The Art of Manipulation


Have you ever been approached by someone who wanted something from you, but who used a whole lot of sugarcoated words to butter you up before making their request? It often begins with a cunning use of words to say one thing, but mean something completely different. It’s called manipulation. In today’s passage, the Jewish high priest and lawyer use kind words to appeal to the Roman governor, but their words could also be translated as veiled threats to disrupt their seemingly good relationship should the governor refuse their requests to convict Paul.

  • How do you feel about someone who tries to use flattery with you? What do you think causes someone to try and use this kind of manipulation?


24:1 And after five days the high priest Ananias came down with some elders and a spokesman, one Tertullus. They laid before the governor their case against Paul. 2 And when he had been summoned, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying:

“Since through you we enjoy much peace, and since by your foresight, most excellent Felix, reforms are being made for this nation, 3 in every way and everywhere we accept this with all gratitude. 4 But, to detain you no further, I beg you in your kindness to hear us briefly. 5 For we have found this man a plague, one who stirs up riots among all the Jews throughout the world and is a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.6 He even tried to profane the temple, but we seized him. 8 By examining him yourself you will be able to find out from him about everything of which we accuse him.”

9 The Jews also joined in the charge, affirming that all these things were so.

English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


  1. Why did Ananias bring the spokesman, Tertullus, with him for this meeting with the Roman governor?
  2. What devices did Tertullus use to define the relationship of the Jews with the Romans in his opening remarks?
  3. What three accusations did Tertullus bring against Paul, and do they have validity to them?
  4. Has there been a time in your life when God has intervened in an unexpected way for you? If so, what happened?


The use of flattery before laying out a case is perhaps one of the oldest tricks in the book when it comes to manipulation. But it doesn’t come without a cost. By believing that the three points his spokesman had laid out were strong enough to convince the Romans to convict Paul, Ananias assumed a lot of his relationship with the Roman governor. Yet, he forgot that God is ultimately in control, and that he was the one who had given Paul safe passage to Caesarea to escape execution by the Jews, in order to testify to the gospel. Imprisonment from the Roman army may not have been Paul’s first choice for safety, but God often intervenes and fulfills our needs in his own wisdom, for his purposes and glory.

  • Praise God that he is not swayed by human manipulation, flattery, or trickery.
  • Praise and thank God that no matter what schemes people concoct, he is greater, and his purposes and truth will prevail.