Foetus therefore having come for now when Foetus was come, A.V.; went up for he ascended, A.V.; to Jerusalem from Casarea for from Caesarea to Jerusalem, A.V. The province ( ἐπαρχία); above, Acts 23:1-35. 34. After three days, etc. It is an evidence of the diligence of Foetus that he lost no time in going to Jerusalem, the center of disaffection to the Roman government.
And for then, A.V.; chief priests for high priest, A.V. and T.R.; principal men for chief, A.V.; and they besought for and besought, A.V. Chief priests; as in Acts 25:15 and Acts 22:30. But the reading of the T.R., "the high priest," is more in accordance with Acts 24:1, and is approved by Alford. The high priest at this time was no longer Ananias, but Ismael the son of Phabi, who was appointed by King Agrippa towards the close of Felix's government (Josephus, 'Ant. Jud.,' 20. Acts 8:8). He went to Rome to appeal to Nero about the wall which the Jews had built to screen the temple from being overlooked, and which Agrippa had ordered to be pulled down; and being detained at Rome as a hostage, he was succeeded in the high priesthood by Joseph Cabi the son of Simon. We may feel sure that on this occasion he was present before Festus, for he had not yet gone to Rome. Informed him ( ἐνεφάνισαν); see Acts 24:1, note. The principal men of the Jews ( οἱ πρῶτοι). In Acts 24:15 Festus speaks of them as οἱ πρεσβύτεροι. The question arises as to whether the two phrases are identical in their meaning. Meyer thinks that the πρῶτοι includes leading men who were not elders, i.e. not Sanhedrists. Josephus calls the leading Jews of Caesarea οἱ πρωτεύοντες τῶν ἰουδαίων ('Ant. Jud.,' 20. Acts 8:9).
Asking for and desired, A.V.; to kill him on the way for in the way to kill him, A.V. Asking favor, etc. The Jews evidently thought to take advantage of the inexperience of Festus, and of his natural desire to please them at his first start, to accomplish their murderous intentions against Paul.
Howbeit for but. A.V.; was kept in charge for should be kept, A.V.; was about to depart thither shortly for would depart shortly thither, A.V. Was kept in charge. Festus did not merely mention the fact, which the Jews knew already, that Paul was a prisoner at Caesarea, but his determination to keep him there till he could go down and try him. The A.V. gives the meaning. Either δεῖν is to be understood, as if Foetus should say, "Paul is a Roman citizen; Caesarea is the proper place for him to be tried at before the procurator, and therefore he must be kept in custody there," or some such words as, "I have given orders" must be understood before "that Paul should be kept."
Saith for said, A.V.; which are of power among you for which among you are able, A.V.; if there is anything amiss in the man, let them accuse him for accuse this man, if there be any wickedness in him, A.V. Which are of power among you; i.e. your chief men, or, as we should say, your best men, which would include ability to conduct the accusation as well as mere station. Josephus frequently uses δυνατοί in the sense of "men of rank and power and influence," ἰουδαίων οἱ δυνατώτατοι ('Ant. Jud.,' 14. 13.1); ἤκον ἰουδαίων οἱ δυνατοί ('Bell. Jud.,' 1. 12.4), etc. (see 1 Corinthians 1:26; Revelation 6:15; and the passages from Thucydides, Xenophon, and Philo, quoted by Kuinoel). The rendering of the A.V., though defensible, is less natural and less in accordance with the genius of the language. Amiss; ἄτοπον, but many manuscripts omit ἄτοπον, leaving the sense, however, the same.
Not more than eight or ten days for more than ten days, A.V. and T.R.; on the morrow for the next day, A.V.; he sat … and commanded for sitting … commanded, A.V. On the morrow (see Acts 25:17). To he brought ( ἀχθῆναι). The technical word for bringing a prisoner before the judge (Acts 6:12; Acts 18:12; Luke 21:12; Luke 23:1, etc.).
