Paul before Felix-The TrueChurch
It was a
difficult time for Paul, though who could say when any time was not trying for
Paul. Well, anyway, there he was, captured by the Jews, in the custody of the
Romans, and all these in spite of his attempt to pacify the Jews by publicly
observing their cleansing ritual1. Having failed on numerous other
occasions to eliminate Paul2, the Jews had no intention of letting
him off this time. The more extreme and vindictive Jews scheduled a trial
before the Roman governor Felix, having failed earlier in the Sanhedrin to
agree on his guilt.
And so our
intrepid hero was led again to stand before some big-shot, all for the sake of
Christ. And so also we turn our Bibles to Acts Chapter 24 to follow the trial
and to see similarities when our own faith in the TrueChurch
is called to question.
prosecutor was a man named Tertullus, apparently an eloquent and gifted
speaker. Sadly this was one of those common situations where substance gave way
to style and truth was subject to intentions and prejudice. Luke records his
charge as follows:
“Since through you we enjoy much peace and since
by your provision, most excellent Felix, reforms are introduced on behalf of
this nation, in every war and everywhere we accept this with all gratitude.
But, to detain you no further, I beg you in your kindness to hear us briefly.
For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, an agitator among all the Jews
throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. He even
tried to profane the temple, but we seized him. By examining him yourself you
will be able to learn from him about everything of which we accuse him.”
Flattery and Tact
cringe at those opening words of flattery? Felix was not a clean ruler at all.
History has it that he was a corrupt and rather inefficient governor and Acts
24:26 tells us that Felix had hoped for a bribe from Paul.
church is put on trial in the future, we expect religious enemies to make use
of political powers against us. Politics if corrupt would favour those who
flatter and bribe. But the church cannot use the same means to defend herself,
to do so would be immediate capitulation to the enemy, Satan3.
put on trial for the sake of truth - he had to answer for the truth and he had
to answer truthfully! Here is his magnificent Spirit-inspired4 reply:
“Realising that for many years you have been
judge over this nation, I cheerfully make my defence. As you may ascertain, it
is not more than twelve days since I went up to worship at Jerusalem; and they
did not find me disputing with anyone or stirring up a crowd, either in the
temple or in the synagogues, or in the city. Neither can they prove to you what
they now bring up against me. But this I admit to you, that according to the
Way which they call a sect, I worship the God of our Fathers, believing
everything laid down by the law or written in the prophets, having a hope in
God which these 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 God and toward men. Now after some years I came to bring to my nation
alms and offerings. As I was doing this they found me purified in the temple
without any crowd or tumult. But some Jews from Asia
— they ought to be here before you and to make an accusation, if they have
anything against me. Or else let these men themselves say what wrongdoing they
found when I stood before the council, except this one thing which I cried out
while standing among them, “With respect to the resurrection from the dead, I
am on trial before you this day.”
contrast with Tertullus’ flattery (note that flattery = untruthful praise),
Paul graciously acknowledged Felix’s experience and hence the ability to judge
fairly. Acts 24:22 states that Felix had a rather accurate knowledge of the
truthfully does not always mean stating exactly the opposite of what a liar
says. It is saying what is appropriate for the occasion. Sometimes it means
just keeping quiet as our Lord did sometimes.
we are made to answer for our belief, remember that flattery will not endear us
to God but truth and tact will be God’s providence for us if we allow Him to
work in us.
Slander and Fact
For we have found this man a pestilent
fellow, an agitator among all the Jews throughout the world…
As you may ascertain, it is not more than
twelve days since I went up to worship at Jerusalem; and they did not find me
disputing with anyone or stirring up a crowd, either in the temple or in the
synagogues, or in the city. Neither can they prove to you what they bring up
against me...But some Jews from Asia —they
ought to be here before you and to make an accusation, if they have anything
preach to Christians of other churches, the True Jesus Church has been accused
of causing trouble in the Christian community. This is very distressing for
those who would like to live and let live and indeed even for us who have been
preaching the truth according to the Bible to our friends from other churches.
