“‘Believe me, I do my level best to keep a clear conscience before God and my neighbours in everything I do. I’ve been out of the country for a number of years and now I’m back. I took up a collection for the poor and brought that with me, along with offerings for the Temple. It was while making those offerings that they found me quietly at my prayers in the Temple. There was no crowd; there was no disturbance. It was some Jews from around Ephesus who started all this trouble. And you’ll notice they’re not here today. They’re cowards, too cowardly to accuse me in front of you.

“‘So ask these others what crime they’ve caught me in. Don’t let them hide behind this smooth-talking Tertullius. The only thing they have on me is that one sentence I shouted out in the council: “‘It’s because I believe in the resurrection that I’ve been hauled into this court!'” Does that sound to you like grounds for a criminal case?'” Acts 24:16-21 (The Message).

Paul was accused of being a rabble-rouser by teaching Jews to disregard Moses and the Law of God, by stirring up riots against Jews all over the world and by defiling the Temple. Tertullius made these accusations with no explanation, evidence or witnesses. He expected the governor to take his word for it without producing a single person to corroborate his story.

Paul knew exactly why he was on trial. The real reason was disguised by an accusation designed to get the attention of the Roman authorities. Rome had no interest in religious squabbles between rival factions. That was not their problem unless it sparked trouble and disturbed the peace. The Jews were well-known for being volatile over their religion. Any sign of trouble had to be nipped in the bud.

Tertullius and his clients had no interest in the real cause of the rioting, as long as it was about their arch-enemy, Paul. This was a golden opportunity to get rid of him once and for all. Get the governor on their side and his doom was sealed.

It was now up to Paul to show the governor how ridiculous and untrue their case against him was. His defense was clear and unembellished. He simply told the truth. This is what happened and this is how it happened. He was fully aware of the underlying cause of their hatred and antagonism — his belief in the resurrection which connected him to the Man who prophesied His own death and resurrection and fulfilled His prophecy to the letter!

Slowly but surely Paul built up his defense with far greater skill than the Jews’ lawyer had used to lay his case before the court. He had to because it was up to him to show Felix the real reason for these accusations against him. The Jews were hiding behind a smoke-screen of lies because their issue with Paul would never hold up in a court of law.

Paul began by defending his character; he could say with absolute honesty that his conscience was clear regarding their accusations because he lived by a good conscience, always. He explained the reason for his return to Jerusalem and his presence in the Temple, all verifiable facts if anyone cared to check them out.

Then, in one sentence he ripped open their hidden agenda — and he had the reaction of the high priest to prove it. Firstly, when he was on trial before the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, he was slapped in the face for bearing witness to a good conscience. Secondly, it was his declaration concerning the resurrection that sparked the furore between Pharisees and Sadducees and the outburst from some of the religious boffins: ‘He is not guilty!’ So really, this trial was a farce and the quicker Felix recognised that, the better.

It was now up to the governor to decide whether he was going to follow his conscience or what was to his advantage. That’s always the choice, isn’t it?

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Luella Campbell

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