Acts – Paul the Apostle – Wayne Barber/Part 21
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1992|
|What a journey we have been on with this wonderful man, a man who is a bondservant of Jesus Christ. What does that mean? He does what he does because he wants to, not because he has to. He is sold out to the Lord Jesus Christ. As a result, we have learned much about being a bond-servant of Christ.|
Ephesians 1:1; Acts 24
Paul: The Messenger – Part 9
Turn with me to Acts 24. We are still introducing the book of Ephesians. Ephesians 1:1 is our spring board: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, by the will of God.” What a journey we have been on with this wonderful man, a man who is a bondservant of Jesus Christ. What does that mean? He does what he does because he wants to, not because he has to. He is sold out to the Lord Jesus Christ. As a result, we have learned much about being a bond-servant of Christ.
We are following a narrative, so we are just going to have to camp out there until the Lord takes us out. I really believe that maybe we are seeing so much negative in Scripture God is using that to prepare us for Ephesians 1, 2 and 3 that literally will just raise you out of your seat with the positive things that God has done in His people. Maybe that’s His plan. I don’t know.
We keep seeing these religious people who have rejected Jesus Christ in their life come against Paul as he seeks to be a servant of Christ. That is one of the things we are learning about being a bondservant. We are going to be persecuted. We are going to have conflict. Yes, it will come from the world, but the surprising thing is, most of it is going to come from within the walls of the church. You see, back in Paul’s day they would meet together, pray, go out and be persecuted. In our day, Satan has joined the church. Many people have come to the church, but have never come to Jesus. As a result, they do not realize they are being used as pawns of the devil himself to try to subvert the things that God is seeking to do through those who are bond servants to His name.
In chapter 23 we saw how creatively God delivers His people. Yes, we are going to be persecuted. Yes, we are going to have conflict, but God is so neat. He protects us and creatively delivers us. There was a plot that was formed to kill Paul; 40 religious Jews got together and pledged to fast until they saw Paul killed. They are going to probably die of starvation because the Lord has a long-term plan for Paul. They get together, but Paul’s nephew just so happened to be standing there and overheard the plot. You know, coincidence is when God decides to remain anonymous. He came and told Paul. Paul told the officials and so, by night, they escort him out of Jerusalem with 470 Roman soldiers. He even gets to ride horseback.
In our day, he would have ridden in a limousine. I mean, he had 470 men to get him out from under that plot that was in Jerusalem. They took him to Caesarea where he will now appear before the governor of that province who is named Felix. That brings us up to chapter 24. The thing that overwhelms me is not just that the religious lost are so hateful to Paul, and they hate him so much. The thing that overwhelms me is the depth of that hate. It is incredible. They will go to whatever ends they have to in order to harm and to hurt the people who are really trying to serve the Lord Jesus Christ. Be real careful. Flesh is flesh, whether it is religious flesh or lost flesh. Whatever it is, it is still flesh, and it produces these same characteristics. The thing we want to guard against is to never allow ourselves within the body of Christ to stoop to becoming like the very people that came against Paul. Yes, they were religious. They would say to all of us that they loved God, but they rejected His Christ. They rejected Christ’s Lordship in their life. To a lost man it is easy. He has got to be an enemy. He can be nothing else. The problem is when saved people walk and seek after the flesh rather than the Spirit. They themselves become a part of that problem within God’s House against His people.
You would think that they would have dropped it by now. Ananias, that sorry high priest who was appointed by Herod because of his wealth, had nothing to do with God’s plan. Malachi 2:9 tells us the priests had absolutely made God sick. It said they had taken upon themselves the worldliness. They had gone out with other idols. That caused 400 years of silence on this earth. When Jesus came on the scene, this was the state of degradation of the priesthood He found. It had started off in a good sense, but it had become very perverted by that time. It looks to me like Ananias would have dropped it. They made enough trouble for Paul while he was in Jerusalem. Paul is now two days journey into Caesarea. Why bother? Why follow him? When you hate Christ like this and you cannot be around His people like this, you will go to whatever lengths to get rid of them and to try to stop what God is doing. Watch.
