Acts 24:25
And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go your way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for you.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(25) Righteousness, temperance, and judgment.—The first word, like our English “justice,” includes in Greek ethics the duties which man owes to man. “Temperance” answers to a term with a somewhat wider sense than that which now attaches to the English word, and implies the state in which a man exercises control over all the passions that minister to sensuality, while he yet falls short of a perfect harmony between Reason and Emotion (Aristot. Eth. Nicom. vii. 7-10). What has been said of Felix shows how faulty his character was in both these respects. The selection of the unwelcome topics shows how little St. Paul belonged to the class of those who “compassed sea and land to make a proselyte” (Matthew 23:15). It would apparently have been easy to bring about this result with Felix and his wife, had the preacher been content to speak smooth things and prophecy deceits, to put the patch of a ceremonial Judaism on the old garment of a sensual life; but instead of this he presses home the truths which their state needed, and seeks to rouse conscience to something like activity. His own experience (Romans 7:7-23; Philippians 3:7-8), had taught him that, without this, neither doctrine nor ritual availed to deliver the soul from its bondage to evil, and bring it into the kingdom of God. But he does not confine himself, as a merely ethical teacher might have done, to abstract arguments on the beauty or the utility of “justice” and “temperance.” Here, also, his own experience was his guide, and he sought to make the guilty pair before whom he stood feel that the warnings of conscience were but the presage of a divine judgment which should render to every man according to his deeds. It will be noted that there is no mention here of the forgiveness of sins, nor of the life of fellowship with Christ. Those truths would have come, in due course, afterwards. As yet they would have been altogether premature. The method of St. Paul’s preaching was like that of the Baptist, and of all true teachers.

Felix trembled, and answered . . .—Conscience, then, was not dead, but its voice was silenced by the will which would not listen. Felix treats St. Paul as Antipas had treated the Baptist (Mark 6:20). He does not resent his plainness of speech; he shows a certain measure of respect for him, but he postpones acting “till a more convenient season,” and so becomes the type of the millions whose spiritual life is ruined by a like procrastination. Nothing that we know of him gives us any ground for thinking that the “convenient season” ever came.

Acts

PAUL BEFORE FELIX

FELIX BEFORE PAUL

A Sermon to the Young

Acts 24:25
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Felix and his brother had been favourite slaves of the Emperor, and so had won great power at court. At the date of this incident he had been for some five or six years the procurator of the Roman province of Judaea; and how he used his power the historian Tacitus tells us in one of his bitter sentences, in which he says, ‘He wielded his kingly authority with the spirit of a slave, in all cruelty and lust.’

He had tempted from her husband, Drusilla, the daughter of that Herod whose dreadful death is familiar to us all; and his court reeked with blood and debauchery. He is here face to face with Paul for the second time. On a former interview he had seen good reason to conclude that the Roman Empire was not in much danger from this one Jew whom his countrymen, with suspicious loyalty, were charging with sedition; and so he had allowed him a very large margin of liberty.

On this second occasion he had sent for him evidently not as a judge, but partly with a view to try to get a bribe out of him, and partly because he had some kind of languid interest, as most Romans then had, in Oriental thought-some languid interest perhaps too in this strange man. Or he and Drusilla were possibly longing for a new sensation, and not indisposed to give a moment’s glance at Paul with his singular ideas.

So they called for the Apostle, and the guilty couple found a judge in their prisoner. Paul does not speak to them as a Greek philosopher, anxious to please high personages, might have done, but he goes straight at their sins: he reasons ‘of righteousness’ with the unjust judge, ‘of temperance’ with the self-indulgent, sinful pair, ‘of the judgment to come’ with these two who thought that they could do anything they liked with impunity. Christianity has sometimes to be exceedingly rude in reference to the sins of the upper classes.

As Paul went on, a strange fear began to creep about the heart of Felix. It is the watershed of his life that he has come to, the crisis of his fate. Everything depends on the next five minutes. Will he yield? Will he resist? The tongue of the balance trembles and hesitates for a moment, and then, but slowly, the wrong scale goes down; ‘Go thy way for this time.’ Ah! if he had said, ‘Come and help me to get rid of this strange fear,’ how different all might have been! The metal was at the very point of melting. What shape would it take? It ran into the wrong mould, and, as far as we know, it was hardened there. ‘It might have been once, and he missed it, lost it for ever. No sign marked out that moment from the common uneventful moments, though it saw the death of a soul.’

Now, my dear young friends, I do not intend to say anything more to you of this man and his character, but I wish to take this incident and its lessons and urge them on your hearts and consciences.

I. Let me say a word or two about the fact, of which this incident is an example, and of which I am afraid the lives of many of you would furnish other examples, that men lull awakened consciences to sleep and excuse delay in deciding for Christ by half-honest promises to attend to religion at some future time.

