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Bible Study: Acts, Chapter Twenty-Five

  • RHM Bible Study, Acts Chapter Twenty-five from Refreshing Hope Ministries on Vimeo.

    Today we are going to study Acts chapter 25 in depth. You can follow along in your own Bible if you like. I will be reading from the World English Bible because it is the only modern English translation that is copyright free, and I can read the entire Bible on video without any legal drama or breaking anyone’s rules. After the meeting today, or sometime this week, please take the matching quiz that I have prepared for you on the website. Thanks to everyone who has participated so far. Let’s get started:

    First, let’s set our location and do a brief catchup. Previously in Acts, Paul had completed his third mission trip and landed in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost. Some Jews from Asia who were angry because Paul taught that Gentiles could be saved just as a Jew could, saw him in the temple grounds, formed a mob, and intended to kill him.

    Roman soldiers intervened, arrested Paul, and after discovering an assassination plot against him, took him to Caesarea, the Roman headquarters of the province. Though he was innocent, Paul stayed imprisoned in Caesarea for two years and was regularly visited by the Roman governor Felix, who hoped that Paul would give him a bribe. So we begin chapter 25 today with Paul imprisoned in Caesarea.

    Caesarea was a thriving port city at the time with state of the art structures. This is the Roman theater located right on the ocean. It seated about 3,000 people, and the sea breeze would carry the notes like a natural amplifier. 

    Acts Chapter 25 beginning in verse 1, reading from the World English Bible: Festus therefore, having come into the province, after three days went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea.

    Acts 24 ended with the transition from the governorship of Antonius Felix to that of Porcius Festus. Felix was undoubtedly a bad man, but history tells us Festus was a basically good man. He governed well, despite all the problems left to him by Felix.

    The previous Roman governor Felix was a miserably corrupt ruler, and the tension in the area was near the breaking point when Festus arrived to replace him. Caesarea was the Roman headquarters of the province of Judea. A few days after his arrival in Caesarea, Festus traveled to meet with the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. As any new ruler would, Festus wanted to bring peace to the region.

    2 Then the high priest and the principal men of the Jews informed him against Paul, and they begged him, 3 asking a favor against him, that he would summon him to Jerusalem; plotting to kill him on the way.

    Though two years had passed, the Jews had not forgotten about Paul. They attempted to persuade the newly appointed Festus to deliver Paul to Jerusalem for another trial before the Sanhedrin. Their plan was to either murder the apostle, who in their eyes was an apostate, or to sentence him to death for profaning their temple.

    The religious leaders knew that Paul was innocent and that he would be acquitted in any fair trial. Therefore, they didn’t really want Paul to be put on trial again. Instead, they wanted to ambush and murder him before the trial could take place.

    Their actions show the danger of religion that is not in true contact with God. If your religion makes you a liar and a murderer, there is something wrong with your religion.

    4 However Festus answered that Paul should be kept in custody at Caesarea, and that he himself was about to depart shortly. 5 “Let them therefore”, he said, “that are in power among you go down with me, and if there is anything wrong in the man, let them accuse him.”

    Though Festus was probably anxious to win favor with the Jews, he remembered that the last time Paul left Jerusalem, he had to be escorted by 470 Roman soldiers because some of the Jews had planned to assassinate him.

    One thing that we do know is that God was in control and He protected Paul while he wrote much of the New Testament that is in our Bible today from his prison cell. Festus invited the Jews to come to Caesarea and accuse Paul there if they had anything against him.

    6 When he had stayed among them more than ten days, he went down to Caesarea, and on the next day he sat on the judgment seat, and commanded Paul to be brought. 7 When he had come, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing against him many and grievous charges which they could not prove, 8 while he said in his defense, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar, have I sinned at all.”

    Once again Paul’s life hung in the balance as he stood before a gentile ruler, and was accused by the religious leaders of the Jews. If they found him guilty, he would die.

    Just as before, the religious leaders made many accusations against Paul, but they had no evidence to offer the court, only hearsay. Paul had been confined in a jail cell for two years and his accusers still had no case against him.

    The preacher Charles Spurgeon said “Often the less we say to our foes, and the more we say to our best Friend, the better it will fare with us.” When Paul was faced with their groundless accusations, he did not go on a rampage but just clearly and calmly stated the facts of his innocence. Paul trusted the eternal Judge just as Jesus had. Peter wrote about this:

    “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” 1 Peter 2:21-23 ESV.

    9 But Festus, desiring to gain favor with the Jews, answered Paul and said, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem, and be judged by me there concerning these things?”

    Festus didn’t know what to make of it, but he wanted to have Paul out of his hands, and he had a chance to win favor with the Jews. So though he was a good man, he asked Paul if he was willing to go to Jerusalem and settle it there.

    10 But Paul said, “I am standing before Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be tried. I have done no wrong to the Jews, as you also know very well. 11 For if I have done wrong and have committed anything worthy of death, I don’t refuse to die; but if none of those things is true that they accuse me of, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar!” 12 Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, “You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you shall go.”

    Paul knew what was waiting for him in Jerusalem and he declined their offer. To his credit, and possibly because Paul was a Roman citizen, Fetus did not force Paul to go to Jerusalem but gave him a choice in the matter.

    Paul stated simply, and truthfully, that he had not committed any crime against the Jews, that his arrest and imprisonment were unjustified. He wasn’t afraid to face the lions, but he didn’t want to put his head in a lion’s mouth if he could avoid it.

    It was the right of every Roman citizen to have his case heard by Caesar himself, if initial trials and appeals failed to reach a satisfactory decision. This was in effect an appeal to the supreme court of the Roman Empire.

    Paul was convinced that the evidence was on his side and that he could win in a fair trial. Though his current judge (Festus) was sympathetic to the Jews, the Emperor of Rome would not be so easily influenced by them.

    Paul appealed specifically to Caesar Nero, who later became a notorious enemy of Christians. During the first five years of his reign though, under the influence of good men around him, Nero was regarded as a wise and just ruler. Paul had no reason at this time to believe that Nero would be anti-Christian.

    13 Now when some days had passed, King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea, and greeted Festus.

    Herod Agrippa II ruled a client kingdom of the Roman Empire to the northeast of Festus’ province. Agrippa was known as an expert in Jewish customs and religious matters.

    Some notes about this King Agrippa:

    • His great-grandfather had tried to kill Jesus as a baby.
    • His grandfather had John the Baptist beheaded.
    • His father had martyred the first apostle, James.

    Now Paul stood before the next in line of the Herods, Herod Agrippa.

    Bernice was apparently Agrippa’s sister and secular history records rumors of incest concerning their relationship. Herod Agrippa II didn’t rule over much territory, but he was of great influence because the emperor gave him the right to oversee the affairs of the temple in Jerusalem and the appointment of the high priest. Though he did not have jurisdiction over Paul in this case, his understanding of the matter could be helpful for Festus, so he brought Herod up speed on the case:

    14 As he stayed there many days, Festus laid Paul’s case before the king, saying, “There is a certain man left a prisoner by Felix; 15 about whom, when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me, asking for a sentence against him. 16 I answered them that it is not the custom of the Romans to give up any man to destruction before the accused has met the accusers face to face and has had opportunity to make his defense concerning the matter laid against him.

    17 When therefore they had come together here, I didn’t delay, but on the next day sat on the judgment seat and commanded the man to be brought. 18 When the accusers stood up, they brought no charges against him of such things as I supposed; 19 but had certain questions against him about their own religion, and about one Jesus, who was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive.

    20 Being perplexed how to inquire concerning these things, I asked whether he was willing to go to Jerusalem and there be judged concerning these matters. 21 But when Paul had appealed to be kept for the decision of the emperor, I commanded him to be kept until I could send him to Caesar.” 22 Agrippa said to Festus, “I also would like to hear the man myself.” “Tomorrow,” he said, “you shall hear him.”

    23 So on the next day, when Agrippa and Bernice had come with great pomp, and they had entered into the place of hearing with the commanding officers and the principal men of the city, at the command of Festus, Paul was brought in.

