March 1, 2015 – March 7, 2015
The Life of Paul
“Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.” Acts 24:16.
Study Help: The Acts of the Apostles, 419–438.
“As one of God’s messengers sent to confirm the truth of the Word, he [Paul] knew what was truth; and with the boldness of a sanctified conscience he gloried in that knowledge.” “Ellen G. White Comments,” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 6, 1094.
1 BROUGHT BEFORE FELIX
- Who was Paul’s accuser—and how did he, with flattering lips, lie to obtain a charge? Acts 24:1–9.
- How does the Psalmist summarize the way of the flatterer? Psalm 5:8, 9.
- In contrast, what characterized Paul’s defense, and how does this reflect Paul’s own advice to his flock? Acts 24:10–21; Romans 12:17, 18.
Note: “Felix had sufficient penetration to read the disposition and character of Paul’s accusers. He knew from what motive they [the Jews and their counsel Tertullus] had flattered him, and he saw also that they had failed to substantiate their charges against Paul. Turning to the accused, he beckoned to him to answer for himself. Paul wasted no words in compliments, but simply stated that he could the more cheerfully defend himself before Felix, since the latter had been so long a procurator, and therefore had so good an understanding of the laws and customs of the Jews. Referring to the charges brought against him, he plainly showed that not one of them was true.” The Acts of the Apostles, 420, 421.
2 A CHANCE TO BE SAVED
Based on Paul’s testimony, what was Felix the governor able to discern and decide? Acts 24:22, 23.
- How did the Holy Ghost prompt a deeper spiritual interest in the heart of Felix and of his second wife, Drusilla? Acts 24:24.
Note: “An example of the unbridled licentiousness that stained his [Felix’s] character is seen in his alliance with Drusilla, which was consummated about this time. Through the deceptive arts of Simon Magus, a Cyprian sorcerer, Felix had induced this princess to leave her husband and to become his wife. Drusilla was young and beautiful, and, moreover, a Jewess. She was devotedly attached to her husband, who had made a great sacrifice to obtain her hand. There was little indeed to induce her to forego her strongest prejudices and to bring upon herself the abhorrence of her nation for the sake of forming an adulterous connection with a cruel and elderly profligate. Yet the Satanic devices of the conjurer and the betrayer succeeded, and Felix accomplished his purpose.” Sketches from the Life of Paul, 235, 236.
- What should we consider by observing God’s earnest longing in behalf of Felix and Drusilla? II Peter 3:9.
Note: “What an insult so many, deceived by Satan’s temptations, offer to the Saviour by abusing their privileges, refusing to acknowledge His loving interest in them.” The Upward Look, 244.
“My brother, my sister, Jesus is inviting you to become a branch of the Living Vine. He is calling upon you to connect with Him, that in His strength you may do His commandments. You have tried to sever yourself from Him, but you have not succeeded. God loves you, and would have you sit at His feet and learn of Him. His forgiveness, compassion, and long-suffering are represented to the world in Christ. If Christ had not paid the ransom for our souls, we would not have had a probation in which to develop characters of obedience to God’s commandments. Then do not disappoint Christ by perversity and unbelief. Appreciate God’s gift to man. Show that you understand what your probation means. It means life or death to each one of us. By our daily conduct we are deciding our eternal destiny.” The Review and Herald, January 26, 1897.
3 WITNESSING TO THE GOVERNOR
- What needed message did Paul bring to Felix and Drusilla, the profligate pair—and how did they respond? Acts 24:25; Ecclesiastes 11:9.
Note: “Paul considered this [a private interview with Felix and Drusilla] a God-given opportunity, and he improved it faithfully. He knew that the man and woman before him had the power to put him to death, or to preserve his life; yet he did not address them with praise or flattery. He knew that his words would be to them a savor of life or of death, and, forgetting all selfish considerations, he sought to arouse them to the peril of their souls.
“The gospel message admits of no neutrality. It counts all men as decidedly for the truth or against it; if they do not receive and obey its teachings, they are its enemies. Yet it knows no respect of person, class, or condition.” Sketches from the Life of Paul, 240.
“The apostle spoke with earnestness and evident sincerity, and his words carried with them a weight of conviction. Claudius Lysias, in his letter to Felix, had borne a similar testimony in regard to Paul’s conduct. … Yet Felix knew no higher motive than self-interest, and he was controlled by love of praise and a desire for promotion. Fear of offending the Jews held him back from doing full justice to a man whom he knew to be innocent.” The Acts of the Apostles, 421, 422.
- How limited was the governor’s interest in Paul, and why did the apostle refuse Felix’s offer of freedom? Acts 24:26, 27; Isaiah 33:14–16.
Note: “For two years no further action was taken against Paul, yet he remained a prisoner. Felix visited him several times and listened attentively to his words. But the real motive for this apparent friendliness was a desire for gain, and he intimated that by the payment of a large sum of money Paul might secure his release. The apostle, however, was of too noble a nature to free himself by a bribe. He was not guilty of any crime, and he would not stoop to commit a wrong in order to gain freedom. Furthermore, he was himself too poor to pay such a ransom, had he been disposed to do so, and he would not, in his own behalf, appeal to the sympathy and generosity of his converts. He also felt that he was in the hands of God, and he would not interfere with the divine purposes respecting himself.” The Acts of the Apostles, 426, 427.
4 BROUGHT BEFORE ROYALTY
- What did the Jews propose to Porcius Festus, the new governor—and what was the result? Acts 25:1–12. Relate the conversation between Festus and Agrippa. Acts 25:13–22.
- What should we learn from Paul’s attempt to make the best of the opportunity before him? Acts 26:1–23.
Note: “In honor of his visitors, Festus had sought to make this an occasion of imposing display. The rich robes of the procurator and his guests, the swords of the soldiers, and the gleaming armor of their commanders, lent brilliancy to the scene.
“And now Paul, still manacled, stood before the assembled company. What a contrast was here presented! Agrippa and Bernice possessed power and position, and because of this they were favored by the world. But they were destitute of the traits of character that God esteems. They were transgressors of His law, corrupt in heart and life. Their course of action was abhorred by heaven.
“The aged prisoner, chained to his soldier guard, had in his appearance nothing that would lead the world to pay him homage. Yet in this man, apparently without friends or wealth or position, and held a prisoner for his faith in the Son of God, all heaven was interested. Angels were his attendants. Had the glory of one of those shining messengers flashed forth, the pomp and pride of royalty would have paled; king and courtiers would have been stricken to the earth, as were the Roman guards at the sepulcher of Christ. …
“The apostle was not disconcerted by the brilliant display or the high rank of his audience; for he knew of how little worth are worldly wealth and position. Earthly pomp and power could not for a moment daunt his courage nor rob him of his self-control.” The Review and Herald, November 16, 1911.
“None can know where or how they may be called to labor or to speak for God. Our heavenly Father alone sees what He can make of men. There are before us possibilities which our feeble faith does not discern. Our minds should be so trained that if necessary we can present the truths of His word before the highest earthly authorities in such a way as to glorify His name. We should not let slip even one opportunity of qualifying ourselves intellectually to work for God.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 333, 334.
5 AN APPEAL TO CAESAR
- How was Agrippa’s reaction different from that of Festus? Acts 26:24–28.
Note: “Festus, Agrippa, and Bernice might in justice have worn the fetters that bound the apostle. All were guilty of grievous crimes. These offenders had that day heard the offer of salvation through the name of Christ. One, at least, had been almost persuaded to accept the grace and pardon offered. But Agrippa put aside the proffered mercy, refusing to accept the cross of a crucified Redeemer.” The Acts of the Apostles, 438.
- How did the interview conclude? Acts 26:29–32. In what sense was this testimony before heathen rulers a lighter affliction than other trials faced by Paul and other servants of God? Ezekiel 2:3–7; Jeremiah 1:17.
- Describe the final outcome of Felix.
Note: “[Due to daring acts of injustice and cruelty,] the Jews made a formal complaint against Felix, and he was summoned to Rome to answer their charges. He well knew that his course of extortion and oppression had given them abundant ground for complaint, but he still hoped to conciliate them. Hence, though he had a sincere respect for Paul, he decided to gratify their malice by leaving him a prisoner. But all his efforts were in vain; though he escaped banishment or death, he was removed from office, and deprived of the greater part of his ill-gotten wealth. Drusilla, the partner of his guilt, afterward perished, with their only son, in the eruption of Vesuvius. His own days were ended in disgrace and obscurity.” Sketches from the Life of Paul, 246.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1 Explain the distinction between respect for authority and flattery.
2 How can we avoid the trap that made Paul’s appeal to Felix unwelcome?
3 Why did Felix treat Paul as he did—both favorably and unfavorably?
4 Describe how God saw the contrast between King Agrippa and Paul.
5 How may we be in danger of repeating Felix and Agrippa’s mistake?
Copyright © 2013 Reformation Herald Publishing Association, 5240 Hollins Road, Roanoke, Virginia. Reprinted by permission.