Grace Words

A Daily Bible Reader's Blog

Presented by Mike Tune, Pulpit Minister for the Church of Christ in Falls Church and Amazing Grace International

Self Control

As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” (Acts 24:25)

Antonius Felix was a horrid fellow. He served as a slave to Antonia, Emperor Claudius’ mother, until she freed him as an adult. His brother, Pallas, helped him find a job and Felix determined from that point forward to make up for every slight, deprivation, and poverty he’d ever experienced. Eventually, he became governor of Judea and his uncontrolled passion led him to steal another man’s wife. The Roman historian Tacitus described him as “a master of cruelty and lust who exercised the powers of a king in the spirit of a slave.”

Paul was tried before Felix about 58AD. It didn’t go well. Though Felix liked to hear Paul speak, he didn’t like his message which involved repeated urgeings to “self-control” and warnings of God’s judgement.

Self-control is an important but often overlooked theme in the New Testament. Paul wrote: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into “strict training.” The “strict training” is that “self-control” theme.

“Self-control,” the effort to discipline oneself is one of the fruit of the Spirit.
Learning and practicing self-control is an important discipline of life. A study by the National Academy of Sciences revealed that “kids who scored low on assessments of self-control as toddlers were more likely to have adult difficulties including health problems, alcohol and drug dependence, financial problems and a criminal record.” Self-control, doing, on our own, what we need to do or what we must do rather than what we want to do or what is easiest to do, is critical to successful living – and equally important in our relationship with God.

Reading Through the Bible, Monday, November 14. Acts 24 – 26

    Don’t forget: Luke-Acts was written with one stated purpose in mind: to assure the reader that the story of Christianity he had learned was, in fact, the truth.

    The story of Paul before Felix is one of those stories that would get the attention of first century people.  Everybody who was anybody knew Felix.  Felix was a somebody.

    It hadn’t always been that way.  He was born a slave.  It hadn’t always been that way.  His ancestors had been royalty in Greece.  His brother Pallas was a slave in the house of Mark Anthony’s daughter.  Felix was a boy slave in the house of Emperor Augustus and grew up with Claudius, who later freed Felix when he himself became Emperor.

    Felix knew what it was like to be a slave and poor.  Both backgrounds often make for horrible freedmen.  You’d think the experience would have made him sympathetic to those of that class, but not so.  The Roman historian Tacitus says Felix exercised the power of a king with the spirit of a slave.  Felix’ brother went on to become Secretary of the Treasury and one of the richest, most powerful, men in Rome – and Felix was always jealous.  In an effort to get money for himself, he hoped the Church would give him a bribe to release Paul (Acts 24:26).   The bribe never came.

    Two years passed during which time Paul was called before Felix numerous times to talk.   Paul took the occasion to reason with this man of uncontrolled passions, giving him lessons on righteousness, self-control, and warning him of the judgment to come.  Felix put off any response to the gospel.  At the end of two years, Felix’ irresponsible behavior was called into question by Claudius and Felix was removed from his post, banished, and died, lost, in obscurity.  His time to repent came and went.  His is a specific case of “non-conversion.”

    How often do we hear the message of the Lord and put off changing until a “more convenient season”? 

    Beware.  That season may never come.