1 After five days Ananias the high priest came down with some elders and a lawyer named Tertullus. These men presented their case against Paul to the governor. 2 When he was called in, Tertullus began to accuse him and said: “Since we enjoy great peace because of you, and reforms are taking place for the benefit of this nation by your foresight, 3 we acknowledge this in every way and everywhere, most excellent Felix, with utmost gratitude. 4 However, so that I will not burden you any further, I beg you in your graciousness to give us a brief hearing. 5 For we have found this man to be a plague, an agitator among all the Jews throughout the Roman world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes! 6 He even tried to desecrate the temple, so we apprehended him [and wanted to judge him according to our law. 7 But Lysias the commander came and took him from our hands with great force, 8 commanding his accusers to come to you.] By examining him yourself you will be able to discern all these things we are accusing him of.” 9 The Jews also joined in the attack, alleging that these things were so.
10 When the governor motioned to him to speak, Paul replied: “Because I know you have been a judge of this nation for many years, I am glad to offer my defense in what concerns me. 11 You are able to determine that it is no more than 12 days since I went up to worship in Jerusalem. 12 They didn’t find me disputing with anyone or causing a disturbance among the crowd, either in the temple complex or in the synagogues or anywhere in the city. 13 Neither can they provide evidence to you of what they now bring against me. 14 But I confess this to you: I worship my fathers’ God according to the Way, which they call a sect, believing all the things that are written in the Law and in the Prophets. 15 And I have a hope in God, which these men themselves also accept, that there is going to be a resurrection, both of the righteous and the unrighteous. 16 I always do my best to have a clear conscience toward God and men. 17 After many years, I came to bring charitable gifts and offerings to my nation, 18 and while I was doing this, some Jews from Asia found me ritually purified in the temple, without a crowd and without any uproar. 19 It is they who ought to be here before you to bring charges, if they have anything against me. 20 Either let these men here state what wrongdoing they found in me when I stood before the Sanhedrin, 21 or about this one statement I cried out while standing among them, ‘Today I am being judged before you concerning the resurrection of the dead.’”
22 Since Felix was accurately informed about the Way, he adjourned the hearing, saying, “When Lysias the commander comes down, I will decide your case.” 23 He ordered that the centurion keep Paul under guard, though he could have some freedom, and that he should not prevent any of his friends from serving him.
24 After some days, 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 find time I’ll call for you.” 26 At the same time he was also hoping that money would be given to him by Paul. For this reason he sent for him quite often and conversed with him.
27 After two years had passed, Felix received a successor, Porcius Festus, and because he wished to do a favor for the Jews, Felix left Paul in prison.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.”
In this passage, Paul is on trial before Felix, the governor of Caesarea. Paul was essentially charged on three accounts: 1) stirring up riots, 2) being a Christian ringleader, and 3) and defiling the Temple. These charges were the best kind: a series of half-truths and twisted lies.
Paul presented his defense in the way Paul does: with a clear conscious, never out of self-pity or bitterness, and always ending with the gospel.
Paul didn’t bother to hold back either, even if that meant making Felix uncomfortable. You see, Felix’s wife, Drusilla, was previously married to the King of Emesa. With the help of a magician, Felix seduced her and convinced her to marry him.
Felix knew the charges against Paul weren’t true. However, he kept Paul in prison because he was trying to appease the Jews.
A quick history lesson: there was a long withstanding argument about whether Caesarea was a Jewish or Greek city. There was an outbreak of mob violence where the Jews came out on top.
As a result, Felix sent in troops to support the Greeks. Thousands of Jews were killed and with Felix’s consent and encouragement, houses of the wealthiest Jews were sacked and looted. The Jews, naturally, reported their governor to Rome.
Therefore, Felix, in attempt to gain some favor with the Jews, left Paul in prison. However, Felix was still dismissed from office and escaped execution only by the influence of his brother.
One of the most interesting things about this passage is the time in between. “As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you...so he sent for him frequently and talked with him. When two years had passed, Felix was succeeded.”
What did those conversations look like? Did Felix confide in Paul about the disturbances happening in Caesarea? After two years, why didn’t Felix make a profession of faith? You can tell Felix is intrigued, otherwise he wouldn’t have sent for Paul, but why does it stop with intrigue?
My gut tells me, the answer is in verse 25, “When I find it convenient, I will send you for you.”
If we’re honest, we empathize with that. We only want God around when it’s convenient for us. We pray that He’ll take away conflict in our lives. We want easy and comfortable.
We say, “My faith is central to who I am.” Yet, fail to recognize God’s hand at work around us. We send God away any time we’re asked to speak boldly about our faith, especially around people of authority.
We make excuses, “That’s not politically correct. I wouldn’t want to offend.” But, none of that stopped Paul. Do we truly believe what we say we do?
Today, I challenge you to pray the words of Paul, found in Ephesians 6:19: “Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearless make known the mystery of the gospel.”
+ The Acts of the Apostles, by William Barclay
- Who do you identify with in this story? Paul or Felix?
- Do you consistently pray for boldness and ask for opportunities to share your faith?
- What keeps you from sharing your faith?