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The Book of ACTS

Chapter 25

THEME: Paul before Festus

Paul had been unjustly kept in prison for two years. Festus is the new governor who followed Felix. Paul will now appear before this new man.

We saw Paul before the mob on the steps of the castle in Jerusalem. Then he went before the Sanhedrin. We saw him before Felix, then in a private interview with Felix and his wife Drusilla. Now Paul will come before Festus. Later he will appear before Agrippa. Paul having to appear before all these rulers must have been a trying time for him, and possibly have tugged at his faith at times, considering just how persistent Satan is.

But we must remember that when the Lord Jesus had detained Paul on the Damascus road, He had said, "...he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel" (Acts 9:15). Paul is always moving according to God's plan and program.

Each time Paul tells about what the Lord Jesus had done for him, he tells it with great confidence, boldness and enthusiasm. Paul is a tremendous witness for Christ Jesus. Even though Felix trembled to his core, as he listened to Paul, the greed of this man won over his fear of God. He sent for Paul many times, but it is doubtful that Felix ever did gain salvation, for I don't think Felix ever let Paul speak the Gospel to him again. He called Paul only on other matters, especially bribery of Paul's freedom. .

Those two years that Paul suffered in prison are silent years in the life of Paul. We do know that the Hand of God was clear in all this, and that His purposes were carried out. God's comforting Hand is always with His children even when things seem to come to a stop.

Paul Appears Before Festus (Acts 25:1-12)

Acts 25:1 Now when Festus was come into the province, after three days he ascended from Caesarea to Jerusalem. (KJV)

Now when Festus was come into the province . . . province, is what the Romans called any country which they had conquered.

After three days he ascended from Caesarea to Jerusalem . . . Festus most likely came by sea from Italy to Judea, and landed at Caesarea (Acts 18:22). It seems to have been the residence of the kings and governors of Judea (Acts 12:19; 23:23; 25:33). It was here Festus stayed three days after his landing, to rest himself after the tiring voyage, and then went up to Jerusalem, the metropolis of the province of Judea.

Acts 25:2 Then the high priest and the chief of the Jews informed him against Paul, and besought him, (KJV)

Then the high priest and the chief of the Jews . . . Ananias (Acts 23:2; 24:1), and the Jewish rulers and elders, the members of the Jewish Sanhedrin.

Informed him against Paul . . . they grabbed the first chance to gripe about Paul; brought a bill of information against Paul, and gave a large account of him, like what a wicked man he was, and what evils he had committed. They charged him with many things, unjustly accusing him. Their hatred and prejudice of him seem to have no end.

And besought him . . . desiring that he would grant them the following request.

Acts 25:3 And desired favour against him, that he would send for him to Jerusalem, laying wait in the way to kill him. (KJV)

And desired favour against him . . . they wanted to try Paul for various crimes, they beg it as a favor. That he would send for him to Jerusalem . . . that his case might be heard before him, and he might be tried and judged by Festus.

Laying wait in the way to kill him . . . this was their plan, though they concealed it, saying they simply wanted justice (Acts 23:12-13). This really shows the evil malice of these men, the wickedness of their cause and their diligence to achieve their end. Paul was in great danger, but the Lord was looking over him, as He is with all God's TRUE children.

Acts 25:4 But Festus answered, that Paul should be kept at Caesarea, and that he himself would depart shortly thither. (KJV)

It seems that Festus knew all about the situation. Felix probably told him about Paul's imprisonment, and I think he explained the circumstances. I'm sure he told Festus that he had brought him to Caesarea to protect him from being put to death by the Jews. So when Festus gets word from the Jews that they want Paul in Jerusalem, he says, "I won't bring him down here. I'm going back to Caesarea myself. I'm not going to stay in Jerusalem." Here was another Roman who preferred Caesarea to Jerusalem.

The enemies of Paul certainly didn't waste any time getting to the new governor to try to get a judgment against Paul. I don't know whether Festus was actually aware of their plan to ambush the party and kill Paul. It doesn't really say that he knew about it. However, he refused to give in to their demands and told them instead that they come to Caesarea to bring charges.