‘Go thy way for this time’ is what Felix is really anxious about. His one thought is to get rid of Paul and his disturbing message for the present. But he does not wish to shut the door altogether. He gives a sop to his conscience to stop its barking, and he probably deceives himself as to the gravity of his present decision by the lightly given promise and its well-guarded indefiniteness, ‘When I have a convenient season I will send for thee.’ The thing he really means is-Not now, at all events; the thing he hoodwinks himself with is- By and by. Now that is what I know that some of you are doing; and my purpose and earnest prayer are to bring you now to the decision which, by one vigorous act of your wills, will settle the question for the future as to which God you are going to follow.

So then I have just one or two things to say about this first part of my subject. Let me remind you that however beautiful, however gracious, however tender and full of love and mercy and good tidings the message of God’s love in Jesus Christ is, there is another side to it, a side which is meant to rouse men’s consciences and to awaken men’s fears.

If you bring a man like the man in the story, Felix, or a very much better man than he-any of you who hear me now-into contact with these three thoughts, ‘Righteousness, temperance, judgment to come,’ the effect of such a direct appeal to moral convictions will always be more or less to awaken a sense of failure, insufficiency, defect, sin, and to create a certain creeping dread that if I set myself against the great law of God, that law of God will have a way of crushing me. The fear is well founded, and not only does the contemplation of God’s law excite it. God’s gospel comes to us, and just because it is a gospel, and is intended to lead you and me to love and trust Jesus Christ, and give our whole hearts and souls to Him-just because it is the best ‘good news’ that ever came into the world, it begins often {not always, perhaps} by making a man feel what a sinful man he is, and how he has gone against God’s law, and how there hang over him, by the very necessities of the case and the constitution of the universe, consequences bitter and painful. Now I believe that there are very few people who, like you, come occasionally into contact with the preaching of the truth, who have not had their moments when they felt-’Yes, it is all true-it is all true. I am bad, and I have broken God’s law, and there is a dark lookout before me!’ I believe that most of us know what that feeling is.

And now my next step is-that the awakened conscience is just like the sense of pain in the physical world, it has a work to do and a mission to perform. It is meant to warn you off dangerous ground. Thank God for pain! It keeps off death many a time. And in like manner thank God for a swift conscience that speaks! It is meant to ring an alarm-bell to us, to make us, as the Bible has it, ‘flee for refuge to the hope that is set before us.’ My imploring question to my young friends now is: ‘Have you used that sense of evil and wrongdoing, when it has been aroused in your consciences, to lead you to Jesus Christ, or what have you done with it?’

There are two persons in this Book of the Acts of the Apostles who pass through the same stages of feeling up to a certain point, and then they diverge. And the two men’s outline history is the best sermon that I can preach upon this point. Felix becoming afraid, recoils, shuts himself up, puts away the message that disturbs him, and settles himself back into his evil. The Philippian jailer becoming afraid {the phrases in the original being almost identical}, like a sensible man tries to find out the reason of his fear and how to get rid of it; and falls down at the Apostles’ feet and says, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’

The fear is not meant to last; it is of no use in itself. It is only an impelling motive that leads us to look to the Saviour, and the man that uses it so has used it rightly. Yet there rises in many a heart that transparent self-deception of delay. ‘They all with one consent began to make excuse’; that is as true to-day as it was true then. My experience tells me that it will be true in regard to a sad number of you who will go away feeling that my poor word has gone a little way into their hardened hide, but settling themselves back into their carelessness, and forgetting all impressions that have been made. O dear young friend, do not do that, I beseech you! Do not stifle the wholesome alarm and cheat yourself with the notion of a little delay!

II. And now I wish next to pass very swiftly in review before you some of the reasons why we fall into this habit of self-deceiving, indecision, and delay-

‘Go thy way’ would be too sharp and unmistakable if it were left alone, so it is fined off. ‘I will not commit myself beyond to-day,’ ‘for this time go thy way, and when I have a convenient season I will call for thee.’

What are the reasons for such an attitude as that? Let me enumerate one or two of them as they strike me. First, there is the instinctive, natural wish to get rid of a disagreeable subject-much as a man, without knowing what he is doing, twitches his hand away from the surgeon’s lancet. So a great many of us do not like-and no wonder that we do not like-these thoughts of the old Book about ‘righteousness and temperance and judgment to come,’ and make a natural effort to turn our minds away from the contemplation of the subject, because it is painful and unpleasant. Do you think it would be a wise thing for a man, if he began to suspect that he was insolvent, to refuse to look into his books or to take stock, and let things drift, till there was not a halfpenny in the pound for anybody? What do you suppose his creditors would call him? They would not compliment him on either his honesty or his prudence, would they? And is it not the part of a wise man, if he begins to see that something is wrong, to get to the bottom of it and, as quickly as possible, to set it right? And what do you call people who, suspecting that there may be a great hole in the bottom of the ship, never man the pumps or do any caulking, but say, ‘Oh, she will very likely keep afloat until we get into harbour’?

Do you not think that it would be a wiser thing for you if, because the subject is disagreeable, you would force yourself to think about it until it became agreeable to you? You can change it if you will, and make it not at all a shadow or a cloud or a darkness over you. And you can scarcely expect to claim the designation of wise and prudent orderers of your lives until you do. Certainly it is not wise to shuffle a thing out of sight because it is not pleasing to think about.

