This morning as we come to our study, it's our joy to again look at the twenty-fourth chapter of the book of Acts. And to complete our look at Felix, the tragedy of a man who had a great opportunity, and postponed it and forfeited it. We’re concerned here at Grace Church with studying the Word of God, and just taking it verse by verse. Second Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable,” and 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 to 27 really as a total, and we have been dealing with those verses and going slowly through them. This passage does deal with the man, Felix, and as we know, Felix was the Roman governor who was assigned to Judea, and 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.
And so, the case finally found its way to the governor of Judea, a man by the name of Felix. And as we look at the case, we not only see Paul, and the history and the example of his blameless life, we see God at work. But 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.
And Felix must make a legal decision regarding Paul, but beyond that, he must make a personal decision regarding Jesus Christ. And that really is the ultimate. The passage then deals with, then, a legal aspect in the trial, and then a very personal aspect in the life of Felix. And 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 him and through him, and all that Felix heard and was exposed to, the sad, sad truth that he rejected it. Let’s look at the trial again, as we have, in these verses. There are three parts: the prosecution, the defense, and the judgment, or the verdict. And we saw last time the prosecution. In verses 1 to 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," the end of verse 5. The third thing they accuse him of is toward 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.
Now, as we saw last time, all those charges against that man are false charges; all of them. He is accused of all of those things, and guilty of none of them. But you know, this is something – and I think we need to stop for a footnote here. This is something that I think Paul anticipated and expected; I think he just took it for granted. And I think as Christians, 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, chapter 10. And we’re going to look at a rather extended portion here for a moment, but we’ll cover it rapidly, so keep your attention on the passage in Matthew 10, if you will for a minute, and listen to the words of Jesus. Now here, He sends out His disciples, or His apostles, and He 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. Verse 16, Matthew 10: “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves.” Now, the very first thing He says indicates that there's going to 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 then, “You should be as wise as serpents” - that is, you should be as keen and as shrewd; that is, you are wily, not evil, but careful and clever in planning your strategy – “and you should be as innocent” - or as 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, a step further. “Beware of men” - isn’t that interesting? Your biggest problem is going to be people. He doesn’t say, “Beware of Satan.” That’s assumed, that Satan is behind the scene. “Beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, they will scourge you in the synagogues; and you shall be brought before governors and kings for My sake, for a testimony against them and the pagans.” Now, 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 will 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. But 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, hasn’t he, 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.” “But when they deliver you up” – and this is kind of a comforting thing in the midst of what He just said - “be not anxious 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 ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.” Now, that is a direct promise to the apostles. I don’t think that we can accept that directly. That is the promise of divine inspiration, and that belonged to the apostles. It’s 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 inspiration; that’s revelation. So, the promise here is that when they opened their mouths, God would do the speaking; the Spirit would speak through them. Now, 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.
And 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’re recorded in Scripture as the Word of God. And He says, in 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. “And you shall be hated” - verse 22 - “of all for My name’s sake.” Now, notice the reason for this hostility is not because the person is a bad person; it’s because of Jesus Christ. The world, because it is in the lap of Satan - and that’s what it says in I John, “The whole world lies in the lap of the wicked one.” 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” - that 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 we’ll unmask the truth of who was real and who wasn’t, and who deserves reward and who doesn’t.
Don’t fear. “Whatever is going on in darkness” – verse 27 – “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. “And don’t be afraid of those who kill your body” – verse 28 – “but be afraid of that One who is able to destroy both soul and body in Hell” - and that’s God. Fear God, not men.
Now, if you want to fear men, then you’re going to clamp up and not give a bold testimony, right? And so He says, our Lord does, “Don’t fear men.” Fearing man will cause you to shut your mouth. Fearing God will cause you to what? 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? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.” Do 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?’” 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 too long; it’s very difficult.
But 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's cataloged in His brain. Now, He goes on, then, to talk about the fact that we should expect this, and God’s 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, and 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 own foes are going to be in your own household, and you’re going to have to realize that if you love your father or your mother more than Me, you’re not worthy of Me. You have to take up your cross and follow Me. And 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 you’re going to get false charges.
That’s just part of it. They’re going to accuse you, because they still are hating Me. Satan is still militantly against the Lord Jesus 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 when they shall separate you from their company.” You know, have you ever had that? Well, you’re a Christian, and no one wants anything to do with you? You’ve been alienated, been ostracized?
