This morning, as we come to our study, it is our joy to again look at Acts 24. We'll complete our look at Felix, the tragedy of a man who had great opportunity and postponed it and forfeited it. We're concerned, here at Grace Church, with studying the Word of God and taking it verse by verse. II Timothy 3:16 says, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable," so since all is profitable, we expect the Spirit of God to really teach our hearts in this passage.
We'll look at verses 1-27 as a total, and we have been dealing with those verses and going slowly through them. This passage does deal with the man, Felix. We know Felix was the Roman governor who was assigned to Judea. The Apostle Paul was on trial before him. Paul had been accused of certain crimes, all of them false charges. They had been drummed up by some antagonistic Jewish leaders who wanted to see Paul dead because he was such a threat to their theological security. So the case finally found its way to the governor of Judea, a man by the name of Felix.
As we look at the case, we not only see Paul and the history and example of his blameless life, we see God at work. Particularly, I think, for our study this time, we see Felix: a tragic, tragic man who had a life and death issue at hand, and squandered it. Felix must judge, in the case of Paul. The problem that really began in Jerusalem, as they tried to kill Paul, has now been pushed to a higher court, the court of Felix, in Caesarea, the Roman headquarters. Felix must make a legal decision regarding Paul, but beyond that, he must make a personal decision regarding Jesus Christ. That really is the ultimate.
The passage, then, deals with a legal aspect in the trial, and then a very personal aspect in the life of Felix. The record is the record of a man who forfeited a tremendous opportunity. You know, few men have had the privilege of having the Apostle Paul in their house for two years. With all of his brilliance, and all that he knew, and all that God could do with and through him, and all that Felix heard and was exposed to, the sad, sad truth that he rejected.
Let's look at the trail again, as we have, in these verses. There are three parts: the prosecution, the defense, and the judgment or verdict. We saw last time the prosecution. In verses 1-9, the Jews come to Caesarea and they accuse Paul of three things: sedition, that is, they say he is an insurrectionist, that he stirs up Jews against Rome, which is not true and he had not done that in Jerusalem at all. They secondly accused him of sectarianism, that is, not only was he a political criminal but he was a religious heretic. Sectarianism, he was a member of the sect of the Nazarenes, at the end of verse 5. The third thing they accuse him of is against God, that is sacrilege. Verse 6. "He goes about to profane the temple." So supposedly, he is a criminal against Rome, a criminal against Israel, and a criminal against God.
As we saw last time, all those charges against Paul are false charges, all of them. He is accused of all those things and guilty of none of them. But you know, I think we need to stop for a footnote here. This is something that I think Paul anticipated and expected; I think he took it for granted. I think, also, that throughout the history of the church, there is a groundwork laid not only Biblically but historically, for the fact that Christians who live holy lives in Satan's world will always have to contend with false charges, false accusations.
In order for you to see the perspective, let me take you back to a prophecy that Jesus gave in Matthew 10. We're going to look at a rather extended portion for a moment, but we'll cover it rapidly, so keep your attention on the passage and listen to the words of Jesus. Here, He sends out His disciples (or apostles), and tells them some certain things: what to do, what to look for, what to expect, how to react to it. He knows that when they go, they are going to have problems; this is anticipated.
Matthew 10:16. "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves." Now, the very first thing He says indicates that there will be a certain amount of hostility when they get out there. When they begin to confront the world with the truth, there is going to be hostility. They are sheep in the middle of wolves, and the very implication of that kind of metaphor is hostility. He says, "You should be as wise as serpents," that is, keen and shrewd, wily, not evil, but careful and clever in planning your strategy, and "As innocent, or guiltless, as doves." Clever and innocent. That is, you should do things with wisdom.
Paul has shown us again and again his blamelessness and again and again his cleverness in the way he was able to construct the situation for the benefit of the Gospel, even in the midst of a very negative and hostile audience. Verse 17 goes a step further. "Beware of men," isn't that interesting? Your biggest problem will be people. He doesn't say, "Beware of Satan." It's assumed that Satan is behind the scenes. "Beware of men, for they will deliver you up to the councils, they will scourge you in the synagogues, and you will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, for a testimony against them and the pagans."
Notice the prophecy. Men are going to be your problem; don't naively trust men. Don't get suckered into confidence; don't fall into their traps. Don't do anything that would enable them to bring a valid charge against you. "They will bring you to councils." Paul had already experienced that, "They will scourge you in their synagogues," he was on the verge of being scourged not in the synagogue, but in Fort Antonia. Incidentally, the Jews did do the scourgings in their local synagogues. "And you shall be brought before governors and kings." Paul has, at this very time in which we see him, been brought before the governor, Felix. And in chapter 26, he'll be brought before the king, Agrippa. So here is Paul fulfilling, to the very letter, the prophecy that Jesus gave that was, for the most part, fulfilled by all the apostles. All of them.
