The Gospel Versus The World

There Paul stood, probably in "chains" (cf. Acts 26:29), before the Roman Procurator of Judea Marcus Antonius Felix and his beautiful nineteen year old wife, the princess Drusilla, great-granddaughter of King Herod the Great. Felix, a freed slave, had clawed his way to the top of the Roman bureaucracy where he was known as a very licentious person. Along the way to his position, he had seduced Drusilla away from her first husband, King Azizus of Emesa. They were now living in adultery (cf. Mat. 19:9). As Procurator he had accepted bribes and also had a Jewish high priest assassinated. What does Paul say to them? Does he proclaim to them the need to “like and feel good about yourself” or “don’t worry, be happy” or “God accepts you the way you are?” Not Paul!

Paul knew that this pair had a knowledge of Christianity (Acts 24:22); which meant that they knew of Christianity’s claim that Jesus was the Christ and had risen from dead. They may have heard of the cry of Jesus to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mat. 4:17). They knew of the thousands who had repented of their sins and been immersed in water for the remission of their sins in Jerusalem a few years before (Acts 2:38,41). Luke records that Paul “reasoned” or gave a strong argument regarding three things: “righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come.” “Righteousness” meant upright conduct before God (Prov. 14:34). “Temperance” meant self-control; exactly what Felix and Drusilla were not practicing. Paul also covered something many forget about today – “the judgment to come” (Acts 17:31).

Assuredly Paul spoke “truth to power” before these two august sinners in Caesarea. He did not compromise the Gospel to suite the audience (2 Tim. 4:2). Some today would accuse Paul of being “unloving and hateful” because he pointed out their sins to these sinners and the remedy. Yet isn’t that the loving thing to do with any sinner? Felix’s reaction to Paul’s message revealed his fear. As a judge of Paul and others he knew what judgment and justice involved. He physically shook or trembled (“was terrified” – ASV) at the prospect of divine punishment for his sins. This pagan understood Paul’s plain preaching. The neo-pagans and hedonists of today can also understand plain, Bible preaching (2 Cor. 5:10). Sadly his response was not obedience of the Gospel but procrastination.

Drusilla’s reaction is not recorded by Luke. This pampered teenager may have just shrugged off Paul’s message as “hell fire and brimstone stuff.” As a “Jewess” (Acts 24:24), she probably understood more deeply than Felix what Paul was speaking about. She may have also noticed her husband's reaction. Did she tremble, at least inwardly? History records that Drusilla and her son by Felix tragically died in the fire and brimstone from Mt. Vesuvius’ eruption August 24, 79 A.D. Yet it is also just as tragic every time a sinner spurns the Truth and dies un-forgiven by the blood of Christ (Acts 22:16). Roelf L. Ruffner

Mike Riley, Gospel Snippets