Bible Reading Blog

Bible Reading Blog

“Felix Was Alarmed”

Categories: Congregational Bible Reading

BIBLE READING: Acts 24.24-25

The Jews wanted to destroy Paul, but he had mercifully come into Roman custody during their last aggression (Acts 21.30-33). As a Roman citizen, Paul was able to manipulate the situation in his favor and was transported to the governor Felix for a proper hearing (Acts 23.16-24).  The Jewish authorities employed a professional spokesperson who buttered up the governor and bullied Paul with false accusations (Acts 24.1-9). But Paul was unphased. He boldly explained his teaching “according to the Way” and reasonably challenged their accusations (Acts 24.10-21).

It appears both the topic and the interaction piqued Felix’s interest. Perhaps Felix was intrigued by Paul’s boldness and self-control in this moment. No doubt, Paul behavior in this circumstance was an unusual sight. But we’re also told Felix was familiar with “the Way” and wanted to hear more; so, he put the Jews off (Acts 24.22).

After some days, he listened to Paul teach about faith in Christ Jesus. “And as [Paul] reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed…” (Acts 24.25). His demeanor immediately changed with such invasive teaching. Despite Felix’s accurate knowledge of “the Way” (24.22), the applications regarding righteousness and self-control were shocking. “…and [he] said, “Go away for the present…” (24.25b).

Felix’s response should draw our attention. In nearly every age, self-control is counter cultural. Sure, it is noble and necessary [sometimes], but culture’s inherent selfishness will never tolerate it. Perhaps this was too personal for Felix. Perhaps he had vices he was unwilling to let go. Perhaps the influences of a carnal culture and political aspirations glowed too brightly. Perhaps he simply didn’t want to accept the changes Paul had explained so clearly. I suppose this could be true for us all. We war with the desires of the flesh which are clear and pressing (Galatians 5.17). We would rather indulge than make hard changes that God calls us to make. But when it comes down to it, faith in Christ rests on our willingness to bear fruit of self-control.

I believe this virtue completes the list of fruits of the Spirit on purpose. Just as life in the Spirit is initiated by love observed and practiced (1 John 3.1), it is sustained and secured through daily dying to self (Romans 12.1-2) and learning to control the desires of the flesh (Romans 8.13). In a word, to walk by the Spirit we must have self-control.

This admonition is critical and practical. “A [person] without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls” (Proverbs 25.28). In other words, self-control is the basic defense against influences around us. It keeps us from getting swept up in the emotion of the moment or the persuasion of others. It helps us to see our own selfish for what it is and what we must do about it. Those around us may scoff at our restraint (1 Peter 4.3-5), but we must “discipline ourselves for godliness” (1 Timothy 4.7-8). “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age…” (Titus 2.11-12).

You may feel inconsistent and challenged to engage in daily discipline and self-control. But the truth is this: Good fruit comes from good roots. When Jesus’ teaching and example are rooted in your heart, you will bear the fruit of self-control.