Truth Doesn't Fear A Challenge

Acts: To The End of The Earth  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  41:36
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Truth Doesn’t Fear A Challenge

.Acts 23:12-24:27
Acts 23:12–15 ESV
12 When it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. 13 There were more than forty who made this conspiracy. 14 They went to the chief priests and elders and said, “We have strictly bound ourselves by an oath to taste no food till we have killed Paul. 15 Now therefore you, along with the council, give notice to the tribune to bring him down to you, as though you were going to determine his case more exactly. And we are ready to kill him before he comes near.”
Paul had just stood before the Sanhedrin and caused them to be thrown into mass confusion.
Through the uproar, Paul was rescued by the Roman General and visited by Jesus.
Jesus reassured him that he was going to get to Rome and testify the gospel there. 23:11
The Jews were not happy about the fact that their plans to kill Paul keep getting foiled.
So they are going to make one last ditch effort to kill Paul.
There is a conspiracy and oath that is taken by 40 members of the Sanhedrin.
The Sanhedrin was made up of both Sadducees and Pharisees.
The Pharisees didn’t see anything wrong with what Paul was teaching so these men that chose to conspire were mostly the Sadducees.
Not only did they conspire to kill Paul, but they made an oath to see it through.
They all agreed that they wouldn’t eat until Paul was dead.
How much do you have to hate and revile a person to withhold food from yourself?
Oaths were a big deal during this time.
In fact they were so prevalent that Jesus warned against them.
Matthew 5:33–37 ESV
33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.
Oaths of this nature were made usually in the heat of the moment and sought God’s approval by the severity of the oath.
But they had a plan.
They plan was to ask the Roman General to bring Paul back to them so that they could state their case.
They could examine him.
But while he was on the way there they would ambush him and kill him.
The members of the Sanhedrin were experts in the Law.
They knew, taught, and upheld the law.
Yet they were ready to break the Law of God to kill Paul.
I mean. Don’t Kill is literally one of the big 10
Their Pride and flesh was blinding them to the fact that they were breaking God’s law.
It didn’t matter what God had said, they wanted Paul dead.
And it didn’t Look like anything would stop them.
But let’s not forget that God has a purpose and plan for Paul.
Jesus has already reassured Paul that he is going to Rome.
So God’s hand is going to be at work.
God’s providence is going to play out and protect Paul in this situation.
Even though God’s name isn’t mentioned, we will see him at work.
One preacher put it this way,
“Never mistake the lack of the miraculous for the inactivity of God. God’s hand is always at work.”
God is Going to Providentially protect Paul from the plot of the Jesus.
Just as he has protected him to this point.
How does God protect him?
Acts 23:16–24 ESV
16 Now the son of Paul’s sister heard of their ambush, so he went and entered the barracks and told Paul. 17 Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the tribune, for he has something to tell him.” 18 So he took him and brought him to the tribune and said, “Paul the prisoner called me and asked me to bring this young man to you, as he has something to say to you.” 19 The tribune took him by the hand, and going aside asked him privately, “What is it that you have to tell me?” 20 And he said, “The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down to the council tomorrow, as though they were going to inquire somewhat more closely about him. 21 But do not be persuaded by them, for more than forty of their men are lying in ambush for him, who have bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they have killed him. And now they are ready, waiting for your consent.” 22 So the tribune dismissed the young man, charging him, “Tell no one that you have informed me of these things.” 23 Then he called two of the centurions and said, “Get ready two hundred soldiers, with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go as far as Caesarea at the third hour of the night. 24 Also provide mounts for Paul to ride and bring him safely to Felix the governor.”
Providential Protection
The first person God uses to protect Paul is Paul’s nephew.
This is the only passage in all of Scripture that mentions anything related to Paul’s Family.
He has a sister and he has a nephew. This is all we know.
Paul’s nephew overhears the plot to murder his uncle.
So he goes to tell his uncle the plans against him.
Paul had some freedoms while he was in chains.
He wasn’t a regular prisoner.
It was more like he was under house arrest and under the protection of the Roman Government.
So people came and went as they wished when they wanted to communicate with Paul.
Paul’s nephew relays the message to Paul and Paul beckons one of the Centurions to come and listen.
Here’s something we don’t need to overlook.
Because of Paul’s heritage and the respect he gained from the Romans.
So he was able to summon them when his nephew showed up.
