24:22 But Felix, having a more exact knowledge about the Way, put them off, saying, “When Lysias the commander comes down, I will decide your case.” 23 Then he gave orders to the centurion for him to be kept in custody and yet have some freedom, and not to prevent any of his friends from ministering to him.
24 But some days later Felix arrived with Drusilla, his wife who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 But as he was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, “Go away for the present, and when I find time I will summon you.”
It would be nice to believe that men do what is right simply because it is right. Unfortunately into many decisions come factors outside of the issue at hand. Felix knows Paul is innocent. He knows about the Way; about those who follow Jesus. His own wife is a Jewess. He should have just released him. The fact he kept him only under house arrest in very comfortable accommodations tells you he knows he is innocent but is trying to play the middle.
Felix is the Governor. He has to rule the Jews and maintain not only peace but good relations. Paul may be innocent and the followers of the Way may be good people but they are both a minority and out of favour with the Jewish ruling class. To show Paul favour is political suicide. It is also likely not good for his own marriage...
Things get even more interesting when Felix summons Paul privately to talk to his wife and himself about the Way. Note carefully what happened next. All was well until Paul addressed the issues of righteousness, self-control, and the coming judgment. Suddenly Felix was agitated. Luke, the author of Acts tells us he was actually frightened. Why?
Why do we get so uneasy when the subject turns to our behaviour?
Felix was a politician. He ruled by playing the numbers game. Right and wrong were never his main consideration as we have seen by his treatment of Paul. I can easily imagine that as Paul talked about right living and self-control Felix' mind started to reflect on his past... and when Paul described a day when all our decisions will be brought to judgment he well knew the significance. He was a judge himself after all.
On a daily basis I'm sure that Felix had been good at rationalizing and justifying his less than right decisions. I'm sure he compared himself to others in a similar position and comforted himself that he was at least more fair and compassionate than they were.
The good news is that Felix has a conscience still. The bad news is he fixated on the wrong part of the Story. He fixated on himself and his shortcomings rather than on Jesus and His grace to forgive and power to work in us to overcome. Felix' past was no problem for God. Jesus is the Lamb, the spotless Lamb who died for the sins of the whole world. That included Felix and all his shady deals and unjust judgments.
What about you? What part of the Story do you hear and what parts do you miss? Righteousness, self-control, and judgment are not bad news. They are not frightening news. They are the best news. I can be free. I can have control over my thoughts and actions again. I can stand humbly confident in the coming judgment because my lawyer is my Jesus and my Father is my judge. When I am called to the witness stand to give account for my actions in this life Jesus goes and sits in the witness stand. He presents the scars on His hands. The gavel falls and I am cleared of all charges.
If only Felix had looked higher than himself because perfect love casts out fear. Jesus wins. Love Wins. Where sin abounds His grace abounds all the more.