Acts 25-26

Thursday Evening Bible Study

January 31, 2008


During his third missionary journey, Paul wanted to swing down to Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost. He had been warned over and over through prophecies that he was going to face a difficult time. He arrived in Jerusalem and after seven days was arrested on false charges that he had stirred up the city with unrest and that he had defiled the Temple by bringing a Gentile onto sacred ground.

When the Roman commander found out about a plot to have Paul killed, he had Paul sent to Caesarea so he could face charges in a less hostile environment.

See map – moving Paul from Jerusalem to Caesarea.

Felix the governor was a bit of a scoundrel and even though the Jewish leaders didn’t have much of a case, Felix kept Paul in prison hoping to either receive a bribe from Paul or else to keep the Jews happy.

Paul has now been in prison in Caesarea for two years. There is a new governor, Porcius Festus. His name means “Pig Festival”. Oink, oink.

In honor of Porcius Festus, I will share one of my my favorite “Pig” stories…


One sunny day, a man was walking down the street when a truck came flying by and hit a bump in the road. As the truck sped away a crate fell off. Excitedly the man ran over to see what was in the crate. The man opens the crate and was stunned to see a pig. The man didn’t know what to do so he asked a police officer for some advice. The officer suggested that the man take the pig to the local zoo. A few days later while the police officer was directing traffic, he noticed this same man driving by in a car. The officer motioned to the man so he could find out if everything when well with his advice. The officer walked up to the car and was stunned to see sitting next to the man... the pig! The pig was sitting upright, with his seat belt on, wearing a baseball cap. In between them sat a six pack of soda and some popcorn. “Good afternoon officer!” the man said. The pig looked over and gave a couple polite snorts. The stunned officer asked the man, “I thought I told you to bring that pig to the zoo!” The man replied, “Oh, I did, and we had so much fun today we’re going to the ballgame!!”

“I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.”

- Winston Churchill

Acts 25

:1-12  “I appeal to Caesar”

:1 Now when Festus had come to the province, after three days he went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem.

Normally the Roman governors would go to Jerusalem only for the religious feasts.

But after Festus becomes governor, he only takes three days before going to visit Jerusalem.  He knows that this is where the power base for the Jews is.

:2 Then the high priest and the chief men of the Jews informed him against Paul; and they petitioned him,

high priest – There is a new high priest by this time.  His name is Ishmael

:3 asking a favor against him, that he would summon him to Jerusalem; while they lay in ambush along the road to kill him.

Paul has been in prison for two years.

Remember the plot two years earlier where forty men had sworn an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul? I wonder if those guys are a part of this. If they are, then is this the attack of the killer zombies?

:4 But Festus answered that Paul should be kept at Caesarea, and that he himself was going there shortly.

:5 "Therefore," he said, "let those who have authority among you go down with me and accuse this man, to see if there is any fault in him."

:6 And when he had remained among them more than ten days, he went down to Caesarea. And the next day, sitting on the judgment seat, he commanded Paul to be brought.

:7 When he had come, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood about and laid many serious complaints against Paul, which they could not prove,

:8 while he answered for himself, "Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I offended in anything at all."

:9 But Festus, wanting to do the Jews a favor, answered Paul and said, "Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and there be judged before me concerning these things?"

Remember that the Jews had asked Festus to transport Paul to Jerusalem for trial so they could have him ambushed on the way.

:10 So Paul said, "I stand at Caesar's judgment seat, where I ought to be judged. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you very well know.

Paul is reminding Festus that as a Roman citizen, Paul should be tried under Roman law, not Jewish law.

:11 "For if I am an offender, or have committed anything deserving of death, I do not object to dying; but if there is nothing in these things of which these men accuse me, no one can deliver me to them. I appeal to Caesar."

Because of the request to have him tried in Jerusalem, Paul is forced to invoke one of his rights as a Roman citizen.  He has the right to a trial before Caesar.

:12 Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, "You have appealed to Caesar? To Caesar you shall go!"

It seems to me that Festus is a little relieved that he doesn’t have to be the one to decide on Paul’s fate.

:13-27 Paul before Agrippa

:13 And after some days King Agrippa and Bernice came to Caesarea to greet Festus.

King AgrippaThis is actually Herod Agrippa II.  His father, Herod Agrippa I, was the guy who had James the brother of John killed (Acts 12:1).  His great grandfather was the one who tried to kill the baby Jesus.  He is not the king of Judea, but Emperor Claudius made him king of Chalcis (AD 50) to the north of Judea, as well as gave him control over the temple and the appointing of the high priests.  He’s young, about 30 years old.

