God’s Word for You
Acts 24:22-27 Faith, righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, February 4, 2021
22 Felix had a detailed knowledge of the Way. He adjourned the trial, saying, “When Lysias the commanding officer comes down, I will make a decision on your case.” 23 Then he ordered the centurion to keep Paul under guard but to let him have liberty, and not to forbid any of his friends to provide for his needs.
Felix knew about Christianity, and he was interested enough to want to hear Paul preach (see verses 24-25 below). Rather than yield to the Sanhedrin, he delayed judgement until he could hear from the credible witness, Lysias the Colonel. This allowed him to satisfy the Jews about keeping Paul locked up but satisfy his own intelligence about not handing Paul over to them to be murdered (Acts 23:12-13). As far as we know, Lysias never came, and the case was never reopened by Felix.
24 After a few days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish.
Drusilla is an interesting study because of her connections to famous people in and out of the Bible. She was a Hebrew princess, the beautiful daughter of Herod Agrippa I (and sister of Agrippa II). We will meet her sister and hated rival Bernice later in Acts (25:13,23; 26:30). At about 15, Drusilla was betrothed to Antiochus the prince of Commagene, a small kingdom east of Asia Minor perhaps most famous for a third century heresy named after a certain resident, Paul of Samosata.
When the prince refused to be circumcised, Drusilla married the king of nearby Emesa (north of Damascus). She was unfaithful to him, falling in love or lust with Felix the Roman Procurator of Judea. With the help of Simon the Sorcerer (Acts 8:9-25) she abandoned her husband without divorcing him and married Felix. His first wife had also been named Drusilla, the granddaughter of Antony and Cleopatra. At the time that Felix and Drusilla met Paul, she was about 20 years old. Twenty years later, she and her son perished in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius when Pompeii was buried.
He sent for Paul and listened to him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 As he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix became terrified and said, “Go away for the present! When I have an opportunity I will call for you.” 26 At the same time he hoped Paul would offer him a bribe. So he frequently sent for him and talked with him. 27 But after two years Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. Wanting to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison.
Paul spoke to Felix about four things. First, there was faith in Christ. Without faith in Christ for the forgiveness of our sins, we cannot enter into heaven (John 14:6). “The righteous,” Paul says, “will live by faith” (Romans 1:17). Second, Paul spoke about righteousness. True righteousness is impossible for anyone without faith. “For there is no one who is righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10; Psalm 14:3, 143:2). But righteousness is given to everyone through faith, as with Abraham: “He believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness’ (Genesis 15:6).
Self-control is the thing that Felix and his wife lacked. Paul described sexual sins as being a lack of self-control that invites temptation (1 Corinthians 7:5). Those who struggle with self-control in this way should marry so that the needs of the body can be met in a God-pleasing way: “Since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband,” and they should fulfill their marital duties to one another (1 Corinthians 7:2-4). The consciences of Felix and Drusilla were not very bothered by the sin they were living in, since she was still married to her first husband while being married to Felix. Theirs is one of the classic examples of a sin against the Sixth Commandment (Exodus 20:14). David broke the same commandment, but he was led to repentance and was completely forgiven. In fact, David could identify himself as “the apple of God’s eye” with a sincere heart (Psalm 17:8) because of the forgiveness that comes through faith in Christ. Surely Paul was trying to lead Felix and Drusilla to repentance the way Nathan preached to David (2 Samuel 12:1-13), but Paul was brushed away.
Finally, Paul talked about the judgment to come. “We will all stand before God’s judgment seat” (Romans 14:10). Since “the wicked will not (be able) to stand in the judgment” (Psalm 1:5), and they will be condemned (Mark 16:16), this was certainly the part of Paul’s message that bothered Felix the most. He might have asked Paul what he should do to be saved (Acts 16:30). If he had, Paul might have offered to baptize him right there in the palace as he had done with the jailer at Philippi (Acts 16:33). But instead, Felix sat there waiting for a bribe, a bribe Paul would never offer.
Instead, Paul went back to his holding cell, attended by his friends. A year went by, 59 AD (the year the Emperor Nero had his own mother murdered). Another year arrived: 60 AD. Felix was replaced by Festus. Paul was still in prison. But as we will see, he would not have to wait long once Festus arrived.
If you are waiting for a change to come in your life, remember to pray for strength, for perseverance, and thank God for the chance to examine your own faith, righteousness, and self-control in view of the coming judgment. The sins of your life are forgiven. Is there a new door opening to you, a new way in which you might serve God in the future? All things serve the Lord’s purpose (Psalm 119:91). What will you say when an unexpected door opens?
Pastor Timothy Smith