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Bible: What Does Acts 25 Teach Us About Paul, Festus, and King Agrippa?
The Judgment Seat
Acts 25--Paul Appears Before Festus/The Apostle Appeals to Nero/Agrippa Hears About Paul From Festus
Three days after Festus arrived in Caesarea, he travels up to Jerusalem (v. 1).
Sensing an opportunity to rid themselves of Paul, the Jews meanwhile conspire among themselves and decide to ask the new procurator to summon the apostle from Caesarea.
At the same time, they secretly plan to ambush their enemy’s party along the road (vv. 2-3).
Festus, however, decides to return to Caesarea where he had determined Paul would remain; moreover, he suggests that some representative officials among the Jews should accompany him on the trip and put the apostle on trial there (vv. 4-5).
Paul Stands Before Festus
More than ten days later, Festus travels to Caesarea and calls Paul before his bema (judgment seat) on the next day (v. 6).
The accusers make many serious allegations against the apostle, but can prove none; for his part, Paul merely reiterates his previous defense that declared he is innocent of all charges against him, whether they be brought by Judaism (religious) or Rome (political) [vv. 7-8].
Seeking some pecuniary or political advantage from the Jews, Festus asks Paul if he is willing to stand trial in Jerusalem (v. 9).
The apostle, understanding his rights as a Roman citizen and construing the procurator’s request as politically motivated (for he says in verse eleven, “No one can deliver me to them”), rightly appeals to Nero, realizing that he would stand before a "kangaroo court" in Jerusalem if he acquiesced to Festus’ (and the Jews’) wishes (vv. 10-11).
After a brief consultation with the Jews, Festus grants Paul’s request for a change of venue (v. 12).
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King Agrippa and Bernice Visit Festus
The procurator now receives royal visitors—King Agrippa II, the great-grandson of Herod the Great who ruled at the birth of Christ, and Bernice, his sister-wife—who hear about Paul’s case from him (vv. 13-15).
Festus tells Agrippa that he did not punish Paul, but, in accordance with Roman law and custom, held him in custody until he could give the apostle a fair trial before his accusers (v. 16).
Festus relates that he brought the two parties together on the day after the Jews arrived, and soon discovered that their charges against Paul dealt with religious issues, especially with whether Jesus was dead or alive (vv. 17-19).
Whereas Luke records the truth that Festus thought to send Paul to Jerusalem in order “do the Jews a favor,” (and possibly receive some political or monetary benefit from them in return), the procurator explains his reason for this decision as purely professional.
Jewish people in Jerusalem could dispose of this case better than he could, because the issue dealt with their religion—matters of which he “was uncertain” (v. 20; cf. 25:9).
[On the surface, Festus’s explanation seems altogether reasonable.
However, Paul did say that Festus understood the case well enough to know that the apostle had done no wrong to the Jews (25:10).
The procurator is just putting his best foot forward in his conversation with the foreign dignitary.]
Festus completes his summary of Paul’s case by informing Agrippa that since the apostle had appealed to Emperor Nero, he had decided to hold him in custody until he could send him to Rome (v. 21).
Agrippa and Festus agree that they would hear Paul the next morning (v. 22).
Paul Stands Before King Agrippa
Amid great “pomp and circumstance,” the king and his companion in adultery Bernice arrive at the auditorium on the next day, and Festus orders his officers to bring Paul before them (v. 23).
Addressing the royalty and other elite present, Festus directs their attention to the troublesome apostle whom the Jews deemed unworthy of life (v. 24).
The procurator admits that he did not find Paul guilty of any capital crime, but decided to send him to Rome in accordance with the apostle's appeal (v. 25).
Claiming uncertainty about what he should write to Nero about this case, Festus brings Paul before Agrippa, hoping that the king’s examination would reveal enough information about these matters for him to complete his report to the emperor (v. 26).
Festus rightly thinks it irrational to send Paul to Nero without specifying the charges against him (v. 27).
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