Is it true that somewhere a record is kept of your life? No one is forgotten. Every thought, feeling, and action are noted and understood by a loving God, and one day all will stand before Him and acknowledge Him as righteous, just and true. Some will delight in His presence; however, we are told that the majority will call for the rocks to fall on them to hide them from His presence.
Our great work on this earth as Christians is not to criticize the character and motives of others, but rather to closely examine our own hearts and lives to see if they are in harmony with the word of God. When tempted by the devil, Jesus said to him, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God” (Luke 4:4).
The result of resisting the truth that is in the word of God is a heart that becomes hard. The Bible calls it the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13). That hard heart, confirmed by impenitence, is fatal, and those people who have this condition, while at the same time claiming to be Christian, are deceiving not only themselves but also others. These “Christians” outwardly pay homage to Christ and most of them go to some church. They unite in the services of the Christian religion, but their heart, whose loyalty alone Jesus prizes, is estranged from Him. When men refuse to accept the truth that God sends to them from His word, they are oblivious of the path they take, or its destination.
The Jewish nation in the days of Christ had this same problem. Though God had sent much evidence, they refused to accept the truth and receive Jesus as the longed-for Messiah. The critical question is never how much truth you know, but whether you obey the truth that you do know. The person who knows a thimble full of truth and follows it by putting it into practice is more righteous in God’s sight than a person who knows all about theology yet refuses to live in harmony with that knowledge.
The apostle Paul was brought to Caesarea to stand before Felix the governor, and within just a matter of days the Jewish people had hired an orator by the name of Tertullus to represent them in accusing him.
It says in Acts 24, verse 1, “After five days Ananias the high priest came down with the elders and a certain orator named Tertullus. These gave evidence to the governor against Paul.” To gain favor with the governor, Tertullus decided the best way to proceed was to use flattery. He said, “ ‘Seeing that through you we enjoy great peace, and prosperity is being brought to this nation by your foresight, we accept it always and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness. Nevertheless, not to be tedious to you any further, I beg you to hear, by your courtesy, a few words from us. For we have found this man a plague, a creator of dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. He even tried to profane the temple, and we seized him, and wanted to judge him according to our law. But the commander Lysias came by and with great violence took him out of our hands, commanding his accusers to come to you. By examining him yourself you may ascertain all these things of which we accuse him’ ” (verses 2–8). To these accusations the Jews assented that this was true (verse 9). However, the facts are that in this speech, Tertullus descended to barefaced falsehood.
Historians have revealed that Felix practiced all kinds of lusts and cruelty with the power of a king and the temper of a slave. Now it is true that he had rendered some services to the nation by driving out the robbers and ridding the country of certain dangerous persons. However, the treacherous cruelty of his character is demonstrated by his brutal murder of the high priest Jonathan, who was largely responsible for him getting the position that he had.
Jonathan, though little better than Felix himself, had ventured to reprove him for some of his acts of violence. For doing this, the procurator, Felix, had caused Jonathan to be assassinated while employed in his official duties in the temple. Felix was also known for his unbridled licentiousness. An example of this is seen in his alliance with Drusilla, a young Jewish princess. Through the deceptive arts of Simon Magus, a Cyprian sorcerer hired by Felix, the princess was induced to leave her husband and to become his wife. Drusilla was young and beautiful. 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 bring herself into an association with an elderly, cruel profligate, and bring upon herself the abhorrence of her own nation by forming this adulterous connection.
Yet, the Satanic devices of the conjurer and the betrayer succeeded, and Felix accomplished his purpose. Now the Jews who were present at Paul’s examination shared in the general feelings of animosity toward Felix, but their desire was so great to gain his favor in order to secure the condemnation of Paul that they assented to the flattering words of Tertullus. These were men in holy office, robed in priestly garments, who were very exact in the observance of the ceremonies and customs of their religion. They were very scrupulous to avoid any outward pollution. At the same time, their soul temples were defiled with all manner of iniquity. Jesus said they appeared to be righteous on the outside, but inside they were full of all manner of lawlessness (Luke 11:39). The outward contact with anything that was thought to be unclean was considered by them to be a great offense, but in their eyes, the murder of the apostle Paul was a justifiable act. What an illustration of the blindness that can come upon the human mind.
