Sabbath School Lesson 24 – “When I Have Opportunity …”

Sabbath, June 16, 2018 

“A ray of light from heaven had been permitted to shine upon Felix, when Paul reasoned with him concerning righteousness, temperance, and a judgment to come. That was his heaven-sent opportunity to see and to forsake his sins. But he said to the messenger of God, ‘Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.’ He had slighted his last offer of mercy. Never was he to receive another call from God.” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 427.

1. After the apostle Paul was miraculously saved from violent turmoil in Jerusalem, where was he taken to be judged? What was the governor’s first question?

Acts 23:33-35 Who, when they came to Caesarea, and delivered the epistle to the governor, presented Paul also before him. 34And when the governor had read the letter, he asked of what province he was. And when he understood that he was of Cilicia; 35I will hear thee, said he, when thine accusers are also come. And he commanded him to be kept in Herod’s judgment hall.

“Lysias at once decided to transfer Paul from his jurisdiction to that of Felix the procurator. As a people, the Jews were in a state of excitement and irritation, and tumults were of frequent occurrence. The continued presence of the apostle in Jerusalem might lead to consequences dangerous to the city and even to the commandant himself. He therefore ‘called unto him two centurions, saying, Make ready two hundred soldiers to go to Caesarea, and horsemen threescore and ten, and spearmen two hundred, at the third hour of the night; and provide them beasts, that they may set Paul on, and bring him safe unto Felix the governor.’

“No time was to be lost in sending Paul away. ‘The soldiers, as it was commanded them, took Paul, and brought him by night to Antipatris.’ From that place the horsemen went on with the prisoner to Caesarea, while the four hundred soldiers returned to Jerusalem.

“The officer in charge of the detachment delivered his prisoner to Felix, also presenting a letter with which he had been entrusted by the chief captain:…” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 415.

2. What accusations were made against Paul? How did the Jews attempt to support their charges, even as their hatred of the prisoner was obvious?

Acts 24:5-9 For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes: 6Who also hath gone about to profane the temple: whom we took, and would have judged according to our law. 7But the chief captain Lysias came upon us, and with great violence took him away out of our hands, 8Commanding his accusers to come unto thee: by examining of whom thyself mayest take knowledge of all these things, whereof we accuse him. 9And the Jews also assented, saying that these things were so.

“In his speech, Tertullus charged Paul with crimes which, if proved, would have resulted in his conviction for high treason against the government. ‘We have found this man a pestilent fellow,’ declared the orator, ‘and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes: who also hath gone about to profane the temple.’ Tertullus then stated that Lysias, the commandant of the garrison at Jerusalem, had violently taken Paul from the Jews when they were about to judge him by their ecclesiastical law, and had thus forced them to bring the matter before Felix. These statements were made with the design of inducing the procurator to deliver Paul over to the Jewish court. All the charges were vehemently supported by the Jews present, who made no effort to conceal their hatred of the prisoner.” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 420.

The apostle’s personal defense

3. How did the servant of the Lord systematically refute the charges as completely false? Could his accusers prove that he was inciting rebellion in the temple or anywhere else?

Acts 24:10-13 Then Paul, after that the governor had beckoned unto him to speak, answered, Forasmuch as I know that thou hast been of many years a judge unto this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself: 11Because that thou mayest understand, that there are yet but twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem for to worship. 12And they neither found me in the temple disputing with any man, neither raising up the people, neither in the synagogues, nor in the city: 13Neither can they prove the things whereof they now accuse me.

“Paul wasted no words in compliments, but simply stated that he could the more cheerfully defend himself before Felix, since the latter had been so long a procurator, and therefore had so good an understanding of the laws and customs of the Jews. Referring to the charges brought against him, he plainly showed that not one of them was true. He declared that he had caused no disturbance in any part of Jerusalem, nor had he profaned the sanctuary. [Acts 24:12 quoted.]” –The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 420, 421.

4. How did he describe his faith in God and the holy Scriptures? According to his firm conviction, what would happen in the future to both the just and the unjust? In his everyday life, what principle did the apostle adhere to?

Acts 24:14-16 But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets: 15And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. 16And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.

“While confessing that ‘after the way which they call heresy’ he had worshiped the God of his fathers, he asserted that he had always believed ‘all things which are written in the law and in the prophets;’ and that in harmony with the plain teaching of the Scriptures, he held the faith of the resurrection of the dead. And he further declared that the ruling purpose of his life was to ‘have always a conscience void of offense toward God, and toward men.’ ” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 421.

5. Did the Jews from Asia appear before the governor to give their testimony? Could anybody prove that he had profaned the temple, taught heresy, or stirred up disorder? 

Acts 24:17-21 Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings. 18Whereupon certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with multitude, nor with tumult. 19Who ought to have been here before thee, and object, if they had ought against me. 20Or else let these same here say, if they have found any evil doing in me, while I stood before the council, 21Except it be for this one voice, that I cried standing among them, Touching the resurrection of the dead I am called in question by you this day.

“In a candid, straightforward manner he stated the object of his visit to Jerusalem, and the circumstances of his arrest and trial: ‘Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings. Whereupon certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with multitude, nor with tumult.’… The apostle spoke with earnestness and evident sincerity, and his words carried with them a weight of conviction.” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 421.

Felix’ weakness because of politics

6. After hearing both the prosecution and apostle’s defense, what did the governor decide? Although Paul remained under arrest, what freedom was he given?

Acts 4:22, 23 And when Felix heard these things, having more perfect knowledge of that way, he deferred them, and said, When Lysias the chief captain shall come down, I will know the uttermost of your matter. 23And he commanded a centurion to keep Paul, and to let him have liberty, and that he should forbid none of his acquaintance to minister or come unto him.

“Claudius Lysias, in his letter to Felix, had borne a similar testimony in regard to Paul’s conduct. Moreover, Felix himself had a better knowledge of the Jewish religion than many supposed. Paul’s plain statement of the facts in the case enabled Felix to understand still more clearly the motives by which the Jews were governed in attempting to convict the apostle of sedition and treasonable conduct. The governor would not gratify them by unjustly condemning a Roman citizen, neither would he give him up to them to be put to death without a fair trial. Yet Felix knew no higher motive than self-interest, and he was controlled by love of praise and a desire for promotion. Fear of offending the Jews held him back from doing full justice to a man whom he knew to be innocent. He therefore decided to suspend the trial until Lysias should be present, saying, ‘When Lysias the chief captain shall come down, I will know the uttermost of your matter.’ ” –The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 421, 422.

7. What did Paul present to Felix when he was called to testify a few days later? Although greatly convicted of the truths declared by the apostle, what did he answer? Did this governor ever seek or receive another opportunity to hear the message of salvation?

Acts 24:24-27 And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. 25And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee. 26He hoped also that money should have been given him of Paul, that he might loose him: wherefore he sent for him the oftener, and communed with him. 27But after two years Porcius Festus came into Felix’ room: and Felix, willing to show the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound.

“Thus Paul, the prisoner, urged the claims of the divine law upon Jew and Gentile, and presented Jesus, the despised Nazarene, as the Son of God, the world’s Redeemer….

“Felix had never before listened to the truth, and as the Spirit of God sent conviction to his soul, he became deeply agitated. Conscience, now aroused, made her voice heard, and Felix felt that Paul’s words were true. Memory went back over the guilty past. With terrible distinctness there came up before him the secrets of his early life of profligacy and bloodshed, and the black record of his later years. He saw himself licentious, cruel, rapacious. Never before had the truth been thus brought home to his heart. Never before had his soul been so filled with terror. The thought that all the secrets of his career of crime were open before the eye of God, and that he must be judged according to his deeds, caused him to tremble with dread.

“But instead of permitting his convictions to lead him to repentance, he sought to dismiss these unwelcome reflections. The interview with Paul was cut short. ‘Go thy way for this time,’ he said; ‘when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.’… Never was he to receive another call from God.” –The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 425, 426.

 For additional study

“Paul endeavored to direct the minds of his hearers to the one great Sacrifice for sin. He pointed to the sacrifices that were shadows of good things to come, and then presented Christ as the antitype of all those ceremonies–the object to which they pointed as the only source of life and hope for fallen man. Holy men of old were saved by faith in the blood of Christ. As they saw the dying agonies of the sacrificial victims they looked across the gulf of ages to the Lamb of God that was to take away the sin of the world.” –The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 424, 425.

“When the Lord presents evidence upon evidence and gives light upon light, why is it that souls hesitate to walk in the light?… By every hesitation and delay, we place ourselves where it is more and more difficult for us to accept the light of heaven, and at last it seems impossible to be impressed by admonitions and warnings. The sinner says, more and more easily, ‘Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.’ Acts 24:25….” –That I May Know Him, p. 244.