PAUL BEFORE FELIX
CHRISTIANS have something to learn from the heathen. In matters that pertain to justice and equity, those who are without God are sometimes, in their own sphere, wiser than the children of light.
We can understand why Christians are not to go to law one with the other before the ungodly. But in our day Civil Judges are often far better Christians than some of the Brethren who ignore their Tribunals.
And so changed are circumstances to-day that, whereas when Paul reasoned of righteousness, temperance and judgment to come, Felix trembled, now, unhappily, Felix sometimes sits in the front pew; and it is the [cowardly] preacher who trembles, lest he should offend them, and lose his place [and all benefits and comforts of life that go with it]!*
[*NOTE. All, who are respecters of persons, are ungodly (Col. 3: 25; Prov. 1: 15, 29, R.V. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death. But in the want of the people is the destruction of the prince: (Prov. 14: 27, 28b, R.V.). But the wicked shall be cut off from the land, and they that deal treacherously shall be rooted out of it (Prov. 2: 22, R.V.).]
Even Christian practice, to-day, often falls short of the laws of Pagan Rome; and Brethren fail to obtain from one another that measure of Justice which Roman law accorded even to criminals.
Under Roman Law, no one was allowed to be condemned before that he which is accused have the accusers face to face, and have licence to answer for himself (Acts 25: 16).
But among Christians to-day there is no such law recognized. The character of [faithful] Brethren is whispered away; and their reputation is shattered by a shrug of the shoulders.
a man of the world hear something unfavourable of another, and he will say One story is very good till the other story is told. But let a Christian hear something, and it is whispered round with Do not say I told you! Do not tell anyone! - and the one who is most concerned is never given the opportunity afforded
by the laws of Pagan
These are some of the lessons to be learned from Pauls appearance before his judges. This is one of the things which Brethren to-day would do well to take heart.
But there are other lessons which we specially desire to bring before our readers.
Four things stand out very prominently in Pauls address to Felix. We do not suppose to give an exposition of the address, as such, but only to call attention to four points:-
How Paul WORSHIPPED.
What Paul BELIEVED.
What Paul HOPED for.
What Pail DID.
(1) HOW PAUL WORSHIPPED (Acts 24: 14).
In verse 14 we have Pauls confession of faith.
After the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers.
The word heresy has come to-day to have quite a different meaning from what it once had in English. It is the Greek word (haeresis); and, when our English version was made, it meant just what the Greek word means, a sect, i.e., a body of people separating themselves from others.* This separation was marked by divergent views and tenets; and so in process of time heresy came to be used of the doctrines which characterised the separations instead of the divisions made. But it means, in verse 14, exactly what it means in verse 5, where it is translated sect.
* The word occurs, and is rendered sect, in Acts 5: 17; 15: 5; 24: 5; 28: 22, and heresy in Acts 24: 14. 1 Cor. 11: 19 (margin sects). Gal. 5: 20. 2 Pet. 2: 1.]
All sectarians are heretics in the Scriptural sense of the word; and all who put corporate unity in the place of spiritual unity are sectarians. The Jews called Christianity a, or the, way (compare verse 22); and all who were in that way were called heretics. Yes, this is indeed the way or sect; for it is Christ and His church. When on earth there was a division among the people because of Him (John 7: 43): so now there is a division, one great division, one Body, and it is because of Christ, and not because of mere views and opinions or doctrines about Him. This division is made by the Holy Spirit, not by man; and being made, we are to endeavour to keep it (Eph. 4: 3).
(2) WHAT PAUL BELIEVED (verse 14).
Believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets.
Not some of the Scriptures, but All. Nothing less that the whole Word of God, was Pauls creed. Nothing less than the whole Revelation of God must form the Articles of the Christian Faith.
How few there are who can thus briefly and truly repeat their Creed.
How sad it is when we find so many knowing so small a portion of the Word of God.
The Bible with so many Christians consists of a few Psalms, a few chapters of Isaiah, a few chapters of John, and a few chapters of Romans. That forms the whole Bible with a vast number of Christians. This, and their sectarian Hymn Book, is their body of Theology.
A few texts are taken out, away from their context, and regardless of their relation to other texts. On these are built up their distinguishing tenets; all other passages are ignored. Hence it is we have so many conflicting voices, opposing schools of thought, [interpretations] and contending sects.
Oh, to come back to the simple creed of the Apostle Paul, and believe ALL THINGS which are written in the Scriptures of truth.