Then there is another reason. A number of our young people say, ‘Go thy way for this time,’ because you have a notion that it is time enough for you to begin to think about serious things and be religious when you grow a bit older. And some of you even, I dare say, have an idea that religion is all very well for people that are turned sixty and are going down the hill, but that it is quite unnecessary for you. Shakespeare puts a grim word into the mouth of one of his characters, which sets the theory of many of us in its true light, when, describing a dying man calling on God, he makes the narrator say: ‘I, to comfort him, bid him he should not think of God. I hoped there was no need to trouble himself with any such thoughts yet.’

Some of my hearers practically live on that principle, and are tempted to regard thoughts of God as in place only among medicine bottles, or when the shadows of the grave begin to fall cold and damp on our path. ‘Young men will be young men,’ ‘We must sow our wild oats,’ ‘You can’t put old heads on young shoulders’-and such like sayings, often practically mean that vice and godlessness belong to youth, and virtue and religion to old age, just as flowers do to spring and fruit to autumn. Let me beseech you not to be deceived by such a notion; and to search your own thoughts and see whether it be one of the reasons which leads you to say, ‘Go thy way for this time.’

Then again some of us fall into this habit of putting off the decision for Christ, not consciously, not by any distinct act of saying, ‘No, I will not,’ but simply by letting the impressions made on our hearts and consciences be crowded out of them by cares and enjoyments and pleasures and duties of this world. If you had not so much to study at College, you would have time to think about religion. If you had not so many parties and balls to go to, you would have time to nourish and foster these impressions. If you had not your place to make in the warehouse, if you had not this, that, and the other thing to do; if you had not love and pleasure and ambition and advancement and mental culture to attend to, you would have time for religion; but as soon as the seed is sown and the sower’s back is turned, hovering flocks of light-winged thoughts and vanities pounce down upon it and carry it away, seed by seed. And if some stray seed here and there remains and begins to sprout, the ill weeds which grow apace spring up with ranker stems and choke it. ‘The cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and efface the impression made upon your hearts.

Here as I speak some serious thought is roused; by to-morrow at midday it has all gone. You did not intend it to go, you did not set yourself to banish it, you simply opened the door to the flocking in of the whole crowd of the world’s cares and occupations, and away went the shy, solitary thought that, if it had been cared for and tended, might have led you at last to the Cross of Jesus Christ. Do not allow yourselves to be drifted, by the rushing current of earthly cares, from the impressions that are made upon your consciences and from the duty that you know you ought to do!

And then some of you fall into this attitude of delay, and say to the messenger of God’s love, ‘Go thy way for this time,’ because you do not like to give up something that you know is inconsistent with His love and service. Felix would not part with Drusilla nor disgorge the ill-gotten gains of his province. Felix therefore was obliged to put away from him the thoughts that looked in that direction. I wonder if there is any young man listening to me now who feels that if he lets my words carry him where they seek to carry him, he will have to give up ‘fleshly lusts which war against the soul’? I wonder if there is any young woman listening to me now who feels that if she lets my words carry her where they would carry her, she will have to live a different life from that which she has been living, to have more of a high and a noble aim in it, to live for something else than pleasure? I wonder if there are any of you who are saying, ‘I cannot give up that’? My dear young friend, ‘If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee. It is better for thee to enter into life blind than with both eyes to be cast into hell-fire.’

Reasons for delay, then, are these: first, getting rid of an unpleasant subject; second, thinking that there is time enough; third, letting the world obliterate the impressions that have been made; and fourth, shrinking from the surrender of something that you know you will have to give up.

III. And now let me very briefly, as my last point, put before you one or two of the reasons which I would fain might be conclusive with you for present decision to take Christ for your Saviour and your Master.

And I say, Do not delay, but now choose Him for your Redeemer, your Friend, your Helper, your Commander, your All; because delay is really decision in the wrong way. Do not delay, but take Jesus Christ as the Saviour of your sinful souls, and rest your hearts upon Him to-night before you sleep; because there is no real reason for delay. No season will be more convenient than the present season. Every time is the right time to do the right thing, every time is the right time to begin following Him. There is nothing to wait for. There is no reason at all, except their own disinclination, why every man and woman listening to me should not now grasp the Cross of Christ as their only hope for forgiveness and acceptance, and yield themselves to that Lord, to live in His service for ever. Let not this day pass without your giving yourselves to Jesus Christ, because every time that you have this message brought to you, and you refuse to accept it, or delay to accept it, you make yourselves less capable of receiving it another time.

