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Series: Acts

Passage: Acts 23:12-24:27

Speaker: Jeff Thompson

An imminent assassination plot necessitates Paul being rushed out of Jerusalem by night under military escort. He is taken to the governor's mansion in Caesarea Maritima, where he is placed on trial before Felix. As Paul is afforded an opportunity to share the Gospel with Felix and his wife, Drusilla, we are reminded of the seriousness and urgency of responding to the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

Transcription (automatically-generated):

You. As we rejoin our study in Acts 23:12, Paul is in protective custody in the Antonia fortress in Jerusalem, which was operating under a Roman commander named Claudius Lysias. Paul finds himself in this situation because there are zealous and bloodthirsty Jewish men in the city who consider him an enemy of their religion and culture and wish to see him dead. Lucius's attempts to determine if Paul has done anything wrong have led him to the conclusion that this is a religious matter, and he has determined that no crime has been committed. Paul has informed Lucius that he is a Roman citizen, meaning he and his soldiers are duty-bound to protect Paul and process him through the Roman justice system.

Lucius cannot simply release Paul, as it would surely spark another riot and likely Paul's murder. But he can't keep Paul imprisoned either, because of his rights as a Roman citizen. So as we pick things up, Lucius is trying to figure out what to do with this lightning rod of a man, Paul. Acts 23:12 - When it was morning, the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves under a curse not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul.

It seems probable that this scheme was initiated by some of the Jewish men from Asia who had made trouble for Paul all over that province and then had incited the riot against him. On the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, there were more than 40 who had formed this plot. That's a lot of men who want to see Paul dead. These men went to the chief priests and elders, the leaders of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish senate, and said, we have bound ourselves under a solemn curse that we won't eat anything until we have killed Paul. It's the murder diet.

It was trendy back at the time, and it's just a little productivity hack to keep yourself motivated when you're trying to accomplish a task like murder. Verse 15. So now you, along with the Sanhedrin, make a request to the commander that he bring him down to you as if you were going to investigate his case more thoroughly. But before he gets near, we are ready to kill him. So tell Claudius Lucius that the Sanhedrin wants to ask Paul some more questions and investigate things further.

And as soon as they get Paul out of the fortress, we'll ambush them and kill Paul before he reaches you, giving you guys plausible deniability. Now, at least some of the 40 men involved in this conspiracy would inevitably be killed by the soldiers in this assassination attempt, which just reveals the degree of their fanaticism and hatred for Paul. As these events play out, we continue to see many parallels to Jesus' final days in Jerusalem before His crucifixion. Both Paul and Jesus were Jews who preached the gospel to their own people, only to be emphatically rejected.

Both were guilty of no crime, yet a corrupt Sanhedrin plotted against both, and both were prisoners in the Antony of fortress. Truly, Paul was accomplishing his stated goal of sharing in the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ. Verse 16. But the son of Paul's sister, that would be Paul's nephew, hearing about their ambush, came and entered the barracks at the fortress and reported it to Paul. So apparently Paul's young nephew was a believer and was deeply concerned about Paul's welfare.

He was able to simply come into the fortress and visit Paul and share this information because Paul was not a typical prisoner. Remember, he was in protective custody for his own good, meaning that he could receive visitors freely. And he was now likely sleeping in the soldier's barracks instead of a jail cell. And isn't it interesting that Paul's nephew just happened to hear about this plot while he was going about his daily life? God doesn't deal in coincidences, and this was no coincidence.

Verse 17. Paul called one of the centurions and said, take this young man to the commander because he has something to report to him. So we took him, brought him to the commander, and said, the prisoner, Paul called me and asked me to bring this young man to you because he has something to tell you. The commander took him by the hand, led him aside, and inquired privately, what is it you have to report to me? Lucius understood the information was confidential, as Paul had not shared it with the centurion.

