Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jul 6 2013 - Acts 24:1-27 – Righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come

Paul had been taken to Caesarea to be tried before Felix, the Roman Governor of Judea. At his trial, his Jewish opponents accused him of being a troublemaker who had been stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. Paul’s response is to appeal to the evidence; where is the evidence that he has done any of the things of which he is accused? The Jews from Asia who identified Paul in the Temple and stirred up the crowds against him have not even turned up to present their accusations.

In similar fashion, Paul also appeals to evidence when he speaks of Jesus and of the Christian hope. His belief in the resurrection of the dead is grounded in the resurrection of Jesus, and there are plenty who can bear witness to that event (see 1 Corinthians 15:3-7).

Felix did not know what to do with Paul. He adjourned the first hearing, saying that it would be resumed when Lysius the commander arrived from Jerusalem – but there is no evidence that this ever took place. For two years Paul was kept captive by Felix. He listened to Paul on several occasions. Paul spoke to him of Jesus Christ and of “righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come” (Acts 24:25).

At the risk of reading between the lines, it’s fascinating to think of what Paul might have said to Felix under the heading of “righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come.” I suspect that he spoke to him of the need to live a life pleasing to God, a life marked by righteousness and self-control rather than self-indulgence. He would have urged him to realise that the day will come when he will not be sitting in judgment on others but will stand before the Lord Jesus Christ, the one whom God has appointed to judge the world in righteousness. And Paul would have preached Christ as his hope as well as his judge by virtue of his death and resurrection.

Something of what Paul said seems to have got through to Felix for it made him afraid, though, sadly, it did not bring him to repentance and faith. Felix continued to have conversations with Paul, hoping that Paul and his friends might offer him a bribe if he would set Paul free. Clearly he did not believe that Paul had done anything deserving imprisonment by the Roman authorities. But at the end of these two years, when Felix was replaced by Festus, he left Paul in prison hoping to win favour with the Jews.

What a contrast we see between these two men. Paul is appealing to evidence, both concerning his own case and in what he has to say about Jesus. Paul’s appeal is to truth and justice – as with Jesus before Pilate. Yet Paul is also ready to suffer injustice for righteousness sake in the confidence that there is a judgment to come – God in Christ will have the last word. Felix, on the other hand, is concerned only for political expediency and to serve his own immediate interests; he has pacified the Jews by keeping Paul in prison and is hopeful of obtaining a bribe.

Paul's conduct reminds us that Christ is our righteousness not only as our substitute and Saviour but also as our example and Lord. He calls us to follow him in the path of righteousness even where this entails suffering.

Heavenly Father, I want to follow the Lord Jesus Christ; to live to please him, reflecting the beauty of his righteous character. May your Spirit so shape my life that it may be characterised by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Help me to live each day in anticipation of that last day, when I shall stand with Christ in glory.

Peter Misselbrook