The Gospel has been known to make grown men tremble but that is not enough. Repentance and faith in Jesus are required. By Bill Allan
The apostle Paul, following serious accusations against him by the Jewish religious leaders, was kept as a prisoner in Herod's Praetorium at Caesarea by Felix the Roman governor (Acts 23:35). We are told that Paul was summoned by Felix and he and his wife Drusilla, ‘heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus’ (Acts 24:24). This article will consider the reaction of Felix to the preaching of Paul but before that, it may be helpful to know something about Felix and Drusilla.
Felix was a man of humble birth, who owed his position to the influence which his brother Pallas exercised at the imperial court under Claudius. At the time of this incident, Felix had been the procurator of the Roman province of Judaea for around six years. His term of office was marked by increasing insurgency. He suppressed these uprisings ruthlessly, thereby alienating many of the more moderate Jews, leading to further uprisings. A. T. Robertson states, ‘He was one of the most depraved men of his time’. One commentator noted that his court reeked with blood and debauchery.
Drusilla was the third wife of Felix and was possibly around twenty at this time. Felix was attracted by her famed beauty and convinced her to leave her husband for him. She was the youngest daughter of Herod Agrippa the Great. He was the guy who beheaded James and intended to kill Peter.
Paul preached and Felix trembled
Paul would have known of Felix’s reputation because he had been in office long enough to be well known. Before these two very imperfect people, the apostle preached the Gospel. He, ‘reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgement’. We are told that, 'Felix trembled’ (Acts 24:25). ‘Trembled’ is translated from the Greek word, emphobos. It is variously translated, 'Felix was terrified' (RV), 'being filled with fear' (Derby), 'was afraid’ (NIV), 'Felix trembled'(KJV, Tyndale and Websters). What power there must have been in Paul’s preaching to make someone like Felix tremble! Surely there is something more than human eloquence involved when the prisoner becomes the judge and the judge becomes the criminal!
Felix trembled but that was all he did. Paul would have urged them to repent of their sins and accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour but Felix said, 'Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity, I will summon you' (v.25). What business could have been more urgent for him than the salvation of his soul? He hoped to receive money from Paul to release him. ‘So he sent for him often and conversed with him’ (v.26). His fear of judgement didn’t last long. And this situation went on for two years (v. 27).
It seems the convenient opportunity for Felix to repent never came. Two years later, the Jews in Cæsarea brought an accusation against him before Nero and he was dismissed with a sharp rebuke. Some historians believe that Felix later died of tuberculosis. Drusilla is said to have perished in Pompeii during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. History does not record that Felix or Drusilla ever repented. Felix trembled at Paul’s preaching but it seems that, at death, he and Drusilla went to the judgment about which Paul spoke.
This account is a warning to all not to put off the matter of their eternal destiny for they may never have another opportunity to come to the Saviour. The Gospel has been known to make grown men tremble but that is not enough. Repentance and faith in Jesus are required.
Image | Paul before Felix, 1752. Drusilla is seated on Felix's right | William Hogarth, Public Domain | Wikimedia Commons
Bill Allan is a deacon at his local church - Marshalswick Baptist Free Church. He has been writing for the church magazine for about 15 years now, where this reflection first appeared. He is a member of the Hertfordshire Fellowship of Baptist preachers (HFBP).
He is the author of The Train, A Pilgrim Odyssey, using the pen name Allan Ramsay.
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