Bernice – these are strange people.  Bernice is Herod Agrippa II’s sister.  She had been married to an earlier king of Chalcis, but was at the moment married to Polemon (no, not “Pokemon”), king of Cilicia (Paul’s home town region).  It is thought that at this time she was living incestuously with Agrippa.  Yuck.  What’s that saying about “kissing your sister”? She will one day be mistress to Titus, the Roman who would conquer Jerusalem and one day be emperor.  She’s a gal attracted to power.

Their reason for coming to Caesarea was to meet the new Roman governor.

:14 When they had been there many days, Festus laid Paul's case before the king, saying: "There is a certain man left a prisoner by Felix,

:15 "about whom the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me, when I was in Jerusalem, asking for a judgment against him.

:16 "To them I answered, 'It is not the custom of the Romans to deliver any man to destruction before the accused meets the accusers face to face, and has opportunity to answer for himself concerning the charge against him.'

:17 "Therefore when they had come together, without any delay, the next day I sat on the judgment seat and commanded the man to be brought in.

judgment seatbema – a step, a raised place mounted by steps; of the official seat of a judge, we’ll see a picture of it in a minute…

:18 "When the accusers stood up, they brought no accusation against him of such things as I supposed,

:19 "but had some questions against him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who had died, whom Paul affirmed to be alive.

You have to give this to Festus, he understands that Paul has been claiming that Jesus rose from the dead.

:20 "And because I was uncertain of such questions, I asked whether he was willing to go to Jerusalem and there be judged concerning these matters.

uncertainaporeo – to be without resources, Festus doesn’t know what to do with all this…

:21 "But when Paul appealed to be reserved for the decision of Augustus, I commanded him to be kept till I could send him to Caesar."

Augustussebastos – reverend, venerable

Even though there was a specific Caesar who first used the title of Augustus, this is not that emperor.  Caesar Augustus ruled from 63 BC to AD 14.  Instead, this is the title for the emperors that followed.

Who is the emperor that Paul appealed to?

Nero was emperor at this time (A.D. 54-68).
It is now about the year AD 56

:22 Then Agrippa said to Festus, "I also would like to hear the man myself." "Tomorrow," he said, "you shall hear him."

:23 So the next day, when Agrippa and Bernice had come with great pomp, and had entered the auditorium with the commanders and the prominent men of the city, at Festus' command Paul was brought in.

auditoriumakroaterion – a place set aside for hearing and deciding cases

We think this was the “theater” in Caesarea (the one we saw in the video).

:24 And Festus said: "King Agrippa and all the men who are here present with us, you see this man about whom the whole assembly of the Jews petitioned me, both at Jerusalem and here, crying out that he was not fit to live any longer.

:25 "But when I found that he had committed nothing deserving of death, and that he himself had appealed to Augustus, I decided to send him.

:26 "I have nothing certain to write to my lord concerning him. Therefore I have brought him out before you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that after the examination has taken place I may have something to write.

:27 "For it seems to me unreasonable to send a prisoner and not to specify the charges against him."

Festus is going to use this occasion to have Agrippa help him write up the charges to be sent with Paul for his trial in Rome.

Acts 26

:1-11  Paul’s defense – the early life

:1 Then Agrippa said to Paul, "You are permitted to speak for yourself." So Paul stretched out his hand and answered for himself:

Paul would be standing on the stage in the “theater” in Caesarea with Agrippa, Bernice, and Festus sitting in the center of the seating at the “bema” seat.

See pictures (end of slides)

We’re going to see that Paul’s “defense” is basically his testimony.

He’s going to talk about his life “before” meeting Jesus.

He’s going to talk about how he “met” Jesus.

He’s going to talk about his life “after” meeting Jesus.

Last Sunday as we began to look at the “Passover”, we read a verse:

(Exo 12:2 NKJV)  "This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you.

We talked about how the Passover was the big event in Judaism.  It changed the calendar because of its impact.
For us, our coming to Christ changed our “calendar”.  You can describe your life in terms of “before” and “after” you met Jesus.

:2 "I think myself happy, King Agrippa, because today I shall answer for myself before you concerning all the things of which I am accused by the Jews,

Jesus said,

(Mat 10:16-21 NKJV)  "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. {17} "But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. {18} "You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. {19} "But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; {20} "for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. {21} "Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death.

Some preachers like to quote this part “do not worry about …” (vs.19) when they preach and use it as an excuse to not prepare ahead of time for their message.
It doesn’t hurt to be prepared,

Abraham Lincoln once said, "If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend six hours sharpening my ax."