In 23:30, in a letter that Lysias, the commander of the Roman army there in Jerusalem, wrote to Felix the governor of Caesarea, it says, “And when I was informed that there would be a plot against the man, I sent him to you at once, also instructing his accusers to bring charges against him before you.” He told them basically, “Ananias, if you want to bring a charge against Paul, you are going to have to go to Felix over in Caesarea. He is the law in that area, and you are going to have to go to him. You are going to have to make your accusations before him.”
Well, in verse 35, when Paul gets there, Felix says, “‘I will give you a hearing after your accusers arrive also,’ giving orders for him to be kept in Herod’s Praetorium.” Right now, Felix doesn’t even know if they are coming. Like I said, it would look like they would go on and drop the whole thing. But they do come. I want you to hear it again. When you don’t live after the Spirit, when you are not dying to self and seeing the old ugliness of self, you become, without realizing it, an enemy to everything that God is trying to do within His people.
What is going to be our problem? What is going to happen to the body of believers that might subvert what God is trying to do? I’ll tell you what. People who won’t get serious with Jesus as the Lord of their life are going to be our problem. The devil gets all the credit. I heard the story that said the devil was standing outside of a church crying. The Lord came by and said, “What are you crying for?” He said, “Man, they have been blaming me for everything that is going on in there, and I haven’t bothered them for six months.” We just want to blame the devil for everything. Listen, look at your own ugly flesh. It is resident with me, too, but now there is something in me. Call it what you want to call it. I have the new nature. Yes, I have a brand new heart, but I have also got that remnant of flesh still here, and it gives me a fit. When I will not die to it, I become deceived by it. In fact, I become the enemy of the very thing I think I want God to do in my life. That’s going to be our hindrance. It is not going to be the devil out there. It’s going to be the enemy from within. It is going to be our own selfish flesh.
Well, okay. There are four principles I want to milk this down to. Perhaps they will help us a little bit. Think about it. We have seen Paul being persecuted by these religious bigots so often. If we will just make a list, I guarantee you it will help us when this study is over with. It’s not always the same way. You can’t make a formula out of this. We have to take instance by instance and learn from it. However, there are four ways they come against him here which help us discern a little bit more about what we are to watch out for and what we could become if we are not careful when we refuse to die to self.
First of all, these people who do not love Christ will usually have a spokesman and will send him to those in authority to accuse Christ’s bondservants. Let me just tell you what I am saying again. It is a little long. These people who do not love Christ—understand what I am saying—they may be in church, but they are not willing to deny self. They are not willing to die to self and are not willing to surrender to Him. They will usually have a spokesman and they will send him to those in authority in order to accuse God’s bondservant. Watch this in verses 1 and 2: “And after five days the high priest Ananias came down with some elders, with a certain attorney named Tertullus; and they brought charges to the governor against Paul.” Verse 2 goes on, “And after Paul had been summoned, Tertullus began to accuse him.”
Now who is this Tertullus? I mean, he just appears on the picture. Who is he? Well, it says he is an attorney. The word in the Greek is rhetor, which comes from the word meaning “to speak.” It is used of attorneys of that day. Apparently they were as many attorneys in that day as there are in this day. Now you find that hard to believe, but there was as many then as there are now. They were great orators and great dramatists. They were even better than Perry Mason.
Have you heard the story about the old fellow who went to heaven? He was talking to St. Peter one day and said, “You know, I know there are no marriages up here, but can we have a vote on that?” St. Peter said, “Well, I guess.” They voted, and they voted to have marriages. St. Peter said, “Well, we can’t have it for a while because we haven’t had a preacher up here for ten thousand years.” Finally one of them got up there, and they started having marriages. Boy, it was more fun. It took them forever to get a preacher up there. After a while they decided they didn’t like that. It was really better the way it was supposed to be, so they went back to St. Peter and said, “Can we just end these marriages and have divorces?” He said, “Look, it took us forever to get a preacher up here. How long do you think it is going to take to get a lawyer?”
