THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD NAVIGATES OUR LIFE THROUGH SURPRISING TWISTS AND TURNS TO ACCOMPLISH GOD’S KINGDOM PURPOSES
Why did God choose to include so much detail about the various trials involving the Apostle Paul? This forms a substantial portion of the book of Acts. Much of it may seem repetitious to us, but God wants to reinforce a number of key points:
– Validate the innocence of the Apostle Paul against all charges – both those religious charges of heresy and sacrilege concocted by the Jews; as well as any charges of political insurrection; Christianity should not be viewed as anti-government
– Track the movement in Paul’s journey from Jerusalem to Rome – all guided by the sovereign Providence of God – despite all opposition and obstacles
– Point out the tension between conflicting parties (i.e. Jewish interests vs. Roman; etc.)
Think how long this process has dragged on – what is going on in the outside world in terms of the spread of Christianity and Jewish/church relationships? How has Paul been spending his time? What emotions or thoughts might have Paul been experiencing during this long period of captivity?
What do we know about God’s will for Paul at this point in his life – cf. 23:11
David Thompson: One must ask why is all of this happening to Paul? Why is God permitting a man who is completely innocent to go through all of this? The answer is, His sovereign plan is to get Paul to Rome and before He takes him to Rome, he wants him testifying of His grace found in Jesus Christ to the most powerful people in the world. God wants him in Rome and Satan does not.
THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD NAVIGATES OUR LIFE THROUGH SURPRISING TWISTS AND TURNS TO ACCOMPLISH GOD’S KINGDOM PURPOSES
Chap. 25 sets the stage for Chap. 26 where Paul will offer his defense before Agrippa
I. (:1-12) PAUL APPEALS TO CAESAR – BANKING ON ROMAN CITIZENSHIP VS JEWISH MALICE
A. (:1-5) Jews Lobby Festus Unsuccessfully for Jerusalem Trial of Paul
1. Festus Checks Out Jerusalem
“Festus therefore, having arrived in the province, three days later went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea.”
Who is this character Festus and why would he want to go to Jerusalem? Not a procrastinator like his predecessor Felix; very efficient and quick to act
David Thompson: It is interesting to watch the dynamics of candidates in an election year. They try to make trips to areas to gain some popularity to earn votes. They make some political move to try and smooth things out. It isn’t that they want people right with God, he wants them supporting him
Kent: It was most important for a Roman procurator of Judea to establish some sort of working arrangement with the high priest and Sanhedrin if he were to govern with any degree of success.
Interesting: starts in Caesarea where Paul is and then goes up to Jerusalem and then returns – taking with him some of the accusers.
Jack Arnold: Festus replaced Felix as governor of the province of Judea in 59 A.D. Secular historians tell us that he was an honest official, dealing in fairness and justice with those whom he governed. Festus was characterized as a man who did something immediately. He did not wait. We will see this characteristic in this chapter, for we see his promptness, briskness, quickness and punctuality. This man was an administrator, but he was also unprincipled and a political expedient. Festus openly confessed Paul had done no wrong and yet he was willing to sacrifice Paul on the altar of political expediency. Festus held office for only two years and died in 61 A.D.
2. Jews Lobby for Jerusalem Trial
“And the chief priests and the leading men of the Jews brought charges against Paul; and they were urging him, requesting a concession against Paul, that he might have him brought to Jerusalem (at the same time, setting an ambush to kill him on the way).”
The Jews have not given up on this strategy of getting Paul out on the open road and ambushing him – would they be willing to absorb some collateral damage and kill some of the guards as well?? Definitely so.
David Thompson: It is clear that these religious leaders still hate grace and still hate Paul and they still hate Jesus Christ whom he preaches. There is an old saying that “time heals”; well time does not heal when it comes to people who hate grace. William Larkin said you can always count on two things from religious frauds: persistence and deceit (Acts, p. 346). Jewish people will never be content, happy or at peace until Jesus Christ, her Messiah reigns. No political leader will ever solve Israel’s problem.