If you take a bit of phosphorus and put it upon a slip of wood and ignite the phosphorus, bright as the blaze is, there drops from it a white ash that coats the wood and makes it almost incombustible. And so when the flaming conviction laid upon your hearts has burnt itself out, it has coated the heart, and it will be very difficult to kindle the light there again. Felix said, ‘Go thy way, when I have a more convenient season I will send for thee.’ Yes, and he did send for Paul, and he talked with him often-he repeated the conversation, but we do not know that he repeated the trembling. He often communed with Paul, but it was only once that he was alarmed. You are less likely to be touched by the Gospel message for every time that you have heard it and put it away. That is what makes my place here so terribly responsible, and makes me feel that my words are so very feeble in comparison with what they ought to be. I know that I may be doing harm to men just because they listen and are not persuaded, and so go away less and less likely to be touched.

Ah, dear friends! you will perhaps never again have as deep impressions as you have now; or at least they are not to be reckoned upon as probable, for the tendency of all truth is to lose its power by repetition, and the tendency of all emotion which is not acted upon is to become fainter and fainter. And so I beseech you that now you would cherish any faint impression that is being made upon your hearts and consciences. Let it lead you to Christ; and take Him for your Lord and Saviour now.

I say to you: Do that now because delay robs you of large blessing. You will never want Jesus Christ more than you do to-day. You need Him in your early hours. Why should it be that a portion of your lives should be left unfilled by that rich mercy? Why should you postpone possessing the purest joy, the highest blessing, the divinest strength? Why should you put off welcoming your best Friend into your heart? Why should you?

I say to you again, Take Christ for your Lord, because delay inevitably lays up for you bitter memories and involves dreadful losses. There are good Christian men and women, I have no doubt, in this world now, who would give all they have, if they could blot out of the tablets of their memories some past hours of their lives, before they gave their hearts to Jesus Christ. I would have you ignorant of such transgression. O young men and women! if you grow up into middle life not Christians, then should you ever become so, you will have habits to fight with, and remembrances that will smart and sting; and some of you, perhaps, remembrances that will pollute, even though you are conscious that you are forgiven. It is a better thing not to know the depths of evil than to know them and to have been raised from them. You will escape infinite sorrows by an early cleaving to Christ your Lord.

And last of all I say to you, give yourselves now to Jesus Christ, because no to-morrow may be yours. Delay is gambling, very irrationally, with a very uncertain thing-your life and your future opportunities. ‘You know not what shall be on the morrow.’

For a generation I have preached in Manchester these annual sermons to the young. Ah, how many of those that heard the early ones are laid in their graves; and how many of them were laid in early graves; and how many of them said, as some of you are saying, ‘When I get older I will turn religious’! And they never got older. It is a commonplace word that, but I leave it on your hearts. You have no time to lose.

Do not delay, because delay is decision in the wrong way; do not delay, because there is no reason for delay; do not delay, because delay robs you of a large blessing; do not delay, because delay lays up for you, if ever you come back, bitter memories; do not delay, because delay may end in death. And for all these reasons, come as a sinful soul to Christ the Saviour; and ask Him to forgive you, and follow in His footsteps, and do it now! ‘To-day, if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts.’24:22-27 The apostle reasoned concerning the nature and obligations of righteousness, temperance, and of a judgment to come; thus showing the oppressive judge and his profligate mistress, their need of repentance, forgiveness, and of the grace of the gospel. Justice respects our conduct in life, particularly in reference to others; temperance, the state and government of our souls, in reference to God. He who does not exercise himself in these, has neither the form nor the power of godliness, and must be overwhelmed with the Divine wrath in the day of God's appearing. A prospect of the judgment to come, is enough to make the stoutest heart to tremble. Felix trembled, but that was all. Many are startled by the word of God, who are not changed by it. Many fear the consequences of sin, yet continue in the love and practice of sin. In the affairs of our souls, delays are dangerous. Felix put off this matter to a more convenient season, but we do not find that the more convenient season ever came. Behold now is the accepted time; hear the voice of the Lord to-day. He was in haste to turn from hearing the truth. Was any business more urgent than for him to reform his conduct, or more important than the salvation of his soul! Sinners often start up like a man roused from his sleep by a loud noise, but soon sink again into their usual drowsiness. Be not deceived by occasional appearances of religion in ourselves or in others. Above all, let us not trifle with the word of God. Do we expect that as we advance in life our hearts will grow softer, or that the influence of the world will decline? Are we not at this moment in danger of being lost for ever? Now is the day of salvation; tomorrow may be too late.And as he reasoned - Greek: "And he discoursing" - διαλεγομένου δὲ αὐτοῦ dialegomenou de autou. No argument should be drawn from the word that is used here to prove that Paul particularly appealed to reason, or that his discourse was argumentative. That it was so is, indeed, not improbable, from all that we know of the man, and from the topics on which he discoursed. But the word used here means simply as he discoursed, and is applied usually to making a public address, to preaching, etc., in whatever way it is done, Acts 17:2; Acts 18:4, Acts 18:19; Acts 19:8-9; Acts 24:12. Felix and Drusilla intended this as a matter of entertainment or amusement. Paul readily obeyed their summons, since it gave him an opportunity to preach the gospel to them; and as they desired his sentiments in regard to the faith in Christ, he selected those topics which were adapted to their condition, and stated those principles of the Christian religion which were suited to arrest their attention, and to lead them to repentance. Paul seized every opportunity of making known the gos pel; and whether a prisoner or at liberty; whether before princes, governors, kings, or common people, he was equally prepared to defend the pure and holy doctrines of the cross. His boldness in this instance is the more remarkable, as he was dependent on Felix for his release. A time-server or an impostor would have chosen such topics as would have conciliated the favor of the judge, and procured his discharge from custody. He would have flattered his vanity or palliated his vices. But such an idea never seems to have occurred to Paul. His aim was to defend the truth, and to save, if possible, the souls of Drusilla and of Felix.

