Paul is in prison on baseless charges other than his confession of belonging to a sect called the Nazarenes. Felix questioned him, but then kept bringing back Paul to question him again. Why? Pastor Jason shares from Acts 24:24-27.
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Text: Acts 24:24-27
I watched my first football game back in 1996 when I was eight years old. My whole family gathered in front of the TV, not a flat screen but the big giant immovable block that sat on the floor type. We were there to see the Steelers versus the Cowboys in the Superbowl. At this point, I did not have a favorite team but I do remember my dad was not too happy that the Cowboys won.
Fast forward to 2007, by this point I bleed Colts blue and they were in the Super Bowl. My brother Travis had given up on the Colts the previous season when the Colts lost to the Steelers in the playoffs after our kicker missed the field goal by four miles. Travis could take the heartbreak no more, but I kept coming back. And 2007 was the year my faith in the Colts was rewarded when they beat the Bears 29-17. It was glorious.
Faith like that is a decision. It has been 16 years since the Colts have won with a lot of terrible football. And despite all the disappointment, I continue to make that decision. The fear of losing does not deter me in the slightest. Something draws us to keep believing.
Have you ever wondered why we are like that with sports but not our faith in God? We will put our trust in people, money, and things without much evidence. But there is something about Jesus that causes us to pause. Why? There is something that draws us to consider Jesus and the good news, but we hesitate at the decision.
In today’s text, a Roman governor named Felix finds himself in a pattern like the one I just mentioned. What would he decide? And then we will wrestle how it applies to us.
READING OF THE TEXT
24 Several days later, when Felix came with his wife, Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and listened to him on the subject of faith in Christ Jesus. 25 Now as he spoke about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix became afraid and replied, “Leave for now, but when I have the opportunity I’ll call for you. 26 At the same time he was also hoping that Paul would offer him money. So he sent for him quite often and conversed with him. 27 After two years had passed, Porcius Festus succeeded Felix, and because Felix wanted to do the Jews a favor, he left Paul in prison. (CSB)
Let me give some context to At this point, the apostle Paul was in prison for preaching the message of Jesus. He was being held on baseless charges, but the Jewish leaders had brought Paul before the Roman governor, Felix. Felix was tasked to determine if Paul was guilty of anything and if there any punishment should be levied against him.
In verses 1-23, Felix hears all the evidence from the Jewish leaders. During the hearing, Felix listens to the Jewish leaders and Paul’s defense. Felix gets all the information he needs to make a decision. His decision was to postpone the verdict. To
Verse 24 says, “Several days later.” This is days after the hearing with the Jewish leaders was completed, Felix heard Paul’s presentation about Jesus in a public defense manner. Now Felix was bringing Paul back in for a more personal conversation with him and his wife, Drusilla. Most scholars believe Drusilla was only 20 years old and Felix was her second husband. She was the daughter of Herod Agrippa and Drusilla had been married to another king when she met Felix. Felix fell in love with her and persuaded Drusilla to leave her husband. And this couple is who invites Paul to come for a personal conversation about Jesus.
Paul considers his audience, the man who will decide his fate. He does not reduce the truth to an M&M, a sweet piece of chocolate in a soft candy shell. But Paul also does not point at Felix and yell, “Repent or go to hell, you tyrannical worm!” His message, according to verse 25, was “about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come.” In short, he shared about the holiness of God, the sinfulness of man, the human need to not sin, and the fact that everyone will stand before God’s throne. Everyone has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, but that was why Jesus came and died.
While we do not know how Drusilla reacts, verse 25 does share that Felix becomes afraid. He is indeed a tyrant, who later will be recalled to Rome because of his poor treatment of those under his authority. Felix had stolen another man’s wife. And according to the next verse, he is a man who was willing to take bribes for prisoners in exchange for justice. This was not a good man, everyone knew it, including Felix. Fear was Felix’s response to the truth shared because Felix was convicted because Paul’s words brought Felix to a personal encounter with God. Not a religion, not a list of sins, nor was it an argument; it was a crisis moment, a decision, before the Spirit of the Living God. Search the Scriptures and you will see this fear connected with conviction is the typical reaction of sinners before God. A man not used to fear, who avoids confrontation and uncomfortable decisions, responds, “Leave for now, but when I have an opportunity I’ll call for you.”