“And when they shall reproach you” - that means they shall knock you, they shall criticize you, they shall speak evil of you. “And when they cast out your name as evil.” “Oh, that so-and-so, he’s a Christian,” see. He says, “When all that happens, blessed are you, for the Son of Man’s sake.” They’re doing it because of Him. Now, what should be your reaction when they do that? I like this. Verse 23: “Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy.” “Oh, I’m getting persecuted again,” see?
You say, “Well, why? I mean, why should I leap for joy?” Because it says in the very same verse, “your reward is great in Heaven.” Now, that’s exciting. Your reward is great in Heaven. Listen, you need to expect that the world is going to be antagonistic, so you should expect false charges; that 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 - sedition, sectarianism, and sacrilege - against him, he decides that he will answer them when he is asked to by Felix, in verse 10, and he replies.
And he replies categorically to the three accusations: first of all, to the accusation of sedition he replies in verses 11 to 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, or nearly five, I’ve been here in Caesarea.
“There was no time for me to do this.” “In those days when I was in the temple” – verse 12 – “they didn’t find me disputing with anybody, I wasn’t raising up the people” - that means collecting a crowd – “not in the synagogue, and not in 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 anybody, and I was not creating a crowd to start a riot.”
But here they were, accusing him. You know, it’s amazing when you think about the fact that they accused Paul. It’s just a good illustration, again, of the stupidity of man’s evaluation. There are two men. Felix: 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, et cetera, et cetera.
And what do they say? “Oh, most noble Felix,” and “This is a pain in the neck. This is 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 they kept lifting up evil men. They kept exalting evil men.
It’s staggering. We do that in our society even today. The stupid judgments of selfish men. They accuse Paul; The man who ought to be accused was Felix, for his corruption. And they, in turn, for theirs as well. So, he replies that there is no time for political sedition; I haven’t been here long enough. It’s obvious that I wasn’t doing that, and there are no witnesses. And that’s the end of it, folks. If there aren’t any witnesses, there isn’t any accusation. 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 which they call heresy, so worship I God, 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.” Verse 15: “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’re the heretics.”
The implication is, “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.” And they were Sadducees, and didn’t. “I am the true Jew; they’re the heretics,” so he indicts them. The third accusation was sacrilege, that he had attempted to profane the sacred temple, and was accused, really, of blaspheming God, and he replies to that in verse 17 and following. But 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 this accusation of sacrilege in verse 17. “After many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings.” He explains now what he was doing when he came, to show his motive. It isn’t to blaspheme God. He says, “after many years,” and it could be four years since he was there before, or it could be many, many years since he actually 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.” You 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. And so, he said, “I came to bring alms to my nation, even offerings.” And the idea of offerings - you say, “What’s the difference between alms and offerings?” Alms is the definition of what he brought; offering is the source of what he brought.
It was the money for the needy given by the Gentiles. “They were offerings,” he said, “that I brought to give to the needy. That’s why I came.” Now, 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 minute. He didn’t give them to the nation. He gave them to the Christian Jews.” Now, mark what I told you last week. The only true Jew in existence is what? The Christian Jew, the one who is a Jew not outwardly, but inwardly. And so, there’s no reason to qualify that.
You say, “Well, maybe Paul is kind of getting himself off the hook by using a generality.” Not really. Paul did not distinguish the Christian Jew from the rest, because, in his mind, a true Jew was one who believed in the Messiah, Jesus Christ, and he was right. And so, he did bring to his nation these things. “I came here,” he says, “To bring alms to my nation, offerings. And 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, and I was carrying out a simple vow of purification, going through that Nazarite vow, worshiping in that very Jewish way, that customary way.” And he says, “These Jews from Asia Minor came and they found me there, and there was no multitude gathered, and 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 it started a hassle. When they came upon me, there was no multitude there, there was no tumult there.” And 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 there, simply doing what I was doing, and they seized upon me.” And they did.
They said, “Ah, this is our chance to get rid of that guy while we’ve got him here. We’ve got a mob, let’s get him.” They tried to kill him - read it – chapter 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 really was, it was undermining the whole of their operation. They were very venomous toward Paul, and so they wanted to kill him.
