Acts Chapter Twenty-Five

Read Acts 25:1-12


v.1  1Now when Festus was come into the province, after three days he ascended from Caesarea to Jerusalem.”


            As we had noted in our previous study; in A.D. 60 the emperor, Nero, appointed a new governor for Judea to replace Felix.  Even appointed by one of the most evil of the Roman rulers, Festus was a better man that Felix, not nearly as corrupt or wicked.  Almost immediately after reaching Caesarea he goes up to Jerusalem to see the people that he has been given responsibility to govern.


v.2-32Then the high priest and the chief of the Jews informed him against Paul, and besought him, 3And desired favour against him, that he would send for him to Jerusalem, laying wait in the way to kill him.”


            The chief priests and principal men (ASV) of the Jews still haven’t forgotten their vow, their hatred or their purpose to kill Paul.  About two years have passed, they now have a new governor and immediately they lay this problem at his feet, requesting that Paul be brought to Jerusalem for trial.  Of course, Luke tells us that their real motive wasn’t to try Paul but rather to murder him somewhere on the road between the two cities.


v.4. “But Festus answered, that Paul should be kept at Caesarea, and that he himself would depart shortly thither.”


            Festus didn’t grant their request.  He simply tells them that Paul would be kept at Caesarea and that, in fact, he would be leaving Jerusalem to return there in a very short period of time.  He had apparently come to Jerusalem not intending to stay very long.


v.55Let them therefore, said he, which among you are able, go down with me, and accuse this man, if there be any wickedness in him.”


            Festus not only wasn’t accepting their request he told the Jewish leaders that whoever among them was able to come to Caesarea to testify against Paul.  As you will remember they had their lawyer Tertullus do the testifying before Felix but Festus wanted the chief priests and principal men themselves to come.


v.6  And when he had tarried among them more than ten days, he went down unto Caesarea; and the next day sitting on the judgment seat commanded Paul to be brought.”

            Festus spent the time he needed to spend in Jerusalem, Luke records that it was “MORE THAN TEN DAYS” and then went back down to Caesarea.  He didn’t waste any time with Paul or the members of the Jewish Council.  He took the seat of judgment afforded him as the Roman Governor, sat to hear this case and had Paul brought out to be judged.


v.7And when he was come, the Jews which came down from Jerusalem stood round about, and laid many and grievous complaints against Paul, which they could not prove.”


            Luke doesn’t tell us what charges that the members of the Sanhedrin made against Paul except to say that they were “MANY” and “GRIEVOUS”.  Luke also tells us that they could not prove any of the charges that they made.  They were just a bunch of accusations, nothing that could be substantiated, nothing that could be proven.  This made this situation readily recognizable as a political situation, not a matter of criminal conduct of any sort.


v.8 “While he answered for himself, Neither against the law of the Jews, neither against the temple, nor yet against Caesar, have I offended any thing at all.”


            Paul was allowed to make his defense.  We’re not told specifically what he presented, just as we’re not told what the Jews presented, but the sum and substance of the situation was that he had not violated any law, Roman or Jewish.


v.9  “But Festus, willing to do the Jews a pleasure, answered Paul, and said, Wilt thou go up to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these things before me?”


            Just like Felix, Festus wants to gain the cooperation and support of these Jewish leaders and sees a way to do that.  Felix wanted the favor of the Jews:


Acts 24:27But after two years Porcius Festus came into Felix’ room: and Felix, willing to show the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound.”


So Festus wasn’t any better in this regard than Felix.  In addition he wants Paul to go up to Jerusalem to be tried, but Paul understands the danger in that and exercises his right as a Roman citizen.


v.10-11Then said Paul, I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest. 11For if I be an offender, or have committed any thing worthy of death, I refuse not to die: but if there be none of these things whereof these accuse me, no man may deliver me unto them. I appeal unto Caesar.”


            Paul refuses to go to Jerusalem to be tried and justly so.  He is a Roman citizen, he has done no harm nor has he committed any crime in violation of the Mosaic Law.  It has already been stated by divine inspiration in the previous verse that the charges made by the Jews “COULD NOT BE PROVED.”  Paul further states that he would not shrink from death if he were guilty of something that would demand his death but he’s innocent of any wrongdoing and Festus knows that.

            Paul then appeals to the highest court in the Roman Empire, that of the Caesar himself.  This is his right to do so and this is the providence of God working to provide Paul with what he and God both wanted:


Acts 23:11And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.”


v.12Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, Hast thou appealed unto Caesar? unto Caesar shalt thou go.


            Festus has the responsibility to render a judgment in this somewhat bizarre case.  Paul is innocent of any wrongdoing, Festus tried to set up something that would please the Jewish leaders and that didn’t work.  So he confers with his council, the men appointed to advise and assist the governor in many things.  These men served the same purpose as president’s cabinet and that group of White House advisors that support and advise our president today.  They decide that the only alternative they have is to send Paul to Caesar, but even this decision continues to present problems.


Read Acts 25:13-27:


v.13And after certain days king Agrippa and Bernice came unto Caesarea to salute Festus.”


