It would seem as though Paul’s adversaries hoped that he would lose his temper and say something really incriminating, but he didn’t. Now, as I read Paul’s words concerning the resurrection of the dead, it appears as though Paul is tempting his Jewish adversaries to “blow up” as they had done when he had identified himself as a Pharisee before the Sanhedrin. Hopefully you also noticed that no Pharisees were present. They probably weren’t even notified of the change of venue.
Are any of you old enough to remember that song, “Give me that old time religion . . .”? Well, Paul is saying, “My religion is that ‘old time religion.’ ‘The Way’ isn’t a sect, a departure from that which is true. Faith in Jesus as the Messiah is the fulfillment of Israel’s ‘old time religion.’ I believe what these fellows say they believe, which includes the resurrection of the dead.”
This is where the Pharisees and Sadducees erupted when Paul stood before the Sanhedrin. It must have taken everything they had for these Jewish leaders to keep silent. As I said, I can’t believe the Pharisees were even invited, because the Pharisees proclaimed Paul’s innocence when he appeared before the Sanhedrin. These Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection at all but they didn’t dare lose their tempers here. Paul has linked his faith (“the Way”) with true Jewish orthodoxy, and true orthodoxy with a belief in the resurrection. A friend of mine, someone who doesn’t believe in Yeshua, adamantly refuses to accept that you can be Jewish and Christian. He only has room for one dogma—that Christianity is a Gentile religion! However, Paul even explains that his orthodox belief in the Messiah of the Old Testament is the basis for him striving to live his life with a clean conscience. As my friend, Rabbi Mark Kinzer says, his faith in Yeshua brought his Jewishness to life! So, can these Jews accuse Paul of being the leader of some new and heretical sect?
I can almost picture the Jews glaring at Paul, then turning their heads and staring at Tertullus, begging him to say something that would neutralize Paul’s powerful arguments. But there was nothing to say. This silence spoke volumes and had to register with Felix. It is the same kind of silence we find in Acts 6, where the unbelieving Jews could find no words with which to refute the Spirit-empowered proclamation of Stephen:
“But some men from the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, as well as some from Cilicia and the province of Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen. Yet they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke” —Acts 6:9-10
I have had people raise their hands in surrender—not due to any wisdom I may have spoken, but as they said, because of the sincerity of my testimony. Here in Paul’s defense, it was the kind of silence that made them want to lash out against Paul, but they couldn’t do it in Felix’s court. No flattery or elegant words from Tertullus could refute the truth.