ACTS - CHAPTER 25
Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2001 James Melough
“Now when Festus was come into the province, after three days he ascended
from Caesarea to Jerusalem.”
“Then the high priest and the chief men of the Jews informed him against
Paul, and besought him,”
“And desired favor against him, that he would send for him to Jerusalem,
laying wait in the way to kill him.”
As Felix’ tenure came to
an end, so do all earthly things, including life itself.
He is a fool who lives simply for these transient things.
Time hadn’t diminished the
Jews’ hatred of Paul (in reality, their hatred of Christ); they were as determined
as ever to kill him. Nor had the passage
of two years led them to see the incongruity between their religious profession, and
their murderous plot. There are no eyes
as blind as those veiled by spiritual darkness.
“But Festus answered, that Paul should be kept at Caesarea, and that he
himself would depart shortly thither.”
Festus was apparently aware
of the plot that had made it necessary for Lysias to send Paul to Caesarea in the
first instance, and he was also determined not to hand Paul over to the Jews.
“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.”
would have them prove the truth of their allegations.
“And when he had tarried among them more than ten days, he went down unto
Caesarea; and the next day commanded Paul to be brought.”
The correct rendering
appears to be “among them not more than ten days,” but that is of little
importance. Something of the importance
of Paul’s case may be gathered from the fact that one of Festus’ first official
acts was to begin the trial so long delayed. How
different it will be in eternity when the roles are reversed, and those who sat in
judgment upon the Lord and His servants will themselves stand before Him for judgment
at the great white throne!
“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
In spite of their many
charges, they couldn’t produce proof to support one of them.
It will be very different when they stand at the great white throne.
The opened books will furnish proof of every wrong thought, word, and deed,
and the book of life will show that they refused to have all those sins blotted out
by trusting in Christ as Savior.
“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.”
“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?”
The Amplified rendering of
this is “and there be put on trial [before the Jewish Sanhedrin] in my presence
concerning these charges,” and this seems to be correct: otherwise why go up to
Jerusalem to do in a Roman court what could be done there in Caesarea?
This of course would have been tantamount to handing Paul over to the mercy of
the Jews, for Festus would have had no authority over the decisions of the Sanhedrin.
It would have been with Paul as it had been with his Master, for the decision
of the Sanhedrin regarding Him was, “By our law he ought to die.”
“Then said Paul, I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be
judged: as thou very well knowest.”
The terrible spiritual state
of Israel is nowhere more dramatically revealed than here.
Paul was assured of a fairer trial before the ungodly Romans than at the hands
of those who professed to be the people of God.
Paul’s courage is also
revealed. He didn’t hesitate to upbraid this conniving Roman official.
With Paul, the Word of God was no mere Shibboleth.
He lived in the confident assurance given to every believer, “The Lord is my
helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me,” He 13:6.
“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
In view of God’s word to
him in 23:11, “... as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear
witness also at Rome,” there can be no doubt that Paul was acting and speaking with
the assurance of one in the center of God’s will.
He who would have similar peace and courage must abide in the same place.
“Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, Hast thou
appealed unto Caesar? unto Caesar shalt thou go.”
His exasperation betrays
itself in this statement, for he was now in a very difficult situation.
The first question likely to be raised by Caesar would be, “Why am I being
bothered with a case that should have been settled in Caesarea?”
Festus was unlikely to emerge with anything to his credit, but rather to
appear as weak and vacillating. (The
council was his own advisory council, not that of the Jews).
“And after certain days king Agrippa and Bernice came unto Caesarea to
This brother and sister were
an unsavory couple, added to whose general notoriety was that of their apparently
well known incestuous relationship. Their
arrival, however, must have seemed like a stroke of fortune to Festus, for if Agrippa
failed to resolve the matter, at least there would now be another who could also be
charged with incompetence.
“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:”
The conniving Festus
attempted to make it appear that Felix was to blame, a ploy too transparent to
deceive any but the most naive.
“About whom, when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of
the Jews informed me, desiring to have judgment against him.”
“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.”
The death of the Lord Jesus
Christ of course is the refutation of this claim concerning Roman justice.
“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.”
Festus naturally was anxious
to present himself in the best possible light.
“Against whom when the accusers stood up, they brought none accusation of
such things as I supposed:”
“But had certain questions against him of their own superstition, and of one
Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive.”
As noted already, the
resurrection of Christ was itself the condemnation of what the Jews had done.
The tragedy is that they could have had forgiveness had they been willing to
acknowledge their sin and trust in Him as their Savior and Messiah.
But they would not.
“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.”
He was very careful to
present himself as the efficient impartial representative of Rome, instead of the
coward he really was.
“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.”
Festus was careful to omit
the fact that Paul’s appeal had come only after he (Festus) had wanted to hand him
over to the Jews, i.e., to certain death.
“Then Agrippa said unto Festus, I would also hear the man myself.
To morrow, said he, thou shalt hear him.”
God’s assurance to Paul
that he would testify in Rome had wider implications than even Paul may have
imagined, for even before he reached Rome, Agrippa would be at least the third high
Roman official to hear the gospel from the lips of the Apostle.
“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.”
It will be a very different
scene at the great white throne, when they, stripped of all earthly glory, each
reduced to the same guilty level as his fellows, will be arraigned before the only
impartial Judge, the Lord Whose servant they here presumed to judge.
“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.”
Festus might have added also
that but for his and Felix’ pandering to the Jews, Paul should have been set at
liberty long ago.
“But when I found that the had committed nothing worthy of death, and that
he himself hath appealed to Augustus,”
“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
As noted already, it was his
own pandering to the Jews that had brought him into this dilemma.
“For it seemeth to me unreasonable to send a prisoner, and not withal to
signify the crimes laid against him.”
What was even more
unreasonable was that an innocent man should have been held prisoner for more than
two years simply to accommodate the conniving of crooked cowardly officials, and the
blood lust of a wolf pack of religious hypocrites.