Sunday, October 25, 2020

Acts Study | Session 37 | 25:1-26:10

In today's study, we find that Festus had replaced Felix as governor and was trying to figure out what to do with this man Paul who was being accused by the Jews. Paul is brought before him to give an account of the complaints that had been made against him and decides to try to get him back to Jerusalem to give an account of himself before the Jews again. Paul refuses at this point and appeals to Caesar. Festus then takes Paul to Agrippa to find an accusation that he might write in regards to Paul's appeal. 

Chapter 25

VERSE 1: Now when Festus was come into the province, after three days he ascended from Caesarea to Jerusalem. This is Porcius Festus who had replaced Felix. Historically, they were both sitting on a land mine because the Jews were hard to govern as Pilate also knew full well. 

After Felix and Festus came Albinus and then Florus which ended in what has been called the War of the Jews from 66-73AD. It is also referred to as the Jewish-Roman Wars because they were a series of revolts against Roman rule that eventually led to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD. Josephus details these events in his work The Wars of the Jews: or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem.

Festus is merely at the beginning of these events and was very interested in investigating anyone who was accused of inciting the Jews to rebellion. Remember that Lycius mistook Paul for the Egyptian insurrectionist in Acts 21:38).

VERSES 2-5: Then the high priest and the chief of the Jews informed him against Paul, and besought him, (3)  And desired favour against him, that he would send for him to Jerusalem, laying wait in the way to kill him. (4)  But Festus answered, that Paul should be kept at Caesarea, and that he himself would depart shortly thither. (5)  Let them therefore, said he, which among you are able, go down with me, and accuse this man, if there be any wickedness in him. Again, the Jewish were actively trying to get Rome to transport Paul so that they could ambush and kill him, but Festus appears to be a little too smart for that. 

VERSE 6: And when he had tarried among them more than ten days, he went down unto Caesarea; and the next day sitting on the judgment seat commanded Paul to be brought. Again, we see this word bema that is used for judgment seat here in this verse. Of course, we know that the ultimate judgment seat will be the one that we will all appear before in 2Cor 5:10.  

VERSE 7: And when he was come, the Jews which came down from Jerusalem stood round about, and laid many and grievous complaints against Paul, which they could not prove. Of course, as Paul has already stated, they have no proof of anything that they are accusing him of. 

VERSE 8: While he answered for himself, Neither against the law of the Jews, neither against the temple, nor yet against Caesar, have I offended any thing at all. Again, Paul states his innocence in regard to the charges. Again, Paul is saying that he has not been teaching against the Law of Moses, or circumcision, or the customs (Acts 21:21). Folks, we are in chapter 25 and Paul is still preaching these things! 

Randy White points out three things at this point. 1. Paul was under the law, and thus we are as well. This is the conclusion of much of Covenant Theology but disregards the clear teachings of the book of Galatians. 2. Paul was not under the law and was not speaking honestly in this verse, i.e., he was lying.  3. Paul was under the law because he was a Jew living in an age when the Kingdom was still being offered to the Jewish nation, but he also taught personal salvation from all sins outside the law of Moses (Acts 13:38-39) according to the revealed mystery. The conclusion is that this is a unique period of transition in which Israel is slowly diminishing (see Rom 11:12) rather than a sharp divide between dispensations.

VERSE 9: But Festus, willing to do the Jews a pleasure, answered Paul, and said, Wilt thou go up to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these things before me? The word But means that Festus knew that Paul was innocent, but still chose to do the Jews a favor and drag it out for a trial in Jerusalem. It is obvious that he is appeasing the Jews for political gain. 

VERSE 10: Then said Paul, I stand at Caesar's judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest. Paul, knowing his rights as a Roma citizen, makes it clear that he did not want to be part of Festus' political games, and that Felix knew full well that he had nothing wrong. In actuality, Festus had nothing concrete that would demand that the trial continue (Acts 25:25), he was merely seeking political favor. 

VERSE 11: For if I be an offender, or have committed any thing worthy of death, I refuse not to die: but if there be none of these things whereof these accuse me, no man may deliver me unto them. I appeal unto Caesar. Paul readily admits that if he did something wrong, he is willing to pay for it with his life. However, if he did nothing wrong, which he knew full well he had not, he appealed his case to Caesar. Again, only a Roman citizen could have done this. Paul knew his rights and he demanded them. Same with us today I believe. I get tired of little weak-spined Christians making it sound like the church needs to lay down and let the world run over them. 

I believe that much of Paul's appeal was a knowledge that the Lord had already told him that he was going to Rome (Acts 23:11), so why not let Rome pay for the transportation. 

VERSE 12: Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, Hast thou appealed unto Caesar? unto Caesar shalt thou go. Festus had no choice but to honor Paul's request. 

VERSE 13: And after certain days king Agrippa and Bernice came unto Caesarea to salute Festus. Now we meet Agrippa II and his wife Bernice. Agrippa's father is the one that killed James and fell over dead when he gave not the glory to God in Acts 12:20-22. That means that Herod the Great would have been in grandfather. 