Secondly, we don’t know much about Tertullus except that he was a Roman attorney. They were going to a Roman court, and Felix was the governor over in Caesarea. These were Jews. They had to have somebody who talked the language of the Roman court. So he was probably a Roman lawyer, and by virtue of that was probably a Roman citizen. Many believe the reason they took him was because he didn’t know the ins and outs of Roman law, but I don’t believe that. These were wicked, wicked people. The high priests, the Sanhedrin of the day of Jesus and in the day of Paul, were wicked people. They were nothing like what you see in the Old Testament. This was why Jesus just gave them a fit. They were morally corrupt. They knew what was going on. They also knew if they were going to get a hearing with Felix, they needed somebody who was a Roman lawyer.
Well, the old governor, Felix, had quite a reputation. He was known not to be a very nice guy. He is in a position of authority, so they are sending somebody to him to speak for them in order to come against God’s man, Paul, the bondservant of Jesus Christ.
Now, how do we bring that down to where we are in the 20th century? I tell you what, in a church of any size, whether it is your church or any church, whether it has 50 members or 5,000 members, when you have a group of people who hear a message but reject it, you’ve got problems. Remember, this whole thing was started by disbelieving Jews. They had heard the message, but had rejected it. They didn’t want anybody to control them. This was why they hated Christ. When He would come into the temple, nobody could control it. They had to have power. They had to have control. They couldn’t stand it when Jesus was around.
Our flesh is no different. We want to run it. We want to institute our opinions. When we are not living surrendered to the spirit of God, we are going to find a group of people who are just like us. Birds of a feather flock together. We will find a spokesman, and that spokesman will do our dirty work by going to people in authority to accuse the work that God is trying to do. It is incredible.
How many people come to the deacon or to the elder or the pastor to try to stir things up? Look out, look out, look out. There is somebody in the body who is being used of Satan to subvert the things that God is doing. They will always flock together, find a spokesman and send him. Watch out! He is coming. Look out! They will send their representative to talk to you, to bring the poison about what is not really even truth to begin with. That is how it works. Why do people even want to fool with things like that?
You know, when I look at my life, I’ve got so much to deal with. I can’t even balance my checkbook. Why would I worry about somebody else? Because if there is an inward rejection of Christ, there has got to somehow be an outward manifestation of that. It usually comes in a church by people who congregate together. They love to criticize, condemn and tear down. They know exactly who to go to in authority to get their poison started. They get them to come alongside. It won’t take long until they start planting little seeds of contempt and criticism. Watch out who you are talking to, folks. Listen. Are they building up or are they tearing down? That will tell you. That will spot flesh for you, in a minute.
They brought charges against Paul. It says in verse 1, “they brought charges to the governor against Paul.” The word there is emphanizo. It means they informed him of what they said were charges against Paul. These were never cleared officially. This was their opinion. They had told Tertullus, “Go over there and represent us. Here are our charges. You do it right, and we will get our conviction against Paul.” They bring along someone to do their talking, and they go to the people that are in authority.
Secondly, they will try to get themselves into a good light of those they go to, by flattering those that can help them. Flattering becomes their means of getting in. I was thinking one day, “How in the world could somebody come to me and deceive me to the point that I would believe a lie and then come against the very thing that God is doing? I am not going to be that stupid!” Hey, folks, they come on with exactly what all of us want to hear. They come on with flattering lips.
I used to love to go to the back door of the church after services and shake people’s hands. It used to be people would walk by and say, “Preacher, good sermon this morning. Boy, I really enjoyed that.” They would smile at you with those big, old teeth. Then they will have you for lunch on the way home. I found out later on. A lot of people love to flatter you. They make you think. These are things you want to hear. “Oh man, I enjoyed that message this morning.” They will come alongside you, take you out and do things with you. They are trying to disarm your judgment and your discernment. They use that to subtly begin to plant seeds of discord. Flattery is what the flesh uses in order to get its message to those it wants to get it to.
Well, in verses 2-4 on down you begin to see this. Oh man, he lays it on thick. “Since we have through you attained much peace, and since by your providence reforms are being carried out for this nation, we acknowledge this in every way and everywhere, most excellent Felix, with all thankfulness. But, that I may not weary you any further, I beg you to grant us, by your kindness, a brief hearing.” Let’s look into that.
First of all, as I said a moment ago, Felix was a very wicked man. As a matter of fact, anything that he ever did as governor of that province was for himself. If you put that in 20th century terminology, he was a crooked politician. He knew how to say it. He knew how to disarm with facts that were twisted to make you think what was when really it was not. Felix is in the position of power, so these folks don’t have any scruples. They will use anybody. The Jewish priests and Sanhedrin were the biggest enemies to the Roman governors and the Roman government. Everybody knew that. Felix knew that. Tertullus knew that. Ananais knew that. But, you see, flattery for some reason, just all that knowledge, they would come on. They are going to butter him up. Watch what he does.
First of all, he says “through you we have attained much peace.” Now that’s a lie. The particular phrase there was a phrase that would be used as a great honor. You could bestow no greater honor on somebody than to say, “Through you we have attained much peace.” Tertullus is suggesting that Felix deserves this kind of honor. Can’t you see it? It just makes you mad to read this. It would be like the Jews during World War II giving an award to Hitler. This guy was death to the Jewish people. As a matter of fact, he had the high priest after Ananias murdered by an assassin. Historians tell us he was the one who stirred up the worst friction in Caesarea that had ever been recorded. Finally, he had to be removed from office by Nero himself. I mean, this guy was a wicked man!
Tertullus, what are you doing? You are lying through your teeth! “Oh, Governor Felix, we have received great peace from you!” Boy, isn’t it amazing what you will do when you hate the things of God and who you will use and what you will say? He was a sorry human being.
Secondly, in verse 2b, he goes on to say, “by your providence reforms are being carried out for this nation.” Reforms, my foot! The word “providence” when translated into Latin is a word that is found on the back of a Roman coin right beside the picture of Caesar. It was a term of immortality. This providence said the gods had sent you, and because of that, you ought to be immortalized. They did this with Caesar, and in saying this to Felix, Tertullus was saying, “You are worthy of being immortalized for the reforms that you have done.” What reforms? Read Jewish history and find out that Felix was one of the most notorious men of that day. However, he is trying to use these words, knowing he will like them, to get him to be on their side. How far will you stoop when you are walking after the flesh to subvert the very things God is trying to do with men and people around you? All of this flattery.
Verse 3 takes it a step further. He says, “we acknowledge this in every way and everywhere, most excellent Felix, with all thankfulness.” He uses the present middle there which means he is saying, “Felix, all the Jews everywhere, all the time, are going around telling people that you ought to be immortalized. You are wonderful. We love you.” That hasn’t got an ounce of truth in it, but that’s what Felix wanted to hear. As long as they could disarm him, then they could inject the poison so that Paul could be dealt with in a horrible way. All of it is to disarm him.
You see, this is the way they will talk about the elders, the staff or any leaders in the church or in your family, anywhere you are. The people who want to plant poison will first of all come by flattery, as we said earlier. They will disarm you. “Oh, I’ve got to get the tapes on that message. Send them to my house. I love to hear you preach.” When somebody starts coming on thick like that to me, something inside of me says, “Watch out! Watch out! That person is appealing to your flesh, and once he pampers you to where you are disarmed, there is poison that is coming right behind it.” Isn’t it incredible, the flesh? “Oh, I would never do that.” The very moment you say “no” to Jesus and the very moment I say “no” to Jesus, I become a part and portion of all of that kind of stuff. I become public enemy number one to the people of God and what God is trying to do in our midst, just like you do, just like all of us do. That’s the peril.
People ask me sometimes, “Why don’t you preach on the family? Why don’t you preach on spiritual warfare?” Those are symptoms. The root is, are you submitted to the Lordship of Jesus and do you recognize the ugliness of your flesh hasn’t changed a bit? It won’t change until it dies and is glorified one day with a brand new nature. That’s exactly right. A brand new heart. That’s exactly right. Whatever is left over is ugly, ugly, ugly, and it deceives us into thinking we are actually doing something that is good when we are subverting the very movement of God.
Thirdly, they request a fast decision. Verse 4 says, “But, that I may not weary you any further, I beg you to grant us, by your kindness, a brief hearing.” He pretends they are really concerned about the activities of Felix and also about his time. Come on. They could care less. As a matter of fact, they are upset because Lysias sent Paul over there. Now they have got to go through the Roman government. If Lysias had left them alone over in Jerusalem, they would have already killed Paul. But now, since Lysias caused it, they have to deal with the system. So they pretend. You see, what they want here is an indictment against Paul. But now listen carefully. They want it quickly. Now watch this. People who have an agenda, people who are walking after the flesh, who think they can do it better than anybody else and always want to be in control, are people who want things decided fast against others so that the body, the bulk of people, don’t know really what is going on. It is incredible.
One of the great things that happened out of a recent citywide revival was some friendships that God has given me with my black brothers in town. I love it. One of them meets with me every Monday morning now. He was telling me that he was pastoring a church right here in this city, and one Sunday he preached all day. He went to work on Monday morning, and there was a sign on the door of the church. “This church is without a pastor.” The locks had been changed, and he couldn’t even get inside the door. He didn’t even have a key to the building. Now, that is fast. That is quick.
They did that to Jesus. They wanted a quick trial. Why? Because if the followers of Jesus had known what was going on, they would have come in mass, and it would have been most difficult to do what they did. They did it quick. They did it in secret. They kept the people who cared and really loved God from knowing what was really going on.
That’s the ploy of people like this. They want it done behind closed doors. They want to meet at a restaurant at night and talk about what’s going on and criticize. They don’t want the body to hear about it, because they know if the body hears about it, you know what they’ll do. They will rise up in arms because they are not going to say things that tear down. They are going to say things that build up. That’s why they don’t want it. They want a quick trial.
I remember one year I got a little paranoid about this. I’d gone off for about a week. While I was gone, my wife told me they were having a deacon’s meeting while I was gone. I don’t know why, but I have always been suspicious. I got upset. I called a friend of mine who was a deacon and said, “Listen, whatever you do, find out what’s going on and call me so when I come back home, I won’t be caught off guard.” He didn’t call me. I was really upset. They met together and voted to give me a brand new car for my birthday. That, however, is the exception. They usually meet and want something done, and they want it done privately so that nobody else knows what is going on.
Boy, flesh… You know, I want to point a finger at it, but God says, “That is what you are like, Wayne, when you are not surrendered to Me. You are a manipulator. You don’t want anybody else to know what you are doing. Not only that, you do things to subvert the very things I am trying to do in your midst.” Have you ever been around somebody who can tell you something you did two days before in such a way it confuses you? You don’t really remember what you did. Have you ever known anybody like that?
Fourthly and finally, these people can take facts and twist them to the point you don’t even know what was said. They can actually make you question what you know is different. They are masters at it. That is why they hired this guy to start with. He knows what he is doing. You see, not only was flattery used, but so was falsehood. Let me show you this.
In verse 5 it says, “For we have found this man a real pest and a fellow who stirs up dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.” Now, hold on! First of all he says “we have found.” That’s aorist active. No, they had not. They had not even had a trial yet that was worth anything. They had a hearing that was broken up by an argument. Nobody had come to any conclusion. As a matter of fact, Lysias sent Paul to Felix because he didn’t even know what is going on. Tertullus tried to make him think they had already decided this matter. “Really, we are wasting your time, dear Brother Felix. Let us handle it. We will take care of it. We have already come to our legal decision.” Baloney! They had not. It was an outright lie.
He also said Paul was a dissenter in all of the world. Now come on. All over the world? That’s a pretty big place, isn’t it? All of a sudden, he broadens it outside of Felix’s disposition there.
Then he insinuated that Christianity was a sect. Now let me show you something. He says he is a member of “the sect of the Nazarenes.” That was another name for Christianity because of Jesus. Let me show you something. A sect is anything that draws people to a party or to a private opinion. That’s a sect. He accuses Paul of being a dissenter, a problem maker and a member of a sect. Christianity is not a sect. Christianity does not originate from man like a sect. It originates from God. It does not draw men to men. It doesn’t draw men to a church. It draws men to Christ. Christ will draw men to men. Christ will take over from that point. See the difference? Listen, if you are loyal to a denomination to the point that you will fight over it, you are a member of a sect. You are not a member of a Christian body. You may be a person who follows somebody. “Well, I went to a seminar and got his teaching and spent 38 hours under it. Buddy, you had better not say anything different from what I heard in that seminar.” If you can say that you are a member of a sect. You are not a member of Christianity. Christianity will not let you be tied to a person or a party or a church or a denomination. You are tied to Jesus. That is what Christianity does. It starts with God and draws you to Him. Then it turns you back to these others things, but you are always drawn to Him. He is the central picture.
They accused Paul of being in a sect. Isn’t that amazing? It’s like the pot calling the kettle black. Paul was not of a sect. Do you know why? Because the Sanhedrin whom Tertullus was representing was made up of two sects, Pharisees and Sadducees. They both had their own opinions and fought over them all the time. Here they are saying, “He is a member of a sect.”
Well, it goes on in verse 6 and says, “And he even tried to desecrate the temple.” Now that’s a lie. We have already studied that. We don’t even need to touch it. They had seen a man in town by the name of Trophimus, and somebody rumored that Paul must have taken him into the temple. They hadn’t even seen him, and Paul hadn’t done it. They accused him falsely of that. It says, “and then we arrested him. [And we wanted to judge him according to our own Law].” In verses 7-8, they try to make it look like the only reason they are there is because of this Roman commander by the name of Lysais. “[But Lysais the commander came along, and with much violence took him out of our hands, ordering his accusers to come before you.] And by examining him yourself concerning all these matters, you will be able to ascertain the things of which we accuse him.” All of this is a misrepresentation of everything that had happened. Isn’t it incredible how some people can do that? They twist it just enough to make you believe. Of course, they flatter you first of all to make you listen. Once you start listening, they start twisting, and as they start twisting, it gets worse and worse.
There is one more point here in verse 9: They always have a cheering section. You don’t know who these people are until they finally get down to the bottom line. Verse 9 says, “And the Jews also joined in the attack, asserting that these things were so.” I remember those business meetings in other places I served. I want to tell you, they were awful. They were awful, awful. Satan got prime time. Man, the people who loved God didn’t even come. You know, why? Because they hated fighting. They knew no preaching was going to take place, so they stayed home and honored their families. The ones who came were the bitter and critical ones. It was incredible. All of God’s people are at home loving Him and honoring their priorities. In those church business meetings were all those people who loved themselves and never would bow to Christ. They made decisions for the whole body, quickly and quietly. Before the body even knew it, the damage had been done to God’s people.
Well, like I said, I’ll be glad to get out of this stuff because I am getting tired of talking about religious flesh. Until we finish the 28th chapter of Acts, however, it looks like we may have to deal with some more of it. Perhaps we can turn it a little more and see how God’s delivering. As a matter of fact, in the next passage we will look at we will look at how Paul defends himself. We have seen him defend himself before. Watch the character of this man who loves God when he is accosted by these kind of people and see how he answers himself.
I want to tell you this, before we go on. Felix is going to do something to Paul that is incredible. He is going to park him in a jail for two years for nothing. Finally he is brought out and can get to Rome. Folks, listen. In this life, don’t expect God to just get you out of it. Sometimes He just parks you. In the meantime He is going to do something that will blow your doors off. We reap the benefit of all the prison experiences of Paul today. So, don’t get the idea that God is going to deliver you the way He delivered Paul all the time, but don’t get the idea He won’t if He wants to. Sometimes He will leave you in a prison. A prison is walls that you can’t change. He’ll just stick you there. You’ll think God has checked out. He may do that just to see whether or not you are going to stay His bond servant through thick and through thin.
Do you know how to stop this stuff? Do you know how to stop it? If everybody in church would bow down and say, “Jesus be Jesus in me; no longer me, but thee. Resurrection power, fill me this hour. Jesus, be Jesus in me.” Some of the trash will come to you. “Have you heard what they’ve done now? What are they going to do next? They are bringing on more staff. Nobody does anything now!” Do you think this is new? This has been going on for a hundred years, folks. When they say stuff to you, say, “Have you been to talk to them? Have you gotten on your face with them in prayer and prayed through this thing? Or is this just some opinion that you are trying to wedge in to stop the things that God is doing in our midst?” Don’t be a part of it. Stop it. When you speak, speak with edifying.