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.