Had come down for came down, A.V.; about him for about, A.V.; bringing against him for and laid … against Paul, A.V.; charges for complaints, A.V. Charges; αἰτιάματα, only here in the New Testament, and rare in classical Greek. The A.V. "complaints" means in older English exactly the same as "charges" or "accusations" (comp. "plaintiff").
Paul said in his defense for he answered for himself, A.V. and T.R.; nor for neither, A.V.; against for yet against, A.V.; sinned for offended anything, A.V. Said in his defense ( ἀπολογουμένοΰ); Acts 24:10, note. The Law … the temple,… Caesar. The accusations against him fell under these three heads (Acts 24:5): he was the ringleader of an unlawful sect; he had profaned the temple; and he had stirred up insurrection against the government among the Jews. The accusations were false under every head.
Desiring to gain favor with the Jews for willing to do the Jews a pleasure, A.V. To gain favor, etc. (see above, Acts 24:27, note). It was not unnatural that Festus, ignorant as he still was of Jewish malice and bigotry and violence, in the ease of Paul, and anxious to conciliate a people so difficult to govern as the Jews had showed themselves to be, should make the proposal. In doing so he still insisted that the trial should be before him. Before me; ἐπ ἐμοῦ, as Acts 23:30 and Acts 26:2; ἐπὶ σοῦ "before thee," viz. King Agrippa in the last case, and Felix in the former. The expression is somewhat ambiguous, and may merely mean that Festus would be present in the court to ensure fair play, while the Sanhedrim judged Paul according to their Law, and so Paul seems, by his answer, to have understood it.
But Paul said for then said Paul, A.V.; I am standing for I stand, A.V.; before for at, A.V.; thou also for thou, A.V. I am standing before Caesar's judgment-seat ( ἑστώς εἰμι). The judgment-seat of the procurator, who ministered judgment in Caesar's name and by his authority, was rightly called "Caesar's judgment-seat." As a Roman citizen, Paul had a right to be tried there, and not before the Sanhedrim. The pretence that he had offended against the Jewish Law, and therefore ought to be tried by the Jewish court, was a false one, as Festus well knew; for he had the record of the preceding trial before him.
If then I am a wrong, doer for for if I be an offender, A.V. and T.R.; and for or, A.V.; if none of those things is true for if there be none of these things, A.V.; can give me up for may deliver me, A.V. I refuse not; οὐ παραιτοῦμαι. Here only in the Acts, and three times in Luke 14:1-35. Elsewhere, four times in the pastoral Epistles, and twice in Hebrews. Frequent in classical Greek. No man can give me up ( χαρίσασθαι); as verse 16, "to hand over as a matter of complaisance." St. Paul saw at once the danger he was in from Festus's inclination to curry favor with the Jews. With his usual fearlessness, therefore, and perhaps with the same quickness of temper which made him call Ananias "a whited wall," he said, "No man (not even the mighty Roman governor) may make me over to them at their request, to please them," and with the ready wit which characterized him, and with a knowledge of the rights which the Lex Julia, in addition to other laws, conferred on him as a Roman citizen, he immediately added, I appeal unto Caesar.
Thou hast for hast thou? A.V. and, as far as punctuation is concerned, T.R. The council. Not the members of the Sanhedrim who were present, but his own consiliarii, or assessores, as they were called, in Greek πάρεδροι, with whom the Roman governor advised before giving judgment. Unto Caesar shalt thou go. In like manner, Pliny (quoted by Kuinoel) says of certain Christians who had appealed to Caesar, that, "because they were Roman citizens, he had thought it right to send them to Rome for trial" ('Epist.,' 10.97). Festus, though, maybe, rather startled by Paul's appeal, was perhaps not sorry to be thus rid of a difficult case, and at the same time to leave the Jews under the impression that he himself was willing to send the prisoner for trial to Jerusalem, had it been possible.
