When Deception Meets Truth
Text: Acts 24
Proposition: The nature of deception is that not only is it relatively unseen it is sinful yet when it meets truth it is exposed by the righteousness truth presents.
Introduction: Lastweek we ended with Paul being taken under Roman guard at night from Jerusalem to the coastal fortress at Caesarea. It is here that the Roman governor Felix would hold court to determine Paul’s guilt or innocence. Today we will see a court room hearing unfold, we see the prosecution present its case and then we hear from the defence. Behind this setting we will also see the battle between deception and truth and of greatest importance we will see the truth of resurrection, particularly the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Have a look at Acts 24.
I. The Effectiveness of Deception Is Its Ability to Sell a Lie.
The High Priest and his court elders know that if they are to persuade the governor in their favour then they will need a pitch man. They bring with them an orator, the Greek word is ‘rhetor’, one who pours forth speech. The English word ‘rhetoric’ finds its roots here, “the undue use of exaggeration or display; bombast.” . Tertullus, likely a Jew who had gained Roman name and citizenship, is employed by the High Priest to win the favour of Felix. The ‘rhetor’ begins with ‘rhetoric’. He says that Felix has brought wonderful peace and great works of justice to Israel and that all the people everywhere are truly thankful for the generous and gentle hand of Felix the Roman governor. It’s flattery but make no mistake, it’s intent is deception. Felix began life as a slave, he rose in status as a free man and became the first slave in history to become governor of a Roman province. Tacitus, the Roman historian, describes Felix as "a master of cruelty and lust who exercised the powers of a king with the spirit of a slave" (Historiae 5.9, cited in Longnecker).” Perhaps this is the first tactic of deception, it uses the past to create lies about who you are today. Tertullus presented his case using flattery but he quickly moved to present three charges against Paul:
1. He has become a theological ‘plague’ throughout the Jewish world.
2. He has become the ringleader of a dangerous political sect, ‘The Nazarenes.’
3. He has profaned or desecrated the Temple.
The point before us is that Tertullus uses deception to lay accusations against Paul that are not true and cannot be supported by evidence. That is always Satan’s strategy, to use lies, partial truths, accusations all presented to us an incontrovertible truth spoken with the voices of people of power and influence. Deception is all about selling a lie, using the past, developing a belief of guilt and calling for a judgment of condemnation.
II. The Effectiveness of Truth is by Exposing the Lie It Presents Reality.
Paul speaks for his own defence and he addresses the charges head on. When deception has gained a hold in us the way to ‘unhook’ yourself from it is to address yourself to the very claims it makes rather the emotion those charges bring, emotions like guilt, worthlessness, fear, loneliness and shame. The emotions that come from points of deception are the concluding verdicts of lies that have been believed and have gone unexposed. So Paul exposes the lies, one by one and as he does so he invites Felix and the court to see the truth, to see reality.
1. Cheerfully, confidently Paul speaks the truth trusting in Christ more than the court. It’s only been 12 days since Paul went to Jerusalem. The inference is that this is a lot of sedition to generate in a very short time. In addition to that, because it happened so recently Felix can still verify that Paul’s actions were in fact peaceful. He has not been a plague of dissent stirring up all the Jews. He exposes the exaggeration in the deception and points to the verifiable opposite as being the reality. Deception loves the use of exaggeration, Paul exposes it.
2. He is a member of The Way, the open and transparent body of Christ called the church. The Way is Christian belief that has its roots directly extending from Judaism. It’s beliefs are not sectarian nor secret but rather widely held for thousands of years and now fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Paul puts it bluntly in verse 15, knowing that the High Priest could not overrule the truth, “I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of thedead, both of the just and theunjust.” Resurrection was the belief of Judaism, just read Job14 or Genesis 22 or 2 Sam 12:23 or Daniel 12:2. Felix was married to a Jewish woman named Drusilla, she would know these things as would Felix. It is the resurrection of all, the wicked and the righteous that ought to govern our lives in truth. That resurrection is a fact is one thing, but the resurrection of people to a place of being righteous before God is what Jesus came to do on the cross. His blood, His life was what cleaned the slate for you and I in terms of the condemnation of sin. It is the sinless incarnation of Christ, the sinless body of Christ pictured for us in the bread, the sinless life’s blood of Christ pictured in the cup, the sinless death of Christ for us that marks the currency of Who Jesus is before the throne of God the Father. Then the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead proclaims to all that the currency of His sinless being has paid completely the price of our sin. Now the resurrection of Jesus Christ calls all people to take refuge from the consequences of sin in us by belief and trust in Christ Jesus. That is the truth which exposes all the deception of self righteousness and is meant to ready us for the reality of who we really are, why we are really here and what will really happen the day we stand face to face with the Lord.
3. Lastly, Paul declares his motives to be pure and his actions to be innocent. He had been in the Temple to do what was right, to be obedient, to help and not to destroy or desecrate the Temple. Paul says that his whole purpose was to bring a gift of financial aid to the people of Israel, to be obedient in helping the 4 young men finish their vows of consecration. There were some Jews from Asia in the Temple that day when Paul was doing this and their enmity towards him, for a variety of reasons he would never know, led them to accuse him unjustly. If this court is to be effective those accusers should be present and they were not, which spoke volumes to the court about the deception being presented as truth.
What deception have you been pitched, what have you believed, who was it that told you that, what was the accusation, what was it that incited them to treat you like that and greater than all these… what is the truth?
The truth of Who Jesus is as the One knows everything about you, the One who moves with perfect wisdom, understanding, grace, forgiveness and love has been with us at each and every moment of our lives. It is His opinion that matters, His perspective that counts, it is His estimation that our value is secured by.
A Post Script…
After the court hearing has been concluded, days afterwards, Felix and his wife come to listen to Paul as he unfolds the Scripture for them, showing the way that the Old Testament constantly pointed to Jesus again and again. In verse 25 it says, “Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, “Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.” The effectiveness of truth is in exposing the lie, calling people to see reality but sometimes reality is not what we want especially if caught in a net of sin. Paul presented to Felix and Drusilla the truth about what righteousness is, the demands it makes upon us in terms of living sanctified lives, lives of self control. He spoke to them about the accountability each person has before an all knowing and just Lord and Saviour and that judgment is something even the righteous will experience as we too are accountable. Our judgement is not to the degree of losing salvation but it is nonetheless the judgement of the Lord on each of us. We are to confess our sin, to forgive, to be forgiven, to love well the Lord and the neighbour and all that flows out from that. Don’t wait for a convenient time, don’t send the truth away, this may be the only time you have. The truth of Christ will set you free from the deception of sin. Let truth, the truth of Jesus Christ rule in your hearts.