Failure to do this has been the cause of untold evils in the professing Church. This is the cause of all our unhappy divisions. It was this that caused the rejection of the Lord of Glory.
Oh, foolish ones; and slow of heart to believe ALL that the prophets have spoken: Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?
This was the question and reproof addressed to disciples who believed a part of the Divine Word, and not ALL; who believed one part which coincided with their own ideas, and ignored the other part which seemed to them unreasonable and contrary to those ideas.*
[* See Nathaniel
Wests book: The Thousand Years, (pp. 359,
361): Blind to how many things in reference to the
First Advent and the true Messianic Hope, which our Lord found it necessary to
re-instate, in His conversation with Nicodemus, yet both pre and post Christian
Judaism were open-eyed as to many other things in reference to the Second
Advent, but which they deemed due at the One and Only Advent they admitted, an
Advent for Judgment, Victory and Glory. They saw clearly enough that the Messianic
Days, the Kingdom of the 1,000 years, the Millennium of their prophets,
followed the Great Tribulation.
Attaching that 70th week, however, to the 69th in
immediate sequence, and history failing to bring the fulfilment, they concluded
that Jesus of Nazareth was not the Messiah foretold by the prophets. The relation of the 70th week,
however, to the Advent of Messiah as a victorious and judging Prince, sent to
restore the Kingdom of Israel, they understood.
The time of the End, the Time to possess the Kingdom, the
End of the days, the End, they interpreted to mean the End of the Colossus
in Dan. 2: 44, the End in Dan. 9: 26, the End of the ten-toed
The Millennial Age will follow Messiahs Second Advent and the Resurrection of the FAITHFUL Dead, (Rev. 20: 6). How costly and disastrous may that blindness be, to those who teach contrary to unfulfilled Prophetical truth. At the Judgment Seat of Christ, such must be regarded as a Pretenders to the Throne and the Inheritance offered to Christ, (Ps. 2: 8; 110: 1-3), His Apostles, and to Firstborn sons. See Heb. 12: 17. cf. Gal. 5: 21; Eph. 5: 5, 6, etc.]
It was exactly this that led not only to the error and misunderstanding of the disciples, but to Christs rejection by the people.
They believed one part of the prophecies, but not the other part. They did not believe ALL.
The Jews believed the part about the glory, and refused to believe in the sufferings. Even so, Christians, to-day, believe in the sufferings, but refuse to believe in the [millennial] glory.
That Christ should suffer, they will receive; but that He will enter into His glory, and reign over the House of Jacob, they refuse to believe.
Hence the Jews explained away the prophecies of the sufferings, as Christians explain away the prophecies of the [Messiahs manifested thousand years of] glory.
The Jews thought they honoured Christ by not believing in His humiliation; and the Christians call it carnal, to believe that Christ will have any earthly glory.
A part of the truth instead of it all was the fault of the one; and is the fault of the other to-day.
The outcome of it is seen in the fact that, as the Messiah coming in humiliation was not considered good enough, the Jews cast Him out.
The world in its sin and wickedness is not yet considered good enough for Christ, and so Christians would keep Him out; and, though they pray, thy kingdom come, they do not look for either the King or the [promised] Kingdom. *
[* Rev. 3: 21a; Luke 1: 32, R.V.
At a glance we see that the petition is concerned with a subject of hope rather than with one of realised enjoyment. We ask for that which we desire, not for that which we already express. The Kingdom, as contemplated in the Prayer, is a blessing belonging to the future, not a movement at present in process. In a word, it is something to COME Thy Kingdom COME! See tract: An Enduring Passion For Thy Kingdom.]
each case the mistake is the same. The
We see the effect [of Gods displeasure, by what is happening in His Churches throughout the world today; and by the prayers of His redeemed people remaining unanswered, because they are content to disbelieve and remain silent about the inheritance promised to their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (Ps. 2: 8)] everywhere today.
Oh the importance of each of us being able to say with Paul, I believe ALL things which are written in the law and the prophets. We need nothing more than the whole Word of God; and can do with nothing less.
All Scripture must be our standard confession of faith: and, if we be challenged, this is our reply. All Scripture is sufficient for all persons and for all ages. And, if ever the need of such a confession of faith was great, it is to-day.
(3) WHAT PAUL HOPED FOR (verse 15).
Having hope toward God (which they also themselves allow)* that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.
* Compare the same Greek word in Luke 2: 38; Acts 23: 21; Titus 2: 13; Jude 21; also wait for in Mark 15: 43; Luke 2: 25, etc.