And they listened to him.
Let’s talk about his nephew for a moment.
The same word “young man” is used that was used of Eutychus back in Acts 20.
Meaning that Paul’s nephew was probably somewhere between the ages of 8 and 14.
But he was probably on the younger end of that age.
The fact that the Chief Priests and elders didn’t think the boy a threat to their plot means they didn’t see him as of any consequence.
They Probably thought he was too young to understand the weight of what was happening.
But it is absolutely amazing what children can hear and understand when we think they aren’t paying attention.
In Fact, when they aren’t paying attention is usually when they pick up the most.
Here’s some sound advice.
When you think it’s safe to speak around a child…Don’t say it.
Their little ears have the uncanny ability to ignore all that they are supposed to hear, and pick up exactly what they shouldn’t.
That’s what happens here.
His age is further clarified by the fact that the centurion took him by the hand (v. 19) to take him to the commander.
Can you imagine the centurion taking by the hand an older boy, probably not.
So God is using this young man to save his uncle.
It’s also an act of God that the Roman commander would listen to this young boy.
Children didn’t get respect or listened to in those days.
They were to be seen and not heard.
Therefore, God’s providence was all over this situation.
The respect that was held for Paul poured over to this young one.
The Jewish leaders knew that this ploy would work if it wasn’t for that pesky kid.
The Roman Commander still had not had any of his questions answered.
He still didn’t know fully why Paul was beaten.
He didn’t know why they were After him.
He wanted to get down to the heart of the matter.
So he would have agreed to have the meeting had this revelation not been recieved.
But instead of leading Paul to his death. He ushers him out of town into safety.
The Commander calls two Centurions to gather their troops together.
He calls for 200 soldiers.
200 Spearmen
70 Horsemen to escort Paul safely away from Jerusalem.
Those against Paul stood at 40, but those for his protection was 470.
God will protect his people that are on his mission by any means he deems necessary.
Here’s what we see here, both the young boy and the Roman military are at God’s disposal if he wants to use them.
That means that God may use the weak.
Or he may use the strong.
But he will not be thwarted.
His purposes will not be shaken.
He cannot and will not be overwhelmed.
He is always working.
Now Paul’s escort was not just getting him out of town, but was going to deliver him over to a higher authority.
The Roman Commander, finally named here, Claudius Lysias, writes a letter to the Governor Felix.
And the Letter Reads:
Acts 23:25–35 ESV
25 And he wrote a letter to this effect: 26 “Claudius Lysias, to his Excellency the governor Felix, greetings. 27 This man was seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them when I came upon them with the soldiers and rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman citizen. 28 And desiring to know the charge for which they were accusing him, I brought him down to their council. 29 I found that he was being accused about questions of their law, but charged with nothing deserving death or imprisonment. 30 And when it was disclosed to me that there would be a plot against the man, I sent him to you at once, ordering his accusers also to state before you what they have against him.” 31 So the soldiers, according to their instructions, took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris. 32 And on the next day they returned to the barracks, letting the horsemen go on with him. 33 When they had come to Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they presented Paul also before him. 34 On reading the letter, he asked what province he was from. And when he learned that he was from Cilicia, 35 he said, “I will give you a hearing when your accusers arrive.” And he commanded him to be guarded in Herod’s praetorium.
Providential Protection
Claudius isn’t exactly truthful in the letter.
Claudius wants to save face in the letter.
He doesn’t talk about arresting Paul, nor about his desire to beat him before he discovered Paul was a Roman Citizen.
Claudius is painting himself in the best light possible.
He does state that he found Paul to be guiltless, but at the same time he didn’t really know what the charges were against him.
Claudius really paints himself as the white knight that had come to save Paul when he needed him most.
So just a couple of things real quick.
Just because the bible records something doesn’t mean that it approves of it.
God doesn’t approve of Claudius lying and saving face, but he does choose to include it.
Secondly, we know that ultimately it was God who saved Paul.
God had orchestrated the whole thing.
He just chose to use Claudius to accomplish his purposes.
Paul is then present before Felix and to make sure he is in the right place, Felix asks Paul where he’s from.
The governor’s power was all ranging.
He could only rule over cases if the defendant was from a territory where he had jurisdiction.
Paul responds with the fact that he is from Cilicia and that affirms that he is in the right place.
But the hearing would have to wait till the accusers arrived.
