He Spoke About Faith In Christ Jesus
Key Verse: 24:24-25
“Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. As Paul discoursed on 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.’”
Paul was dragged before the huge 70 member Jewish religious council by the Roman commander to find out why the crowds at the temple were trying to kill Paul, but he couldn’t find out why. In fact, a violent dispute had broken out between them when Paul challenged them to consider why he was really on trial. Wasn’t it because he believed in the resurrection of the dead? Wasn’t it because his faith was rooted in the hope of the resurrection, specifically in the hope of the Messiah— the Christ whose resurrection was eminent, and in whom faith was now the core of the new order God established according to his promise? It was a fair challenge to speak to these elders of the resurrection since the resurrection is the only living hope for a dead world condemned to God’s judgment. And so once again because of this violence that almost tore Paul to pieces, the Roman commander had to rescue him yet again, this time from the leaders. First, he rescued him from the crowds, now he rescued him from the leaders. In the evening while Paul was in prison, word came that a plot was set in motion that some fanatics had sworn to kill Paul. And so the Roman commander wrote a letter to the Roman governor explaining Paul’s situation, and rushed him to Caesarea in the dark of the night with a huge military escort. Paul will now have to stand trial in Caesarea. The first part of this chapter is his defense against the Jewish leaders who come from Jerusalem with charges against him. (1-22) The second part is his witness to the governor and his wife. (23-27) We want to focus mainly on the second part.
Five days after Paul arrived in Caesarea, his accusers also arrived. They consisted of the high priest Ananias, some elders and a lawyer Tertullus; and they brought charges against Paul. No doubt this Tertullus fellow was a successful and well known lawyer all over the Roman world, known to both Jews and Romans. And he knew how to appeal to the ego of a man who enjoyed the prestige of a position of power having risen from having once been in a lowly position of slavery. He says all kinds of flattering remarks to Felix about his excellent governorship thus far, and then proceeds to bring up the issue for which these highly esteemed men whom he’s representing have come this far from Jerusalem to put before him. In reality, Tertullus knew very well that there was no basis at all for charging Paul. Yet he would present before his governorship what seemed to be a legitimate concern for both, the Jewish state and people, as well as for the Roman republic regarding this dangerous man Paul.
Look at verses 5-8. [Look at the footnote in the missing verse 7]. “We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect and even tried to desecrate the temple; so we seized him and wanted to judge him according to our law. But the commander, Lysias, came and with the use of much force snatched him from our hands and ordered his accusers to come before you. By examining him yourself you will be able to learn the truth about all these charges we are bringing against him.” This lawyer is clever. There’s no mention of facts at all, no date or place or specific act of temple desecration; only groundless accusations mixed in with words like “troublemaker” and “ringleader”. The footnote suggests that in a way the commander complicated matters when he interfered, otherwise the Jews themselves could have solved the disposed of this issue themselves without having it escalate to this point where they had now had to bother the governor himself. Clever lawyer! And the Jews supported his accusations. (9) They all spoke the devil’s language. (John 8:44)
It was now Paul’s turn to speak. (Look at verses 10-13) And he said: “I know that for a number of years you have been a judge over this nation; so I gladly make my defense.” To begin with, Paul used no flattery. He stuck to the facts. He spoke the truth, which as he said could easily be verified; that he’d gone to Jerusalem some twelve days ago for the purpose of doing what any faithful believer would do, which is to worship God in his temple. None of these men could testify that they saw him arguing with anyone or agitating a crowd anywhere, whether in a place of worship or in the city. The fact is that none of them can prove any of the charges they have brought against him. These weren’t ordinary street thugs making false accusations against a holy man. These were the high priest and the elders of God’s people making false accusations against one of the Lord’s holy servants, even though one of the Ten Commandments explicitly says: “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” (Deuteronomy 5:20) Who knows how their demons helped them justify this terrible sin in their own hearts to make it seem to them as if it was the right thing for them to do! How else could a person live with the guilt of knowing they are doing something so wrong, but for the good and right reason? We must be ever so vigilant against self justification. Paul didn’t challenge or expose their false accusations in order to gain his freedom. He wasn’t looking to be freed. The chains he now wore had become his crown of glory. He was a free man in Christ. Paul exposed their false accusations for their sake because they were slaves to sin. He exposed their sin of false accusation to awaken their conscience and help them face a moment of truth that they may be set free from sin. [People are caught up in all kinds of sins that the devil helps them justify, making them seem as if even the wrong is done for the right reason, whether it’s rebellion or pride or violence….. but none of these things can be justified. It’s like justifying abortion for the good and right reason of not ruining the mother’s life. Truth sets free]
