Be Bold and Courageous - Acts 24:22-25:12

On Sunday, Mr. Jake Hooker continued Good Shepherd’s study of Acts as he preached from Acts 24:22-25:12. There were three things that rose to the surface from the text:

I. Because everyone needs to hear the gospel, we must be bold. (vv. 22-25a)
II. Because everyone will respond to the gospel, we must be bold. (vv. 25b-25:5)
III. Because of our eternal security in Christ, we must be bold. (vv.6-12)

You can listen to the sermon below, or keep scrolling to read the sermon notes:

Monday’s shooting in Las Vegas was shocking. There are still so many unanswered questions like what was Stephen Paddock’s motive and how could a single person be capable of such a horrendous act? The pain is real. Not one of the 58 people who passed away people thought their last night on earth would be spent at a concert. Outside of the effects of sin and the reality of Satan, I can’t explain why someone would commit an atrocity like that. If anything – these sorts of atrocities remind you and I that we are not promised tomorrow.

Our lives are a blip on the radar screen of eternity.

It’s with this sort of eternal focus you and I need to see everyone we come in contact with: our friends, our co-workers, the people that we love, as well as the people we have trouble loving. Every person is made in the image of God and possesses an eternal soul. And it’s because all people possess a soul, Christians should be bold and unabashed with the gospel.

Too often you and I don’t think of people in this manner. We find some reasons to be frustrated with people, we get angry with strangers on the road, and go out of our way to avoid certain folks altogether. Christians should be bold with the gospel and Acts 24:22-25:12 should reorient our thinking. From this text we see three things: first, because everyone needs to hear the gospel we must be bold, second because everyone will respond to the gospel we must be bold, and lastly, because we have eternal security in the gospel we must be bold.

1. Because everyone needs to hear the gospel, we must be bold (vv. 22-25a)

Felix was the Roman governor of Judea appointed by the emperor Claudius in A.D. 53. And our text opens in verses 22-23, with Felix postponing Paul’s sentencing for his unjust imprisonment but gives him a fair amount of freedom considering he was a prisoner. Verse 22 says that Felix had a “a rather accurate knowledge of the way.” “The Way” was an early reference to the Christian faith. Felix probably had some knowledge of the Christian faith because we learn in verse 24, that his wife Drusilla was Jewish. Undoubtedly, she had to be aware of the stir that Jesus had made in the Jewish world.

But what is most fascinating about this sequence of events, is that Felix would send for Paul so that he could learn more about Christianity. So Paul went and preached to Felix and Drusilla and reasoned with them about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment. When you read that it’s hard not to notice how specific Paul was with Felix and Drusilla. Luke said he spoke with them in terms of “righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment.”

In order to understand why Paul specifically mentioned “righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment” you need to understand Felix and Drusilla’s reputation. Felix and Drusilla had a history of promiscuity. Drusilla was Felix’s third wife and Drusilla had her share of husbands as well. In fact, Felix convinced Drusilla to leave her husband for him. Both Felix and Drusilla thought they’d find happiness in the arms of a new lover. Thankfully, this sort of stuff doesn’t happen today… That’s a joke.

In light of Felix and Drusilla’s history, Paul’s words to them about righteousness, self-control, and the coming judgment have more weight. He explained the faith to Felix and Drusilla in terms of knowing right from wrong, the virtues of self-control and chastity and the return of Jesus Christ. It’s particularly noteworthy that Paul spoke to them about self-control. Consider the connection between sexual purity and self-control. In order to be pure you have to maintain a level of self-control. Paul didn’t simply share the good news of Jesus Christ with them – he applied the gospel directly to their lives.

In 2010 Tiger Woods’ pristine image was completely shattered when the news broke that he had had an affair on his wife. The golfing world was in shock along with the rest of the country because Tiger prior to the scandal he was considered a role model. But he said something really interesting in his televised apology shortly after the news broke. He said, “I was unfaithful. I had affairs. I cheated. What I did is not acceptable. And I am the only person to blame. I stopped living by the core values that I was taught to believe in. I knew my actions were wrong. But I convinced myself that normal rules didn’t apply.”

Tiger admitted that he thought God’s governing rules that apply to everyone didn’t apply to him and his career has paid the price. Tiger had everything he wanted and yet he wasn’t satisfied.

