Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Paul Before Felix

"Then Felix, who was well acquainted with the Way, adjourned the proceedings. “When Lysias the commander comes,” he said, “I will decide your case” (Acts 24:22)

Acts 24 records Paul’s hearing before the Roman governor Felix. Antonius Felix was appointed governor of Judea around A.D. 52, and was recalled to Rome around A.D. 59 to answer for disturbances and irregularities in his rule. The Jews hated him. He was a former slave and a poor governor. He was a harsh and undisciplined man who married three times in succession. Paul came before him around A.D. 57.

The Jews were so concerned to get rid of Paul that they sent none other than the high priest, Ananias, together with a clever lawyer named Tertullus, to bring charges against Paul. Tertullus told Felix that everybody loved him because of his wise administration. The clever Felix doubtless realized that this was a pack of lies, and surely this did not enhance the credibility of the charges Tertullus then laid against Paul. He accused Paul of being a riot-maker and of desecrating the temple.

Paul replied that nobody could prove that he had ever raised a mob or started a riot, because he had not done so. And as far as desecrating the temple was concerned, Paul said that he was ceremonially clean when he entered the temple grounds (Acts 24:18). Paul said he was guilty only of bringing gifts for the poor to the people of Jerusalem (v. 17).

Since this was simply a matter of Jewish religious law, Felix could have dismissed the case then and there. Not wishing to worsen his situation with the Jews, however, he only postponed matters. A few days later he invited Paul to speak with him and to his wife, a Jewess named Drusilla. Paul spoke to them of the last thing they wanted to hear: “righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come.” This discourse frightened Felix, as well it should have, and he dismissed Paul (Acts 24:25).

Hoping Paul would offer him a bribe, perhaps from the money Paul said he had raised for the poor in Jerusalem, Felix sent for him often over the course of two years. Not willing to offend the Jews, however, Felix never let him go free, and when Felix left for Rome, his successor Porcius Festus found Paul still in prison, and still awaiting a formal disposition of his case.

While John the Baptizer and Jesus were both put to death for offending the Jews, Paul was nonetheless faithful to his call. We see God’s providential protection of His Gospel servant at this point. In the face of personal loss due to your faith, be faithful and leave the outcome to God.