He says, in effect, "Expect this." This is kind of a comforting thing in the middle of what He just said, "Be not anxious in how or what you shall speak. Don't worry about giving your testimony. For it shall be given you in that same hour what you shall speak. For it is not you who speaks, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you." That is a direct promise to the apostles. I don't think we can accept that directly. That is the promise of divine inspiration, and that belonged to the apostles. It is similar to the promise in John 14:26 where Jesus said the Holy Spirit, "Will guide you into all truth and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have spoken." In other words, He would give the Gospel writers recall of all that Jesus said, accurately. That's revelation.
The promise here is that, when they opened their mouths, God would do the speaking; the Spirit would speak through them. I think, in an indirect sense, that can kind of passed down to us in the fact that the Spirit leads us and guides us. But we don't just open our mouths and God talks through them as did the apostles and Bible writers. So this is a promise dealing with inspiration. Of course, in all of the six phases of Paul's trial, whenever he spoke, he spoke revelation. God gave him the words and they are recorded in Scripture as the Word of God.
He says, in verse 21, other things that you can expect, "That brothers will deliver brothers to death, fathers will deliver children, children will rise up against their parents and cause them to be put to death." For the sake of Christianity, brothers will kill each other, children will kill their parents, and parents will kill their children. That's how hostile the system is going to be to Christianity. That's a prophecy.
Verse 22. "You shall be hated of all for My name's sake." Notice the reason for this hostility is not because the person is a bad person; it's because of Jesus Christ. It says in I John that, "The whole world lies in the lap of the wicked one." So since Satan is controlling the world, since the prince of the power of the air dominates, and since he is so strongly against Christ, the system that persecutes the believer is really persecuting Christ. "You will suffer for My name's sake. It is because of who I am and because of the hatred for Me, they will pass their animosity on to you."
Now, skipping some thoughts, He goes down to verse 26. "Don't fear them, for there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed, and hidden that shall not be known." In other words, don't be afraid, because ultimately, there will come a time when judgment will be done and proper rewards will be given and unmask the truth of who was real and who wasn't and who deserves reward and who doesn't. Don't fear.
Verse 27. "Whatever is going on in darkness will be revealed in light," so that's the way you should speak. "Whatever you've heard in secret, you speak out boldly. What you've heard in your ear, you shout from the housetops because, in the end, God will vindicate and truly reward."
Verse 28. "Don't be afraid of those who kill your body, but be afraid of that one who is able to destroy both soul and body in Hell," that's God. Fear God, not men. If you want to fear men, then you're going to clamp up and not give a bold testimony, right? So the Lord says, "Don't fear men. Fearing men will cause you to shut your mouth. Fearing God will cause you to open your mouth, because then you'll want to be obedient to Him."
He knows about you. "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? Yet one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father knowing." Did you know that God even knows when a bird dies? Verse 30. "The very hairs of your head are all numbered." For some of you, that's not a big problem. Verse 31. "Fear not, therefore, for you are of more value than many sparrows."
You say, "Does God actually count, 'One, two, three?'" He doesn't need to; He has instant information. He knows everything immediately. Anything that exists, He knows. He doesn't count and He doesn't discover truth; He knows everything. Now don't think about that for too long; it's very difficult. He doesn't count the hair on your head; He's not standing there, looking over your bathroom in the morning, watching what's falling on the floor. He has instant knowledge of everything. If it exists, it is cataloged in His brain.
Now, He goes on to talk about the fact that we should expect this and God is going to care for us; don't let it be something you're afraid of. You need to step out and be willing to pay a price. The price is going to be animosity from the system. Down in verse 36, He says, "You're going to have to expect that your foes are going to be in your own household, and realize that if you love your father or mother more than Me, you're not worthy of Me. You'll have to take up your cross and follow Me. If you really want to find your life, you're going to have to be willing to lose your life."
So you see, He says that there is going to be a price to be paid; expect that you'll get false charges. That's just part of it. They're going to accuse you because they're still hating Jesus. Satan is still militantly against Christ, and he attacks Christ through those who name the name of Christ.
In Luke 6:22, "Blessed are you when men shall hate you, and shall separate you from their company." Have you ever had that? When you're a Christian and no one wants anything to do with you? Have you been alienated, ostracized? "And when they shall reproach you," that means they'll knock you, criticize you, speak evil of you. "When they cast out your name as evil." Oh, that so-and-so, he's a Christian. He says, "When all that happens, blessed are you. For the Son of Man's sake." They're doing it because of Him.
What should be your reaction when they do this? I like this. Verse 23. "Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy." Oh, I'm getting persecuted again! See? You say, "Why should I leap for joy?" Because it says in the same verse, "Your reward is great in Heaven." That's exciting. Your reward is great in Heaven. Listen, you need to expect that the world is going to be antagonistic. You should expect false charges; it wasn't any shock to Paul. Now that's the prosecution and a footnote.