Of righteousness - περὶ δικαιοσύνης peri dikaiosunēs. Of justice. Not of the justice of God particularly, but of the nature and requirements of justice in the relations of life the relations which we sustain to God and to man. This was a proper topic with which to introduce his discourse, as it was the office of Felix to dispense justice between man and man, and as his administration was not remarkable for the exercise of that virtue. It is evident that he could be influenced by a bribe Acts 24:26, and it was proper for Paul to dwell on this, as designed to show him the guilt of his life, and his danger of meeting the justice of a Being who cannot be bribed, but who will dispense equal justice alike to the great and the mean. That Paul dwelt also on the justice of God, as the moral governor of the world, may also be presumed. The apprehension of that justice, and the remembrance of his own guilty life, tended to produce the alarm of Felix, and to make him tremble.

Temperance - ἐγκρατείας egkrateias. The word "temperance" we now use commonly to denote "moderation or restraint" in regard to eating and drinking, particularly to abstinence from the use of ardent spirits. But this is not its meaning here. There is no reason to suppose that Felix was intemperate in the use of intoxicating liquors. The original word here denotes a restraint of all the passions and evil inclinations, and may be applied to prudence, chastity, and moderation in general. The particular thing in the life of Felix which Paul had probably in view was the indulgence of licentious desires, or incontinence. He was living in adultery with Drusilla, and for this Paul wished doubtless to bring him to repentance.

And judgment to come - The universal judgment that was to come on all transgressors. On this topic Paul also dwelt when he preached on Mars' Hill at Athens, Acts 17:31. These topics were admirably adapted to excite the alarm of both Felix and Drusilla. It evinced great boldness and faithfulness in Paul to select them, and the result showed that he correctly judged of the kind of truth which was adapted to alarm the fears of his guilty auditor.

Felix trembled - In view of his past sins, and in the apprehension of the judgment to come. The Greek ἔμφοβος emphobos does not denote that his body was agitated or shaken, but only that he was alarmed or terrified. That such fear usually shakes the frame, we know; but it is not certain that the body of Felix was thus agitated. He was alarmed and terrified, and looked with deep apprehension to the coming judgment. This was a remarkable instance of the effect of truth on the mind of a man unaccustomed to such alarms, and unused to hear such truth. It shows the power of conscience when thus, under the preaching of a prisoner, the judge is thrown into violent alarm.

And answered, Go thy way ... - How different is this answer from that of the jailor of Philippi when alarmed in a similar manner! He asked, "What must I do to be saved?" and was directed to him in whom he found peace from a troubled conscience, Acts 16:30-31. Felix was troubled; but instead of asking what he should do, he sent the messenger of God away. He was evidently not prepared to break off his sins and turn to God. He sought peace by sending away his reprover, and manifestly intended then to banish the subject from his mind. Yet, like others, he did not intend to banish it altogether. He looked forward to a time when he would be more at leisure; when the cares of office would press less heavily on his attention; or when he would be more disposed to attend to it. Thus, multitudes, when they are alarmed, and see their guilt and danger, resolve to defer it to a more convenient time.

One man is engaged in a career of pleasure, and it is not now a convenient time to attend to his soul's salvation. Another is pressed with business; with the cares of life; with a plan of gain; with the labors of office or of a profession, and it is not now a convenient time for him to attend to religion. Another supposes that his time of life is not the most convenient. His youth he desires to spend in pleasure, and waits for a more convenient time in middle age. His middle life he spends in business, and this is not a convenient time. Such a period he expects then to find in old age. But as age advances he finds an increasing disposition to defer it; he is still indisposed to attend to it; still in love with the world. Even old age is seldom found to be a convenient time to prepare for heaven; and it is deferred from one period of life to another, until death closes the scene. It has been commonly supposed and said that Felix never found that more convenient time to call for Paul. That he did not embrace the Christian religion, and forsake his sins, is probable, nay, almost certain. But it is not true that he did not take an opportunity of hearing Paul further on the subject; for it is said that he sent for him often, and communed with him. But, though Felix found this opportunity, yet:

(1) We have no reason to suppose that the main thing - the salvation of his soul - ever again occupied his attention. There is no evidence that he was again alarmed or awakened, or that he had any further solicitude on the subject of his sins. He had passed forever the favorable time - the golden moments when he might have secured the salvation of his soul.