So he pulled the boy aside so they could speak privately. The Jews, he said, have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down to the Sanhedrin tomorrow, as though they are going to hold a somewhat more careful inquiry about him. Don't let them persuade you, because there are more than 40 of them lying in ambush, men who have bound themselves under a curse not to eat or drink until they've killed him. Now they are ready, waiting for your consent. So the commander dismissed the young man and instructed him, don't tell anyone that you've informed me about this.

Obviously, it was a serious situation. Not only was Paul's life in danger, but the lives of Lucius's soldiers, too. It was becoming clear that as long as Paul remained in Jerusalem, things would remain on the brink of disaster. But fortunately, Lucius now had the element of surprise on his side. The Jewish conspirators didn't know that he knew about their plot, and that gave him the advantage of being able to make the first move.

So he instructed Paul's nephew to preserve that advantage by telling no one about their conversation. Verse 23. He Lucius summoned two of his centurions and said, get 200 soldiers ready with 70 cavalry and 200 spearmen. Those are javelin throwers, to go to Caesarea at nine tonight. Also provide mounts to ride so that Paul may be brought safely to Felix, the governor.

Well, that ought to do it. The gang of 40 would-be assassins would be outnumbered more than ten to one by Roman marines, and Paul would be right in the middle of them. Lucius concluded that he had to get Paul out of Jerusalem to a secure location ASAP, and so he decided to send him to the regional governor, the governor of the province of Judea, Felix, who resided in Caesarea Maritima, that beautiful seaside town in Samaria full of paganism and luxury. There, about 70 miles or 112, was a palace built by Herod the Great, which served as the governor's mansion. Verse 25.

He, that's Lucius, wrote the following letter, Claudius, Lucius, to the most excellent governor Felix. Greetings. When this man had been seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them, I arrived with my troops and rescued him, because I learned that he is a Roman citizen. You see, in reality, Lucius had only learned about Paul's Roman citizenship later, when he was about to be scourged on Lucius's orders. But in this letter, the sequence of events now makes Lucius a brave and faithful soldier who stormed the Temple Mount under dangerous conditions to rescue a man he knew was a Roman citizen from a murderous mob.

And strangely, the parts where he illegally put Paul in chains assumed he was an Egyptian assassin, and ordered him to be scourged have been left out of Lucius's retelling entirely. His letter to Felix continues. Wanting to know the charge they were accusing him of, I brought him down before their Sanhedrin. I found out that the accusations were concerning questions of their law and that there was no charge that merited death or imprisonment. When I was informed that there was a plot against the man, I sent him to you right away.

I also ordered his accusers to state their case against him in your presence. As soon as Paul was safely out of Jerusalem, Lucius sent orders to the Sanhedrin, telling them to send a contingent to Caesarea Maritima to meet with Felix and present their charges against Paul, in keeping with due legal process in the Roman justice system. Verse 31. So the soldiers took Paul during the night and brought him to Antipatris as they were ordered. Now, Antipatris was a military outpost used as a rest stop between Jerusalem and Caesarea, as it was about halfway between the two.

So this group left Jerusalem about 09:00 p.m. And made it to Antipatris about the same time next day, meaning that the legionnaires who were on foot walked 30 to 35 miles in 24 hours. That's a long day. That's a lot of walking. But speed was of the essence on this occasion, and they succeeded.

The next day, they returned to the barracks, allowing the cavalry to go on with him. So getting halfway there, they knew they were far enough away from Jerusalem and the danger that everyone except for the 70 cavalry men could return to the Antonia Fortress, leaving those 70 to escort Paul. The final 30 to 35 miles. Verse 33. When these men entered Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they also presented Paul to him after he.

That's Felix. Read it. He asked what province he. That's Paul was from to determine if the issue fell within his jurisdiction and under his authority. When he learned he was from Killica, he said, I will give you a hearing whenever your accusers also get here.

