1. THE RESULT OF REJECTING LIGHT
a. As Felix put worldly pleasure, greed, and ambitious politicizing ahead of the light brought by Paul, what followed in his life? Acts 24:26, 27.
“[Felix] intimated that by the payment of a large sum of money Paul might secure his release. The apostle, however, was of too noble a nature to free himself by a bribe. He was not guilty of any crime, and he would not stoop to commit a wrong int order to gain freedom.”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 426, 427.
“[In a feud in Caesarea between Greeks and Jews,] Felix, whose animosity toward the Jews had increased every year, now gave his soldiers liberty to rob the houses of the wealthy.
“These daring acts of injustice and cruelty could not pass unnoticed. The Jews made a formal complaint against Felix, and he was summoned to Rome to answer their charges. He well knew that his course of extortion and oppression had given them abundant ground for complaint, but he still hoped to conciliate them. Hence, though he had a sincere respect for Paul, he decided to gratify their malice by leaving him a prisoner. But all his efforts were in vain; though he escaped banishment or death, he was removed from office, and deprived of the greater part of his ill-gotten wealth. Drusilla, the partner of his guilt, afterward perished, with their only son, in the eruption of Vesuvius. His own days were ended in disgrace and obscurity.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 6, p. 1066.
2. SAFETY IN UNEXPECTED WAYS
a. Explain the policy of Festus, who replaced Felix. Acts 25:1–6.
“Festus held firmly to his purpose of giving Paul a fair trial at Caesarea. God in His providence controlled the decision of Festus, that the life of the apostle might be lengthened.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 429.
b. How did the hearing proceed—and with what result? Acts 25:7–12. Why was it safer for Paul to go to Caesar than Jerusalem? 2 Timothy 3:12.
“Festus knew nothing of the conspiracies of the Jews to murder Paul, and he was surprised at this appeal to Caesar. However, the words of the apostle put a stop to the proceedings of the court. . . .
“Because of hatred born of bigotry and self-righteousness, a servant of God was driven to turn for protection to the heathen. . . . And this hatred the people of God living in this age have yet to meet. Among many of the professing followers of Christ there is the same pride, formalism, and selfishness, the same spirit of oppression, that held so large a place in the Jewish heart. In the future, men claiming to be Christ’s representatives will take a course similar to that followed by the priests and rulers in their treatment of Christ and the apostles. In the great crisis through which they are soon to pass, the faithful servants of God will encounter the same hardness of heart, the same cruel determination, the same unyielding hatred.
“All who in that evil day would fearlessly serve God according to the dictates of conscience, will need courage, firmness, and a knowledge of God and His word; for those who are true to God will be persecuted, their motives will be impugned, their best efforts misinterpreted, and their names cast out as evil. Satan will work with all his deceptive power to influence the heart and becloud the understanding, to make evil appear good, and good evil. The stronger and purer the faith of God’s people, and the firmer their determination to obey Him, the more fiercely will Satan strive to stir up against them the rage of those who, while claiming to be righteous, trample upon the law of God. It will require the firmest trust, the most heroic purpose, to hold fast the faith once delivered to the saints.”—Ibid., pp.430, 431.
3. A DIVINE APPOINTMENT
a. In God’s providence, who else was to meet Paul? Acts 25:13–22.
“Paul had appealed to Caesar, and Festus could not do otherwise than send him to Rome. But some time passed before a suitable ship could be found. . . . This gave Paul opportunity to present the reasons of his faith before the principal men of Caesarea, and also before King Agrippa II, the last of the Herods.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 433.
b. Describe the scene and introductory encounter between Paul and Agrippa in the court—and how Heaven viewed it. Acts 25:23–27.
“In honor of his visitors, Festus had sought to make this an occasion of imposing display. The rich robes of the procurator and his guests, the swords of the soldiers, and the gleaming armor of their commanders, lent brilliancy to the scene.
“Paul, still manacled, stood before the assembled company. What a contrast was here presented! Agrippa and Bernice possessed power and position, and because of this they were favored by the world. But they were destitute of the traits of character that God esteems. They were transgressors of His law, corrupt in heart and life. Their course of action was abhorred by heaven.
“The aged prisoner, chained to his soldier guard, had in his appearance nothing that would lead the world to pay him homage. Yet in this man, apparently without friends or wealth or position, and held a prisoner for his faith in the Son of God, all heaven was interested. Angels were his attendants. Had the glory of one of those shining messengers flashed forth, the pomp and pride of royalty would have paled; king and courtiers would have been stricken to the earth, as were the Roman guards at the sepulcher of Christ.”—Ibid., pp.434, 435.
“All Heaven was interested in this one man, now held a prisoner for his faith in the Son of God. Says the beloved John: ‘The world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.’ The world knows not Christ, neither will it know those who exemplify Christ. They are sons of God, children of the royal family; yet their princely claims are not perceived by the world. They may excite their curiosity, but they are not appreciated or understood. They are to them uninteresting and unenvied.”—Sketches From the Life of Paul, p. 254.
4. REPENTANT SINNERS TO SPEAK UP
a. What can we learn from how Paul opened his testimony? Acts 26:1–8.
“Christianity will make a man a gentleman. Christ was courteous, even to His persecutors; and His true followers will manifest the same spirit. Look at Paul when brought before rulers. His speech before Agrippa is an illustration of true courtesy as well as persuasive eloquence. The gospel does not encourage the formal politeness current with the world, but the courtesy that springs from real kindness of heart.”—Gospel Workers, p. 123.
b. How did humility of heart radiate from the apostle? Acts 26:9–11.
“The examples in God’s word of genuine repentance and humiliation reveal a spirit of confession in which there is no excuse for sin or attempt at self-justification.
“Paul did not seek to shield himself; he paints his sin in its darkest hue, not attempting to lessen his guilt. [Acts 26:10, 11 quoted.]. . . . He does not hesitate to declare that ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.’”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 641.
c. How did Paul relate his experience—and what duty entrusted to him is also given to us now, just before Jesus’ return? Acts 26:12–18.
“[Christ’s] kingdom will not come until the good tidings of His grace have been carried to all the earth. Hence, as we give ourselves to God, and win other souls to Him, we hasten the coming of His kingdom. Only those who devote themselves to His service, saying, ‘Here am I; send me’ (Isaiah 6:8), to open blind eyes, to turn men ‘from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and inheritance among them which are sanctified’ (Acts 26:18)—they alone pray in sincerity, ‘Thy kingdom come.’ ”—Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, pp. 108, 109.
5. A PRICELESS OPPORTUNITY GRANTED
a. What did Paul explain as the burden of his heart? Acts 26:19–23.
b. How did Festus reveal a lack of spiritual discernment? Acts 26:24–26.
c. Explain how the Holy Spirit was powerfully drawing Agrippa—and, tragically, what finally caused him to resist it. Acts 26:27–32.
“Did the mind of Agrippa at these words revert to the past history of his family, and their fruitless efforts against Him whom Paul was preaching? Did he think of his great-grandfather Herod, and the massacre of the innocent children of Bethlehem? of his great-uncle Antipas, and the murder of John the Baptist? of his own father, Agrippa I, and the martyrdom of the apostle James? Did he see in the disasters which speedily befell these kings an evidence of the displeasure of God in consequence of their crimes against His servants? Did the pomp and display of that day remind Agrippa of the time when his own father, a monarch more powerful than he, stood in that same city, attired in glittering robes, while the people shouted that he was a god? Had he forgotten how, even before the admiring shouts had died away, vengeance, swift and terrible, had befallen the vainglorious king? Something of all this flitted across Agrippa’s memory; but his vanity was flattered by the brilliant scene before him, and pride and self-importance banished all nobler thoughts.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 6, pp. 1066, 1067.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. How does the close of Felix’ life remind us that earthly glory fades?
2. What qualities do we need to possess when faced with betrayal?
3. As in Paul’s case, why does the Lord sometimes delay a voyage?
4. In praying, “Thy kingdom come” (Matt. 6:10), what must I realize?
5. How might I be in danger of being distracted by the world’s glitter?