Paul Called To Testify Before King Agrippa

Yet a short time later, the Holy Spirit continued guiding events toward the confirmation of Paul’s mission to Rome.   Agrippa (the last of the Herodian kings of Israel) & Bernice (his wife) came to Caesarea for meetings with Festus (still the Roman governor of Israel).  During this visit, Festus presented Paul’s case to Agrippa (310).

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“There is a certain man named Paul who was left a prisoner by Felix, my predecessor as governor.  The Jewish religious leaders asked for a judgment against him.  And I replied: ‘Roman law requires in capital cases that the accused meet the accusers face to face, and have opportunity to answer them concerning the charges against him.’ So I convened such a hearing here in Caesarea.

“But Paul’s accusers argued only against two points of Paul’s teaching: that Jesus had been wrongfully executed, and that God had raised him from death three days later.  Because I was uncertain of such religious questions, I asked whether Paul was willing to go to Jerusalem, to be tried there concerning these matters. However, when Paul appealed to exercise his right as a Roman citizen to be tried before Caesar, I commanded him to be kept in custody until I can send him to Rome.”

To all this, Agrippa replied, “I also would like to hear this man.”  “Then tomorrow,” said Festus, “you shall hear him.”

The next day, Agrippa & Bernice came with great pomp, and entered the auditorium where the commanders & the prominent men of the city were gathered.

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At Festus’ command Paul was brought in, and Festus opened the proceedings: “King Agrippa & honored noblemen, here is the man whom the Jews claim is no longer fit to live. But when I investigated his case, I found that he had done nothing deserving of the death penalty.  When he appealed to be judged by Caesar, I decided to send him to Rome.

“But I have nothing specific to write to Caesar concerning Paul. Therefore I have brought him here to be examined, especially by you, King Agrippa.  I am sure that after your examination, I will know what to write to Caesar. It definitely seems unreasonable to send a prisoner for judgment in Rome, without specifying the charges against him.”

God, please help me to love being ready to serve You in any trial.

(310) Acts 25:13-27

The Mission To Rome Continues

On at least one occasion while Paul was imprisoned in Caesarea, Felix (the Roman governor of Israel) & his wife Drusilla (who was Jewish), sent for Paul & listened to his message concerning the necessity of faith in Jesus (309). As Paul taught about righteousness, self-control & God’s coming judgment, Felix became convicted & fearful.  So he abruptly dismissed Paul, promising to hear him again at a later date.

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Felix really hoped that Paul’s friends would eventually pay him ransom money for Paul’s release.  This never happened, but Felix did continue to listen to Paul’s teaching from time to time.  In the end, however, Felix never released Paul, mainly because he wanted to keep the Jewish religious leaders happy.

Then, after two years, Festus succeeded Felix as governor.  When he had taken office, he made a brief trip from Caesarea to Jerusalem.  While he was there, the high priest & the Jewish elders brought more accusations against Paul.  As they had with Felix before, they asked Festus to summon Paul to Jerusalem; they still intended to ambush & kill Paul along the way.

But Festus decided that he should conduct his own hearing of Paul’s case at Caesarea.  He told the Jewish religious leaders to make their case against Paul at that hearing.  A short time later, the hearing was convened before Festus in Caesarea.  The Jewish religious leaders from Jerusalem made many accusations against Paul, but offered no proof.  Paul consistently maintained his innocence, saying he hadn’t done anything against Jewish law or Roman law.

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However, Festus wanted to curry favor with the Jews, so he asked Paul, “Are you willing to be tried in Jerusalem concerning these things?”

To which Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to reply, “I want to exercise my right as a Roman citizen to be judged at Caesar’s judgment seat in Rome.  If it can be proved that I have broken any law, I am willing to accept the punishment, even including death.  But the Jewish leaders have not proven any accusation against me.  Their bias against me disqualifies them from rendering impartial justice in my case.  So I appeal to Caesar.”

Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, declared: “You have appealed to Caesar; to Caesar you shall go!”

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Festus was unaware that this result was intended by God all along!

God, please help me to love Your intentions over my own.

(309) Acts 24:24-25:12

Paul’s Defense Before The Roman Governor

Strengthened by the Holy Spirit, Paul made his defense before Felix, the Roman governor of the territory including Israel, at his headquarters in Caesarea (308).

“In fact, I went to Jerusalem to worship 12 days ago, and to bring offerings to my impoverished Jewish brothers & sisters there.

“In fact, some Jews from Turkey did find me in the temple at Jerusalem; regrettably, they are not here to accuse me face-to-face.

“In fact, those Jews found me complying with our religious law; they never found me disputing with anyone or inciting any mob — either in the temple or in the synagogues or anywhere else in the city.  Unless they refer to this one question I asked before them: ‘Am I being judged concerning the resurrection of the dead?’

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“The bottom line is that those who are here to accuse me simply have no proof of their accusations. But this I do confess to you:  I do believe all things written in our inspired scriptures, and I do worship God according to the way marked out by his son Jesus.  Because I believe that God will judge the living & the dead, I seek to live always with a clear conscience toward God & men.”

Felix, the Roman governor, had prior knowledge of the Christian way of life, and of the resistance to it by unbelieving Jews.  After hearing the testimony of the two sides, Felix adjourned the proceedings, saying, “When Commander Lysias comes from Jerusalem, I will make a decision in your case.”

Felix commanded that Paul be kept in minimum custody, and that his friends be permitted to visit him & provide for him.

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Paul would remain in custody in Caesarea for the next two years!

God, please help me to love being imprisoned for You.

(308) Acts 24:10-23

Paul Accused Before The Roman Governor

That night, God continued working out His plan to send Paul to Rome.  Roman foot-soldiers & horsemen took Paul to Antipatris, about half-way between Jerusalem & Caesarea (307).  The next day, the horsemen took Paul the rest of the way, while the foot-soldiers returned to Jerusalem.

