Paul’s slow journey through the Roman judicial system continues in chapter 25. As this chapter begins, Paul has already been incarcerated at Caesarea. The former governor Felix is gone and his successor, Porcius Festus begins his administration. Festus was governor of Judea from A.D. 59-62. Records indicate that Festus was a much better governor than Felix. Festus inherited the problem surrounding the Paul, the unusual prisoner.
Since Paul was such a high-profile prisoner, Festus wasted no time in going to Jerusalem to try and ascertain why Paul had been charged. The Jews made their case against Paul and requested that the governor send Paul back to their religious jurisdiction. Wisely, Festus declined that request, as the Jews intended to ambush Paul. Jewish prosecutors accompanied Festus back to Caesarea and presented their flimsy case against Paul. None of the charges could be proved.
Paul made his defense (Greek apology) once again. Every time Paul went on trial, he used the occasion to further God’s cause. In the court at Caesarea, Paul appealed to Caesar, which was the right of every Roman citizen. Festus replied, “You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!” (25:12). Thus began the fulfillment of Paul’s desire to preach in Rome. He would go not as a free man, but as a political prisoner under Rome’s protection. Nero was emperor at the time, ruling from A.D. 54-68. Before this man’s court, Paul would eventually appear.
Before Paul was sent on to Rome, Festus decided to consult with King Agrippa II, who had limited rule in Judea at the time. As Agrippa would be more familiar with Jewish matters, Festus hoped to find some substantial charge to make against Paul when he went to Rome. Thus far, Festus had determined Jewish resentment of Paul to be a matter of religious difference. Please note that the same word for “religion” in 25:19 was used by Paul in his address to the people of Athens in 17:22. The Jewish religion was outdated, but the Jews of Jerusalem held to it tenaciously. Agrippa agreed to hear from Paul and form his own opinion.
Paul’s hearing before Agrippa was not a court, but an informal hearing to see if Agrippa could find a real charge against Paul. Festus was obligated to send explicit charges to Rome along with the prisoner Paul. The hearing before Agrippa would once again provide Paul opportunity to testify for Jesus Christ. Paul was always more concerned with the advance of the gospel than with his own personal safety.
We live in a free land and we have God to thank for this. Politics divide us and strident claims are made that we may one day lose our liberty to practice Christianity. This seems unlikely, but it is not outside the realm of possibility. What shall we do? Would it not be wise to use the liberty we have and to leave the future to the King of kings? We pray for our rulers, “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Tim. 2:2). If we love freedom, let us prove to God that we genuinely appreciate the freedom we have.
My comments are not an inspired commentary, but rather a few words to draw attention to the background, context, and dynamic situation of the book of Acts. May God bless your reading of His Word. T.C.