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ST. PAUL BEFORE FELIX
--OCTOBER 8.--ACTS 24:1-21.--
ST. PAUL AT CAESAREA, THE ROMAN CAPITAL OF JUDEA--
HIS TRIAL BEFORE THE ROMAN GOVERNOR--THE CHARGES
BROUGHT AGAINST THE APOSTLE--ST. PAUL'S DEFENSE--
THE DOCTRINE OF THE RESURRECTION THE THEME OF
HIS PREACHING--THIS DOCTRINE LOST SIGHT OF BY MANY
PROFESSED CHRISTIANS OF OUR DAY--THE ROMAN
GOVERNOR INTERESTED IN THE APOSTLE'S TEACHINGS--
ST. PAUL A PRISONER FOR TWO YEARS.
"Herein I also exercise myself to have a conscience void
of offense toward God and man always."--Verse 16.
FELIX, the Roman Governor of Judea, received
St. Paul as a prisoner. The Apostle's
enemies, the high priest and other Jewish
rulers, hastened down from Jerusalem to
Caesarea, thirsting for his blood. They
brought with them a Roman lawyer, named
Tertullus, whose knowledge of Roman usage
would, they hoped, enable them to prove that
St. Paul was a dangerous character--a sort
of anarchist. Felix was the judge. There
were no jurors. Tertullus, skilled as a pleader, made his
charges and confirmed them by witnesses from Jerusalem.
Shrewdly the Roman attorney complimented the Governor
along the lines of his hitherto efficiency in preserving
the peace, in putting down every form of insurrection
and in maintaining quiet and order. This very completely
paved the way for the lawyer's request that the Governor
should continue this praiseworthy course and rid the land
of an obnoxious trouble-maker--the Apostle. Witnesses
were produced who testified respecting the first tumult in
the Temple at Jerusalem and also respecting that of the
following day, in which the Sanhedrin became divided
into two parts and a general uproar ensued. The Apostle
was charged with being a ringleader of a sect called
Nazarenes; and the claim was made that he had caused
trouble amongst both Jews and Greeks the world over.
This was Tertullus' case. He charged that the prisoner
was guilty of sacrilege--that St. Paul had defiled the
Temple; and the inference was deducible that the Apostle
had caused rioting within the holy sanctuary. Witnesses
were procured to prove that these charges were true.
Governor Felix motioned to the Apostle that he was
at liberty to answer the charges. Then St. Paul opened
his defense with the remark that he was gratified that his
judge had been on the bench for some time and was well
acquainted with Jewish customs; that he would therefore
understand what a novice could not--why the Apostle had
come to Jerusalem to worship after the manner of the
Jews, to celebrate one of their religious festivals. He had
come, not to raise an insurrection, but to worship God
after the Jewish custom; and no witness had testified that
he was found in the Temple either disputing or gathering
a crowd. The charge was untrue. He did not do these
things in the synagogues or anywhere else; and his enemies
could not prove the things whereof they accused him.
The Apostle's answer was both logical and complete.
Still the Governor could not understand why, under the
circumstances, there should be a commotion. Hence it was
necessary for St. Paul to explain that the Jews had an
antipathy against him because of his different religious
belief, not because of any wrong-doing on his part.
THE DOCTRINE OF THE RESURRECTION
St. Paul avowed that he had experienced no change in
his Jewish belief--that he still believed the teachings of
the Law and the writings of the Prophets; that he still
held to the fundamental Jewish doctrine of the necessity
of a resurrection of the dead; and that he still had faith
in the Promise that through the resurrection of the dead
God's blessing should ultimately come to Israel, and
through Israel to all the families of the earth. Furthermore,
he exercised himself, trained himself, disciplined
himself, to keep his conscience pure, free from violation
of Divine and human laws.
This was a grand testimony. Its force should have
had weight, not only with the Governor, but also with
the Jews, who murderously sought the Apostle's life because
of a little difference of opinion on religious questions.
What a lesson we have here! A Roman Governor
and judge of not too savory a reputation; a prosecuting
attorney willing to sell his talents for money, regardless of
the principles of justice; the Jewish high priest, typical
of the great Messiah, associating himself with those who
were endeavoring to pervert justice and to destroy one
of "the salt of the earth"!
Our Lord had foretold that some of His disciples
would stand before kings and princes, but that they should
not be dismayed. He would stand by them to give them
assistance. (Matthew 10:17-22.) How literally this was
fulfilled in St. Paul's case! How evidently the Lord stood
by him and gave him the suitable words!
The Apostle proceeded to explain that he had brought
alms to his nation, the offerings of Gentiles who had heard
his Message of the grace of God. Certain Jews from
Asia Minor had found him purified in the Temple, but
without cry or tumult. These Jews should have been
brought forward as witnesses. Or those who were making
the charges against him should have been specific;
they should have said on the day following the attack by
the mob--the day when he was brought before the Sanhedrin--
what he did tumultuously in the Temple or what
wrong-doing they had found in him. Only one charge
could they make; namely, that while standing amongst
them he had cried out, "Touching the resurrection of the
dead I am called into question this day!" Surely the Governor
could not think that in this there was anything akin
to rioting or anarchy! The prisoner had been in the right;
but those who were accusing him had been in the wrong.