Keep in mind, Jesus is talking about defending yourself against those who are persecuting you, or those you are witnessing to.
Don’t let the “I’m not smart enough” or “I’m not prepared” to be your excuse to not talk about Jesus.

:3 "especially because you are expert in all customs and questions which have to do with the Jews. Therefore I beg you to hear me patiently.

expert in all customs… - Agrippa was the king in charge of regulating the temple and appointing the high priests.  He’s not ignorant of Judaism.

:4 "My manner of life from my youth, which was spent from the beginning among my own nation at Jerusalem, all the Jews know.

:5 "They knew me from the first, if they were willing to testify, that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.

:6 "And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers.

the hope of the promise

of a Messiah, a Savior,

(Gen 22:18 NKJV)  "In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice."

of the resurrection,

(Dan 12:2 NKJV)  And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt.

:7 "To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. For this hope's sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews.

:8 "Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is at the core of what the Jews were complaining about as well as Paul’s defense.

:9 "Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.

:10 "This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them.

saintshagios – “holy ones”, based on a word connected with God’s “holiness”.

Those in the Catholic or Orthodox tradition might use this word to describe extra special Christians who have been honored by the church.

We as Bible believing Christians often use this word to simply describe other believers.

But I don’t think Agrippa is thinking of these things.  I think he’s simply hearing the word “holy ones” – a word Paul is using to describe Christian believers.

cast my votepsephos – a small worn smooth stone, in ancient courts of justice the accused were condemned by black pebbles and the acquitted by white

Some use this to say that Paul was a member of the Sanhedrin.  It may just mean that he was in favor of killing Christians.

:11 "And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.

compelled them to blaspheme – blasphemy for the Christian was denying that Jesus was the Christ.

This is a horrible picture of a man gone berserk, a maniac on the loose looking for Christians, forcing them to blaspheme the name of Jesus or die.


Jesus can save the worst sinner.

This was one horrible, crazy guy.
From time to time there is a person who thinks that somehow they are such a wicked sinner that God could never accept them or love them.
I’m not going to talk them out of feeling like a horrible sinner.  I don’t think it’s even a good idea to find someone “worse” than they are and say that if God could love them, than He can love you.
The issue is never whether or not you are at a level that God can accept.  The truth is that no one is at such a level on their own merits.
The truth is that God’s love is great enough, and Jesus’ blood is strong enough, that no sin is too great, no sinner too foul, no person too far away for God to love.
O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing – Charles Wesley
O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King, the triumphs of His grace!
My gracious Master and my God, assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the earth abroad the honors of Thy name.
Jesus! The name that charms our fears, that bids our sorrows cease,
‘Tis music in the sinner’s ears, ‘Tis life and health and peace.
He breaks the power of cancelled sin, He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean, His blood availed for me.

:12-18  Paul’s defense – meeting Jesus

:12 "While thus occupied, as I journeyed to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests,

:13 "at midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me.

:14 "And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.'

kick against the goads – a Greek proverb for useless resistance.  A “goad” was a long wooden rod used to prod an animal to move.  God had been prodding Saul towards Jesus, but Saul had been resisting God.

:15 "So I said, 'Who are You, Lord?' And He said, 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.

Can you imagine how awkward and terrifying this was for Paul?

Here is Paul facing some kind of awesome, powerful being.  One who knows him by name and one who he has offended. And then to find out that it’s the very Jesus whose followers he’s been persecuting.  Wow!


God’s view of you

Persecuting the “saints” was the same as persecuting Jesus.
We are the “apple” of His eye, the “pupil” of His eye.
(Psa 17:8 NKJV)  Keep me as the apple of Your eye; Hide me under the shadow of Your wings,
(Zec 2:8 NKJV)  For thus says the LORD of hosts: "He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye.

When someone hurts you, it’s like poking God in the eye.

It almost makes you feel sorry for the people that give you a hard time for being a Christian.

:16 'But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you.

ministerhuperetes – an underrower, subordinate rower; anyone who serves with hands: a servant; the attendants of a king

Agrippa would understand this word.  He has these kinds of servants. Jesus is a king making Paul his servant.

This is not a description of “grandeur” but a word describing a lowly job.

witnessmartus – a witness; one who is a spectator of anything; the word is primarily a legal word like the person giving testimony at a trial.

Paul is on trial, but in a greater sense the work of Jesus is on trial and Paul is one being called on to share what he’s seen and heard.

which you have seen … which I will yet reveal … – Paul would not only be telling people about his encounter with Jesus, but Jesus would continue to teach and work through Paul.

