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Acts 25

Thursday Evening Bible Study

April 24, 2014


Do people see Jesus? Is the gospel preached? Does it speak to the broken hearted? Does it build up the church? Milk – Meat – Manna Preach for a decision Is the church loved? Target 4400 words

Try the YouVersion “Live” / Online notes

On the day of Pentecost, the church was born. It began with the Holy Spirit filling the believers. As the apostles preached about Jesus, the church began to grow.

By chapter seven, the church was beginning to experience persecution. Stephen was the first one to die for his faith. One of the main men behind the persecution was a man named Saul. But when Saul headed for the city of Damascus to pursue the Christians there, he was knocked off his horse by a bright light and he met Jesus. Saul is more well known by his Roman name, Paul.

By chapter 10, the gospel began to reach even the Gentiles, starting with a Roman Centurion named Cornelius.

In chapter 13, we began a new section of Acts as we began to focus on the ministry of Paul.

We followed Paul on three different journeys as he planted churches in cities like Ephesus, Philippi, and Corinth.

On his third journey, while Paul was in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, a riot breaks out in the Temple, and the Jews try to seize Paul and put him to death.

Some of the unbelieving Jews thought that Paul had brought a Gentile into the Temple because they had seen him walking around town with a Gentile.

He had not.

The Romans stepped in to take Paul away from the crowd, but Paul was allowed first to speak to the crowd.

Paul gave his first defense to the crowd, but they only went wild when he mentioned that Jesus had sent him to preach to the Gentiles.
Paul’s next defense was before the Sanhedrin.
When the Romans find out that there is a Jewish conspiracy to have Paul killed, they send him to Caesarea at night to be held for trial before the Roman governor.
Paul’s third defense was before Felix the governor in Caesarea.  But it’s now two years later, and the new governor of Judaea is named Porcius Festus (“Pig Party”)

25:1-12 Paul and Festus

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

:1 Festus

Porcius Festus was the Roman procurator of Judaea AD 58-62.

His name could be translated “Pig Party”.

It is kind of ironic that the Jews are being governed by a “pig”.  How un-Kosher.

In honor of Porcius Festus, I will share one of 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

Festus came to Judaea as things were beginning to heat up between the Jews and Rome.

Festus’ predecessor, Felix, had been accused by the Jews of great abuse.
9. (182) Now, when Porcius Festus was sent as successor to Felix by Nero, the principal of the Jewish inhabitants of Cesarea went up to Rome to accuse Felix; and he had certainly been brought to punishment, unless Nero had yielded to the importunate solicitations of his brother Pallas, who was at that time had in the greatest honor by him.[1]
Four years after Festus left Judaea, full scale war would break out between the Jews and Rome, ending with the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.

Festus would try to calm things down with the Jews.

He would have the reputation of being a kind ruler over the Jews.

One of the problems at this time was with a band of robbers who carried small curved swords looking like sickles.  These men were called the sicarii (“dagger men”).  They would come into the city during festival times and kill and rob people.
10. (185) Upon Festus’s coming into Judea, it happened that Judea was afflicted by the robbers, while all the villages were set on fire, and plundered by them. [2]
The sicarii were led by a man who promised his followers freedom from their miseries.  Festus would send his Roman troops out to rid the country of the sicarii.

Yet these things were in the future.  For now, Festus is the new guy on the block, trying to learn about these pesky Jews.

:1 from Caesarea to Jerusalem

The normal residence of the Roman governors was in Caesarea.  Caesarea was the secular capital of Judaea.

Jerusalem though was considered by the Jews to be their capital, the religious capital of Judaea.

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.
As a wise governor, Festus goes to spend some time with the religious leaders to help cement his new role as governor.

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

:2 high priest – There is a new high priest by this time.  His name is Ismael

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

:2 informed him against Paul

Even though it’s been two years, the Jewish religious leaders have not forgotten about Paul.