Let's look at the defense in Acts 24. Paul, having heard their false charges of sedition, sectarianism, and sacrilege against him, decides he'll answer them when he is asked to by Felix in verse 10. He replies categorically to the three accusations; first of all to the accusation of sedition, he replies in verses 11-13.
Verse 11 says, "Because thou mayest understand that there are yet but twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem to worship." In other words, he says, "I trust your judgment in the case. You're going to know that I haven't committed sedition; you know that I haven't done anything to cause a political revolution. It's only been 12 days since I arrived, and seven of those days were in the temple purification (or nearly seven) and five of them I've been here in Caesarea. There was no time for me to do this."
Verse 12. "In those days when I was in the temple, they didn't find me disputing with anyone, I wasn't raising up the people [that means collecting a crowd] in the synagogue or the city. Neither can they prove the things of which they now accuse me. There is no proof that I have done any of these things. I haven't been here long enough to start a revolution. The time that I was here, I was in the temple, and the time that I was in the temple, I wasn't arguing with anyone and I was not creating a crowd to start a riot." But here they are, accusing him.
You know, it's amazing when you think about the fact that they accused Paul. It's another good illustration of the stupidity of man's evaluation. There are two men. Felix is cruel, evil, immoral, materialistic, greedy, oppressive, steeped in blood, ruling by brutality, gaining his position by collusion and corruption. Beside him stands the Apostle Paul - gentle, beloved, godly, Spirit-filled, courageous, kind, selfless, truthful, generous, hard-working, etcetera. And what do they say? "Oh, most noble Felix. This is a pain in the neck, a pestilent fellow." They don't know.
The world's perspective is always reversed. It reminds you of Jesus and Barabbas, doesn't it? There stands the lovely Son of God and a common, ordinary criminal, and they say, "Not this man, but Barabbas. Release unto us Barabbas. Crucify Jesus." The world's judgment. You can go back to Malachi. One of the seven deadly sins that destroyed Israel, Malachi said, was that they kept lifting up evil men. They kept exalting evil men. It's staggering, and we do that in our society even today. Stupid judgments of selfish men. They accused Paul, but the man who ought to have been accused was Felix, for his corruption. And they, in turn, for theirs as well.
So he replies, "There is no time for political sedition because I haven't been here long enough. It is obvious that I wasn't doing that, and there are no witnesses." That's the end of it, folks. If there aren't any witnesses, there is no accusation.
In verse 14, he answers the second of their accusations, that he was a religious heretic. He says, "This I confess unto thee, that after the Way, so worship I the God of my fathers. I admit, I do worship according to Christianity. But I am still a Jew; in fact, I consider myself, in the truest sense, a Jew. I worship the God of my fathers, I believe all things in the Law and Prophets. I have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and of the unjust." In other words, "I am committed to the facts of Judaism right down the line. They are the heretics."
The implication is that they're not worshiping the true God; they don't believe all things in the Law and Prophets, and they don't believe in the resurrection. Since they were Sadducees, they didn't. "I am the true Jew; they're heretics." So he indicts them.
The third accusation was sacrilege, that he had attempted to profane the sacred temple and was accused of blaspheming God. He replies to that in verses 17 and following. Notice verse 16. He says, "In this do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offense toward God and toward men. I have a clear conscience; I have not created a riot, I have not gone into a heresy, and I have not blasphemed God. I neither offend men or God; I have a clear conscience."
Then he replies to the accusation of sacrilege in verse 17. "After many years, I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings." He explains what he was doing when he came, to show his motive. It wasn't to blaspheme God. It was after many years, and it could have been four years since he was there before, or it could have been many years since he had lived there and went on the road to Damascus. Either way, it was many years.
So after many years, "I came simply to bring alms to my nation." Alms means money for the needy. "I came here for one reason: I had to bring money to the needy." Remember he had collected that money from all the Gentile Christians, and he was bringing it to give to the Jewish Christians as a sign of love. He said, "I came to bring alms to my nation, even offerings." You say, "What is the difference between alms and offerings?" Alms is the definition of what he brought; an offering is the source of what he brought. It was the money for the needy given by the Gentiles. They were offerings that he brought to give to the needy. "That's why I came."
I want you to notice something interesting. He says, "After many years, I came to bring alms to my nation." You say, "Well, wait a second. He didn't give them to the nation, he gave them to the Christian Jews." Mark what I told you last week; the only true Jew in existence is what? The Christian Jew, one who is a Jew not outwardly, but inwardly. So there is no reason to qualify that.
You say, "Well, maybe Paul is getting himself off the hook by using a generality." Not really. Paul didn't distinguish the Christian Jew from the rest because, in his mind, a true Jew was one who believed in the Messiah, Jesus Christ. He was right. So he did bring, to his nation, these things. "I came here," he says, "To bring alms to my nation, offerings. There I was in the temple, minding my own business," that's in the white spaces between 17 and 18.
