Acts 24 finds the Apostle Paul once again under arrest and on trial for his role in spreading the Gospel. He’s been accused of being a menace, starting riots, and being a ringleader of the “Nazarenes” (followers of Jesus Christ), Acts 24:5. Of course he freely admits to the last accusation.
In this chapter he is on trial before Felix, a Roman official. He had been sneaked out of Jerusalem by Roman tribune, Lysias, because of a plot by the Jewsto assassinate him. Although the tribune cannot find any just cause for imprisonment or death, Felix does not conclude with a verdict of his own. Instead he puts off his decision.
While Paul is under arrest, Felix speaks with him numerous times. His interest is purely monetary: he hopes to get a bribe from Paul (Acts 24:26). However, his character is not only revealed by this but also by one of the discussions he has with Paul, and he represents the unbelieving world and why many refuse to accept the Gospel.
Felix encounters the “unholy trinity” so vilified and rejected by unbelievers. Paul discourses with him on three things: “righteousness, self-control, and the coming judgment” (Acts 24:25). These are the antithesis of pagan Rome just as they are of contemporary society shorn of belief in God. It is precisely these things that prevent many people from accepting the Gospel.
Righteousness is indicative of right behavior. Self-control is the necessary antidote to unrighteous behavior. Judgment is the coming threat against unrighteous behavior. They are a trio of fear-inducing and faith-denying items because they imply the need for change—repentance, in the religious vernacular. People don’t want to repent, so they resist these things even if they are close to believing that Jesus is a special religious teacher sent from God.
For some Christians as well, these items don’t fit neatly with the all-loving, all-accepting nature of God that they want to believe in. Yet Paul discourses on these as if they were perfectly natural and consistent with the Gospel of Christ and with the nature of the God who “so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life,” John 3:16.
Humans resist these things because their lives are sinful and prefer not to encounter the darkness within, much less make the necessary changes to live in righteousness and self-control. Either these are part and parcel of the Gospel or Paul is wrong. It should be obvious which of these choices is the right one.
- Bob -