Just like Tiger, Felix and Drusilla had everything they wanted. They had power, they had money, they were in the marriage that they wanted and yet something was missing and they knew it. Why else would they invite Paul to come and preach the gospel to them? But just as Tiger thought that God-given social norms didn’t apply to him, Felix and Drusilla didn’t recognize their need for the gospel and how it applied to their lives. Felix and Drusilla thought the gospel was an interesting concept or philosophical idea and failed to realize that the gospel was very relevant to their marriages and putting all their hope in the love and affection of a new spouse.

Which raises this point: that all people need to hear the gospel so that they can understand that it applies to their life. Felix and Drusilla needed to know that the gospel was relevant to their present situation. Do you believe there are people around you that need the gospel? Not simply should hear the gospel or someone consider the gospel when they have some free time – but in desperate need of the good news of Jesus Christ?

Jesus referred to himself as living water and the bread of life. You need food and water in order to survive. Everyone needs the gospel because it’s applicable to all people. It’s a reorienting, basic need just like food and water. The good news of Jesus Christ is applicable to every socioeconomic level, every race, and all people in every geographic region. It’s applicable to every situation, scenario, and condition. The good news of Jesus Christ is relevant to you right now. No matter what you’re going through the gospel is applicable to you!

But it’s important to recognize that although all people need the gospel they will respond differently to the it – which is our second point.  

2. Because everyone will respond to the gospel we must be bold (vv. 25b-25:5)

In the second half of verse 25, Felix became uncomfortable with what Paul said and sent him away. Once Felix realized that the good news of Jesus Christ demanded something of him — and he could no longer live in the same manner – he wanted nothing to do with it. The gospel is always much more interesting when it’s at arm’s length away. That’s probably why Luke described Felix as being “alarmed” in verse 25. In fact, he hoped that Paul would pay him an illegal bribe but at the same time he continued to summon Paul to speak to him. Felix and Drusilla were like moths attracted to the light.

But Paul never gave a bribe to Felix and he instead did the Jews a favor by keeping Paul in prison for another two years until Porcius Festus took over. We learn a little bit more about Porcius Festus in chapter 25. It begins with Festus in Jerusalem being urged by the Jews to bring Paul to Jerusalem. They were attempting to convince Festus that in order for Paul to have a proper trial he needed to be in Jerusalem in front of Jewish rulers and authorities. In reality, the Jews wanted Festus to bring Paul to their home turf in Jerusalem so they could kill him. They knew that Paul was safe in the Roman prison. Essentially it’s a military tactic, lure the enemy into an area that you control in order ambush them – except they were just trying to kill one person – Paul. These Jews desperately wanted Paul dead. Rather than letting the Jews hijack Paul’s trial by bringing him to Jerusalem, Festus invited the Jewish rulers and authorities to go back to Caesarea with him for the trial.

In verses, 24:25 through 25:5 we see two different responses to the gospel. Although there is no evidence that Felix and Drusilla came to know the Lord they were very curious and interested in the gospel. For whatever reason, Felix and Drusilla kept inviting Paul to come and speak to them about Christianity. On the other end of the spectrum, the Jews had a murderous outrage over the gospel. The Jews viewed the gospel as a threat to their way of life. In these verses, we see two negative responses to the gospel.

I have one aunt in particular that is extremely bold that lives in Texas. Shortly, after President Bush finished up his second term and was out of office he wrote his memoirs she actually went to his one of his book signings. And when it was her turn to have him sign her book – she passed him a note asking him if he mentored young men. He took the note and passed it onto an aid. She really wasn’t sure if anything would come from it. Well not too much later she got a call from President Bush’s office and that’s the story of how my cousin got to meet with President Bush one-on-one at his office in Dallas, Texas. My cousin’s meeting with President Bush is another really interesting story too. She put herself out there and didn’t know how President Bush would respond.

Too often we think that there is only one response to the gospel which is saving faith in Jesus Christ and anything short is a failure. But in actuality there are many responses to the good news of Jesus Christ. Felix and Drusilla had a passing curiosity about the gospel. The Jews were outraged and offended by the gospel – to the point they wanted to kill Paul. But the takeaway is there’s always a response to the gospel. The same Lord that hardened the heart of Pharaoh brought as many as 3,000 to saving faith in one day. Frankly, we don’t know how people will respond to the gospel. And it’s not our job to try to figure it out. Our job is to be faithful to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ and to pray for those around us. And we also must remember just because someone responds one way now doesn’t mean they won’t respond a different way later. That should give us hope for those family members and friends that don’t know the Lord – the Lord could do an amazing work at any moment.