(2) others have no right to suppose that their lives will be lengthened out that they may have any further opportunity to attend to the subject of religion.

(3) when a sinner is awakened, and sees his past sins, if he rejects the appeal to his conscience then, and defers it to a more convenient opportunity, he has no reason to expect that his attention will ever be again called with deep interest to the subject. He may live, but he may live without the strivings of the Holy Spirit. When a man has once deliberately rejected the offers of mercy; when he has trifled with the influences of the Spirit of God, he has no right or reason to expect that that Spirit will ever strive with him again. Such, we have too much reason to fear, was the case with Felix. Though he often saw Paul again, and "communed with him," yet there is no statement that he was again alarmed or awakened. And thus sinners often attend on the means of grace after they have grieved the Holy Spirit; they listen to the doctrines of the gospel, they hear its appeals and its warnings, but they have no feeling, no interest, and die in their sins.

A convenient season - Greek: "taking time." I will take a time for this.

I will call for thee - To hear thee further on this subject. This he did, Acts 24:26. It is remarkable that Drusilla was not alarmed. She was as much involved in guilt as Felix; but she, being a Jewess, had been accustomed to hear of a future judgment until it caused in her mind no alarm. Perhaps also she depended on the rites and ceremonies of her religion as a sufficient expiation for her sins. She might have been resting on those false dependencies which go to free the conscience from a sense of guilt, and which thus beguile and destroy the soul.

25. And as he reasoned of righteousness—with reference to the public character of Felix.

temperance—with reference to his immoral life.

and judgment to come—when he would be called to an awful account for both.

Felix trembled—and no wonder. For, on the testimony of Tacitus, the Roman Annalist [Annals, 9; 12.54], he ruled with a mixture of cruelty, lust, and servility, and relying on the influence of his brother Pallas at court, he thought himself at liberty to commit every sort of crime with impunity. How noble the fidelity and courage which dared to treat of such topics in such a presence, and what withering power must have been in those appeals which made even a Felix to tremble!

Go thy way for this time; and when I have a convenient season I will call for thee—Alas for Felix! This was his golden opportunity, but—like multitudes still—he missed it. Convenient seasons in abundance he found to call for Paul, but never again to "hear him concerning the faith in Christ," and writhe under the terrors of the wrath to come. Even in those moments of terror he had no thought of submission to the Cross or a change of life. The Word discerned the thoughts and intents of his heart, but that heart even then clung to its idols; even as Herod, who "did many things and heard John gladly," but in his best moments was enslaved to his lusts. How many Felixes have appeared from age to age!

These two, righteousness and temperance, the Christian religion do indispensably require; and all true worship without these, will not make up our most holy religion, or give to any the title of a religious or a holy man. But Paul chose rather to discourse of those than any other virtues, because Felix was most defective in them. He would lay his plaster where there was a sore, though it pained the patient, and he should get little thanks for his labour. Had great men but such faithful preachers, it might contribute very much to hinder them in their career of sin, and by that means help to mend the world.

Temperance; or continence; the want of which is charged upon both these great persons, being taxed by historians for adultery; so that Paul preaches here as John Baptist did once to Herod, very suitably, though not gratefully. Yet in the discharge of his duty he meets with no trouble, not so much as a reproach, which probably the sense of the judgment to come might contribute to.

Judgment to come; whatsoever is present, this is certainly to come: and the secret reflections that wicked men have upon it in the midst of their fullest enjoyments, mingle fears and terrors with them. Hence their surda vulnera, misgivings and inward guilt; as its contrary, the peace of God, passeth all understanding.