            “AFTER CERTAIN DAYS”, shortly after Paul’s trial, King Herod Agrippa II and his sister Bernice come down to Caesarea from Caesarea Philippi.  King Herod Agrippa II was the son of Herod Agrippa I, the Herod who gave the oration and died in Caesarea and we talked about in our study of Acts 12:21-23.  He was also the great-grandson of Herod the Great who tried to kill Jesus shortly after he was born and is the last of the male descendants of Herod the Great.  Bernice and also Drusilla, the wife of Felix that we find mentioned in Acts 24:24, are his sisters.


v.14-15And when they had been there many days, Festus declared Paul’s cause unto the king, saying, There is a certain man left in bonds by Felix: 15About whom, when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me, desiring to have judgment against him.”


            Because he is also a ruler in this region, perhaps with more experience than Festus, but probably more so because he is at least part Jewish, Festus tells him about his problem with Paul; a certain man that Felix has left in bonds.  We know from prior study that Paul has now been there for about two years.  The Jewish leaders from Jerusalem, the Sanhedrin, want to either try Paul in their own court in Jerusalem, much like they did Jesus, or want him put on the road to that city so they can kill him.


v.16To whom I answered, It is not the manner of the Romans to deliver any man to die, before that he which is accused have the accusers face to face, and have licence to answer for himself concerning the crime laid against him.”


            Festus did as he should in this case and required that a Roman trial be conducted to determine what crimes Paul has committed.  As does our law today Roman law provided the opportunity for those accused to face their accusers and defend themselves.


v.17Therefore, when they were come hither, without any delay on the morrow I sat on the judgment seat, and commanded the man to be brought forth.”


            When Paul’s accusers came down from Jerusalem, Festus did not procrastinate but rather held his trial the very next day.


v.18-19Against whom when the accusers stood up, they brought none accusation of such things as I supposed: 19But had certain questions against him of their own superstition, and of one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive.


            At this trial, Festus learns that Paul is not being charged with any crime against Roman law or any other civil law but rather the problem is a religious dispute.  Religion is translated superstition in the KJV and the original Greek word can be translated either “pious”, “religious” or “superstitious.   To Festus who is basically ignorant of the Mosaic Law and God; the main question seems to be the resurrection of the dead, specifically Jesus the Christ.


v.20-21And because I doubted of such manner of questions, I asked him whether he would go to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these matters. 21But when Paul had appealed to be reserved unto the hearing of Augustus, I commanded him to be kept till I might send him to Caesar.”


            Festus doubted the validity of the charges against Paul; he is in a political bind with the Jewish rulers.  The KJV says that he doubted the ASV translates that he was perplexed; the RSV says that he was at a loss.  He’s got a problem that he has inherited from Felix and he doesn’t know what to do about it.  He tried to send Paul to Jerusalem for trial but Paul appealed to Caesar so he’s being kept until he can be sent to Rome.


v.22Then Agrippa said unto Festus, I would also hear the man myself. To morrow, said he, thou shalt hear him.”


            So perhaps as a courtesy to Festus, perhaps because of his own curiosity since he was a Jew, Agrippa agrees to hear Paul’s case.


v.23And on the morrow, when Agrippa was come, and Bernice, with great pomp, and was entered into the place of hearing, with the chief captains, and principal men of the city, at Festus’ commandment Paul was brought forth.”


            Festus keeps his promise.  Arrangements are made and on the very next day all the court with all the pomp and ceremony worthy of some great event they gather to hear Paul.  Not only are Festus, Agrippa and Bernice there but also all the chief captains and principal men of the city of Caesarea.  First Festus states the situation:


v.24-25And Festus said, King Agrippa, and all men which are here present with us, ye see this man, about whom all the multitude of the Jews have dealt with me, both at Jerusalem, and also here, crying that he ought not to live any longer. 25But when I found that he had committed nothing worthy of death, and that he himself hath appealed to Augustus, I have determined to send him.”


            This man Paul is one whom the Jewish leaders want condemned and executed but Festus in his judgment has found nothing to warrant punishment.  Paul has appealed to Caesar and Festus has determined to send him but now he has a major problem in doing that:


v.26-27Of whom I have no certain thing to write unto my lord. Wherefore I have brought him forth before you, and specially before thee, O king Agrippa, that, after examination had, I might have somewhat to write. 27For it seemeth to me unreasonable to send a prisoner, and not withal to signify the crimes laid against him.”


            This is Festus’ real problem.  He has to send Paul to Rome to be judged by the emperor himself but he had no legitimate charges to bring against him.  It would be like bringing a situation to our own Supreme Court when there is no case to present.  Roman emperors were not known for their tolerance of fools and those who displeased them.  Paul has appealed to Caesar; Festus has committed to send him to Rome for that purpose but can’t find any justifiable reason to do so.  In addition, he may damage his own political standing with Caesar by sending a prisoner all the way to Rome to be tried when there’s no case against him.  He states his dilemma in our next study.