Paul didn’t stop with the defense of his own innocence of whatever charges they brought against him. He went on to state before the governor what he knew to be the reason why these people were against him. In other words, he confessed his inmost belief, his faith, and the hope he held in his heart which has been the cause of all this commotion among his people the Jews. Look at verses 14-16. “However, I admit that I worship the God of our fathers as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that agrees with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, and I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.” I wish we would use the term “The Way” once again as they used it to describe the life in Christ rather than using the term “Christian”. The term “Christian” has lost it’s meaning on so many levels over the years. For example, Our nation is considered a Christian nation when it is the furthest thing from what a Christian nation truly is. A Christian today isn’t Christian in the biblical sense at all. When Paul spoke of himself as a worshiper of the God of his fathers as the follower or “the Way”, he was referring to Jesus Christ who is “The Way and the Truth and the Life”. (John 14:6) Jesus himself is the Truth of God, and the Way to God. He paved the way to God by teaching the Truth and giving his Life becoming the Way of life for those who die to sin and live for God. Paul spoke of the Way with confidence because all believed was already spoken of by the Prophets as promised in the Scriptures.
Once again Paul brought up his hope in the resurrection. “And I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.” He had spoken of the resurrection once before at the Sanhedrin meeting five days ago which set the assembly ablaze. But this time, it seems he elaborated on the resurrection. This time Paul emphasized that the resurrection he hoped in, which these men who are accusing him also share, includes all people, that is, both the righteous as well as the wicked. We have to assume that governor Felix who was well acquainted with “The Way” (22) and its teachings, was also familiar with Jewish teachings as well, his wife being Jewish. The teachings regarding the resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked pointed to the truth regarding all people having to face God someday to receive their due rewards. “A time is coming” the Lord Jesus once said, “When all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out— those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.” (John 5:28-29) It may be that Paul emphasized the resurrection of the righteous and the wicked for the sake of the Jewish leaders who came bearing false accusations against one of their own. For such people their only hope of a righteous resurrection is to repent of their sins and to embrace the Way. The governor also had hope of a righteous resurrection as well, if he took this God-given opportunity to open his heart to the gospel message. At any rate, Paul had every reason to speak the truth at this trial and everywhere else as well, since he takes the hope of resurrection very seriously. For him, this resurrection hope wasn’t just doctrine; it was a lifestyle. In other words, he lived as if he was going to face God any moment to account for his life, as evidenced by the truth of his testimony: “I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.” (16)
Paul’s testimony was thorough even to the mention of the purpose of his coming to Jerusalem to the Asian Jews who were the original instigators of the temple incident who weren’t present at this hearing. Paul even asked what crime he was being charged with at this time, except for what he had shouted at that assembly regarding his hope and faith in the resurrection. (17-21) It seemed obvious to Governor Felix at this moment that Paul was innocent and that this whole trial had been a sham. He had the power and authority to set him free. He didn’t. Who knows what was going on in his mind! A lifetime of political corruption and moral compromise had robbed him of basic humanity, and made him powerless and useless as a leader. He couldn’t make up his mind what to do with Paul. Look at verse 22b. “’When Lysias the commander comes,’ he said, ‘I will decide your case.’” Until the end of his term as a governor, it seems that one thing was very characteristic about him: “He couldn’t make up his mind.” That may have been the tragic mark of his life, and the tragic mark of so many who are just like him.
