Having stood before the crowd in Jerusalem (Acts 22) and before the Sanhedrin (Acts 23), Paul now comes before a Roman tribunal at Caesarea, led by the Roman governor, Felix.
In Acts, we read that Paul made five separate defences before various authorities on his way to Rome. This is the third.
Paul’s primary purpose is not to prove his innocence—although that is what transpires—but to persuade his audience that Jesus’ resurrection, and his mission to the Gentiles, are consistent with God’s revelation to the Jews in the Old Testament (see Acts 24:21; 26:7–8, 23; 28:28).
Paul’s Jewish accusers—the High Priest Ananias, some elders, and the lawyer Tertullus (v. 1)—charge Paul with being a troublemaker, a ringleader of the Nazarenes, and a desecrator of the temple (vv. 5–6). Tertullus’ elaborate introduction (vv. 2–4) stands in contrast to Paul’s (v. 10). Paul denies the charges of troublemaking and desecration. He does not deny being a part of the Nazarene sect, officially unrecognised by Rome; however he calls it “the Way” (v. 14).
Seeing an opportunity to grant the Jewish leadership a political favour, Felix defers his decision (v. 27).
Drusilla (vv. 24–26) is the daughter of Herod Agrippa I who, earlier in Acts, was recorded as eaten by worms (Acts 12:23). She is Felix’s third wife—he persuaded her to leave her husband and join him.
Felix seems to be tantalised by Paul’s preaching. Luke tells us he was hoping for the offer of a bribe from Paul (v. 26). Paul’s preaching was about righteousness, self-control, and judgment (v. 25). Felix and Drusilla needed to realise that if they came to Christ, they couldn’t just continue their indulgent lifestyle—instead, they would be fundamentally changed.
Again, Luke reminds us that Paul is driven by his conviction of the reality of the resurrection of the dead (vv. 15, 21).
The Jews take the threat of Paul’s ministry very seriously. We see this in the naming of their representatives (v. 1), their opening remarks (vv. 2–4), and their charges (vv. 5–8). Why did they treat the case so seriously? Was there any truth in their charges?
For other examples of similar charges by the Jews, see Acts 6:11 and 21:21 and Luke 23:2.