They ask Festus to hold a trial in Jerusalem to settle the matter.

:2 they lay in ambush

Two years ago there had been a plot by 40 men who had sworn an oath not to eat until they had killed Paul.

This was what had led to Paul being moved to Caesarea for protection.

Do you think that the original 40 men who had sworn that oath are in on this?

: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.”

:4 Paul should be kept at Caesarea

We don’t know whether or not Festus was aware of the plot two years earlier to have Paul killed.

:4 accuse this man

Festus invites the Jewish leaders to once again make their case against Paul, but to do it in Caesarea.

: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.”

:7 laid many serious complaints

We aren’t told the specifics of what they accused Paul of, though we will catch a glimpse of how Festus remembered the charges at the end of the chapter (Acts 25:18-19)

(Acts 25:18–19 NKJV) —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.

: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?”

:9 go up to Jerusalem

Initially Festus wanted to keep the trial in Caesarea.  Now that he gets a better idea of what it’s all about, he’s waffling.  He’s considering whether he ought to continue the trial in Jerusalem.  Perhaps there he might get more information about this religious stuff.

:9 wanting to do the Jews a favor

Festus knows that to keep the peace in Judaea, he needs to make a favorable impression with the Jewish leadership.  And that’s not an easy thing to do.

So Festus asks Paul is he would be open to having another trial in Jerusalem.

Festus will say later that he was uncertain about the things the Jewish leaders were accusing Paul of (Acts 25:20) and that’s why he suggests going to Jerusalem … so he can learn more about these events.
(Acts 25:20 NKJV) —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.
He will also say that Paul hasn’t done anything worthy of death. (Acts 25:25)
(Acts 25:25 NKJV) —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.
But I wonder if he simply isn’t trying to give the Jewish leaders a chance to build a better case against Paul.


Man Pleasers

To Festus’ credit, he is trying to keep the peace with the Jews.
To him, the high priest and leaders before him carry much more weight than this nobody named Paul.
But there is a sense in which Festus is playing the part of the “man pleaser”
While Jesus was alive, there were Jewish rulers who actually believed in Jesus, but were afraid to say anything.  During Jesus’ last week, John recorded:
(John 12:42–43 NKJV) —42 Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.

These leaders were more concerned about the kind of response they would get from people than they were about the kind of response they would get from God.

Yet since we are all one day going to stand before our Great God in judgment, isn’t it ultimately more important to be concerned about God’s opinion of us?

Paul would write to the Colossians from his prison in Rome:
(Colossians 3:22–25 NKJV) —22 Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. 23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. 25 But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.
Some people will do anything to get noticed by the right people.

Office Copier?

An ambitious, young executive is working late at corporate headquarters one evening. As he comes out of his office about 8:00 PM he sees the Big Boss standing by the shredder in the hallway, a piece of paper in his hand. “Do you know how to work this thing?” the older man asks “My secretary’s gone home and I don’t know how to run it.” “Yes, sir,” says the young executive, who efficiently turns on the machine, takes the paper from the other man, and feeds it in. “Great,” says his boss, “I just need the one copy...”

Some employees will do anything just to keep the boss happy.

A salesman is called into his Boss’s office....His boss says.... We’re sending you up to Canada to be the sales rep there.... The man complains immediately.... “Canada !!! there’s nothing up in Canada but Hockey players and ugly women!!!!!” The Boss looks at him sternly and says “MY WIFE is from Canada”.  The man, thinking very quickly on his feet replies ... “Oh really???? What position does she play????? !!!!!!”

Again, to Festus’ credit, he’s trying to keep the peace with the Jews.
But there’s a bigger issue here – what is the right thing for Paul’s life?

: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.

: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.”

:11 no one can deliver me to them

Paul knew his rights as a Roman citizen.

We’ve already seen Paul exercise his rights several times.