Verse 18 says, "Whereupon certain Jews from Asia," Asia Minor, a Roman province where Paul had preached at Ephesus for three years, "Found me, purified in the temple, neither with multitude nor with tumult." Now notice he says, "I was in the temple, carrying out a simple vow of purification, going through that Nazarite vow, worshiping in that very Jewish way, that customary way. And these Jews from Asia Minor came and they found me there. There was no multitude gathered, there was no riot going on. They saw that; I was doing nothing there. I had not desecrated the temple so that a multitude had grabbed me. I had not desecrated the temple so that it started a hassle. When they came upon me, there was no multitude there, there was no tumult there."
Believe me, if he had done what they accused him of, dragged a Gentile into the inner part, there would have been a hassle going on.
"There was no tumult, there was no crowd, I was simply there, doing what I was doing, and they seized upon me." And they did. They said, "This is our chance to get rid of that guy while he's here; we've got a mob, let's get him. They tried to kill him; read it in Acts 21:27-30.
They just jumped on him and tried to kill him on the spot. They were so angry with him because of what he had done in their own province. So many Jews had been saved, and it put such a dent in their synagogue attendance, and it was undermining the whole of their operation. They were very venomous toward Paul, so they tried to kill him. He says, "I was just there. There was a crowd, but I hadn't violated a thing. I was there purified." Rather than desecrating, he was purified. He had just gone through a catharsis; he had gone through a customary approach to a real cleansing, a time of dedication and commitment so far from desecrating. He had been really dedicated in those hours, in those days.
In verse 19, he throws a monkey wrench in their whole plan. He says, "Who ought to have been here before thee and objected, if they had anything against me." In other words, "If there was a hassle going on in there, you ought to get some of the people who were in the hassle to come here and give testimony. Where are your witnesses? I mean, you just came in here and said I was desecrating the temple, but who says so? Give me some eyewitnesses. Where are they? If I was starting something in there, if I dragged a Gentile in there and created havoc, where are the eyewitnesses?" There weren't any. You know why? Because he hadn't done it. I don't know, maybe they were afraid to bring in a lying witness because maybe his lie would be exposed.
Verse 20. "Let them come, or else, let these same here say." Or, he says, "Felix, what about these guys? Ananias and the elders and these guys here, why don't you let them tell you if they found any evildoing in me while I stood before the council? I mean, if there are no eyewitnesses from the supposed desecration of the temple, why don't you let them tell you what they determined in the council?"
Remember, at the council, they said, "We're going to find out what this guy did," but it ended in a riot. They never did find out anything. "Let them tell." Well, they didn't have anything to say; they didn't find out anything. So there was no accusation from witnesses and there was no accusation from the Jewish hearing. The only thing they could come up with, in verse 21, "Except for this one thing, that I cried, standing among them, concerning the resurrection of the dead, I am called into question by you this day. The only thing they can accuse me of is making an issue out of the resurrection. That is all."
Of course, Paul knows that's no criminal issue at all, it's a theological discussion. These guys were standing right there; they had been in the council, but they had nothing to say. There was no accusation given. The only thing they could say was that he had said something about the resurrection and someone got uptight about it. That's all; it was theological, no issue for a court.
Incidentally, Felix knew this. He knew it even before Paul's testimony, because in Acts 23:29, he got a letter from the tribune of Jerusalem who explained it. "Whom I perceived," he said, "To be accused of questions of their law but having nothing laid to his charge worthy of death or bonds." In other words, Claudius Lysias, when he sent Paul to Felix, sent this letter along and said, "Felix, this guy hasn't done one thing to break the law. It's a whole theological issue between the Jews."
So the last of Paul's testimony is in verse 21. What he does is, he throws the whole case back into theology. It's a very wise move. Here he is, wise as a serpent, throwing the whole case into the theological area. And he knows from experience that a Roman judge cannot make a determination in a case or regarding Jewish theology. There is no crime, no criminal act, no civil crime; there is nothing. Felix knew that, he knew the real issue. Paul just gave him the responsibility. He said, "The only thing they've got that hassles them is that I made a statement concerning the resurrection of the dead. That's probably the only issue they could bring up."
Now, the key to this testimony is verse 16. "In this do I exercise myself to have always a conscience void of offense toward God and man." What he says in giving his testimony is, "I have a clear conscience. My life is blameless." Tremendous. No crime. It is tremendous to be able to stand up in front of a court and not only be as wise as serpents, but be as blameless and innocent as doves. Then you are a rebuke to all those who would accuse you. You put to silence their accusations.
So that's the prosecution and defense. The only thing left is the verdict, or the judgment. Part three. You tell me, what is the verdict? What is the only possible verdict that could ever be rendered? What is it? Innocent. There are no witnesses, right? The preliminary hearing held at the Jewish Sanhedrin had no conclusion at all, and the only issue involved in the whole thing is theological. The only verdict possible is 'innocent.'
