Felix Models The Pathway To Hell
Topic: Sanctification Passage: Acts 24:22–27
The governor Felix and his wife Drusilla model a pathway to hell that many in American Christianity have followed over the past 100 years. These are those who put off the need to deal with their sin and act on the conviction they may be feeling. “I’ll deal with that another time,” they say. Paul’s message here had Felix trembling, but Felix shut him down. And tragically, Felix never trembled again. Two huge lessons we see from this passage are: 1) Paul shows us how to share the message of Jesus, and 2) Felix and Drusilla show us how not to respond to that message.
So who are Felix and Drusilla? First, Antonius Felix, was the first slave in the history of the Roman empire to gain his freedom and become governor over a province. He was a slave of Antonia, a daughter of (Roman politician) Mark Antony and mother of future emperor Claudius. Felix’s brutality and cruelty were well documented by both Jewish historian Josephus and Roman historian Tacitus. Drusilla was Felix’s third wife and he was her second husband. She was the daughter of Herod Agrippa (who had James put to death, Acts 12:2). These two call for Paul to come and speak to them.
1) Paul shows us how to share the message of Jesus:
What would Paul declare to Felix and Drusilla? As he always does, he speaks clearly and boldly about Jesus. Did Paul cave to the temptation to go Christian-lite so as not to offend the man who had power to grant him freedom? No, but he spoke about faith in Jesus, which is a faith that produces repentance and the fruit of self-control. He spoke all that in the context of the fact that God, the Creator will judge each and every one of us in the future one day. Why would Felix and Drusilla keep asking to hear from Paul? It could have been for intellectual stimulation, but instead Paul went directly to addressing their immoral lives. Note that Paul reasoned with them. He appealed to their minds in order to get to their consciences. He reasoned about righteousness, likely about God who is utterly holy and righteous and how we in our fallen, sinful nature have no righteousness before Him. And the only way righteousness comes to us is through faith in Jesus Christ. He reasoned with them about self-control, exposing their adultery, lust, greed, selfishness, and cruelty. He may have said something like he said in Titus 2:11-12. He reasoned with them about the judgment to come (Cf. Acts 17:30-31).
2) Felix shows us how not to respond to the message of Jesus:
How did Felix respond to Paul’s message? He experienced God’s goodness in that he had a visceral experience of fear and trembling. There are two ways you can respond to your trembling. The first is what the Philippian jailer did in Acts 16:29-30 (with faith). The second way is how Felix responded. He squashed the feelings of ultimate reality that were coming over him. “When I find time,” he said. What sad words. And that moment of trembling never came again for him. Where did he go wrong? Part of Felix was hoping Paul would slip up over the next two years that he continued to send for him, and maybe give him a bribe. This shows a lesson for all to take note of: beware of hearing the gospel over and over with a hard heart. People are sitting in churches all over the world today hearing extraordinary truths about God and His glory, and they are yawning. For those of us who by God’s grace have responded to that trembling and embraced the mercy of God in Jesus Christ, there is an ongoing principle in this text as we place ourselves before the Scripture: we must not say, “maybe later, I’ll obey.” Today is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2).