TWO-YEAR DETENTION AT CAESAREA (24:23-27). Felix ordered the centurion to keep Paul under guard but to give him some freedom and permit his friends to take care of his needs. Paul the prisoner had a relatively comfortable two-year detention in Caesarea.
Felix was well acquainted with the Way. His wife was a Jewess and he had been governing Judea for long enough to know the dynamics of the province. He was an incredible coward filled with indecision.
Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. As Paul discoursed on 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.
Paul pricked Felix’s conscience with his threefold presentation of the Gospel: righteousness, self-control and judgment to come. Self-control is necessary to meet God’s absolute demand of righteousness and when one does not conform to God’s standard, judgment will come. Sitting next to Felix was the woman he had seduced and stolen. Paul talked to the governor about his sin and the fact that he had not lived up to God’s righteousness. Hence, Jesus Christ took his sin, paid his penalty of judgment and he offers him His righteousness by faith. According to Jesus, this kind of message the Holy Spirit uses:
When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment (John 16:8).
Very few preachers touch on these subjects. Those who mention sin, righteousness and judgment seem to soft-petal them, not Paul.
Did Felix decide to keep Paul in confinement to pacify his conscience or cowardliness? He adjourned the proceedings. “‘When Lysias the commander comes,’ he said, ‘I will decide your case.’” Lysias never showed up or if he did, Felix did not want to upset the Jews by setting Paul free so he never made any effort to reconvene the case.
Felix sent for Paul many times for a bribe, not for salvation. It has been proven throughout the last nineteen hundred and sixty-six years that people hold off making a decision for Christ until they come to the place where they cannot make a decision for Him at all.
There are three ways to look at Paul’s trial before Felix: (1) what Paul is doing; (2) what Felix is doing; and (3) what God is doing. Notice Paul’s attitude in the midst of the trial; the tragedy of procrastination and hardness of heart on the part of Felix; and the sovereignty of God with Paul’s two years of detention.
Felix was a man who had the light but chose the darkness. God gave him many more opportunities to repent and believe in Christ. When two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, but because Felix wanted to grant a favor to the Jews he left Paul chained, not in prison but in the palace. Paul shed no tears over Felix’s departure.
There is no record of Paul preaching or writing during this period. Why the detention? Paul needed rest from what he had endured for the worst was yet to come (Acts 23:24). We can be sure of two things: God knows best and He overrules evil for good for those who love Him. And whatever God accomplished at Caesarea, He accomplished within His purpose—not outside of it!