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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1And after five days Ananias the high priest descended with the elders, and with a certain orator named Tertullus, who informed the governor against Paul.
And after five days - This time was occupied, doubtless, in their receiving the command to go to Caesarea, and in making the necessary arrangements. This was the twelfth day after Paul's arrival at Jerusalem. See Acts 24:11.
Ananias, the high priest - See the notes on Acts 23:2.
Descended - Came down from Jerusalem. This was the usual language when a departure from Jerusalem was spoken of. See the notes on Acts 15:1.
With a certain orator named Tertullus - Appointed to accuse Paul. This is a Roman name, and this man was doubtless a Roman. As the Jews were, to a great extent, ignorant of the Roman laws, and of their mode of administering justice, it is not improbable that they were in the habit of employing Roman lawyers to plead their causes.
Who informed the governor against Paul - Who acted as the accuser, or who managed their cause before the governor.
2And when he was called forth, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying, Seeing that by thee we enjoy great quietness, and that very worthy deeds are done unto this nation by thy providence,
And when he was called forth - When Paul was called forth from prison. See Acts 23:35.
We enjoy great quietness - This was said in the customary style of flatterers and orators, to conciliate the favor of the judge, and is strikingly in contrast with the more honest and straight forward introduction in reply of Paul, Acts 24:10. Though it was said for flattery, and though Felix was in many respects an unprincipled man, yet it was true that his administration had been the means of producing much peace and order in Judea, and that he had done many things that tended to promote the welfare of the nation. In particular, he had arrested a band of robbers, with Eleazar at their head, whom he had sent to Rome to be punished (Josephus, Antiq., book 20, chapter 8); he had arrested the Egyptian false prophet who had led out 4,000 men into the wilderness, and who threatened the peace of Judea (see the note on Acts 21:38); and he had repressed a sedition which arose between the inhabitants of Caesarea and of Syria (Josephus, Jewish Wars, book 2, chapter 13, section 2).
Very worthy deeds - Acts that tended much to promote the peace and security of the people. He referred to those which have just been mentioned as having been accomplished by Felix, particularly his success in suppressing riots and seditions; and as, in the view of the Jews, the case of Paul was another instance of a similar kind, he appealed to him with the more confidence that he would suppress that also.
By thy providence - By thy foresight," skill, vigilance, prudence.
3We accept it always, and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness.
We accept it always - We admit that it is owing to your vigilance, and we accept your interposition to promote peace with gratitude.
Always, and in all places - Not merely in your presence, but we always acknowledge that it is owing to your vigilance that the land is secure. "What we now do in your presence, we do also in your absence; we do not commend you merely when you are present" (Wetstein).
Most noble Felix - This was the title of office.
With all thankfulness - In this there was probably sincerity, for there was no doubt that the peace of Judea was owing to Felix. But at the same time that he was an energetic and vigilant governor, it was also true that he was proud, avaricious, and cruel. Josephus charges him with injustice and cruelty in the case of Jonathan, the high priest (Antiq., book 20, chapter 8, section 5), and Tacitus (History, book 5, chapter 9) and Suetonius (Life of Claudius, chapter 28) concur in the charge.
4Notwithstanding, that I be not further tedious unto thee, I pray thee that thou wouldest hear us of thy clemency a few words.
Be not further tedious unto thee - By taking up your time with an introduction and with commendation.
5For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes:
We have found this man a pestilent fellow - λοιμὸν loimon This word is commonly applied to a plague or pestilence, and then to a man who corrupts the morals of others, or who is turbulent, and an exciter of sedition. Our translation somewhat weakens the force of the original expression. Tertullus did not say that he was a pestilent fellow, but that he was the very pestilence itself. In this he referred to their belief that he had been the cause of extensive disturbances everywhere among the Jews.
And a mover of sedition - An exciter of tumult. This they pretended he did by preaching doctrines contrary to the laws and customs of Moses, and exciting the Jews to tumult and disorder.
Throughout the world - Throughout the Roman empire, and thus leading the Jews to violate the laws, and to produce tumults, riots, and disorder.
And a ringleader - πρωτοστάτην prōtostatēn. This word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It is properly a military word, and denotes "one who stands first in an army, a standard-bearer, a leader, a commander." The meaning is, that Paul had been so active, and so prominent in preaching the gospel, that he had been a leader, or the principal person in extending the sect of the Nazarenes.
