, Jerusalem?

Well, Paul had only been free in Jerusalem for nine days; and later, he will tell Felix that it had been many
years since he came up to Jerusalem before that (v. 17) – five years, in fact. Paul’s point was that, even if
he had wanted to, he had not had the time to incite a revolt. As Felix could corroborate this statement with
Lysias and others, Paul had effectively dispelled the first charge.

And why did Paul indicate he had come up to Jerusalem (v. 11)? Not to start a rebellion; but to worship.
That’s what Paul was doing when the Asian Jews found him in the temple. He was undergoing a
purification rite to participate in a Nazirite vow with four of the believing Jews in Jerusalem. Paul’s
submission to this request of the elders in the Jerusalem assembly was an act of worship to his God – an
offering of himself, for the sake of the unity of the brethren in Jerusalem.

Of course, Paul did not explain all of this to Felix, because he would not understand it. But Paul did make
it clear that that was what he was doing – worshiping in the temple; not disputing with the Jews, nor
inciting the crowds, not there nor anywhere else. Felix was beginning to see that this was not an issue of
politics, but of what he would consider to be religion.
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Paul pointed out that the prosecution could not prove their charge of sedition – why? Because it was
unfounded. Felix would note that this was in accordance with what Lysias had written to him – that Paul
had “nothing charged against him deserving of death or chains” (Acts 23:29). Lysias had concluded that
Paul was accused concerning questions of the Jews’ law. Felix was beginning to see this, too.

v. 14-16 Paul addressed the second charge made against him. He confessed this to be true – but informed
Felix as to the real nature of what it was he believed. This was not a sect of Judaism, as the prosecution
had indicated; nor a dangerous splinter group of messianic agitators. Paul was a worshiper of the God of
his fathers – the God of Israel – in accordance with the Way, as it was known at that time. It was the true
way to worship the true God.

A true worshiper of God believes every word of Scripture as the God-inspired truth – for the Law and the
Prophets all speak of the One whom God would send for the salvation of mankind.

The Christ is the hope of mankind – the hope of Israel, as well – a hope of eternal life, in a body of glory, to
be obtained in the resurrection of the just from the dead. And as there will be a resurrection of the just, for
those who have believed into the Christ, so there will be a resurrection of the unjust – for those who have
denied Him.

Although we cannot know how much detail Paul actually presented in his trial, since Luke is summarizing
here, we can understand what it was that Paul was bringing out. He was showing Felix what he held in
common with the very people who were accusing him.

Paul was indicating that he worshiped the same God; he believed in the same Scriptures; and that he also
looked forward with hope to the resurrection, as they did. In fact, Paul would have had no difference with
the Jews – if they believed their Scriptures as he did.

It was Job who said, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth. And after my
skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes
shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:24-27). That is what the true
Israel of God believed, even though the men in that courtroom may not have concurred personally –
especially the Sadducees.

Now, why was Paul bringing these things out? For two reasons. Paul was showing Felix that this was a
matter of what Felix would consider to be religion, not politics; and that what Paul believed in was very
similar (in the eyes of Felix) to the religion of the Jews, a religion that was legal in the Roman Empire. So
Felix would conclude that the prosecution had no foundation for this charge, either.

Paul based his statement about conscience on the fact that there will be a resurrection of the just and the
unjust. Paul always wanted to conduct himself righteously, according to the righteousness that God had
given him, in Christ. What Felix would have understood was that this was a man who would be careful,
diligent to do what is right before God and man. Would such a man be likely to violate any law?

Paul then turned to the third allegation of the Jewish rulers.

v. 17-21 This was Paul’s response to the charge that he tried to profane the temple. Paul had come up to
Jerusalem with a donation for the relief of his nation – Paul was referring to the Jewish Christians, who
were most prevalent in the church there. The alms he brought were an offering from the predominantly
Gentile churches in Europe and Asia – a token of unity among the brethren.
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It was while Paul was on this mission of charity, and while he was in the process of worshiping, having
purified himself for the vow, that the unbelieving Asian Jews found him in the temple. What a contrast –
there was Paul, performing an act of love and sacrifice, peacefully submitting to God, willingly subjecting
himself to Jewish custom and tradition and law – and there were the unbelieving Jews, full of hate and
malice, trumping up false charges against Paul, inciting a mob to violent action against him.

