Just the Right Words
Acts 24:24 Some days later when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him speak concerning faith in Christ Jesus. 25 And as he discussed justice, self-control, and the coming judgment, Felix became frightened and said, “Go away for the present; when I have an opportunity, I will send for you.”
While Paul was a prisoner in Caesarea he was called to speak before Felix and Drusilla. He had a moment, an opportunity to share with these people, and he would need to use just the right words. His words reflect the passion of his heart. This is no defense of Paul’s behavior, nor is it a request for freedom. Instead, Paul’s focus was on the spiritual lives of the two individuals who sat before him, listening to what he had to say. Another angle would have been to argue doctrine, but he wanted them to come to know Christ, and so putting away any selfish gain, he began to preach to Felix and Drusilla.
He basically preaches a three point sermon — one that hits home with the audience. Why would Paul preach a sermon on “justice, self-control, and the coming judgment” to these two individuals? Justice was a topic about which they needed to hear — for Felix was a corrupt leader. He was disappointed by Paul’s words because he was really waiting around for a bribe. He would have set Paul free for the right amount of money. He did not follow the laws, or conveniently founds ways around them when it was in his best interest. He did not practice justice with those around him, but did as he pleased. Point one of the sermon hit him hard for he was listening with a corrupted hand outstretched, awaiting under-the-table funds to pay for Paul’s freedom.
Point two was far too personal! These two had thrown away all self-control, for when they had met Drusilla was married to another man. She left her husband to marry Felix and this was known far and wide. In addition to this, she was Jewish and would have been raised according to the law. Now she was married to a pagan, and a corrupt pagan at that. More than likely their lives were defined by a lack of self-control, ruled by their passions and self-serving desires.
Point three would have made them both tremble. There would be a day of reckoning and they would be held accountable for their behavior! This was a prisoner telling the governing authority that they would be the ones who would be the one judged. Drusilla would have known enough about God’s coming judgement to be afraid and Paul spoke with such authority that even Felix “became frightened.”
Instead of responding to the words which had been spoken, they sent Paul away. But Paul had won the day, he had just the right words, speaking to them about the life that ought to be lived, and they were convicted.
From Paul we can learn some simple ways in which to engage the world around us. Too many of us are fearful of sharing our faith while we are surrounded by the Felix and Drusilla’s of the day.
1) Paul spent time in prayer. He got to know the heart of Jesus Christ and prayed for wisdom.
2) Paul studied! He spent much time studying the Scriptures, but not only that, he was very well educated in many ways. He would have read numerous other pieces of literature and was able to adapt to his context. He was also a student of the culture and the people to whom he felt called. He knew the details of Felix and Drusilla’s lives so that he was able to use just the right words so that he might lead them to Christ.
I want to stop on that second point a moment. We make far too many excuses about not sharing our faith these days and it may be right there with the second point. It takes intentional effort on our part to share Christ. It didn’t just “happen” for Paul, and it won’t just “happen” for us. He took the time to know the individuals to whom he would be speaking. God didn’t just “give him the right words” out of the blue, but instead, Paul “knew” his audience. Therefore just the right words, were, in fact, a mini-sermon just for them. If we are preachers of the word, then this is a great lesson for us and the way in which we are to preach. We are to bring just the right words for our audience. If we are not preachers but God brings individuals across our path who need to know Christ, we don’t need to teach doctrine, we need to bring just the right words which relate to where these people are in life.
3) Paul spoke the words with power, so much so that Felix was afraid. When Christ is present in us, there is great power. We do not speak in our own words, but we speak as one who is filled up with Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit.
There is more to this story and the sad fate of both Felix and Drusilla. You can read about that in another post, “Respond Now.” In the meantime, might we consider asking God to lead us to individuals who need to know him and be prepared with just the right words for God to do his work.
Lord, may I be sensitive to your leading and may you give me just the right words. Amen.