Acts 26

As we near the end of this study on Acts, it is time to remind the reader that this IS the origorginalinal church. It has morphed into what we call “church” today. Acts does not give us a bulletin of the how a service should go, but then, a personal relationship with Christ is just that; not a routine. When it becomes a routine, we better understand the statement “morphed.”

The first 26 verses in Acts 26 is Paul’s defense:

  1. The complimentary “honor” to be in front of King Agrippa
  2. Paul’s credentials as a Pharisee, Roman, Jew, and now a believer in The Way
  3. His past as a Sanhedrin zealot persecuting members of The Way
  4. His transformation and encounter with Jesus on the Road to Damascus
  5. His call to bear witness of God and his unfailing efforts to so do.
  6. [T]his arrest for doing what? Following God?

The thankfulness to be standing and presenting his case in front of King Agrippa was in contrast to the flattery presented by the Sanhedrin hired lawyer (Tertullus; Acts 24). Paul realized that he did not have to explain to an outsider (Gentile) Jewish laws. Agrippa was the son of Herod the Great therefore an Idumaean; a descendant in the line of Esau. This too makes him a direct relative of Abraham and one familiar with Jewish customs. In a real sense, a distant cousin to Paul himself.

Act 26:22 To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass.

Paul sets his defense upon doing nothing outside the laws of Rome, laws of Moses, and teachings of Judaism SINCE the life, death, and resurrection of the Messiah. Paul once again sides with the Pharisees in supporting the “first to rise from the dead” that person being Jesus. Remember that the Pharisees believed in an after-life and a resurrection. This was not so of the Sadducee. Since there is no objection or discord mentioned at this trial like it was in Jerusalem, the Sanhedrin must have been less than by-partisan. Perhaps they did not bring along any Pharisees to this trial in Caesarea. The lack of disagreement among Paul’s accusers suggests this to be the case…no Pharisee present when Paul stated the resurrection of Jesus.

It is of particular interest per the exchange between Paul and the interruption of *Governor Festus in versus 24 & 25. Paul had just stated in 23b that the Messiah (Jesus) must suffer and, that by being the first to rise from the dead, HE [Jesus] would proclaim [the gospel] salvation to both OUR PEOPLE and the Gentiles.” Governor Festus, a Roman Gentile, probably reacted to OUR PEOPLE as explained in the above, reacted to the fact that Gentiles were included in Paul’s mission and vision. He said that Paul is out of his mind; too educated.

*During his administration (56 – 61 C.E.), Jewish hostility to Rome was greatly inflamed by the civic privileges issue. Feelings were aroused which played an important part in Governor Festus decision-making.

However, Paul responds by deferring his reply not to Festus, but to King Agrippa, an Edomite and one familiar with Jewish customs (Acts 26:26). Paul immediately turns to King Agrippa asking him if he believes in the prophets of which he had full knowledge and as Governor Festus did not. This was probably very *embarrassing to Agrippa. If he replied that he did believe in the prophets, which he most likely did, his Gentile counterpart in Governor Festus may have reacted as skeptical per the King who was also appointed by Rome

.hell*Sadly this is true of many “almost believers.” Sitting or standing among others and to say I want to believe would be drawing attention, pro and con, to one’s actions or response to the gospel message of salvation. How eternal to desire not to be a spectacle in an-other’s eyes only to exchange it for eternal destiny to hell.

Paul realizes his hesitance. He points out that his question is to all present and not present in verse 29. In a sense he takes the burden of the question off Agrippa’s back or shoulders and qualifies it as a question for all to answer.

Then comes the famous reply by Agrippa in the next verse (v28): “Would you in such a short time think you have convinced me?” The convincing had nothing to do with Paul’s guilt or innocence, but his appeal to Agrippa’s Jewish background and Jesus the Messiah; becoming a Christian or member of The Way. There is a well known psychological probability that when cornered or trying to hide something from an-other’s question, s/he avoids answering by ask a counter-question in reply. This is how Agrippa responded.

Agrippa and Festus go into a private conference and conclude that Paul is guilty of breaking no law be it Roman or Jewish. These two rulers represent both the Gentiles (Festus) of that time and the Jews (Agrippa). They both avoid having to deal with it during a time of tensions between the Romans and Jews by deferring to Paul’s appeal to the Emperor in Rome. They excuse their inaction by say…”If it were not for Paul’s appeal to Caesar (Emperor in Rome) he could be set free.

Rev. Dr. Jstark
December 2018

Acts 25

From here to the end of the Book of Acts we see the captivity and trials of Paul to its final end in Rome. Governor Festus, unnamed chief priests, King Agrippa II with his sister*Bernice, Caesarea, all additional background leading up to Paul’s execution and the concurring Jewish revolt against Rome plus the Roman orator hired by the Sanhedrin to present their case against Paul all rolled into chapters 24 – 26. It is no wonder that there is so much tentativeness to actually conclude a trial with Paul. Roman authorities keep pushing it up the ladder finding reasons to delay sentencing an innocent man but holding him for Geo-political reasons.

Reading a glowing book

The Living Word of GOD -Connecting the dots of the history of mankind

*A student of the bible should understand that when a first person, place, or thing is identified in the bible, it isn’t an accident or something to fill a page. Emperoris one of those aha-moments in scripture. She is from Cilicia just as is Paul. She was part of the Herodian dynasty that ruled the Roman province of Judea from 55 to 93 C.E. Her father was King Herod Agrippa I. She was sister to Herod Agrippa II. She had a number of failed marriages not to make her the victim. During the First Jewish-Roman War (67 C.E.) she began a love affair with the future (Emperor) Titus Flavius Vespasian.