With the additional support of Lysias’ letter, Felix could easily discern the truth. Besides, where were these
Asian Jews? No doubt, they had returned to Ephesus after the feast – they had no intention of taking
genuine legal action against Paul.

Paul challenged his accusers to state the findings of Paul’s hearing before the Sanhedrin. What could they
say to that? The high priest had acted illegally, in having Paul struck, and in fact the whole council had
dissolved in contention over the resurrection – of which Paul was now delicately reminding them. No, they
had found nothing against Paul that day – God’s judgment had gone against them.

v. 22-23 Felix pondered the case. Every charge of the persecution had been countered by Paul’s
testimony, which was supported by the letter from the Roman commander, Lysias.

In addition, Felix himself was familiar with the Way, those who were followers of Jesus. How could Felix
not know of them, having governed Samaria and Judea for so many years? There were many thousands of
believers there by that time. Felix would have a sense that these followers of Jesus tended to be law-
abiding – although surely he had seen before this that they tended to raise the ire of the Jews. Felix would
dismiss it in his mind as a religious dispute.

So it was apparent to Felix that Paul was guilty of no crime, by Roman law; and he could not allow the
Jews to try Paul either, since he was a Roman citizen. It was clear that Paul had not violated the sanctity of
the temple, the one thing for which the Jews could have him put to death.

On the other hand, Felix knew that if he dismissed the case, as a righteous judgment would dictate, the
Jews would be infuriated with him, and this could lead to further trouble.

So Felix made the decision – not to decide. He deferred the decision, to an indefinite time in the future,
under the pretext of getting the testimony of Claudius Lysias, the Roman commander. Of course, he
already had Lysias’ thoughts – but …. perhaps he needed more detail. Of course, there is no evidence that
Felix ever summoned him.

Knowing that Paul was innocent, Felix was comfortable leaving him in custody, but not in chains. He also
allowed friends to freely visit him and provide for his needs. Before you begin to think that this was
generous of Felix, remember that he was a corrupt official, and as we will see shortly, he was not above
taking a bribe. Paul would need to make arrangements for the bribe with his friends – so Felix allowed
them to visit.

v. 24-25 Drusilla was the youngest daughter of Herod Agrippa I, the king who had put the apostle James
to death (Acts 12:1-2). She was sister to Herod Agrippa II and to Bernice, of whom we will read next
week.

Drusilla was known for her great beauty. She had been given in marriage at the age of sixteen to a king of a
small region of Syria. During his tenure as the governor of Judea, Felix met Drusilla and desired her for
himself, attempting through an intermediary to lure her away from her husband. Drusilla did divorce her
husband, and then married Felix – who had already been married twice before. Both were now adulterers.
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At the current time, Drusilla was only about twenty years old. Luke indicates she was Jewish, for like the
other members of her Idumean family, she embraced the Jewish religion.

No doubt Felix and his young bride were regularly looking for diversions, in Caesarea. Paul must have
intrigued the governor, both for his bold defense, as well as for the malice that he generated on the part of
the Jews. So Felix summoned Paul, no doubt hoping for a little intellectual stimulation or maybe a little
entertainment from this follower of the Way.

Well, Felix got more than he bargained for. Paul seized the opportunity that the Spirit provided for him,
sharing with Felix and Drusilla about the faith in Christ – the Messiah of Israel. Now, where does that faith
begin? It begins with repentance – with a man recognizing himself for who he truly is – a sinner. Unless a
man recognizes that he is a sinner, he will be unable to recognize Jesus for who he truly is – the Savior.