Now when certain days were passed for and after certain days, A.V.; Agrippa the king and Bernice arrived at for King Agrippa and Bernice came unto, A.V.; and saluted for to salute, A.V. and T.R. Agrippa the king. Herod Agrippa II., son of Herod Agrippa I. (Acts 12:1-25.), and consequently brother of Drusilla (Acts 24:24). He was only seventeen at his father's death, and so not considered by Claudius a safe person to entrust his father's large dominions to. But he gave him Chalets, and afterwards, in exchange for it, other dominions. It was he who made Ismael the son of Phabi high priest, and who built the palace at Jerusalem which overlooked the temple, and gave great offence to the Jews. He was the last of the Herods, and reigned above fifty years. Bernice was his sister, but was thought to be living in an incestuous intercourse with him. She had been the wife of her uncle Herod, Prince of Chalets; and on his death lived with her brother. She then for a while became the wife of Polemo, King of Cicilia, but soon returned to Herod Agrippa. She afterwards became the mistress of Vespasian and of Titus in succession (Alford). And saluted; ἀσπασόμενοι, which reading Meyer and Alford both retain. The reading of the R.T. is ἀσπασάμενοι. It is quite in accordance with the position of a dependent king, that he should come and pay his respects to the new Roman governor at Caesarea.
As they tarried for when they had been, A.V.: laid for declared, A.V.; case for cause, A.V.; before for unto, A.V.; a prisoner for in bonds, A.V. Many days ( πλείους ἡμέρας). Not necessarily many, but as Acts 24:17 (margin), "some," or "several." The number indicated by the comparative degree, πλείων, depends upon what it is compared with. Here it means more days than was necessary for fulfilling the purpose of their visit, which was to salute Festus. They stayed on some days longer. Laid Paul's case before the king; ἀνέθετο τὰ κατὰ τὸν παῦλον. The word only occurs in the New Testament here and in Galatians 2:2, "I laid before them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles." In 2 Macc. 3:9, ἀνέθετο περὶ τοῦ γεγονότος ἐμφανισμοῦ, "Heliodorus laid before the high priest Onias the information that had been given about the treasure in the temple" (see other passages quoted by Kuinoel). The word might be rendered simply "told," the thing told being in the accusative, and the person to whom it is told in the dative. It was very natural that Festus should take the opportunity of consulting Agrippa, a Jew, and expert in all questions of Jewish Law, about Paul's cause.
Asking for sentence for desiring to hare judgment, A.V. and T.R. The chief priests (Acts 25:2, note). Informed me (see above, Acts 25:2, and Acts 24:1, note).
That it is for it is, A.V.; custom for manner, A.V.; to give up for to deliver … to die, A.V. and T.R.; the accused for he which is accused, A.V.; have had opportunity to make his defense concerning the matter for have license to answer for himself concerning the crime, A.V. To give up (above, Acts 25:11, note). Have had opportunity to make his defense ( τόπον ἀπολογίας λάβοι); see Acts 22:1, note.
When therefore for therefore, when, A.V.; together here for hither, A.V.; I made no delay for without any delay, A.V.; but on the next day for on the morrow, A.V.; sat down for I sat, A.V.; brought for brought forth, A.V. To be brought (above, Acts 25:6).
Concerning for against, A.V.; no charge for none accusation, A.V.; evil things for things, A.V. and T.R. They brought no charge. The expression, common in classical writers, ἐπιφέρειν αἰτίαν, answers to the Latin legal phrase, crimen inferre (Cicero, 'Contr. Verrem.,' 5.41; 'Ad Herenn.,' 4.35). Such evil things as I supposed; viz. seditions, insurrections, murders, and such like, which were so rife at this time.
Religion for superstition, A.V.; who for which, A.V. Certain questions ζήτηματα); Acts 15:2; Acts 18:15; Acts 23:29, etc. Religion ( δεισιδαιμονία); see Acts 17:22, δεισιδαιμονεστέρους, where there is the same doubt as here whether to take it in a good sense or a bad one. Here, as Festus, a man of the world, was speaking to a king who was a Jew, he is not likely to have intended to use an offensive phrase. So it is best to render it "religion," as the R.V. does. But Bishop Wordsworth renders τῆς ἰδίας δεισιδαιμονίας his own superstition, Paul's, which agrees with the context. These details must have been among those "complaints" spoken of in Acts 17:7. Whom Paul affirmed to be alive. Notice the stress constantly laid by the apostle upon the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. If his own superstition is the right rendering, we have here the nature of it, in Festus's view, belief in the resurrection of Jesus.