How have you responded to the good news of Jesus Christ? If you’ve responded in faith to the good news of Jesus Christ are you faithfully carrying that message to others that desperately need to hear it? If you’re not sure if you’re a Christian what’s hindering from putting your faith in Jesus Christ? The uncertainty of how someone will respond to the gospel is intimidating but there’s comfort because of our eternal security in the gospel we must be bold.

3. Because of our eternal security in the gospel we must be bold (vv.6-12)

Verses 6-12 pick up in the courtroom of Paul’s trial. It seems like a pretty quick transition from Jerusalem to Caesarea for the trial. Again, as we’ve seen at previous points in Acts, the Jews bring serious charges against Paul that they weren’t able to support. They probably leveled the same accusations against Paul that they had in chapter 24 verses 2-9. Paul’s defense is just one sentence, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense.” He knew he was innocent and so did everyone else. But, rulers and authorities would simply rule in favor of the group in order to gain their favor. Even though Paul was being slandered and insulted, there was no guarantee that he would receive a fair trial. We even see this in verse 9, because Festus wanted to do the Jews a favor he asked Paul if he’d be willing to stand trial in Jerusalem. But Paul objected to changing the location of the trial again. He said in verse 10, I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried.” Paul forces Festus’s hand. He says in verse 11, “If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death.” He doesn’t even try to avoid capital punishment. He actually suggests it. Most people would do whatever it takes to spare their life. Who would suggest the death penalty as punishment for a crime they knew they didn’t commit? Paul had an eternal security in the gospel.

It was because of his eternal security that he had little regard for his own life – not in the sense he didn’t value life because he did, but in the sense that “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” He had hope regardless of what happened to him. As long as he lived, he did so for Christ, but if he died he gained eternity with Christ. It was because of his security he could focus on exposing the truth.The fact of the matter is his trial was essentially a kangaroo court. Paul was imprisoned, he was falsely accused, never charged and convicted of anything. That’s why Paul said, “But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to the Jews.” In other words Paul is saying, “if there is no truth in their accusations then no one has the right to hand me over to the Jews.”

I can’t help but think that Paul knew the longer he was held as a prisoner the more time the Jews would have to wear down Festus and so they could be put him to death in Jerusalem. And therefore, he took the matters into his own hands and appealed to Caesar removing himself from the court of Festus and the influence of the Jews. It was like he was appealing to the United States Supreme Court and Festus permitted it.  

Have you seen the movie Limitless? The basic plot is this normal guy stumbles onto a pill called NZT-48 that allows him to use 100% of his brain. Essentially the pill makes him a genius overnight. NZT-48 helps him succeed at everything he does. The pill emboldened and try his hand at all sorts of things as long as he was on NZT-48. As long as he took it he couldn’t fail. What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? Would your life look different?

Paul, in one sense, knew he couldn’t fail. No matter what happened to him, he had peace and safety in Christ. His eternal security in Christ emboldened him to look rulers in the face and tell them of their need for Christ. Paul didn’t even fear death because of the security he had in Christ. We all want safety and security especially in a world with threats of terrorism all around us, financial instability, not to mention our personal insecurities we’re constantly looking for safety. There is no real security, comfort, or safety outside of Jesus Christ.

One of the clearest aspects of Paul’s character throughout the book of Acts is his boldness. He’s bold in the face of adversity, he’s bold while imprisoned, he’s bold when he speaks to rulers and figures of authority and he’s bold in the face of death. When he speaks to Felix, Drusilla, Festus, and the tribunal he certainly doesn’t act like a person on trial. There’s something magnetic about a person as bold as Paul. But I don’t believe it was a personality trait. There was a reason for Paul’s boldness: it was that the gospel message was real to him. The life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ wasn’t a fictional children’s story. It actually happened.

Is Jesus Christ real to you? Christians have security in the gospel and therefore need to be bold with it because people need to hear and respond to it. If don’t consider yourself a Christian, then you’ve already responded to the gospel, but you have another chance to respond today. How will you respond? But if you are a Christian, you and I need to be bold like Paul with the gospel because it’s is real as well. You and I do not have the power within ourselves to stop effects of sin. Political action cannot stop the evil we witnessed in Las Vegas. Only the good news of Jesus Christ has the power to change people. Only Jesus Christ has the power to change the hearts of men. Knowing this, will you shy away or choose to be bold?

Let’s pray together.

SermonLauren HookerActs