If you had the opportunity to preach to a governor, what would you preach? Such opportunities were given to Jesus’ apostles. Jesus said to His chosen twelve, “and you will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to Gentiles” (Matthew 10:18). These things were true even for the apostle Paul who came later. He had one of those opportunities in Caesarea. During Paul’s time there, Felix the governor “sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ” (Acts 24:24).
Paul spoke with Felix the very relevant and applicable truth of the gospel. “Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, ‘Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you’” (Acts 24:25)
First, Paul reasoned about righteousness. Righteousness includes not only living right with God, but first God’s plan for making man righteous. That plan is revealed in the gospel. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith” (Romans 1:16-17). That plan to make man righteous is by faith in Jesus Christ: “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God which is through faith in Jesus Christ to all and on all who believe” (Romans 3:21-22). The righteousness of God must be submitted to – obeyed – in order to be saved: “For they, being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:3). Imagine sharing with a governor God’s plan for every man, the plan which when submitted to will make even a man of his status righteous – a plan that includes belief in Jesus Christ, repentance, confession of Christ, and baptism into Christ for the remission of sins.
Second, Paul reasoned about self-control. Felix and his wife Drusilla would not be known for moral self-restraint. Drusilla was Felix’s third wife, and history says he had seduced her away from her husband king Azizus of Emesa. Felix and Drusilla needed to turn from – repent of – their own lusts and adultery to serve God with a pure heart. They would need to crucify the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:24). Instead of presenting their “members as slaves of uncleanness,” they would need to present their members as “slaves of righteousness for holiness” (Romans 6:19). They would need to cease from their sin of adultery – they could not remain in a marriage that is adultery. John the Baptist was murdered for preaching to a king about his unlawful marriage (Mark 6:14-28). How many today will have the courage to tell those living in adultery to end their unlawful marriage? What courage Paul had!
Third, Paul reasoned about judgment to come. Felix needed to know that every man would stand before God one day, even men of his rank: “And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened” (Revelation 20:12). He, like all, must “appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). The judgment to come would be a motivator for Felix’s repentance. Paul spoke of repentance and judgment that way in Athens: “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31).
Paul preached to a man of great authority. He preached what Felix needed to hear, not necessarily what he wanted to hear. Felix heard him loud and clear, for Felix trembled. Paul’s example should encourage us to speak and share the truth to others, even when it is difficult, without fear or favor.