God’s Word for You
Acts 23:25-30 A little lie
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, January 27, 2021
Notice the lie that Felix tells in verse 27.
25 He wrote a letter that said this: 26 Claudius Lysias, To the most excellent governor Felix: Greetings. 27 This man was seized by the Jews as they were about to kill him. I came with my troops and rescued him, for I had learned that he is a Roman citizen. 28 I wanted to know why they were accusing him, so I brought him before their Sanhedrin. 29 I found that the accusation had to do with questions about their law, but there was no charge against him that deserved death or chains. 30 When I was informed of a plot developing against this man, I sent him to you at once. I also ordered his accusers to present their case against him to you.
The Colonel from Jerusalem had a name, Claudius Lysias. Colonel Claudius wrote a letter in the classic style to his superior, the governor. The Roman governors sometimes had different official titles (Prefect, Procurator, Legate) but they served as administrator. During that time, one last King of Judea reigned for a short while, the grandson of Herod the Great, Herod Agrippa. I will include a list of all the governors (and one king) from Pilate to the fall of Jerusalem at the end of this devotion.
You might notice that Claudius calls his superior “most excellent,” a word that Luke used in his introduction to the Gospel (Luke 1:3). It was a title for people who had very prominent positions. “Excellence” or “Your Excellency” was the title that George Washington preferred when people addressed him.
Felix fibs (lies) in verse 27 when he muddies the water as to when he discovered that Paul was a Roman citizen. He probably hoped that the wording of this official report would get to Felix before any eyewitnesses said anything to the contrary. Since eyewitness reports are sometimes conflicting, especially if there are several eyewitnesses to a single event, Claudius might have counted on there being enough leeway that his “official” version would be the one that would stand up if there were ever an official complaint against him.
Following this, the report is honest, correct, and to the point. Colonel Claudius handed Paul over to his superior, and now Paul was under the authority and judgement of Marcus Antonius Felix, the Roman governor of Judea.
Since we’ve pointed out the Colonel’s lie, we might want to ask: Is it always sinful to tell a lie? We need to look at what God’s word says first, as always. But we should also notice something that the Bible teaches us about the audience when we are speaking, whether an unbeliever is listening, or a believer.
- The Eighth Commandment orders us to tell the truth, especially when we testify about our neighbor in a legal sense. However, the Eighth Commandment is not the only word about speech in God’s moral law, since God also says, “You shall not lie. You shall not deceive one another” (Leviticus 19:11). And the Apostles carried this forward to us: “No lie comes from the truth” (1 John 2:21), and “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices” (Colossians 3:3). God wants us to be truthful with one another.
- What if telling all of the truth might harm a believer? Can something be withheld without being a lie? Well, God does something like this with us when he reveals some things about the end of the world but not every detail. To tell us more might make us complacent about our sins, and so he has withheld the exact date of the end, and he has even told us that we will not be able to guess it. This is not lying to us. Instead, Jesus warned us with signs to watch for (Mark 13:8-10). This is our God being a good Father who teaches us to repent (Luke 24:46-47), to be watchful (because you do not know on what day your Lord will come, Matthew 24:42), and to trust in him (John 14:1-2).
- What about when we speak to an unbeliever who wishes to harm us? Must we tell such a person “the whole truth and nothing but the truth”? Jesus did not reveal some things to his accusers when he was on trial, such as in Mark 14:61. A wicked man who wants to harm people you love or people you wish to protect can be kept in the dark about the truth, just as when Obadiah hid one hundred prophets from wicked queen Jezebel (1 Kings 18:4,13).
If you have been caught up in a lie, let the Lord know what you have done and ask his forgiveness. Set aside lying ways. “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt,” Paul says, meaning that we should make our words useful and true, “so that you will know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6). It is a great and humbling thing to be judged by people to be an honest person and a godly person. “Kings value a man who speaks the truth” (Proverbs 16:13). Honesty is a marvelous reputation to have, not easy to come by, painfully simple to lose. Give God glory with your words and your life. Whatever mistakes are in the past, leave them there, and live for Jesus today.
Rulers of Judea, 26-70 A.D.
Pontius Pilate, Prefect (26-36)
Marcellus, Prefect (36-37)
Marullus, Prefect (37-41)
Herod Agrippa I, King (41-44)
Cuspius Fadus, Procurator (44-46)
Tiberius Julius Alexander, Procurator (46-48)
Ventidius Cumanus, Procurator (48-52)
Marcus Antonius Felix, Procurator (52-60)
Porcius Festus, Procurator (60-62)
Albinus, Procurator (62-64)
Florus, Procurator (64-66)
Julianus, Procurator (66-70?)
Sextus Vettulenus Cerialis, Legate (70-71)
Pastor Timothy Smith