Falsely accused

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Bible passage: Acts 24:1–21

Acts 24

The Trial Before Felix
 1Five days later the high priest Ananias went down to Caesarea with some of the elders and a lawyer named Tertullus, and they brought their charges against Paul before the governor. 2When Paul was called in, Tertullus presented his case before Felix: "We have enjoyed a long period of peace under you, and your foresight has brought about reforms in this nation. 3Everywhere and in every way, most excellent Felix, we acknowledge this with profound gratitude. 4But in order not to weary you further, I would request that you be kind enough to hear us briefly.

 5"We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect 6and even tried to desecrate the temple; so we seized him. 8By examining him yourself you will be able to learn the truth about all these charges we are bringing against him."

 9The Jews joined in the accusation, asserting that these things were true.

 10When 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 defense. 11You can easily verify that no more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship. 12My 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. 13And they cannot prove to you the charges they are now making against me. 14However, I admit that I worship the God of our fathers as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that agrees with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, 15and I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. 16So 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. 18I 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. 19But 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. 20Or these who are here should state what crime they found in me when I stood before the Sanhedrin— 21unless 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.' "

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Audio Bible passage

The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).


Imagine how Paul felt
Have you ever been falsely accused? Imagine how Paul felt hearing the smooth-tongued lawyer (vs 2,3) set out the charges which the chief priests and leaders were making (vs 5,6). Were any of them true? Whilst the Jewish leaders would have preferred to deal with this themselves in Jerusalem, this was their opportunity to sort Paul out once and for all.

Different light
Events were moving quickly – for the moment. Two weeks after Paul had arrived in Jerusalem, he was facing the governor in Caesarea. His visit to the Temple had provoked a riot and the Romans, always fearful of uprisings, tried to calm things down. But the discovery that he was a Roman citizen put things in a different light.

Resurrection hope
Paul could now tell his side of the story. In the process he was able to witness to Jesus and the resurrection hope (vs 15,21). When we’re in trouble, we don’t always have the opportunity to speak of Jesus. But notice how Paul tried to be prepared (v 16). A good conscience and good relationships can win us a good hearing even when we’re under pressure.

Emlyn Williams


Pray that today you might have the opportunity to speak with someone about your experience of Christ. What do you think you might say?

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Introduction to Acts 24–28

The book of Acts is an inspiring story about the growth and expansion of the earliest Christian church and the exploits and trials of some of its main leaders. Readers are caught up in the drama and excitement of the stories, including miracles, dramatic power encounters, imprisonment and even shipwreck. We are challenged to think about our own lives and spiritual communities – there is much to emulate here and much that should leave us hungry for change and growth. Acts is a provocative, encouraging and motivating narrative.

The final chapters of Acts are the least known and most often ignored sections of this great narrative. There is much less of the great apostolic preaching here and noticeably fewer of the powerful miracles that are so common in earlier sections. Instead of churches being triumphantly planted, we see Paul in prison and on trial before various authorities. The contrast between these final sections and the earlier narrative is somewhat jarring at first glance. Even the ending doesn’t really end – after moving towards a cosmic confrontation between Paul and Caesar, the narrative simply stops. What are we to make of this strange conclusion? What is the author intending to teach through these extended trial narratives?

Over the next two weeks we shall see that these episodes are rich in theology and contemporary relevance. Even the ending is a literary device, designed with a purpose in mind. The author of Acts is extremely careful in the way he crafts this masterpiece of missional adventure, particularly in how he intentionally displays Paul as not just a missionary but a missionary-prisoner. Luke is insistent that our theology must include not simply triumph in mission and expansion, but also suffering and defeat. It is Paul’s imprisonments and trials that give him the greatest platform for missional proclamation and the advance of the gospel.

