Online Bible Commentary
Acts 24:22 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." 23 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. 24 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. 25 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." 26 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. 27 But after two years Porcius Festus succeeded Felix; and Felix, wanting to do the Jews a favor, left Paul bound. (NKJV)
The time is 57 A.D. The Apostle Paul is on trial in Caesarea in the presence of Felix, the governor. Caesarea was the political center for the Roman province of Syria, of which Judea was a part.
The Jews in Jerusalem have been trying to kill Paul for preaching the Gospel. Failing that, they have now come to Caesarea, some seventy miles northeast of Jerusalem on the Mediterranean coast.
Felix heard the charges against Paul given by the lawyer of the Jews, Tertullus. Paul then defended himself and appeared to rebut every charge. The Jews had not been able to offer any evidence of Paul’s guilt.
Now, in this passage, it is time for Governor Felix to rule on this matter. But Felix decides not to rule, at this time. He delays ruling, stating "When Lysias the commander comes down, I will make a decision on your case" (v. 22). There is no record of Lysias ever being called to the court.
Paul is given “liberty” meaning that he could receive friends and family but he is still being held in Herod’s palace and confined by light chains (v. 23). Then, “after some days”, Felix sends for Paul. He wants for him and his Jewish wife, Drusilla, to hear Paul “concerning the faith in Christ” (v. 24).
Paul preaches on “righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come” and Felix becomes “afraid”, sending Paul away until “a convenient time” (v. 25). Felix is afraid because he has not lived a life of righteousness, nor self control. He is afraid of the judgment of which Paul speaks.
Felix obviously has his reasons for not releasing Paul. Three reasons appear to be possible for Felix deciding to not release him.
First, it may be that Felix was curious about Christianity, referred to then as the Jewish sect “the Way” (v. 22a). It is likely that he has learned of this movement from Drusilla and then that interest has been piqued even more as he listened to Paul give his defense.
Secondly, his reason for not releasing Paul may be that he wants to appease the Jews. After all, his wife is a Jew. Also, during his six year reign, Felix had to fight the Jews on the matter of Syrians who wanted equal citizenship with the Jews.
Or, the third reason may be to illicit a bribe from Paul or his followers. While it was illegal for the Romans to accept bribes it was customary, even by Caesar himself. Felix “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” (v. 26). This third reason is likely the main reason that Paul is kept in confinement.
So Paul remains confined for two years (v. 27a). Then Emperor Nero replaces Felix with “Porcius Festus” (v. 27b). Felix’s parting gift to the Jews is to leave Paul in confinement (v. 27c).
It seems likely that Paul would have been released if he just paid bribes to Felix. But this was not God’s plan for Paul, and Paul knew this. Paul had a date with the most influential people in the world. God’s plan was for Paul to carry the Gospel to Rome (Acts 23:11).
God’s plan for us may not be an attractive plan. It may be full of hardship and persecution. We should not judge our favor with God by our circumstances. His ways are not our ways.