1 Three days after Festus arrived in the province, he went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. 2 Then the chief priests and the leaders of the Jews presented their case against Paul to him; and they appealed, 3 asking him to do them a favor against Paul, that he might summon him to Jerusalem. They were preparing an ambush along the road to kill him. 4 However, Festus answered that Paul should be kept at Caesarea, and that he himself was about to go there shortly. 5 “Therefore,” he said, “let the men of authority among you go down with me and accuse him, if there is any wrong in this man.”
6 When he had spent not more than eight or 10 days among them, he went down to Caesarea. The next day, seated at the judge’s bench, he commanded Paul to be brought in. 7 When he arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him and brought many serious charges that they were not able to prove, 8 while Paul made the defense that, “Neither against the Jewish law, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I sinned at all.”
9 Then Festus, wanting to do a favor for the Jews, replied to Paul, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem, there to be tried before me on these charges?”
10 But Paul said: “I am standing at Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. I have done no wrong to the Jews, as even you can see very well. 11 If then I am doing wrong, or have done anything deserving of death, I do not refuse to die, but if there is nothing to what these men accuse me of, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar!”
12 After Festus conferred with his council, he replied, “You have appealed to Caesar; to Caesar you will go!”
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
Paul made the defense that, “I have done nothing wrong against the law of the Jews or against the temple or against Caesar.”
Imagine being in prison for two years on false accusations, seemingly forgotten, kept there by a leader hoping for a bribe and looking to gain political capital by using you as leverage. In addition, imagine there are people determined to get rid of you, either by slandering and lying about you or worst ending your life.
Sounds like a pretty hopeless place to be.
This was Paul’s predicament while imprisoned in Caesarea under Governor Felix. He was arrested under fabricated accusations by Jewish religious leaders trying desperately to end his life. From all sides, Paul was attacked and yet he did nothing wrong.
The Jewish leaders in this story illustrate the hardness of the fallen human heart. They were the leaders of Israel—the chosen nation. They were people of the Abrahamic covenant, people who knew the Lord’s mercy and grace throughout the generations.
Yet, despite their knowledge and privileges, they had killed Jesus, the Anointed One. And they were intent on murdering God’s servant, Paul.
When men stubbornly refuse to submit to God’s truth, they eliminate it from their lives. The light exposes the evil deeds they don’t want to face. Rather than coming to the light in faithful submission and repentance, they try to snuff it out so they can continue to live as they want.
Through the new Governor Festus, the leaders saw another attempt to get at Paul.
Satan will stop at nothing to oppose those who serve the Lord and preach the gospel. He used the religious leaders on one side and Festus on the other. It seemed his evil forces had Paul hemmed in to the point of ineffectiveness, but neither enemy was a problem for God to dispose of when they opposed His purpose for Paul.
Through this, Paul wasn’t fearful, confused, or frustrated because he knew God was working behind the scenes to protect him and use him according to His purpose. Paul knew God was setting him up to share the gospel with some of the most influential leaders in Rome and Israel. And he had the witnessing opportunity of a lifetime.
Many times the greatest opportunities for ministry come to us disguised as frustrating and confusing circumstances where we feel restricted from reaching our goals. If we view those circumstances from a human point of view, we’ll be discouraged and miss the opportunity for ministry. But if we trust God, who’s in control of every circumstance, He can use us in mighty ways for His glory.
- Why is it important to view every circumstance under the control of God?
- If God is sovereign over frustrating circumstances, how should we respond in those circumstances?
- Is it realistic to be grateful to God even during the frustrating circumstances? How?