But he says, “I was just there. There wasn’t a crowd. I hadn’t violated a thing. I was there, purified.” And rather than desecrating, he was purified. He had just gone through a catharsis. He had just gone through a customary approach to a real cleansing, and a time of dedication and commitment, so far from desecrating. He had been really dedicated in those hours, and those days. Verse 19, he throws a monkey wrench in their whole plan, really. He says, “Who ought to have been here before thee, and object, if they had anything against me.”
“Now, 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 say I was desecrating the temple. Who says so? Give me some eyewitnesses. Where are they? If I was starting something in there, if I had 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. And 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 standing here? Why don’t you let them tell you if they found any evil doing 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?” And the council had met, remember? And they were going to say, “We’re going to find out what this guy did,” and the council ended in a riot, and they never did find out anything.
“Let them tell.” Well, they had nothing 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. The only thing they can accuse me of is that I made an issue out of the resurrection. That is all.”
And of course, Paul knows that that’s no criminal issue at all. That’s a theological discussion. These guys were standing right there; they had been in the council. 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 everybody got uptight about it. That’s all. It was theological; no issue for a court. And incidentally, Felix knew this. He knew it even before Paul’s testimony, because in chapter 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, “Hey Felix, this guy hasn’t done one thing to break the law. It’s a whole theological issue between the Jews.” And so, what Paul does in the last of his testimony is in verse 21. What he does is, he throws the whole case back into theology, and it’s a very wise move. Here he is as wise as a serpent.
He just throws 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, there’s no criminal act, there’s no civil crime; there’s nothing. Felix knew that, he knew the real issue. Paul just gave him the responsibility. He says, “The only thing they’ve got that hassles them is that I made a statement concerning the resurrection of the dead, and I said that’s probably the issue, that that’s the only thing that 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. 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. And then you are a rebuke to all those who would accuse you. You put to silence their accusations. So the prosecution, and the defense; only thing left is the verdict, or the judgment - part three.
Now, you tell me: what is the verdict? What is the only possible verdict that could ever be rendered? What is it? Innocent. There aren’t any witnesses, right? The preliminary hearing held at the Jewish Sanhedrin had no conclusion at all, and the only issue that is involved in the whole thing is theological. The only verdict that is 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’s a man who’s 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, didn’t they? They lied about that, and Felix knew from the letter from Claudius what went on. They lied about the accusations, ’cause they had no witnesses to support it.
They lied about everything. And the amazing thing is that when Paul is finished, they don’t say a word. From the time of verse 9 on, their mouths are slammed shut; they have nothing to say. Now, what’s Felix going to do? Well, he’s got a problem. He knew the Jews lied, he knew the witnesses were perjured, but he was afraid. You say, “What’s he afraid of?” Well, he’s got a Roman citizen on his hands – that’s right - and a Roman citizen had certain rights, and a Roman citizen who didn’t get his rights could make trouble for Felix.
But he even 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 Jews uptight, it caused revolutions. And when you were the governor and you had revolutions, you were in real trouble with Rome. Remember Pilate? The ultimate reason that Pilate finally allowed Jesus to be crucified was just because he wanted to pacify the Jews, because he was afraid he’d lose his job if he couldn’t rule well. And Felix is trapped in the same thing. On one hand, his relationship to Roman law and to Rome is at stake.
On the other hand, his relation to the Jews was 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. Verse 22 – and here’s the first insight into the man. Here is his judgment. “And 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, those accusers did. This was an informed man. You say, “Why does 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, and said, ‘When Lysias the chief captain shall come down, then I’ll determine the case.’” Coward. You know that there is no record, ever, that he ever called Claudius Lysias down there? And there’s 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. You say, “Where did he get it?” Well, he lived in Caesarea, and Philip lived there, and Philip was an evangelist.
And there were a lot of other Christians, and he was in Judea for nine years, eight or nine years, and so 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 an 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, and 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, and 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 really what he did. “He commanded a centurion” - that’s a soldier over 100 other soldiers - “to keep Paul, and let him have liberty.”
And see, here’s this stupid compromise. He’s going to give Paul a modified freedom, and pacify his conscience - “and that he should forbid none of his acquaintances to minister or come unto him.” So, he puts Paul into a sort of modified confinement. He’s under the care of this centurion, and he is somehow bound, I don’t know just exactly what the bonds were, but somehow he was in some kind of confinement. 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.
