Acts 24:1-16 … That’s what we studied this week in Tentmakers, but let’s make sure we set it up with last week’s passage. Paul had been sent to Felix the Roman governor in Caesarea and was awaiting the arrival of his accusers before Felix would hear his case. Acts 24:1 tells us that five days after Paul’s arrival, the plaintiffs (if you will) – the high priest Ananias and other Jewish elders – arrived in Caesarea and began their complaint. Let’s read both sides’ opening arguments in this case. Fill in the blanks as you go (NIV used):
Tertullus: Acts 24:2-4
“We have enjoyed a long period of peace under , and has brought about reforms in this nation. and in , most excellent , this with . But in order not to weary you further, I would request that you be kind enough to hear us briefly.”
As you fill in the blanks for Paul’s opening argument, compare (and contrast) Paul’s words with those of Tertullus.
Paul: Acts 24:10
“When the governor motioned for him to speak, Paul replied: “I know that for a number of years you have been a over this nation; so I make my defense.”
What is different about Paul’s opening? I want you to think about that question as you turn to Psalm 55:21 (turn slowly). Once there, see which speaker sticks out in your mind – Paul or Tertullus?
“Smooth as butter,” pretty good description, don’t you think? I love to get buttered popcorn when I go to the movies, but something happens to me when I eat too much to quickly … I start to feel sick. I don’t know about you, but sick is exactly how I felt when reading Tertullus’s oily flattery of Felix.
If you read last week’s post, we talked about giving credit where credit is due. That also applies to the trajectory of our gratitude. Tertullus thanked Felix for his peace and his foresight (Acts 24:2), when God should have been the One toward whom they were directing their gratitude – thanking Him for any and all blessings the Jewish nation enjoyed.
Yesterday morning, I caught the Wednesdays with Beth segment of Life Today with James Robison. Her teaching from Deuteronomy 8 really jumped out at me in thinking about the misplacement of Tertullus’s gratitude. Deuteronomy 8 is only twenty verses, so if you have time (or can make time), go ahead and read it all. If you don’t (can’t), then at least scan the following verses for the chapters theme.
Vs. 2: “ how the Lord your God led you all the way …”
· Vs. 11: “Be careful that you the Lord your God, …”Vs. 18-20: “But the Lord your God, for it is who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms His covenant, which He swore to your ancestors, as it is today. If you ever the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. Like the nations the Lord destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the Lord your God.
At some point along the way (long before we met Tertullus or even before the birth of Jesus Christ), the Jews stopped giving God the credit – and with the credit went the glory that He was due. At that moment, their focus and their thanksgiving turned away from God and toward other things – such as their own interpretations of the Law and the Roman government. Anyone or anything that tried to draw their attention away from those “other gods” (from Deut 8:19) was seen as a … Let’s hold that thought for a minute.
I watched the first few seasons of the Dr. Phil show, and one his sayings has stuck with me, “There’s something about him that I don’t like about me.” Paul was one of those people to the unbelieving Jews of his day. They still had so much in common – worshipping the same God of their ancestors, having the same confidence in the Law and the words given through the prophets, a hope of the resurrection of the dead (Acts 24:14-15). So much in common, and yet there was something about Paul that the unbelieving Jews did not like about themselves, and they hated him for it!
In our next study, we will continue with Paul’s trial before the Roman governor, Felix. Until then, let’s follow Paul’s lead, exercising (figuratively) our bodies … “endeavoring in all respects to have a clear conscience, void of offense toward God and toward men” (Acts 24:16).
Now What?! When someone irritates you this week, I want you to ask God if He has allowed that person or situation in your life to show you something in him/her that you need to acknowledge and change in yourself (Matt 7:3), and let’s give glory where glory is due (Col 3:17).