He ordered that he be kept under guard in Herod's palace. So while Felix waits for the contingent of Paul's accusers to arrive from Jerusalem, Paul is put under what amounted to house arrest. But it wasn't a terrible place to be. He would have been staying in a reasonably comfortable room, not a jail cell in the governor's mansion. He would have likely had a long chain attached to his leg, but he would have been allowed any visitors that he wanted.

And he was going to be monitored by Roman guards. But it wasn't terrible. Now, why did the plot against Paul fail? Why did it fail? Why was the assassination attempt unsuccessful?

And you might say, well, you told us, jeff, it was that Paul's nephew overheard the conspirators talking and went and told Paul, who told the centurion, who told Lucius, and then Lucius got him out of the city. That's not why the plot against Paul failed. The plot against Paul failed because the previous night, the Lord Jesus had appeared to Paul and said, as you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome. When the Lord says something is going to happen, it's going to happen. It's that simple.

He's the Lord. He's God over everything. He has no rival, no opposition. Nothing can stand against him and his will. When he speaks a word, whatever needs to happen for that word to come to pass will happen.

The universe, time, space, reality itself will bend to the will of God, if need be, to bring it to pass. When Jesus said, you must also testify in Rome, Paul's course was set in the same way. Every promise the Lord has given to you and me in his word will come to pass without fail, without exception. Not one of them will fall short. Not one.

Through Paul, the Lord promised us that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. No asterisk, no fine print, just God's word. Immutable, unshakable, unbreakable, as are all of the Lord's promises. The plot against Paul didn't fail because of Paul's nephew or Claudius Lucius. It failed because it was contrary to a word spoken by God.

So would you write this down? The plot against Paul failed because it was contrary to a word spoken by God.

Felix's rise to become governor of Judea in AD 52 was unusual. He was not descended from Roman aristocracy. Rather, he was a former slave who seems to have gained his appointment through the influence of his brother Pallas, who somehow became a favorite of Emperor Claudius in Rome. Tacitus famously described Felix as having practiced every kind of cruelty and lust, wielding the power of a king with all the instincts of a slave. Likely meaning that Felix was willing to do whatever it took to survive.

He had had nothing and now he had everything. And he was going to indulge, and he was going to do whatever he needed to do to hang on to power and maximize his opportunity. His term of office was marked by increasing uprisings and rebellions throughout the province that Felix would put down and suppress with such ruthless extremity that he alienated most of the local Hebrew population with his barbarism. We continue into chapter 24 and verse one. It says, five days later, Ananias, the high priest, came down with some elders and a lawyer named Tertullos.

We don't know if Tertullos was a gentile Roman or a hellenistic jew, but we know he was hired because he was well versed in roman law and was the best lawyer the Sanhedrin could find to hire. He may actually have been on retainer with them, as it was not unusual for the Sanhedrin to hire such experts to represent their interests in the Roman justice system. It continues. These men presented their case against Paul to the governor. When Paul was called in Tertullos began to accuse him and said to Felix, we enjoy great peace because of you, and reforms are taking place for the benefit of this nation because of your foresight. We acknowledge this in every way and everywhere. Most excellent, Felix, with utmost gratitude. In such situations, it was customary to open with Captatio Benevolentiae, which means some flattering and complimentary statements, which was hard because there wasn't much good to say about Felix, and he was widely hated by the Jews. But that's never stopped a lawyer from lying. So what Tutullos does is compliment Felix in a very intentional way that not so subtly reminds him of his duty to Rome to keep the peace at all costs.

For you see, Tertullos was about to present Paul as a troublemaker, a threat to the peace. Tertullos continues in verse four. But so that I will not burden you any further, I request that you would be kind enough to give us a brief hearing, for we have found this man to be a plague, an agitator among all the Jews throughout the Roman world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. He even tried to desecrate the temple. And so we apprehended him.

