Today we pick up where we left off in the book of Acts. Paul (and Luke) have now reached Jerusalem (21:17). When they visit James (v. 18), and tell them all the Gentiles that had come to faith (v. 19), James talks about the Jews that had come to faith (v. 20). They have heard that Paul is not just converting Gentiles to Christ, but telling Jews to abandon the whole Law (v. 21). Clearly, Paul has not done that, and was not against Jewish Christians observing Jewish traditions (see 16:3). James is worried that there will be fallout because of this false information (v. 22). He therefore suggests that Paul join some of the Jewish believers in purifying themselves after a vow (as Paul did in 18:18 – vv. 23-24). We see here that the Jewish believers still observed aspects of the Law that they did not require of the Gentiles (v. 25).
Even though Paul complies with James’s suggestion (v. 26), old enemies continue slandering Paul (vv. 27-28). As a riot breaks out (v. 30), the Roman garrison has to step in (vv. 31-32). They arrest Paul (v. 33) but cannot discern exactly why the riot has begun (v. 34). The Roman officer thinks Paul is someone else (v. 38), so Paul clarifies who he is (v. 39) and then addresses the crowd (v. 40).
Paul details his background as a Pharisee (v. 3) who persecuted the church (v. 4). He then tells them of his conversion experience (vv. 6-16 – see 9:3-10). Note that Paul offers some details we did not get in chapter 9. Ananias tells Paul he will see Christ (v. 14), which he does in a vision (vv. 17-21). In the vision, Christ tells Paul that he will be the apostle to the Gentiles. This is the calling Paul wrote of to the Roman church (see Rom 11:13, 15:15-21). Upon telling of his call to preach to the Gentiles, the crowd is stirred up again (vv. 22-23), and the Romans prepare to beat Paul (vv. 24-25). Paul then reveals his Roman citizenship (v. 25 – see 16:37), putting the Romans that arrested him in a tough spot (v. 29). So the Romans release Paul and bring him and the Jewish leaders together (v. 30).
When Paul begins his defense (23:1), Ananias commands the Jewish guards to hit him (v. 2). That Paul is unaware that it is Ananias reveals the problem he had with his eyes (v. 5 – see Gal 4:15, 6:11). Paul, upon realizing who was there, shrewdly turns the conversation by speaking of the resurrection, which was a point of difference between the Sadducees and the Pharisees (vv. 6-8). Paul incites a riot among the Jewish leaders so that the Romans take him out from before the council (vv. 9-10). That night, Christ again appears to Paul in a vision (v. 11). Paul was going to get to Rome, after all.
Meanwhile, some of the Jews plot to kill Paul (v. 12). They convince the council to go along with their plan (vv. 14-15), but Paul’s nephew hears of it and tells Paul (v. 16), who sends him to the Roman officials (v. 17) to warn them of the plot (vv. 20-22). So the Romans sneak him out that night to bring him before Felix (v. 24). Felix held the position previously held by Pontius Pilate. When he reads of all that happened (vv. 26-33), and finds out where Paul was from (v. 34), he sends him to Herod’s praetorium (a prison – v. 35). Notice the similarities between this trial and Jesus’s trial. Paul goes from the council, to the Roman governor, who upon hearing where Paul is from, sends him to the jurisdiction of Herod. Sound familiar?
Ananias comes five days later with the lawyer the council hired to detail their case against Paul (24:1). The lawyer butters up Felix a bit (vv. 2-3), then lays out the accusations (vv. 5-6). Some of what he says here is absolutely true from the Jew’s perspective (v. 9). Paul then gives his defense. Paul denies every accusation (vv. 10-13). In fact, he insists that he believes the Law and the Prophets, rather than stirring people up against them (v. 14). This is, of course, absolutely true. Paul explains that what he teaches, the Jews (the Pharisees, anyway) also believe (v. 15). He says that he only came to Jerusalem to bring alms to Jews (also completely true – v. 17). He explains how the Jews from Asia were behind the riot and should be the people on trial (vv. 19-20).
We see that Felix was familiar with Christianity (v. 22). He delays judgment and put Paul under arrest/protection (v. 23). While Paul is there (for two years! – v 27) he has the opportunity to witness to Felix and his Jewish wife (v. 24). As Felix began to feel convicted, he sends Paul away (v. 25), even though he was only partially entertaining Paul’s preaching in the hopes that Paul would bribe his way to freedom (v. 26). Paul does not, and Felix is eventually replaced by Festus (v. 27).