11 You can verify that it is not more than twelve days since I went up to worship in Jerusalem, 12 and they did not find me disputing with anyone or stirring up a crowd, either in the temple or in the synagogues or in the city. 13 Neither can they prove to you what they now bring up against me. 14 But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, 15 having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. 16 So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.
Paul has now been permitted by Felix the governor to speak at his trial. Nobody has even made a clear accusation or presented any real proof. They just said he’s a muckraker and part of that group of people that have started riots all over Asia.
What is great about Paul’s speech is how reasonable he sounds. You can tell he is still hoping that the Jewish leaders and even Felix would be open and interested in hearing more about Jesus. It’s a lot like Peter and John, many chapters ago, simply asking “are we on trial today for healing a man?”
He also does a great job, as always, of establishing common ground with his accusers. Instead of distancing himself to say how different he is, he is establishing that everything he is doing is established by the same Law and prophets they all follow.
In these ancient political circles, there were plenty of people against this or that party or against this or that activity. There were people in slavery and criminals given no hope for reform except for the few minutes before they were fed to a lion or a bear. There were hundreds of idols around with the most disgusting practices frequently performed and approved all over.
But Paul didn’t confront those things as much when he spoke to large groups. He almost always started with a foundation of connecting and showing understanding for the people in his audience. To this crowd that loved Old Testament morality, he appealed to their desire for righteousness by expressing his own.
Everything he has said so far is something they could relate to and appreciate — if they could get over being so hateful.
But they aren’t the ones deciding his fate. It is Felix that is listening to this appeal, and Felix is the one in power. Paul knows that Jesus said he’d preach to the Gentiles in Rome, but He didn’t give Paul a timeline. As he goes, Paul is going to do his best to last as long as he can, preaching to as many people in whatever forum they allow.
So instead of being abrasive, he is connecting and waiting to see where this relationship and opportunity may go.
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