Kent: The Jews doubtless hoped to exploit the inexperience of Festus in Judea, knowing that he would be unaware of the previous plot which had necessitated Paul’s removal to Caesarea.
What type of Huge power play is taking place here?
– Jewish authorities vs Roman authorities
– Christians vs unbelievers
– Jewish interests vs Gentile interests
– Christians who really understood grace vs those who were more legalistic
– Court venue of Jerusalem or Caesarea as gateway to Rome
– Even among the Jewish Sanhedrin – between Pharisees and Saduccees
– Interests of Satan vs. God’s kingdom agenda
3. Festus Maintains Trial in Caesarea
“Festus then answered that Paul was being kept in custody at Caesarea and that he himself was about to leave shortly. ‘Therefore,’ he said, ‘let the influential men among you go there with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them prosecute him.’”
Joseph Alexander: The governor’s reply to their exorbitant or treacherous petition was, that Paul was already in safe-keeping at the seat of government, and as the governor expected to be there himself before long, his removal was unnecessary and indeed would be inconvenient.
B. (:6-8) Jews Accuse Paul Before Festus at Caesarea
1. Speedy Trial in Caesarea
“And after he had spent not more than eight or ten days among them, he went down to Caesarea; and on the next day he took his seat on the tribunal and ordered Paul to be brought.”
2. Unsubstantiated Charges Brought by the Jews from Jerusalem
“And after he had arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him which they could not prove;”
These Jews will just not give up – The world tends to think of religious people as more morally upstanding than the general population. What does this tell us about the potential corrupting influence of false religion?
Many and serious charges – they manufactured a whole string of accusations hoping that the sheer weight would obscure the lack of evidence for any of the specific charges
Proverbs 12:17 . . . a false witness utters deceit. Proverbs has a lot to say about those who bear false witness
What is the real charge against Paul? Not all the trumped up false charges, but the real charge that inflamed the Jews? That Paul continued to testify to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
(cf. 22:7-8; 23:6; 24:15, 21)
That is the historical fact that would substantiate all of the claims that Jesus had made to His deity – claims that the Jews considered to be blasphemy.
What evidence could Paul point to in support of the resurrection of Jesus?
3. Simple Defense by Paul
“while Paul said in his own defense, ‘I have committed no offense either against the Law of the Jews or against the temple or against Caesar.’”
Very simple, straightforward defense; when you are telling the truth you don’t have to orchestrate a bunch of lies; no fancy legal attorney representing him
No heresy / No sacrilege / No treason
Joseph Alexander: From what Paul here denies we learn what his enemies affirmed, to wit, the same old charges of schism or apostasy (from the law), sacrilegious desecration (of the temple), and treacherous revolt (against the emperor). These are substantially the charges urged, two years before, at the bar of Felix by Tertullus (24:5-6).
C. (:9-12) Paul Rejects Trial at Jerusalem and Appeals to Caesar
1. Political Equivocation on the Part of Festus
“But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, answered Paul and said, ‘Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me on these charges?’”
Why so much concern about doing the Jews a favor?
Very accommodating on the part of Festus to be willing to go back to Jerusalem – he would love to put this back in their hands if he could and make it a religious trial for heresy rather than a political trial.
What do the Scriptures say about being double-minded?
Bruce: But he had newly entered upon his period of office as governor of Judea, the Sanhedrin was the supreme national court of the people he had come to govern, and it would be politic to begin his administration by doing something to gain their good will, if this could be done without infringing Roman justice.
2. Paul Stands on His Rights as a Roman Citizen – Appeals to Caesar
“But Paul said, ‘I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. I have done no wrong to the Jews, as you also very well know. If then I am a wrongdoer, and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die; but if none of those things is true of which these men accuse me, no one can hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar.’” Remember 23:11
Illustration: Like playing the idol on the TV show Survivor – special Get Out Of Jail free card; changes the whole conversation; a real game changer
William Arnot: The right of appeal to the emperor was Paul’s talisman; it was employed only in the last resort. But it was effectual. It represented the Roman empire; it wielded the power paramount of the world. Neither Festus on the one hand, nor the Jewish rulers on the other, dared to touch a hair of the prisoner’s head while he lay under the shelter of imperial law.
