I do not watch movies about fictitious court cases. They are engineered to achieve a climax to the movie. I have however watched some court cases on South African TV as well as some on the State Capture Proceedings. What came to my mind is that some advocates and their legal teams prepare well and others don’t. Whether it is because some are more suited to argue a case, whether it is that some are ill prepared or perhaps some know they have a weak case, I don’t know. I am impressed with those legal teams who do not raise their voice, get excited, make startling and almost unbelievable accusations, slander the opposition or take on the judge. Perhaps truth does not always win a court case and maybe integrity does not either, but professionalism is to be admired. As we have said, this is the last stretch of the Book of Acts and it dealing with Paul’s court cases and his journey to Rome. What is interesting as we start chapter 24 is the comparison between the Jewish chief priest, some of the Sanhedrin and their lawyer … and Paul’s defense of himself and the Gospel.
1) The case against Paul.
Ac 24:1 Five days later the high priest Ananias went down to Caesarea with some of the elders and a lawyer named Tertullus, and they brought their charges against Paul before the governor. 2 When Paul was called in, Tertullus presented his case before Felix: “We have enjoyed a long period of peace under you, and your foresight has brought about reforms in this nation. 3 Everywhere and in every way, most excellent Felix, we acknowledge this with profound gratitude. 4 But in order not to weary you further, I would request that you be kind enough to hear us briefly. 5 “We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect 6 and even tried to desecrate the temple; so we seized him. 8 By examining him yourself you will be able to learn the truth about all these charges we are bringing against him.” 9 The Jews joined in the accusation, asserting that these things were true.
Before we unpack these verses, let’s be reminded that God is sovereign. He is the architect of the Christian Church. He established it in the Blood of His beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ who is the second person of the Triune God. His plan for the Gospel is all the world. His rescue plan is not in vain and nobody and nothing will hinder this plan for achieving its purpose. Just as Isaiah says:
Isa 55:10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater
So he says:
Isa 55:11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
God wants Paul in Rome to testify about Jesus being LORD, right there in the heartland of the Roman Empire. If this is God’s plan for Paul, He shall surely protect Paul and divide the pathways of obstruction so that he reaches Rome and preaches Christ there.
(1) Paul was incarcerated for five days as he awaited the arrival of the Jewish prosecution team.
Ac 24:1 Five days later the high priest Ananias went down to Caesarea with some of the elders and a lawyer named Tertullus, and they brought their charges against Paul before the governor.
It is not hard to imagine how confident this group were. The high priest who was seen as God’s anointed one, the elders presumably from the Sadducean Party and their lawyer, Tertullus. We ought never to forget that this retired high priest’s son-in-law, Caiaphas, ruled against Jesus when He was arrested. He sent him to Pilate to be crucified.
Jn 11:49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”
If father-in-law wanted Jesus out of the way, why would not the son-in-law want Paul out of the way? After all both Jesus and Paul were seen as enemies of the Jewish religion. At the same time it is not hard to imagine what Paul did during these five days. I will suggest that he prayed and preached.
(2) Paul put into the ‘prisoner’s’ box.
Ac 24:2 When Paul was called in.
He was removed from custody and brought into the “court”. Roman law dictated fair trials, especially when it was a Roman Citizen.
(3) Tertullus the defense counsel.
Ac 24:2 Tertullus presented his case before Felix.
His name is derived from “Tertius” which means “liar or imposter”. He was a Roman advocate employed by the high priest and his elders to prosecute Paul before governor Felix. I cannot improve on the following quotation …
The style of his rhetorical address or brief was common to Roman advocates. With his power of glib eloquence as well as knowledge of Roman laws, the orator Tertullus sought to impress the mind of the judge. With the trick of his class, he began with flattery of the judge. All of the flattering epithets of the hired orator, however, stand out in striking contrast with “the righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come,” Paul later spoke about to the same ruler. From flattery of the judge, Tertullus passed to invective against the defendant, charging him with crimes he never committed. Paul in his defense presented a marked difference between his own frank manliness and the advocate’s servile flattery. Tertullus could not rouse the conscience of Felix as Paul did. “Felix trembled,” as Paul pressed home the truth of the Gospel and sent for him “the oftener,” we read. What a tragedy it was that Felix did not follow his Spirit-impressed conscience!Zondervan
(4) The defense case against Paul. Tertullus obtained his brief from the high priest and the Sadducees. It is not hard to grasp that much like in our day, truth will be twisted to the point of fabrication. Remember what we have before us is inspired Truth as it was recorded.
(i) Buttering up the governor.
Ac 24:2 “We have enjoyed a long period of peace under you, and your foresight has brought about reforms in this nation. 3 Everywhere and in every way, most excellent Felix, we acknowledge this with profound gratitude.”
This is not just buttering the governor up, it is blatant lies for where did he bring reforms and what peace does he refer to? Such flattery was used and is still used to gain goodwill for the lawyer, from the judge. Did it work? We shall see.
(ii) Thinking the case is a walk in the park.
Ac 24:4 But in order not to weary you further, I would request that you be kind enough to hear us briefly.
Again, flattery by not wanting to try the governor’s patience by what Tertullus says is a small case … hear us briefly. He believes the case is so insignificant that it did not require much of Felix’s time. Did he take Felix for a fool? Why would he have agreed to a court case in the first place? He had read the content of the commander’s letter. It was no small case at all. My beloved, even we Christians can make light of Christian and Biblical matters. Let’s be cautious not to trifle with holy things. God, His Name and His Word are holy. Should we fabricate things and make them as it they were what God says, we not only lie, we take His holy Name in vain, deny His Word and abuse Him who alone is God.
Father help us to learn never to make things up about You, Your Word or about Your people as Tertullus did. Amen.