Faithlife Sermons

Righteousness, Self-Control, and the Coming Judgment

Notes & Transcripts

Righteousness, Self-Control, and the Coming Judgment

24 Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 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.” 26 At the same time he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him.

Acts 24:24-26 (NIV)

When presented with the opportunity to speak before rulers and authorities, Christians sometimes cower. Whether intimidated by prestige or compromised by the allure of fame and importance, temptations threaten to mute the Christian message. The corridors of power test the mettle of all Christians who walk in them, for “power,” as Henry Kissinger once remarked, “is the great aphrodisiac.” Quite apart from their secular peers, Christians must not blanch before those in high position, but should rather seize the opportunity for the good of the gospel.

During his apostolic career, Paul stood his ground before Jewish leaders, Greek philosophers, heretics, and Roman officials. Acts 21-26 chronicles Paul’s long march through Roman imprisonment as he systemically defended the bodily resurrection before the Sandhedrin, two Roman procurators, and the last of the Herods. After having impressed Judean governor Felix with the reason of his initial defense (24:1-23), Paul entertained Felix and his Jewish wife Drusilla with pointed theological conversation on several occasions during his confinement in Caesarea Maritima.

Hoping to secure a bribe in exchange for the release of Paul, Felix feigned interest in the former Pharisee through various visits (v. 26). Paul capitalized upon these conversations with Felix, used them as a pretext to speak “about faith in Christ Jesus” and pressed Felix concerning the weighty and eternal matters of “righteousness, self-control, and the coming judgment” (v. 25). Contrary to his initial illusion that he was in control, Felix found himself unsettled by Paul’s preaching. “Afraid,” Felix abruptly called the talks to an end and temporarily sent Paul away (v. 25).

Did Paul miss an opportunity with Felix? Could a gentler approach have made more headway or perhaps expedited Paul’s release (which would have enabled him to spread the good news unfettered)? The clear answer is no. According to the ancient Roman historian Tacitus (Hist. 5.9), Felix ruled Judea with a brutality worse than the very criminals who plagued the land. Felix needed the candor of Paul’s pointed message of judgment.

From Paul modern Christians learn not to shrink before their duty to articulate the need for righteousness in the public arena. Whether his daily interactions include city leaders, prime ministers, presidents, or kings, a believer’s speech must be characterized by biblical forthrightness. Like Paul, many Christians throughout the world suffer prison and persecution for their gospel fidelity. Can those who live in the environs of freedom in the West be any less forthright and courageous?

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