“Since we have through you attained much peace, and since by your providence reforms are being carried out for this nation, 3 we acknowledge this in every way and everywhere, most excellent Felix, with all thankfulness. 4 But, that I may not weary you any further, I beg you to grant us, by your kindness, a brief hearing. 5 For we have found this man a real pest and a fellow who stirs up dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. 6 And he even tried to desecrate the temple; and then we arrested him. We wanted to judge him according to our own Law. 7 But Lysias the commander came along, and with much violence took him out of our hands, 8 ordering his accusers to come before you. By examining him yourself concerning all these matters you will be able to ascertain the things of which we accuse him.” 9 The Jews also joined in the attack, asserting that these things were so.
Flattery followed my lies followed a risky appeal to pride and ego.
The words used to describe Paul's wrongdoings are a little weak in the English translation. Pest is more accurately pestilence and dissension is more accurately insurrection. What Tertullus is saying is that like a spreading disease (pestilence/plague), Paul is spreading insurrections in the Jewish world all over the empire.
It is likely Tertullus has done his homework on Paul. There were public disturbances in Ephesus and other places but they weren't insurrections and they weren't lead by Paul either. An insurrection is a violent uprising against a government or authority in an attempt to overthrow it.
Tertullus is in a hard spot. As a lawyer he is trying to build a case where there isn't one. In doing so he must exploit and exaggerate every possible weakness in Paul while also understanding the mind of the judge, in this case Felix.
The Roman Empire was a vast Empire composed of a multitude of conquered peoples and nations. Holding it together in peace was no easy task and doing so in that region was Felix's main job. Words like insurrection got his attention quickly.
Playing off this Tertullus kept spinning his story. Paul was a problem yes, but a Jewish problem and they had been attempting to deal with him quietly. The implication is that things were going well until the Roman Commander intervened with great violence and made the situation worse...
It's a dangerous argument. Tertullus is trying to flatter Felix while at the same time blaming the Commander for a lack of judgment.
He ends off by appealing again to the ego of Felix. "By examining him yourself you will come to the right conclusion..."
The lesson for us? Beware of arguments designed to flatter your ego and exploit your weaknesses. Satan knows our characters. He studies us. He appeals to our pride and ego. He presents things that are not good in packaging that looks good to us. Each of us is a governor. Each of us must manage our "empire". Each of us must make judgment calls every day. The greatest lesson we need to learn is to not trust ourselves. Seek God's wisdom always in all decisions and never fall for the trap of flattery. We may be the governor of our "empire" but we serve under King Jesus who promises wisdom to all who ask.