What was Paul’s view of capital punishment as executed by proper government authorities?
Joseph Alexander: The whole verse may be paraphrased as follows. “Why do you ask me such a needless question? Can you really expect a Roman citizen, already standing at the Roman bar, to consent to undergo another trial at the tribunal of these Jews, who have just failed again to prove their charges against me, and have therefore not the slightest claim upon me, as you must yourself be now convinced, if you knew it not before?” . . .
The possession of this citizenship, therefore, was the providential means of saving Paul, at this critical juncture, not only from the power of his Jewish foes, but also from the weakness of his Roman friends.
3. Festus Reluctantly Consigns Paul to Go to Rome
“Then when Festus had conferred with his council, he answered, ‘You have appealed to Caesar, to Caesar you shall go.’”
Was Festus enthusiastic about sending Paul on down the line to Caesar? Why the hesitancy?
Jack Arnold: Again we see God’s hand at work. We left Paul in Acts 24 in jail with no apparent way to get out and be on his way to Rome. But in Acts 25, we have a change of administration, a new trial, a governor who upheld Roman law, and Paul’s appeal which would take him to Rome as a prisoner to appear before Caesar. God works in strange and mysterious ways.
Next scene in this legal plot that we would expect to see is Paul being transported under heavy guard to Rome to appear before Caesar
But another scene intervenes
Blaiklock: Appellatio, to which process Paul thus resorted, was the act by which a litigant disputes a judgment, and the effect was that the case was brought before a higher magistrate, normally the one who had originally appointed the magistrate of the lower court…. Hence, probably, there was some measure of embarrassment for Festus when, after consultation with his board of assessors (12), he accepted the appeal. He had virtually acquitted the prisoner, and, as a newcomer, had no exact knowledge of the religious situation out of which the charge had arisen. He must have been at a loss of how to phrase the letter which was to accompany the appellant to the imperial court, and the terms of the communication to a tribunal so exalted as Caesar’s were a matter of some importance, if only to the reputation of the magistrate concerned.
II. (:13-22) FESTUS EXPLAINS PAUL’S CASE TO AGRIPPA
A. (:13) Arrival of Agrippa and Bernice
“Now when several days had elapsed, King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea, and paid their respects to Festus.”
Jack Arnold: Bernice was a very beautiful woman and was the blood sister to Agrippa II and to Drucilla, wife of Felix. Bernice made a fetish of incestuous relationships. She had been married to her uncle, Herod, King of Chalcis, but when he died she chose to live with her brother, committing the worst kind of incest. Later on, to avoid the scandal with Agrippa, Bernice left Agrippa and married Polemon, King of Pomins. She stayed married for only a brief time, and she divorced her husband. She then went back to Agrippa and together they went to Rome. Bernice then became the mistress to two successive Roman emperors, Vespasian and Titus, who were father and son.
Kent: It should not be supposed that Festus was a subordinate to Agrippa. This visit was not that of a monarch to one of his underlings, but a courtesy call from a neighboring ruler to the new procurator of an adjoining province.
B. (:14-16) Account of Paul’s Case
“And while they were spending many days there, Festus laid Paul’s case before the king, saying, ‘There is a certain man left a prisoner by Felix; and when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews brought charges against him, asking for a sentence of condemnation upon him. And I answered them that it is not the custom of the Romans to hand over any man before the accused meets his accusers face to face, and has an opportunity to make his defense against the charges.’”
Bruce: Agrippa the younger had the reputation of being an authority on the Jewish religion, and Festus decided that he was the man who could best help him to frame the report which he had to remit to Rome in connection with Paul’s appeal to the emperor.
C. (:17-19) Adjudication Revealing Only Jewish Religious Disagreements
“And so after they had assembled here, I made no delay, but on the next day took my seat on the tribunal, and ordered the man to be brought. And when the accusers stood up, they began bringing charges against him not of such crimes as I was expecting; but they simply had some points of disagreement with him about their own religion and about a certain dead man, Jesus, whom Paul asserted to be alive.”