    The case was a confusing mess for Festus. He was surprised, thinking that their accusations against Paul seemed unimportant. Their accusations focused on matters of their religion and a certain Jesus, who had died, but Paul said was alive. He had to have thought: “This is what you are mad about?” Though Herod had no jurisdiction over Paul, Festus hoped that he could shed some light on the subject. Meanwhile Paul was getting to witness to all the prominent leaders about Jesus.

    24 Festus said, “King Agrippa, and all men who are here present with us, you see this man about whom all the multitude of the Jews petitioned me, both at Jerusalem and here, crying that he ought not to live any longer. 25 But when I found that he had committed nothing worthy of death, and as he himself appealed to the emperor I determined to send him, 26 of whom I have no certain thing to write to my lord. Therefore I have brought him out before you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, that, after examination, I may have something to write. 27 For it seems to me unreasonable, in sending a prisoner, not to also specify the charges against him.”

    This was a hearing of Paul’s case and Festus hoped to put together something to present to Caesar. He could not just send Paul to Caesar with a letter that said, “I really don’t know what this man is accused of, and he is probably innocent of any wrongdoing, but I thought I should send him to you anyway.” That would get him demoted to janitor pretty quickly.

    The hearing of Paul continues in Acts chapter 26. That concludes our Bible study on Acts Chapter 25. Thank you for watching and for being a part of Refreshing Hope!

    Take the Acts 25 quiz, or scroll down for the text version!

     

    Quiz Questions on Acts Chapter 25:

    1. __________ therefore, having come into the province, after three days went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea.
    2. Then the high priest and the principal men of the Jews informed him against Paul, and they begged him, asking a favor against him, that he would summon Paul to __________; plotting to kill him on the way.
    3. However Festus answered that Paul should be kept in custody at __________, and that he himself was about to depart shortly.
    4. When Festus had stayed among the Jews more than ten days, he went down to Caesarea, and on the next day he sat on the judgment seat, and commanded __________ to be brought.
    5. When Paul had come, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing against him many and grievous charges which they could not __________.
    6. Paul said in his defense, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against __________, have I sinned at all.”
    7. But Festus, desiring to gain favor with the Jews, answered Paul and said, “Are you willing to go up to __________, and be judged by me there concerning these things?”
    8. But Paul said, “I am standing before Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be tried. I have done no wrong to the __________, as you also know very well.
    9. Paul said: For if I have done wrong and have committed anything worthy of death, I don’t refuse to die; but if none of those things is true that they accuse me of, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to __________!”
    10. Then __________, when he had conferred with the council, answered, “You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you shall go.”
    11. Now when some days had passed, King Agrippa and __________ arrived at Caesarea, and greeted Festus.
    12. As he stayed there many days, Festus laid Paul’s case before the king, saying, “There is a certain man left a prisoner by __________; about whom, when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me, asking for a sentence against him.
    13. I answered them that it is not the custom of the __________ to give up any man to destruction before the accused has met the accusers face to face and has had opportunity to make his defense concerning the matter laid against him.
    14. When the accusers stood up, they brought no charges against him of such things as I supposed; but had certain questions against him about their own religion, and about one __________, who was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive.
    15. Festus continued: Being perplexed how to inquire concerning these things, I asked whether he was willing to go to __________ and there be judged concerning these matters.
    16. But when Paul had appealed to be kept for the decision of the __________, I commanded him to be kept until I could send him to Caesar.”
    17. So on the next day, when Agrippa and __________ had come with great pomp, and they had entered into the place of hearing with the commanding officers and the principal men of the city, at the command of Festus, Paul was brought in.
    18. Festus said, “____________________, and all men who are here present with us, you see this man about whom all the multitude of the Jews petitioned me, both at Jerusalem and here, crying that he ought not to live any longer.
    19. But when I found that he had committed nothing worthy of death, and as he himself appealed to the emperor I determined to send him, of whom I have no certain thing to __________ to my lord.
    20. Therefore I have brought him out before you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, that, after examination, I may have something to write. For it seems to me unreasonable, in sending a prisoner, not to also specify ____________________.

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