God’s Word for You
Acts 25:6-12 the appeal to Caesar
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, February 8, 2021
6 After spending not more than eight or ten days with them, he went down to Caesarea. The next day he convened the court and ordered that Paul be brought in. 7 When Paul arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many serious charges against him, which they could not prove
Readers should not be troubled that Luke is imprecise about the length of time. Festus remained in Jerusalem a little more than a week, and Luke is vague about whether it was seven, eight, or nine days, perhaps because there was only one Sabbath during that time. But after a while Festus headed back to Caesarea, and the day after his arrival he convened the court for the Jews. There was no assigned seating; the accused and his accusers stood before the judge. Armed soldiers were present to prevent violence between the groups. Festus took his raised seat and the Jews had to stand waiting for Paul to be brought up from the prison cells.
There was no professional lawyer this time. It was two years since Tertullus had been involved in the case, but now the high priest and the members of the Sanhedrin spoke for themselves. Luke doesn’t bother to relate even the substance of their accusations, only saying that they could not prove any of it. The reason for this follows:
8 because Paul made his defense: “I have done nothing wrong. Not against the law of the Jews, not against the temple, and not against Caesar.”
The three types of charges are all simply and truthfully defended by Paul. His preaching about the resurrection was not in violation of any law of the Jews. In fact, it agreed with the Scriptures in Moses (Genesis 22:5) and the Prophets (Job 19:25; Daniel 12:2). He had not violated anything to do with the temple, and he had friends with him (apart from Luke, a Gentile) who were eyewitnesses of what happened in the temple. Finally, he had done nothing at all to violate any Roman law; he had only been in Jerusalem a week or so before he was arrested, and neither Felix nor the Colonel had brought any charge against him.
9 But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there on these charges?” 10 Paul 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. 11 If 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!” 12 After Festus had conferred with his council, he declared: “To Caesar you have appealed. To Caesar you will go!”
To most people, the details of this passage don’t mean much. The bottom line is that Festus yields to Paul’s appeal to Caesar. But consider what each verse tells us. In 10-11, Festus admits that there is no violation of Roman law, since he agrees to move the trial back to Jerusalem. If there were something to do with his own jurisdiction, the trial would have remained in Caesarea. The move of a trial’s location was a statement about jurisdiction (Luke 23:7)
Festus’ question asking Paul’s willingness to go shows that as a Roman citizen, Paul could refuse to be moved since he was already at the seat of government. Festus had clearly decided that Paul was innocent. The suggestion of a move was “to do the Jews a favor.” Festus had been in Judea less than two weeks and it was not a good time to make enemies. But Paul had made up his mind. He had been sitting in prison for two years, and only an appeal to Caesar was going to get him onto a boat to get to Rome. He refuses the transfer back to Jerusalem in verse 10 because he isn’t guilty of anything. He refuses the transfer in verse 11 because he suspects that the Jews only want to kill him. He demands to see the Emperor.
Festus had no reason to confer with the Jews about this. He consulted his own Roman advisors who were there, and agreed with the ringing words: “To Caesar you have appealed. To Caesar you will go!”
When God first created mankind, he blessed them with the first two estates, the church (Genesis 2:15-17) and the home (Genesis 2:18-24). By doing this, he provided for their spiritual and physical needs. But later on he blessed man with a third estate, the government, so that people could have a means of interacting with those outside the fellowship of the church and outside the confines of the family. We see this estate develop with the building of the first cities (Genesis 4:17, 10:11-12), the first kingdoms (Genesis 14:1-3) the first treaties (Genesis 14:4) and the way that nomadic tribes separated when they became too large to manage (Genesis 36:6-8). The role of government includes seeing to it that justice is carried out (Romans 13:4). Since Paul was not receiving justice in the court in Judea, and he had a right to appeal which also fit into God’s plan to send him to Rome, he appealed. Paul was not manipulating the government, but rather he was demanding that the government live up to its obligation to govern. We have God’s assurance that the government is under his authority. “The kings of the earth belong to God” (Psalm 47:9). Governments do not serve God out of faith, but they are subject to him anyway. “He is feared by the kings of the earth” (Psalm 76:12). If we have an opportunity to use even the secular government to advance the proclamation of the gospel, God will bless our efforts. But we should be certain that we have his plan in mind and not our own. The church does not have fellowship with the government, and should not use government funding to pursue its mission since a government can make demands about the language used by the church, a situation which would be impossible for the gospel to be preached in its truth and purity.
Still, opportunities can present themselves: “I will speak of your statutes before kings and will not be put to shame, for I delight in your commands because I love them” (Psalm 119:46-47). Treasure God’s holy word and share it in all three estates if you can. We share the gospel in the church, and we share the gospel in the home. If we’re given the opportunity to share the gospel before the government, we might find a moment to reach people with Christ whom we could never have reached any other way. “And who knows but that you have come to this position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14). The Lord will be with you always.
Pastor Timothy Smith