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Playing With The Truth

Acts 24:22-26
Then Felix, who was well acquainted with the Way, adjourned the proceedings. 'When Lysias the commander comes,' he said, 'I will decide your case.' He ordered the centurion to keep Paul under guard but to give him some freedom and permit his friends to take care of his needs. Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, 'That's enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.' At the same time he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him. (NIVUK)

While Paul was held in the Roman fortress at Caesarea, Felix the Governor allowed Paul to have some liberty and for his friends to bring him what he needed. It was a safe place; Paul's accusers could not attack him there. It was God's provision to preserve Paul's life; also it was an opportunity for Felix to understand and respond to the gospel.

The governor knew about Jesus and the church. Antioch, the city in Syria which was the church's mission-sending hub, was in Felix's jurisdiction. Something about Jesus and the Christians (originally called 'followers of the Way') intrigued him. His second wife, Drusilla, was a Jewess, the daughter of Herod Agrippa I who beheaded James the apostle (Acts 12:1-2) and died under God's judgement (Acts 12:21-23). Perhaps Felix wanted to be sure that he would not suffer for his bad ways.

Repeatedly, he sent for Paul to talk about Jesus, the gospel and his faith. But as Paul spoke about the need to be right with God before the final judgement day, Felix became frightened: his life had been littered with cruelty, immorality and he was greedy for bribes, which encouraged crime and public disorder. So the Governor did not want to hear any more from Paul. Yet, he could not get away from the truth or his own corruption. So he repeatedly invited Paul to discuss the gospel, at the same time as encouraging Paul and his friends to pay a bribe in exchange for freedom.

Although many people seem quite indifferent to the gospel, some like to play with the truth. They love discussions until the gospel truth becomes personal. Yet they are caught in a tension between their conscience and their pride. They can neither get it out of their minds, nor repent of their sins. So when talking with such people, we do them no favours by watering down God's righteous demands. The gospel demands action. They should choose to repent, but if they refuse they can never claim that they were ignorant. Evangelism brings salvation to those who respond in repentance and faith; and confirms the condemnation of those who play with the truth and refuse to repent (2 Corinthians 2:16). In both activities Jesus is glorified. So tell the truth about the gospel clearly and personally, urging your hearers to repent because they cannot argue against God's judgement saying that they have never heard.

God of truth. Thank You for being clear about the basis for Your forgiveness: repentance for sins and faith in Jesus. I am sorry when I have diluted the gospel in order to keep a friendship at the risk of my friend losing eternal life. Please help me to be faithful to the truth of the gospel and not hinder those who know that need they to repent from doing so. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams