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Acts 25:1-12: Rome, or Bust Print E-mail

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ĎEvery road leads toÖRome.í  ĎWhen in Rome, live as the Romans live.í  ĎRome was not built in a day.í  We are all very familiar with these sayings and have probably been hearing them for most of our lives.  They are statements with different meanings and applications that make reference to the famous city.  And famous it is.  It is hard for us to overstate the significance of the city of Rome in the time of the Bible.  It was the capital of the Roman Empire and had been a leading city in the world for over 500 years.  It was by far the greatest city in the Mediterranean and probably the whole world at that time.  It was the city of power and prestige and importance.

Thus, it is not surprising that Paul wanted to preach the gospel there.  He wanted to visit this most important city and proclaim the good news of Jesus within her walls.  As he wrote to the Roman Christians, he wanted to meet them and encourage them and be encouraged by them.  Paul wanted to make it to Rome.  And as we have noted, the Lord had promised Paul that he would in fact testify for Christ in the city (Acts 23:11).  But, as we have also noted, Paulís trip to Rome would not be a direct route.  Every road may lead to Rome, but some are shorter than others.  Paulís trip involved several years in prison and three official Roman trials, not to mention the shipwreck and the actual journey itself.  But the Lord had made a promise and Paul believed that he would one day make it to Rome.

In our passage this morning, we are looking at Paulís second Roman trial.  He had appeared before Felix, who found him guilty of nothing but left him in jail to please the Jews, and now he will appear before his replacement, namely Festus.  We do not know much about Festus since his reign was so short, only a few years, but Paulís trial before him and his dealing with Paul is interesting.  In fact, two of Paulís Roman trials are before Festus, but as we will see next week, King Agrippa is the principal player in the third trial.  So, what happens in Paulís trial before Festus?  I want to break up into three sections: pre-trial, in-trial (or during the trial), and post-trial.  Letís look at these together this morning.

Pre-trial plots (v. 1-5)

Once again Luke records the animosity that the Jews had towards Paul.  They wasted no time in seeking his death when the new governor came to visit them.  Look at verses 1-3.  So Festus has not been on the job long and he decides to make a trip to Jerusalem.  The Jews want to take advantage of this situation and see if they can convince him to bring Paul back to Jerusalem.  Unknown to Festus at this point is that they really just want another opportunity to take Paul out.  There could be a few of them who are pretty hungry, at least if they kept their vow not to eat until Paul breathed his last (23:12, thatís two years of no eating for those guys!).  The Jews remain committed to putting an end to Paul and want to see if Festus will help them.

So how does Festus respond?  Look at verses 4-5.  Instead of bringing Paul to Jerusalem, Festus decides to simply hear the case when he gets there.  If the Jews want to send some representatives to go with him, then he will hear the case, but he does not agree to bring Paul back to Jerusalem.  Once again, we see Godís secret providence protecting Paulís life.  Festus could have very well agreed to trying Paul in Jerusalem, but he did not and the Jewsí plot to kill Paul was foiled again.

In-trial arguments (v. 6-8)

Just like Felix, Festus agrees to hear the charges against Paul.  We read of those in verses 6-7.  Look at those verses with me.  The Jews once again bring some serious charges against Paul.  Yet, as before, Luke notes that they were charges that they could not prove.  They set up secret plots, they bring up charges they cannot prove, they are determined to silence Paul.  But they keep failing in their attempts.  And they fail here as well.  Paul puts an end to their charges through his defense.  Look at verse 8. 

It seems from this verse that the Jews brought three specific charges against Paul: broke the Jewish Law, profaned the Temple, and dishonored Caesar.  The last two are the most serious in this case sense they both carry the sentence of death if proven to be true.  If Paul is proven to have profaned the Temple or spoken openly against the Emperor, then he was in serious trouble.  Yet, Paul states plainly that he has done none of these things.  And apparently the evidence of the Jews was so weak that such a simple defense was all he had to offer to prove his innocence.  Of course, the charge concerning the Emperor is new, or at leas the first time Luke has mentioned it.  But it is this charge that opens the door for Paulís later appeal to Caesar, which could be why Luke points it out at this point.

Before we move on from, the trial, I do want to point out that Paul continues to use these opportunities to talk about Jesus.  Later, when Festus is talking to King Agrippa about Paul and describing the trial, he gives more detail of what was discussed.  Look at 25:17-19.  The real issue rises to the surface once again.  The Jews wanted Festus, and everyone else, to believe that Jesus was dead.  But Paul knew the truth.  He knew that Jesus had died on a cross for his sins and that he was laid dead in the tomb.  But he also knew that Jesus was raised on the third day.  He knew that Jesus was the Promised Messiah spoken of in the Law and the Prophets and that He had come to bring salvation to both the Jews and the Gentiles.  And again, this is why Paul is on trial, for his belief in the resurrection of Jesus.  He made that clear in his first Roman trial before Felix and makes it clear before Festus as well.