Acts 25:5 Let them therefore, said he, which among you are able, go down with me, and accuse this man, if there be any wickedness in him. (KJV)

What induced Festus to refuse their request, is not known. God does indeed work in very mysterious ways. It is probable that he was certain that Paul was a Roman citizen, and that his case could not come before the Jewish Sanhedrin, but must be heard by himself. Cesarea was also at that time the residence of the Roman governor, and the place of holding the courts, and as Paul was lodged there safely, there did not appear any sufficient reason for removing him to Jerusalem for trial. Festus, however, granted them all that they could reasonably ask, and assured them that he should have a speedy trial.

Acts 25:6 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. (KJV)

And when he had tarried among them more than ten days . . . an expression of a short period of time.

He went down to Caesarea . . . to where Paul was. And the next day sitting in the judgment seat . . . the day after he came to Caesarea, he sat upon the bench in the court of judicature, to try causes, and particularly the apostle's, which he was very desirous of knowing, for which reason he so soon took the bench. And Festus commanded Paul to be brought . . . from the place where he was kept a prisoner, to the judgment hall where Festus was.

Acts 25:7 And 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. (KJV)

When he was come . . . the judge sat, and the prisoner brought.

The Jews which came down from Jerusalem . . . Paul's accusers, which were many, came with a full cry of vengeance against him.

Stood round about . . . him, or around the judgment seat.

And laid many and grievous complaints . . . which they could not prove; for his moral lifestyle, both before and after conversion, was very strict and agreeable to the laws of God and man. Paul was a mild and harmless man, but he was not exempt from the slander and lies of men, these being many and very grievous.

Paul is again called upon to defend himself against the accusations of the Jews. However it provides an opportunity to present the Gospel to Festus.

Acts 25:8 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. (KJV)

Paul answers to the three crimes with which he was charged:

  • #1. He had not offended the law, but was always an observer of it: nor:
  • #2. Against the temple, which he always went into in a very devout manner, to honor and worship the one and only Creator God: nor:
  • #3. Against Caesar; Paul never taught any rebellion, and never said or done any thing against his government.

Acts 25:9 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? (KJV)

Willing to do the Jews a pleasure . . . a typical politician! Just like his predecessor, Felix did, before him (Acts 24:27), to gain popularity and the good will of that nation.

Wilt thou go up to Jerusalem and there be judged of these things before me? . . . Festus does not command, but instead asks this of Paul; him privileged a Roman, could not against his will be forced to acknowledge the Jews for competent judges.

Acts 25:10 Then 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. (KJV)

Paul might rightly suspect his judges, and the place where they would have him judged, and also his journey there, knowing with what difficulty, and not without a great guard, he came from Jerusalem.

I stand at Caesar's judgment seat . . . he was now before Caesar's tribunal, whose vicegerent Festus was; and he should be judged as a Roman citizen.

As thou very well knowest . . . Festus might know that Paul had done the Jews no wrong, from what Felix had said to him, as also from such as were with Felix when Paul's case was heard.

There are some who think that Paul should never have appealed to Caesar. They think he should simply have let his case rest with Festus. But the truth is, that Festus was going to use Paul for his own political ends. Festus was going to take Paul back to Jerusalem. Maybe Festus received bribes from the Jews who had come from Jerusalem. I will not, cannot, criticize Paul. Paul was a Roman citizen and he exercised his rights as a citizen, which was the normal and the right thing for him to do. Going back to Jerusalem would have surely meant death for him. He doesn't purposely make himself a martyr. In fact, he did what he could to avoid martyrdom.

Acts 25:11 For 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. (KJV)

If I be an offender . . . if I have injured the Jews, and my fault be worthy of death, such as by law deserves death, I beg no favor. No man could deliver Paul unto them; according to law, (which the Romans did observe), before sentence was passed.

I appeal unto Caesar . . . it was lawful for any that had that privilege of being a Roman citizen, to appeal.

Paul might appeal unto Caesar:

  • #1. To make Caesar more favorable to himself, and to other Christians.
  • #2. Because he thought it more safe for himself and the church.
  • #3. He was in part cautioned to do it by Christ Jesus Himself, who had told him that he must bear witness of Him at Rome (Acts 23:11).

Rome was noted for its justice, and Paul respected authority. But, Paul is not getting justice, and so he makes a legal appeal. God intended that Paul use his rights as a Roman citizen. It is very interesting for us to observe that God leads some people in one way and leads others in another way.

Acts 25:12 Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, Hast thou appealed unto Caesar? unto Caesar shalt thou go. (KJV)

Conferred with the council . . . either of the Jews, and those of the Sanhedrin, that he might inform them of the law or custom of the Romans.