Bernice was an entire other matter, many believe that she was Agrippa's sister. It seems that she was, therefore, on the surface, it looked like an incestuous relationship. Josephus said that later during the First Jewish-Roman War, "she began a love affair with the future emperor Titus Flavius Vespasianus. However, her unpopularity among the Romans compelled Titus to dismiss her on his accession as emperor in 79. When he died two years later, she disappeared from the historical record."

VERSES 14-17: And when they had been there many days, Festus declared Paul's cause unto the king, saying, There is a certain man left in bonds by Felix: (15)  About whom, when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me, desiring to have judgment against him. (16)  To whom I answered, It is not the manner of the Romans to deliver any man to die, before that he which is accused have the accusers face to face, and have licence to answer for himself concerning the crime laid against him. (17)  Therefore, when they were come hither, without any delay on the morrow I sat on the judgment seat, and commanded the man to be brought forth. Now Festus takes it upon himself to bring Agrippa and Bernice up to speed with Paul's case.    Notice that he says that Paul should have seen his accusers face to face. This did not happen as that the Jews that made the accusations that came down from Asia were never present as Paul pointed on a couple of occasions. Those who were pressing the issue were merely those who did not like Paul and his message in regards to the resurrection and the implications that came from that and wanted to see him destroyed. 

VERSES 18-19: Against whom when the accusers stood up, they brought none accusation of such things as I supposed: (19)  But had certain questions against him of their own superstition, and of one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive. In other words, Paul was not accused of anything that the Romans would have given two rips about. Instead, he, just like Felix, saw that the accusations had nothing to do with the laws of Rome and everything to do with Jewish superstition, and of one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive. Again, the Jews were merely upset that Paul preached the resurrection. Remember that we spoke earlier that the meaning of the word superstition just means a belief in the spirit world. 

VERSES 20-22: And because I doubted of such manner of questions, I asked him whether he would go to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these matters. (21)  But when Paul had appealed to be reserved unto the hearing of Augustus, I commanded him to be kept till I might send him to Caesar. (22)  Then Agrippa said unto Festus, I would also hear the man myself. To morrow, said he, thou shalt hear him. Know Festus had roused Agrippa's curiosity and he too wanted to quesiton him as well. 

VERSE 23: And on the morrow, when Agrippa was come, and Bernice, with great pomp, and was entered into the place of hearing, with the chief captains, and principal men of the city, at Festus' commandment Paul was brought forth. Now Paul is brought in to stand before Agrippa. 

VERSES 24-26: And Festus said, King Agrippa, and all men which are here present with us, ye see this man, about whom all the multitude of the Jews have dealt with me, both at Jerusalem, and also here, crying that he ought not to live any longer. (25)  But when I found that he had committed nothing worthy of death, and that he himself hath appealed to Augustus, I have determined to send him. (26)  Of whom I have no certain thing to write unto my lord. Wherefore I have brought him forth before you, and specially before thee, O king Agrippa, that, after examination had, I might have somewhat to write. Festus makes it pretty clear that he can find nothing to charge Paul with and that he has nothing to write in regard to his case. He then implores Agrippa to come up with something. Remember that Paul had been given the option to go back to Jerusalem and face that circus or appeal to Caesar. 

VERSE 27: For it seemeth to me unreasonable to send a prisoner, and not withal to signify the crimes laid against him. So, it seems that the entire purpose of this questioning was to find something to write to Caesar in regards to what Paul is appealing to him about. It would certainly be strange to have a man standing before you appealing a charge that was never leveled against him. I am sure that Festus knew that would not reflect positively on his resume. Again, the whole thing was a joke, but God was using the stupidy of man to do his will in Paul's life in taking the Gospel of Grace to Rome, the capital of the Gentile world at that time. 

Chapter 26

VERSES 1-3: Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself: (2)  I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews: (3)  Especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently. Paul begins to speak for himself as requested. Notice that Paul acknowledges that Agrippa was an expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews. Interestingly, the Herodian dynasty were Edomites (Eze 25; Obadiah). 

VERSES 4-5: My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; (5)  Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. Paul now begins to share his background. He was first among his nation and known by the Jews. Earlier we learned that he studied at the feet of Gamaliel. 

VERSES 6-7: And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: (7)  Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope's sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews. Paul says that he now stands and is being judged for the hope of the promises made of God unto our fathers. He is making it clear that the only reason he is standing there was that he preached the resurrection. It wasn't about Mosaic Law, circumcision, and customs at all. Understand that none of this was anything that Rome was interested in. He also points out that Christ was the fulfillment of all of the promises that were given to the nation. 

VERSE 8: Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead? In other words, why should any of us be surprised that God can raise the dead? God he flung the stars into space, made man from dirt, breathed life into his lungs, etc. I mean the resurrection should be just as credible as everything else that God has done. Paul said in 1 Cor 15:12-14, Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.

VERSES 9-10: I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. (10) Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. Paul is referring to his pre-conversion life when he actively went after the followers of Jesus. Notice the word saints is used 95 times in the KJV. I am heavily leaning at this point in my studies to the word only being applicable to Jewish believers (1Cor 1:2; 2Cor 1:1; Gal 1:1-3; Eph 1:1, etc.)

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