Last week we looked at the trial of Paul by the Governor Felix. 2 years have passed since the trial, but still Paul is not free. In the mean time the governorship has changed. The new governor is Porcius Festus. 3 days after becoming governor, Festus went from Caesarea to Jerusalem and greeted the Jewish High priest and elders. They made accusations against Paul. Festus said that since Paul was being kept in Caesarea and since he had plans to leave soon, if they had anything to accuse Paul of that they should come to Caesarea and make their case there. They followed his suggestion and came to Caesarea and brought their charges so the Governor requested that Paul be brought out to the court. The trial took place there. From this trial we can learn three things about walking the way of the Lord.
I. Wishing to do the Jews a favor (vs. 1-9)
First let’s look at Festus who tried to buy the hearts of the Jews. Festus commanded that Paul be brought to the courts. When Paul was brought there, the Jews from Jerusalem surrounded him and charged him with very heavy crimes. They were not really giving any new evidence, but are repeating what they had accused Paul of 2 years earlier. First they said that Paul had gone against their Jewish laws. Secondly, they accused Paul of defiling the temple. Thirdly, they said that Paul was against the Roman emperor. Before, Paul had defended himself against these same 3 charges, but here too he clearly defends himself. Therefore, the Jews could prove nothing.
In trials like this usually it is dismissed due to lack of evidence and Paul would be set free. However, from here on the circumstances suddenly changed. After hearing both sides of the story, Festus said to Paul, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there on those charges?” (9) Even though Paul was given a fairly just trial, and even though Festus knew that the Jews had no real evidence, even so he was going to send Paul on to Jerusalem. Actually by Roman law, if the trial was in Caesarea then the decision should have been made there. That is why Paul was taken to Caesarea in the first place. Therefore, why would Festus send Paul to Jerusalem?
Luke gives the reason in Acts 25:9 Festus was “wishing to do the Jews a favor.” In other words, Festus who had just recently become governor, didn’t want his relationship with the Jews to go bad so he wanted to do a favor to the Jews so he made such a suggestion. He thought that in order to protect his position, he needed the support of the Jewish council. He thought that by having Paul sent to Jerusalem, he would be able to keep honor among the Jews. Even though he was an authority who had control over others, he was always concerned over how to get other people’s support.
Felix was the same in 24:27 he too wanted to grant a favor to the Jews and left Paul in prison for 2 years. From old times up until now we see politicians who on one side are in a high position of influence, and on the other side they have a need to gain people’s support through flattery and doing special favors for them. They make decisions not according to what is right or wrong, but by what is best for keeping their position. This type of people like Festus or Felix who thought only about getting the support of the Jews, earning points in Rome, and success, to have authority over Paul’s life is really dangerous. However, this type of behavior is common in this world.
II. Appeal to Caesar (vs. 10-11)
Paul’s response is given in verses 10 and 11. Paul completely resists Fiesta’s suggestion of going to Jerusalem and appearing before Festus. He boldly appeals to Caesar. This means he was requesting to go to Rome and appear before the Roman emperor for judgment. Today this would be like going to the Supreme Court. Since Paul was a Roman citizen, he had the right to have a trial before Caesar. Paul made this request for 3 reasons.
1. Paul probably thought that even though the trial would before Festus, since he was being taken to Jerusalem that it wouldn’t be a just trial. Even if you look at Jesus’ trial, or the trial that Paul was involved with, Stephan’s trial, they were not just. Paul could foresee what kind of trial he would have.
2. The second reason was a matter of conscious. If he had done something wrong, if he did something deserving death, then he would try to avoid death. However, they had no proof for the things that they were accusing Paul of. Therefore, he had confidence that no one could pronounce him as guilty. If he has done anything wrong, that means that the Gospel that he was preaching was being objected to, which in turn would mean that God whom called Paul to preach the Gospel was also being objected to. Up until now he always, towards all people intensively, truthfully, confidently fulfilled his calling to preach the Gospel. In other words, now he is standing willing to give up his life, staking it on a pure conscious before God. Those who have such a free conscious are free from fear and have boldness and courage. Paul is not giving his defense for his own profit. He is defending himself for the truth and the Word of God. That’s why he could be so bold and act so openly. He is an example of Jesus’ words, “And the truth will make you free.” (John 8:32)
3. The biggest reason was Paul thought that he must go to Rome. Paul could use his Roman citizenship as a way to enter the Roman court. In other words, he would be trialed before Caesar. This would fulfill the calling that he received in 23:11. “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.” Paul strongly believed in this promise. If he returns to Jerusalem, then that was for the fulfillment of the plans of God. God’s will was that he go to Rome. Therefore, he decided to use his rights as a Roman citizen as a means to appear before the Roman emperor. Even though Paul had spent 2 years in prison, he had not lost hope, or given up, but patiently endured because of his calling. He believed firmly in his calling. Therefore, he was able to appeal to Caesar.
In our lives too like Paul we experience lots of troubles, and are always suffering. We want to run away from the situations that we are in. We want to have more fun. Let’s once again stand before God with a clear conscious, and receive again the hope and calling that the Bible gives. Then we will know the greatness of God’s mercy and will know the place where we have been placed. No matter what happens, there is no place to run away from. We are able to stand. Paul stood on this promise and this grace.
III. Walk in the way. (vs.12)
After Paul appealed to Caesar, Festus conferred with his council and then told Paul, “You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go.” In Festus eyes, this was a religious argument, so to leave the judgment up to the emperor, means that he would have no responsibility in the decisions made. Thus the promise made by the Lord to Paul was greatly moved toward fulfillment.
God moved those who were authorities in the world, and changed the way history was moving towards God’s plans. The governor in whose hand controlled politics, trials, and the army, was not able to show favor to the Jews. The high priests, who tried to use their own special rights for their good, were unable to. The only thing that was answered was the prayers of Paul who was in chain and unable to put up a hand or leg. In this world even though we may have no power, if God is for us then we are the strongest of all. If we are standing truthfully before God, and waking in his way, then the Lord will lead us.
There are times when we like Festus and Felix worry less about what is truth and correct, and more about what is best for our position when we make decisions. We tend to do what is best for ourselves. We need to stand upon the will of God and walk the way that God desires for us. No matter where we are we need to walk the road that God shows us believing that God will lead us.