by Philip Layton
Paul’s trial before Felix
- When Paul spoke about the judgement to come, Felix became afraid and decided not to hear any more (v 25). Is this a subject that puts people off the gospel today?
- Should we avoid the subject for fear of causing offence?
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Going Deeper From 'Words of Life'
It is obvious that the charges against Paul are untrue. Governor Felix should have released him but Felix is a man with other agendas and so he does not. He merely delays making a decision about Paul until Claudius Lysias, the commander, arrives from Jerusalem. Felix orders that Paul be kept under guard but that he be given relative freedom.
Felix is an interesting character. Luke notes that he is ‘well acquainted with the Way’. Having been governor for six years Felix will have had plenty of opportunity to observe the lifestyle of Christians and to know they pose no threat to peace. He treats his prisoner as some kind of exhibit, fascinating to listen to, but fearsome when he speaks the kind of truth that touches Felix personally.
Like Herod Antipas (see Mark 6:17, 18), Felix has taken another man’s wife, so when Paul speaks of righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix calls a halt to their session. ‘That’s enough for today,’ he says. ‘I’ll call you back when it’s convenient’ (Acts 24:25 The Message). Paul can be sent away with the wave of a hand but the claims of Christ are not so easily dismissed.
Greater than guilt, however, Felix’s problem seems to be greed. He sends for Paul regularly, listening, always listening but secretly hoping for a bribe. Perhaps he had heard that Paul brought a substantial offering to Jerusalem for the poor. Two years later, when Felix is called back to Rome, he orders that Paul be kept in prison ‘because [he] wanted to grant a favour to the Jews’.
This man is well informed and has every opportunity to embrace the gospel but he chooses instead to remain an observer. He is like a man who wants to sit by the fire but when the fire gets too hot he throws a bucket of water over it. Felix’s story is a cautionary tale. His motto is: Put off the day. Delay the decision. Wait for the easy, convenient moment.
Too late, Felix discovers that to decide is to decide decisively.
Beverly IvanyTags: Acts