So Paul was again placed in protective custody until the hearing could happen.
Acts 24:1–4 ESV
1 And after five days the high priest Ananias came down with some elders and a spokesman, one Tertullus. They laid before the governor their case against Paul. 2 And when he had been summoned, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying: “Since through you we enjoy much peace, and since by your foresight, most excellent Felix, reforms are being made for this nation, 3 in every way and everywhere we accept this with all gratitude. 4 But, to detain you no further, I beg you in your kindness to hear us briefly.
Flattering False Witness
The high priest Ananias and some of the Sanhedrin arrive in Caesarea 5 days after Paul gets there.
With them they bring Tertullus.
Tertullus is a lawyer.
We’re not sure if he was part of the Sanhedrin or even if he was Jewish, nevertheless they brought Tertullus to state the case before Felix.
Tertullus was a smart and manipulative lawyer.
Not all Lawyers are bad, but when you think of smarmy lawyers, Tertullus would probably come to mind.
The first thing we read is the flattery that drips from Tertullus’ lips.
Flattery is not represented well in the Scripture.
There is no need to say something that isn’t true in order to gain approval.
Flattery is a form of lying.
Yet Tertullus has no problem with using flattering words when addressing Felix.
You may be asking me, “Josh how are these words about Felix False?”
We have to understand a little about Felix to grasp it all.
Felix was a politicians politician.
He was guided by a “Ruthless Pragmatism”
If he saw an uprising he would ruthlessly crush it.
Felix was born a slave, but was eventually released and appointed to rule.
In order to stay in good standing with Rome, anytime there was a hint at an uprising he would violently crush it to keep the peace of Rome
Felix was all about keeping his power and influence regardless of the cost.
Even though he tried to squash the uprisings they would repeatedly come out.
So there was no peace in the area.
He wasn’t a high-minded ruler, with the understanding of a king.
Rather he was a tyrant to the people he ruled over.
In fact, historian Tacitus writes:
The Lexham Bible Dictionary Evidence in Extrabiblical Sources

“Antonius Felix practiced every kind of cruelty and lust, wielding the power of a king with the instincts of a slave” (Tacitus, Histories, 5.9).

With that being the case it seemed like Paul had no chance at escaping a guilty verdict.
Tertullus also appealed to the providence and power of Felix.
Stroking his ego to gain favor.
Then Tertullus presents the case against Paul.
Keep in mind, first the elders wanted to kill Paul, potentially breaking the don’t kill commandment.
Now they are breaking the commandment against bearing false witness.
The bring up 3 charges things against Paul.
Acts 24:5–9 ESV
5 For we have found this man a plague, one who stirs up riots among all the Jews throughout the world and is a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. 6 He even tried to profane the temple, but we seized him. 8 By examining him yourself you will be able to find out from him about everything of which we accuse him.” 9 The Jews also joined in the charge, affirming that all these things were so.
Flattering False Witness
He causes Riots.
He is a ringleader of the Nazarene Sect.
He tried to profane the temple.
On top of all that he’s a plague/pest.
no matter what we do we can’t get rid of him.
He continually stirs up disorder and subverts the law.
Here’s why this is important.
During the first century there were many men who would try to rise to power through claiming to be a political messiah.
Remember, Claudius thought Paul was the Ethiopian that caused a ruckus..
This disturbed the Pax Ramona, the peace of Rome, which was one to the cornerstones of the Roman Empire.
The Romans loved law. They loved order.
They wanted to keep it at all costs.
And they wouldn’t hesitate to squash out any rabblerouser that came against them.
So riots and disorder were big no-nos in the Roman Empire.
They also called him the ringleader of the Nazarenes.
This is the only time in Scripture that this description is used of Jesus Followers.
It was meant to convince Felix that this movement was separate from the Judaism and was a threat to peace.
He called him a ringleader which carries with it, its own connotation of mob vibes and trouble makers.
The case against Paul was stated to make him seem like more of a bad guy and threat to the empire than he was.
Because if he were shown to be a threat to the empire he would surely be out of the picture.
The last charge was presented b/c if it could be proven the government would hand Paul over to the Jewish Leaders.
So they accused him of defiling the temple.
The Jewish Leaders were in charge of enforcing and protecting their holy ground.
So even if He wasn’t convicted of disturbing the peace of Rome, he could still be turned over and face death at the hands of the Jewish leaders.