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Arriving in Caesarea, they presented Paul to the governor, along with the letter from their commander.  When the governor had read the letter, he said, “I will hear you when your accusers get here.” And he commanded Paul to be confined until the hearing.

Five days later, Ananias, the Jewish high priest, arrived in Caesarea from Jerusalem.  In order to present a strong case against Paul, Ananias brought with him several other Jewish elders & a spokesman named Tertullus.

When the governor convened the hearing, Tertullus began his accusation by acknowledging Felix’s authority, and then he got right down to it:  “This man, Paul, is a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes, who creates dissension among Jews throughout the world.  He even tried to profane our temple, so we seized him in order to judge him according to the law of our religion.

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“But the Roman commander in Jerusalem intervened, sent Paul to you & commanded us to submit the matter for your judgment.  When you examine Paul, you will see that all our accusations against him are well-founded.”

The ensuing testimony of the Jewish elders laid out in detail their accusations against Paul.

God, please help me to love offering all my trials to You.

(307) Acts 23:31-24:9

An Ambush Foiled

A nephew of Paul heard of the planned ambush, so he went into the barracks & told his uncle (306).

Prompted by the Holy Spirit, Paul immediately asked one of the soldiers, “Please take this young man to the commander; he has important information for him.” The soldier did so, and soon the commander was interviewing Paul’s nephew privately: “What is it that you have to tell me?”

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The young man replied, “Some Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul before their council tomorrow, as though they were going to question him further. But it’s a trap! More than 40 of them have sworn to ambush Paul & kill him!”

The Roman commander dismissed the young man, ordering him not to tell anyone else of their conversation.  Then he gave these orders: “Prepare 200 soldiers, 70 horsemen, and 200 spearmen to go to Caesarea at 9:00 tonight.  Also provide horses to carry Paul; he must be taken safely to Felix the governor.”

The commander also sent this letter to the governor:

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From Claudius Lysias to the most excellent governor Felix: Greetings.

This man was seized by the Jews & was about to be killed by them. Coming with the troops I rescued him, and later learned that he was a Roman.  When I wanted to know the reason they accused him, I brought him before their council. I found out that he was accused concerning questions of their Jewish religious law, but he had nothing charged against him deserving of death or imprisonment according to our Roman law.

 When it was later told me that the Jews plan to assassinate him, I sent him immediately to you.  I have also commanded his accusers to state before you the charges against him. Farewell.

God, please help me to love trusting in the direction of the Holy Spirit.

(306) Acts 23:16-30

The Mission To Rome Begins

As the meeting progressed, the Holy Spirit helped Paul perceive that the religious leaders in attendance were from two different Jewish denominations (305).  Some were Sadducees, who did not believe in resurrection from death; others were Pharisees, who did believe in resurrection from death.

So Paul said, “Men & brothers, I am a Pharisee, as was my father before me.  Is it concerning our hope of resurrection from death that I am being judged?”

Predictably, the Pharisees & Sadducees fell into a huge argument about this.  Some Pharisees actually began to take Paul’s side!  “We find no evil in this man.  If a spirit or an angel from God has spoken to him, we must not fight against God,” they said.

This only caused the dissension to increase, to the point that the Roman commander was worried that the two sides might tear Paul to pieces.  So he had his soldiers remove Paul from the meeting & bring him inside the barracks.

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That night, Jesus stood with Paul & said, “This is all good.  As you have testified of me here in Jerusalem, you will also testify of me in Rome.”

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Then God began to accomplish this purpose in an peculiar way: On the next day, over 40 of the unbelieving Jews swore to kill Paul, saying they wouldn’t eat or drink until the deed was done!

The plotters appealed to their chief priests & elders: “Ask the Roman commander for permission to question Paul again tomorrow.  We will kill him as soon as he comes out of their barracks!”

God, please help me to love trusting You in peculiar circumstances.

(305) Acts 23:6-15

Rome To The Rescue

The Jewish mob was horrified at the idea of Gentiles being invited into God’s kingdom (304)!  They all began tearing their clothes & throwing dust in the air & crying out in rage: “Paul is not fit to live! Paul must die!”

The Roman commander quickly intervened.  He ordered Paul to be brought into the barracks, intending to torture him until he confessed to whatever he had done to enrage the mob.  But as they began binding him to be tortured, Paul was prompted by the Holy Spirit to ask the nearest soldier, “Is it lawful for you to torture an uncondemned Roman citizen?”

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Knowing that it was totally unlawful to torture an uncondemned Roman citizen, the soldier immediately warned his commander.  The commander came & asked Paul: “Is this true? Are you in fact a citizen of Rome?”  When Paul said that was so, the commander was skeptical; “I had to pay a huge amount to obtain my Roman citizenship,”   he said.

Paul surprised the Roman commander when he replied that he had obtained his citizenship by birth.  Immediately, the commander had Paul unbound; he was definitely concerned by this unexpected turn of events.

But he still needed to get to the bottom of things; he still needed to know exactly why the Jews were so violently accusing Paul.  So on the next day he convened a meeting including Paul & the Jewish religious leaders.

Paul began to speak first, saying “Men & brothers, I have a clear conscience before God.”

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Immediately, the Jewish high priest ordered an aide to strike Paul on the mouth. Paul responded angrily, “How dare you presume to judge me according to the law of Moses, when you violate the law of Moses by having me struck in this way?”

The aide then angrily replied, “How dare you challenge the authority of the high priest?”

Paul was immediately submissive, saying, “I didn’t realize that he was the high priest.  I understand that the law of Moses says, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.'”

God, please help me to love being humbled in Your service.

(304) Acts 22:22-23:5