A DOCTRINE LOST SIGHT OF
The Apostle's testimony shows us that in all of his
preaching he laid special stress upon the doctrine of the
resurrection of the dead, both of the just and of the unjust.
Alas, that in our day this doctrine has been measurably
[page 269] lost sight of! Few Christians ever think of the
resurrection. Few have ever heard a sermon upon this
subject. Why is this?
We reply that it is because a great error has come in
amongst Christian people in respect to the condition of
the dead. According to both Catholics and Protestants,
only the saintly are fit for Heaven at death. Both agree
that only finished characters could properly be admitted
there. Both agree to our Lord's words respecting the
Kingdom: "Few there be that find it." (Matthew 7:13, 14.)
Our Catholic friends tell us that nearly all mankind
--heathens, Catholics and Protestants--go to Purgatory,
where for centuries they will undergo terrible sufferings,
which will purge them from sin and prepare them for
Heaven. Many Protestant friends tell us that they do not
see even this hope; that from their standpoint only the
"little flock" go to Heaven; that all the great mass of mankind,
unprepared for the presence of God, must go somewhere;
and that the only place for them is a Hell of
eternal torture, from which there will be no escape.
We shall not quarrel with either party. Both views
are too horrible to be reasonable or just, not to mention
loving! We prefer to go back to the words of Jesus and
the Apostles, and to note that according to their teachings
the dead are really dead, and that their only hope is, as
the Apostle expresses it, a resurrection hope--"the hope of
the resurrection," the hope "that there shall be a resurrection
of the dead, both of the just and of the unjust."
It is not the resurrection of the body that the Bible
teaches, but the resurrection of the soul; and "God will
give it a body" at the time of the awakening.
(1 Corinthians 15:38.) We could wish that all Christian people
would arouse themselves to a thorough study of the Scriptures.
Then the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead
would be given its proper place; and much of the fog
of the Dark Ages would thus be gotten rid of--the fog
which has troubled us, saddened our hearts and turned
many away from God and the Bible into infidelity.
THE COMING JUDGMENT DAY
After having heard both sides of the case, the governor-judge
set it aside until Claudius Lysias, the commandant
of Fort Antonia, the Roman officer who had
made the arrest, should be heard. Meantime, St. Paul
was given great liberty, the real status of his case evidently
being quite clearly understood by Governor Felix.
Subsequently the governor, apparently much impressed
by the Apostle's demeanor, called for him again, at a time
when his wife, a Jewess, was present. He wished her to
hear the Gospel Message, which seems to have appealed
to him as reasonable. St. Paul doubtless reviewed much
of his previous testimony, and then reasoned respecting a
coming judgment, or trial--that eternal destinies are not
fixed as a result of the present life.
Assuredly the Apostle explained that God has appointed
a Day of trial, or judgment, for the whole world
of mankind--the Millennial Day, a thousand years long.
(2 Peter 3:7, 8.) During that period all mankind shall
have a full trial as to worthiness or unworthiness of human
perfection and life everlasting. The obedient shall
be blessed, uplifted, raised up, up, up to perfection. The
wilfully disobedient shall be destroyed in the Second Death.
"A JUST RECOMPENSE OF REWARD"
If, then, the trial of the world is to be in the future
Age, and if in the present Age God is merely electing, or
selecting, the Church to be the Bride of His Son and
Joint-heir in the Messianic Kingdom, which is to bless the
world, how could these matters have any special influence
upon Felix and his wife? We reply, In two ways:
(1) It might influence them to accept Christ and to
seek to be of the elect Church;
(2) Knowing of their future trial, they should know
that the words and the deeds of the present life have much
to do with the status of the individual when he is awakened
from the tomb. The vicious, the hypocritical, the
self-righteous, the wanton, the profligate, degrade themselves
and increase the number of steps which they must
retrace during the Millennium. On the contrary, every
good deed, every victory gained, every practice of moderation,
will make the individual correspondingly the better
prepared for the next life. Every generous deed of the
present life makes its impress upon the character, and will
bring proportionate blessings in that Millennial Judgment
Day. On the other hand, every evil deed, every violation
of conscience, will receive its "stripes," or just punishment.
As Felix listened to the Apostle, he was conscience-stricken.
According to this teaching, he would have much
for which to give account as one of the "unjust" in the
resurrection. We note that St. Paul said nothing about
fiery tortures, which an intelligent mind must repudiate
as unreasonable; but his argument was all the stronger
without such assertions. His forceful declaration was,
"A just recompense of reward both for the just and for
the unjust." Finally the governor dismissed him with the
memorable words, "Go thy way for this time. When I
have a more convenient season I will call for thee."
Time and again Governor Felix called for the Apostle;
but apparently never did he find his heart in a sufficiently
mellow and humble condition to accept the Apostle's Message
and to surrender to the Lord. A lesson in this connection
for us all is that we should do promptly whatever
we realize to be our duty. For two years St. Paul
remained a prisoner at Caesarea, comfortably provided
for, preparing for the further services of his life, and
writing several epistles to the various Churches.