Thankfully this is a courtroom type situation and Paul is given a chance to combat and disprove all of these lies with the truth.
Let’s see how he responds:
Acts 24:10–13 ESV
10 And when the governor had nodded to him to speak, Paul replied: “Knowing that for many years you have been a judge over this nation, I cheerfully make my defense. 11 You can verify that it is not more than twelve days since I went up to worship in Jerusalem, 12 and they did not find me disputing with anyone or stirring up a crowd, either in the temple or in the synagogues or in the city. 13 Neither can they prove to you what they now bring up against me.
Truthful Defense
Paul begins his defense by proving he had no opportunity to stir up riots our cause trouble in Jerusalem. v.10-13
He was only there for 12 days before he stood before Felix.
That is hardly enough time to cause trouble in Jerusalem.
Neither did any of these men see him participating in activities that would warrant these accusations.
This is a big deal.
Because in Jewish law and tradition, there needed to be at least 2 lines of independent testimony to bring a charge against someone.
So at least two people needed to witness Paul stirring up a crowd in order to bring this charge.
On top of that every time a riot occurs it is not because Paul started it, but because others did.
The riot in the temple courtyard, from which all this stems, was instigated by a false accusation against Paul.
Paul stands before Felix completely innocent of what he has been charged with, yet those that accuse him stand guilty yet not under scrutiny.
Paul then makes a defense about his beliefs:
Acts 24:14–16 ESV
14 But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, 15 having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. 16 So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.
Truthful Defense
Paul simply says that yes, I am a follower of the way, but I still worship the same God, believe in the same scriptures, and hope in the same things.
But the difference is that I follow The Way.
Remember this is what the earlier followers of Jesus called themselves.
They were only called Christians as a mockery of their obedience to Jesus.
But Paul assures both Felix and the elders that he has not abandoned the faith of the his youth,
Rather he is discovered the truth and fulfilment of that faith in Jesus Christ.
God has truly and ultimately revealed himself in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
In his life, death, burial, and here is the true point of contention, his resurrection.
Remember there were some of the Sanhedrin that believed in the resurrection (the Pharisees) and others that did not (Sadducees).
And in all actuality this is still a battle we fight today.
To people outside of Christianity the resurrection sounds Ludicris.
They can come to grips with Jesus the good moral teacher.
They can come to an understanding of Jesus as a person.
But when it Comes to Jesus as God.
As the resurrected one, that’s where there are issues.
Here’s the thing.
The resurrection is essential for followers of Jesus.
1 Corinthians 15:14 ESV
14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.
The resurrection is what separates faith in Jesus from any other faith or belief.
Why is that important?
Because if Jesus rose from the dead then we can have hope that he will raise us.
But Jesus isn’t going to only raise the righteous, he is going to raise the unrighteous.
And they will stand in judgment.
All are going to one day stand before God and be judged by what they did with their own knowledge of Jesus.
Did they accept or reject:
Did they trust or rebel?
That means that each person in this room is going to have to give an account for what they did with their knowledge of Jesus.
So what have you done?
Do you accept or reject Jesus as Lord and Savior?
Do you trust or reject the claims of Jesus?
Examine yourself. I pray that you accept and trust Jesus.
We also see that Paul claims to be an upstanding citizen and servant of God.
He stands and has a clear conscience before both God and man.
He keeps God’s commandments and the admires the law of the land.
He loves God and Loves his neighbor.
But he still needs to continue to defend himself.
Acts 24:17–21 ESV
17 Now after several years I came to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings. 18 While I was doing this, they found me purified in the temple, without any crowd or tumult. But some Jews from Asia— 19 they ought to be here before you and to make an accusation, should they have anything against me. 20 Or else let these men themselves say what wrongdoing they found when I stood before the council, 21 other than this one thing that I cried out while standing among them: ‘It is with respect to the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you this day.’ ”
Truthful Defense
Paul wants Felix to know that he simply came back to Jerusalem after several years away so that he can bring a gift to his People.
He was following Jewish Law and cleansing himself in the temple.
He was minding his own business when Jews from Asia stirred up a riot and caused trouble.
His accusers aren’t even present for him to defend himself to.
The reality is these Jewish Elders have nothing to prove in their case against Paul.
They simply don’t like the message he is preaching.
They simply hate the fact that others are turning to Jesus.