:17 'I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you,

:18 'to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.'

This is what becoming a Christian is all about.  God takes us from darkness into light.  We are transferred from the power of Satan to the power of God.  We receive forgiveness.

:19-23 Paul’s defense – his life after Jesus

:19 "Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision,

:20 "but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.

Paul had heard from God.  He has spent the rest of his life trying his best to obey God.  And now Paul is on trial before Agrippa for obeying God.

:21 "For these reasons the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me.

:22 "Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come;

:23 "that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles."

first to rise from the dead – first to rise from the dead never to die again.

Paul’s message was simply one that was consistent with the Scriptures.  He wasn’t making up some new message.

:24-32 Paul challenges Agrippa

:24 Now as he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, "Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!"

Festus, the Roman governor doesn’t have a clue what Paul is talking about.

Festus hears what Paul is saying and thinks the guy is crazy.

He seems to be a great example of what Paul wrote to the Corinthians…

(1 Cor 2:14 NKJV)  But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

Does this mean that we shouldn’t bother witnessing to people classified as “the natural man”?

We need to keep sharing Christ.  We need to continue to grow and sharpen our skills at sharing the gospel. We need to learn to avoid that “Christianese” language that makes things harder to understand.
But ultimately, if the Spirit of God isn’t involved in what we’re doing, some people are going to respond just like Festus did.

:25 But he said, "I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and reason.

Notice that Paul doesn’t respond by criticizing Festus.  He’s gracious.

Keep your head when you are sharing Christ.

People get pretty worked up when they talk about God and what is right and wrong.

Some people aren’t ready to face the fact that they’ve been wrong and need Jesus.

When they get mad at you, don’t take it personally.

:26 "For the king, before whom I also speak freely, knows these things; for I am convinced that none of these things escapes his attention, since this thing was not done in a corner.

this thing was not done in a corner – the life of Jesus and the work of the early church was well known.

:27 "King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe."


Give the invitation.

Sometimes we can share our testimony and the Scriptures, but fail to give the opportunity for the person to commit their life to Christ.
We don’t want to offend.
I think it’s appropriate to let that person know that they need to make a choice to follow Jesus.
On the other hand, I think we need to be careful about how we respond if they choose not to accept Christ.
Some folks “love ‘em and leave ‘em” – when a person says “no”, they pack their bags, shake the dust off their feet, and never speak again to the person.
I think we need to consider the long term loving people into the kingdom.

:28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, "You almost persuade me to become a Christian."

What Agrippa is saying is a bit unclear.  It would be nice to have the video tape to see and hear the inflections of his voice.

It might mean,

“In such a short time are you trying to make a Christian of me?”

It also could mean,

“With so few words you are persuading me to be a Christian.”

We don’t have any record that Agrippa became a Christian.

:29 And Paul said, "I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains."

Paul gently reminds them of the injustice of his imprisonment for his message.

:30 When he had said these things, the king stood up, as well as the governor and Bernice and those who sat with them;

:31 and when they had gone aside, they talked among themselves, saying, "This man is doing nothing deserving of death or chains."

:32 Then Agrippa said to Festus, "This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar."



Sometimes we can second guess ourselves on the decisions we make.  I think if I were Paul I would wonder if I made a mistake in making my appeal to Caesar.  What if Paul had just waited for Agrippa to hear his case?  Perhaps Paul didn’t have enough faith?  Perhaps he didn’t “wait” enough.
President Ronald Reagan learned the need for decision making early in his life.  A kindly aunt had taken him to a cobbler to have a pair of shoes custom-made for him.  The shoemaker asked, “Do you want a round toe or a square toe?”  Young Ronald hemmed and hawed, so the cobbler said, “Come back in a day or two and tell me what you want.” A few days later the cobbler saw young Reagan on the street and asked what he had decided about the shoes.  “I haven’t made up my mind,” Reagan answered.  “Very well,” said the cobbler.  “Your shoes will be ready tomorrow.”  When Reagan got the shoes, one had a round toe and the other a square toe. Says Reagan, “Looking at those shoes every day taught me a lesson. If you don’t make your own decisions, somebody else makes them for you.”
The truth about Paul’s decision was that he needed to make a choice or else he would face a trip to Jerusalem and Jews waiting to kill him on the road.
Don’t be afraid of making mistakes.
Learn from your mistakes.
Grow from your mistakes.
Don’t be afraid of making mistakes.
Some of our greatest periods of growth come from the “mistakes” we make.