Tertullus’ charge that he was a pestilent fellow and an agitator of the Jews,
Paul calmly countered that he had not been in Jerusalem long enough to incite a
mob and that proper investigation of the facts would reveal that he was not
doing any such thing in the temple then.
asked that those who claimed to be witnesses of his supposed misdeeds should
appear in court and allow themselves to be cross-examined.
True Jesus Church was established by God through the Holy Spirit in China
at the beginning of this century, her phenomenal growth through the Word of God
evidenced by signs, wonders and miracles surprised many. Some Christian
denominations were unhappy that whole congregations of theirs had converted to
the True Jesus Church. A number of them began to oppose the true church.
not be surprised that we would be slandered for doing nothing wrong. We should
ask our detractors to furnish concrete evidence of any such misdeed and indeed
we ought to go one step further to invite such persons to our church to see for
themselves if what they have heard was true. We brainwash believers?
Ironically, the attrition rate in some of our churches is contra-evidence to
Sect, Cult or Different
… a ringleader of the sect of Nazarenes
But this I admit to you, that according to
the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our Fathers, believing
everything laid down by the law or written in the prophets.
painful barb to some would be others’ calling our church a cult. These very
people would often ask the church to cool down her preaching to other
Christians so that we would not look bad. Or perhaps, we should couch our
language in more ambivalent tones, for example, “We know the True Jesus Church
can be saved but we are not saying that other churches cannot be saved.” To
such we remark - then why would anyone want to cross over to our church if he
is already attending another? Perhaps because he can find better friends or our
love is warmer? That surely cannot be the reason to be baptised in the blood of
our Lord! Remember also that the 3rd Article of our Common Faith states
unequivocally that our church is the revived true church of the apostolic days.
faced exactly the same accusation. You see, the situation of the early church
then was almost exactly the same as that of our church now. The Christians then
were regarded as a deviant Jewish denomination when viewed from the mainstream
Jewish community, a situation akin to that of the True Jesus Church being viewed
as a deviant Christian denomination when viewed from the mainstream Christian
community. They even called the Christians then a sect!
stones will break my bones but words will not harm me — so goes a popular
saying. But the truth of the matter is that labels do affect a person’s
preconceptions. This is exactly what an enemy would do if he is unscrupulous;
it is character assassination.
most important to the church now is for members to realise again that this
labelling is to be expected and to take comfort in the knowledge that the early
believers were similarly unfairly labelled. We say that we are different5 and
point out the following based on what we have seen from Paul’s situation:
‘Different’ does not equate to wrong.
‘Mainstream’ or majority does not always mean right.
‘Deviant’ with its negative connotations
ought to only be used for bizarre and immoral actions. In actively defending
our faith6, we can clearly state these most obvious traits of the
church —sex confined to married couples and the culling in of the other
non-Biblical extreme, no forced celibacy of the workers of God; no separation
from the family, indeed filial piety is strongly espoused; subjection to the government even to the point of agreeing on
Biblical grounds to taking up arms for the nation.
There is no individual charismatic leader of
the church whose word is doctrine.
The use of the Bible as the sole authority
for our doctrines.
Common Ground - The Holy
… believing everything laid down by the Law
or written in the prophets.
MORMONS have their Book of Mormon, the Jehovah’s Witnesses subscribe to their
own translation of the Bible and the Roman Catholics say that when the Pope
speaks on doctrine, he is infallible. But the True Jesus Church uses the Bible
and the Bible alone. Neither does she insist on any one authorised version but
she is willing to examine all translations bearing in mind that even
translators have their own prejudices, to come to an understanding of the truth.
Our members read the KJV, the RSV, the NASB, the NIV, etc.
that he believed everything laid down by the Law or written in the prophets.
There was a common ground for Christians and Jews then to discuss their
differences. Paul would always go to the synagogues first and expound about
Christ from the scriptures7. Today the True Jesus Church engages in
the same manner by preaching first to those who already have knowledge, albeit
incomplete, of Jesus. It is only right that such should listen to the Word
first for they already have a measure of faith8. Just like then, we
use the Bible as a common ground for revealing God’s truth.
