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Flattery And Lies

Acts 24:1-9
Five days later the high priest Ananias went down to Caesarea with some of the elders and a lawyer named Tertullus, and they brought their charges against Paul before the governor. When Paul was called in, Tertullus presented his case before Felix: 'We have enjoyed a long period of peace under you, and your foresight has brought about reforms in this nation. Everywhere and in every way, most excellent Felix, we acknowledge this with profound gratitude. But in order not to weary you further, I would request that you be kind enough to hear us briefly. 'We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect and even tried to desecrate the temple; so we seized him. By examining him yourself you will be able to learn the truth about all these charges we are bringing against him.' The other Jews joined in the accusation, asserting that these things were true. (NIVUK)

Paul had been moved, under armed guard, from Jerusalem to the Roman stronghold in Caesarea (Acts 23:23-24). Governor Felix agreed to hear Paul's accusers and to decide if the apostle had a case to answer (Acts 23:25-30). Meanwhile he was safe from the murderous mob who had attempted to kill him on three occasions. Under Roman law, evidence had to be presented for both sides. Felix ordered that the Chief Priest attend the court. He went with some of the senior men from the Sanhedrin and a lawyer to present their case.

Felix had once been a slave, but he won his freedom before working his way up through the Roman Civil Service. He was an insecure man, an opportunist and addicted to power. So the attorney, Tertullus, under instructions from the Chief Priest made a speech flattering the governor, praising his achievements in bringing peace and reform. The tone of his speech was sycophantic, pretending to honour Felix and attribute to him the modernising changes he had forced on Israel. He lied: the religious establishment hated the governor and his oppressive rule.

The lawyer also lied about Paul; accusing Him of stirring up riots, whereas it was the religious activists who stirred up public disorder. In calling Christians 'members of a sect', he cast doubt on their legality as no new religions were allowed in the Roman Empire. Neither was he truthful in saying that Paul tried to desecrate the temple. Yet the religious entourage all chanted that Tertullus was telling the truth.

Flattery is another form of lying. It is untruth, designed to trap the person whose pride rises to embrace it. It is a work of Satan and has similar tones as the serpent tempting the woman in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-5). The purpose of all such deceit is to trap people by their own pride and lust for power. But it is an easy habit to fall into; manipulating people to gain power over them and get your own way. Flattery is as evil as the blackest of lies and soon becomes a smiling but hollow, godless habit. Be truthful and let the truth speak for itself (Matthew 5:37). Throw out the flattery and lies.

God of truth and love. Thank You for always telling us what is true in such a way that we can receive blessing. Forgive me for giving in to the temptation to lie, and thus do the devil’s work for him. Please help me to delight in the truth because Jesus is the Truth. In His Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams