Acts 24:22 – 27: A more convenient time?

“22 Then Felix, who was well acquainted with the Way, adjourned the proceedings. ‘When Lysias the commander comes,’ he said, ‘I will decide your case.’ 23 He ordered the centurion to keep Paul under guard but to give him some freedom and permit his friends to take care of his needs.  24 Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, ‘That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.’ 26 At the same time he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him.  27 When two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, but because Felix wanted to grant a favour to the Jews, he left Paul in prison.” NIV UK

In the church circles in which I grew up, we often sang a hymn which was creatively based on this story. It was called ‘Almost persuaded’, and in one of its verses it reflects on the inclination to put off becoming a Christian until a more ‘’convenient’’ time. Many have found that such a postponed day does not arrive. You keep on revising the date until you eventually run out of time. Do take note that this can happen. I think many people do intend to get right with God – one day.

It’s been pointed out that, like Herod with John the Baptist, Felix had a fearful fascination with Paul and his message. Tom Wright says he engaged Paul in a game of ‘cat and mouse’ – now I’d like to see you, now go away; now I’d like to see you, now go away – but in the end he discovered that he himself was the frightened mouse. It is not surprising that a message of ‘’righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come’’ would scare a man like him. It had to be a challenge to his lifestyle. He had a lot to be afraid of if he didn’t repent; and he was no doubt fearful of a life marked by self-control if he did. It might seriously cramp his style.

Although the Bible doesn’t give us the details, it was well known to people at the time that Felix had been involved in a major scandal. It was in all the papers. (Well, it would have been, if they’d had them!! It was a story to occupy gossip column inches). Felix had lusted after another man’s wife, and taken her. Her name was ‘’Drusilla.’’ It’s obvious, too, from this story, that he was on the take. I’m not surprised that he couldn’t sit comfortably under Paul’s preaching.

A preacher once said that some people are ‘radiators’ – they give out warmth to all within their reach; but others are ‘drains’ – they suck up as much as they possibly can. Tom Wright is clear in identifying Felix as a ‘drain’. On the face of it, he didn’t treat Paul too badly. Although he was kept in prison, his friends were allowed to take care of his needs. (There was no such thing as a prison catering department. Without visitors to look after you, you would starve). However, Felix cared much more about his own position than he did about the apostle. Most of all, he hoped Paul would slip him a bribe (and he must have found some subtle way to convey to the preacher that he could be released if the price was right). This didn’t happen, of course, and so Felix used Paul to try to keep the Jews happy. He didn’t care about justice. It was all about him. It’s a sad and sordid little scenario really.

‘Actually, Felix was the prisoner, and Paul was the prosecutor. Felix knew he was guilty; but instead of accepting Christ, he delayed. The convenient time to be saved is now (2 Cor.6:1-2; see also Isa.55:6-7).’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word’,p.725.