Of the sect - The original word here αἱρέσεως haireseōs is the word from which we have derived the term "heresy." It is, however, properly translated "sect, or party," and should have been so translated in Acts 24:14. See the notes on Acts 5:17.
Of the Nazarenes - This was the name usually given to Christians by way of contempt. They were so called because Jesus was of Nazareth.
6Who also hath gone about to profane the temple: whom we took, and would have judged according to our law.
Who also hath gone about - Who has endeavored.
To profane the temple - This was a serious, but unfounded charge. It arose from the gross calumny of the Jews, when they pretended that he had introduced Greeks into that sacred place, Acts 21:28. To this charge he replies in Acts 24:18.
And would have judged - That is, would have condemned and punished.
According to our law - Their law, which forbade the introduction of strangers into the temple.
7But the chief captain Lysias came upon us, and with great violence took him away out of our hands,
But the chief captain ... - Tertullus pretends that they would have judged Paul righteously if Lysias had not interposed; but the truth was, that, without regard to law or justice, they would have murdered him on the spot.
8Commanding his accusers to come unto thee: by examining of whom thyself mayest take knowledge of all these things, whereof we accuse him.
Commanding his accusers ... - Acts 23:30.
By examining of whom - That is, the Jews who were then present. Tertullus offered them as his witnesses of the truth of what he had said. It is evident that we have here only the summary or outline of the speech which he made It is incredible that a Roman rhetorician would have on such an occasion delivered an address so brief, so meagre, and so destitute of display as this. But it is doubtless a correct summary of his address, and contains the leading points of the accusation. It is customary for the sacred writers, as for other writers, to give only the outline of discourses and arguments. Such a course was inevitable, unless the New Testament had been swelled to wholly undue proportions.
9And the Jews also assented, saying that these things were so.
And the Jews also assented - The Jews who had accompanied Tertullus to Caesarea. They had gone as the accusers of Paul, and they bore testimony, when called upon, to the truth of all that the orator had said. Whether they were examined individually or not is not declared. In whatever way their testimony was arrived at, they confirmed unanimously the accusation which he had brought against Paul.
10Then Paul, after that the governor had beckoned unto him to speak, answered, Forasmuch as I know that thou hast been of many years a judge unto this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself:
Had beckoned unto him to speak - Either by a nod or by the hand,
Hast been of many years - Felix and Cumanus had been joint governors of Judea; but after Cumanus had been condemned for his bad administration of affairs, the government fell entirely into the hands of Felix. This was about seven years before Paul was arraigned, and might be called many years, as he had been long enough there to become acquainted with the customs and habits of the Jews; and it might also be called long in comparison with the short time which his immediate predecessors had held the office. See Josephus, Antiq., book 20, chapters 7 and 7.
A judge - This word is evidently used here in the sense of magistrate, or one appointed to administer the affairs of government. To determine litigated matters was, however, one part of his office. It is remarkable that Paul did not begin his speech, as Tertullus had done, by any flattering address, or by any of the arts of rhetoric. He founded his plea on the justice of his cause, and on the fact that Felix had had so much experience in the affairs of Judea that he was well qualified to understand the merits of the case, and to judge impartially. Paul was well acquainted with his character (see the notes on Acts 24:25), and would not by flattering words declare what was not strictly true.
I do the more cheerfully ... - Since you are so well acquainted with the customs and habits of the Jews, I the more readily submit the case to your disposal. This address indicated great confidence in the justice of his cause, and was the language of a man bold, fearless, and conscious of innocence.
11Because that thou mayest understand, that there are yet but twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem for to worship.
Because that thou mayest understand - Greek: "Thou being able to know." That is, he could understand or know by taking the proper evidence. Paul does not mean to say that Felix could understand the case because he had been many years a judge of that nation. That fact would qualify him to judge correctly, or to understand the customs of the Jews. But the fact that he himself had been but twelve days in Jerusalem, and had been orderly and peaceable there, Felix could ascertain only by the proper testimony. The first part of Paul's defense Acts 24:11-13 consists in an express denial of what they alleged against him.