Hast thou appealed unto Caesar? Unto Cæsar shalt thou go . . . He was willing in this way to rid himself of this trial, and of all the confusion associated with it. He did not dare to deliver him to the Jews in violation of the Roman laws; and he was NOT willing to do justice to Paul, because that would make him unpopular with the Jews. So, he was probably rejoicing at the opportunity of thus freeing himself from all the trouble in the case, in a manner against which none could object.

King Agrippa And Bernice Come To Visit Festus (Acts 25:13-22)

Acts 25:13 And after certain days king Agrippa and Bernice came unto Caesarea to salute Festus. (KJV)

King Agrippa was the great-grandson of Herod the Great, and Drusilla's brother (Acts 24:24). On his father's horrible death (Acts 12:23), being thought too young (seventeen) to succeed, Judea, was attached to the province of Syria. Four years after, on the death of his uncle Herod, he was made king of the northern principalities of Chalcis, and afterwards got Batanea, Iturea, Trachonitis, Abilene, Galilee, and Perea, with the title of king. He died A.D. 100, after reigning fifty-one years.

And Bernice . . . his sister. She was married to her uncle Herod, king of Chalcis. When he died, she lived with her brother Agrippa . . . not without suspicion of incestuous intercourse, which her licentious life tended to confirm. Josephus directly charges her with incest with her brother Agrippa.

Came to salute Festus . . . to pay respects to him on his accession to the procuratorship.

Acts 25:14 And 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: (KJV)

Festus declared Paul's case . . . he did this, probably because Agrippa, being a Jew, most likely would be interested in the case. It was natural that this trial would be the talk of the town, and perhaps Festus might be liable to ask what was proper to be done in such cases.

Left in bonds . . . "a prisoner". He was left in custody, probably in the keeping of a soldier (Acts 24:23,27).

Acts 25:15 About whom, when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me, desiring to have judgment against him. (KJV)

Festus declared Paul's cause unto the king. I think he did this for advice. He was really confused. He had just come into the province of Judea, and was not acquainted with Jewish customs. He could see nothing wrong in Paul, but the Jewish rulers accused him so violently that he was not sure that he understood the case. King Agrippa was a Jew by birth, and would understand the real difference between Paul and the Sanhedrin, and could help Festus to figure out the charges that must be sent to Rome when Paul was sent to appear before Cæsar's tribunal.

Agrippa and Bernice stayed there quite a long time. Luke calls it "many days."

The chief priests and elders of the Jews informed me . . . brought an accusation to him, of various crimes Paul had been guilty of.

Desiring to have judgment against him . . . the Jews not only wanted to have Paul's case tried, but to have him condemned.

Acts 25:16 To 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. (KJV)

To condemn any man without sufficient cause alleged and proven, was not only against the laws of the Romans, but also of the Jews (Deut.17:4). Yet malice had so blinded the enemies of the apostle Paul, that acted like heathens, not Godly Jews.

People sometimes think that Roman law was not just because of how it went so wrong in the case of the Lord Jesus and also in the case of the apostle Paul. This was NOT because of the law but because of the crooked politicians, just like today! The United States still operates under the principle of Roman law that no man is to be sentenced until he has been brought into the presence of his accusers and his crime established.

Acts 25:17 Therefore, 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. (KJV)

When they came there, Festus lost no time, but on the very next day . . . I sat on the judgment seat, and commanded the man to be brought forth.

Acts 25:18 Against whom when the accusers stood up, they brought none accusation of such things as I supposed: (KJV)

Festus knew how Paul had been prosecuted by the Jews before Felix, and what charges they had made, and what journeys they had made because of him. He must have thought that Paul was no less than a capital offender. And since he had been left in bonds, and by the information of the chief priests and elders, and their violence against him, Festus though he must be chargeable with some really bad capital crime (Acts 25:7).

Acts 25:19 But had certain questions against him of their own superstition, and of one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive. (KJV)

But had certain questions against him of their own superstition . . . or religion; as about their law, which they said Paul had spoke against; and about their temple, which they said he had polluted; and about the resurrection of the dead, which he asserted, and some denied.