The first charge presented is sedition, attempting to disrupt the Pax Romana, the Roman peace, by causing an uprising against the status quo. This was the most serious charge and the only one considered a crime under Roman law. Had Tertullos been able to prove this charge, Paul would have faced the death penalty. But while Paul had been involved with riots, he had been their victim, not their instigator. Part of the reason the Holy Spirit recorded some of these events and documented Paul's travels was to provide a record that proved to people like us today that Christians were not political revolutionaries and that Christianity wasn't a backhanded political movement against the Romans.

The early Christians did not violate Roman law, except for those times when it required them to worship Caesar. They did refuse to do that. The real issue here was Jewish hostility to the gospel. We'll learn in verse 22 that Felix was well-informed about Christianity. He also had the letter from Lucius.

Therefore he was well aware of the Sanhedrin's true motives and well aware of what was really going on. The second charge presented is heresy. Tertullus refers to Paul as a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. Jesus had been called the Nazarene by many of the Jewish religious leaders, pejoratively as an insult. You may recall Nathaniel's words, which revealed the low view in Israel of Nazarenes at the time when he asked rhetorically, can anything good come out of Nazareth?

Tertulos'use of the term sect is a claim that Christians were a distinct subgroup of Judaism. You see, the Pharisees were considered a sect of Judaism. The Sadducees were considered a sect of Judaism. And so the charge presented is that Paul is the ringleader of a heretical sect of Judaism that is offensive to the legitimate sects of Judaism and therefore a threat to the Pax Romana. And there are some similarities here to the approach the Sanhedrin used against Jesus when they falsely accused him before Pilate of misleading our nation, opposing payment of taxes to Caesar.

The third charge presented is blasphemy. Tertullos claims that this all started when Paul was caught trying to desecrate the temple. But in reality, Paul had merely been there worshiping, and a mob had tried to kill him. Tertullos then wraps up his opening statement to Felix, saying, by examining him yourself, you will be able to discern the truth about these charges we are bringing against him. The Jews, the other men from the Sanhedrin who had traveled from Jerusalem, also joined in the attack, alleging that these things were true.

Now, a small thing that doesn't change a lot, but I have to mention it because it's noteworthy, is that some manuscripts have some text added by an editor a couple of centuries later that tries to explain what was going on. And beginning in verse is those manuscripts render the text thusly. He even tried to desecrate the temple. And so we apprehended him and wanted to judge him according to our law. But Lucius the commander came and took him from our hands with great force, commanding his accusers to come to you.

And that's noteworthy just because it would mean that in verse eight, where Tertullos says, by examining him yourself, the hymn is not Paul, but Claudius, Lucius. And this seems to be the case because later in verse 22, Felix will adjourn proceedings and say, when Lucius the commander comes down, I will decide your fate. Verse ten. When the governor motioned for him to speak, Paul replied, because I know you have been a judge of this nation for many years, I am glad to offer my defense in what concerns me. Paul just can't bring himself to lie and compliment Felix.

So all he says is, I know you've been a judge for many years. That's all I got for you. And suddenly reminds him of his duty to judge him rightly, because he knows about Hebrew culture, he knows about Judaism, and he knows about Christianity. Verse eleven. Paul says, you can verify for yourself that it's no more than twelve days since I went up to worship in Jerusalem.

Paul's point was that his visit to the temple was so recent that finding reliable witnesses to the event should have been no problem for those bringing these charges against him. But they had provided none. They didn't find me arguing with anyone or causing a disturbance among the crowd, either in the temple or in the synagogues or anywhere in the city. Neither can they prove the charges they are now making against me. During Paul's short time in Jerusalem, he didn't visit any synagogues.

He didn't engage in any public debates. He was there to meet with the elders of the church, deliver financial gifts, and personally worship God at the temple. The Jews were presenting no evidence and no witnesses. It was all hearsay. The other charges were religious in nature and did not concern Rome.