Are yet but twelve days - Beza reckons these twelve days in this manner: The first was that on which he came to Jerusalem, Acts 21:15. The second he spent with James and the apostles, Acts 21:18. Six days were spent in fulfilling his vow, Acts 21:21, Acts 21:26. On the ninth day the tumult arose, being the seventh day of his vow, and on this day he was rescued by Lysias, Acts 21:27; Acts 22:29. The tenth day he was before the Sanhedrin, Acts 22:30; Acts 23:10. On the eleventh the plot was laid to take his life, and on the same day, at evening, he was removed to Caesarea. The days on which he was confined at Caesarea are not enumerated, since his design in mentioning the number of days was to show the improbability that in that time he had been engaged in producing a tumult; and it would not be pretended that he had been so engaged while confined in a prison at Caesarea. The defense of Paul here is, that but twelve days elapsed from the time that he went to Jerusalem until he was put under the custody of Felix; and that during so short a time it was wholly improbable that he would have been able to excite sedition.
For to worship - This further shows that the design of Paul was not to produce sedition. He had gone up for the peaceful purpose of devotion, and not to produce riot and disorder. That this was his design in going to Jerusalem, or at least a part of his purpose, is indicated by the passage in Acts 20:16. It should be observed, however, that our translation conveys an idea which is not necessarily in the Greek that this was the design of his going to Jerusalem. The original is, "Since I went up to Jerusalem worshipping" προσκυνήσων proskunēsōn; that is, he was actually engaged in devotion when the tumult arose. But his main design in going to Jerusalem was to convey to his suffering countrymen there the benefactions of the Gentile churches. See Acts 24:17; Romans 15:25-26.
12And they neither found me in the temple disputing with any man, neither raising up the people, neither in the synagogues, nor in the city:
And they neither found me ... - The first charge of Tertullus against Paul was Acts 24:5 that he was "a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition." The charge of his being a Test was so general that Paul did not think it necessary to attempt to refute it. To the specification that he was a mover of sedition, he replies by a firm denial, and by a solemn declaration that they had not found him in any synagogue, or in the city, or in the temple, either disputing or exciting a tumult. Pits conduct there had been entirely peaceable, and they had no right to suppose that it had been otherwise anywhere.
13Neither can they prove the things whereof they now accuse me.
Neither can they prove the things ... - That is, that I am a mover of sedition, or a disturber of the peace of the people. This appeal he boldly makes; he challenges investigation; and as they did not offer to specify any acts of disorder or tumult excited by him, this charge falls of course.
14But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets:
But this I confess ... - The next specification in the charge of Tertullus was Acts 24:5 that he was "a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes." To this, Paul replies in this and the two following verses. Of this reply we may observe:
(1) That he does not stoop to notice the contempt implied in the use of the word "Nazarenes." He was engaged in a more important business than to contend about the name which they chose to give to Christians.
(2) he admits that he belonged to that sect or class of people. That he was a Christian he neither denied, nor was disposed to deny.
(3) he maintains that in this way he was still worshipping the God of his fathers. Of this, the fact that he was engaged in worship in the temple was sufficient proof.
(4) he shows them that he believed only what was written in the Law and the prophets; that this involved the main doctrine of their religion the hope of the resurrection of the dead, Acts 24:15; and that it was his constant and earnest desire to keep a pure conscience in all things, Acts 24:16. These are the points of his defense to the second charge, and we shall see that they fully meet and dispose of the accusation.
After the way - After the manner or mode of worship.
Which they call heresy - This translation does not express to us the force of the original. We have attached to the word "heresy" an idea which is not conveyed by the Greek word, since we now commonly understand by it error of doctrine. In Paul's answer here, there is an explicit reference to their charge which does not appear in our version. The charge of Tertullus was, that he was the ringleader of the sect (τἦς αἱρέσεως tēs haireseōs) of the Nazarenes, Acts 24:5. To this Paul replies, "After the way which they call "sect" ἁιρεσιν hairesin, not error of doctrine, but after a way which they affirm is producing division or schism), so worship I the God of my fathers." Paul was hot ashamed to be called a follower of that sect or party among the Jewish people. Nor should we be ashamed to worship God in a mode that is called heresy or schism, if we do it in obedience to conscience and to God.
So worship I-- I continue to worship. I have not departed from the characteristic of the Jewish people, the proper and public acknowledgment of the God of the Jews.
The God of my fathers - My father's God, Yahweh; the God whom my Jewish ancestors adored. There is something very touching in this, and suited to find its way to the heart of a Jew. He had introduced no new object of worship (compare Deuteronomy 13:1-5); he had not become a follower of a false or foreign God; and this fact was really a reply to their charge that he was setting up a new sect in religion. The same thing Paul affirms of himself in 2 Timothy 1:3; "I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with a pure conscience."
Believing all things ... - Particularly respecting the Messiah. So he more fully explains his meaning in his speech before King Agrippa, Acts 26:23.
In the law and in the prophets - Commanded in the Law of Moses, and foretold by the prophets. That Paul had ever disbelieved any of these things they could not prove; and his whole course had shown that he fully credited the sacred records. Most of his arguments in defending Christianity had been drawn from the Jewish writings.
15And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.
And have hope toward God - Having a hope of the resurrection of the dead, which arises from the promises of God.
Which they themselves ... - That is, the Pharisees. Perhaps he designated in this remark the Pharisees who were present. He held nothing in this great cardinal point which they did not also hold. For the reasons why he introduced this point so prominently, and the success of thus introducing it, see the notes on Acts 23:1-9.
Both of the just and unjust - Of the righteous and the wicked; that is, of all the race. As they held this, they could not arraign him for holding it also.
16And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.
And herein - In this, or for this purpose.
Do I exercise myself - ἀσκῶ askō. I accustom or employ myself; I make it my constant aim. Paul often appeals to his conscientiousness as the leading habit of his life. Even before his conversion he endeavored to act according to the dictates of conscience. See Acts 26:9; compare Philippians 3:5-6.
To have always a conscience ... - To do what is right, so that my conscience shall never reproach me.
Void of offence - ἀπρόσκοπον aproskopon. That which is inoffensive, or which does not cause one to stumble or fall. He means that he endeavored to keep his conscience so enlightened and pure in regard to duty, and that he acted according to its dictates in such a way that his conduct should not be displeasing to God or injurious to man. To have such a conscience implies two things:
(1) That it be enlightened or properly informed in regard to truth and duty; and,
(2) That what is made known to be right should be honestly and faithfully performed. Without these two things no man can have a conscience that will be inoffensive and harmless.
Toward God - In an honest endearour to discharge the duties of public and private worship, and to do constantly what he requires believing all that he has spoken; doing all that he requires; and offering to him the service which he approves.
Toward men - In endeavoring to meet all the demands of justice and mercy; to advance their knowledge, happiness, and salvation; living so that I may look back on my life with the reflection that I have done all that I ought to have done, and all that I could do to promote the welfare of the whole human family. What a noble principle of conduct was this! How elevated and how pure! How unlike the conduct of those who live to gratify debasing sensual appetites, or for gold or honor; of those who pass their lives in such a manner as to offer the grossest offence to God and to do the most injury to man. The great and noble aim of Paul was to be pure; and no slander of his enemies, no trials, persecutions, perils, or pains of dying could take away the approving voice of conscience. Alike in his travels and in his persecutions; among friends and foes; when preaching in the synal gogue, the city, or the desert; or when defending himself before governors and kings, he had this testimony of a self-approving mind. Happy they who thus frame their lives. And happy will be the end of a life where this has been the grand object of the journey through this world.
17Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings.
Now after many years - After many years' absence. Paul here commences a reply to the charge of Tentullus, that he had endeavored to profane the temple, Acts 24:6. He begins by saying that his design in coming up to Jerusalem was to bring to his countrymen needed aid in a time of distress. It would be absurd to suppose, therefore, that his object in coming was to violate the customs of the temple, and to defile it.
I came to bring - See Acts 11:29-30; compare the notes on Romans 15:25-26.
Alms - Charities; the gift of the churches.
To my nation - Not to all the nation, but to the poor saints or Christians who were in Judea, and who were suffering much by persecutions and trials.
And offerings - The word used here properly denotes "an offering or gift" of any kind; but it is usually applied to an oblation or offering made to God in the temple - "a thank-offering, a sacrifice." This is probably its meaning here. He came to bring aid to his needy countrymen, and an offering to God; and it was, therefore, no part of his purpose to interfere with, or to profane the worship of the temple.
18Whereupon certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with multitude, nor with tumult.
Certain Jews from Asia - Acts 21:27.
Found me purified in the temple - Acts 21:26-27. They found me engaged in the sacred service of completing the observance of my vow.
Neither with multitude - Not having introduced a multitude with me - in a quiet and peaceful manner.
19Who ought to have been here before thee, and object, if they had ought against me.
Who ought to have been here ... - They were the proper witnesses, and as they had staid away it showed that they were not prepared to undergo a strict examination. They alone could testify as to anything that occurred in the temple; and as they were not present, that charge ought to be dismissed.
20Or else let these same here say, if they have found any evil doing in me, while I stood before the council,
Or else - Since they are not here to witness against me in regard to what occurred in the temple, let these here present bear witness against me, if they can, in regard to any other part of my conduct. This was a bold appeal, and it showed his full consciousness of innocence.
Let these same here say - The Jews who are here present.
Any evil doing - Any improper conduct, or any violation of the Law.
While I stood before the council - The Sanhedrin, Acts 23:1-10. As they were present there, Paul admits that they were competent to bear witness to his conduct on that occasion, and calls upon them to testify, if they could, to any impropriety in his conduct.
21Except it be for this one voice, that I cried standing among them, Touching the resurrection of the dead I am called in question by you this day.
Except it be for this one voice - For this one expression or declaration. This was what Paul had said before the council - the main thing on which he had insisted, and he calls on them to testify to this, and to show, if they could, that in this declaration he had been wrong. Chubb and other infidels have supposed that Paul here acknowledges that he was wrong in the declaration which he made when he said that he was called in question for the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead Acts 23:6, and that his conscience reproached him for appearing to be time-serving, for concealing the true cause of offence against him, and for attempting to take advantage of their divisions of sentiment, thus endeavoring to produce discord in the council. But against this supposition we may urge the following considerations:
(1) Paul wished to fix their attention on the main thing which he had said before the council.
(2) it was true, as has been shown on the passage (Acts 23:1-10), that this was the principal doctrine which Paul had been defending.
(3) if they were prepared to witness against him for holding and teaching the resurrection of the dead as a false or evil doctrine, he called on them to do it. As this had been the only thing which they had witnessed before the council, he calls on them to testify to what they knew only, and to show, if they could, that this was wrong.
Touching the resurrection ... - Respecting the resurrection, Acts 23:6.
22And when Felix heard these things, having more perfect knowledge of that way, he deferred them, and said, When Lysias the chief captain shall come down, I will know the uttermost of your matter.
Having more perfect knowledge of that way - Our translation of this verse is very obscure, and critics are divided about the proper interpretation of the original. Many (Erasmus, Luther, Michaelis, Morus, etc.) render it, "Although he had a more perfect knowledge of the Christian doctrine than Paul's accusers had, yet he deferred the hearing of the cause until Lysias had come down." They observe that he might have obtained this knowledge not only from the letter of Lysias, but from public rumour, as there were doubtless Christians at Caesarea. They suppose that he deferred the cause either with the hope of receiving a bribe from Paul (compare Acts 24:26), or to gratify the Jews with his being longer detained as a prisoner. Others, among whom are Beza, Grotius, Rosenmuller, and Doddridge, suppose that it should be rendered, "He deferred them, and said, after I have been more accurately informed concerning this way, when Lysias has come down, I will hear the cause." This is doubtless the true interpretation of the passage, and it is rendered more probable by the fact that Felix sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith of Christ Acts 24:24, evidently with the design to make himself better acquainted with the charges against him, and the nature of his belief.
Of that way - Of the Christian religion. This expression is repeatedly used by Luke to denote the Christian doctrine. See the notes on Acts 9:2.
He deferred them - He put them off; he postponed the decision of the case; he adjourned the trial.
When Lysias ... - Lysias had been acquainted with the excitement and its causes, and Felix regarded him as an important witness in regard to the true nature of the charges against Paul.
I will know the uttermost ... - I shall be fully informed, and prepared to decide the cause.
23And he commanded a centurion to keep Paul, and to let him have liberty, and that he should forbid none of his acquaintance to minister or come unto him.
And he commanded ... - It is evident from this verse that Felix was disposed to show Paul all the favors that were consistent with his safe keeping. He esteemed him to be a persecuted man, and doubtless regarded the charges against him as entirely malicious. What was Felix's motive in this cannot be certainly known. It is not improbable, however, that he detained him:
(1) To gratify the Jews by keeping him in custody as if he were guilty, and,
(2) That he hoped the friends of Paul would give him money to release him. Perhaps it was for this purpose that he gave orders that his friends should have free access to him, that thus Paul might be furnished with the means of purchasing his freedom.
24And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ.
Felix came with his wife Drusilla - Drusilla was the daughter of Herod Agrippa the elder, and was engaged to be married to Epiphanes, the son of King Antiochus, on condition that he would embrace the Jewish religion; but as he afterward refused to do that, the contract was broken off. Afterward she was given in marriage, by her brother Agrippa the younger, to Azizus, king of Emesa, upon his consent to be circumcised. When Felix was governor of Judea, he saw Drusilla and fell in love with her, and sent to her Simon, one of his friends, a Jew, by birth a Cyprian, who pretended to be a magician, to endearour to persuade her to forsake her husband and to marry Felix. Accordingly, in order to avoid the envy of her sister Bernice, who treated her ill on account of her beauty, "she was prevailed on," says Josephus, "to transgress the laws of her forefathers, and to marry Felix" (Josephus, Antiq., book 20, chapter 7, sections 1 and 2). She was, therefore, living in adultery with him, and this was probably the reason why Paul dwelt in his discourse before Felix particularly on "temperance," or chastity. See the notes on Acts 24:25.
He sent for Paul, and heard him - Perhaps he did this in order to be more fully acquainted with the case which was submitted to him. It is possible, also, that it might have been to gratify his wife, who was a Jewess, and who doubtless had a desire to be acquainted with the principles of this new sect. It is certain, also, that one object which Felix had in this was to let Paul see how dependent he was on him, and to induce him to purchase his liberty.
Concerning the faith in Christ - Concerning the Christian religion. Faith in Christ is often used to denote the whole of Christianity, as it is the leading and characteristic feature of the religion of the gospel.
25And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.
And as he reasoned - Greek: "And he discoursing" - διαλεγομένου δὲ αὐτοῦ dialegomenou de autou. No argument should be drawn from the word that is used here to prove that Paul particularly appealed to reason, or that his discourse was argumentative. That it was so is, indeed, not improbable, from all that we know of the man, and from the topics on which he discoursed. But the word used here means simply as he discoursed, and is applied usually to making a public address, to preaching, etc., in whatever way it is done, Acts 17:2; Acts 18:4, Acts 18:19; Acts 19:8-9; Acts 24:12. Felix and Drusilla intended this as a matter of entertainment or amusement. Paul readily obeyed their summons, since it gave him an opportunity to preach the gospel to them; and as they desired his sentiments in regard to the faith in Christ, he selected those topics which were adapted to their condition, and stated those principles of the Christian religion which were suited to arrest their attention, and to lead them to repentance. Paul seized every opportunity of making known the gos pel; and whether a prisoner or at liberty; whether before princes, governors, kings, or common people, he was equally prepared to defend the pure and holy doctrines of the cross. His boldness in this instance is the more remarkable, as he was dependent on Felix for his release. A time-server or an impostor would have chosen such topics as would have conciliated the favor of the judge, and procured his discharge from custody. He would have flattered his vanity or palliated his vices. But such an idea never seems to have occurred to Paul. His aim was to defend the truth, and to save, if possible, the souls of Drusilla and of Felix.
Of righteousness - περὶ δικαιοσύνης peri dikaiosunēs. Of justice. Not of the justice of God particularly, but of the nature and requirements of justice in the relations of life the relations which we sustain to God and to man. This was a proper topic with which to introduce his discourse, as it was the office of Felix to dispense justice between man and man, and as his administration was not remarkable for the exercise of that virtue. It is evident that he could be influenced by a bribe Acts 24:26, and it was proper for Paul to dwell on this, as designed to show him the guilt of his life, and his danger of meeting the justice of a Being who cannot be bribed, but who will dispense equal justice alike to the great and the mean. That Paul dwelt also on the justice of God, as the moral governor of the world, may also be presumed. The apprehension of that justice, and the remembrance of his own guilty life, tended to produce the alarm of Felix, and to make him tremble.
