“When the governor gestured for him to speak, Paul replied, ‘Because I know that you have been a judge over this nation for many years, I confidently make my defense. As you can verify for yourself, not more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship. They did not find me arguing with anyone or stirring up a crowd in the temple courts or in the synagogues or throughout the city, nor can they prove to you the things they are accusing me of doing. But I confess this to you, that I worship the God of our ancestors according to the Way (which they call a sect), believing everything that is according to the law and that is written in the prophets. I have a hope in God (a hope that these men themselves accept too [well, supposedly]) that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous. This is the reason I do my best to always have a clear conscience toward God and toward people. After several years, I came to bring to my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings, which I was doing when they found me in the temple, ritually purified, without a crowd or a disturbance. But there are some Jews from the province of Asia who should be here before you and bring charges, if they have anything against me. Or these men here should tell what crime they found me guilty of when I stood before the council, other than this one thing I shouted out while I stood before them: ‘I am on trial before you today concerning the resurrection of the dead’” —Acts 24:10-21
Unlike Tertullus, Paul doesn’t try to flatter Felix with deceptive words about the glories of his leadership. He does express thankfulness that Felix isn’t a novice, but a man of considerable experience in dealing with the Jews and their squabbles. Paul expressed confidence that the things he had to say in his defense would resonate with everything that Felix had learned about the Jews during his years as governor (and, during his years of marriage to a Jewess).
Paul gives a summary of his defense. It was only 12 days ago that he had gone up to Jerusalem to worship. That was hardly enough time to create the kind of trouble he was accused of. Paul’s words here remind me of Peter’s words in Acts 2, when some explained the tongues phenomena as the result of drunkenness:
“In spite of what you think, these men are not drunk, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning” —Acts 2:15
There simply wasn’t enough time for Paul to do those things he was being charged with.
Beyond this, Paul had come to Jerusalem to worship, not to cause trouble. He wasn’t arguing or debating with others in the normal places for such activities. Let those who were accusing him prove otherwise. (This would be hard to do, since his accusers had never witnessed Paul committing the alleged crimes in the temple. The folks who were falsely accusing him weren’t present.)
Paul answers the charge that he was a cult leader, someone outside the boundaries of Jewish orthodoxy. If it could be shown that Paul wasn’t really a Jew, but some kind of cult leader, his religious freedoms would be revoked, and he would no longer be able to preach the gospel under the protection of Rome. Remember that a similar charge was leveled at Paul in Corinth, but Gallio threw it out of court. Gallio recognized that there were strong factions within Judaism. This is something like the factions we see within Islam. Islam may want to maintain a united front, but within their religion, there are strong differences. Nevertheless, no one disputes the fact that these factions are still within the fold of Islam. Now the same charge is raised again, and Paul will skillfully refute it.
Tertullus accused Paul of being a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. Paul doesn’t deny that he’s a follower of the “Way” and that it is regarded by some as a sect. But he refuses to grant that the “Way” is a departure from true Judaism. He worships “the God of our ancestors.” He believes everything written in the law and in the prophets. His faith does not deny or denounce the Old Testament Scriptures; instead, his faith is the fulfillment of these Scriptures.
The distance between Paul and his Jewish opponents isn’t as great as they represent it. He has a hope in God, as do they. It’s a hope that’s based on the certainty of the resurrection of the dead, both the righteous and the unrighteous. It is because of his faith in the resurrection that Paul tries to live in such a way as to maintain a clear conscience toward God and toward His people.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Story of Acts