What does Felix do? What is the verdict that he gives? He is not a moron; he knows, he's competent. He has judged cases before. He knows that the Jews have perjured themselves from the beginning of the trial to the end. They perjured themselves at the very beginning, when they arrived, by having Tertullus say all those nice things about Felix that none of them believed. They lied about that; they lied about what happened when Claudius Lysias rescued Paul. They lied about that. Felix knew from the letter from Claudius what went on. They lied about the accusations because they had no witnesses to support them. They lied about everything. The amazing thing is, when Paul is finished, they don't say a word. From verse 9 on, their mouths are slammed shut; they have nothing to say.
What is Felix going to do? Well, he has a problem. He knew the Jews lied, he knew the witnesses had perjured, but he was afraid. What was he afraid of? Well, he has a Roman citizen on his hands, and Roman citizens had certain rights. A Roman citizen who didn't get his rights could make trouble for Felix, but he had a worse problem. He had a lot of Jews on his hands who were very angry, and when you have a lot of very angry and uptight Jews, it causes revolutions. When you are the governor and you have revolutions, you are in real trouble with Rome.
Remember Pilate? The ultimate reason that Pilate finally allowed Jesus to be crucified is that he wanted to pacify the Jews because he was afraid he'd lose his job if he couldn't rule well. Felix is trapped in the same thing. On one hand, his relationship to Rome and Roman law is at stake; on the other hand, his relation to the Jews is at stake. So he does what every pure politician does: nothing. He compromised. Now, I'm not saying all people in public office do that, I'm saying pure politicians do. He didn't do anything.
Here's the first insight into the man; here is his judgment. Verse 22. "When Felix heard these things, having more perfect knowledge of that Way," isn't that interesting? What does that mean? What was the Way? Christianity. He had more perfect knowledge of Christianity; this guy knew more about Christianity than they did, than the accusers did. This was an informed man.
You say, "Why did the Holy Spirit put that in there?" Just to give you a little added insight into how responsible that man was to make a right judgment. That man knew enough about Christianity to do what was right, and he knew that this whole issue was a theological debate between Judaism and Christianity; that's what it's saying. Luke is telling us that Felix knew what the right answer was; that Felix, having a more perfect knowledge of the Way, knew what he should have done. But he deferred the thing, saying, "When Lysias, the chief captain, shall come down, then I will determine the case." Coward.
You know that there is no record, ever, that he called Claudius Lysias down there? And there is no record that Claudius Lysias ever came. He just permanently postponed the thing. That's a coward's act. Now, he had a knowledge of Christianity. Where did he get it? Well, he lived in Caesarea, and so did Philip, an evangelist. There were a lot of other Christians, and he was in Judea for eight or nine years, and there were tens of thousands of Christians all over the place. He had been very, very familiar with Christianity. Some say he was a friend and acquaintance of Simon Magus, Simon the Sorcerer, who had been exposed to Christianity and that Simon Magus had first communicated to him.
That's somewhere in ancient history, we don't know. But he knew enough, he knew enough to make a right evaluation that this was not a criminal issue but a theological one. He knew enough about Christianity to be responsible; he was like Pilate. He was convinced of the testimony of the accused, but he was afraid of the Jews. So he postponed the decision until Claudius Lysias could come and add information, but he never called Claudius Lysias. It was a convenient non-decision, it was a nothing, it was a postponement.
Look what verse 23 says; here's what he really did. "He commanded a centurion," that's a soldier over 100 other soldiers, "To keep Paul and let him have liberty." And here's this stupid compromise. He's going to give Paul a modified freedom and pacify his conscience. "That he should forbid none of his acquaintances to minister or come unto him." So he puts Paul into a sort of modified confinement under the care of this centurion, and he is somehow bound in some sort of confinement. I don't know what the bonds were. He had liberty and his friends and acquaintances could come to him at will, but this is really the act of a coward. He postpones everything.
Let me stop at this point and say that is really the story of the history of Paul's trial before Felix; it just ends there. That's the trial. Looking at the thing historically, as I look through those 23 verses, what comes out is the innocence of Paul, doesn't it? The beautiful blamelessness of his character. It's the record of a trial, the record of a man before a pagan judge, being accused by Jewish accusers, who comes off innocent.
I mean, let's face it folks, it's just like the case of Christ. If there was any real accusation, they would have made it. If there were any bona fide witnesses who saw that crime, they would have been there. But there were no real accusations, there were no bona fide witnesses. If there was one little detail of Paul's life, when he stood up and said, "My conscience is clear," they would have said, "Wait a minute, fellow. It can't be clear because we know that you did such-and-such, and here's the guy who will say that you did it." But they had no one like that; they had nothing to say. They are absolutely faded into the silence. There was no response. There was no accusation. This man was not only as wise as a serpent, he was as harmless as a dove; he was innocent.
