Acts 24:22-27 – Righteousness & Self-Control

Diving Deeper outline for Acts 24:22-27.

The title is drawn from Paul’s words to Felix in verse 25.
Using Paul’s teachings elsewhere, we will discuss what Paul likely said to Felix concerning righteousness, self-control and judgment.
And as important, we will explore what he might say to those of us who are saved on those topics.

This week will only cover righteousness and self-control; judgment will be discussed next week.

1) FELIX WAITS FOR LYSIAS

Acts 24:22, 27 – But Felix, having a rather accurate knowledge of the Way, put them off, saying, “When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case.” 27 When two years had elapsed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And desiring to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison.

Felix’s Response to Paul and Tertullus:
Lysias was a witness to many of the events being discussed – more so even than the accusers present.
And as such, Lysias gives what opinion about Paul’s case in his letter to Felix (Acts 23:29)?
Was Lysias a reliable witness (review witness insights from lesson a few weeks ago)?
Therefore it makes perfect sense for Felix, in verse 22, to await Lysias’ arrival in order to hear his testimony.
However, before we assume too much virtue in Felix’s jurisprudence, verse 27 makes clear that no matter the evidence Felix’s intentions were to placate the Jews.
As a result, Paul was held in custody for 2 years.

2) PAUL’S 3 POINT GOSPEL – A DISCUSSION WITH FELIX

I also want to more closely examine Paul’s words to Felix.
Paul, instead of bribing Felix (verse 26), laid out his Gospel argument and had 2 years to do it.
Instead of justifying paying a bribe and getting out, he edured once again “for the sake of the Gospel.”

Acts 24:25 – And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.”

Just by way of interest, Paul’s outline is uncannily similar to Jesus’ words in John’s Gospel:
John 16:8-11 – And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

The first question I have is why would Paul speak to Felix, the man sitting in judgment over him, concerning these things?
Titus 2:15 – Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

1 Peter 3:14-16 – Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

Romans 1:16 – “I am not ashamed of the Gospel.”

So now let’s dive deeper into righteousness, self-control and judgment using Paul, Peter and others as our source.

Luke described the way in which Paul spoke of these things – “he reasoned about” them.
Reason is to speak or dispute with someone in such a way that you “mingle thought with thought.”
In other words, Paul laid out the premises of a reasoned argument as he so often did and as Peter advocated.

Righteousness (sinner in need of a savior):
The word used here means “the doctrine concerning the way in which man may attain a state approved of God.

Jesus put it like this:
Matthew 5:48 – You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

So what did Paul teach on obtaining a “state approved of God”?
Something he often described as being justified.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 – Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Galatians 2:15-16 – We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

Romans 10:9-13 – because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, ”Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For ”everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Romans 1:16-17 – For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

So our belief in Jesus (His death, burial and resurrection) makes it possible for us to “attain a state approved of God.”
Because he is righteous, those who are in him are also justified as righteous.
Paul was telling Felix that he was a sinner, why he was a sinner and that he was in need of a savior – Jesus.

Peter put it like this:
1 Peter 1:14-16 – As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, ”You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

And Peter’s insight leads us to Paul’s next topic of discussion with Felix – self-control.
In Jesus, we are confronted with moment after moment in which we are not to be what we once were.
How are we not to “be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance”?

Self-Control (repent and live a life of obedience):
The word used by Paul in this context means “the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, especially his sensual appetites.”

Paul illustrates the art of self-control by using an athlete as an example:
1 Corinthians 9:25-27 – Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

And he talks about self-control resulting from training:
Titus 2:11-12 – For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,

Our new life is to be one of self-control over our bodies and mind.
Paul reveals that self-control is linked to purpose not aimless running or beating the air.
He says self-control is found in training by the grace of God.
So our purpose (with respect to self-control) is to allow ourselves to be trained by God to live a life of self-control with respect to our worldly passions, our old nature.

So how do we “discipline” the mind & body to keep it under control?
How do we train to renounce “ungodliness and worldly passions”?

1) Self-Control is a fruit of the Spirit:
Galatians 5:22-23 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

And in Philippians Paul tells us:
Philippians 2:13 – for it is God who works in us to will and to act according to His good purpose.

So the admittedly more mysterious way we learn self-control is though God’s grace and Spirit.
He desires for us to live a life of self-control.
And to that end, as believers, we have the following abilities:
An ability to recognize the areas in our lives where self-control is needed.
An ability to recognize the difference between our life when lived in self-control and when not.
An ability to recognize the damage done to our life when not lived in self-control.
And a desire to live a life of self-control to begin with!

2) Self-Control is a function of the MIND:
Knowing what we do about where we need to exercise self-control in our life, we have a responsibility to act.

Ephesians 4:17-24 – Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Proverbs puts it like this:
Proverbs 23:7 – As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.

In the book, The Criminal Mind, the authors make the case that a criminal is made not by his environment but by his thinking (the mind) and the choices made as a result of that thinking.
They say that criminal behavior is a result of “the thinking errors of the criminal.”

John MacArthur points out that what they devote a 2 volume book was revealed in Scripture.
Romans 1:28 – And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

So we have a choice to make as Christians.
Will we seek a renewed mind or will we, by doing nothing, live in the shadows of our former debased mind?

As John MacArthur puts it, we need to DECIDE if we want to live life with a “Christ-Centered Purpose” or in a “Self-Centered Emptiness“.

He argues that where we are in either of the two is based on a series of choices.
“A choice made often enough becomes a habit. And a habit reaps a personality and a personality reaps a character and a character reaps a destiny”.

So where we are in our relationship with Jesus comes down to “a series of choices.”
We must learn that to make the hard choices can provide a pleasure rooted in Christ that long outlasts and surpasses the choices made that appeal to wordly and bodily pleasures.

We must train our minds to see obedience and renewal as more pleasurable than worldly and bodily pleasures.

2 Corinthians 10:5-6 – We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

Obedience and the mind are linked together as one following from the other.
If the mind is submitted to Christ, it can make correct choices.

Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think [the mind] about these things.

And evidence of an obedient and renewed mind is if we think on these things.

How do we train or renew our mind to think on these things and to desire self-control over wordly pleasure?

We must recognize that as long as we linger in the shadows of the debased mind our mind and body will desire worldly and ungodly pleasure.

So to stay out of the shadows, we must remain in the light of God’s word.
We must study, learn and know God’s word to renew our minds!
And these things begin with one of a man’s least favorite 4-letter words – READ.

Back to Paul & Felix:
Felix, was on his 3rd marriage with Drusilla.
He had married Drusilla when she was 16 after he forced her away from her then husband.
He was a crooked and self-indulgent governor.
Paul was bold to speak to his judge and jailor about self-control and a need to be made righteousness.

Had he just paid the bribe it seems he would have been released.
And he could have easily justified doing so…”I can speak the Gospel with those that would respond”, or “Wouldn’t my time be better spent encouraging young believers in the churches I planted”, etc.
But because he did live life with a “renewed mind” he made the right choice.
Once again, Paul proves to be an awesome example of a life given to Christ.