Perilous Procrastination (Acts 24:1-25:12)
Accusing Paul (24:1-9)
The Jews’ accusation against Paul before Felix consists of three parts: political (“stirs up dissension”), religious (“a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes”), and criminal (“tried to desecrate the temple”). Felix was an intelligent and resourceful man who had made the most of his opportunities and abilities, basically by using people as stepping stones to get to the top. It was said of him that he “exercised the prerogatives of a king with the spirit of a slave.” Eventually, his greed led to corruption, resulting in him losing his office. Even though Felix had some knowledge of Christianity, he was ignorant of the gospel, which is Paul’s priority in this hearing. Ironically, Paul is before Felix in order to be tried, but it is really Felix who is on trial as the gospel arraigns him at the bar of heaven.
Answering Accusations (24:10-21)
Paul honors Felix by respectfully acknowledging the legitimate human authority God had placed in the position. As he proceeds to explain his actions that led to his arrest, he makes clear that the issue is simply that he is a Christian, and his defense is essentially a confession of faith. Whatever the politics of the predicament, it is really a theological problem. In fact, there is hardly an issue today that is not, at its root, a theological one, in which the right resolution depends on the right application of God’s word. There is no secular sphere of life where faith and Christ cannot go, since Christ is Lord of all of life.
Avoiding Judgment (24:22-27)
Felix found himself impressed and intrigued, but being a politician, he placates the Jews by not releasing Paul, and yet also allows Paul some comforts and freedoms due to his citizenship. He merely defers the decision. Following the defense, Felix and his wife were willing to listen to Paul preach, until he came to the issues of righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come. They become frightened; their conscience was bothered. The Law of God had struck like a hammer (Jer 23:29). Like Jesus, Paul used any and every opportunity for gospel encounters: explaining truths, confronting sin, searching consciences, counting costs, and considering commitments. He wasn’t worried about turning people off with too much information. His great concern was their soul, and whether this person would spend an eternity in hell! But even though Felix was bothered by Paul’s preaching, he did not yield. He avoided the issue and postponed his response—procrastinating!
Another Trial (25:1-12)
Once again, the same case is presented, the same three points are mentioned, and Paul makes the same denial. Like Felix before him, Festus recognized that there was no real case against Paul. But when he attempted to throw Paul back to the Jews, Paul argued on the basis of his citizenship that he possessed the right and privilege of appealing to Caesar. Paul was prepared to use every civil right for the promotion of righteousness and for gospel furtherance.
Procrastination is the thief of time in this life, and the thief of eternity in the next. The proverbial “tomorrow” may never come. Are you putting off your response to Christ and the gospel? Are you waiting for the proverbial “tomorrow” before you take repentance and faith in Christ seriously?
Consider these words from J.C. Ryle: “Do you think that you will have a more convenient time to think about these things? So thought Felix…to whom Paul preached; but it never came. The road to hell is paved with such ideas. Better make sure to work while you can. Leave nothing unsettled that is eternal. Run no risk when your soul is at stake.”