Beloved, let me tell you something. If you live a life for Jesus Christ in this world, you're going to get some accusations. You should be able to stand against those accusations with the same kind of conscience that Paul did: innocent, blameless, holy. So the trial aspect, as we look at it from Paul's perspective, gives to us a beautiful picture of a man who is a holy man, who can stand before a group of people who are searching every corner they can find to get something against him and they can't find anything. So should it be in your life.
Now let's look at this thing from a second perspective, as we kind of wind down our thoughts. What about God's perspective? How do we see God in this passage, aside from seeing Paul? Is God here at all? It seems strange, because it says in verse 27 that Paul stayed for two years in that imprisonment. You say, "Has God been overruled? Has God had to sit by and bide His time while Paul sat in jail? Is that what happened? Was the plan of God interrupted, was He overruled?" No. Then why did He want this to happen? Was it in His sovereign will? Of course it is. But why did He allow it?
Some say He allowed it because Paul needed to sit around and figure out his strategy for Rome, but I don't know that that's true. I mean, he was a prisoner in Rome when he got there. There wasn't a whole lot of strategy to that. Others say he needed to get accustomed to the Roman style of living, but I don't know that that's any good, because he'd been wandering around Roman countries for years and years. If he didn't know Roman style by now, he would never know it. You say, "Well, why in the world does the Lord want that guy sitting in that cell for two years?"
You know what's amazing about it? The whole time he's there, we don't know of any sermon that he preached or anything that he ever wrote. Can you imagine the Apostle Paul, going for two years without writing something or preaching? Now, there may have been times when he wrote something or preached, but we don't have record of it. You say, "Well then, what's going on here?" You know what I believe? This is just me, and it's nothing obvious in the text, it's just what I think may be a possibility. I really think this may have been furlough. I mean, he had been chased all over the world for long enough. He needed a rest. Besides, he had so much to accomplish in his lifetime and he worked so fast, he probably had a few years left over. So the Lord said, "You might as well just take a couple off."
He'd been all over the Roman world, and it all kind of climaxed in Jerusalem. He was nearly beaten to death, he was slugged in the face, he was clamored after and yanked apart, he was thrown into custody, he was hustled to Caesarea by 470 Roman soldiers, he went through this trial. I just think a guy comes to a place in the service of the Lord where he's just got to stop.
A little key thought bounces out in verse 23 that made me think this. "He commanded a centurion to keep Paul and let him have liberty. That he should forbid none of his acquaintances to minister." The implication there is that they came to minister to him. That's a nice idea for a change, isn't it? I'm sure that Luke and Aristarchus were with him too, so he had some good fellowship. Philip probably hung around a lot, and there were probably a lot of believers in the local area of Caesarea who came down during the two years and spent time with him; I'm sure he was discipling some people and I'm also sure that, when I get to Heaven, I'm going to meet some of Felix's soldiers. Maybe that centurion is there.
I'll tell you, I think it's a time when God let him rest from what he'd been through and getting ready for the worst, which was to come, that finally ended in his execution. God knows. Whatever the thing is, God knew that Paul needed two years there. Whatever God accomplished was within His purpose, not outside of it.
Lastly, we need to look at Felix. We've seen Paul, we've seen God at work, now let's look at Felix. What a sad character. His past is bad, his present is compromised, and indecision in his future is tragic. Let's see what happened in the case of Felix; the Spirit of God gives us notes on Felix here in verse 24. "After certain days," that is, after time has passed since Paul has been made a prisoner, "When Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess, he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ."
This is most interesting. First of all, "After certain days, Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess." Now what probably could have transpired here was that Felix may have had his exposure to Christianity through Drusilla. If, in fact, she was the daughter of Herod Agrippa I, the Herod Agrippa of the New Testament, then he would have been very familiar with the beginnings of Christianity. She may have been very inquisitive about all the ins and outs, as was, perhaps, Felix.
Incidentally, Felix saw her when she was married to the king of Emesa, a part of Syria, and he liked her. She was really young, 15 or so, and she was supposed to be a raving beauty, according to historians. Felix saw her and said, "That's for me," and seduced her and stole her away. So the whole thing was a rotten, immoral, disgusting thing from the beginning.
So there they come, the two of them. "And Paul spoke concerning the faith in Christ." Notice he spoke concerning 'the faith' not faith; he didn't speak concerning faith in Christ, that is, he didn't speak concerning putting your faith in Christ. That's not what it's saying, although I'm sure he got into that. It's saying he spoke concerning 'the faith' in Christ. If he spoke concerning faith in Christ, that's subjective. If he spoke concerning the faith, that's objective. In other words, he gave him the content of the Gospel.