And of one Jesus which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive . . . it seems that more was said on each side, than what is recorded by Luke. The Jews objected to Paul for many things: his belief in Jesus of Nazareth, whom they believed was an impostor and deceiver; Paul on the other hand argued, that Jesus WAS the true Messiah; and in proof of it, affirmed that although they (the Jews) had put Him to death, and that He, Jesus, was risen from the dead, and so was declared to be the Son of God with power.

It is very likely Festus, had never even heard of Jesus before, and therefore speaks of him in this manner (superstition); or if he had, he really did have avery contemptible opinion of Him, as well as of the Jewish religion; and which he expresses, even in the presence of the king, who had outwardly at least embraced it.

The issue is always the same . . . the Resurrection! We see from this that Paul had witnessed to the resurrection of Jesus Christ so that Festus now knew about it.

Acts 25:20 And because I doubted of such manner of questions, I asked him whether he would go to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these matters. (KJV)

Festus pretends, that he did not know by what rule those cases were to be decided, nor before what judges; whether before himself or the Jewish Sanhedrin. The truth was; Festus would NOT acquit Paul, even though he knew he was innocent, because he did not want to displease the Jews (Acts 25:9). He asked Paul if he would go to Jerusalem, but would have sent him whether he would or not, had he not appealed. But then he dared not: because in certain cases no one could hinder appeals, from any judge, to the people in the former times, or to their emperor in the latter times.

Acts 25:21 But 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. (KJV)

This Augustus, was the emperor who now reigned, and to whom Paul appealed,and was Nero, who was called Augustus. This title being at first appropriated to Octavius, who succeeded Julius Caesar; but out of honor to him, or because of its signification, it became as an assigned name, and was given unto all the emperors successively. This word Caesar, which was the proper name of the first emperor, is, in acknowledgment of him, made an assigned name to all his successors.

Acts 25:22 Then Agrippa said unto Festus, I would also hear the man myself. To morrow, said he, thou shalt hear him. (KJV)

Agrippa was well acquainted with the Jewish religion, and must have heard much of our Saviour, His doctrine, His death and His resurrection. His desire is out of curiosity; just as Herod desired to hear John Baptist (Mark 6:20), and to see our Saviour (Luke 23:8). Agrippa being a Jew by profession, knew more of these things than Festus did, and very likely had heard something concerning Jesus Christ. But, he knew very little however of the Christian religion.

Festus really was in hot seat here. The charge against Paul was sedition (rebellion) and for that he should die, but he had committed no crimes. Now Paul has appealed to Caesar. What are you going to do with a prisoner like that? So he asked Agrippa to help him out.

It is interesting to see how this meeting was arranged by a king and a governor. Yet all the while they were actually fulfilling prophecy even though they were unaware of this. Paul is to appear before kings, just as the Lord had said (Acts 9:15).

The Hearing Before Festus And Agrippa (Acts 25:23-27)

Acts 25:23 And 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. (KJV)

With great pomp . . . splendor and grandeur . . . the state, attire and entourage used in this seriousness is vastly underdone. Agrippa and Bernice come in, in luxurious dress, with the "regalia", or ensigns of royalty carried before them, and attended with a large train and entourage of servants. Most likely the trumpets announced their arrival!

With the chief captains . . . or tribunes, who had the command of the Roman soldiers; and who had each of them 1000 men under them, as their title signifies.

And principal men of the city . . . the magistrates, and chief inhabitants of Caesarea.

At Festus's commandment Paul was brought forth . . . and became a spectacle to a vast number of men, as he himself says; and which in part fulfilled what Christ had foretold to His disciples, that they should be brought before kings and governors for His sake (1 Cor.4:9).

Paul was brought forth . . . quite a difference! Can you even begin to picture this scene in your mind? Those great persons gloriously adorned and accompanied on the one side . . . and Paul, the prisoner, the chained, as he is called (Acts 23:18), on the other side. I feel sure, I know, that Paul prefers his condition to theirs. I know I would! Paul has NO desire to partake with them in their ease and splendor, but instead with Christ in His disgrace and sufferings (Phil.3:10). What a difference between God's children and the devil's children! What a spectacle this was! Wherever did a preacher have a greater audience than Paul this day?

Acts 25:24 And 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. (KJV)

Paul is indeed here alone and friendless in such a great multitude! He was shown and pointed at as a monster, being made a spectacle to the world, and to angels, and to men (1Cor. 4:9). But I know that he surely found the benefit and effectiveness of Jesus' Promise (Mat. 28:20). "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." Paul may have not had one human on his side that day, BUT Jesus NEVER left him (Heb.13:5-6).

