The Apostle Paul was one of the most dedicated evangelists who ever lived. He even preached a powerful sermon to one of his captors, the Roman governor, Felix. The sermon he preached that day gives us valuable lessons about salvation. “Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee” (Acts 24:24, 25).
In this sermon, we learn some of the key ingredients of salvation, 1) Faith in Christ, 2) Righteousness, 3) Temperance, and 4) Judgment to come. These are basic points in the plan of salvation. We would like to examine these points to see what lessons we can learn for us today.
Faith in Christ
Faith is essential to live a Christian life (Hebrews 11:6). But not just any faith. You can have faith that your car will get you across the country. You can have faith that your doctor will give you the right medicine. Yet, that type of faith will not give you salvation. In fact, it could get you in real trouble. There is only one place where you can safely put your trust; in God and His Word. This faith enables you to become a child of God. “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26).
Having faith in Christ can bring a total transformation. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). That is an amazing promise! It doesn’t matter how many bad things you have done. It doesn’t matter how messed up your life has become. Faith in Christ can make you a brand new creation. (For a deeper study on faith in Christ, request the booklet entitled, Christ in You, which is one of our most requested booklets.)
Righteousness is the “state of him who is as he ought to be,… purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking, feeling, and acting” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon). This is a description of how Christ lived His life, and it is how God wants us to live. “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:31-33). The beautiful thing about seeking for God’s righteousness is that we will find it. Jesus said, “…seek, and ye shall find” (Matthew 7:7). “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6).
Seeking for God’s righteousness is different than seeking for our own righteousness. Jesus said, “…except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). The scribes and Pharisees were the church leaders of that day. They were respected and thought of as the most godly people around. Yet, there was a problem with their righteousness—it was theirs! It was mostly for looks and fell far short of God’s righteousness. “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:3).
There is a vast difference between our righteousness and God’s righteousness. Moses wrote, “And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the Lord our God, as he hath commanded us” (Deuteronomy 6:25). Keeping the law is how we establish our own righteousness, but there is a problem with that. “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” (Isaiah 64:6). Our righteousness is not good enough. God’s righteousness is what we must have. Of course, God’s righteousness is demonstrated in keeping the law, yet it is entirely different than our own righteousness. True righteousness springs from the heart of the born again Christian because Christ is living within which brings forth automatic righteous fruit. It is not a burden, but a delight to serve the Lord when you are born again (Psalm 40:8; 1 John 5:3).
“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference” (Romans 3:21, 22). The righteousness of God is a free gift we receive by the faith of Jesus. It is not something we earn or establish by our own works. Our own righteousness is corrupt because it is rooted in a selfish, carnal nature. This can never please God. “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Romans 8:7). Regardless of how hard we try to establish our own righteousness by keeping the law, we will never reach true righteousness. Having God’s righteousness requires an entirely new life, which we can only receive by being born again. (For an explanation of how this can happen, request the booklet entitled, You Must be Born Again!)
Right after explaining the sad condition of someone who has not been born again in Romans chapter seven, Paul explained, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1-4).
The Spirit of life in Christ Jesus is what we need. With Him living in us, we will live in obedience to the law, but it will not be a forced, fake obedience. It will flow naturally, because it is no longer us living (Galatians 2:20). This is the only way we can have true righteousness. (For a deeper study on righteousness, request the study entitled, “The Righteousness of God.”)
Temperance is “self-control (the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, esp. his sensual appetites)” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon). This is not something that comes naturally to us, but it is a gift we can receive by faith. When we ask God for His Spirit He gives it to us (Luke 11:13), and this is the result: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” (Galatians 5:22-24). Having rule over your lusts is not an impossible dream, but a reality for those who have Christ in them. Knowing what is available to you as a child of God is a key to unlocking the richness of His grace in your life.
“Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity [love]. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall” (2 Peter 1:2-10).
These are some powerful promises! I encourage you to read that again and again, and grasp the magnitude of what God has done for you through Christ. Seeing what is available to you as God’s child will enrich your life immensely. “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:6).
The Bible gives us a beautiful illustration of temperance. “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible” (1 Corinthians 9:24, 25). An athlete will subject himself/herself to extremes in temperance and only gains a temporary, corruptible reward. We have a much better prize to obtain, so our temperance should be greater.
May we live each day “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:6-14).
Judgment to Come
The final aspect of Paul’s sermon was on judgment to come. Even in this we have amazing promises. “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished” (2 Peter 2:9). There is a judgment coming, yet it is not something we need be afraid of, for God knows how to deliver us from our temptations, and we can be found faultless in the judgment.
The Bible explains how this can happen. “Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after” (1_Timothy 5:24). Our sins can go beforehand to judgment so that there is no record that we have done wrong. Judgment is not a scary thing if you have nothing bad on your record!
God promised, “If the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die. None of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him: he hath done that which is lawful and right; he shall surely live” (Ezekiel 33:15, 16). That is a beautiful promise. None of your sins will be mentioned to you because they have already been dealt with. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Don’t forget the second part of that promise. He will cleanse you from all unrighteousness. Accept His work for you as a reality right now, and it will be realized in your life. Faith in God’s promises comes before they are revealed in your life. Don’t wait to believe God’s promises until you see the evidence of them in your life. Faith comes first!
John explained, “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:16, 17). Our confidence in the judgment stems from knowing God’s love for us. John gives a three-step process. 1) Know God’s love, 2) Believe God’s love, 3) Dwell in God’s love. When John tells us to know God’s love he is specifically referring to the love manifested in the gift of His Son. A moment earlier John wrote, “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him” (verse 4:9). We need to know that God loves us so much that He sent His only begotten Son to die for us. We must believe it, place all of our confidence and faith in it, and stake our lives upon it. Then we must dwell in it; live our lives in the constant realization that God loves us completely. This will make our love perfect and give us confidence in the judgment. (For a deeper study on God’s love for you, request the book entitled, God’s Love on Trial. This book has been so popular it has been translated into Spanish, Romanian, and Russian.)
There is a judgment coming, so it is necessary for us to yield our lives to Him who made us, so we can be ready for that event. “Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment” (Ecclesiastes 11:9). There are actually two judgments listed in the Bible, one for the just, and one for the unjust. (For a thorough study on the judgments request the article, “The Big Picture.”) We want to make sure we are judged with the righteous people, for the other judgment will not be pleasant. “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17).
We have examined Faith in Christ, Righteousness, Temperance, and Judgment to come. All of these elements are important in the Christian life. Faith in Christ enables us to receive the righteousness of God, which will be demonstrated by temperance in our lives, and allow us to be innocent in the judgment to come. We have only briefly touched these topics which are all worthy of deeper study. To accomplish this you may wish to request the other materials listed in this article.
Friends, life is short. We have this one, small window of life to let God’s righteousness shine through to the world around us. I pray that you will take every opportunity to strengthen your relationship with God and be the best blessing you can be to your friends and family. It all stems from your connection to Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God. He is the vine, you are the branches. Abide in Him, and your life will flourish with good fruit.
“For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh” (Luke 6:43-45).
Invite Jesus to live in your heart, and let Him live in every decision and in every thought (2 Corinthians 10:4, 5). Be blessed, and be a blessing!