Temperance - ἐγκρατείας egkrateias. The word "temperance" we now use commonly to denote "moderation or restraint" in regard to eating and drinking, particularly to abstinence from the use of ardent spirits. But this is not its meaning here. There is no reason to suppose that Felix was intemperate in the use of intoxicating liquors. The original word here denotes a restraint of all the passions and evil inclinations, and may be applied to prudence, chastity, and moderation in general. The particular thing in the life of Felix which Paul had probably in view was the indulgence of licentious desires, or incontinence. He was living in adultery with Drusilla, and for this Paul wished doubtless to bring him to repentance.
And judgment to come - The universal judgment that was to come on all transgressors. On this topic Paul also dwelt when he preached on Mars' Hill at Athens, Acts 17:31. These topics were admirably adapted to excite the alarm of both Felix and Drusilla. It evinced great boldness and faithfulness in Paul to select them, and the result showed that he correctly judged of the kind of truth which was adapted to alarm the fears of his guilty auditor.
Felix trembled - In view of his past sins, and in the apprehension of the judgment to come. The Greek ἔμφοβος emphobos does not denote that his body was agitated or shaken, but only that he was alarmed or terrified. That such fear usually shakes the frame, we know; but it is not certain that the body of Felix was thus agitated. He was alarmed and terrified, and looked with deep apprehension to the coming judgment. This was a remarkable instance of the effect of truth on the mind of a man unaccustomed to such alarms, and unused to hear such truth. It shows the power of conscience when thus, under the preaching of a prisoner, the judge is thrown into violent alarm.
And answered, Go thy way ... - How different is this answer from that of the jailor of Philippi when alarmed in a similar manner! He asked, "What must I do to be saved?" and was directed to him in whom he found peace from a troubled conscience, Acts 16:30-31. Felix was troubled; but instead of asking what he should do, he sent the messenger of God away. He was evidently not prepared to break off his sins and turn to God. He sought peace by sending away his reprover, and manifestly intended then to banish the subject from his mind. Yet, like others, he did not intend to banish it altogether. He looked forward to a time when he would be more at leisure; when the cares of office would press less heavily on his attention; or when he would be more disposed to attend to it. Thus, multitudes, when they are alarmed, and see their guilt and danger, resolve to defer it to a more convenient time.
One man is engaged in a career of pleasure, and it is not now a convenient time to attend to his soul's salvation. Another is pressed with business; with the cares of life; with a plan of gain; with the labors of office or of a profession, and it is not now a convenient time for him to attend to religion. Another supposes that his time of life is not the most convenient. His youth he desires to spend in pleasure, and waits for a more convenient time in middle age. His middle life he spends in business, and this is not a convenient time. Such a period he expects then to find in old age. But as age advances he finds an increasing disposition to defer it; he is still indisposed to attend to it; still in love with the world. Even old age is seldom found to be a convenient time to prepare for heaven; and it is deferred from one period of life to another, until death closes the scene. It has been commonly supposed and said that Felix never found that more convenient time to call for Paul. That he did not embrace the Christian religion, and forsake his sins, is probable, nay, almost certain. But it is not true that he did not take an opportunity of hearing Paul further on the subject; for it is said that he sent for him often, and communed with him. But, though Felix found this opportunity, yet:
(1) We have no reason to suppose that the main thing - the salvation of his soul - ever again occupied his attention. There is no evidence that he was again alarmed or awakened, or that he had any further solicitude on the subject of his sins. He had passed forever the favorable time - the golden moments when he might have secured the salvation of his soul.
(2) others have no right to suppose that their lives will be lengthened out that they may have any further opportunity to attend to the subject of religion.
(3) when a sinner is awakened, and sees his past sins, if he rejects the appeal to his conscience then, and defers it to a more convenient opportunity, he has no reason to expect that his attention will ever be again called with deep interest to the subject. He may live, but he may live without the strivings of the Holy Spirit. When a man has once deliberately rejected the offers of mercy; when he has trifled with the influences of the Spirit of God, he has no right or reason to expect that that Spirit will ever strive with him again. Such, we have too much reason to fear, was the case with Felix. Though he often saw Paul again, and "communed with him," yet there is no statement that he was again alarmed or awakened. And thus sinners often attend on the means of grace after they have grieved the Holy Spirit; they listen to the doctrines of the gospel, they hear its appeals and its warnings, but they have no feeling, no interest, and die in their sins.
