Read verses 10-16
Q: It might appear to be a small point, but what is the very significant lesson we might learn from v.10?
A: Paul waited until the governor gave him permission to speak. He provides by personal example his teaching to submit to civil authorities and provide them all due respect. Paul was never a defiant political activist who mocked or demonstrated against their authority. He never engaged in insults but relied wholly on expressing the truth.
Q: How would you compare Paul’s opening with that of Tertullus?
A: Paul does not engage in hollow flattery, but focuses the governor on the only function that matters in this situation by highlighting “you have been a judge to this nation” before whom “I cheerfully make my defense”. (v.10)
For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness— nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority.
— 1 Thessalonians 2:5-6
Q: How would you compare Paul’s presentation of the case with that of Tertullus?
A: Whereas Tertullus is exaggerating some points while omitting others, Paul is content to answer their accusations with facts, especially that twelve days is hardly enough to form a political movement against the government and that they can produce no witnesses to support their allegations.
Point: Whereas false believers use lies to support lies, true believers use truth in the course of establishing truth.
Q: What does Paul do before he actually addresses the specific accusations?
A: He takes the opportunity to first witness of his faith in Christ.
Q: What is ironic about Paul’s dual testimony of his faith and his initial response to their accusations in v.14?
A: They have accused Paul of leading a cult, something by their definition which is completely contrary to the Word of God. Paul’s response is that he is rather actually fulfilling the whole Word of God, “believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets”. Paul is more concerned about the accusations regarding the Law of God than the law of man. What they call “a sect” – in Greek “heresy” – is actually the only correct application of God’s Word.
Point: True believers must often stand up for service to “the God of our fathers” (v.14) against false believers who attempt to co-opt a religious legacy for themselves in order to make themselves look legitimate and the legitimate to appear false.
Q: What is even more ironic about Paul’s response in v.15?
A: Having made a distinction between himself and them, Paul now shows the similarity between many of the very same authorities who were now trying to bring a case against him caused the riot they accuse Paul of initiating over the issue of the resurrection. (Acts. 23:6) It is an elegant way of telling an earthly authority that this is really not a civil dispute but a spiritual issue. It also tells the non-believers in the room that ultimately everyone will stand before God.
Q: What is Paul’s point in v.16?
A: It goes back again to the issue of obedience to God’s Word and that he is actually putting it into practice – “I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men” – rather than setting it aside EITHER for the religious authorities OR the earthly.
Application: The first order of business in the course of persecution is to retain the primary focus on Christ and the Gospel, making sure that what is really at stake is not obscured or marginalized.