Go thy why for this time; Felix, not liking such discourse, the subject being too quick and searching for him, put it off longer. And so men put off the consideration of their duties, and of the judgment that will pass upon every one according unto what he hath done in the flesh, till the Judge be, as it were, set, and their case called. And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come,.... The apostle not only discoursed concerning the doctrine of faith in Christ, but insisted upon the duties of religion: and particularly he reasoned upon righteousness; not justifying righteousness, that is only the righteousness of Christ, and which rather belongs to the doctrine of faith in Christ; but the exercise of justice, or the doing of righteousness between man and man; which was agreeably to the light of nature, to the law of God, and Gospel of Christ, and is a virtue highly necessary in a judge, and was greatly wanting in Felix; who, as the historian says (d), was guilty of much cruelty and injustice throughout this government and therefore very appropriately did the apostle fall on this subject: and he might also reason concerning the necessity of a righteousness, in order to justify before God, and to appear before him with acceptance, and to enter into heaven: he might show, that it was the loss of righteousness which was the reason of the first man being removed from his place and state of happiness, in which he was whilst innocent; and that to admit persons into heaven without a righteousness, is contrary to the pure and holy nature of God, who loves righteousness, and hates iniquity; and particularly would not be agreeable to his justice, which requires a perfect righteousness; yea, it would be uncomfortable to holy men themselves, to have ungodly and unrighteous persons with them in heaven: he might also reason upon the want of righteousness, which is in every man; how that the first man having lost his righteousness, all his posterity are destitute of one; and that they are not able to work out one acceptable to God, and which will justify in his sight; that the thing is impracticable and impossible, and that that which men call a righteousness is not one, at least is not a justifying one: he might insist upon the unprofitableness of a man's own works of righteousness for such a purpose, by observing the imperfection of them; and that justification by them is contrary to God's declared way of justifying sinners, is derogatory to his free grace, would make null and void the death of Christ, and encourage boasting in men; and all this he might reason about, in order to convince him of the necessity and suitableness of the righteousness of faith in Christ, he had before been discoursing of: and very pertinently in the next place did he insist on "temperance"; or "continence", and chastity; since Felix had enticed away another man's wife, and now lived in adultery with her: and who was now with him, whilst hearing this discourse; which concluded with an account of "judgment to come"; how that Jesus Christ is appointed the Judge of quick and dead, and that all must appear before him, stand at his bar, and be accountable to him for all their actions, and be judged by him, which will be done in the most righteous manner: he might argue this, not only from the Scriptures of the Old Testament, of which Drusilla might have some knowledge, such as Psalm 96:13, but from reason, from the relation which men stand in to God, as his creatures, and therefore are accountable to him for their actions; and from the justice of God, which in many instances, in the present state of things, is not manifest: good men are afflicted and suffer much, and bad men flourish and enjoy great prosperity; wherefore there must be another state in which things will have another turn, and justice will take place: he might from hence conclude the certainty of a future judgment; and the universality of it, that it would reach to all men and things, and would proceed according to the strict rules of justice, and in the most awful manner; and that a true and just sentence would be pronounced and strictly executed: upon which account of things,

Felix trembled; his conscience was awakened, accused him of the injustice and incontinence he had been guilty of; and his mind was filled with horror, at the thought of the awful judgment he could not escape, which Paul had described unto him; nor could he bear him to discourse any longer on these subjects:

and answered, go thy way for this time, when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee; he signifying he was not at leisure now to hear him any longer; when he had a spare hour he would send for him, and hear him out; but this was only an excuse to get rid of him now, and lull his conscience asleep, and make it quiet and easy; which he was afraid would be more and more disturbed, should he suffer Paul to go on preaching in this manner: it is a saying of R. Judah (e),

"say not when I am at leisure I will learn, perhaps thou wilt never be at leisure.''

(d) Tacit. Hist. l. 5. (e) Pirke Abot, c. 2. sect. 4.

And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 24:25-26. What a sacredly bold fidelity to his calling! Before one, who practised all manner of unrighteousness and incontinence (the victim of his lust sat beside him!), “cuncta malefacta sibi impune ratus” (Tac. Ann. xii. 54), Paul, his defenceless prisoner, discoursed on righteousness, continence, and the impending last judgment. Such is the majesty of the apostolic spirit in its ἀπόδειξις (1 Corinthians 2:4). The extraordinary phenomenon strikes even the heart of Felix; he trembles. But his ruling worldliness quickly suppresses the disturbing promptings of his conscience; with the address of a man of the world, the conference is broken off; Paul is sent back to his prison; and Felix—remains reprobate enough to expect from such a man, and in spite of the Lex Julia de repetundis, a bribe, and for this purpose in fact subsequently to hold several conversations with him.

τὸ νῦν ἔχον] for the present. See Kypke, II. p. 124; Bornemann and Rosenmüller, Repert. II. p. 282.

καιρὸν δὲ μεταλ.] tempus opportunum nactus. Here consequently Paul had spoken ἀκαίρως, 2 Timothy 4:2.

A comma only is to be placed after μετακαλ. σε, as ἐλπίζων, Acts 24:26, does not stand for the finite verb, but is a further definition to ἀπεκρίθη. Also before διό (wherefore) a comma only is to be placed.

χρήματα] Certainly Felix had not remained in ignorance how the love of the Christians had their money in readiness for Paul. “Sic thesaurum evangelii omisit infelix Felix,” Bengel.Acts 24:25. περὶ δικαι.: Paul does not gratify the curiosity of Felix and Drusilla, but goes straight to the enforcement of those great moral conditions without which, both for Jew and Greek, what he had to say of the Messiahship of Jesus was unintelligible; how grievously Felix had failed in righteousness the events of his period of government proved, cf. Tac., Ann., xii., 54, “cuncta malefacta sibi impune ratus,” through the evil influence of Pallas, Tac., Hist., v., 9.—ἐγκρατ.: R.V. margin “self-control,” Latin, temperantia, Vulgate, castitate. The presence of Drusilla by his side was in itself a proof how Felix had failed in this virtue also, ἐγκρ. being specially applicable to continence from sensual pleasures (Wetstein); opposed to it is ἀκρασία, 1 Corinthians 7:5 (= ἀκράτεια), “incontinence,” Arist., Eth., vii., 4, 2. In N.T., Galatians 5:23, 2 Peter 1:6 (bis), cf. Titus 1:8. The word is found in Sir 18:15; Sir 18:30, 4Ma 5:34. St. Paul gives a double proof of his courage in reasoning thus not only before Felix but before his wife, for like another Herodias her resentment was to be feared.—τοῦ κρίματος τοῦ μέλλ.: “the judgment to come,” R.V., preserving the force of the article omitted in all E.V[384] except Rhem.: “ubi etiam illi, qui nunc judices sedent, judicandi erunt” (Wetstein).—ἐμφ. γεν., see on Acts 10:4, cf. the attitude of Antipas with regard to the Baptist, Mark 6:30.—Τὸ νῦν ἔχον, cf. Tob 7:11 (1 ἔχων), and for instances in Greek writers see Wetstein.—καιρὸν δὲ μεταλ., cf. Polyb., ii., 16, 15. μεταλαβόντες καιρ. ἁρμόττοντα (Alford, Blass). So far as we know, no more convenient season ever came, see reading in [385] text.