A convenient season - Greek: "taking time." I will take a time for this.
I will call for thee - To hear thee further on this subject. This he did, Acts 24:26. It is remarkable that Drusilla was not alarmed. She was as much involved in guilt as Felix; but she, being a Jewess, had been accustomed to hear of a future judgment until it caused in her mind no alarm. Perhaps also she depended on the rites and ceremonies of her religion as a sufficient expiation for her sins. She might have been resting on those false dependencies which go to free the conscience from a sense of guilt, and which thus beguile and destroy the soul.
26He hoped also that money should have been given him of Paul, that he might loose him: wherefore he sent for him the oftener, and communed with him.
He hoped also - He thought that by giving him access to his friends, and by often meeting him himself, and showing kindness, Paul might be induced to attempt to purchase his freedom with a bribe.
That money should have been given him of Paul - That Paul would give him money to procure a release. This shows the character of Felix. He was desirous of procuring a bribe. Paul had proved his innocence, and should have been at once discharged. But Felix was influenced by avarice, and he therefore detained Paul in custody with the hope that, wearied with confinement, he would seek his release by a bribe. But Paul offered no bribe. He knew what was justice, and he would not be guilty, therefore, of attempting to purchase what was his due, or of gratifying a man who prostituted his high office for the purposes of gain. The Roman governors in the provinces were commonly rapacious and avaricious, like Felix. They usually took the office for its pecuniary advantage, and they consequently usually disregarded justice, and made the procuring of money their leading object.
He sent for him the oftener - It may seem remarkable that he did not fear that he would again become alarmed. But the hope of money overcame all this. Having once resisted the reasoning of Paul, and the strivings of the Spirit of God, he seems to have had no further alarm or anxiety. He could again hear the same man, and the same truth, unaffected. When sinners have once grieved God's Spirit, they often sit with unconcern under the same truth which once alarmed them, and become entirely hardened and unconcerned.
And communed with him - And conversed with him.
27But after two years Porcius Festus came into Felix' room: and Felix, willing to shew the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound.
But after two years - Paul was unjustly detained during all this time. The hope of Felix seems to have been to weary his patience, and induce him to purchase his freedom.
Came into Felix' room - As governor.
And Felix, willing to show the Jews a pleasure - Desirous of pleasing them, even at the expense of justice, This shows the principle on which he acted.
Left Paul bound - Left him in custody to the charge of his successor. His object in this was to conciliate the Jews; that is, to secure their favor, and to prevent them, if possible, from accusing him for the evils of his administration before the emperor. The account which Luke gives here coincides remarkably with what Josephus has given. He says that Porcius Festus was sent as successor to Felix by Nero. He does not, indeed, mention Paul, or say that Felix sought to conciliate the favor of the Jews, but he gives such an account as to make the statement by Luke perfectly consistent with his character while in office. He informs us that Felix was unpopular, and that there was reason to apprehend that the Jews would accuse him before the emperor; and, therefore, the statement in the Acts that he would be willing to show the Jews a favor, is in perfect keeping with his character and circumstances, and is one of those undesigned coincidences which show that the author of the Acts was fully acquainted with the circumstances of the time and that his history is true.
The account in Josephus is, that "when Porcius Festus was sent as successor to Felix by Nero, the principal inhabitants of Caesarea went up to Rome to accuse Felix; and he had been certainly brought to punishment unless Nero had yielded to the importunate solicitations of his brother Palias, who was at that time had in the greatest honor by him" (Antiq., book 20, chapter 8, section 9). The plan of Felix, therefore, in suppressing the enmity of the Jews, and conciliating their favor by injustice to Paul, did not succeed, and is one of those instances, so numerous in the world, where a man gains nothing by wickedness. He sought money from Paul by iniquity, and failed; he sought by injustice to obtain the favor of the Jews, and failed in that also. And the inference from the whole transaction is, that "honesty is the best policy," and that men in any office should pursue a course of firm, constant, and undeviating integrity.