After a number of years of doing mission work, carrying the gospel of Christ to the Gentiles, the apostle Paul returned to the city of Jerusalem. There the Jews were stirred up and sought to kill him. He was taken by Claudius Lysias, the chief captain in Jerusalem and kept as a prisoner in the castle until Lysias learned of a plot to kill Paul, even while he was in the hands of the Roman authorities. He was then sent to Caesarea where the Felix served as governor. While being kept there, Felix and his wife, Drusilla, “sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee” (Acts 24:24-25). The words of verse twenty-five serve as the basis for our consideration in this article.
The first point we wish to expound upon, though briefly, is that the scripture says that Paul reasoned with Felix. For some unknown reason, many today seem to think that all intellect should be thrown out the window when one enters the realm of religion. Instead of intellect, the emphasis is placed on emotion. People claim as proof of their salvation the feeling they have deep inside themselves. Give me heartfelt religion is their cry. The heart most often referred to in the Bible is the mind or intellect of man. Notice that the Hebrew writer spoke of the word of God as a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Heb. 4:12). Recall that Solomon said, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…” (Proverbs 23:7). One must use the intellect to ascertain from a study of God’s word what is required of him in order to be pleasing to God. We are to study to show ourselves approved unto God (II Tim. 2:15). Logic is not a dirty word in serving God. Jesus used logic on a regular basis in trying to get the Pharisees to see the truth that He brought. The prophet Isaiah once stated, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord…” (Isa. 1:18). Paul did not just throw out a number of scriptures and twist them into some kind of desired effect, but he reasoned with Felix from God’s word.
Next, let us note that there were three main issues used by Paul in the course of his reasoning. The scripture says that Paul reasoned with Felix “of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come”. One can see a rational and logical order of these three topics. That which is “righteousness” is that which is commanded by God. The psalmist wrote, “My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy commandments are righteousness” (Psalm 119:172). Paul wrote concerning the gospel of Christ which he preached everywhere he went saying, “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17). How one reacts to that word of God is determined by ones temperance. Temperance really deals with one’s determination to be in control and live according to an ascribed manner. In other words, after learning what God required of him, Felix would have to determine to and then implement such a life of obedience to the gospel. Finally, the decision made after hearing the word and then either obeying it or rejecting it would be deemed important based on the fact that one day the judgment would occur and that knowing said judgment would come, Paul sought to persuade men by way of this reasoning of the scriptures (II Cor. 5:10-11).
Felix trembled (Acts 24:25), and rightly so! When Saul of Tarsus was confronted on the road to Damascus with the truth of who Jesus was, the scripture says that he trembled too (Acts 9:6). Understanding that one will stand before the judgment seat of Christ and will be judged by what he or she has done in this life as it is compared with the word of God and then understanding the two and only two possible destinations following that judgment is reason aplenty to tremble, and especially if one already knows deep down inside that they are not actually living by that prescribed course. The Hebrew writer says that nothing but, “a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation” (Heb. 10:27) and that, “…we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:30-31).
We will conclude with the action of Felix upon hearing and trembling. Felix fell for one of Satan’s greatest tools, procrastination. Wait until it is more convenient to do so. Scripture is silent on the issue, but it is pretty much understood that Felix never experienced a convenient season. Always remember the three great dangers of procrastination in correcting one’s failing relationship with God.
1. You know not when the Lord will return (Matt 24:36; II Pet. 3:10).
2. You have no idea when you will die (Luke 12:20; James 4:14)
3. One can become too hardened by sin to change (Heb. 3:13; Eph. 4:19: I Tim. 4:2).
The Hebrew writer asked how we shall escape if we neglect obedience (Heb. 2:3) and answers it as well (Heb. 12:25). Tremble, but then obey.
Robert Oliver is a long time columnist for The Sampson Independent.