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Hope In The Resurrection
Acts of the Apostles 24:15 The apostle Paul’s trial in Caesarea and an example of how the fear of the unrighteous can keep them from accepting Jesus
“I have the same hope in God that these men have, that he will raise both the righteous and the unrighteous.”
Acts of the Apostles 24:15 NLT
Chapter 24 of the Acts of the Apostles begins on an ominous note. The Apostle Paul is being tried before the Roman Governor Antonius Felix. Felix came from a unique background in that he was the first former slave who rose to become governor of a Roman province. The Roman historian Tacitus called Felix “a master of cruelty and lust who exercised the powers of a king with the spirit of a slave,” and Paul was likely familiar with his reputation.
Felix had only recently ordered the massacre of thousands of Jews in Caesarea and turned a blind eye to the looting of many other Jewish households by Roman soldiers. Paul was being accused of “being a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes” and “a creator of dissension among all the Jews throughout the world.” If the Romans wanted anything, it was order in the empire.
Ananias (the high priest) and the Jewish elders had procured the assistance of a skilled Roman orator, Tertullus, to present their case against Paul. They likely thought that their case would be a “slam dunk” and that Paul would be executed. Another pesky follower of that rebel Jesus would be out of their hair for good. And the fact that Paul chose to present his own defense? Surely this “ringleader” would fail at that task!
What the Pharisees failed to realize is that Paul’s honesty and integrity, mixed with their lack of solid evidence or witnesses, would fail to sway Felix. In today’s verse, Paul points out that he has the same belief that the Jewish leaders do — that God will raise both the righteous and unrighteous. Paul, however, speaks with more authority — after all, he has personally witnessed the resurrected Jesus!
Paul also knew that this was not the end of the road for him, that God had much more for him to accomplish before his execution by beheading in Rome. Felix ended up making a strictly political decision and delayed his ruling on the case, but showed an interest in listening to Paul talk about the Christian faith.
Paul preaching to Felix and Drusilla. Image © Classic Bible Art Goodsalt.com
When Paul later preached to Felix and his 20-year-old Jewish wife Drusilla about righteousness, self-control, and the judgement to come, the couple felt uneasy. The couple was not righteous (Felix seduced Drusilla away from her first husband), had no moral self-control, and Paul’s exposition of the gospel made them afraid of future judgement.
Was the fear enough to make Felix immediately convert to Christianity? No, but it did have the side effect of holding Paul in custody for more than two years, where Felix could converse with him more often. Keeping Paul around was also a cowardly and expedient way for Felix to appease the Jewish leaders, who would not have to put up with the Nazarene rabble-rouser.
The governor was eventually recalled to Rome and faded into obscurity. He faced trial for cruelty toward his Jewish subjects, escaped the death penalty, but whether or not he eventually turned to Christ is unknown. Felix is like so many people in the present time who find the gospel intriguing, but feel that surrendering their lives to Jesus will mean a loss of their personal status, power, and control of their lives. Felix may have known deep down that he was hearing truth, but his human pride refused to accept it.
Do you have someone in your life who seems to be wavering on accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior? Keep praying for them and persist in explaining the gospel to them, and perhaps they will be saved! Share Heaven On Wheels with them; daily exposure to the Word may be just what is needed.
Heaven On Wheels Daily Prayer:
Heavenly Father, the book of Acts gives us a vivid picture of the life of Paul as he preached the good news with confidence and authority to those in positions of power as well as those of a more common background. His story shows that You were constantly in control of Paul’s destiny, with Your plans and purposes coming to life through Your faithful servant to hasten the spread of the gospel for Your praise and glory. I pray that You will use me as you did Paul, and that You will help me to faithfully trust in You and Your direction of my life. AMEN