A Clear Conscience
So I always take pains to have a clear
conscience toward God and toward men.
the enormity of the consequences of our belief weighs heavily on me. If we are
right, then many, many souls will be condemned to eternal punishment. If we are
wrong, we would have severely offended God by restricting His gracious will.
if we are right, we must quickly preach the gospel to as many as we can so as
to save as many as God will. And if truly we are wrong, we must recant our
beliefs and seek the truth.
this, it is vital that we have a good conscience before God and before men. We
cannot continue our work just because we have already put in so much effort and
time into our faith. We cannot continue merely for the sake of our reputations.
We must examine ourselves and our beliefs to humbly convince ourselves that
what we are doing is for the benefit of humankind and according to the will of
not claim to have a clear conscience when he persecuted Christians9.
For who could have a clear conscience in killing someone without the express
command of God. He acknowledged that he persecuted the church beyond measure.
He was motivated by pride and a sense of outrage. However, when he was
converted, he was more convinced than before that he was right this time but
his actions were not violent nor stubborn, instead it was marked by a great
love issuing from a good conscience, a pure heart and sincere faith10.
writing this, I must remark that many of our workers have good consciences
before God. None have gained riches for being in the ministry. There are none
who have remained in the church and continued to preach the basic doctrines
even though they are convinced that what we are preaching is false.
It is not
easy being a True Jesus Church member if one does not understand nor truly
believe in the basic doctrines. Let us do ourselves a favour — search the
scriptures and know for certain. Otherwise, one may find oneself severely
shaken when accused by someone from another church.
What It Boils Down To - Doctrinal
He even tried to profane the temple, but we
Or else let these men themselves say what
wrongdoing they found when I stood before the council, except this one thing
which I cried out while standing among them, “With respect to the resurrection
from the dead, I am on trial before you this day.”
accused Paul of agitation and perversion by profaning the temple. Paul replied
that the main reason the Jews were unhappy with him was that he preached the
resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It is not
difficult to see why churches may be unhappy with us. We humbly preach that we
need to be baptised for the forgiveness of sins and that receiving the Holy
Spirit is evidenced by the speaking in tongues. Added to that, we preach the
oneness of God and the oneness of the church. All these are considered as not
admitted to angering the Jews for only one reason. This was the difference in
beliefs. And such difference too, he proclaimed boldly because that was
precisely what he wanted to preach to the Jews — that only Jesus could save
them from their sins and that they could not rely on their traditions and their
pedigree to save themselves. In the same way, the True Jesus Christ cannot help
but continue preaching that Christians must follow the one way of salvation,
regardless of the strength of the opposition.
As in the
days of Paul, we ought to continue to welcome discussions on the truth based on
the scriptures and be ready to defend our faith.
FAIR and informed mind, Paul obviously won the case. But as it is in real life
or rather in a world controlled by Satan, he was not acquitted immediately. He
languished in prison and was further tried to suffer for His name. In spite of
this, Paul continued to preach the one way of salvation as God allowed His
great servant to suffer for His name.
We see a
great parallel in the life of Paul and indeed that of the early Christians to
the path laid out for the True Jesus Church today. We must not shirk our duty
in the face of name-calling and persecution. If we are swayed because of a
desire not to hurt anyone, we have miserably failed to see the whole picture.
God has revived this true church in the last days to proclaim the one way of
salvation. We would be condemning people to eternal death by depriving them of
the Word of Life.
21:20-26 2. Acts 9:23-25; 21:27-31;
23:12-32 3. John 8:44 4. Luke 12:11-12
23:9; 1 Peter 2:9-10 6. 1 Peter
3:15 7. Acts 13:14; 14:1; 17:1-2
10:1-3 9. Acts 22:3-5, Galatians
1:13-14 10. 1 Timothy 1:5