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Preaching Politics – Acts 25:1-12

13/11/2021

Preaching Politics

Text: Acts 254:27-25:12

Retaining integrity in a political career, especially when that career climbs into one of the ‘great offices of state’ is extremely challenging, and politicians need our prayers.   We will use this passage as a case-study!  First let’s learn about:-

A Typical Bust of ‘Caesar.’

1. The Political Situation.

Felix has left Judaea for Rome, and in a final act of selfishness, Felix had left Paul in prison, despite his innocence, in the hope that the Jews might drop their charges. They didn’t. Acts 24:27  Felix is replaced by Porcius Festus. Let’s find out a little about him.

  • A new broom.  Festus is an unknown.  He appears in Judaea around AD59/60, and he governed there for just two years until he died.  Judaea was a troublesome province, and Felix had made it worse.  Unlike Felix, Festus was the consummate politician, a decisive man.  V1.  Festus is going to grasp the nettle, right away and, he travelled straight away to Jerusalem.  There he found:-
  • An old prejudice. VIt surely must be an indication of the utter hatred that the Jews had for Paul, that when the new governor gives them time to air their grievances they choose to talk about Paul! They want him dead. 
  • A shabby old plot.  The Jews are not exactly original thinkers and it’s more or less the same plan they had two years before.  If they could just get Paul out of the prison and on his way to the council at Jerusalem they could have him assassinated along the way. V3  

Now we see Festus’ political acumen. He declared a compromise solution, offering the Jews what they wanted, on his terms… V4-5  This will be Paul’s third trial since he arrived in Jerusalem, and now he must face the very same charges before a new judge, Festus.  How would he fare?

2. When Justice and Politics Class

Festus is on the bench, and Paul is summoned to the court.  v6  

  • The old old story!  The Jews bring their charges.  VThey were the very same charges that they had brought when Felix was on the bench.  They were false, and they had no evidence and they had already been discredited. Heresy, for they considered Christianity to be a perversion of their religion.  Profaning the temple, for they had falsely accused Paul of bringing a gentile into the Temple.  It was untrue, they had no evidence and the original accusers from Asia were long gone, Sedition against Rome and thus dishonouring Caesar for they said that Paul had tried to start a rebellion.  

Luke doesn’t go into any great detail here, but summarises, on account of the repetition of their accusations.  Neither does he elaborate on Paul’s defence.  V8 It’s then that Festus shocks them all with an unexpected suggestion.

  • An unexpected suggestion.  Now, this is where we get some insight into a politician’s mind.  Festus is basically a decent man.  He has, by all accounts a sense of fairness, and for a pagan, a moral compass.  He believes in Roman justice, and he knows that Paul is innocent, and that he should let him go free.  But he is a politician.  He MUST put what he considers to be the political interests of Rome first, and like all politicians, he is ambitious for power.  How would it look in Rome if reports got back that a riot had occurred in the first month of his governorship?  If he let Paul go these Jews would revolt again, and the situation would get out of hand, and he’d be forced to restore order militarily and that was not what he was ordered to do, that was the method Felix had used.  Festus wanted a DIPLOMATIC solution.  So, instead of doing what is MORALLY RIGHT, and what is LEGALLY EQUITABLE, Festus tries a diplomatic compromise.  Luke calls it, “wanting to do the Jews a favour!”  V9   What a compromise!  It was just a change of location!  But it would give a little to each party, on the face of it, – Paul would still be under the jurisdiction of a Roman court, and the Jews would have the availability of witnesses, if such could be found, in the city.  Let’s pry a little deeper into the mind of the political animal.  What could Festus be thinking?
    • The doctrine of the greater good.  Perhaps an assassination wouldn’t be such a bad thing?  Paul was, after all, only one man, he was expendable in the greater scheme of things.  Rome wouldn’t shed any tears, if one man had to be sacrificed in the interest of peace and stability in the region.  Caesar would understand that, and Festus would be praised for such a pragmatic solution.
    • The doctrine of ‘sleight of hand.’  Or as it is sometimes called, ‘smoke and mirrors.’  It’s where a politician says one thing and means another, and many of them are pretty adept at it.   It is possible that Festus’ offer of a trial under Roman Law at Jerusalem, would very quickly morph into a trial under Jewish law.  Paul certainly suspected this, when he gave his answer, if there is nothing in these things of which these men accuse me, no one can deliver me to them It seems Paul was aware of this possibility, that once in Jerusalem, the political reality would take over, and Festus, with all the hand-wringing piety of a duplicitous politician would mutter phrases like, “It is what it is…”. “Politic is the art of the possible…”.   

Either way, Festus’s solution would keep his hands clean and keep Rome happy.   It would have been suicide for Paul.  He refused, point blank. V10  Paul was already under Roman jurisdiction, but there is another, higher court, a court of appeal.  Every Roman citizen had this right, when accused at a lower court, under certain circumstances to appeal to Caesar.   V11  

Would Caesar’s court be any better? Paul had seen Roman justice already, at Corinth for instance, when Gallio had dismissed the Jewish accusations out of hand, and probably reasoned that he had a better chance of justice at Rome than at Jerusalem.  Festus must consult his legal team, and when they agreed that Paul qualified for this appeal, Festus declared, “To Caesar you shall go!” v12  

3. Applications.

It’s an interesting historical account.  But how does it help us?  What can we learn from it?  

  1. We need to pray for politicians.  1 Timothy 2:1-2 We are to pray for all of them, even the politicians that we don’t like, the ones who are arrogant and the ones that are troughers, and the ones who are in opposition to us.  Paul was urging Timothy to pray for a pagan king, a pagan ruler.  We are especially to pray for the Christian politicians.
  2. We should try to understand the pressures they come under, so that we can pray from them intelligently.  They are put upon by vested interests, the media, the party whips, party loyalty, pressure and lobby groups, the Twitterati, etc etc.  When we pray for our politicians, pray that God will help them to resist the evil influences and do what is good.  Ephesians 6:12. 
  3. We should remember that politicians are not the ultimate authority.   They rule under God, who is sovereign, and who works all things together for good, for those who are his.  Because of this, we do not depend on politician, and nor do we trust them with our wellbeing. Daniel 2:21 

In our next study we will look closer at verses 10-11, and examine the Christian’s attitude to the law, and the representatives of the law – the Civil Magistrate.

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