For Further Reading:

My favourite Acts commentary is Ben Witherington’s, an excellent and accessible resource.1 Craig S Keener’s Exegetical Commentary is indispensable for any serious student of Acts.2

1 The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, Eerdmans, 1997 
2 Acts: An Exegetical Commentary (4 Vols), Baker Academic, 2016

Daniel McGinnis

Deeper Bible study

Paul has already been arrested rather dramatically in Jerusalem and has testified boldly to the Jerusalem crowd and the Jewish court of the Sanhedrin (Acts 21–23). After being transferred to Caesarea, he comes before Antonius Felix. Felix has lived an extraordinary life, going from slavery to becoming the Governor of Judea, appointed by the Emperor Claudius himself in ad 52. He is also a nasty and ineffective ruler – the historian Tacitus famously said of him, ‘He practised every kind of cruelty and lust, wielding the power of a tyrant with the disposition of a slave’.1

This trial before Felix is really an oratorical duel between two accomplished rhetoricians: Paul and his accuser Tertullus. Tertullus accuses Paul of various crimes, including inciting dissension in the empire, leading a religious sect without Roman approval and attempting to desecrate the Temple. Paul’s defence is important, because he responds to the accusations point by point and essentially focuses on his personal testimony – who he is, what he has done and what God has done through him (vs 11–21). After telling the story of his arrival in Jerusalem and admitting to being a ‘follower of the Way’ (v 14), he summarises by saying ‘I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and all people’ (v 16, TNIV).

This episode underscores the undeniable power of personal testimony. Our accusers cannot debate with our personal stories of what God has done in and through us and who he is to us. Our spiritual experiences and learnings are precious and they must be carefully preserved and retold. Often the power of a personal story will cut through intellectual argument and reveal the true condition of a person’s heart.

1 Tacitus, Annals, 12.54

Daniel McGinnis

Background: Meet Tertullus


Tertullus may have had a Jewish background. A longer version of Acts 24:6–8 which is found in the margin of most Bibles, and which is probably authentic, records Tertullus speaking in the first person of Jewish laws and customs.

Here, however, he acts as a paid professional and is key to the Jewish presentation, because of his training as a public speaker and the complexity of presenting in a foreign court.


Most English versions describe Tertullus as a lawyer, but his role was wider than the term implies to modern readers. Public speaking was highly valued in Greek and Roman society and was a key part of the educational system. One hallmark of being well educated was having a good understanding of public speaking skills.


The elements of rhetoric were carefully defined and followed a clear structure. There were three main types:

● Judicial – judging past events

● Deliberative – invitation to assess future actions in terms of benefit or expediency

● Epideictic – reinforce beliefs and values

Every speech was composed of different elements and followed a defined pattern.

The prosecution

Tertullus in Acts 24 is using judicial rhetoric. Following normal rhetorical practice, his introduction (Acts 24:2–4) is designed to get Felix onside and is marked by fulsome flattery. There then follows a statement of the facts (Acts 24:5–8) – in this case mostly fabricated.

Normally there would then be proofs of the case and a conclusion. Luke has abbreviated the speech and there are no formal proofs. Luke may be suggesting that Tertullus’ case was weak.

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Blessed be your name
Matt Redman / Beth Redman
Copyright © 2002 Thankyou Music
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Amazing Grace (My chains are gone)
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John P Rees (1828- 1900)
Edwin O Excell (1851-1921)
Arr. & add. chorus Chris Tomlin & Louie Giglio
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  • Rachael Hampton | Sunday, 17 March 2019

    The unwanted circumstances of our lives often give us new people to witness to - when it’s perhaps hardest to maintain godly behaviour and attitudes. Praying for all in these situations.

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Monday, 18 March 2019

    Tertullus was accusing Paul of inciting treason among the Jews throughout the Roman Empire. This was nothing but a lie and a feeble attempt to change the charges against Paul to a political nature, in the hopes of obtaining Rome’s judgment against him. v14 Paul was seeking to refute that by insisting that this dispute was purely over religious issues. I am away from home at moment and had message to say there had been a dispute at church yesterday which left someone upset. Many years ago a church leader coined a phrase - same meat, different gravy.

