Online Bible Commentary
The Best Lawyer in History
Acts 24:10 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 the more cheerfully answer for myself, 11 because you may ascertain that it is no more than twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem to worship. 12 And they neither found me in the temple disputing with anyone nor inciting the crowd, either in the synagogues or in the city. 13 Nor can they prove the things of which they now accuse me. 14 But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. 15 I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. 16 This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men. 17 Now after many years I came to bring alms and offerings to my nation, 18 in the midst of which some Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with a mob nor with tumult. 19 They ought to have been here before you to object if they had anything against me. 20 Or else let those who are here themselves say if they found any wrongdoing in me while I stood before the council, 21 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.' " (NKJV)
The time is 57 A.D. The Apostle Paul is on trial in Caesarea in the presence of Felix, the Governor.
The polished lawyer for the accusers, the Jews in Jerusalem, has made his case and charged Paul with three offenses. Paul was charged with being a public menace for causing a public disturbance. The Romans considered this to be a very serious charge as they were sensitive to any uprisings in their colonies.
Paul was also charged with being a ringleader of the Christian movement, which also was a cause of public disturbances according to the Jews. The third charge was that of profaning the temple, a charge of which the Romans had given the Jews the right to execute anyone found guilty.
Now, in this passage Paul presents his defense. Paul is not given a lawyer to defend him, so he is already at a disadvantage (v. 10). Not to mention the fact that Governor Felix’s wife is a Jew.
Paul’s answer to the public menace charge was to deny it. He states that he had only been in Jerusalem for twelve days and during that time he was innocent of causing any disturbances (vv. 11-12). Furthermore, he claims that the Jews had not presented any evidence to the contrary (v. 13).
Paul answered the second charge of being a ringleader of the Christians by admitting that he was indeed a ringleader. However, he defines the Christian movement, “the Way”, as being a “sect” who believes in the same God as the Jews, even including the belief of the “resurrection of the dead”, as is believed by the Pharisees, another sect of Judaism (vv. 14-15). Thus Paul is equating the sect called “the Way” with the other three sects of Judaism; the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes.
Finally, Paul denies the third charge of profaning the temple. He starts by appealing to Governor Felix by stating that he is just trying to do his best “toward God and men” (v. 16). In this regard, he has brought “alms and offerings to my nation”, Israel (v. 17). Then while he worshipped in the temple, “neither with a mob nor with tumult”, some Jews from Asia accused him of profaning the temple (v. 18).
Paul states that the Jews from Asia should have testified before Felix, but they were not in attendance (v. 19). Romans frowned upon charges being brought when the accusers were not present.
Paul then challenges those Jews who are present at the trial to find any wrong that he was charged with when he was brought before the Jewish Sanhedrin “council” in Jerusalem (v. 20). He states that the only crime he could have possibly been charged with by the Sanhedrin was his statement “Concerning the resurrection of the dead” (v. 21).
The Sanhedrin was split on this charge because the Pharisees believe in the resurrection and the Sadducees do not. Therefore, they could not, and did not, charge Paul on his statement.
It appears that Paul has mounted an effective defense. But will it be enough? Since he did not have a lawyer he had to answer for himself.
Thankfully, we Christians do not have to answer for ourselves before God. We have the best Lawyer in history on our side. He presents our case before the Father but then reminds Him that He has already paid the penalty for our sins. This lawyer is named Jesus.