We had a great Bible study at our little Christian gathering last Sunday. We were looking at the interesting way the apostle Paul talked to the unbelieving Gentile governor, Felix. Paul had been arrested and brought before this man, who had a “rather accurate knowledge of the Way” (Acts 24:22). Paul had given the defense of his innocence a few days earlier and summed it up, saying, “‘It is with respect to the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you this day’” (Acts 24:21b). 1

Paul was brought before Felix again a few days later. The text we discussed was Acts 24:24–25:

“After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.”

Here are the three things Paul talked about that day:



Coming judgment

Before I continue, the reason such exchanges in Scripture should be interesting to us is because we may find insight into how to talk to unbelievers about Jesus. More times than I’d like to admit, I am flummoxed about how to do this effectively. We found it interesting that Paul brought up self-control when he talked to Felix. We asked why he did that.

Here is the way we thought this rolled. See if it makes sense to you.

First of all, Christians understand that they have zero righteousness of their own. The righteousness they possess is given to them by God. Christians have actually been given the righteousness of God Himself, the holy One, who was and is spotless, without sin. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Those who believe in Jesus have been forgiven. Sins are gone and forgotten. The shame of wicked acts has been purged. They will receive no punishment from God. They stand pure and holy before Him.

However, Paul then brought up self-control. Why self-control?

The New Testament contains seventeen admonishments to exercise self-control. Once it is listed as a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23).

Like a fruit, our ability to control ourselves grows as we grow in Jesus.

However, regardless of that growth, we are told to exercise self-control. We fail, but we try. When we fail, we repent and ask the Lord to forgive.

This is the Christian life, a life lived before God to glorify and please Him.

But back to Paul before Felix.

Again, we don’t know what Paul said then, but I wonder if he reasoned something like this:

We all require righteousness to stand before a holy, pure God. All religions, except Christianity, teach that one must do good in order to stand before such a holy deity. The problem is that we are unable to control ourselves. We can’t control our tongues. We can’t control our anger. We use our words to rip people apart. We can’t control our sex drives. We hurt people with our actions.

And because we can’t control ourselves, unbelievers come under the judgment of a holy God, and that judgment is coming. It is coming for everyone who do not know Jesus. No exceptions. Death, as the song says, has a warrant for you, and you can’t hide to avoid being served that warrant.

Everybody dies. Everybody will face judgment. Christians face a judgment for their works done in Jesus. All others will face judgment for their sins. If you are in this latter category, you will give an account for your lack of self-control. How you gossiped. How you hurt people who upset you. How you took advantage of people to satisfy your selfish needs.

How will you answer God when He asks the questions that only you, Him, and a very few others know? Every secret will be revealed.

You can’t hide. God knows what you’ve done, and in that day, everyone will know.

And you will be punished for what you’ve done.

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.