on Acts 24 :14
That after the way which they call heresy - See the explanation of this word in the note on Acts 5:17 (note), and see before, Acts 24:5 (note), where what is here translated heresy, is there rendered sect. At this time the word had no bad acceptation, in reference to religious opinions. The Pharisees themselves, the most respectable body among the Jews, are called a sect; for Paul, defending himself before Agrippa, says that he lived a Pharisee according to the strictest αἱρεσιν, sect, or heresy of their religion. And Josephus, who was a Pharisee, speaks, της των Φαρισαιων αἱρεσεως, of the heresy or sect of the Pharisees. Life, chap. xxxviii. Therefore it is evident that the word heresy had no bad meaning among the Jews; it meant simply a religious sect. Why then did they use it by way of degradation to St. Paul? This seems to have been the cause. They had already two accredited sects in the land, the Pharisees and Sadducees: the interests of each of these were pretty well balanced, and each had a part in the government, for the council, or Sanhedrin, was composed both of Sadducees and Pharisees: see Acts 23:6. They were afraid that the Christians, whom they called Nazarenes, should form a new sect, and divide the interests of both the preceding; and what they feared, that they charged them with; and, on this account, the Christians had both the Pharisees and the Sadducees for their enemies. They had charged Jesus Christ with plotting against the state, and endeavoring to raise seditions; and they charged his followers with the same. This they deemed a proper engine to bring a jealous government into action.
So worship I the God of my fathers - I bring in no new object of worship; no new religious creed. I believe all things as they profess to believe; and acknowledge the Law and the Prophets as divinely inspired books; and have never, in the smallest measure, detracted from the authority or authenticity of either.
on Acts 24 :14
But this I confess ... - The next specification in the charge of Tertullus was Acts 24:5 that he was "a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes." To this, Paul replies in this and the two following verses. Of this reply we may observe:
(1) That he does not stoop to notice the contempt implied in the use of the word "Nazarenes." He was engaged in a more important business than to contend about the name which they chose to give to Christians.
(2) he admits that he belonged to that sect or class of people. That he was a Christian he neither denied, nor was disposed to deny.
(3) he maintains that in this way he was still worshipping the God of his fathers. Of this, the fact that he was engaged in worship in the temple was sufficient proof.
(4) he shows them that he believed only what was written in the Law and the prophets; that this involved the main doctrine of their religion the hope of the resurrection of the dead, Acts 24:15; and that it was his constant and earnest desire to keep a pure conscience in all things, Acts 24:16. These are the points of his defense to the second charge, and we shall see that they fully meet and dispose of the accusation.
After the way - After the manner or mode of worship.
Which they call heresy - This translation does not express to us the force of the original. We have attached to the word "heresy" an idea which is not conveyed by the Greek word, since we now commonly understand by it error of doctrine. In Paul's answer here, there is an explicit reference to their charge which does not appear in our version. The charge of Tertullus was, that he was the ringleader of the sect (τἦς αἱρέσεως tēs haireseōs) of the Nazarenes, Acts 24:5. To this Paul replies, "After the way which they call "sect" ἁιρεσιν hairesin, not error of doctrine, but after a way which they affirm is producing division or schism), so worship I the God of my fathers." Paul was hot ashamed to be called a follower of that sect or party among the Jewish people. Nor should we be ashamed to worship God in a mode that is called heresy or schism, if we do it in obedience to conscience and to God.
So worship I-- I continue to worship. I have not departed from the characteristic of the Jewish people, the proper and public acknowledgment of the God of the Jews.
The God of my fathers - My father's God, Yahweh; the God whom my Jewish ancestors adored. There is something very touching in this, and suited to find its way to the heart of a Jew. He had introduced no new object of worship (compare Deuteronomy 13:1-5); he had not become a follower of a false or foreign God; and this fact was really a reply to their charge that he was setting up a new sect in religion. The same thing Paul affirms of himself in 2 Timothy 1:3; "I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with a pure conscience."
Believing all things ... - Particularly respecting the Messiah. So he more fully explains his meaning in his speech before King Agrippa, Acts 26:23.
In the law and in the prophets - Commanded in the Law of Moses, and foretold by the prophets. That Paul had ever disbelieved any of these things they could not prove; and his whole course had shown that he fully credited the sacred records. Most of his arguments in defending Christianity had been drawn from the Jewish writings.
on Acts 24 :14
24:14 After the way which they call heresy - This appellation St. Paul corrects. Not that it was then an odious word; but it was not honourable enough. A party or sect (so that word signifies) is formed by men. This way was prescribed by God. The apostle had now said what was sufficient for his defence; but having a fair occasion, he makes an ingenuous confession of his faith in this verse , his hope in the next, his love in the 17th. Acts 24:14,15,17 So worship I the God of my fathers - This was a very proper plea before a Roman magistrate; as it proved that he was under the protection of the Roman laws, since the Jews were so: whereas had he introduced the worship of new gods he would have forfeited that protection. Believing all things which are written - Concerning the Messiah.