  • Angela Munday | Monday, 18 March 2019

    Authentic Christian believers always attract attention because their behaviour is so different and they reflect their beloved Saviour and friend, Jesus the Son of God.

  • Thelma Edwards | Monday, 18 March 2019

    I often think it is my instant response/reaction/answer to circumstances or events or a person that is the best measure of my life and witness as a Christian. What will come forth from me when you "press my button"? From out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. A speech can be prepared, carefully crafted, practised and even tested out with others, but my instant reaction speaks of who I really am not what I would like to be viewed as. If I picture myself as a sponge, if you squeeze me, will you get wet with Jesus?

  • Mike Langtree | Monday, 18 March 2019

    The tactics used to discredit Paul we read about in Acts chapters 23 & 24 are used in a numbers of countries today to undermine and accuse Christians. Have a look at the World Watch List of 50 countries where Christians suffer the most. It is a well-respected annual publication by Open Doors and can be found on their website. An estimated 235 million persecuted Christians need our ongoing prayers and practical support. Let's lift our dear sisters and brothers before the mercy and grace of our loving God.

  • Jean MacKenzie | Monday, 18 March 2019

    Wonderful reading, commentaries and posts today - thank you all. Thank also to Mike for reminding us of the many Christians today who are suffering cruel persecution. On a different topic: does anyone else struggle to 'tune in' when we start a new set of readings on a Monday? It's a big jump from Ezekiel to Acts! Would it be possible to provide a brief introduction before Prepare and/or after our Sunday reading, to introduce the context of the new readings?

  • Hugh Skeil | Monday, 18 March 2019

    Jean, I usually scroll down to the introductory section in Deeper and read that before the passage.

  • Hugh Skeil | Monday, 18 March 2019

    But your suggestion of having something to help prepare on the day before a change of books would be great.

  • Jack Russell | Monday, 18 March 2019

    Thelma - that's interesting with what you say about instant reaction when your button is being pressed speaking of who you really are away from crafted speech. My guess is that similar is true for all of us. What I like about reading Paul is his appropriateness to the Greco-Roman culture and the rhetoric that went along with it. It seems to me that we will see and experience more of this as our culture is increasingly secular. Which then seems to me for it to be a useful tool to be so equipped when facing falce accusation whether as with Paul it is in a religious context with (or without) a secular authority, in family, the workplace and among friends and family alike. Also to bear in mind that the same propensity to falsely accuse exists within us as in others. Something that has come to my realisation to the glory of God is that I do have reasoning, verbal and communication gifting and talent with what I think of my superpower as being the ability to make people laugh. I love it when I can make someone have a huge belly laugh! It seems to me that there is so much joy in Jesus' rhetoric when he comes across challenging situations while "speaking the truth in love". Of course as with every kind of power this can corrupt and the ego can convince you that what you are doing is right when you actually are being destructive and liking having control over others. So we have the acts of the flesh and the fruits of the Spirit to consider and to keep us right when falsely accused and to keep us from falsely accusing, knowing not to worry when facing authorities because the Holy Spirit will give us the right words to say. And in humility knowing whatever power we have to do good at such times is because God allows it, coming from a right relationship with him, centred on him and being dependent on him for it.

  • David Chipchase | Monday, 18 March 2019

    Jack, "because the Holy Spirit will give us the right words to say." I know this scripture but it doesn't happen to me. Frustration! How I hunger for it! When I need to experience this scripture, I generally stammer and stutter, but 24 hour later, I have a brilliant response!.Indeed, frustration!

  • Jack Russell | Monday, 18 March 2019

    David I hear that you know the scripture about not worrying about what to say to authorities with the Holy Spirit giving you the words to say. But you feeling it doesn't happen for you when you need it and rather you stammering and stuttering and feeling frustrated. This must be difficult for you. You have been open about suffering with depression. Have you considered that this may be a symptom of your illness rather than the Holy Spirit not giving you words to say to authority? Praying for you.

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