Summary of passages: Acts 24: Ananias shows up in Caesarea with a fancy lawyer, Tertullus, who begins by flattering Felix and then listing false charges against Paul. Paul defends himself by denying all charges except for following Christ and believing in Christ’s resurrection. Thus, Paul has a clear conscience before God and man.
Paul denies all accusations and states the real reason he is on trial: because he believes in the resurrection of the dead (i.e. Jesus). Felix again defers a decision on Paul’s case. Felix sent for Paul to explain the Christian faith to him and his Jewish wife but fear sank into him and he dismissed Paul back to his prison cell. Felix was also secretly hoping for a bribe.
Felix leaves Paul in prison to appease the Jews for 2 years and is replaced by Festus.
Acts 25: Festus immediately has to deal with Paul as the Jews again request a trial in Jerusalem where they intend to ambush Paul and kill him. Festus, not wanting to give in to the Jews, denies this request and says they must travel to Caesarea to make their charges.
Paul again denies all charges at this new trial. Festus, wanting to ingratiate himself with the Jews, asks Paul to go to Jerusalem for trial. Here, Paul invokes his right (as a Roman citizen) to appeal to Caesar in Rome for Paul has been called to go to Rome, not Jerusalem.
King Agrippa arrives for a visit with Festus and Festus discusses Paul’s case with him, saying that it seems to be a religious dispute rather than any crime committed. Festus admitted he didn’t know what to do so Paul asked to be tried before Caesar.
Festus convenes an audience with Agrippa and brings Paul in. Festus says there is nothing Paul has done deserving of death but Paul has insisted a trial before the emperor. Festus is reluctant to send Paul to the emperor with no charges against him (this was customary for the Romans to send a written explanation of the charges to the emperor).
Acts 26: Agrippa asks Paul to speak. Paul recounts his background, having been born a Jew and lived as a Pharisee, and states he is on trial because of his hope in God’s promises and his belief in how God raises the dead. Paul admits he persecuted Christians jealously until Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus and commissioned him to teach the gospel to the Gentiles.
Paul obeyed his vision, saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen regarding Christ. Festus calls Paul insane. Paul challenges Agrippa on his beliefs, confronting him with the question of if he believes in the prophets. Agrippa accuses Paul of trying to convert him and Paul readily agrees, praying all who are listening to him believe as he does.
Agrippa agrees that Paul is not doing anything worthy of death or punishment and says Paul could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar (see explanation below for further details).
9) He was afraid to act as a typical politician is, desiring to make everyone happy. Verse 22 tells us Felix was well acquainted with the Way and his wife is a Jewess. Felix probably doesn’t want to offend his wife either. He was corrupt, hoping for a bribe from Paul to let him go. He seemed content to just let indecision reign. I think Felix knows Paul is innocent but uses him as leverage for his dealings with the Jews. He was shrewd.
He puts political favors above the lives of others (24:27).
10a) Verses 22-23
b) Verses 7-8, 20-21
c) Verses 9-11
d) Verses 12-18
11) To open their eyes, to turn them from darkness to light, to turn them from the power of Satan to God, to receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Jesus Christ.
12) “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”
13) Personal Question. My answer: Never back down in the face of opposition. Paul appeals to their knowledge and speaks the truth, explaining righteousness, self-control, and judgment when speaking with Felix. He point blank asks Agrippa if he believes the prophets and their teachings. Paul never backs down from his calling to convert. He is sincere, honest, and authentic. His heart shines as he speaks about Jesus and what he has done in Paul’s life.
Paul says again (24:16) how his conscience is clear before God and man, the same words that got him struck by Ananias in 23:1. Paul never deviates from the truth no matter the consequences. What we all should do.
Conclusions: Lots of history here (which I am loving!). These trials of Paul is very well documented both in the Bible and in other secular sources such as Roman records. We are still in the first century AD, around 60 AD. The Roman Empire is at its height and dominates the known world.
The key to understanding these events is to understand Roman citizenship. Traditionally, in Ancient Times there were not rights. The ruler of your country could kill you whenever he or she felt like it. You obeyed; you didn’t question; you worked hard; you stayed out of trouble.
The Romans changed all of this. They instituted a Republic where the people had rights and voted to choose their rulers. But this was only afforded to certain people, Roman citizens. The vast majority of the people were still under subjugation and slavery but it was a step in the right direction.
Roman citizens had certain rights. One of these rights was the right to a trial where the crime must be presented and proved before punishment was handed down. A Roman also had the right to appeal to Caesar (this is not Julius Caesar the man but all rulers were known by the title of Caesar after him), the emperor, to hear the trial and decide if the accused felt they were not getting justice elsewhere. And as Roman citizens, this privilege had to be granted.
Paul, as a Roman citizen, had this right, which he invokes time and time again. Why? Because God himself has told him he is to go to Rome (Acts 23:11) and Felix and Festus want to send him to Jerusalem. Appealing to Caesar is the only way Paul can see right now to get to Rome.
This is where I got stuck: on verse 32 of chapter 26: “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”
So what would have happened if Paul had been released? Well, we’ve been told twice now that the Jews are just waiting to ambush him (Acts 25:3; 23:12-15). In Chapter 27 of Acts, Paul is handed over to a centurion for escort to Rome. So Paul is protected. Also, the trip is free; the Romans pay for his journey there.
Most likely Paul would have been hunted down and killed soon after his release before he could make it to Rome. And Rome is where God wants Paul so Paul is doing everything in his power to get to Rome in obedience to God.
Summation: The Jews are falsely accusing Paul of crimes which they cannot prove. Due to politics, Paul is held prisoner (58-60 AD) to appease the Jews even though the Romans know Paul is innocent. Paul appeals to Caesar as a last resort in order to go to Rome unhindered as God has called him to do instead of accepting his freedom. Paul is now headed to Rome.
God is amazing, isn’t he? He chose Paul who is a Jew and a Roman citizen (how he obtained citizenship is unclear) to teach the Gentiles and who is uniquely positioned to carry out God’s will in Roman Times. He has all the advantages and God uses them to His glory. Awesome!
Background History: The background history between the Romans and the Jews is fascinating. Briefly, the Jews despise the Romans and Felix is actually called back to Rome to answer for his actions in 59 or 60 AD and replaced by Festus for several reasons: his irregular rule, his treatment and slaughter of the Jews when violence and protests broke out, and also it is rumored he had Jonathan, the high priest killed, causing huge tensions amongst the Jews.
Thus, Festus feels the pressure to make nice with the Jews and sees Paul as a quick and easy way to do so.
Nero, the infamous tyrant, is the emperor during Paul’s imprisonment. So why does Paul appeal to him? At the time of Paul’s imprisonment, Nero is favorably disposed towards the Jews and Christians and was actually considered a fair ruler by the people. It wasn’t until the Roman fire 4 years later in 64 AD that the persecution of Christians truly began and Nero started behaving unpredictably.
Map of Caesarea and Jerusalem: