Paul’s accusers brought a lawyer to speak on their behalf, whom, as those who have no proof do, focused on flattering praise addressed to the governor Felix and on the invitation to immediately save time by condemning Paul, trusting the accusations as expressed by friends of the governor, as they were. Paul is defined as «a plague, one who stirs up riots among all the Jews throughout the world» (after all, a beautiful compliment!), being pointed at as «a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes» (v. 5).
Paul, unperturbed, replied only at the governor’s request; by contrast to the pompous eloquence of that skilled lawyer, Paul shifted the confrontation to the concreteness and substance of the problem, emphasising that the accusations were without evidence. Paul knows that Felix was able to understand the nature of the issues well, especially since his wife Drusilla was Jewish (vv. 10,22,24).
Paul’s main objective should have been self-defence, instead he (should we be surprised?) took the opportunity to explain once again about his faith: he did not make substantially new statements, but since Acts often repeats them, we also re-summarise what Paul said. First of all, the apostle wouldn’t accept to be defined as one who had departed from Judaism: «I worship the God of our fathers», «believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets» (v. 14). Like every good Jew, he considered the most suitable place to worship to be the Temple of Jerusalem (vv. 11:18). Of the law of Moses, Paul did not seek to observe only the moral aspects, according to a logic foreign to Judaism but very popular among Christian theologians, but instead also continued to be attentive to the norms of ritual purification (v. 18).
But the aspect that we want to reiterate more is the centrality of the resurrection in the New Testament in general, in the Acts in particular and in the very life of Paul, who in this case stated: «having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man» (vv. 15-16).
We have already noted how Christianity has in effect replaced the “resurrection system” with the “Paradise system”, thus arriving at a religiosity far from the apostolic one. The matter is so significant that we decided to dedicate to it the Further Insight n. 17 (Paradise without resurrection: an “actual heresy”), placed in the final part.
Back to governor Felix, he appears as those politicians who try to maintain popularity by pleasing everyone (particularly themselves), giving a bump here and there. So he sent the Jews back to Jerusalem without delivering Paul to them, but under the excuse of postponing the decision; he kept Paul in prison, though granting him some freedom.
It appears that through his wife Drusilla’s urging, Felix sent for Paul to be more informed about faith in Jesus. Paul, however, focused his exposition on the righteousness and judgment of God, in order to produce in Felix a change of life: instead, he produced only a fright, which reminded Felix of his many commitments, and so he dismissed Paul. Sometime later, however, he called him back to talk with him, but only because he supposed that Paul, or his friends, would be willing to give him money.
So Paul was held prisoner in Caesarea for two years “awaiting trial”. It is quick to say “two years”, but for a very active person like Paul these would have been very long and would have appeared nearly useless; given the freedom to receive visits, he surely spent them even writing some of his letters, later useful across time to millions of people. Felix did not deliver Paul, lest the Jews should be displeased, and so delivered him to his successor Porcius Festus.