[384] English Version.

[385] R(omana), in Blass, a first rough copy of St. Luke.25. And as he reasoned … and judgment [R. V. the judgement] to come] It was to be no barren faith which St Paul commended, but was to have its fruits in the life. Felix perhaps expected some philosophical dissertation on the subject of the resurrection, and the life after death. His own conduct, of which Tacitus (Ann. xii. 54, Hist. Acts 24:9) speaks as mean and cruel and profligate, would make the subjects on which St Paul addressed him peculiarly disturbing. For what if this man’s teaching should be true?

Felix trembled] The expression is much stronger. It implies that he was filled with fear. Therefore the Rev. Ver. gives “was terrified.” It can hardly be conceived that St Paul was ignorant of the character of those to whom he was speaking. Felix had been in office long enough to be well known. And the Apostle’s themes were exactly those by which he could find the joints in the governor’s harness. Of “righteousness” his life’s history shews no trace, and for temperance, i.e. self-control, the presence of Drusilla by his side proved that he had no regard. Well might such a man be full of fear at the thought, as St Paul would urge it home, of the judgment after death. But the influence of his terror passed away, for we do not read that the Apostle ever beheld such signs of penitence as led him to quiet the terror, by preaching Christ as the atonement for sin.

when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee] [Rev. Ver. call thee unto me]. The convenient season never arrived. Felix did not change his conduct. When two years more of his rule were ended and he was superseded by Festus, the Jews in Cæsarea brought an accusation against him before Nero, and had it not been for his brother Pallas’ influence he would have been punished for his cruelty and injustice. We have no record of how long he lived after his recall from Cæsarea.Acts 24:25. Διαλεγομένου, as he reasoned) Paul had no desire to insinuate himself into their good-will by subtle disquisitions. Along with his discourse concerning faith in Christ, he also conjoined what needed to be spoken to the judge Felix, and to the same Felix and Drusilla in their private capacity. [Drusilla was not even the lawful wife of Felix.—V. g.]—τοῦ, the judgment) The article not being added to the first and second head of those particulars which are here enumerated, forms an Epitasis [Emphatic addition.—Append.]—ἔμφοβος γενόμενος, being struck with fear, trembling) Truth makes Felix to fear even a prisoner in bonds. [Who should not be struck with fear?—But he who is so struck should suffer himself to be urged forward to repentance and faith, so that fear may give place to love.—V. g.]—τὸ νῦν ἔχον, for the present time) Such a present time having been neglected in this life, shall hereafter cause gnawing remorse to each of the damned. Procrastination is dangerous.—καιρὸν δὲ λαβὼν) Instead of λαβὼν, most copies have μεταλαβὼν, owing to alliteration with μετακαλέσομαι.[140] LXX., Psalms 55 (54):3, ὍΤΑΝ ΛΆΒΩ ΚΑΙΡΌΝ. [This very time should have been the convenient season.—V. g.]

[140] Hence the more recent margin of Bengel prefers λαβὼν, which the older had reckoned among the less established readings.—E. B.

Μεταλαβὼν is the reading of BC: παραλαβὼν of A. No very old authority favours λαβὼν, except Chrysostom be considered such.—E. and T.Verse 25. - And temperance for temperance, A.V.; the judgment for judgment, A.V.; was terrified for trembled, A.V.; and when for when, A.V.; call thee unto me for call for thee, A.V. Righteousness, temperance, the judgment to come

Three topics which bore directly upon the character of Felix. Tacitus says of him that he "exercised the authority of a king with the spirit of a slave;" and that, by reason of the powerful influence at his command, "he supposed he might perpetrate with impunity every kind of villany." He had persuaded his wife Drusilla to forsake her husband and marry him. He had employed assassins to murder the high-priest Jonathan, and might well tremble at the preaching of the judgment to come. Temperance (ἐγκράτεια) is, properly, self-control; holding the passions in hand.

Trembled (ἔμφοβος γενόμενος)

Lit., having become in fear. Rev., better, was terrified.

For this time (τὸ νῦν ἔχον)

Or, for the present. Very literally, as to what has itself now.

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