At this point, Felix should have dismissed the charges due to lack of evidence and released Paul. Verse 14. Paul says, but I admit this to you. I worship the God of my ancestors according to the way, which they call a sect, believing everything that is in accordance with the law and written in the prophets. You might want to underline the word everything.

The way, you may recall, was the early term used by Christians for Christianity, named after the saying of Jesus, I'm the way, the truth and the life. And I love that. Paul says. But just so that we're absolutely clear, I am a follower of Jesus of Nazareth. That is the one charge that those who love the Lord can never and must never deny.

If the charge is following Jesus, we must always be willing to plead guilty, no matter the cost. Paul's words are also a dig at the Hebrew leaders because he's saying, Christianity is not a heretical sect of Judaism. It's not a sect at all. In fact, it's the only one true faith that acknowledges everything in the Old Testament scriptures. The way is true Israel experiencing the promised blessings brought by the Messiah.

Remember, the Sadducees only recognized the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament. And the Pharisees did not acknowledge that Jesus was clearly the fulfillment of the more than 300 Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah. That's why Paul says, I don't belong to a sect. I belong to the way, the only group, by the way, that actually believes everything that is in accordance with the law and written in the prophets. So make a note of this.

Paul points out that Christians believe everything in the Old Testament. Christians believe everything in the Old Testament. He brilliantly turned the tables on his accusers, pointing out that in reality, Christians were the ones with orthodox beliefs and the true heretics were the Jews because they did not believe all of their own scriptures. Verse 15. Paul says, I have a hope in God, which these men themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection, both of the righteous and the unrighteous.

Paul further points out that he shares the same orthodox belief that the Pharisees do, that there will be a resurrection both of the righteous and the unrighteous. And it's worth noting as an aside, that Paul speaks here against a form of what's known as annihilationism. Annihilationism is the belief that only those who belong to Jesus will really live forever. Those who reject him will die, and that'll be it. The lights go out, there is no eternal hell or anything like that.

But Paul explicitly states here there will be a resurrection, both of the righteous and the unrighteous. And it seems really dumb to have a belief system where you say, yeah, if people don't know God and reject Jesus, they die, they go into nothingness, and then they're brought back so that they can be judged and go back to nothingness. That doesn't seem very efficient. And I don't think Jesus has any unnecessary bureaucratic processes in his future plans for all of humanity because of Paul's faith in Jesus as the Messiah and his understanding of eternity. The result, he says, is that I always strive to have a clear conscience toward God and men.

The original Greek verb here translated strive, refers to the discipline training of an athlete for competition. It's a concept Paul elaborated on in his first letter to the Corinthians, writing, don't you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize. Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable crown.

So I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified. Paul did all he could every day to live right and have a clear conscience toward God and men. What an example. What a challenge for each of us.

Paul's point was to reveal his heart and purpose in life. It wasn't to tear down the state of Rome. Paul's purpose and meaning in life was to please God. That was it. And the rhetorical question beneath his words, directed at his accusers was, can you say the same?

To rebut the final charge of blasphemy, Paul recounts for Felix the circumstances of his visit to Jerusalem, saying in verses 17 after many years I came to bring charitable gifts and offerings to my people. I wasn't in Jerusalem to stir up trouble. I was there on a mission of mercy, bringing an offering for needy and starving Jewish Christians. You'll recall that while he was there, Paul agreed to sponsor four Jewish Christians who were taking Nazarite vows, and as their sponsor, he would participate in a ceremony at the temple marking the completion of those vows. As he explains to Felix, while I was doing this, some Jews from Asia found me ritually purified in the temple without a crowd and without any uproar.

Paul points out that he had already undergone ritual purification when these men found him, something that only a devout jew would do. And he wasn't there causing any trouble. He was just there participating in Hebrew worship rituals. Paul then directs Felix's attention to the real cause of the riot on the Temple Mount, some Jews from Asia, and points out, it is they who ought to be here before you to bring charges. If they have anything against me, they were the ones who claimed that they had caught Paul desecrating the temple.