Acts 25:3 once again points out the deviant and abhorrent actions of the Jewish leadership. The Romans knew Jewish leadership and these people spelled trouble. Their continual trouble-making is but one reason they have been expelled from so many countries over the centuries. They continued to kick the dead horse and held grudges for years. Look at the middle east today…what has changed? Now they wanted Paul to be brought to Jerusalem so he could be killed while in route. A plan derailed by Governor Felix. Probably because Paul appealed to Caesar.derailed

Governor Festus being the new guy on the block denied permission to take Paul to Jerusalem for additional prosecution (perhaps persecution) by the Jewish courts. He kept this under his thumb and said he would judge, not the Jews of the Jerusalem Sanhedrin. At the same time as history records, the Romans knew that the Jews were a force with which they must be aware. He listened to the charges against Paul none of which they could prove. Acts 25:8 is the beginning of Paul’s defense and from his own mouth…

Paul argued in his defense, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense.”

Governor Festus wanting to placate the Jews asked Paul if he would go to Jerusalem to be tried. Paul responds that he is already standing in front of the “authority” of this area. Why go there only to stand in front of the same man? Paul is very forthright. He states in v11 that if he committed a crime worth death, he would not resist the executioner. At this point [Acts 25:11] Paul assures his trip to Rome by “appealing to Caesar;” i.e. Emperor Nero. There is great turmoil in the Roman Empire at this time; Emperor Nero the firebug and the pending Jewish revolt.

Acts 25:13 is interesting. Look back at the aster-ix on page one describing the shifty Bernice and her brother King Agrippa II. They show up at Caesarea; a brother and a sister. She was obviously of some influence over her brother. In v14 Governor Felix explains to King Agrippa that Paul is a left over case from the former governor Felix. Governor Felix had already tried Paul and found him innocent but to gain some favor with the insistent and persistent Jews he left Paul in prison. Now it is Governor Felix’s problem. He is very befuddled.

(v14) Festus laid Paul’s case before the king, saying, “There is a man left prisoner by Felix, and when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews laid out their case against him, asking for a sentence of condemnation against him.

Felix explains to King Agrippa II (and) Bernice that the problem with Paul is Jewish religion, attitude, and some guy named Jesus. This would lead us to believe they did NOT KNOW about the crucifixion of Jesus only 20 years earlier. Since these Roman leaders were supposedly “in the know” due to their authority, political position and knowledge, we can deduce that the gospel message was still limited in its scope, reach, and frequency. Felix points out part of the argument between Paul and the Jews was that this Jesus was supposed to be dead per the Jews but yet he was very much alive per Paul.

ceremonialKing Agrippa II states that he would like to hear from this man named Paul. [v22]. Whether it was to see and hear from Paul or the pomp and circumstances provided him at this meeting Agrippa wanted (see verse 23) is unknown. However the bible includes “Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp, and they entered the audience hall with the military tribunes and the prominent men of the city. Sounds very ceremonial. Not an uncommon aspect of the Herods; Idumean by blood; that is offspring of Esau, twin of Jacob.

...but I found nothing deserving of death” explains Felix to Agrippa. What Governor Felix is searching for is an accusation worthy of “appealing to Caesar.” He would need to or to the Emperor with some degree of criminality for even sending Paul to Rome. As we close chapter 25 Felix states it in his own words: “For it seems to me unreasonable, in sending a prisoner (to Rome), not to indicate the charges against him.”

Rev. Dr. Jstark
December 2018

Acts 24

palace2

King Herod’s Palace

Governor Felix asks Paul what country is he from. Paul tells him Cilicia. He then agrees to hear the case once Paul’s accusers arrive. He is held in the great palace that King Herod had built for himself long ago. This is where we left off in our previous Acts article, chapter 23.

High Priest Ananias is summoned to appear before Felix arriving five days late. He brings along a spokesperson. Interestingly the bible calls him, not a lawyer but an hray’-tore; an orator, someone skilled in the use of language and persuasion. We already know by Paul’s own words that he himself is not a man of flowing words nor trained in such [1 Corinthians 2:1 & 2 Corinthians 11:6]. No doubt the Sanhedrin charges against him had knowledge of this. Their hopes probably were that since they know Paul had not committed a crime against Rome, by comparison, a fluent and influential speaker named Tertullos could simply make Paul sound foolish. What is even more interesting is that this Tertullos is a Roman, not even a Jew or from the Sanhedrin.

This polished orator begins this case by flattering Felix as to *how quiet it is around this Roman province and kingdom. Keep in mind as pointed out in the previous JIV NOTE that just a couple years later, there is a significant 4 or 5 year Jewish revolt against Rome. Rome retaliates by destroying the very Temple these guys from Jerusalem are saying Paul disparaged. So much for flattery even Festus recognized. Recall that Festus replaced Felix as governor and was “the new sheriff “ in this Roman Province. He was handed the case by the outgoing Felix who left Paul in prison [Acts 24:27] “because he perceived it pleased the Jewish leadership.”

*JIV NOTE: Two years after Paul began his two year “imprisonment’ in Caesarea, the Roman governor Felix put down a Jewish uprising with such brutality that the Jewish Sanhedrin complained bitterly to Rome. Felix was recalled to Rome and Porcius Festus had just arrived in the Roman “province” (Acts 25:1) of Judea as its new governor.

KEEP THE PREVIOUS MENTIONED JEWISH REVOLTING!!!

This Roman orator hired by the Sanhedrin drops the blame of the Jewish unrest in this province of Rome right into the lap of Paul (Acts 24:5a). “This man is a plague who stirs up the Jews.” So it is all Paul’s fault that the Jews as a whole people hate the Romans. Hmmmm?

Dr. JStark