Read verses 24-25. “Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. As Paul discoursed on 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.’” It’s very interesting isn’t it? After sometime, Felix brings in his wife Drusilla, whom Luke identifies as a Jewess (that is, she’s Jewish), in order to listen to Paul speak. And here’s the interesting part! They want to listen to him speak about his faith in Christ Jesus! Felix was well acquainted with the way, meaning that he followed all the news regarding the inception of this sect which emerged from the Jewish faith, and grew to now become a world problem. He’d heard of Jesus Christ who was crucified by Pilate, his predecessor. Drusilla his third wife, was the granddaughter of the King who slaughtered all the babies of Bethlehem in an effort to eliminate a promised would be Messiah of the Way, and the daughter of the king who decapitated the herald of the apparent emerging Messiah of the Way. Paul had been an avid persecutor of the Way, now turned devoted apostle of the Way and hunted to death by the very people who had once been his blood brothers and fathers. Of course it’s most interesting to listen to this man speak about his faith in Christ Jesus. About what would make a man switch loyalties from a religion that promises Paul the power and authority of a high priest in order to follow a crucified King who promises nothing but hardship and chains. So they bring him in to listen to him speak. Maybe as he groped in the darkness of his own soul, Felix was crying out for the truth. It seemed as if he was the free man while Paul was the prisoner. But in the reality of heaven, Paul was the free man while Felix was the one in chains, crying out for freedom.
Look at verse 25 again. When Felix asked Paul to talk about his faith in Christ, Luke chose to point out the three point lecture Paul gave him regarding the Way and one’s faith as it relates to Christ Jesus who is the Way. And these points as Luke lists them are obvious: (1) Righteousness, (2) Self-control, and the (3) Judgment to come. In other words, Paul may have given this couple three good reasons why they needed to turn away from their sinful lives, and begin to put their trust and faith in Christ Jesus, believing with their whole hearts who he declared himself to be: The Son of God— The Messiah Savior of the world— And of whom Paul witnessed Risen from the dead and has called to testify to.
(1) What did Paul say about righteousness? This, in most probability, is the righteousness of the Law— which as the Bible says, a person is commanded to keep, but which at the same time, no person on earth can possibly keep— Thus making every person a sinner in the sight of God— A sinner who must either atone for their sins, or face God’s judgment in the end. Paul may have spoken about the Ten Commandments whom no one can keep, whom he himself had broken, and in the arrogance of his own heart thought he had kept. How he was guilty and condemned. He spoke of Christ who was sinless who kept the Law and died to atone for the sin of all humanity. He spoke of faith in him and the forgiveness of those who believe. Paul spoke about how unrighteous the human race is, how sin has pervaded every aspect of human life to the point where people do not recognize sin as sin anymore. Perhaps Governor Felix and Drusilla who considered themselves progressives living in a regressive and suffocating Jewish society felt uneasy hearing Paul talk about God’s demand for righteousness and the pervasiveness and unholiness of sin in people’s lives. People don’t talk like that in their circles. They mention weaknesses, mistakes, faults, psychiatric flaws, inherited tendencies; their refined vocabulary includes words like errors, defects and imperfections; but never sins! The mention of sin is for the uneducated and the crude. Yes, people don’t talk like that in their circles. But Paul needed to speak on righteousness because whether one runs in high or low circles in this world, a time is coming when there will be one circle around the throne of God, and only the righteous will be able gather there— those who have been washed in Jesus’ blood. Paul wasn’t afraid to speak about sin to these two who wanted to hear about his faith. He himself had been most unholy and sinful until he met the Christ. He was no better than them anyway. They only needed to acknowledge their unrighteousness and embrace the righteousness of Christ.