So that is where Paul began with Felix and Drusilla. Luke writes that Paul reasoned with them. Remember
that Greek word means that there was discussion, question and answer.

What did Paul reason with them about? He reasoned with them about their sin. He spoke about
righteousness – God’s standard for mankind, God’s own righteous character, holiness, which can be
acquired only by faith in God’s Righteous Son, Jesus. Apart from that righteousness, a man is lawless –
something to which Felix and Drusilla could readily attest.

And Paul spoke to them about self-control – the restraint of all passions and evil inclinations. This control
over self can only be had through submission to the Holy Spirit, who rules over a man who has placed his
faith in Jesus. Spirit control is what enables a man to rule over his lusts and desires, so that he can conduct
himself in the righteousness which he has received from Jesus. I wonder if the discussion was getting a
little too personal for Felix and Drusilla about now.

And Paul also reasoned with them about the judgment to come. Those who refused to place their faith in
Christ, who would not submit to his rule over them, would die in their sins. As such, they remain subject to
God’s wrath.

In the end, they will have their part in the resurrection of the unjust, of which Paul spoke at his trial. After
this resurrection, those who had refused the righteousness of God through faith in Christ during their
earthly lives will be judged at the Great White Throne, and cast into the Lake of Fire – they will forever
perish (Rev 20:11-15).

The room had gone from uncomfortably warm to hot, as the Holy Spirit sought to convict Felix and
Drusilla of their sin. This courtroom had in fact gotten too hot for Felix; he was overcome with fear
concerning the judgment of which he heard. But instead of it causing him to turn to the Lord, he ran away
from the truth. He did so by sending Paul away, telling him that he would hear more when he had “a
convenient time”.

There is no evidence that Felix ever really sought that more opportune time to hear the truth; he had
postponed his own case much as he had Paul’s. But in the case of Felix, no decision was a decision. Felix
chose to have his case tried in the highest court – at the Great White Throne judgment.

And Drusilla? It would seem she did not experience the same reaction as Felix, who was so afraid. Could
it be that her ears had grown dull, because she had heard it all before, through the Scriptures of her
religion?
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The door of the kingdom of God had opened to Felix and Drusilla; they had their opportunity to enter, only
to let it pass them by. If today you hear his voice, harden not your heart (Ps 95:7-8). Today is the day of
salvation; there may not be another.

v. 26-27 Felix seemed to have gotten his nerve back quickly, for he continued to send for Paul, although
I’m sure he carefully avoided any personal discussions regarding the faith in Christ. The alarm had passed;
Felix had rearmed himself against additional attacks to conscience.

Meanwhile, Felix thought by befriending Paul, he might be able to get a bribe out of him, to buy his
freedom – surely Paul had some powerful connections. Indeed, Paul did; the most powerful of all
connections. But there would be no judicial bribe, which was illegal in the Roman Empire, and would just
serve to further the sin of the unrighteous Felix.

Paul had offered to Felix the most valuable thing a man could obtain in this life – redemption through
Christ Jesus. But Felix refused that free gift; and in doing so, his bondage to sin remained. He was more of
a prisoner than Paul ever was.

So Felix left Paul in custody for the remaining two years of his governorship. At that time, about 58 AD,
Felix was recalled to Rome by Nero. Felix decided at that time to leave Paul in custody, hoping it would be
seen positively by the Jews. He played politics to the end.

As it turned out, Felix needed all the mercy he could get. A delegation of Jews lost no time in sailing to
Rome to indict the ex-governor for maladministration. Felix’s brother Pallas, however, had enough
influence with Nero, even in retirement, to have the charges dismissed. After this, Felix dropped out of
history.

Meanwhile, Paul was left in prison. Felix was succeeded by Festus, a member of the Roman nobility. The
Jews would try to capitalize on the inexperience of Festus with local affairs to press their case against Paul,
but it was no matter – for Paul had the ultimate Advocate on his side. He couldn’t possibly lose.

Next week – read chapter 25.