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The Book of Acts Series

Acts, Chapter 25

John Baugh

March, 2010

Acts 25 (New American Standard Bible)

Acts 25

In Acts Chapter 23-24, Paul is transferred to Caesarea by the Commander of the Roman Tribune of Jerusalem after the riot at the Temple there and discovery of the plot to have him killed which occurred after the first hearing before the Jerusalem tribune.  In Caesarea, he is placed in confinement at Herod’s Praetorium by Governor Felix after Felix has an initial hearing with Paul, the Chief Priest and the Sanhedrin Council. 

 

Two years pass with Paul in confinement in Caesarea.

 

From Acts 24: 23-27

 

 23Then he gave orders to the centurion for him to be kept in custody and yet have some freedom, and not to prevent any of his friends from ministering to him. 24But some days later Felix arrived with Drusilla, his wife, who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus.  25But as he was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, "Go away for the present, and when I find time I will summon you."

 

 26At the same time too, he was hoping that money would be given him by Paul; therefore he also used to send for him quite often and converse with him.

 

 27But after two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, and wishing to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul imprisoned.

 

This begins Acts Chapter 25

 

Paul before Festus

 

 1Festus then, having arrived in the province, three days later went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea.  2And the chief priests and the leading men of the Jews brought charges against Paul, and they were urging him, 3requesting 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).

 

 4Festus then answered that Paul was being kept in custody at Caesarea and that he himself was about to leave shortly. 5"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."

 

Two years have passed since the events in Jerusalem and Paul’s initial trial before Governor Felix. At the end of that hearing, Felix deferred his verdict and placed Paul in detention. Paul has been in house detainment in Herod’s Praetorium for the two years that have passed, with no apparent restriction on visitors. He has also been summoned for occasional audiences before Felix and his Jewish wife, Princess Drusilla.

 

During the two year detainment, Felix has been replaced. Now another man, Porcius Festus, has come in as governor of the Roman province of Judea, appointed by the emperor. We do not know much about him from secular history, other than that most historians record him to have been a just man. He appears somewhat to be so, generally speaking, here in this account.

 

As with Felix, the Jewish authorities Priest and Sanhedrin have now come to Festus asking for a judgment against Paul. Their proposal now is that Paul be brought back to Jerusalem for a trial before their body. This would be in opposition to Roman law, since Paul is a Roman citizen. However, the Jews actually plan on assassinating Pal during the trip to Jerusalem, thereby ending their problem and obtaining revenge against the apostle without a trial.

 

However, Festus, as a Roman civil servant will not agree to such a plan (moving Paul to Jerusalem for trial by a religious group) so he asks to speak to Paul before making any decision. Festus tells the Jewish authorities that he will question Paul (they can come and witness the questioning if they like) and then if appropriate that he will prosecute the apostle himself.

 

6After 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. 7After Paul arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him which they could not prove, 8while 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."  9But 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?" 10But 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. 11If, 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." 12Then when Festus had conferred with his council, he answered, "You have appealed to Caesar; to Caesar you shall go."

 

Paul has been in house arrest for two years without cause. He has already appeared before Felix in an open and legal hearing. Felix has already stated that there is no cause to find Paul guilty of any crime, but no release has been granted from the charges brought forth by the Chief Priest and Sanhedrin. Now Paul finds himself under trial again, with unsubstantiated charges once again brought forth by the Temple officials. Evidently the arguments are the same, the charges as unfounded as in the original trial.

 

Again, as in the first trial, Luke uses the words “wishing to do the Jews a favor” and then reports a contrary decision by Festus, wanting to take Paul to Jerusalem for trail before the Jews. Evidently, Paul has become a political bargaining tool for the Romans and if they are allowed to turn him over to the Jews, they are willing to do that.

 

However, Paul will have no part of this. He points out that he first of all is not guilty of any crime. Secondly, he insists that as a Roman citizen, he has the right to be tried before Caesar and that is what he wants. Evidently he understands that as long as he is under Roman authority, the trial will be at least fair and legal. With the Jews, there is no way of even assuring that his transfer from Caesarea to Jerusalem will be legal.

 

Paul surely knows that he will never stand a chance in Jerusalem for justice in a Jewish Temple court. Likely, he understands that his only hope for justice is in Rome and so he says, "I appeal to Caesar." At this request, Festus has no choice, if he follows Roman law, but to send him to the seat of the Roman Empire to appear before the emperor.