Very surprising case on all fronts
D. (:20-21) Appropriate Next Steps
1. (:20) Jerusalem?
“And being at a loss how to investigate such matters, I asked whether he was willing to go to Jerusalem and there stand trial on these matters.”
Roman officials do not seem in command of the case; they are reacting on the one hand to the pressure coming from the Jewish authorities and on the other hand to the desires of Paul himself as a Roman citizen.
2. (:21) Caesar??
“But when Paul appealed to be held in custody for the Emperor’s decision, I ordered him to be kept in custody until I send him to Caesar.”
3. (:22) Agrippa
“And Agrippa said to Festus, ‘I also would like to hear the man myself.’ ‘Tomorrow,’ he said, ‘you shall hear him.’”
An additional unexpected hearing is now introduced into the plot line
Why would Agrippa want to hear from Paul? Influential person in religious circles; curious to hear his story
The verb “I would like to hear” is imperfect tense indicating that Herod had wanted to hear Paul for a long time.
III. (:23-27) PAUL BROUGHT BEFORE AGRIPPA AND BERNICE
A. (:23) Staging of the Hearing
“And so, on the next day when Agrippa had come together with Bernice, amid great pomp, and had entered the auditorium accompanied by the commanders and the prominent men of the city, at the command of Festus, Paul was brought in.”
Why so much pomp and ceremony?
Boice: In Greek the word “pomp” is fantasia. It is the word from which we get our words “fantasy” and “fantastic.” It refers to something light, fleeting, or passing, something of momentary interest only. In the context of this great public display by Agrippa, Festus and the others, the word was probably chosen carefully to suggest that these seemingly important things are only passing fantasies.
Frank Arnold: Festus really laid out the red carpet for Agrippa and Bernice. In a huge banquet hall, great pomp and pageantry was carried on. Agrippa and Bernice were garbed in the clothes of the splendor of royalty. Festus was arrayed in the scarlet of a Roman procurator, and around him were his tribunes, legionaries and servants. There was beautiful music and luscious banqueting. Paul was then commanded to come into this great auditorium. In this magnificent crown, a man walked in leading the prisoner Paul whose hands were bound and whose clothes were tattered. Paul stood before this group of VIPs and gave them the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was not disturbed or frightened by the rank and splendor of the audience because he knew God had called him to speak before kings and governors.
Bock: The inquiry is held before the prominent people of the city and military leaders. These are probably the five tribunes, officers commanding over one thousand men each, stationed in Caesarea.
Why did Paul’s case merit so much attention on the part of these high officials?
These were very important individuals with full schedules with lots of high priority duties.
Where do Scriptures make a big distinction between those people who are prominent in the eyes of the world and those who are prominent in God’s kingdom?
What can we say about the courage and composure of Paul as he gives testimony to Jesus Christ before such prominent people?
B. (:24-25) Review of the Previous Findings of Festus
1. (:24) Passionate Plea for Execution by the Jews
“And Festus said, ‘King Agrippa, and all you gentlemen here present with us, you behold this man about whom all the people of the Jews appealed to me, both at Jerusalem and here, loudly declaring that he ought not to live any longer.’”
Penalty is supposed to fit the crime – could not make sense of Paul’s situation from this standpoint.
Makes the point that he had not caved to pressure from the Jews to execute Paul – but how had he allowed the Jews to influence his judgment?
2. (:25) Examination Led to Exoneration and Appeal to Caesar
“But I found that he had committed nothing worthy of death; and since he himself appealed to the Emperor, I decided to send him.”
C. (:26-27) Need for Clarification of the Charges Before Sending to Caesar
“Yet I have nothing definite about him to write to my lord. Therefore I have brought him before you all and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that after the investigation has taken place, I may have something to write. For it seems absurd to me in sending a prisoner, not to indicate also the charges against him.”
Look how the Roman officials were struggling to justify how Paul could even be considered a prisoner with charges worth pursuing.
Very concerned that he would be embarrassed by sending a prisoner with such vague charges