I, being perplexed how to inquire concerning these things, asked for because I doubted of such manner of questions, I asked him,, A.V. and T.R. I, being perplexed, etc. The ζήτησις spoken of by Festus does not mean his own judicial inquiry, though it is so used once in Polybius (6. Acts 16:2), but the disputes or discussions on such subjects as the Resurrection, etc. (John 3:25; 1 Timothy 1:4; 1 Timothy 6:4; 2 Timothy 2:23; Titus 3:9), in which Festus felt himself at a loss. The A.V., therefore, expresses the sense more nearly than the R.V. The T.R. too, which inserts εἰς before τὴν περὶ τούτων ζήτησιν, is preferable to the R.T., because ἀποροῦμαι does not govern an accusative case, but is almost always followed by a preposition. Those who follow the reading of the T.R., περὶ τούτου, either understand πράγματος or refer τούτου to Paul or to Jesus.
To be kept for the decision of the emperor for to be reserved unto the hearing of Augustus, A.V.; should for might, A.V. The decision; διαγνῶσις, here only in the New Testament; but it is used in this sense in Wis. 3:18 ("the day of trial," or "hearing," A.V.), and by Josephus ('Ant. Jud.,' 15. 3:8). For the verb διαγινώσκω, see Acts 23:1-35. 15; Acts 24:22, notes. The emperor ( τοῦ σεβαστοῦ); rather, as the A.V., Augustus. Augustus was the title conferred by the senate upon Octavius Caesar, B.C. 27, whom we commonly designate Augustus Caesar. It became afterwards the distinctive title of the reigning emperor, and, after the end of the second century, sometimes of two or even three co-emperors, and was now berne by Nero. Its Greek equivalent was σεβαστός. Augustus may be derived, as Ovid says, from augeo, as faustus from farce, and be kindred with augur, and mean one blest and aggrandized of God, and so, full of majesty. It is spoken of all holy things, temples and the like, "Et queocunque sua Jupiter auget ope" (Ovid, 'Fast.,' 1.609); and, as Ovid says in the same passage, is a title proper to the gods. For, comparing it with the names of the greatest Roman families, Maximus, Magnus, Torquatus, Corvus, etc., their names, he says, bespeak human honors, but of Augustus, he says, "Hie socium summo cum Jove nomen habet." And so the Greek σεβαστός bespeaks a veneration closely akin to adoration. Caesar, originally the name of a family of the Juliagens, became the name of Octavius Caesar Augustus, as the adopted son of Julius Caesar; then of Tiberius, as the adopted son of Augustus; and then of the successors of Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero, who had by descent or adoption some relationship to C. Julius Caesar the great dictator. After Nero, succeeding emperors usually prefixed the name of Caesar to their other names, and placed that of Augustus after them. AElius Verus, adopted by Hadrian, was the first person who bore the name of Caesar without being emperor. From this time it became usual for the heir to the throne to bear the name; and later, for many of the emperor's kindred to be so called. It was, in fact, a title of honor conferred by the emperor.
And for then, A.V.; I also could wish to hear for I would also hear, A.V.; saith for said, A.V. I also could wish ( ἐβουλόμην); but the A.V. "I would" quite sufficiently expresses the imperfect tense (ich wollte) and the indirect wish intended. Meyer well compares ηὐχόμην (Romans 9:3) and ἤθελον (Galatians 4:20).