They hate the fact that he holds fast to the truth of the resurrection.
That he had an experience with Jesus that changed his life.
He was one of them, but now he belongs to the Messiah.
It is simply a matter of differing theology that Paul stands before Felix.
There is so much hate and vitriol against Paul from these Jewish elders that they painstakingly attack and wish to rid themselves of him.
But Paul stands blameless.
Paul stands firm.
But even in standing in the truth things don’t work out the way we would have hoped for Paul.
Acts 24:22–27 ESV
22 But Felix, having a rather accurate knowledge of the Way, put them off, saying, “When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case.” 23 Then he gave orders to the centurion that he should be kept in custody but have some liberty, and that none of his friends should be prevented from attending to his needs. 24 After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.” 26 At the same time he hoped that money would be given him by Paul. So he sent for him often and conversed with him. 27 When two years had elapsed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And desiring to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison.
Bold Witness
Felix doesn’t even rule on Paul’s Case.
There is no justice for Paul.
Paul is imprisoned for 2 years b/c Felix doesn’t want to upset the Jews.
He wants to curry favor with them.
So he leaves Paul in Prison.
The reason that Felix has Paul stay in prison is b/c he hoped Paul would bribe him to get out.
Bribes were illegal, but that didn’t mean they didn’t happen.
So Paul is held captive, but God still uses Paul while he is here.
Paul also has some privileges while in chains.
He has freedom.
Freedom to have visitors.
Freedom to have his needs met.
But most of all he is able to speak boldly to Felix about his need for a savior.
At the his wife’s prodding, Felix approaches Paul about the message he preaches.
A few things that you need to know.
Felix is not a good man.
He has issues with righteousness, self-control, and will face the judgement of God.
Here’s the deal his wife Drusilla is actually his 3rd wife.
She was renowned around the world for her beauty.
Felix actually seduces her and lures her away from her marriage in order to marry her.
Drusilla also has a “rich” history.
Her Grandfather is Herod the Great.
The Herod that killed all the babies when Jesus was born.
Her uncle was the Herod who had John the Baptist beheaded.
And her father was the Herod that we read about in Acts 12 who mocked God and died.
So she comes from a history of dealing with the Jesus.
Anyway, while in chains, Paul has the opportunity to preach and minister to both Felix and Drusilla.
Luke tells us that Paul spoke and taught three specific things.
He spoke about righteousness.
Felix and Drusilla are not right with God.
They are sinners who stand to face the wrath of God unless they repent from their sin and trust Jesus as Lord.
He spoke about self-control.
Felix had no self-control because he was rash and sought out whatever pleased him.
Whatever made him most comfortable.
Whatever made him feel the most loved and alive.
Paul also spoke about the judgement that is to come.
If Felix doesn’t repent, doesn’t trust in Jesus, doesn’t find righteousness in Christ alone then he will be judged accordingly.
He will experience the full wrath of God.
We never know if Felix ever heeded the message Paul spoke to him, but we do see that he heard it multiple times.
That he conversed with Paul often.
Here’s the deal:
If you are a follower of Jesus, you need to stand up for the truth regardless of what it will cost you.
Speaking the truth doesn’t always lead to happy ending in this life.
But standing for Jesus means standing for what’s right, good, and holy.
You have a calling and privilege to tell others about Jesus.
You are responsible to tell people about Jesus.
It’s not gonna be easy.
It will be awkard.
It will take some time.
But you need to be bold.
You may lose friends.
But at least you obeyed your lord.
I want you to know that if you aren’t a follower of Jesus you have a choice to make.
You can either reject or embrace him.
You can trust or rebel against him.
But there is a reckoning coming.
You will one day stand in front of the Holy God of the universe and give an account for what you did with Jesus.
I am not saying this to scare you into belief.
I am not saying this so that you will become a member of our church.
I am saying this because it would be unloving not to.
Whether you like it or not you stand either for Jesus or against him.
You are either a child of light or a child of darkness.
You are either a child of God or a child of the enemy.
You will either spend eternity in fellowship with God or you will spend it separated from him.
If you want to love and follow Jesus.
He is welcoming you.
He is calling out to you.
He is wanting you to join him.
You are a sinner and enemy of God, but all it takes is trusting in Jesus, following after him, and loving him to no longer be an enemy but a friend and child.
Think about that.
What are you going to do with Jesus?
Let’s pray.
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