This is Episode #326 and today we’ll read Acts chapters 24-26 together. Then after Festus conferred with his council, he replied, “You have appealed to Caesar; to Caesar you will go.”
Joy: You’re listening to Season 2 of the Lifting Her Voice podcast. This is Episode #326 and today we’ll read Acts chapters 24-26 together. Then, after Festus conferred with his council, he replied, “You have appealed to Caesar; to Caesar you will go.”
Welcome to the Lifting Her Voice podcast, Season 2! I’m your host, Joy Miller, and I invite you to grab your Bible and join me – from the beginning – simply reading God’s word together. We built some spiritual muscles in 2020 with just the New Testament. But this year we’re going all out, cover-to-cover, Old Testament and New. So, whether with your first cup in the morning, your commute to work, or as the last thing on your mind before sleep, God’s Word will equip you for every good work. I’m really glad you’re here!
Acts Chapter 24
The Accusation against Paul
Five days later Ananias the high priest came down with some elders and a lawyer named Tertullus. These men presented their case against Paul to the governor.
When Paul was called in, Tertullus began to accuse him and said, “We enjoy great peace because of you, and reforms are taking place for the benefit of this nation because of your foresight. We acknowledge this in every way and everywhere, most excellent Felix, with utmost gratitude. But, so that I will not burden you any further, I request that you would be kind enough to give us a brief hearing. For we have found this man to be a plague, an agitator among all the Jews throughout the Roman world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. He even tried to desecrate the temple, and so we apprehended him. By examining him yourself you will be able to discern the truth about these charges we are bringing against him.” The Jews also joined in the attack, alleging that these things were true.
Paul’s Defense before Felix
When the governor motioned for him to speak, Paul replied, “Because I know you have been a judge of this nation for many years, I am glad to offer my defense in what concerns me. You can verify for yourself that it is no more than twelve days since I went up to worship in Jerusalem. They didn’t find me arguing with anyone or causing a disturbance among the crowd, either in the temple or in the synagogues or anywhere in the city. Neither can they prove the charges they are now making against me. But I admit this to you: I worship the God of my ancestors according to the Way, which they call a sect, believing everything that is in accordance with the law and written in the prophets.
“I have a hope in God, which these men themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection, both of the righteous and the unrighteous. I always strive to have a clear conscience toward God and men. After many years, I came to bring charitable gifts and offerings to my people. While I was doing this, some Jews from Asia found me ritually purified in the temple, without a crowd and without any uproar. It is they who ought to be here before you to bring charges, if they have anything against me. Or let these men here state what wrongdoing they found in me when I stood before the Sanhedrin, other than this one statement I shouted while standing among them, ‘Today I am on trial before you concerning the resurrection of the dead.’”
The Verdict Postponed
Since Felix was well informed about the Way, he adjourned the hearing, saying, “When Lysias the commander comes down, I will decide your case.” He ordered that the centurion keep Paul under guard, though he could have some freedom, and that he should not prevent any of his friends from meeting his needs.
Several days later, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and listened to him on the subject of faith in Christ Jesus. Now as he spoke about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix became afraid and replied, “Leave for now, but when I have an opportunity I’ll call for you.” At the same time he was also hoping that Paul would offer him money. So he sent for him quite often and conversed with him.
After two years had passed, Porcius Festus succeeded Felix, and because Felix wanted to do the Jews a favor, he left Paul in prison.
Acts Chapter 25
Three days after Festus arrived in the province, he went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. The chief priests and the leaders of the Jews presented their case against Paul to him; and they appealed, asking for a favor against Paul, that Festus summon him to Jerusalem. They were, in fact, preparing an ambush along the road to kill him. Festus, however, answered that Paul should be kept at Caesarea, and that he himself was about to go there shortly. “Therefore,” he said, “let those of you who have authority go down with me and accuse him, if he has done anything wrong.”
When he had spent not more than eight or ten days among them, he went down to Caesarea. The next day, seated at the tribunal, he commanded Paul to be brought in. When he arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him and brought many serious charges that they were not able to prove. Then Paul made his defense: “Neither against the Jewish law, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I sinned in any way.”
Appeal to Caesar
But Festus, wanting to do the Jews a favor, replied to Paul, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem to be tried before me there on these charges?”
Paul replied, “I am standing at Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. I have done no wrong to the Jews, as even you yourself know very well. If then I did anything wrong and am deserving of death, I am not trying to escape death; but if there is nothing to what these men accuse me of, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar!”
Then after Festus conferred with his council, he replied, “You have appealed to Caesar; to Caesar you will go.”
King Agrippa and Bernice Visit Festus
Several days later, King Agrippa and Bernice arrived in Caesarea and paid a courtesy call on Festus. Since they were staying there several days, Festus presented Paul’s case to the king, saying, “There’s a man who was left as a prisoner by Felix. When I was in Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews presented their case and asked that he be condemned. I answered them that it is not the Roman custom to give someone up before the accused faces the accusers and has an opportunity for a defense against the charges.