 

It is evident that the fine hand of God is visible at work in the background of these events, carrying out his purposes. Paul is going to go to Rome. God will take him there - as a prisoner of the Roman judicial system. At this point an interesting development occurs. A Jewish king comes onto the scene:

 

13Now when several days had elapsed, King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea and paid their respects to Festus. 14While they were spending many days there, Festus laid Paul's case before the king, saying, "There is a man who was left as a prisoner by Felix; 15and when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews brought charges against him, asking for a sentence of condemnation against him. 16I 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. 17So after they had assembled here, I did not delay, but on the next day took my seat on the tribunal and ordered the man to be brought before me. 18When the accusers stood up, they began bringing charges against him not of such crimes as I was expecting, 19but they simply had some points of disagreement with him about their own religion and about a dead man, Jesus, whom Paul asserted to be alive. 20Being 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. 21But 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."

 

The Agrippa Luke refers to here is Agrippa II, the son of Herod Agrippa, who had James the Son of Zebedee killed and Peter imprisoned. He was educated at the court of the emperor Claudius, and at the time of his father's death was only seventeen years old. Later, he was named procurator of the Judea, with the right of superintending the Temple in Jerusalem and appointing the high priest. Drusilla the princess wife of Felix was Agrippa's sister. The Bernice mentioned here was Agrippa's sister.

 

He was the last prince of the house of the Herod, descendents of Herod the Great, who had all of the male babies in Bethlehem killed when Christ was born. His son, Herod Antipas had John the Baptist beheaded. His grandson Herod Agrippa I (Father of Agrippa II) had the disciple James (son of Zebedee) killed with the sword.

 

It was before him and his sister Bernice that, according to the New Testament, Paul the Apostle pleaded his cause at Caesarea Maritima, in 59.

 

Festus explains Paul's situation to King Agrippa:

 

Festus would certainly have wanted to discuss Paul's situation with King Agrippa, since Paul's problems came to light under the administration of Agrippa's brother in law, Governor Felix. Agrippa would have seen it as an interesting case and it seems very reasonable that after hearing about Paul's situation, Agrippa would have wanted to hear him, if for nothing more than entertainment and to see the problems the Chief Priest (who Agrippa would have appointed) had caused in the Temple (for which Agrippa was responsible). As a part of his presentation of Paul's case, Festus explains his initial involvement with the Chief Priests, the unusual nature of their charges against Paul and Paul's negative response to his request to take the case to Jerusalem and the Court of the Temple there.

 

Paul before Agrippa:

 

 22Then Agrippa said to Festus, "I also would like to hear the man myself." "Tomorrow," he said, "you shall hear him."  23So, on the next day when Agrippa came together with Bernice amid great pomp, and entered the auditorium accompanied by the commanders and the prominent men of the city, at the command of Festus, Paul was brought in.

 

This evidently was no casual examination of Paul. In addition to the King (the tetrarch of Galilee) and his biological sister (who was also his wife), the prominent men of the city were invited, along with the military commanders and Festus gathered with "great pomp" to hear Agrippa's examination of the itinerant minister.

 

24Festus said, "King Agrippa, and all you gentlemen here present with us, you see 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. 25But I found that he had committed nothing worthy of death; and since he himself appealed to the Emperor, I decided to send him. 26Yet 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. 27For it seems absurd to me in sending a prisoner, not to indicate also the charges against him."

 

Paul may well have seen Agrippa and his incestuous wife Bernice as his last chance to impact Israel for his Lord Jesus Christ through this King who had authority over Jerusalem, the Temple of Israel and Chief Priest of the Temple. However, there would have been thousands of better places for a discussion on the Messiah to have taken place.

 

There is no doubt that Paul was a source of great puzzlement for these officials as they attempted to determine what should be done with him. Festus is particularly on the spot here because, by Roman law, he has the responsibility of sending Paul to the emperor to answer for charges, since Paul, as a Roman Citizen has reminded him of his responsibility to do just that.

 

His main problem is how he will document the reason for sending Paul toward Rome, since all of the charges brought against the apostle have been shown to be without merit. IN fact, Paul has recently reminded him if that fact: "You know very well that I have done nothing against the Jews." Still, he must report something to Rome when he sends Paul that way. To send a prisoner to Rome with no charges is the mark of a very poor ruler.

 

Perhaps his hope is that Agrippa will discover some charge that will justify sending Paul to the emperor in Rome. This is the situation Paul finds himself in as he is brought in, chained to a Roman guard, and given the opportunity to make his defense.

 

This ends Acts Chapter 25.

 

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