So where were they? Roman law was very strong against accusers who abandoned their charges, and this as well should have fatally undermined the Sanhedrin's case. Paul then looks at the Sanhedrin's representatives and says in verse 20, or let these men here state what wrongdoing they found in me when I stood before the Sanhedrin. Other than this one statement I shouted while standing among them. Today I am on trial before you concerning the resurrection of the dead.

That was indeed the only statement Paul had made to the Sanhedrin regarding the charges against him. And this belief was not a crime as it was shared by the Pharisees, and it was certainly not of concern to the Roman Empire. Thus Paul expertly and accurately refuted all the charges against him. Now, on a different note, I was struck by this question. Where are James and the elders of the Jerusalem church, the ones who counseled Paul to go to the temple with some of their church members, sparking the very events that led to the riot and Paul's arrest?

Where are they? Their absence from these proceedings is conspicuous and on the surface shameful. It's not a good look that by all appearances they abandoned Paul in his time of need after he had only come to them to share financial gifts he had raised for their suffering. Congregation in the hopes of growing the global church into greater unity. It must have crossed Paul's mind that those who hated him were sparing no expense or effort in their attempts to destroy his life.

While those in the Jerusalem church who claimed to be his brothers were nowhere to be found. They didn't show up to help or defend him. They could have presented the four men that Paul went to the Temple Mount with, proving to Felix they weren't Gentiles. But they didn't. I don't know why they didn't.

Paul's nephew likely belonged to the Jerusalem church, but I know the fact that they didn't must have hurt Paul deeply. Verse 22. Since Felix was well informed about the way about Christianity, he adjourned the hearing, saying, when Lucius, the commander, comes down, I will decide your case. Now, Felix had a Jewish wife named Drusilla. And between her and keeping his ear to the ground, over the years, he had become familiar with Christianity, meaning he understood that the charges against Paul were baseless.

And this placed Felix in a difficult position. His prisoner was a Roman citizen who was accused of crimes without any evidence or eyewitness testimony. He had to let Paul go. But if he did, it would infuriate the most important Jewish leaders in Israel, which could lead to further unrest in the province, endangering Felix's governorship in the eyes of Rome. And Felix couldn't let that happen.

Remember, he's a survivor. He's going to do whatever it takes. So in the most political of political moves, he decides the most prudent course of action is to kick the can down the road and avoid making a decision. He adjourns proceedings on the pretext of wanting to hear from Lucius, even though Lucius had already provided a signed report confirming that Paul had committed no crimes. We assume that Lucius later testified before Felix, but as we shall see, he continued to delay rendering a verdict.

Verse 23. He, that's Felix, ordered that the centurion keep Paul under guard, though he could have some freedom, and that he should not prevent any of his friends from meeting his needs. So Paul would remain essentially under house arrest in the governor's mansion, but with some freedom possibly being permitted to wander the grounds of the palace and sometimes make trips under escort into the town of Caesarea. Additionally, he would be allowed visitors and guests who could bring him gifts and or supplies. This way, Felix would not be egregiously violating Paul's rights as a Roman citizen, and he would be able to placate the Hebrew leaders by keeping Paul locked away.

Verse 24. Several days later, when Felix came with his wife, Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and listened to him on the subject of faith in Christ Jesus. Felix's first wife had been a granddaughter of Antony and Cleopatra. Drusilla was his third wife. She was the youngest daughter of Herod Agrippa I, who was mentioned back in Acts 12:1, and the sister of Herod Agrippa II.

In her young teens, she was married to a Syrian king. Felix met her when she was 16, was besotted by her famous beauty, and with the help of a Cypriot magician, contrived to lure her away from her husband. Yes, this is real history. She almost immediately became pregnant and bore him a son. She was likely around 19 at this time and as we just read, was Jewish, although clearly not devout.