Continuing to verse 26, “At the same time Felix was also hoping that Paul would offer him money.” This tells us two things. First, Felix knows that there is no actual case against Paul. Paul would either be dead or released, but Felix is holding Paul for some reason. Paul is only kept in prison as a favor to the Jews, and my thought is Felix does this as an “I’m sorry for being a jerk to you, and I want to save my own skin” favor. Or worse, Felix is waiting to see who is going to pay him the most.
Second, Felix was double-minded. Double-minded means Felix was feeling convicted, but his love for money and worldly things clashed with his need to make a decision of faith.
“Felix sent for Paul quite often.” How often? Luke, the writer of Acts, does not give us a number. To me, this indicates when Luke was meeting with Paul in prison, Paul shared he lost count of how many times Felix brought him in for the same discussion. Paul’s delivery was intriguing to Felix, but Felix always put off the decision to sometime later. Fear of judgment was not enough to persuade Felix to faith in the forgiveness of sin through the blood of Jesus, but Felix’s love of money had him holding onto faith that Paul would give him some for freedom. Only that faith kept bringing Felix to the same place of crisis before God.
Ironically, Paul was the prisoner, but Felix was the one in chains. Felix’s love for money and the world were his shackles, and the key to his freedom was within his grasp. But dealing with his sin was something Felix could put off until a later time. Eternal life was worth the gamble in pursuit of temporary comforts. Of course, after two Felix would be removed. We do not know when or if Felix received another opportunity.
Felix faced the same crisis we all do. We are in the same crisis here and now. Jesus said in Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” In 1st Peter 1:15-16, the apostle penned, “But as the one who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” The Bible is telling us that we are to love God and people as God loves. If we love God, then we obey His commands which ultimately lead us to love others. This is God’s standard for you and me, anything less is sin. No excuses, no explanations.
The problem is we are sinful. All of our explanations of why, like because of our parents and past might be legitimate, but they are the smoke and mirrors we use to deflect the reality that we made the sinful choice with our actions. And we cannot help it, we are born sinful, so sin is all we know to do. This is why we find ourselves in a crisis, the same as Felix.
Like Felix, we can put off this decision. We can reject the claim as religious jargon and manipulation tactics. But right now the thought of standing before God has us absolutely terrified. If our reaction is not terror, then it is scoffing. However, why do you scoff at the thought of God and accountability? Many of you are Bengals fans and believe every year that they could win this year. We believe these lesser things with no problem, but the eternal question we push aside.
Scoffing is the response of a hardened heart to conviction. Fear is the response of a vulnerable heart to conviction. Either way, we are sinners who are in the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God, and He brings conviction, the truth that we are guilty of sin before God. We will all stand before God’s throne on the day of judgment, but make no mistake our sin has already been judged with Jesus at the cross. Conviction makes us feel guilty, that feeling is not of God but our reaction to our sin. Guilt is not of God, but our reaction to being in God’s presence. Search the Scriptures and you will see.
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous and godly way in the present age.” Paul wrote those words in Titus 2:11-12, declaring the good news. Our sin was judged with Jesus on the Cross, but that means the penalty for our sin was paid by the blood of Jesus. We feel fear and guilt we in God’s presence over our sins because we know the consequence of sin is death. But if we would accept this truth and confess our sins instead of trying to hide or mock them away, we realize that God has not brought us into His presence to condemn. He is here to say to us, “Your sins are forgiven. Confess your sin, turn away from sin, and believe in Jesus, then you will be saved.”
The theologian, G. Campbell Morgan wrote, “There in the past are deeds as black as hell in their lives. If by the great tenderness and compassion of our God they may tremble for a moment, that trembling, that terror is their opportunity of return.” In other words, at this moment we know the ugliest of our sins, and that rightfully terrifies us. God’s presence is illuminating sin’s deadly toxicity cursing through our veins. But God is not here to condemn you or me. He does not care how deep the pit that depravity has brought us. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the living God, the same God who is Jesus is here because He loves us. And there is no pit of sin that we can go down where His arm cannot pull us out if we are willing to repent and believe.
This is the same moment that Felix found himself, multiple times, as he conversed with the Apostle Paul. Felix felt the fear of conviction but chose to remain chained to the same love of money and worldly vices that led him to that fear. Never was Felix persuaded to have faith in Jesus that leads to freedom from that fear to love beyond comprehension that leads to eternal life. Will we be persuaded? What will you and I decide during this crisis?
Season 1 Episode 33, "Most important question." The text for the message is from Mark 8:27-30, part 1 of a series called The Son of Man. The question we are trying to answer is "What is the most important question?"