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Always Ready to Give Account. Acts 25:13-27

26/11/2021

Always Ready to Give Account

Text: Acts 25:13-27 

This study is mostly history and background that we will need to understand what’s happening later, in Acts 26.  Festus has a problem!

1 The Problem27 For it seemeth to me unreasonable to send a prisoner, and not withal to signify the crimes laid against him.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Roman Law was strict.  Under certain circumstances, a man who was accused of a crime had a right of appeal, and that went right to the top of the empire to the supreme court of the day, to Caesar himself. The Law of Rome dictated that any lessor magistrate, like Festus, would have to make sure that an appellant to the court at Rome had substantial charges placed against him, and that they were properly documented, in a file, personally submitted by the procurator.  Festus would have to write that letter himself.   But did it all add up?  Festus KNEW Paul was innocent.  Acts 25:10, 25.  If he sent a man to Caesar who had no charges to answer, – he was in danger of wasting the time of the supreme court, – and what would he write anyway?  This whole matter seemed to be about nothing other than the Jewish religion, and Festus knew nothing about it!  What a problem, – until a solution offered itself, in the shape of one King Herod Agrippa II.

2 The Prince13 And after certain days king Agrippa and Bernice came unto Caesarea to salute Festus. 

There was a ‘king.’  

  • King Herod Agrippa II, who was the Roman-appointed ruler of a tiny little piece of Palestine, around Galilee. He was the seventh and the last of the Herodian dynasty, that began with his great grandfather Herod the Great, the man who slaughtered the children, at the time of the birth of Christ. He was a ‘king’ – but he was little more than a provincial super-mayor!  He needed to keep Rome on his side, and there was a new Roman Procurator, a governor in Caesarea, – and Agrippa needed to go and grovel to him!  
  • Bernice.  Now here’s a nasty piece of work.  Bernice was the Greek form of her name.  To the Romans she was Veronica.  She was Agrippa’s sister, and she was totally devoid of morals.  She was living with her brother as man and wife, – an incestuous relationship.   

Compare the extreme immorality and decadence of Roman society with our modern society; a society that has lost its moral compass.  Can such a society last?  Are we approaching the end of our western civilisation?  What will succeed it?  We must hope that the Lord returns, before this civilisation as we know it ends, and our children and grandchildren are enslaved in whatever evil system replaces our so-called democracy.

There was one thing that Herod was good at.  He knew the Jews! His family had dealt with them for generations.  He was one! The Romans had appointed him as the nominator of the Jewish High Priests.  He could appoint them and he could remove them, and he had a palace in Jerusalem, near the temple.  He was totally immoral – but he was a Jew, just like the immoral Jews of the Old Testament.  Festus decided to pick his brain, and get some ideas for his report to the supreme court at Rome…  In v14-21 Festus gives Agrippa a summary of the case as he understood it.

  • There is a man that the Jews want dead!  V14-15 They wanted an automatic declaration of guilt, and an ensuing execution.     
  • But Roman Law prohibits such a judgement.  A Roman citizen cannot be deemed guilty without trial.  V16-17 
  • And the charges won’t stick in Rome. The charges against the man are matters of Jewish religion alone. V18-19 It’s unlikely that such an accomplished diplomat would offend Agrippa by referring to his beliefs as ‘superstition.’
  • But the heart of the Gospel is the real issue.  and of one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive. This is the crux of the matter.  The Jews knew about the risen Christ, but they had crucified him and they denied his messiahship and they wanted the Gospel message stopped.

Agrippa was only too willing to help. V22  

3. The Parade.  V23  

This is where we reach a teaching point.  I want you to use your imagination as you read the text.  Think of what this occasion would be like.  The Romans loved pomp and ceremony – and they did it really well.  Verse 23 speaks of ‘great pomp’ The Greek word is φαντασία (phantasia) a fantastic, visual representation of the greatness of Rome.  Now, contrast this ‘great pomp’ of Rome with the man who is brought into the scene now.  Paul the Apostle.  There is only one secular, non-biblical description of Paul. It comes from a man called Onesiphorus.  In the Acts of Paul and Thecla, which in some respects agrees with early Christian paintings, is well known. There, Onesiphorus sees Paul as “a man small of stature, with a bald head and crooked legs, in a good state of body, with eyebrows meeting and nose somewhat hooked, full of friendliness; for now he appeared like a man, and now he had the face of an angel.”  And he is in chains.  What a contrast.  I’m only illustrating this because one day any one of us might find ourselves in a similar situation – where we have to defend our Christian faith in a totally intimidatory situation. Paul was in that situation.  Later he would write to a young pastor, who may well find himself in similar straits READ:2 Timothy 4:2   This was an ‘out of season’ time, but Paul would still preach the word, and so should we.

4. The Preamble. v24-26

Festus sums up the charges and the court proceedings to date.  V24-26 

There’s just one thing we need to clear up.  That’s the AV’s use of Augustus, for when Paul appealed to Caesar.  It’s not a chronological error.   The Greek word here is σεβαστός and it means ‘venerable,’  – ‘His Majesty.’   

So, the scene is set. V27. Festus needs to write a report, Agrippa is conversant with the background information and theological insights that he needs, and the prisoner is before them.  What will Paul say, and how will he say it?

© Bob McEvoy December 2021

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