In Acts 16, Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown into prison in Philippi.  That night there was an earthquake that broke open the prison, but Paul and the other prisoners did not leave.
The next morning the city officials decided to release Paul quietly and have him leave out the back door, but Paul whipped out his Roman Citizenship Card –

(Acts 16:37 NKJV) —37 But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us openly, uncondemned Romans, and have thrown us into prison. And now do they put us out secretly? No indeed! Let them come themselves and get us out.”

When the officials heard that Paul was a Roman citizen, they came and apologized profusely

When Paul was first arrested in Jerusalem two years earlier, the Roman guards were about to scourge him …
(Acts 22:25 NKJV) And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who stood by, “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman, and uncondemned?”

The commander immediately stopped the beating and knew he could have gotten into trouble for having Paul bound.

Now Paul exerts his rights as a Roman to stand trial before those he’s accused of, but in a court of Roman Law, not Jewish Law.  Paul has a right to appeal his case before Caesar.

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

:12 To Caesar you shall go

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

The Emperor in Rome at that time was the 21 year old Caesar Nero (ruled AD 54-68).

It is the year AD 58.
Nero would eventually be connected to the deaths of Paul and Peter in AD 64, the same year that Rome burned and the fire was blamed on the Christians.


Promises Kept

God keeps His promises.
At the beginning of the book of Joshua God makes a promise to Joshua:
(Joshua 1:1–6 NKJV) —1 After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, it came to pass that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying: 2 “Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them—the children of Israel. 3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your territory. 5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. 6 Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.

God promised to give the Israelites the entire land of Canaan.

As the book progresses, things get tough.  The Israelites have a lot of battles they have to fight.

Yet at the end of the book of Joshua we read:
(Joshua 21:43–45 NKJV) —43 So the Lord gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it. 44 The Lord gave them rest all around, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers. And not a man of all their enemies stood against them; the Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand. 45 Not a word failed of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass.

God kept the promises He made to Moses and Joshua.  He gave Israel their Promised Land.

It would still take effort on their part, but it all came to pass.

Two years earlier, after having first been arrested in Jerusalem…
(Acts 23:11 NKJV) But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome.”

God made an interesting promise to Paul that he would go to Rome and be a witness there.

That promise is about to be kept.

Paul will be travelling on a full expense paid trip, courtesy of the government of Rome.

He will be under arrest.

But he will make it.

God has promises for us as well.
There are general promises for all believers.  Paul would write to Titus from his prison in Rome a few years from now:

(Titus 1:1–2 NLT) —1 This letter is from Paul, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. I have been sent to proclaim faith to those God has chosen and to teach them to know the truth that shows them how to live godly lives. 2 This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God—who does not lie—promised them before the world began.

We all have the promise of eternal life.

There may be battles along the way, but God promises to get us through.

There are also individual promises we might receive from God as well (like Paul going to Rome).
God keeps His promises.

It may not be done the way you expect, but it will be done.

25:13-27 Agrippa arrives

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

:13 King Agrippa

This was King Agrippa II, son of Herod Agrippa I (12:1) and a great-grandson of Herod the Great (Matt. 2:1).

If you look at the family genealogy chart of the Herod family, here are the ones we are familiar with:

Herod the Great was the king who tried to kill the baby Jesus.  He is also the great builder, enlarging the temple, building cities like Caesarea.
Herod Antipas (Herod the Great’s son) was the one who had John the Baptist beheaded, and before whom Jesus stood trial.
Herod Agrippa I (Antipas’ nephew) was the king who killed James the apostle and had Peter briefly imprisoned.  He had three kids – Agrippa II, Drusilla (who married governor Felix), and Bernice.
Herodias (Antipas’ niece) was the sister to Agrippa I, and was married to both her uncle Herod Philip I, and then to Herod Antipas.  John the Baptist had rebuked Herod Antipas for marrying his brother’s wife.  She is the one who forced Antipas to have John killed.
Herod Agrippa II is the one Paul is going to speak to.
Drusilla is the gal who was married to governor Felix (Acts 23), and who would one day die at Pompeii.
Bernice is the sister to King Agrippa. She would marry her uncle Herod Chalcis, then a guy named Polemon (king of Cilicia).  At this time she was living in incest with her brother Agrippa II.  Yuck.  She will one day be the mistress to Titus, the man who would conquer Jerusalem and one day be emperor.
I believe that the Herod family actually starred in the first season of “Days of our Lives” (isn’t the show that old???  Or it could have been a reality TV show – “The Real Wives of Caesarea”.

