At the conclusion of Paul’s third missionary journey, he went to Jerusalem to give a report to the original church. While he was there he went to the Jewish Temple to give an offering for the poor, and he was spotted by the leaders of the Jews who hated Jesus and consequently, hated Paul. They dragged him out of the Temple and almost killed him, but the Roman military stepped in and took him into custody. The commander sent Paul to the governor of that region of the Roman Empire, a man by the name of Felix. Felix had the reputation of being a cruel man. He had a record of violence, oppression, and injustice.
On the day of Paul’s hearing, the Jews showed up with a professional orator named Tertullus (v.1). They had hired the proverbial high-priced attorney to bring their charges against Paul. That is how badly they wanted Paul convicted and sentenced to death. This hearing was something like a grand jury that hears testimony to determine if there is enough evidence to hand down an indictment.
Verses 5-6 record the two charges against Paul. The first was inciting riots among the Jews of the world. This was a serious charge, because a governor like Felix was supposed to keep the peace by eliminating trouble-makers. They called him a “plague” and a “ringleader of a sect”. If Paul was a plague, he was a plague on Satan’s kingdom, and if a ringleader, he was a ringleader of soul-winners! The other charge was defiling the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. The Jews were trying to establish jurisdiction, making a case that Paul should be tried by Jews in Jerusalem.
Then Felix nodded to Paul to present his defense (v.10-21). After hearing Paul, Felix adjourned the proceedings. It was clear to him that the accusations were bogus, but he needed a “win” with the Jewish leaders — and he couldn’t get that by releasing Paul. So he delayed judgment for two solid years. Maybe he thought that if he delayed long enough the Jews would calm down and forget the case. He was wrong about that. But in the meantime he sent for Paul to share the gospel with him and his wife, Drusilla (v.24-25).
Felix heard Paul testify in regard to righteousness and self-control (which Felix had none of) and judgment. Judgment. Maybe Paul said the same thing he told the philosophers of Athens in Acts 17:31, “God has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained (Jesus).” Felix became afraid as Paul talked about judgment, and he dismissed him until a more convenient time.
Do you realize what happened there? As Paul spoke the truth and shared the gospel, God began to convict the heart of the governor. He was more aware than ever before of his sin and his lostness and his need for a Savior. He was more open than ever before to the Spirit of God…but he let the opportunity pass until later. Felix’s heart was convicted, his emotions were stirred, but he would not surrender to Jesus. As far as we know, he procrastinated himself into hell.