Paul is confronted by Felix, the Roman governor in Caesarea. Is Paul truly the rabble-rouser the Jews make him out to be? That is a serious charge in peaceful Rome. In response, Paul confesses the following:
It is true that I do worship the God of my ancestors according to the Way which they call a “sect.” I believe everything which is written in the law and the prophets, and I hold to the hope in God, for which they also long, that there will be a resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous. (24:14-15)
What strikes me here (and in almost every other public address either Peter or Paul gave in Acts) is that resurrection is so foundational to the belief-system of the apostles. Key to the gospel is resurrection from the dead. This is mentioned again later in the chapter at 24:21.
I wonder if resurrection is that fundamental to our ways of thinking and talking today. I more often hear forgiveness from the guilt of sin mentioned in our gospel language. That is okay. Of course, forgiveness is important as well, and it was a part of the gospel sermons in Acts too (c.f., Acts 2:38). But not as often as resurrection. If we have downplayed resurrection in favor of forgiveness of guilt from sins, what are we missing? And why have we made this switch? What does this reveal about us?
Paul is a wanted man. Leave him alone in Jerusalem for 15 minutes and he is dead. He is sitting in a Roman jail under suspicions of disturbing the peace. Rome deals swiftly and decisively with people who upset the Pax Romana. In Felix, he is talking to a man who more so wants a bribe than the truth, and Paul has no intentions of paying up. He is headed to Rome, where Caesar’s word is truth, and Caesar has no reason to preserve Paul’s life.
How can Paul maintain such boldness and calm? Paul has already told us:
I hold to the hope in God . . . that there will be a resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous. (24:15)