24 “Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus.
25 As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, ‘That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.’
26 At the same time he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him.
27 When two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, but because Felix wanted to grant a favor to the Jews, he left Paul in prison.” Acts 24:24-27
This is the type of passage that we could easily skip over when reading through Acts. There doesn’t seem to be much going on in the text and it simply records the facts that Paul is in prison and neither Felix or Festus have the gumption to free him. But there is more going on here than meets the eye at first glance.
Felix is married to a Jewish woman and he brings her to listen to Paul as he spoke about his faith. We can’t help but wonder what was going on in her thoughts as she listened to the gospel. It is also important for us to notice what Paul presented in his gospel talk. Verse 25 tells us that he talked, “about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come.”
It is very interesting to look at the order in which these three topics are placed. First of all, Felix and his wife needed to have a standard in which Paul’s teaching could be placed. Paul didn’t start out with a talk about keeping the law, or obedience but about the meaning of righteousness.
We can only speculate what Paul included in his presentation. However, if he is true to his beliefs, as recorded in his writings, then we know that it would have been the righteousness of God and His Son Jesus that he talked about. He would have made it clear to Felix that it was only through Jesus that man could have eternal life and there was no way that a person could earn such a gift.
That led Paul to the second part of his presentation “self control.” What does he mean by that? Well it may have something to do with Drusilla. She is the daughter of Herod Agrippa and Felix is her second husband. She left her first husband after Felix used a Cypriot magician to persuade her to leave her first husband. Neither Felix nor Drusilla who was brought up in the household of Herod Agrippa would have had a clue about exercising self-control. They were use to snapping their fingers and having anything they wanted, when they wanted it. To listen to Paul talk about God having control of all things including their lives would have been very startling and a bit frightening to them.
Paul, not only presented the gospel of righteousness by faith to Felix and Drusilla and then place them in context to that righteousness, but he also presented the consequences of rejecting grace. Verse 25 says he also spoke to them, “of judgment to come.”
The Bible makes it clear that as Christians we do not need to fear the judgment to come because we are covered by the righteousness of Christ. We have been judged through the cross event and declared righteous through Jesus substitutionary death and resurrection. For those who have not received Jesus into their life the judgment is a whole different story.
As Paul began to unfold the consequences of rejecting the gospel Felix “became afraid.” (v. 25) He then did what many of our contemporaries do when confronted with the reality of the judgment to come, the need to get some self-control in their lives and put their trust in the grace of God—they run from it. “Felix was afraid and said, ‘That is enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.’ “(v. 25) The problem for Felix is that time never rolled around again.
For two years he kept Paul in prison and from time to time would call upon him to speak a little about his faith (v. 26), but he had lost any interest he might have had (see v. 22), and now only wanted Paul to bribe him to let him go.
How many of us try to bribe God to let us go? We promise to be better, do better, try harder, work smarter, forsake sins, give up bad habits, go to church and give more if only God will let us go. Remember, the lyric to the old song, “Jesus don’t save me till I die,” and that is what many of us try to bargain with in our relationship to God. We say we will do better, be better and God will save us when we die, but in the meantime we can continue to live our lives a little like Felix—out of God’s control.
Many of us think God is pleased with our self-policing of our behavior and if we keep our recklessness to a minimum it should be enough to merit Heaven. Like Felix we don’t want to hear that our merit doesn’t do anything for us, and the judgment to come can’t possibly be real.
It all comes back to grace, doesn’t it? Everything Paul spoke to Felix and Drusilla was in context with righteousness. We also need to listen to the gospel if we are to make any sense out of Christianity. When we begin with self-control, the law, do’s and don’ts we begin in the wrong place. We give the wrong impression about the gospel and it is little wonder people reject it as meaningless.
Last night I was with a group of people and some of us were talking about our experience meeting and getting to know Puji, the man I’ve talked about in the last two posts. To a person everyone mentioned that he was humble, kind and compassionate. We could see his love for Jesus and the people he ministered to on his face. Last Monday evening when he was talking to us he broke down in one place and lost his composure because his heart was breaking for the people dying all around him in Mongolia.
How different from the television evangelists that cry on cue, ask for donations galore, tell us about their wonderful ministries to the third world and how they need new airplanes to take them there. We watch this stuff and our heads spin with disgust at the nerve of the prosperity gospel preachers. Millions and millions of people tune them in and then tune God out because they associate the gospel with these preachers.
Then along comes a man like Puji and you realize that the gospel is powerful in its ability to transform a life. You see first hand how the love of God reaches into lives and brings hope, encouragement and strength. It is easy for the Felix’s of our world to dismiss the endless barrage of words that pour out to them through religious programing, but they can’t deny a man like Puji.
Felix couldn’t deny a man like Paul. All he could do was become afraid and dismiss him before his conscience got the best of him and he gave his life to Christ. Felix had his heart touched because he heard the gospel, then the reality of his own life and finally the truth of a judgment to come if he didn’t accept the righteousness found in God’s grace.
* Please take the time to read some of the stories of Christians who are experiencing persecution for their total commitment to Christ. They need our support and prayers.. http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ there is much more on the internet…