What 'the faith' of Christ means is the totality of Christian content; he gave him all the Gospel. He told him Jesus was God, born of a virgin, lived a miraculous life, died on the cross for the deliverance from sin, rose the third day from the dead. He told him all the facts of the Gospel. That's the content, that's the faith. That's what Jude meant when he said, "Contend for the faith," the embodiment of truth, the content of the Gospel. So Paul detailed the Gospel. That's exciting. Paul sat down and Felix heard; Felix and Drusilla listened. Paul talked about who Christ was, why He came, what He accomplished, the whole Gospel.
He also gave them the back side of it. Look at verse 25. "And as he reasoned," dialogued, he didn't preach at him, he talked to him, discussed with him, "Of righteousness, self-control, and judgment to come, Felix trembled." Part of the faith, part of the content of the faith, is righteousness, self-control, judgment to come. Now watch. Those three areas must be included in the presentation of the Gospel.
Righteousness is God's divine ideal, the absolute standard. What does God demand? Absolute righteousness. Jesus says, "Be ye holy." You say, "How holy?" Even as your Father in Heaven is holy. Be perfect even as God is perfect. God's absolute demand is righteousness. The second word is self-control; that's man's required response. God has an absolute ideal, and you'd better control yourself to come into conformity with that standard. So he told Felix, "Here's God's standard, and God demands that you conform to it. If you don't," that's the third word: judgment to come. That's the Gospel. God's absolute ideal; you must conform to it or be judged.
I'm telling you, this could get very personal to Felix. After Paul presented the ideal of righteousness, he then started shooting down Felix because he had no self-control at all. He was sitting there with a woman that he had stolen and seduced. His life was a debauchery. He started to talk to Felix about his sin, and the fact that he had not lived up to God's standard. God demanded absolute righteousness and here's Felix living way below that level. The ultimate end is judgment to come, and I believe that Paul must have fired out with some kind of conviction.
Friends, that's the Gospel, and you can't give the Gospel unless you give it at that level. I believe this gives us the normative pattern for evangelism; one-to-one, two sides. The problem of sin, righteousness, self-control and judgment, and the faith in Christ. Who He was and what He did to overcome your inability. You know, you show a man that here is God's standard, you have to live up to it and if you don't, you get judged. Then you say to the man, "But because you can't live up to it, Jesus Christ took your penalty, paid your judgment, and offers you His righteousness by faith." That's the Gospel.
Let me add this. It says in John 16:8 that the Spirit has come to convict man of sin, righteousness, and judgment. The same three things. To convict of righteousness (God's absolute ideal), sin (man's inability to live up to it), and judgment that results if he doesn't. So if you present righteousness, sin, and judgment, you're right on the Spirit's wavelength. You've got to give that in the Gospel, because that's what the Spirit wants to use to convict. The Spirit wants to convict men of those three areas, so they must be covered. God's absolute standard, man's inability to meet that standard, and the ultimate judgment that comes consequently.
Well, that really got to Felix. It says in that verse that he trembled; the Greek is that he shuddered. He shuddered; it just got to him. Our little girl Melinda started doing that recently when she gets disciplined. It's kind of interesting to see, you can kind of relate to it. I'll say to her, "Stop that Melinda," and I'll smack her on the leg, then she'll just shudder. It's something about that, that I catch her doing that, that conviction that penetrates. Even that little one, she just shudders all over.
Well, Felix is a grown man, and here are the Apostle Paul and the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul presented the facts, and the Holy Spirit took the facts and used them as point of conviction, and the man started to shake and tremble under such tremendous conviction. You say, "That's good." You're right; that's good. But what happened?
"Felix answered." Man, there were so many things he could have said. He could have said, "OK, OK, what do I do? I want to believe." He said, "Go thy way for this time. When I have a convenient season, I'll call for you." Felix, that's not what you should have done. Tragic, tragic. As long as he was shaken, he was doing all right. But it wasn't long before he stopped trembling, and before long, when he heard Paul talk, it didn't mean a thing to him. You know what happens?
A habit starts out as a little silver thread that a child can break, and it soon becomes a cord that a giant can't sever. When you keep resisting, it becomes harder and harder and harder. That's why Paul said to the Corinthians, "Today is the day of salvation. Call on Him while He is near."
Clarkson said, and I quote, "If vice has slain it's thousands and pride it's thousands, surely procrastination has slain it's tens of thousands. The man who is consciously refusing to serve God knows where he stands and what he is; he knows he is a rebel against God, standing on perilous ground. But he who thinks he is about to enter the Kingdom shelters himself under the cover of his imaginary submission and goes on and on until sinful habit has him in its iron chain, or until pale-faced death knocks at his door and he is found unready."
He's right. It is better for a man to be hostile against the Gospel, because at least he knows where he stands, than it is for a guy to be hanging around the edge saying, "I'm coming, I'm coming," and he never comes. He fools himself, in the deceitfulness of sin, into thinking he will do what he won't do. Now is the time. Foolish men procrastinate.