Acts 25:25 But 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. (KJV)

The lies and misrepresentation of the Jews adds to the reputation of the apostle Paul. A multitude of enemies. Paul and his religion are found blameless by the testimony of Lysias, the chief captain (Acts 23:29), and of Felix, the governor (Acts) 24:25, and here by Festus. Afterwards by Agrippa too (Acts 26:32). Truth and innocence always do prevail, sooner or later.

Acts 25:26 Of 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. (KJV)

Of whom . . . respecting Paul's character, opinions, manner of life, and respecting the charges against him.

No certain thing . . . nothing definite or established. They had not accused Paul of any crime against the Roman laws; and Festus professes himself too ignorant of the customs of the Jews to inform the emperor distinctly of the nature of the charges, and the subject of trial. No certain crime, charge, or accusation; no particular thing, nothing except a pile of confused notions.

My lord . . . meaning Nero, the present emperor, whose deputy Festus was in this province.

That after examination had . . . of Paul, and his case. I might have somewhat to write . . . concerning him, and the charges against him to the emperor.

Acts 25:27 For it seemeth to me unreasonable to send a prisoner, and not withal to signify the crimes laid against him. (KJV)

For it seemeth to me unreasonable . . . Festus felt that he was placed in an embarrassing situation, he was about to send a prisoner to Rome to be tried, who had been tried by himself, and who had appealed from his jurisdiction; and yet he was ignorant of the charges against him, and of the nature of his offences, if any had been committed. When prisoners were thus sent to Rome to be tried before the emperor, it would be proper that the charges should be specified, and the evidence stated by which they were supported. Yet Festus could do neither. It is no wonder that he felt himself confused and embarrassed; and that he was glad that King Agrippa wanted to hear Paul, that he might be able to specify the charges against him.

Withal . . . also; at the same time. To signify . . . to make them known. Consider:

  • #1. With Agrippa, we see the reasons which induce many men to HEAR the Gospel, though he had NO belief in it; and had NO concern for its Truth or its Promises. He was just curious and wanted to hear the minister of the Gospel of Christ. Curiosity thus draws multitudes to the churches. But, in most cases, they remain unaffected and unconcerned in regard to its provisions of mercy (Mat.7:13-14). They listen, but do not hear! They remain unmoved, and die in their sins. Many times, like Agrippa, they are almost persuaded to be Christians (Acts 26:28). But, like him, they resist and die uninterested in the only Plan to save them! In rare cases, they are converted; and their curiosity, like that of Zaccheus, is made the means of their embracing the Saviour (Luke 19:1-9). Whatever may be the motive which induces men to desire to hear, it is our duty to simply state the truth, and to defend the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • #2. With Festus, we see how great men, and the rich, and the proud, usually regard Christianity. They see it to be a subject of inquiry in which they have NO interest. They question "one dead Jesus" (Acts 25:19), whom Christians KNOW to be alive. In the eyes of unbelievers, whether Jesus be alive or not, whether Christianity be true or false, they do NOT think that it is of concern to them. How dreadfully wrong they are! It is strange that the people of this world regard the Christian religion as a subject in which they have no personal interest, but is one concerning only Christians. Wake up people!
  • #3. With Paul, we see a man SO unlike both Festus and Agrippa. He felt a deep interest in the subject of Christ and His Gospel . . . a subject which concerned them (and everyone) just as much as it did Paul. He was willing not only to look at it with curiosity, but to stake his life, his reputation, his all, on its Truth! Paul was willing to defend it anywhere, everywhere, and before any and all classes of men. When he claimed his rights as a Roman citizen, it was mainly that he might preach the Gospel.

Even when he was anxious to secure justice to himself, his chief concern was to declare the Truth of Almighty God. Before any tribunal, before any class of men, in the presence of princes, nobles, and kings, of Romans and of Jews, Paul was always ready to speak with irresistible eloquence and argument, in defense of the Truth.

Who would YOU rather be? Paul, Festus or Agrippa? Would you rather be in bonds for Christ, or clothed in splendor like Agrippa? Would you rather be an honest and cordial believer of the Gospel like Paul, than . . . or be cold contemnors, deniers or neglecters of the God that made you, and of the Saviour that died, and rose again?

Paul uses this opportunity to preach one of the greatest sermons ever recorded.

Book of Acts

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