“And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.” (Acts 24:24–25, AV)
On many occasions, I have been privileged to preach evangelistic messages to congregations. In these, I have seen a variety of responses. Those who had already received Jesus received the message with joyful assurance. You could just see it in their faces. Others who heard the message, responded by expressing faith in Jesus, some with tears of joy. Yet, I have noticed others who were noticeably uncomfortable.
There was one service in particular that I noticed a man who I definitely knew had never made a profession of faith. Throughout the message, I noticed that often he put his head down, or fidgeted in his seat. He looked truly uncomfortable. It was if he was sitting on hot coals and could not wait to get up and leave.
When people hear the truth of the gospel, there will be different responses. People may be uncomfortable with the message for a variety of reasons. It could be that they are in a sinful condition and do not want to be loosed from it. It might be that they are angry with God for some reason. It might be that they are from a different religious background and are predisposed to reject anything outside of it. There are probably many more, but their response is always the same. They are uncomfortable when confronting sin, judgment, and the offer of justification by faith in Christ.
Here, we see a man named Felix, the provincial governor of Judea, and his wife listening to Paul expound on the faith. Upon hearing of righteousness, self-control, and judgment, Felix becomes alarmed. The word, “alarmed,” emphobos refers to being frightened, and trembling (Strong G1719). Felix was under conviction for his sin and became fearful of the judgment to come. His reign was characterized by unrighteousness. Yet, he was unwilling to face up to the consequences of his sinful condition and repent. He loved darkness more than the light (John 3:19).
It is quite a shame when you think about it. Here the offer to Felix is that of God’s loving grace. It is the opportunity for a complete pardon, freedom from the judgment to come. Yet, rather than respond, he just decided to shut down Paul’s presentation of hope.
We who evangelize will find many who will respond in the same way as Felix. It always broke my heart to see people who were obviously on the precipice of salvation, recognizing their sin, but rejecting God’s salvation. What do we do in such a case? The only thing we can do is to pray for these people and continue to seek an opportunity to share the word with them again. My fear is that they may so harden their hearts that they will never respond to free grace. The other thing to remember is that we should not quit in our proclamation of the gospel for there are many who will not reject the message.