A certain pretense of Jewish-ness was necessary to be the governor of Judea to try and appease the population. And Felix and Drusilla were more than happy to maintain the required facade. We don't know whether Paul was summoned at the behest of Felix or Drusilla, but we do know they wished to engage him in substantive conversation and hear him speak about Christianity, an opportunity Paul obviously seized with both hands, sharing the gospel with them. Verse 25. Now, as he spoke about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, you kind of get the feeling that Paul didn't say, well, these are important people.

I better keep it light and easy and not offend anyone. I don't think that's what he did. His gospel presentation is summarized as focusing on righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come. He spoke about every sinner's dilemma, that God's standard is perfect righteousness. Yet we are all sinners who fall short of the glory of God.

What is required of man in response to this dilemma is the exercise of his self-control by repenting, turning from sin, and turning to Christ. Doing so leaves a man with nothing to fear from the judgment to come. However, failing to do so leaves a man in the worst of conditions as an enemy of God with an unavoidable appointment with the judgment to come. Paul challenged Felix and Drusilla on a personal and moral level concerning their readiness to face the judgment to come. They were clearly unprepared, guilty before God, and therefore, like all of us, in desperate need of the forgiveness offered exclusively by faith in Jesus Christ.

Being a wicked and corrupt man who was living in adultery, it is no surprise that when confronted with the power of Paul's gospel preaching, we read that Felix became afraid - underline that. Felix became afraid and replied, leave for now. But when I have an opportunity, I'll call for you, and we're going to come back to this in a minute. But I want you to notice that Felix's fear did not lead him to repentance. Instead, he dismissed Paul from his presence.

At the same time, he was also hoping that Paul would offer him money. While Felix was interested in what Paul had to say, he also had an ulterior motive, seeking a bribe in exchange for Paul's release. Such practices were illegal for Roman authorities, yet widely practiced. Perhaps having learned about the substantial amount of money Paul had brought to the Jerusalem church, Felix thought that he would be able to arrange for some of it to be paid as a bribe. So he sent for him quite often and conversed with him.

Felix tried to give Paul plenty of chances to offer him a bribe, but Paul never did. He just talked about the Lord. It is sobering, sobering to note that Felix had a moment where he felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit giving him an opportunity to be saved. The God of heaven and earth, the king and kings, king of kings and lord of lords, cut through time into his individual life, put his finger on his heart, and said, come and be mine. Felix, in that way that transcends words, transcends reason, transcends understanding, and you just know in an instant that this is real.

But he refused to respond, and the moment passed. And when he called for Paul quite often after that, he was never afraid again. He never felt that same conviction of the Holy Spirit ever again. What happened? He seared his own conscience.

He tuned out the conviction of the Holy Spirit. And for him, that was the one opportunity. That was the one opportunity. And here's what's so sobering to me, and this is why I say that was his one opportunity because he saw Paul many times after that gospel conversation, Paul shared the gospel many more times. But Felix never again felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

And without that, unless the Lord himself draws a man, that man cannot come to the Lord. And so it was just words when Paul was sharing the gospel after that, Felix likely thought he was merely postponing a decision at that time, as he was postponing rendering a verdict on Paul's case. But in reality, he wasn't delaying. He was dismissing the only opportunity he would ever get to be part of the kingdom of God. Write this down.

Felix and Drusilla missed their only opportunity to be saved, their only opportunity, verse 27. After two years had passed, so Paul remained under house arrest. In the governor's mansion in Caesarea, maritima, for two more years, Portius Festus succeeded Felix. And because Felix wanted to do the Jews a favor, he left Paul in prison. Here's what happened.

A riot broke out in Caesarea between Jews and Gentiles, and Felix sided with the Gentiles. He brutally dealt with the Jews involved in that riot, which outraged the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem to such a degree that they traveled to Rome and appealed to the emperor to remove Felix from office, which he did. When that was all going down, Felix was desperate to curry whatever favor he still could with the Jews in his province that he had offended. So he left Paul in prison. Nero recalled Felix to Rome, where he would have faced severe punishment, if not unbelievably, for his incredibly charismatic brother.

Again, Pallas, who had also managed to gain the favor of the current emperor, Nero, and interceded on Felix's behalf. And so Felix lived out the rest of his life in Rome, powerless and in disgrace. Judas betrayed Jesus for money. Felix hoped that Paul would give him money in exchange for his freedom. Judas betrayed Jesus to the Jewish authorities.

Felix, fearing those same authorities, betrayed Paul by refusing to release him despite his innocence. In AD 79, Drusilla and her son died in a way none of you will guess. Death by volcano. Her and her son died in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, joining the thousands entombed to this day in the ashes of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Almost 2000 years later, Felix and Drusilla are immortalized in scripture as tragic examples of a missed opportunity for both.

Missed the greatest opportunity any man or woman can have. The opportunity to have their sins forgiven and be brought into the kingdom of God. Hebrews spells this sobering reality out for us. It's on your outlines saying if we deliberately go on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins. Instead a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire about to consume the adversaries.

I cannot overstate for you the significance of a moment when God comes to you and stirs your conscience, pulling off the blinders for a moment and revealing to you that he is real and you desperately need Jesus. In that moment, Satan knows it would be pointless to try and tell you that it's not real and none of this is happening. He can't get you to reject God outright, because in that moment, you know it's true. And so often, instead, what Satan will do is he'll just whisper, yeah, yeah, that's all true. But you don't have to decide right now.

There's no rush. Take your time. Think about it. You're having some fun right now with some stuff that you don't want to give up. So don't make a hasty decision here.

There'll be other opportunities, and many fall for Satan's ploy. But it's a lie because those other opportunities you're banking on are not promised to you. They are not promised. Perhaps you sat in a Gospel City Church service. You heard the gospel.

You heard an invitation to repent and turn to Christ. And like Felix, you trembled. You were afraid, and you felt the spirit of God calling you. But for whatever reason, you did not respond. You delayed.

And then the next time you heard a gospel invitation, you delayed again. And it was a little bit easier than doing it the first time. And then the next time you heard it, it was even easier to delay again. And what you were doing is you were searing your conscience where it was once sensitive. You were training it to be insensitive so that now it's effortless to ignore the call of God.

Don't even hear it. And because I love you, I must warn you, your soul is in grave danger. Your spirit is unprepared for the judgment to come, and you will be judged. Unless you repent, you will be damned for eternity. You will spend eternity separated from God and everything that is good.

I beg you. I beg you, repent and be saved. Perhaps in his mercy, God will give you another chance. Today, as the Holy Spirit says today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts. You don't know when you're going to die.

You don't know if you'll ever get another chance. You might live a long life, but never have another opportunity to respond to the gospel because you've seared your conscience. Young people, please hear me. Do not say I'll get serious about Jesus when I get older, when I have kids, when I have some real responsibilities, when I need help with a marriage, when I'm done having fun. Tomorrow is not promised to you.

It's not. Neither is another opportunity when the Holy Spirit will stir your soul. And if He doesn't, you will not be able to respond.

Young people, follow Jesus with your whole heart. Today.

The shearing of the conscience can happen to Christians, too, with sin. First, we tremble at the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Then we do it anyway. And we're bothered. We're convicted about it, but we get better at disobeying Christ.

It gets easier to turn down the volume on the Holy Spirit. The more times we do it, we get so good at it, we can actually begin to justify it to ourselves.

Solomon's counsel was, guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life. Are you doing things that at one time would have caused you to feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit? But now they don't. And you know it's because in that area of your life, you've seared your conscience. You've tuned out the Holy Spirit.

If so, repent and ask the Lord, beg him to return sensitivity to the seared parts of your soul and the seared parts of your conscience. And he will. He will.

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