Here are people who claimed to be God’s covenant people, but like the barren fig tree in Jesus’ parable, they were clothed with pretentious leaves, destitute of the fruits of holiness. How is it in your life, friend? If you profess to be a religious person of any kind, is there something in your life more than a profession? Do you actually have the fruit of holiness described in Galatians 5?
Paul said that in the last days one of the problems would be that many people would have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof (2 Timothy 3:5). That is a true description of what we see today. The Jews were filled with malice toward Paul, a pure and good man, and sought by every means, fair or foul, to take his life by praising a vindictive, profligate man as his judge. There are many today who estimate human character in the same way, prompted by the adversary of all righteousness; they call evil good and truth evil. The prophet Isaiah said, “Truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter” (Isaiah 59:14).
It is because of this condition in the world that God calls upon His children to come out and be separate. God says through the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians, the 6th chapter, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’ Therefore ‘Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty’ ” (verses 14–18). This is not referring to physical uncleanness, but the spiritual uncleanness of the sin of envy and jealousy and evil thoughts.
Those who mingle with the world will eventually come to view matters from a worldling’s standpoint instead of the way that God sees them. “It takes time to transform the human to the divine, or to degrade those formed in the image of God to the brutal or the Satanic. By beholding we become changed.” The Adventist Home, 330.
The pure and the good will always be honored and loved by those who are good. In Tertullus’ speech against Paul, it was charged that he was a pestilent fellow, that he created sedition among the Jews throughout the world, and that he was consequently guilty of treason against the emperor, and that he was a leader of a sect of the Nazarenes and chargeable with heresy against the law of Moses. Another accusation was that he had profaned the temple, which was a lie. It was then falsely stated that Lysias, the commander of the garrison, had violently taken Paul from the Jews as they were about to judge him by their ecclesiastical law, and thus had improperly forced them to bring the matter before Felix.
These lying statements were skillfully designed to obtain the governor’s favor. But Felix, in spite of the fact that he was a profligate and cruel, was not stupid and perceived the motive for the flattery. When he saw that the Jews had failed to substantiate their charges, Felix turned to Paul and asked what he had to say concerning himself. “Then Paul, after the governor had nodded to him to speak, answered: ‘Inasmuch as I know that you have been for many years a judge of this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself, because you may ascertain that it is no more than twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem to worship. And they neither found me in the temple disputing with anyone nor inciting the crowd, either in the synagogues or in the city. Nor can they prove the things of which they now accuse me. But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men. Now after many years I came to bring alms and offerings to my nation, in the midst of which some Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with a mob nor with tumult. They ought to have been here before you to object if they had anything against me. Or else let those who are here themselves say if they found any wrongdoing in me while I stood before the council, unless it is for this one statement which I cried out, standing among them, ‘Concerning the resurrection of the dead I am being judged by you this day’ ” (Acts 24:10–21).
Step by step Paul refuted all of the charges brought against him and declared that he had caused no disturbance in any part of Jerusalem. He had not profaned the sanctuary; he had not been in the temple disputing or raising a ruckus and said that none of the charges could be proved and that he believed in the law and the prophets just the same as the Jews claimed to believe.
Jesus had stated clearly that there would be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust (John 5:28, 29). In a candid, straight-forward manner, the apostle Paul stated the reason for his visit to Jerusalem and the circumstances of His arrest and trial. He spoke with earnestness, sincerity, and conviction of truthfulness. Felix had a better knowledge of the Christian religion than the Jews had supposed, because in Caesarea there were many Christians and he was not deceived by the misrepresentations of these Jews. Felix understood the situation and knew this man before him was not guilty. The Jews had not proven anything.
However, Felix was motivated by no higher motive than being interested in himself. Instead of pronouncing sentence and setting the apostle Paul free as he ought to have done right then, he procrastinated, and Paul was left in prison so that he would not stir up any more the animosity of the Jews.
Later, Felix had Paul brought in to speak to himself and Drusilla, his young wife. Felix’ and Drusilla’s relationship was not a Biblical marriage but an adulterous one. This time, the apostle had a small audience in this licentious couple, a cruel profligate Roman governor and a profligate Jewish princess. The Roman governor had heard about the future resurrection of both the just and the unjust and when Paul spoke about it, he desired to know more. Paul was able to improve on this opportunity. He knew the man and woman before whom he was standing had the power either to put him to death or to preserve his life, but he did not address them with praise or flattery. He knew that how they responded to what he would say to them would determine their eternal destiny. So, forgetting all selfish considerations, he sought to arouse within them the peril of their souls.