Now, 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. And looking at the thing historically, as I look through those 23 verses, what comes out of those verses is the innocence of Paul, doesn’t it? The beautiful blamelessness of his character. It’s the record of a trial. It’s 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 had them 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, “Now, wait a minute, fellow. It can’t be clear. We know that you did such-and-such, and here’s the guy that’ll say that he did it,” et cetera, et cetera. They had nobody like that; they had nothing to say.
They are absolutely faded into the silence. There’s 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: You live a life in this world for Jesus Christ, and you’re going to get some accusations. You should be able to stand against those accusations with the same kind of conscience that Paul stood: 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 me 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? I mean, aside from seeing Paul, how do we see God? Is God here at all?
I mean, it seems strange, you know, because it says, in verse 27, that Paul stayed for two years in that imprisonment. And you say, “Oh, has God been overruled? I mean, God just sort of had to sit by and bide His time while Paul sat in jail. Is that what happened?” No. “Was the plan of God interrupted?” No. “Was God overruled?” No. You say, “Well, why does God want this to happen? Is it in the sovereign will of God?” Of course, it is. “Well, why did He allow this?” Some people say He allowed it because Paul needed to sit around and figure 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 people say, “Well, 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 and years. If he didn’t know Roman style by now, he never would know it. You say, “Well then, what 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 ever preached, or of anything that he ever wrote. Can you imagine the apostle Paul, two years and he doesn’t write something and he doesn’t preach? Now, there may have been times when he wrote something, there may have been times when he preached; we don’t have record of it. You say, “Well, what’s going on here?” Well, you know what I believe? And this is just me; this isn’t anything that’s obvious in the text. It’s just what I think may be a possibility.
I really think this may have been furlough. You know what I mean? He had been chased all over the world long enough. I mean, 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 just said, “Well, you might as well 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, and he went through this trial.
I mean, I just think the guy comes to a place in the service of the Lord where he’s got to stop. And a little key thought just kind of bounces out in verse 23 that made me think this. “He commanded a centurion to keep Paul, let him have liberty, that he should forbid none of his acquaintances to” – what? – “to minister.” Now, the implication is there that they came to minister to him. Well, 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, and 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 some time with him, and 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. And maybe that centurion’s there. But I’ll tell you, I think it’s a time when God just kind of let him rest. Well, resting 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. And whatever God accomplished, He accomplished within His purpose, not outside of it. Lastly, we need to look at Felix. We’ve seen Paul, we’ve seen God at work, let’s look at Felix. What a sad character. His past is bad, his present is compromised, and indecision in his future is tragic. Verse 24 - let’s see what happens in the case of Felix. The Spirit of God gives us the notes on Felix here.
“After certain days” - that is, after a 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.” Now, this is most interesting. First of all, when you say “After certain days, Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess.” Now, what probably could have transpired here is that Felix may have really had his exposure to Christianity from Drusilla. Because if, in fact, she was the daughter of Herod Agrippa I, who was the Agrippa or the Herod of the New Testament, then he would’ve been very familiar with the beginnings of Christianity.
And she may have been very inquisitive about all of the ins and outs, as was, perhaps, Felix. So – and incidentally, Felix saw her when she was married to the king of Emesa, a part of Syria, and he liked her. She was real young, 15 or so, and she was supposed to be this raving beauty, according to the historians. And Felix saw her, and said, you know, “That’s for me,” and seduced her, and stole her away. And so the whole thing was a rotten, immoral, disgusting thing from the beginning. So, there they come, the two of them.
“And Paul” – I like this – “spoke concerning the faith in Christ.” Notice 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 there. I’m sure he got into that, but 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, the content. He gave him the content of the gospel.
What the faith in Christ means is the faith: the totality of Christian content. He gave him all the gospel. He told him Jesus was God. He told him Jesus was born of a virgin. He told him Jesus lived a miraculous life. He told him Jesus died on the cross for the deliverance of sin. He told him Jesus 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.
Now, that’s exciting. Paul sat down, and Felix heard; Felix and Drusilla listened. And Paul talked about who Christ was, why He came, what He accomplished, the whole gospel. Then 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, he discussed with him - “of righteousness, self-control, and judgment to come, Felix” – what? – “trembled.” Now, 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 this: that’s God’s divine ideal, that’s God’s 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; you better control yourself to come into conformity to that standard.
So, he told Felix, “Here’s God’s standard, and God demands that you conform to it.” And 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, and then Paul started shooting down Felix, because Felix had no self-control at all. He was sitting there with a woman that he’d stolen and seduced. His life was a debauchery.
