Acts 24:10-23: Setting the record straight.
“10 When the governor motioned for him to speak, Paul replied: ‘I know that for a number of years you have been a judge over this nation; so I gladly make my defence. 11 You can easily verify that no more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship. 12 My accusers did not find me arguing with anyone at the temple, or stirring up a crowd in the synagogues or anywhere else in the city. 13 And they cannot prove to you the charges they are now making against me. 14 However, I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, 15 and I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. 16 So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man. 17 ‘After an absence of several years, I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings. 18 I was ceremonially clean when they found me in the temple courts doing this. There was no crowd with me, nor was I involved in any disturbance. 19 But there are some Jews from the province of Asia, who ought to be here before you and bring charges if they have anything against me. 20 Or these who are here should state what crime they found in me when I stood before the Sanhedrin – 21 unless it was this one thing I shouted as I stood in their presence: “It is concerning the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today.”’ 22 Then Felix, who was well acquainted with the Way, adjourned the proceedings. ‘When Lysias the commander comes,’ he said, ‘I will decide your case.’ 23 He ordered the centurion to keep Paul under guard but to give him some freedom and permit his friends to take care of his needs.”NIV UK
As we saw yesterday, the charges brought against Paul, via the lawyer Tertullus, were patently false. We feel, as we read, that we want to stand up in court and say, ‘This is not right.’ When Paul got the opportunity to speak for himself, he was quick to point out that the facts of his conduct were easily verifiable if people wanted to know. He always sought to live with a clear conscience. However, what he would admit to (and he would confess it whatever the cost) was that he was a follower of Jesus and a member of the church. He was a true Jew. He believed everything his Jewish opponents believed, with one key difference. He was convinced that Jesus of Nazareth, once crucified but now risen from the dead, was the Messiah, the fulfillment of all Jewish hopes. Christianity began as a ‘’sect’’ within Judaism. That’s how it was seen. In the early part of ‘Acts’ we find the followers of Jesus regularly participating in temple worship.They had no thought of separating from Judaism, but in the end persecution made the break inevitable.
It’s interesting that one of the earliest descriptions of believers was ‘followers of the Way.’ This was probably because they followed Jesus who asserted that He was ‘the Way’ (John 14:6). Also, they were committed to a recognisable way of life which had love at its heart. It is an unstoppable ‘Way’, though men have tried violently to stop it. Jesus ‘’the Way’’ was crucified and buried in a tomb. Then they put a ‘stopper’ in the hole; but they couldn’t stop Him!
One final thought from this passage: ‘Well would it be for us if only we would devote a few minutes at the close of each day to discover whether our conscience accused us of failure in heart, thought or behaviour. The Holy Spirit pleads in the court of conscience. We would be kept from many a fall if we would be more careful to watch against the little rifts.’ F.B.Meyer: ‘Devotional Commentary’,p.499