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David Guzik :: Study Guide for Acts 25

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Paul's Trial Before Festus

A. Paul appeals to Caesar to avoid a plot against his life.

1. (Act 25:1-3) When Felix is replaced, Paul's Jewish accusers decide to re-try the case against Paul.

Now when Festus had come to the province, after three days he went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem. Then the high priest and the chief men of the Jews informed him against Paul; and they petitioned him, asking a favor against him, that he would summon him to Jerusalem; while they lay in ambush along the road to kill him.

a. Now when Festus had come to the province: Felix was undoubtedly a bad man, but history tells us Festus was a basically good man. Festus governed well, despite all the problems left him by Felix.

b. That he would summon him to Jerusalem; while they lay in ambush along the road to kill him: The Jewish leaders wanted Festus to call Paul to Jerusalem for the trial, so that they could murder him in an ambush along the way.

c. We can see that Paul's generous "imprisonment" in Caesarea was actually a providential provision of protective custody against the murderous intentions of the Jews, as well as a "forced rest" in light of his unfailing missionary service in years past, and great tasks in the years ahead.

2. (Act 25:4-8) Festus re-opens the trial in Caesarea.

But Festus answered that Paul should be kept at Caesarea, and that he himself was going there shortly. "Therefore," he said, "let those who have authority among you go down with me and accuse this man, to see if there is any fault in him." And when he had remained among them more than ten days, he went down to Caesarea. And the next day, sitting on the judgment seat, he commanded Paul to be brought. When he had come, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood about and laid many serious complaints against Paul, which they could not prove, while he answered for himself, "Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I offended in anything at all."

a. Festus answered that Paul should be kept at Caesarea: We don't know if Festus knew the intentions of the Jewish leaders or not. Either way, he refused to grant their request for a change of venue.

b. The outcome of this trial was the same. The Jews offered many accusations which they could not prove, and Paul confidently rested on both the evidence of the case and his apparent integrity.

3. (Act 25:9-12) Paul appeals his case to Caesar.

But Festus, wanting to do the Jews a favor, answered Paul and said, "Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and there be judged before me concerning these things?" So Paul said, "I stand at Caesar's judgment seat, where I ought to be judged. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you very well know. For if I am an offender, or have committed anything deserving of death, I do not object to dying; but if there is nothing in these things of which these men accuse me, no one can deliver me to them. I appeal to Caesar." Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, "You have appealed to Caesar? To Caesar you shall go!"

a. Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and there be judged before me concerning these things? Festus, probably ignorant of the plot of the Jews, suggests moving the trial back to Jerusalem, where Paul would surely be murdered on the journey.

b. So Paul said, "I stand at Caesar's judgment seat, where I ought to be judged … I appeal to Caesar." Paul, seeing through this plot (either through supernatural knowledge or God-given common sense and deduction) demands to stand trial before Caesar.

i. Paul didn't want to go to Jerusalem. He wasn't afraid to face the lions, but he didn't want to put his head in a lion's mouth if he could avoid it.

c. I appeal to Caesar: It was the right of every Roman citizen to have his case heard by Caesar himself, after initial trials and appeals had failed to reach a satisfactory decision. This was in effect an appeal to the "supreme court" of the empire.

i. Paul was appealing specifically to Caesar Nero, who was later an avowed enemy of Christians. But the first five years of his reign, when he was under the influence of good men around him, Nero was regarded as a wise and just ruler. Paul had no reason at this time to believe that Nero would be anti-Christian.

d. But remember Paul's thinking in making this appeal: he is convinced that the evidence is on his side, and because he senses that perhaps his current judge is sympathetic to his accusers.

B. Paul's hearing before King Agrippa.

1. (Act 25:13-22) Festus explains the case involving Paul to the visiting King Agrippa.

And after some days King Agrippa and Bernice came to Caesarea to greet Festus. When they had been there many days, Festus laid Paul's case before the king, saying: "There is a certain man left a prisoner by Felix, about whom the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me, when I was in Jerusalem, asking for a judgment against him. To them I answered, 'It is not the custom of the Romans to deliver any man to destruction before the accused meets the accusers face to face, and has opportunity to answer for himself concerning the charge against him.' Therefore when they had come together, without any delay, the next day I sat on the judgment seat and commanded the man to be brought in. When the accusers stood up, they brought no accusation against him of such things as I supposed, but had some questions against him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who had died, whom Paul affirmed to be alive. And because I was uncertain of such questions, I asked whether he was willing to go to Jerusalem and there be judged concerning these matters. But when Paul appealed to be reserved for the decision of Augustus, I commanded him to be kept till I could send him to Caesar." Then Agrippa said to Festus, "I also would like to hear the man myself." "Tomorrow," he said, "you shall hear him."

a. Festus laid Paul's case before the king: Festus, new to his post and perhaps unfamiliar with Jewish traditions and customs, seems somewhat confused by Paul's case. Therefore, even though there was not enough evidence to convict Paul, the investigation continues.

b. The case was probably confusing to Festus because of the lack of concrete evidence. But, of course there wasn't enough evidence to convict Paul of the accusations against him, because he had done no wrong! This was reason enough for acquittal.

c. King Agrippa: Herod Agrippa II ruled a client kingdom of the Roman Empire to the northeast of Festus' province, and was reputed to be an expert in Jewish customs and religious matters. Though he did not have jurisdiction over Paul in this case, his hearing of the matter would be helpful for Festus.

i. Of this King Agrippa, his great-grandfather had tried to kill Jesus as a baby; his grandfather had John the Baptist beheaded; his father had martyred the first apostle, James. Now Paul stands before the next in line of the Herods, Herod Agrippa.

ii. Bernice was his sister, and rumors were rife that their relationship was incestuous.

iii. Herod Agrippa II didn't rule over much territory, but was of great influence because the emperor gave him the right to oversee the affairs of the temple in Jerusalem and the appointment of the high priest.

d. The appearance before King Agrippa was really a hearing, and not a trial; Agrippa did not have jurisdiction in the matter.

2. (Act 25:23-27) Festus makes an opening statement at the hearing of Paul before Agrippa.

So the next day, when Agrippa and Bernice had come with great pomp, and had entered the auditorium with the commanders and the prominent men of the city, at Festus' command Paul was brought in. And Festus said: "King Agrippa and all the men who are here present with us, you see this man about whom the whole assembly of the Jews petitioned me, both at Jerusalem and here, crying out that he was not fit to live any longer. But when I found that he had committed nothing deserving of death, and that he himself had appealed to Augustus, I decided to send him. I have nothing certain to write to my lord concerning him. Therefore I have brought him out before you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that after the examination has taken place I may have something to write. For it seems to me unreasonable to send a prisoner and not to specify the charges against him."

a. When Agrippa and Bernice had come with great pomp: In the midst of all the pomp and pageantry, remember just who is on trial here! Really, Festus, Agrippa, Bernice and the rest are all on trial before the God who Paul preaches; Paul is not on trial before them.

i. Voltaire, the famous French infidel, called Paul a "ugly little Jew." Perhaps that was an accurate physical description of the man; but he is the one with the authority and dignity here.

ii. "All these very important people would have been greatly surprised, and not a little scandalized, could they have foreseen the relative estimates that later generations would form of them and of the prisoner who now stood before them to state his case." (Bruce)

b. So that after the examination has taken place I may have something to write: Festus will use this trial to prepare an official brief for Paul's upcoming trial before Caesar.

© 2001 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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