(2) What did Paul say about self control? Indeed, what can be said about self control in a world flooded with temptation from horizon to horizon? The irony of the matter is that human kind appears to be able to control most everything in this world except themselves. And this couple here seem to be good examples as Paul stood to give them a Bible study on self control that day. She divorced her own husband in order to become Felix’s third wife. And although she is a Jewish woman, she acted and lived as if there is no Bible and as if God had never given his word anywhere, as if there is no Ten Commandments or Law to contend with. He on the other hand was as devious an official as they come who justified every dishonest thing he did. He lied and cheated and even resorted to murder when necessary if it served his own advantage. Both their lives were anything but self control. We might say their lives were full of self indulgence and reckless abandon. So Paul spoke about self control. A life of righteousness requires self control. No one likes to hear about self control. When we talk about self control, or about things that drive others to do what’s necessary, things that require discipline, they get frustrated and then angry. They get defensive and offensive, even aggressive, and some even abusive even of those who love them and want only what is good for them— all because they have touched upon the subject of discipline and self control. But self control and discipline are vital if a person is to follow Christ and the Way. (Mark 8:34) Paul must have shared his own struggle with self control as he testified to Christ who denied himself every comfort and desire to become for us a sacrifice for sin. How can anyone who looks to Christ for grace continue in it? Paul’s lecture was indeed gracious to these two.
(3) What did Paul say about the judgment to come? Perhaps he elaborated more on this than he had done when he earlier mentioned the resurrection of righteous and the wicked at his trial before the Jewish elders. (15) After speaking about the need for righteousness, and the only way of receiving righteousness is to be clothed in Christ’s righteousness; after talking about self control and the only way to walk in that road of discipline is to surrender to the Way through repentance and faith in Christ. Paul must have also spoken of the coming of the Holy Spirit who alone guides the walk of the believer in life towards self control since no man has the power to control their own sinful desires. After that, Paul spoke of the end when all that God had done will come to a close. And when God will bring every human being to be judged before his throne. And one can either be found righteous or unrighteous, in Christ or not in Christ. Paul was clear about that. That subject is truly scary even to those who claim not to believe in God. When judgment is mentioned, somehow the human spirit is alerted to the truth of it, and even none believers suddenly are alarmed. Look at how Felix reacted to the judgment message. Look again at verse 25. “Felix was afraid.” In the KJV, the meaning comes out more, it says: “Felix trembled.” In other words, the man was terrified. He should be the one who terrifies others. But he was terrified. But when God convicts the heart, no one is immune, and no one can hide it! Paul had given him the gospel. He had the solution to his life problem. He now needed to respond. But as we will see, he responds as he always had responded.
Continue verse 25. “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” What did he do? Nothing. Actually he hesitated; He put it off; He delayed the inevitable; he delayed the necessary; he postponed the imperative; he put off what he needed to do! He dragged his feet— as so many do when they’re convicted— or when they feel God’s judgment upon their heart— or when fear grips them after the word of God speaks to them for a moment. What should they do— and do they do it— are two different things. When the conviction comes— and they feel that sting of fear— it’s time to open up their hearts to God. It’s time to ask for his salvation. It’s time to renounce their sins. It’s time to change their ways. But most of the time, they turn away. What a mistake to turn away when God has gives a chance to humble oneself and make a change in one’s life! What a tragic soul is the soul that values its pride above its own salvation. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” Felix told the apostle. So many postpone the time to turn to Christ— the time to study the Bible— the time to pray— the time do what is necessary. But that time never comes. They postpone and delay making decisions until time fades into oblivion. They postpone their commitments and they find that their hearts harden along the way. God says to everyone: “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2) “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” (Hebrews 4:7) Felix couldn’t make up his mind again. It was his mark. It was his life problem. He stayed that way until his term was over.
I wonder what made him so? There are many hints, but one of them draws our attention. JHe was a slave to money. (26) He would have freed Paul, if not for his hope that Paul or his church members would give him some bribe. But the bribe never came, and Felix was replaced by Festus. Paul could have used a bribe to free himself from his chains. But he kept the chains because they were God’s way of spreading the gospel to Rome. He was truly a witness to Christ and to his resurrection, a man whose life reflected the resurrection power of the Lord. May God give us grace to study the resurrection this Easter and reflect its glory in each of our lives. Amen.