“So when they had assembled here, I did not delay. The next day I took my seat at the tribunal and ordered the man to be brought in. The accusers stood up but brought no charge against him of the evils I was expecting. Instead they had some disagreements with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, a dead man Paul claimed to be alive. Since I was at a loss in a dispute over such things, I asked him if he wanted to go to Jerusalem and be tried there regarding these matters. But when Paul appealed to be held for trial by the Emperor, I ordered him to be kept in custody until I could send him to Caesar.”
Agrippa said to Festus, “I would like to hear the man myself.”
“Tomorrow you will hear him,” he replied.
Paul before Agrippa
So the next day, Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp and entered the auditorium with the military commanders and prominent men of the city. When Festus gave the command, Paul was brought in.
Then Festus said, “King Agrippa and all men present with us, you see this man. The whole Jewish community has appealed to me concerning him, both in Jerusalem and here, shouting that he should not live any longer. I found that he had not done anything deserving of death, but when he himself appealed to the Emperor, I decided to send him. I have nothing definite to write to my lord about him. Therefore, I have brought him before all of you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that after this examination is over, I may have something to write. For it seems unreasonable to me to send a prisoner without indicating the charges against him.”
Acts Chapter 26
Paul’s Defense before Agrippa
Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.”
Then Paul stretched out his hand and began his defense: “I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews, especially since you are very knowledgeable about all the Jewish customs and controversies. Therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently.
“All the Jews know my way of life from my youth, which was spent from the beginning among my own people and in Jerusalem. They have known me for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived as a Pharisee.
“And now I stand on trial because of the hope in what God promised to our ancestors, the promise our twelve tribes hope to reach as they earnestly serve him night and day. King Agrippa, I am being accused by the Jews because of this hope. Why do any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead? In fact, I myself was convinced that it was necessary to do many things in opposition to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. I actually did this in Jerusalem, and I locked up many of the saints in prison, since I had received authority for that from the chief priests. When they were put to death, I was in agreement against them. In all the synagogues I often punished them and tried to make them blaspheme. Since I was terribly enraged at them, I pursued them even to foreign cities.
Paul’s Account of His Conversion and Commission
“I was traveling to Damascus under these circumstances with authority and a commission from the chief priests. King Agrippa, while on the road at midday, I saw a light from heaven brighter than the sun, shining around me and those traveling with me. We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice speaking to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’
“I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’
“And the Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet. For I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. I will rescue you from your people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a share among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’
He Testified to Moses and the Prophets
“So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. Instead, I preached to those in Damascus first, and to those in Jerusalem and in all the region of Judea, and to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works worthy of repentance. For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and were trying to kill me. To this very day, I have had help from God, and I stand and testify to both small and great, saying nothing other than what the prophets and Moses said would take place — that the Messiah would suffer, and that, as the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light to our people and to the Gentiles.”
Agrippa Not Quite Persuaded
As he was saying these things in his defense, Festus exclaimed in a loud voice, “You’re out of your mind, Paul! Too much study is driving you mad.”
But Paul replied, “I’m not out of my mind, most excellent Festus. On the contrary, I’m speaking words of truth and good judgment. For the king knows about these matters, and I can speak boldly to him. For I am convinced that none of these things has escaped his notice, since this was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you believe.”
Agrippa said to Paul, “Are you going to persuade me to become a Christian so easily?”
“I wish before God,” replied Paul, “that whether easily or with difficulty, not only you but all who listen to me today might become as I am — except for these chains.”
The king, the governor, Bernice, and those sitting with them got up, and when they had left they talked with each other and said, “This man is not doing anything to deserve death or imprisonment.”
Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been released if he had not appealed to Caesar.”
These three chapters remind me of a well-choreographed murder mystery. And I guess it was. Jesus would let nothing stand in the way of spreading His Gospel and building the foundation of the Church. The intrigue of this story was ordained before Paul was born. The first time I read Acts 23:11, when Jesus told Paul that it was necessary for him to testify in Rome, I didn’t apply much significance to it. But then, to see the whole drama play out on the page for years, leaves me with a sense of awe. The laundry list of accusations – the plot to kill Paul, the nephew overhearing, Paul being scurried away under the cover of darkness. Then there is Felix’s mounting conviction and Paul’s appeal to Caesar before Festus.
But here’s where the rubber meets the road and brings us back around to what Jesus told Paul. After Paul tells his story to Agrippa and Bernice – spiced of course with some witnessing – Agrippa agreed that Paul had done nothing to deserve punishment. He added that if Paul had not appealed to Caesar, he could have been released. However, Paul really didn’t care about any of that, did he? He didn’t care about imprisonment or the worldview of justice at that moment. He knew one thing: Jesus told him it was necessary for him to witness in Rome. And that’s where he was going.
The saga continues tomorrow. Stay tuned…
Let’s pray. Father, You asked a great deal of Paul…ultimately, he gave His life. He was so single-minded; so intent on obeying your commands. It humbles me. Do I miss messages from Jesus? Do I side-step the promptings of the Holy Spirit? I ask you to forgive me for the times I’ve done this. I pray that anyone else here today who is convicted for the same shortcomings will agree with me in this. We thank You for Your mercy, Father. Please grow us. Help us to be more like Paul – perhaps afraid but foregoing the fear in favor of faith. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, Amen.
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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible(r), Copyright (c) 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible(r) and CSB(r) are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
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