Felix Delays His Judgment
"But when Felix heard these things, having more accurate knowledge of the Way, he adjourned the proceedings and said, 'When Lysias the commander comes down, I will make a decision on your case.' So he commanded the centurion to keep Paul and to let him have liberty, and told him not to forbid any of his friends to provide for or visit him. And after some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, 'Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.' Meanwhile he also hoped that money would be given him by Paul, that he might release him. Therefore he sent for him more often and conversed with him. But after two years Porcius Festus succeeded Felix; and Felix, wanting to do the Jews a favor, left Paul bound" (Acts 24:22-27).

Felix had enough knowledge about Christianity (i.e., "the Way") that he decided not to render a decision regarding Paul's fate at that moment. He knew the charges were about Jewish, not Roman law. The fact that Felix delayed judgment until he could speak more about the matter with Lysias shows the weakness of the Jews' case against Paul. Over and over again, as Paul stands before various civil authorities in the closing chapters of the book of Acts, they rule that he has done nothing deserving of death or imprisonment. The Jewish religious elite hate him, but those looking at the case with more objectivity and less passion have difficulty justifying the execution of a man they view as innocent.

There is no further record of Felix ever discussing this matter further with Lysias. Did such a dialogue take place? Or, was this just an excuse for Felix to delay judgment? Luke reveals at least one reason in the text for delaying judgment: Felix hopes Paul will bribe him (cf. 24:26)! This sheds light, potentially, on why Felix treats Paul so well as a prisoner. The apostle is granted much liberty under the guard of a Roman centurion. It appears he is under what we might call "house arrest." His friends are able to visit him freely, and they could provide for him. Paul is held for two years, so it seems certain he would have received a number of Christian visitors during that time, though Luke's record is silent concerning such. Obviously, Felix is not in a hurry to render any kind of judgment in Paul's case. Perhaps he thought that since Christians gave so generously to help the needy in Judea, they would certainly amass a large sum to buy Paul's freedom, if given enough time.

Luke does provide some fascinating information regarding continued dialogue between Felix and Paul. Felix gives Paul many opportunities to speak to him (privately, it would seem) "concerning the faith in Christ." On at least one occasion, Drusilla, Felix's "wife," was present. She was a Jew, though Josephus affirms that they were actually living in adultery. What is most intriguing about these exchanges is that Paul, even as a prisoner, will not compromise the truth of the gospel to try to win Felix's favor. Paul reasoned about "righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come" and these themes caused great fear in Felix. Lesser men would have spoken a soft message to Felix in an effort to secure their freedom, but not Paul! Paul loved Felix's soul enough to rebuke him with a pertinent message, and he used fear of wrath as a motivator to repentance (cf. II Cor. 5:10,11). Sadly, though Felix's conscience was stirred by the gospel, he continually postponed obedience to it as he likewise postponed ruling on Paul's case. Fear alone, void of submission, is vain (cf. James 2:19). How many today make the mistake of Felix in thinking: "When I have a convenient time, then I'll get right with God"--only to die before that convenient time comes! Friends, the day of salvation is now (cf. II Cor. 6:2)! When conviction yields to convenience, disaster is the result.

Why would Felix want to do the Jews a favor and thus leave Paul imprisoned? Understanding the political scene of the day is helpful here. The Jews had been subjugated by the Romans, and the Romans collected taxes from the Jews. Roman leaders, like Pilate, Felix, etc., were above the Jewish authorities in power but they still, of course, had to answer to the emperor. Although these Roman leaders could rule as they deemed best, if they caused too much unrest among the Jews, Caesar might learn of such and decide to make a change--namely, removing them from power! An understanding of this dynamic makes it a little easier to understand why these Roman leaders were often quick to do favors for the Jews. They wanted to build up good will and avoid provoking them unnecessarily, though they had authority over them.