BOOK BY BOOK BIBLE STUDY
BIBLE STUDY LESSON
PAUL APPEARS BEFORE FESTUS
In Acts 25, three days after the new governor, Festus, had arrived in Caesarea to take over the office that was involuntarily vacated by Felix, he traveled to Jerusalem, and while there, he met with the Jewish leaders who then officially made their charges of heresy, sacrilege, and sedition against the Apostle Paul.
The former governor, Felix, had been forced out of office because of his unethical and illegal practices in his dealings with the people of Judea. He had spitefully left Paul in prison for the last two years of his administration, because he had been unsuccessful in his attempts to extract bribes from him. He also wanted to gain the favor of the Jewish hierarchy in Jerusalem who sought to prosecute Paul on trumped up charges.
While meeting with Festus in Jerusalem, the Jews tried to get him to transfer Paul back to Jerusalem for further questioning. They saw an opportunity to put their old plan of ambushing Paul while in route between the two cities, back into action. Remember they had tried to run the same scheme a couple of years earlier when they sought to trick the Roman commander, Lysias, into unwittingly going along with their plot.
However, Governor Festus had another idea and he suggested that since he would be heading back to Caesarea soon, why don’t those of the Church who are in authority, ride back with him to see Paul. And if Paul has done anything wrong, they could address those charges then (Vs.1-5).
The Jews found Festus to be quite different from Felix, and they realized very early that he was not one to be handled. He had little desire to come up against the Jews so soon and so he offered them a compromise they couldn’t refuse. And besides, none of the charges leveled against Paul mattered to Rome anyway. They weren’t concerned at all about the religious differences that they had with Paul. Those charges of heresy, sacrilege, and sedition were totally unimportant to Rome, and they certainly didn’t merit the death penalty that the Jews were seeking from them. And even the Jews themselves only believed that the heresy charge was legit. They knew full well that the charges of sacrilege and sedition were accusations that they made up in order to strengthen their case.
Days later Festus returned to Caesarea to take over his new responsibilities, and the day after he arrived, Paul’s trial began (v.6). When Paul arrived at the courthouse, the Jews began to lay out many charges against him that they couldn’t prove. Paul declared his innocence against all charges saying that he was not guilty of any crime against the Jews, the Temple, or, the Roman government (Vs.7-8).
Governor Festus, now wanting to please the Jews, asked Paul if he would consider going to Jerusalem to stand trial. However, Paul, knowing his rights as a Roman citizen, declined to go, saying, “This is the official Roman court, so I ought to be tried right here. You know very well I am not guilty. If I have done something worthy of death, I don’t refuse to die. But I am innocent, neither you nor anyone else has a right to turn me over to these men to kill me!” And then Paul declared the key words that could put a halt to the legal proceedings that he found himself in that day, “I appeal to Caesar!” (Vs.9-11).
Festus then quickly conferred with his advisers who apparently informed him that he couldn’t proceed any farther, and he was forced to grant Paul his request to take his case before Caesar in Rome (v.12). By law, if a Roman citizen felt that they were not getting a fair shake in a provincial court, they could appeal directly to Caesar the Emperor, and so Paul did.
A few days later King Agrippa arrived in town with his sister, Bernice, to pay their respects to Festus. In the course of their visit of several days, Festus took the opportunity to discuss Paul’s case with the king. He filled him in on the details of the case and the now curious king expressed that he would like to hear what Paul had to say for himself.
PAUL SPEAKS TO AGRIPPA
And so the next day Agrippa received his opportunity to examine Paul in the regal setting of the auditorium there in Caesarea. There was great pomp and anticipation as the king and his sister Bernice, the governor Festus, and many other prominent men of the city gathered inside to witness the proceedings.
Festus then ordered that Paul be brought in, and he introduced Paul to the royal audience who came to see the man whose death was demanded by both the local Jews, and, by those who resided in Jerusalem. Festus began by expressing that he himself didn’t see anything that Paul had done wrong, and certainly, he had done nothing that merited the death penalty, as far as Rome was concerned.
But still, all things considered, Paul had appealed his case to Caesar, and even though he had no real charges against him, as far as Rome was concerned, Festus was bound by law to grant his request. However, having nothing to write to the Emperor concerning Paul (no relevant charges) it presented the governor with a dilemma, and it just didn’t seem reasonable or wise to send a case to Caesarea that had no merit. In fact, such an unwise decision might even endanger his newly acquired position as governor, by causing Caesar to question his judgment, and his ability to perform his new appointment over the province of Judea. Stay tuned!
A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website