:13 Bernice

She had been married to an earlier king of Chalcis, but was at the moment married to Polemon, 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 become 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.’

This was the right of every Roman citizen.

: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.

: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.

:19 their own religion and about a certain Jesus

We weren’t told earlier what was said in this last hearing before Festus, but we do have Festus’ summary of the main issues.

In reality, when Paul was first arrested, the issue was whether Paul had brought a Gentile into the Temple or not.

Now it’s gotten down to the real issue – Jesus.
Paul had made the claim that Jesus had died and had come back to life.
It sounds to me like Paul is finding a way to share the gospel with the governor.

Festus is a pagan Roman and this is all WAY outside of his comfort zone, experience, and knowledge base.

: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.

: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.”

:21 Augustussebastos – reverend, venerable; the title of the Roman emperors

There was an Emperor named Augustus (reigned 27BC – 14 AD) at the time of Christ’s birth.

After that, all the Emperor’s took this title.

: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.

:23 auditoriumakroaterion – a place set aside for hearing and deciding cases

We think this was the “theater” in Caesarea.

:23 Agrippa and Bernice


The Testimony

Jesus had told His followers:
(Matthew 10:16–20 NKJV) —16 “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.

Some people will take this to mean that a pastor shouldn’t do any studying before his sermon because the Holy Spirit will just tell him what to say.

Keep in mind, Jesus wasn’t talking about sermons, He was talking about making your defense before kings.

I think there is a place for studying and being prepared.

Paul wrote,

(2 Timothy 2:15 NLT) Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.

Peter wrote,

(1 Peter 3:15 NKJV) But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;

What Jesus was talking about was the importance of learning to rely upon the Holy Spirit.

We can study and study and study and never learn to say the right things.

We can find ourselves using the Bible as some sort of a weapon to win arguments and slash our enemies to pieces.

That will win nobody.

Jesus said,

(John 14:26 NKJV) But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.

I think it’s important that we maintain a close relationship with the Lord so He can guide us and the words we should say.

Let’s watch a video of what we’ve just read about…

Play Acts – Festus and Agrippa – clip – Acts 25:13-27

: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.

:25 committed nothing deserving of death

I find it interesting that Festus lacked the courage to simply acquit Paul and set him free.

: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.”

:26 especially before you, King Agrippa

One of the things under Herod Agrippa II was the authority to appoint the high priest.

8. (179) About this time king Agrippa gave the high priesthood to Ismael, who was the son of Fabi.[3]
Josephus records that the high priest at this time was a man named Ismael the son of Fabi.

Even though Agrippa was the descendant of an Edomite (Herod the Great), he was considered royalty among the Jews.

He knew a lot about everything Jewish.
If Festus wants to understand this controversy before him, Agrippa is the perfect person to help school him in this new experience of Judaism.

:27 specify the charges

Festus could possibly lose his job if he is sending stupid court issues to Caesar without telling him what they were about.

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.


[1] Josephus, F., & Whiston, W. (1987). The works of Josephus: complete and unabridged. Peabody: Hendrickson.

[2] Josephus, F., & Whiston, W. (1987). The works of Josephus: complete and unabridged. Peabody: Hendrickson.

[3] Josephus, F., & Whiston, W. (1987). The works of Josephus: complete and unabridged. Peabody: Hendrickson.