Reading through the Bible together
The commander, Claudius Lysias, upon hearing of the plot by 40 Jews to kill Paul, took measures to protect his prisoner, who was a Roman citizen. He sent him to Felix the governor, in Caesarea. Felix had risen from being a slave to being a governor—with the help of his brother who was a favorite of Emperor Nero. Felix was known for his unscrupulous behavior and cruelty. But he decided to hear Paul’s case, and summoned his accusers from Jerusalem. The two speeches made in this chapter could not be more contrasting. Tertullus, the sly lawyer retained by the Sanhedrin, told one lie after another—some bold, some subtle—laced with flattery for the governor. Paul, in his defense, told the plain truth of the case. Felix could see right through Tertullus’ lies, and decided that the Jews were not going to bring any light on this trial. He stopped the proceedings and said he would wait for a face-to-face report from Claudius Lysias, the commander. The Jews were forced to leave.
Felix, an old schemer and liar himself, was intrigued by Paul. His wife Drusilla was Jewish, the daughter of Herod Agrippa. They decided to have a private meeting with Paul. Felix knew well the teachings and lifestyle of the Jews, but was intrigued by this “faith in Christ Jesus” (v.24). Paul gladly opened up to the powerful couple about God’s righteousness, proper behavior, and man’s final judgment before God. Well known was Felix’s ruthless wickedness, and few, if any, would have dared confront the Roman governor with the truth. But Paul had no fear of man, and saw this as an opportunity to appeal to Felix to be reconciled to God. “He showed Felix that this life is man's time of preparation for the future life.” Then, Paul pointed them to the “great Sacrifice for sin,” and the fact that Christ had met the demands of the law (The Acts of the Apostles, pp.424, 425).
Felix became convicted, but not Drusilla. He was afraid of the judgment (v.25). He kept Paul in custody and over the next two years spoke with Paul several times on these issues, but never surrendered. Eventually, Felix was called to account by Rome for having killed thousands of Jews and allowing looting among the wealthy, and was removed from his post. He left Paul in prison to gain some favor with the Jews, but never again did he hear an admonition to repent. How tragic is the end of those who will wait to repent.
Ron E. M. Clouzet
NAD Evangelism Institute Director
Professor of Ministry and TheologySeminary, Andrews University