This was Pauls great hope. And it was for this that he stood before his judges. There is no hope apart from this. If there be no resurrection, then we are of all men most miserable, for we have to bear reproach for Christ here, and [if this be not the case, we will] have no joy hereafter.*
Many hope for death. The majority of Christians have no better hope.
Death is a solemn reality, and it is a fact of which everyone is well aware apart from revelation. But as to resurrection we know nothing whatever about it apart from what God has revealed in the Scriptures.
Not believing all things that are written, most Christians allow what they call a general resurrection; but have no knowledge of other Scriptures which teach that everyone will be raised in his [or her] own order (or rank). Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christs at [the time of] His coming (the just); and after the thousand years the rest of the dead (the unjust).
These resurrections were never a secret. Even the Jews allowed the resurrection of the just and of the unjust. Our Lord calls these two the resurrection of life and of condemnation.
the Apostle knew of another which he had kept secret, an out-resurrection from among the dead (Phil. 3: 11). His hope
as a Christian was to attain to this, which he could not
attain to as a Jew. This is the
resurrection mentioned in 1 Thess. 4: 13-17. This
resurrection is the special hope* of the
[* See also other Scriptural references to this RESURRECTION OF REWARD: Luke 14: 14; 20: 35; Heb. 11: 35b. cf. Rev. 20: 4-6; 2 Thess. 1: 7-12; Acts 23: 6b, etc.]
The hope of resurrection is a distinctive feature of Christianity. The hope given by any of mans religions does not get beyond a denial of the fact that death is death. They all err, not knowing the Scriptures. They all end in the grave!
The hope of resurrection, on the contrary, has nothing to do with the grave itself, or with anything that is this side of the grave. It begins with the other side altogether.
Religion calls death the other side; but it is not the other side of the grave. The only real other side is resurrection. And this was Pauls hope. I have hope toward God that there shall be a resurrection. Would that this [out-resurrection and salvation of souls (1 Pet. 1: 9)]* were the hope of all the Lords People.
[* Compare with Acts 2: 27, 31, 34, R.V.).]
(4) WHAT PAUL DID (verse 16).
And herein do I exercise myself to have always a conscience void of offence toward God and toward men.
This was the principle that governed Pauls walk.
Believing all things that are written in the Scriptures, he knew what pleased God.
His conscious was therefore formed and governed by what he believed. Believing the [whole] truth, his conscience was true; and, being true toward God [and all that He had entrusted to him], it was necessarily true toward man.
No man knows, of himself, what is right or wrong. Not knowing the Scriptures he errs; and approves of everything which God condemns. A good conscience comes only from unfeigned faith (1 Tim. 1: 5) [in what has God has said, and by obedience to that Word.] Apart from this, the conscience is bad, perverted, or seared.
Now, with this Man of God, compare the man of the world, Felix. The Holy Spirit has given us His character in the same chapter, and with respect to the same four particulars (verses 24-27). We are told
 HOW FELIX WORSHIPPED.
He sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ (verse 24).
Like the worship of thousands today, it consists of hearing a man, instead of the adoration of God. It is one thing to listen to a man, but it is another thing to worship God. Herod sent for John the Baptist, and heard him gladly, and did many things (Mark 6: 20): but when it came a question of righteousness [i.e., both personal* as well as Christs imputed righteousness]*, he did one thing: - he cut off Johns head rather than submit to Gods Word and will. So here with Felix. He could send for, and hear Paul, and tremble; but he could not worship [or serve] God according to Pauls way.
[* See Matt. 5: 20 and 7: 21. cf. Acts 26: 7; 1 Cor. 6: 8, 9, R.V. etc.]
 WHAT FELIX BELIEVED.
When I have convenient season, I will call for thee (verse 25).
Felix did call for Paul again - often; but it was not to hear him, but for quite another object altogether.
Thousands to-day are like Felix. They put the consideration of Judgment to come far from them.
So far as we are told, that convenient season never came; and may never come with those who believe in it. But judgment will surely come [for untold multitudes of regenerate and unregenerate alike - after the time of Death (Heb. 9: 27), and therefore before the time of the First Resurrection (Rev. 20: 6, 13, R.V.)!]
 WHAT FELIX HOPED FOR.
He hoped also that money should have been given him of Paul,
that he might loose him (verse 26).
Money forms the hope of many to-day. But even if they get it, it will perish with them. What a contrast to the blessed hope of resurrection which Paul possessed, and which no money can purchase.
