Online Bible Commentary
Never Back Down
Acts 24:1 Now after five days Ananias the high priest came down with the elders and a certain orator named Tertullus. These gave evidence to the governor against Paul. 2 And when he was called upon, Tertullus began his accusation, saying: "Seeing that through you we enjoy great peace, and prosperity is being brought to this nation by your foresight, 3 we accept it always and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness. 4 Nevertheless, not to be tedious to you any further, I beg you to hear, by your courtesy, a few words from us. 5 For we have found this man a plague, a creator of dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. 6 He even tried to profane the temple, and we seized him, and wanted to judge him according to our law. 7 But the commander Lysias came by and with great violence took him out of our hands, 8 commanding his accusers to come to you. By examining him yourself you may ascertain all these things of which we accuse him." 9 And the Jews also assented, maintaining that these things were so. (NKJV)
The time is 57 A.D. Paul has just completed his third and final missionary journey and has returned to Jerusalem.
The Jews in Jerusalem are in an uproar over Paul’s Christian ministry. A Jewish mob attacked him with the intention of taking his life when Roman soldiers intervened.
Since the matter seemed to him to be a religious matter, the commander of the Roman soldiers, Claudius Lysias, presented Paul to the Sanhedrin, hoping for resolution. However, when the Pharisees and Sadducees fought over Paul, Commander Lysias again had to rescue him from harm.
Next, more than forty Jews hatched a plot to murder Paul. Fearing for Paul’s life, Commander Lysias has decided to refer the matter to Felix, the Governor, in Caesarea.
Paul was escorted to Caesarea by Roman soldiers and was held in custody in Herod’s palace. Now, in this passage, “after five days” Paul’s accusers arrive, which include the high priest Ananias, the Jewish elders, and their lawyer Tertullus (v.1). Tertullus is a Roman name and he may or may not have been Jewish.
The polished lawyer, Tertullus, begins his indictment of Paul with the customary gracious words to Felix (vv. 2-3). Felix, himself, is cruel, corrupt and immoral, so Tertullus is guilty of false praise. He is obviously attempting to curry favor from Felix.
Next Tertullus makes his indictment of Paul (v. 4). The indictment includes three charges. He accuses Paul of:
(1) Being “a plague, a creator of dissension among all the Jews throughout the world” (v. 5a). The use of the term “plague” is intended to establish Paul as one who is a public menace, which is a charge of a political nature and not a religious nature. The Romans were very sensitive to anyone who disturbs the peace so this was a very serious charge.
(2) Being “a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes”, referring to the Christians (v. 5b). By identifying Paul as “a ringleader” Tertullus labels Paul as being personally responsible for any uprising involving Christians. Again, any uprising is a very serious matter to the Romans.
(3) Trying to “profane the temple” by trying to bring a Gentile into the temple (v. 6a). The Romans, in deference to the Jews, allowed the Jews to kill any Gentile that crossed the barrier to the temple. The Jews are contending that Paul, even though he was a Jew, should face the same fate if he helped a Gentile to profane the temple.
Tertullus then states that the Jews in Jerusalem “wanted to judge him according to our law” (v. 6b). This could have allowed the mob to lynch Paul for profaning the temple.
In closing, Tertullus questions the actions of Commander Lysias. He accuses him of taking possession of Paul “with great violence” and bothering Governor Felix with this trial (vv. 7-8). The Jews present then rest their case by affirming to Felix that all of the charges against Paul are true (v. 9).
The deck seems to be stacked against Paul. It seems that the Jews have made a case for Paul to be convicted of the very serious charge of being a public menace or of being turned back over to the Jews to face a mob lynching. Either way Paul faces serious persecution, for just being a Christian.
Christians today also face persecution for just being a Christian. Our religious liberties are violated in America every day. We are not allowed to express our faith in the work place and we are not allowed to live out our faith in the market place, without facing possible unemployment or being sued. Like Paul, we must stand strong in the face of persecution. We should never back down from living out our Christian faith.