.Now, Paul concludes his defense. With the backdrop of his introductory words, he tells Felix what really happened at the temple a few days earlier. He didn’t come to Jerusalem to start a riot; he didn’t even come to debate with the religious leaders; no, he came to worship in the temple and to be ritually purified. Personal purification and worship is a far cry from looking to cause trouble or to defile the temple. The people who incited the riot were Asian Jews who falsely accused him of wrongdoing. Nevertheless, where are those who were the witnesses? If they are going to accuse someone of something, they should be there to make their case to Felix.
Just like the silence of Paul’s accuser’s a few minutes before, their absence speaks volumes. Everyone who claimed to witness Paul’s “crime” are nowhere to be found, so let those who are there give a plausible accusation of wrongdoing. The only “crime” they witnessed was Paul’s claim that he was a Pharisee, and that the whole reason for his trial before the Sanhedrin was his belief in the resurrection of the dead (which is something he had just claimed—without objection—to be the heart of orthodox Judaism).
So what is all the fury about Paul? It wasn’t some terrible crime, but Paul’s belief in the resurrection of the dead—all of which is a theological difference among Jews. That is what caused the riot in the Sanhedrin. It is what caused the riot in the temple. That is what Gallio, the Roman governor of Achaia, had said when Paul showed up in his court, back in Corinth. Do you remember that?
“Now while Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews attacked Paul and brought him before the judgment seat, saying, ‘This man is persuading people to worship God in a way contrary to the law!’ But just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to the Jews, ‘If it were a matter of some crime or serious piece of villainy, I would have been justified in accepting the complaint of you Jews, but since it concerns points of disagreement about words and names and your own law, settle it yourselves. I will not be a judge of these things!’” —Acts 18:12-15
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Story of Acts