[3b] AND REJECTED.]
All Christians believe in a Resurrection after death; but not all Christians believe in the blessed HOPE of resurrection! All Christian believers will not be resurrected after Satan is bound; but only when the thousand years should be finished, (Rev. 20: 2, 3, 13, R.V.). Paul believed this, and therefore his the blessed HOPE of Resurrection is shown in (Phil. 3: 11, 12, R.V.)!
This is what Felix and Festus both understood; and, after listening to Pauls defence, rejected:-
Now I stand here to be judged for the HOPE I am accused by the Jews O King! Why is it judged incredible with you, if God doth raise the dead? I was not disobedient into the heavenly vision: but declared unto them that they should REPENT and turn to God, DOING WORKS WORTHY OF REPENTANCE: (Acts 26: 7b. 8, 19b, 20, R.V.). *
[* It should be apparent, by the words placed in CAPITALS, that Paul is not preaching to the unregenerate here! Doing works of repentance, has nothing whatsoever to do with the gospel of Gods grace or the free gift of eternal life (Rom. 6: 23)! That life was purchased in full by our Lord and Saviour: but the Scriptures inform us of another life - one which is NOT given as a free gift! It is a life after Death and Resurrection, which will be given to Paul (and others) as a Reward for their faithfulness and obedience after conversion! Heb. 11: 8, 24-28; Rev. 22: 12; 3: 21, etc.
Paul believed in this select resurrection of REWARD out of dead ones (Greek): and when FELIX (and others) who heard and understood this truth, REJECTED his message: they rejected the gospel (or message N.I.V.) of the Kingdom Matt. 13: 41.
Christs coming millennial Kingdom is a reward for good works done in the Saviours name after ones conversion and regeneration, (Luke 21: 35; 22: 28-30; Rev. 3: 21, etc.). This was an important part of Pauls ministry which he addressed to regenerate believers only; and their repentance and good works were necessary qualifications to attain an entrance into that Kingdom. But not all believers were willing to accept this truth; and so, after describing his personal experience and conversion, he says, -
Having obtained, therefore, that assistance which is from God, I stand unto this day, testifying both to small and great, saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses did say should come: how that the Messiah must suffer, and how that he first, from a resurrection of dead ones (Greek), would proclaim LIGHT both to the people and to the Gentiles. And as he thus made his defence, FESTUS said with a loud voice, Thou art mad, Paul; thy great learning has turned thee mad: (verses 22-24.).
For the king knoweth these things, unto whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that NONE OF THESE THINGS IS HIDDEN FROM HIM; for this hath not been done in a corner. (verse 26.)
Both Felix and Festus had heard from others that these responsibility truths were an important part of the Apostles message to Christians; and that he continually reminded them of their importance in his epistles. But, the sad fact was, many were not always able or willing to believe him or accept the dire consequences which would happen to those who rejected his message. Many Christians were opposed to Gods conditional promises; and others who had a clear understanding of them, had apostatised from the faith. See 2 Tim. 2: 17-17; 3: 1-7; 4: 1-4, 9, 10, 14, 16. Compare with Gal. 5: 5; Eph. 5: 21; 1 Cor. 6: 1-9; 10: 1-11, etc.
Paul knew what it was to suffer for telling Gods people the whole truth. The gospel message and the salvation which he taught, was not always a reference to eternal salvation received through faith alone in Christ Jesus! Take heed to thyself, and to thy teaching. Continue in these things; for IN DOING THIS THOU SHALT SAVE BOTH THYSELF AND THEM THAT HEAR THEE (1 Tim. 4: 16). Being often misunderstood, rejected, persecuted and judged as not fit that he should live (Acts 22: 22, R.V.), he never compromised with these truths of Gods Word. How contrary his beliefs and teachings were to what we hear throughout Christendom today!]
WHAT FELIX DID.
Though believing in Pauls innocence, we are told that he kept Paul a prisoner for two years; and, when he vacated his office, he went away, and
willing to show the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound (verse 27).
This was his conscience! He knew not the truth of God. He acted on policy; not on principle. Not believing the Scriptures, his conscience was not good: either toward man, or toward God.
Thus we have the solemn contrast between Paul and Felix.
Paul believed all things written in the Scriptures of truth; and had the blessed hope of resurrection, and of resurrection life beyond the grave, which he will surely enjoy.
Felix believed in a convenient season, which never came: and he hoped for money, which, we may be perfectly sure he never got [from Paul].
So it will be with the faith and hope of all who know not God.