Archias, who was a supreme magistrate in Thebes according to the history books, was having a huge feast and celebrating like mad. A courier ran up to him in great haste with a paper in his hand and said, "Read these letters! Read these letters immediately!" Archias said, "Tomorrow, tomorrow," and laughed, and stuffed the letter under his couch and went on feasting. The same night, conspirators attacked and slaughtered everyone in the palace. It was foolish.
For Felix, as long as the tremble was there, hope was there. But when he quit trembling, he was in trouble. He did. Verse 26 tells us not to wait for a convenient season; there's no time like now. Verse 26. "He hoped also that money should have been given him of Paul."
You know, that crummy character, in the back of his mind, his perspective was to get money out of Paul; he wanted a bribe. Do you realize that kind of materialism? That man would do for money what he wouldn't do for the sense of justice. That man would put himself in jeopardy for money, but nothing else. He wasn't about to let Paul go because the Jews might hassle him, but he might let Paul go if he got money, and then he wouldn't care if the Jews hassled him. Oh, "The love of money," Paul says to Timothy, "Is root of all kinds of evil." And he loved it.
You say, "What made him think Paul had any?" Well, he probably thought that if Paul brought all this money to Jerusalem, he probably had some. And since he was the leader of the Nazarenes, according to the accusation, he figured he had some money. So he thought he'd get a bribe, or at least the Christians could have pooled their money and bought him off.
Verse 26. "Wherefore he sent for him the oftener and communed with him." He sent for Paul again and again and again. What did they talk about? You guess; what do you think Paul talked about? You say, "But it doesn't say he was ever convicted again." That's the sad part. There is no record in the Scriptures that there was ever a convenient season. He just wanted money. What a fool! I mean, what will it profit a man if he gain the whole world but lose his soul? Jesus said, "What will a man give in exchange for his soul? What price is he going to pay for that?"
Often he heard Paul. Often. For two years, again and again he heard him. Sad. Verse 27. "After two years, Porcius Festus came into Felix's palace." The reason Felix got dumped was because there was a big riot in Caesarea and Felix put it down with such violence that the Jews were outraged, and the outraged Jews managed to get his recall from Rome. So he lost his office. So it didn't work anyway. After two years, Porcius Festus came to Felix's place, and Felix, wanting to show the Jews a favor, left Paul bound. He was afraid the Jews would pursue him even when he was out of office, that the Jews would send their grievances further. They were on his hide, that's why he lost his job, and he was afraid they'd pursue it until he lost his life, so he tried to pacify them by leaving Paul a prisoner.
So here's Paul, two years in there, no case ever closed, no final testimony ever given, and Felix just keeps him in prison. He turns him over to Festus, and we'll see in our next study what Festus tries to do with him. It's a sad story; a man who preserved himself, a man who wanted money forfeited what mattered. You know, he's a classic illustration of Hebrews 10; he's a classic person who has all the information. He says in Hebrews 10:26, "If we sin willfully after we have received knowledge of the truth, there remains no sacrifice for sin, only judgment." If you sin willfully after the knowledge of the truth, it's hopeless.
Shakespeare put it this way. "There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to victory. Omitted, the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and miseries. On such a false sea we are now afloat, and we must take the current when it comes or lose." Shakespeare was right; Felix lost.
I don't know where you are, but I am sure there are some of you here who have probably thought about receiving Jesus Christ and you've never done it. You've said, "I'm going to do it. Someday, I'm going to do it. When I have a convenient season." But there is never a convenient season and you're lulled into the deceitfulness of sin to think there ever will be. I say to you, today, harden not your heart. Come while you still have the opportunity to receive Christ. Let's bow in prayer.
While your heads are bowed, before we dismiss, let me say this. If there are some of you who have been with us this morning, who have heard this word, and you're like Felix: you've heard it all and you know the way, you keep saying, "I'm going to do it someday." Maybe today, the Spirit has convicted your heart and today is the day you want to do it, today is the day you want to step over the threshold before the cord becomes so strong that it can't be broken. When we are finished with our prayer, our counseling room will be open. Instead of leaving and going away, we invite you to just slip into the counseling room. There will be some folks there who would love to introduce you to Jesus Christ. It is also open to any of you who have a spiritual need, or who want to become a part of Grace Church. It is there and we'll counsel you in any area. But particularly, those of you who have been postponing this commitment, we invite you to come when we're dismissed.
Father, thank You for the lessons that we see so clearly in the life of Felix. Our hearts are grieved over the man, but thankful that You gave us the lesson that we might not fall into the same trap. If there are any here this morning who have been postponing, waiting for a convenient season, Father, we pray that today will be the day they respond to Christ, before it becomes too late for them. We commit them to You, and ourselves as well. Use us this week to bear the message of Jesus Christ to others who need so much to hear. We give You the praise. In Christ's name, Amen.
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