A Pestilent Fellow

From The Primitive Baptist Dec 2021

Elder Mark Green

Acts 24:5 “For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes”

This is an interesting expression. It is from the accusation made by the orator Tertullus to Governor Felix against the apostle Paul. The word from which pestilent is taken is rendered by Vinc as “any deadly infectious malady.” It makes clear one of the main concerns of the Jews regarding the Christian religion that Paul represented: they were very much afraid that it would spread, and accordingly were using every means to stamp it out. Travel and communication were excellent within the Roman empire, at least by the standards of that time, and they were afraid that the factors which were a boon to society at large would also be a great assistance to Paul and his followers.

While we would oppose most tremendously the doctrinal positions and the methods of the Jews, we cannot deny that their concerns were valid. The followers of Jesus did move throughout the civilized world of that time, and eventually beyond even those far-flung borders. Wherever they found poor, sin-burdened individuals, their message was like the balm of Gilead to their aching souls.

Tertullus also said that Paul was “a mover of sedition among all the Jews.” Sedition indicates an insurrection or dissension. As far as the leaders of the Jews were concerned, the Christians were an uprising or rebellion against the established order, much as King George no double considered the American colonists in 1776. The Jews had a nice, easy, lucrative situation and they did not want any upstart coming along to destroy the goose that laid their golden eggs. When religious leaders find themselves in a position of power and money, they will resent anyone who upsets the carriage.

Getting back to the word “pestilent,” we are reminded of the warning given by the Lord against the doctrines of the Pharisees, which He called “leaven.” Yeast is leaven, of course, and even a little bit of it will spread throughout a loaf of bread. The spread of the truth is a good thing, even if the Jews did fear it; the spread of error is dangerous. The principles of the Pharisees to which our Lord referred were dangerous to the Cause, and so they were to be resisted by the saints. Note very carefully, however, that the resistance of the church to error never took the form of persecution.