There are a lot of opinions on what the church needs to be doing to be relevant today. The lessons we see in Acts 24 will help us stay on message. The key verse is verse 21. Paul says, “…unless it was this one thing I shouted as I stood in their presence: ‘It is concerning the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today.’”
At the beginning of this chapter, we learn that Paul has been brought before the governor. A lawyer named Tertullus is bringing charges against him. Tertullus uses flattery to try to win the governor over. He tells Felix, “We have enjoyed a long period of peace under you, and your foresight has brought about reforms in this nation. Everywhere and in every way, most excellent Felix, we acknowledge this with profound gratitude. But in order not to weary you further, I would request that you be kind enough to hear us briefly.” There had been no peace, no foresight, and no reforms! Felix was not excellent, and in fact, gets fired by the end of the chapter. The Bible warns against flattery (Ps. 12:2, Pr. 20:19). We should genuinely be kind to people and compliment them but should not flatter them. How do you know the difference? A compliment you will say behind their back. Flattery you will only say to their face. We should also not believe everything we hear. There is usually more to the story. Paul was accused of being a troublemaker, a leader of the Nazarene sect, and of trying to desecrate the temple (v. 5-6). The first and third accusations were lies, but the other Jews were quick to join in (v. 9). When Paul had the chance to speak, he did not use flattery, but he did use tact. Always be tactful and respectful. He also stayed on message. When attacked, stick with the facts. Paul also defends himself. He did not stand by and let a lie be told on him. A lie left unanswered will be perceived as truth. Ultimately, Paul talked about the resurrection. He used this trial as an opportunity. Paul stays on message with the gospel. We get involved in a lot of things—important things—that end up keeping us from the one thing, the essential thing, the gospel. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes (Rm. 1:16). In 1 Corinthians 15:3, Paul said the resurrection is of first importance. Everywhere Paul went he talked about One Thing. Programs, politics, and personal preferences are all secondary issues to the gospel. The gospel has to be the priority agenda for the church and us personally.
There is so much distrust of authority today. It is because of people in authority like Felix. Felix was a corrupt politician. Paul was a victim of injustice. He stayed in prison two years for no reason (v. 27). Paul was a man of action. He is going to Rome. He could have been preaching or planting churches, but suddenly, all that seemed to stop. He was innocent and yet in prison for two years. Nothing seemed to change. What do you do while you wait? Trust God! He could have gotten mad or given up, but he didn’t. What do you do when you are being tested? Trust! Paul wrote half the New Testament in prison! In this season, it’s so easy to get discouraged. There is COVID-19, racial injustice, a presidential election, etc. Even in the midst of it all, you can trust God! He knows what He is doing. Keep on praying and being faithful even when nothing seems to change.
“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’” (v. 25). Felix was convicted, even afraid, but he did nothing about it. We don’t know how much time we have left. We need to reach every person with the gospel now. Some of you need to make your decision to follow Christ now. You have waited and procrastinated long enough. Jesus said, “He that is not with me is against me” (Mt. 12:3).
In such an unsettled time, remember in all you do to speak truth. Let the gospel be heard above all else. Remember to trust God, even when it doesn’t seem like anything is changing. And, remember the urgency of obedience. The time is now. None of us knows how much longer we have on this earth.