And he started to talk to him about his sin, and the fact that he had not lived up to God’s standard. That God demanded absolute righteousness, and here’s Felix, living way below that level. And 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 a 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, “Here’s God’s standard. Here, you have to live up to it. If you don’t, you get judged.” And 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” - what? –“judgment. Same three things.
To convict of righteousness - God’s absolute ideal - sin - man’s inability to live up to it - judgment - that results if he doesn’t. So, if you present righteousness, sin, and judgment, then you’re right on the Spirit’s wavelength. You’ve got to give that in the gospel, because that’s the thing 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, and the Greek is he shuddered. He shuddered; I mean, 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, and she’ll go - just shudder, you know. You know, just something about that, you know, that you catch her doing that. Conviction that penetrates even that little - she just shudders all over.
Well, Felix is a grown man, and the apostle Paul and the Holy Spirit - Paul presented the facts, and the Holy Spirit took the facts and used them as point of conviction, and the man just started to shake and tremble under such tremendous conviction. You say, “That’s good.” You’re right. That’s good; that’s good. But what happened? “And Felix answered” – and man, all the things he could have said. He could have said, “Okay, Okay, 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. Tragedy, tragedy. As long as he was shaken, he was doing all right. But it wasn’t long till he stopped trembling, and pretty soon, 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 gets 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 its thousands, and pride its thousands, surely procrastination has slain its 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’s better for a man to be hostile against the gospel, ’cause 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, I’m coming,” and never come, because he fools himself, in the deceitfulness of sin, into thinking he will do what he won’t do. Now is the time. A foolish man procrastinates. Archias, who was a supreme magistrate, according to the history books, in Thebes, was having this huge feast, and he was celebrating like mad.
And a courier ran in great haste, and he ran up to him, and he had a paper in his hand, and he said, “Read these letters! Read these letters immediately!” Archias said, “Tomorrow, tomorrow,” and he laughed, and stuffed the letter under his couch, and went on feasting. And that same night, conspirators attacked and slaughtered everybody in the palace. It’s foolish. For Felix, as long as the tremble was there, hope was there. But when he quit trembling, he was in trouble, and he did. Verse 26 tells us, don’t wait for a convenient season; 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 that kind of materialism - that man would do for money what he wouldn’t do for the sense of justice. That man would do for money – he 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,” says Paul to Timothy, “is the root of all evil.” And he loved it. And you say, “What made him think Paul had any?” Well, he probably figured 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 might’ve had some money, so he figured he’d get a bribe. Or at least the Christians could have pooled their money, and bought him off. “Wherefore he sent for him” – verse 26 – “the oftener, and communed with him.”
He sent for Paul again and again and again. You know, you say, “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.” No, and that’s the sad part. There is no record in the Scripture that there was ever a convenient season. He just wanted money. What a fool! I mean, “what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, but lose his soul?” Jesus said, “What shall 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. “And after two years” – verse 27 – “Porcius Festus came into Felix’s palace.” The reason Felix got dumped was 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, and so he lost his office. So it didn’t work anyway. “But after two years, Porcius Festus came to Felix’s place, and Felix, willing 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. And you know, they were on his hide - that’s how come 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 old Paul, two years in there, no case ever closed, no final testimony ever given, he just keeps him a prisoner. 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 of the character of one who has had all the information. It says verse 26, “If we sin willfully” – Hebrews 10:26 – “If we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin” - only judgment. If you sin willfully after the knowledge of the truth, 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 full 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. And you’ve said, “I’m going to do it. Someday, I’m going to do it. When I have a convenient season.”
And there’s never been 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, just before I dismiss you, let me say this. If there are some of you who have been with us this morning, and you’ve heard this word, and you’re like Felix. You’ve heard it all, and you know the way, and you keep saying, “I’m going to do it someday.”
And maybe today, the Spirit’s convicted your heart, and today’s the day you want to do it; today’s 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 little prayer, our counseling room, which is in the front of the auditorium and to my right, will be open. And 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’ll also be open for any of you who have a spiritual need, for any of you who want to become a part of Grace Church. It’s there, and we’ll counsel you in any area. But particularly, those of you who have been postponing this commitment, we would 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, who have been waiting for a convenient season, Father, we pray that today would be the day when they respond to Christ, before it becomes too late for them. We commit them to You, and ourselves as well. Use us this week, Father, 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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