The gospel message does not allow any neutrality. The gospel counts all men to be decidedly for the truth or against it. Jesus said, “He that is not with Me is against Me” (Matthew 12:30). If we do not obey and receive the teachings of the gospel, then we become its enemies. But at the same time, the gospel does not know any respect of person, class, or condition. The gospel is addressed to all mankind, and every human being who hears it must make a decision for or against it. If you are not for it, you are against it.
The Lord said, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Matthew 9:13). So, the apostle presented the gospel to Felix. This was not like a whole series of prophecy seminars or evangelistic meetings like preachers conduct today. Paul had one chance to present the truth to this heathen man and his profligate wife.
Notice the three subjects Paul thought best to address with Felix and Drusilla. He “… reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come” (Acts 24:25, first part).
The Bible says that “Felix was afraid and answered, ‘Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you’ ” (verse 25, last part). Paul presented to Felix the righteousness of God, the justice of God, and the nature and obligation of the divine law. He clearly showed that every human being has an obligation to live a life of sobriety and temperance, keeping the passions under the control of reason in conformity with God’s law, and preserving the physical and mental powers in a healthful condition.
Paul presented that a day of judgment would surely come when every human being will be rewarded according to the deeds done in their bodies. Notice what he wrote to the Corinthians: “For we must all 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).
So, a day of reckoning will come. Wealth, or position, or honor will be powerless in the Day of Judgment to elevate a man before God or to ransom him from the penalty of sin. This life is the only period of probation. This is your only chance to develop a character that will be fit to be given the gift of immortality. If we neglect our present privileges and opportunities it will prove to be an eternal loss, because no new probation is going to be given at the end of the world.
If, in the Day of Judgment, you are found to be unholy in heart or defective in any respect when judged by the Law of God, you will suffer the punishment of your guilt. Paul dwelt upon the far-reaching claims of God’s law and showed that the law of God extends not just to outward actions, but to the deep secrets of man’s moral nature. The law extends to the thoughts, to the motives, to the purposes of the heart. In both the Old and New Testaments, we are told that God knows our thoughts. He knows our feelings. The dark passions that are hidden from the sight of men, such as jealousy, revenge, hatred, lust, wild ambition, and evil deeds that are meditated upon in the dark recesses of the mind, yet may never be executed for want of opportunity, God knows.
Men may imagine that they can safely cherish these secret sins, but in the Day of Judgment, Paul says, all the secret sins of man will be laid open. Jesus said the same thing. All secrets of men will be revealed in the judgment. The only hope for fallen man is to manifest faith in the blood of Christ, receive the Holy Spirit and be born again, so that not only his sins might be forgiven, but that a new nature, a new heart, a new Spirit, be instilled within him. This was the message Paul fearlessly preached to Felix.
Felix saw that God justly claims the love and obedience of all His creatures. But man has forgotten his Maker. God did not bestow His grace upon the human race so that the binding claims of His law would be lessened, but rather to be established. Paul said, “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law” (Romans 3:31).
Paul, the prisoner, urged upon the Jew and the Gentile the claims of the divine law and presented Jesus, the despised Nazarene, as the Son of God, the world’s Redeemer and the only One able to forgive sin. The Jewish princess well understood the sacred nature of that law which she had so shamelessly transgressed, but her prejudice against the man of Calvary steeled her heart against the words of life. However, Felix, who had never listened to truth before like this, was deeply agitated. The Spirit sent home the truth to his conscience and he was greatly troubled. Conscience had made her voice heard, and Felix felt that Paul’s words were true.
Memory went back over Felix’s guilty past. With terrible distinctness came to his mind the secrets of his early life; the lust, the bloodshed, the black record of his later years, licentious, cruel, rapacious, unjust, steeped in the blood of many innocent people, the public massacres for which he was responsible and he was filled with terror. The thought that all the secrets of his career of crime were open before the eye of God and that one day he would be judged according to his deeds caused him to tremble with guilty dread. But he decided to put it off.
Refusing the invitation to accept eternal life, Felix told Paul to go away and when it was more convenient, he would call on Paul again. Tragically, that convenient time never came for Felix. There are many people today doing the very same thing. They see the gospel and fear that time when their true character will be laid open for all to see, but they say, “I’ll be saved later.”
How is it with you friend? It is dangerous to wait for the convenient season. It never comes.
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.