1. TERTULLUS, THE ORATOR
a. Describe how flattering hypocrisy and lies were used to introduce Paul’s hearing before Felix the governor. Acts 23:34, 35; 24:1–9.
“Tertullus here descended to bare-faced falsehood. The character of Felix was base and contemptible. . . . His acts of cruelty and oppression caused him to be universally hated. The treacherous cruelty of his character is shown by his brutal murder of the high priest Jonathan, to whom he was largely indebted for his own position. . . .
“Through the deceptive arts of Simon Magus, a Cyprian sorcerer, Felix had induced [Drusilla] to leave her husband and to become his wife. Drusilla was young and beautiful, and, moreover, a Jewess. She was devotedly attached to her husband, who had made a great sacrifice to obtain her hand. There was little indeed to induce her to forego her strongest prejudices and to bring upon herself the abhorrence of her nation for the sake of forming an adulterous connection with a cruel and elderly profligate.”—Sketches From the Life of Paul, pp. 235, 236.
“Those who heard Tertullus knew that his flattering words were untrue, but their desire to secure the condemnation of Paul was stronger than their love of truth.”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 419, 420.
2. IN PERFECT PEACE
a. How did Paul candidly begin his defense before Felix? Acts 24:10–13.
“Felix had sufficient penetration to read the disposition and character of Paul’s accusers. He knew from what motive they had flattered him, and he saw also that they had failed to substantiate their charges against Paul. Turning to the accused, he beckoned to him to answer for himself. 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.”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 420, 421.
b. What concept did Paul present to the governor? Acts 24:14, 15.
“In consequence of Adam’s sin, death passed upon the whole human race. All alike go down into the grave. And through the provisions of the plan of salvation, all are to be brought forth from their graves.”—The Great Controversy, p. 544.
c. Why is the aim of Paul’s life beneficial to all? Acts 24:16; Isaiah 26:3, 4.
“Inward peace and a conscience void of offense toward God will quicken and invigorate the intellect like dew distilled upon the tender plants. The will is then rightly directed and controlled, and is more decided, and yet free from perverseness. The meditations are pleasing because they are sanctified. The serenity of mind which you may possess will bless all with whom you associate. This peace and calmness will, in time, become natural, and will reflect its precious rays upon all around you, to be again reflected upon you. The more you taste this heavenly peace and quietude of mind, the more it will increase. It is an animated, living pleasure which does not throw all the moral energies into a stupor, but awakens them to increased activity. Perfect peace is an attribute of heaven which angels possess. May God help you to become a possessor of this peace.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, p. 327.
3. ETERNITY VS. CONVENIENCE
a. What issue had triggered the Jewish rage against Paul? Acts 24:17–21.
b. In what way was Felix weak on how to handle the case? Acts 24:22, 23.
“The apostle spoke with earnestness and evident sincerity, and his words carried with them a weight of conviction. 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.”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 421, 422.
c. How does an attitude like that of Felix grieve the Spirit? Acts 24:24, 25.
“[Felix] had slighted his last offer of mercy. Never was he to receive another call from God.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 427.
“[The community of Bro. K.] thought that if they did not war against the truth they would be doing quite well, but the light they neglected to receive and cherish went out in darkness. They endeavored to quiet conscience by saying to the Spirit of God: ‘Go Thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for Thee.’ That convenient season has never come. They neglected the golden opportunity that has never again returned to them, for the world has shut out the light that they refused. The interests of this life and the charm of exciting pleasures absorb their minds and hearts, while their best Friend, the blessed Saviour, is rejected and forgotten.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 108.
4. EXCUSES, EXCUSES . . .
a. Name some common excuses for not committing fully to Christ—and the outcome of all of them. Luke 14:15–20, 24.
“The excuses urged for refusing the invitation to the feast cover the whole ground of excuses for refusing the gospel invitation. Men declare that they cannot imperil their worldly prospects by giving attention to the claims of the gospel. They count their temporal interests as of more value than the things of eternity. The very blessings they have received from God become a barrier to separate their souls from their Creator and Redeemer. They will not be interrupted in their worldly pursuits, and they say to the messenger of mercy, ‘Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.’ Acts 24:25. Others urge the difficulties that would arise in their social relations should they obey the call of God. They say they cannot afford to be out of harmony with their relatives and acquaintances. Thus they prove themselves to be the very actors described in the parable. The Master of the feast regards their flimsy excuses as showing contempt for His invitation.
“The man who said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come,’ represents a large class. Many there are who allow their wives or their husbands to prevent them from heeding the call of God. The husband says, ‘I cannot obey my convictions of duty while my wife is opposed to it. Her influence would make it exceedingly hard for me to do so.’ The wife hears the gracious call, ‘Come; for all things are now ready,’ and she says, ‘ “I pray thee have me excused.” My husband refuses the invitation of mercy. He says that his business stands in the way. I must go with my husband, and therefore I cannot come.’ The children’s hearts are impressed. They desire to come. But they love their father and mother, and since these do not heed the gospel call, the children think that they cannot be expected to come. They too say, ‘Have me excused.’
“All these refuse the Saviour’s call because they fear division in the family circle. They suppose that in refusing to obey God they are insuring the peace and prosperity of the home; but this is a delusion. Those who sow selfishness will reap selfishness. In rejecting the love of Christ they reject that which alone can impart purity and steadfastness to human love. They will not only lose heaven, but will fail of the true enjoyment of that for which heaven was sacrificed.”—Christ’s Object Lessons, pp. 224, 225.
5. POURED OUT WITHOUT MEASURE
a. Instead of making excuses, what happens as we fully surrender to the Holy Spirit’s leading? Acts 3:19; Isaiah 44:22, 23; Psalm 110:3.
“We are engaged in a conflict for eternal life; and in this battle, grace is arrayed against nature and the whole strength of self is opposed to the victory. Few find the path of self-denial, which is lined with crosses, and fewer still pursue it. . . . Will you persevere and not become weary in well doing? This Christian warfare is one of strife and eternal vigilance. Perfect victory may be yours if you will cheerfully lift the cross of Christ.”—Letters and Manuscripts, Letter 48, 1888.
“Servants of God, with their faces lighted up and shining with holy consecration, will hasten from place to place to proclaim the message from heaven. By thousands of voices, all over the earth, the warning will be given. Miracles will be wrought, the sick will be healed, and signs and wonders will follow the believers. Satan also works with lying wonders, even bringing down fire from heaven in the sight of men. Revelation 13:13. Thus the inhabitants of the earth will be brought to take their stand.
“The message will be carried not so much by argument as by the deep conviction of the Spirit of God. The arguments have been presented. The seed has been sown, and now it will spring up and bear fruit. The publications distributed by missionary workers have exerted their influence, yet many whose minds were impressed have been prevented from fully comprehending the truth or from yielding obedience. Now the rays of light penetrate everywhere, the truth is seen in its clearness, and the honest children of God sever the bands which have held them. Family connections, church relations, are powerless to stay them now. Truth is more precious than all besides. Notwithstanding the agencies combined against the truth, a large number take their stand upon the Lord’s side.”—The Great Controversy, p. 612.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. Why did Ananias, the high priest, bring Tertullus to Paul’s hearing?
2. Why is it vital to keep a clean conscience by confession and repentance?
3. How might I be procrastinating in some areas of life as Felix did?
4. What lame excuses might I be making that quench the Spirit?
5. How can I partake of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in fullness?