Post-trial appeal (v. 9-12)

Once Paul defended himself against the charges of the Jews, Festus should have let him go.  That should have been the end of the trial and the end of Paulís imprisonment.  But just like Felix, Festus wanted to do the Jews a favor.  Look at verse 9.  We see again the tragedy of injustice in the courts.  Paul has not spent the last two years of his life in jail because he was guilty of breaking Roman law.  No, he was there because Felix wanted to do the Jews a favor (v. 27).  And once again, we see that Paul is mistreated for the sake of political maneuvering.  Festus wants to keep the Jews in Jerusalem happy, so he does not release Paul, but asks him if he wants to be tried in Jerusalem.  There is some tension in this question.  If Paul agrees to this, then that means the Jews will get their opportunity to have him killed during the transfer to Jerusalem.  Even though Festus is not aware of their plot, he still might be used to see it through.  It all depends upon Paulís response.

So how does he respond?  First, he tells Festus that he does not want to be tried in Jerusalem.  Look at verse 10.  Luke does not indicate that Paul had any knowledge of the plot to kill him, but he was aware of the fact that things would probably not go well for him in Jerusalem.  So he tells Festus that he has no interest in returning.  Second, Paul tells Festus that he simply wants justice.  Look at verse 11a.  Paul is not trying to escape justice.  He is not trying get off on a technicality.  He is willing and prepared to face any consequences that he must for his actions, even if that means death.  Again, we see in this Paulís clear conscience before God and men (24:16).  He will pay the price for any wrongdoing that he has done, but it is plain to everyone involved that the charges the Jews have brought against him are false.  So then, third, without any other approach before him, Paul appeals to Caesar.  Look at verses 11b-12. 

Paul knows that he is not going to get a fair trial in Jerusalem or Caesarea, so he asks to go to Rome, which was his right as a Roman citizen.  Of course, there is more to this appeal than meets the eye.  Although I do think that part of it is just Paul seeking justice as a Roman citizen, the other part of it is that Paul wants to preach the gospel in Rome.  He wants to preach the gospel in the most important city of the world.  He has made it his goal in life to keep spreading the good news as far and as wide as he can, so it makes sense for him to desire to preach in Rome.  Perhaps he sees this opportunity as the means that God is going to use to get him to the city, so he appeals to Caesar.  And Festus has no other choice but to grant this request to Paul as a citizen. 

So then, what do learn from such a passage?  Although drawing hard and fast applications from a text like this can be difficult, let me close with just a couple of thoughts.  First, we continue to see the outworking of Godís mysterious providence.  We have been asking for several weeks: how is Paul going to get to Rome?  Now we finally see the answer: through an appeal to Caesar.  It is not the road that we expected and it was not the road that Paul expected.  Yet, the Lord is going to keep His promise: Paul will testify in Rome.  The Lord continues to use unexpected means to accomplish this promise.  He protects Paul by having Festus refuse to bring him to Jerusalem and by having Paul refuse to be tried there, seemingly without either one of them being aware of the threat to Paulís life.  And we also see Paulís responsible involvement through his appeal to Caesar.  Paul was told that he would testify Rome.  He wanted to testify in Rome.  So when the opportunity came for him to appeal to Caesar, he did it.  Did this mean that he did not trust in Godís sovereignty?  No, it means that Paul understood that God uses means to accomplish His purposes.  We will continue to see this play out as we finish the book.

Second, we see again Paulís wisdom in dealing with the State.  Paul knew that he was not going to get a fair trial.  He had spent two years in prison as a favor to the Jews.  Yet, he still found a way to use the government, with all of its corruptions, to serve the cause of Christ.  He is once again following Jesusí instructions to be as wise as a serpent.  Taking the gospel to a lost and dying world is not an easy task.  It requires wisdom.  We are blessed to live in a country where we can speak the gospel freely.  Our belief in the resurrection will not get us arrested (at least not today).  So we should take full advantage of the opportunities we are given to serve the cause of Christ.  Our neighbors wonít beat us if we tell them about Jesus.  Our co-workers wonít turn us in to the feds if we invite them to Church.  And our families wonít drag us before the courts if we keep sharing with them.  We must be wise like Paul and take full advantage of the opportunities we are given to proclaim Jesus to any and all.  All roads may lead to Rome, but only one leads to heaven.  May we be faithful to share it with as many as we can!  Amen. 

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Monday, 05 January 2015 )

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