PAUL BEFORE FELIX

(Acts 24.) 

ACTS 21. Paul's return to Jerusalem. He is be- 
sought to tarry in Philip's house at Caesarea, but 
declares his determination to preach the gospel in 
Jerusalem. He goes to Jerusalem, is seized by the 
Jews, and makes his defense before them (Acts 22), 
but escapes scourging because he is a Soman citizen. 

Acts 23. He is brought before the Jewish council. 
The uproar between the Pharisees and Sadducees. 
His heavenly vision. The forty men bind themselves 
in a conspiracy to kill him. But the chief captain, 
Claudius Lysias, is warned, and sends Paul away by 
night to Cassarea. 

Acts 24. Five days following, the high priest and 
elders come down to Caesarea to try him before Felix, 
the governor. They bring with them a lawyer, Ter- 
tullus, to prosecute the case. After a statement of the 
accusation by Tertullus, Paul defends himself in his 
usual logical manner (vs. 10-21 inclusive). Felix, who 
already has some knowledge of the claims of Chris- 
tianity, defers judgment until the arrival of Lysias 
from Jerusalem (vs. 22, 23). Thus the way is opened 
for Paul's personal message to the governor, with its 
ringing tones of sincerity, accusation and conviction. 

1. The setting. Several days later, Felix and his 
wife, Drusilla, whom he has stolen from another man 
Azizus, the king of Emesa), while seated in the 
marble palace of Csesarea happen to drift into a con- 
versation regarding the noted prisoner. The result 
is that Felix orders him brought up from the guard- 
room to tell them more about the faith in Christ (v. 24). 
Clank, clank drags the chain up the marble stairway, 
and Paul walks into their presence, the stench of the 
prison emanating from his clothes, a little man only 
about sixty years old, but looking as if he might be 
eighty. He bows courteously to the governor and the 
beautiful woman by his side. At their request, he 
begins to present the first principles of the faith. Note 
his tactful and logical introduction. 

What an opportunity to show off his oratorical 
ability! He might have orated about Greek culture, 
or the injustice of Roman taxation, or the ancient 
mythologies, or the magnificence of the Acropolis, or 
the prison life at Philippi. No public speaker ever 
had better opportunity to display his ability! But 
Paul realizes his great responsibility to God (1 Cor. 
9:16). Here are a man and woman living in sin, 
and he may never have another opportunity to talk to 
them about the things of eternity. Paul never allowed 
such an opportunity to pass by unembraced. 

When the ministry as a whole to-day realize their 
responsibility in the sight of God, there will follow the 
greatest period of evangelism the world has ever 
known. Preaching and lecturing are two different 
provinces of activity. The man who lectures should 
go on the platform where he belongs! The man who 
preaches should stay in the pulpit! Only the man 
who has a deep interest in the salvation of humanity 
is really fit for the ministry of the gospel. 

2. The message (v. 25). It centered about three 
great phases of the Christian life. 

a. Righteousness, or doing the will of God. This 
term includes even more than morality. It also in- 
cludes obedience. Jesus was baptized in the Jordan, 
not because He had committed sin (Heb. 4:15; 1 
John 3:5), but in order to do the will of God (Matt. 
3:15), and set the example for mankind. An indi- 
vidual may be moral, as Cornelius; but he can not be 
righteous until he does the will of God implicitly, as 
did Cornelius in obeying the gospel and becoming a 
Christian (Acts 10). The entire doctrine of Christ is 
the "word of righteousness" (Heb. 5:12-14). It 
includes everything whereby the sinner is justified and 
reconciled to God (Eom. 5:9, 10; Col. 1:19-23; Mark 
16 : 16 ; Acts 2 : 37-40 ; Gal. 3 : 26-29) . The will of God 
towards man is revealed in the gospel of His Son 
(John 3:16, 17; 14:6-9; Kom. 4:13; 2 Cor. 5:17-21). 
Hence the gospel is called the "law of righteousness" 
(Rom. 9:31). When Paul reasoned of righteousness, 
he preached the facts of the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-4), 
and stated the commands of the gospel (Mark 16 : 16 ; 
Acts 2:38), urging obedience to the will of God. 

b. Temperance, or the crucifixion of the lusts of 
the flesh (Gal. 2:20; 5:19-24). This related par- 
ticularly to the Christian life. It was a terrible blow 
to Felix, who was at that very time living in adultery. 

c. Judgment to come (Rom. 14:10-12; 2 Cor. 5:10, 
11). Paul usually closed his arguments by referring 
to the resurrection of Jesus, as positive evidence of 
the general resurrection and judgment of all mankind 

(Acts 17:30, 31; 1 Cor. 15:12-26). By this time he 
has reached the climax of his message. He is now 
portraying the wrath of God to be visited upon the 
world of the ungodly (2 Thess. 1:7-9; 1 Pet. 4:17-19; 
2 Pet. 2:9-14; 3:3-10). 

3. The effect (v. 25) . Felix "trembles" before Paul's 
burning eloquence, yet delays his repentance. Drusilla 
becomes an irreconcilable enemy. Why does Felix pro- 
crastinate? Why does he order Paul back to the 
guard-room ? 

a. . He does not want to give up his vices. He can 
not give up his adulterous companionship with Dru- 
silla. How many to-day are married to the pleasures 
and lusts of the world ! They can not expect to retain 
these pet sins, and continue to gratify carnal desires, 
and get to heaven! They must surrender to Christ. 
For this reason they continue to procrastinate. 

b. He is very busy with affairs of state. Many 
people get so busy with temporal pursuits that they 
have no time for Christ. Too busy with law, with 
politics, with medicine, with science! This is an age 
of commercialism. The world in general is pursuing 
the quest of wealth. The church is putting a com- 
mercial value on everything. Real estate, stocks and 
bonds, bank accounts, mortgages, memorandum books, 
business, business, business! No time for Christ! 
Consequently, those who are slaves of commercialism 
are waiting for a more convenient season. 

c. He can not give up the honors of the world. 
He can not give up the governorship of a Soman prov- 
ince to become a follower of the lowly Nazarene, a 
member of that sect everywhere persecuted (Acts 
28:22). Hundreds of people have bartered their 
souls for political power. Hundreds have sacrificed all 
hopes of heaven for social distinction. Even ministers 
of the gospel have sacrificed the primitive faith, and 
are catering to denominationalism, in order to achieve 
distinction, and gain the flattery of the masses. 

But death is the leveler of all ranks. In death, 
appetite, lust, wealth, popularity, all temporal things, 
pass away. Why will you sacrifice redemption, immor- 
tality and eternal life — things that are eternal — for 
the gratification of temporal ambition? Why not 
break down all barriers and accept Jesus Christ now ! 
(2 Cor. 6:2). 

We note, in conclusion, how the three earthly rulers 
before whom Paul pleaded his case, regarded his mes- 
sage. 

Felix said: "Go thy way for this time; when I 
have a convenient season, I will call for thee" (Acts 
24:25). But that convenient season never came, and 
Felix sank deeper and deeper into iniquity. 

Festus said: "Paul, thou art beside thyself; much 
learning doth make thee mad" (Acts 26:24). Al- 
though more honorable in his dealings than Felix, 
he viewed the story as the superstition of a fanatic. 

Agrippa said: "Almost thou persuadest me to be a 
Christian" (Acts 26:28). But he was never altogether 
persuaded, and never any nearer God. 

Are you procrastinating? Are you, in spirit 
ordering the apostle back to the guard-room? Then, 
listen to the warnings of God (Matt. 6 : 33 ; Luke 
12:19-21; Jas. 4:13, 14). Hell will be populated 
with the victims of procrastination. Be not almost, but 
altogether, persuaded, now, to own Jesus as your Christ.