In the days before we had cellphones, Jenny and I were returning from visiting an elderly lady on a small holding in a type of rural setting. As we travelled home on a gravel road, a Telkom bakkie entered our road, which was the “main road”, the driver not looking … just driving cross right in from of us. I drove right into the center of his vehicle and flipped him on his side. The driver and his helper were not injured but Jenny was very bruised from the safely belt as I was, but I also broke my sternum. This landed up going to court as both insurance companies felt their insured were in the right. Fortunately I managed to take photos at a later stage with proper measurements and provided a lengthy explanation as to what happened. Although the other driver’s attorney, appointed by Telkom’s insurance company tried to put the blame onto me, once he saw my documented evidence and photos he did an about turn. Why did he? Because his client had provided him with lies as to how the impact occurred, where on the farm road his and my vehicles were, incorrect weather conditions, etc. My mother-in-law also said … “Tell the truth and shame the devil.” That young man should have done that! I relate this story because
Paul was a man who knew the God of truth personally and told the truth to governor Felix. Please read:
Ac 24:12 My accusers did not find me arguing with anyone at the temple, or stirring up a crowd in the synagogues or anywhere else in the city. 13 And they cannot prove to you the charges they are now making against me. 14 However, I admit that I worship the God of our fathers as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that agrees with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, 15 and I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. 16 So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.
We have covered some of Paul’s defense after the Jews attorney, Tertullus presented their charges against Paul. Now we proceed …
1) The truth about his accusers.
(1) They cannot prove Paul argued with people at the temple. He went there to register and pay for the vows he and others had undertaken. They could testify to this. When he was arrested he was praying.
(2) They could not prove Paul was stirring up crowds both in synagogues or any other place in Jerusalem. He was not. You will recall how sensitive both he and the Church leaders were about his presence. Why would he jeopardize himself and his integrity … and more the Gospel by causing riots?
(3) To Felix the judge he says that his accusers could not prove any of their charges to him. He most strongly denies Tertullus’ fabricated charges by telling the truth. I know we have said this a few times but it is worth saying it again … we are people of the Truth. We must tell the truth even if it harms our cause! Often a half-truth tends to slip out of our mouths … or we flavor the truth to make us look good … if the one is a lie the other is deceit. The way to prevent falling to the greater interpretation of this commandment—
Ex 20:16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor”
—is to pray the following two scriptures:
Pr 21:23 He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.
Ps 141:3 Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD, keep watch over the door of my lips.
2) Admitting what he did do.
Ac 24:14 However, I admit that I worship the God of our fathers as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that agrees with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, 15 and I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. 16 So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.
If ever there was a defense of both the Gospel and of Paul’s integrity, it is to be found here.
(1) He admits that as a Jew he worships the God of the fathers of Israel, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He had freedom under Roman Law to worship his God as a Jew. But he adds that he worships this God as a follower of the Way. Here he openly declares his faith in Jesus Christ. On five occasion in the Book of Acts we find the name, “the Way.” (Here, 9:2, 19:9, 19:23 and 24:22). Amongst the believers and amongst the non-believers (Gentiles and Jews) it seems this was the name given to the Christian Church. Most likely because the disciples declared that Jesus said:
Jn 14:6 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
(2) The high priests and elders called “the way” a sect. They might have labelled what Paul belonged to as a sect, but Christianity embraced the nation’s hope without deviating from the ancient faith passed down from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They believed all the Scriptures … the writings of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms. Neither the legalistic Pharisees nor the liberal Sadducees could say this!
(3) What is Paul’s hope? What is the hope of the Christian Church? What is the hope of the ancient nation of Israel? It is the resurrection from the dead.
(4) But what did Paul believe about the resurrection? He believed that both the righteous and the wicked will rise from the dead. Nowhere else in his writing is this recorded like this. He seems to be saying what Jesus said:
Jn 5:28 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.
Many do not want to believe this duel resurrection. Largely it is because they don’t want to have a conscience …
(a) As an unbeliever knowing they will go to hell and suffer.
(b) As a believer they don’t want to know their loved ones are suffering in hell. Whatever people want to believe does not remove the fact that there is a real heaven and a real hell. Some Churches may avoid teaching about hell but because the Church does not warn people about hell does not mean there is not hell. If our Lord taught it and if Paul believed it, that ought to be good enough for us to believe and teach.
(c) Just think, if there is no hell, then why believe in Jesus? Why not live as you please and satisfy the cravings of the sinful nature? But there is a real heaven for all who have exercised faith in Jesus, have repented of their old wicked lifestyle and are born again. Equally there is a real hell for all who refuse Jesus. They shall perish in hell forever!
(d) Paul declares his honesty before Felix.
Ac 24:16 So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.
Surely this counts a hundred points! Because there is a resurrection … a heaven and a hell, Paul strives for a clear conscience before both God and man. The Greek for “strive” is “blameless” … his conscience is not riddled with sin because he has lied. Rather he told the truth to man because he stands before God who will judge him. There is a real heaven and a real hell. O beloved … we too need to strive to have a clear conscience before God and man … because there is a real heaven and a real hell.
Our Father, grant us a passionate desire to live such a life that please You. Amen.