Paul’s Trial Before Festus: Acts 25:1-12
“1) Festus then, having arrived in the province, three days later went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. 2) And the chief priests and the leading men of the Jews brought charges against Paul, and they were urging him, 3) requesting a concession against Paul, that he might have him brought to Jerusalem (at the same time, setting an ambush to kill him on the way). 4) Festus then answered that Paul was being kept in custody at Caesarea and that he himself was about to leave shortly. 5) “Therefore,” he *said, “let the influential men among you go there with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them prosecute him.” 6) After he had spent not more than eight or ten days among them, he went down to Caesarea, and on the next day he took his seat on the tribunal and ordered Paul to be brought. 7) After Paul arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him which they could not prove, 8) while Paul said in his own defense, “I have committed no offense either against the Law of the Jews or against the temple or against Caesar.” 9) But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, answered Paul and said, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me on these charges?” 10) But Paul said, “I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. I have done no wrong to the Jews, as you also very well know. 11) If, then, I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die; but if none of those things is true of which these men accuse me, no one can hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar.” 12) Then when Festus had conferred with his council, he answered, “You have appealed to Caesar, to Caesar you shall go.”” Acts‬ ‭25‬:‭1‬-‭12‬ ‭
We now have an account of Paul’s second trial in Caesarea. There had been a change of administrations, and Festus was now Governor over the region. Upon taking office, he made a ten day trip to Jerusalem to become acquainted with the Jewish region he now governed. The Jewish elders warmed up to him quickly.
Foremost on the mind of the Sanhedrin was their grievance against Paul. They worked out a plan to have him extradited to Jerusalem where he could be ambushed and killed en route. It appears from the text that Festus was privy to the devious plot.
His first need was to get Paul to concede to the extradition to Jerusalem. A group of Jewish leaders accompanied Festus back to Caesarea, and the very next day he took his seat on the tribunal and ordered Paul to be brought before him. The problem was that Festus had been defiled by an evil report without occasion to hear from Paul. He only had one side of the story.
This is the most common flaw of those in leadership. Never arrive at a judgement without hearing equally both sides of any dispute. This is true for every dispute whether civil, domestic or in the church. It is one of the most basic tenets guaranteeing truth and justice in the Old Testament Law.
The Jewish elders had two years to fabricate their charges against Paul. As soon as Paul arrived before the tribunal, his accusers stood around him and launched many and serious charges against him which they could not prove. Paul was abandoned to defend himself.
It is at this point the reader must ask; “Where were Paul’s defenders?” Why had Peter, James and John abandoned him? Where were the members of the Jerusalem council? Where were the Jewish church leaders who had advised Paul how to conduct himself in Jerusalem? Where were the multitude of Jewish Christians whom Peter had said were so numerous? (See Acts 21:17-26)
This is one of the unsolved mysteries in Paul’s case. It appears that they were either overcome by fear or theological error. Paul stood alone in his own defense and in defense of the true gospel. By his own admission, his willingness to suffer alone for the cause of Christ and the gospel restored some courage and truth to the early believers. (See Philippians 1:12-20)
It can be argued that Paul stood alone as the only defense for the true gospel of justification by faith in Christ alone at this crucial time in early church history. He was in the company of others like Noah, Elijah, Jeremiah and Danial who stood alone for God against compromise, corruption and popular opinion. Never underestimate what God can do through one man or woman with unbending convictions for God!
As a Roman citizen, Paul had the option of appealing to Caesar. This would be equal to appealing to the Supreme Court today. Some belittle his strategy, but Acts 23:11 undoubtedly undergirded his move. Keep in mind; “ “11) But on the night immediately following, the Lord stood at his side and said, “Take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also.”” He had good reason to appeal to Rome.
It appears that he was one step in front of the Jewish elders and Festus. His appeal to Rome was now public record. Festus was now obligated to deliver him safely to Rome. I believe the hand of Divine Providence was guiding him. God often works through civil authority to carry out His will in the world.
It appears that Luke may have been a bystander at the tribunal. This is supported by both the detailed account of the case and the word “we” in Acts 27:1 and the rest of the book of Acts. He was allowed to accompany Paul to Rome.
So, how can we benefit from this story? It is not packed with theological or doctrinal insight. But it does punctuate the importance of being willing to stand alone for the cause of Christ and even suffer to the point of death for the cause of the gospel. Paul shines as the pinnacle of selfless devotion to Christ in the New Testament. Every believer needs to embrace his devotion to Christ, especially as we move deeper into the end times.
Let me close by quoting the words of Paul to the leaders of the church at Ephesus as recorded in Acts 20:24; “But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.”
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global ‭