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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Acts, Chapter 25

When reading chapter 25 of Acts, I want to tell Paul that his game was very well played. As we know from the previous chapter, Paul was held for several years by Felix, mostly because he was expecting a bribe. Felix and Paul had discussed his case at length during this time, but Felix felt he was doing the Jews a favor by leaving Paul in prison when he was replaced by Festus. This played right into Paul's plan, as we see here in chapter 25 that he is once again on trial before a local ruler.

What Paul did during that trial had to be frustrating to the Jews. Their plan was to make it a case of their religion so the Roman authorities would hand Paul back over to them. They were counting on the matter being considered as a local issue. They felt the Romans would see it as a bunch of backwards locals arguing over religious details that were outside of their realm of familiarity. Paul had very few cards to play here, but the fact he was a Roman citizen allowed him to appeal to Caesar. This would take him far from the Jerusalem, and allow him to speak in Rome, which was his goal all along.

10Paul answered: "I am now standing before Caesar's court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. 11If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!" 12After Festus had conferred with his council, he declared: "You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!" – Acts 25:10-12

When in doubt, appeal to the higher court. Paul knew that eventually he would be martyred for his faith, but this bought him some time and another opportunity to preach the gospel where it could do the most good. Ultimately, this is a goal we need to have in our own lives. We must find ways to share the good news for as long as possible and in places where it has the most effectiveness. Paul had no idea what his final ruling before Caesar would be, but it was certainly better than being handed over to the Jews to be ambushed and killed.

18When his accusers got up to speak, they did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected. 19Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive. 20I was at a loss how to investigate such matters; so I asked if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial there on these charges. 21When Paul made his appeal to be held over for the Emperor's decision, I ordered him held until I could send him to Caesar." – Acts 25:18-21

I find this passage fascinating because it provides an interesting look into an outsider's perspective of the church. Festus was baffled as to what was going on, especially since he had no background story to go on. It's hard to think of this since most people know the basic story of Christ, but Festus did not have the advantage of looking at His story through history. He was expecting some serious crime, but instead he was presented with a confusing case over a religion he was unfamiliar with.

This leads to Paul going before King Agrippa, who was just as confused as Festus, as seen in the closing verses of the chapter. Who else but God could use confusion and the policy of passing the buck to accomplish His goals? These men had no idea they were doing God's will, but because they were involved in getting Paul to Rome, they had some of the greatest influence in the history of the early church. If Paul doesn't get to Rome, then the church doesn't have the far reaching impact that it did later on.

TODAY'S QUESTIONS:

  1. Why would Felix, Festus, and Agrippa be content to keep passing the buck up the chain?
  2. What response do you think the Jews had to these decisions?
  3. How else do you see the hand of God working in these choices?

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