10 And when the governor had nodded to him to speak, Paul replied:
“Knowing that for many years you have been a judge over this nation, I cheerfully make my defense. 11 You can verify that it is not more than twelve days since I went up to worship in Jerusalem, 12 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. 13 Neither can they prove to you what they now bring up against me. 14 But this I confess 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 and written in the Prophets, 15 having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. 16 So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man. 17 Now after several years I came to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings. 18 While I was doing this, they found me purified in the temple, without any crowd or tumult. But some Jews from Asia— 19 they ought to be here before you and to make an accusation, should they have anything against me. 20 Or else let these men themselves say what wrongdoing they found when I stood before the council, 21 other than this one thing that I cried out while standing among them: ‘It is with respect to the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you this day.’” (Acts 24:10-21 (ESV)
“But this I confess 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 and written in the Prophets, having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.”
Paul doesn’t waste much time on the niceties of an introduction. He will be polite but he will not go further than the truth allows when appealing to the graces of the governor. His defense is tidy and short, and he gives Felix some things to check out if he cares to.
But the interesting thing in his defense is the heart, that Paul says he worships the God of “our fathers” and believes everything laid down by the law and written in the prophets. Again we see that the Old Testament is our book. Christianity is really a parody of itself without the Old Testament. In truth the New Testament doesn’t really makes sense apart from the Old. The New Testament is really a hermeneutics for understanding the Old Testament in light of the resurrection. This is one reason why I do not really care for this new practice of reading Acts in place of an Old Testament reading during the season of Easter. It just doesn’t make sense on way too many levels. It seems to me it would make more sense to do this somewhere in the middle of Pentecost, but even there it might do better as an Epistle lesson. I suppose that is part of the problem though, no one really knows what to do with this book. It isn’t a gospel, and it isn’t an epistle. It’s a history, and yet it is packed full of theological meaning. In any case, the thing that I find about the relationship of the Old with the New is that the Old keeps the New grounded in the reality of this world, it keeps the New Testament from becoming a platonic religion, a sort of Gnosticism that eschews the material world we live in. There is an earthiness that comes out in the Psalms, in the Song of Songs, in Ecclesiastes that is rooted in the Pentateuch and lived out in the writings of the prophets. This earthiness tempers the New Testament, for instance in that it may be possible to interpret Paul’s admonishment to Christian women to let their virtues be their adornment as a prohibition against wearing fine clothes and jewelry. But this would be at odds with the entire ethos of the Old Testament which Christ affirms when he tells us to seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be given to you. Fine clothing, jewelry and the such can indeed be abused, and become a god marring any virtues that might adorn a young woman. They can also be received as gifts from God and seen as nothing but a shadow of the riches of heaven awaiting us, which, by the way, will be no less material. One might be reminded that Jesus who pilloried the Pharisees for wearing fine robes and praying in the market place, also died and sacrificed himself for the world while wearing a garment so precious the soldiers would rather gamble for it than cut it into equal shares. The Old and the New find their bridge, their center point in Christ, not as a bridge to be burned but as complementary. And we might also be reminded that many people were saved by faith in Christ long before there was a New Testament or a book of Acts. When Paul preached, he preached from the Old Testament.
Now the end goal, the hope of the Old Testament, as Paul points out, emphasizing that these men accusing him also accept this, is the Resurrection of the flesh. And that my friends, more than anything is why the Old Testament keeps the New from becoming all about Platonic ideals. The resurrection of the flesh. The Pharisees believed it even before Christ rose from the dead. We are raised. It isn’t that our souls go to heaven, but that we are raised in the flesh, body and soul. And this will be universal, the just and the unjust. This is what the Apostles and Nicene Creed mean when they speak of the living and the dead. It isn’t about the dead rising and those living at the time of Christ’s return, but about the just, those who live in Christ, abide in his word, and the dead who do not believe. All will be resurrected, all will have an eternal existence. No one ceases to exist. It is only a matter of in what manner our existence will continue. Christ came to make sure it will be one of life everlasting, of joy, of wealth and riches beyond measure.