So for and, A.V.; they were for was, A.V.; the principal for principal, A.V.; the command of Festus for Festus' commandment, A.V.;brought in for brought forth, A.V. With great pomp; μετὰ πολλῆς φαντασίας, here only in the New Testament. In Polybius it means "display," "show," "outward appearance," "impression," "effect," and the like. It is of frequent use among medical writers for the outward appearance of diseases. In Hebrews 12:21 τὸ φανταζόμενον is "the appearance," and φάντασμα is "an appearance," "a phantom." The place of hearing. The word ἀκροατήριον (from ἀκροάομαι to hear, whence ἀκροάτης, Romans 2:13; James 1:22, James 1:23, James 1:25) occurs only here in the New Testament. It is literally an "audience-hall," and means sometimes a "lecture-room." Here it is apparently the hall where cases were heard and tried before the procurator or other magistrate. Chief captains ( χιλίαρχοι). Military tribunes, as Acts 21:31, and very frequently in the Acts. Meyer notes that, as there were five cohorts garrisoned in Caesarea, there would be five chiliarchs, or tribunes. At the command of Festus. These minute touches suggest that St. Luke was most likely in the hall, and saw the "great pomp," and heard Festus give the order lot Paul to be brought. Brought in ( ἤχθη); see verse 6, note.
Saith for said, A.V.; behold for see, A.V.; made suit to we for have dealt with me, A.V.; here for also here, A.V. That he ought not to live (Acts 22:22). This had evidently been repeated by the Jews before Festus himself (Acts 25:7), and is implied by Paul's words in Acts 25:11.
I found … I determined for when I found … I have determined, A.V. and T.R.; as for that, A.V. and T.R.; appealed for hath appealed, A.V.; the emperor for Augustus, A.V. Nothing worthy of death (see Acts 23:1-35. 29; and comp. Luke 23:1-56. 4, 15). I determined. The A.V., "when I found … I have determined," is hardly good grammar according to our present usage. It should be "determined," unless "when" is equivalent to "inasmuch as." If "when" expresses a point of past time from which the act of determining started, the perfect is improper in modern English. The same remark applies to the next verse, "I have brought him forth … that I might."
King for O king, A.V.; may for might, A.V. My lord ( τῷ κυτίῳ). Suetonius tells us that Augustus abhorred the title of "lord," and looked upon it as a curse and an insult when applied to himself. Tiberius also ('Life of Tiberius,' 27), being once called "lord" (dominus) by some one, indignantly repudiated the title. But it was frequently applied to Trajan by Pithy, and the later emperors seem to have accepted it. It was likely to grow up first in the East. Examination; ἀνακρίσεως, here only in the New Testament; but it is found in 3 Macc. 7:4 in the same sense as here, viz. of a judicial examination (the complaint being that Jews were put to death ἄνευ πάσης ἀνακρίσεως καὶ ἐξετάσεως); specially the precious examination of the prisoner made for the information of the judge who was to try the case. At Athens the ἀνάκρισις was a preliminary examination held to decide whether an action at law should be allowed. The verb ἀνακρίνω, to examine, occurs six times in the Gospel of St. Luke and the Acts (Luke 23:1-56. 14; Acts 4:9; Acts 12:19, etc.), and ten times in St. Paul's Epistles.
In sending … not for to send … and not, A.V.; charges for crimes laid, A.V. Unreasonable; ἄλογον, only in 2 Peter 2:12 and Jude 1:10, "without reason," applied to the brute creation; but found in the LXX. of Exod, 6:12 and Wis. 11:15; and also frequent in medical writers. The opposite phrase, κατὰ λόγον, "reasonably," in Acts 18:14, is also of very frequent use in medical writers. ἄλογος ἀλόγως ἀλογία are also not uncommon in Polybius, and in classical Greek generally. The charges against him ( τὰς κατ αὐτοῦ αἰτίας). The technical legal term for the "accusation" or "charge" formally made against the prisoner, and which was to form the subject of the trial
There is a bitterness and a dogged persistency in the enmity of an Oriental, and an inextinguishable thirst for revenge, which are unlike anything we know of among ourselves. Some knowledge and perception of this are necessary to enable us to understand many things in the Old Testament, including allusions to his enemies in some of the Psalms of David. The conduct of the Jews to St. Paul is a remarkable example of this persevering hatred, which nothing could avert or mollify. Passing over the previous displays of it at every place in Asia and Europe where the apostle preached the gospel, from the first outbreak of it at Damascus to the last conspiracy against him at Corinth (Acts 9:23; Acts 20:3), we notice the allusion to its existence, and to the cause of it, by James in Acts 21:21. We then saw the steps taken by St. Paul to conciliate those enemies, and to convince them that their prejudice against him was unfounded. But how vain these efforts were soon appears. In the very temple court where he was taking pains to humor their prejudices and to soften their hatred, that hatred broke out into a flame of unparalleled violence. In an instant the whole city was upon him, and would have torn him to pieces had not the Roman soldiers rescued him from their hands. A momentary lull while they listened to Paul's Hebrew speech was followed by a more furious burst of passion than before. When violence had failed to take away the hated life, they had recourse to guile and to the arts of the secret assassin. Baffled again at Jerusalem, they followed him to Caesarea. They hired an advocate to vilify him before the Roman judge. They heaped charge upon charge and lie upon lie in hope to compass his condemnation, and when for two whole years their malice had been defeated, while the object of their hatred remained a prisoner out of their reach, and at a time when the miseries of their country called for all their attention and solicitude, far from time having dulled the edge of their malice, or the calls of patriotism having diverted their thoughts from the object of their revenge, they were more intent than ever upon Paul's destruction. Their first thought on the change of government seems to have been, not thankfulness for the cessation of the oppressive tyranny of Felix, but the hope of working upon the inexperience of Festus so as to get Paul into their power. Again the baffled assassins were ready to fall upon the doomed man by the way; again the restless hatred of the chief priests carried them to Caesarea to try what false accusations could bring about. But this spectacle of unwearied and unscrupulous hatred and persistent malice, hideous as it is, acquires a value of its own when we contrast with it the love and the kindness of the gospel of Christ. Whence must those precepts of patience and forgiveness and love for our enemies have sprung, which shine like precious jewels in the pages of the Bible? Or look at St. Paul. He was a Jew like them: were they Hebrews? so was he. And yet, while they were cursing, and conspiring, and Persecuting, and blaspheming, he was loving, enduring, forgiving, striving to overcome evil with good. They were moving heaven and earth to take away his life who had never done them any wrong; and his heart's desire and prayer to God for them, his cruel persecutors, and the labor of his whole life as well, was that they might be saved. It is a wonderful contrast. It sets out the Divine origin of the gospel and its heavenly character with singular force. It is a most luminous comment on our Lord's words, "Ye are from beneath; I am from above" (John 8:23). The bright star of love shines all the brighter in our eyes from being thus, as it were, surrounded by the thick darkness of a persistent hatred.
"Audi alteram pattem."
It is a noble principle here ascribed by Festus to Roman justice, never to condemn upon the accusation of any one without giving the accused the power to face his accusers and answer for himself. English law is so conspicuous for its fairness to prisoners that there is no need to insist upon this maxim in regard to courts of justice. But there is great need to urge that the same just principle should rule our private censures and judgments upon our neighbors. It should not be the manner of Christians to believe evil of others, still less to spread reports against them, upon one-sided statements and undefended charges. An accused person has a right to defend himself before he is condemned. A fair judge will suspend his judgment till he has heard the defense. The English law is unwilling to condemn except upon the clearest evidence of guilt. Let there be the same unwillingness to censure a neighbor unless blame be unavoidable. Some charges are made in malice, some in ignorance; some things are positively false; some are true, but lose their truth by being separated from their concomitants; some things are bad if done from one motive, but good if done from another; an explanation may make the whole difference in the aspect of an action. Therefore it should be a settled principle with every just man to condemn no man unheard, even in thought, and to give every one against whom a charge is made an opportunity of defense before the charge is believed to his hurt, or acted upon to his prejudice. "Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned."
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
The enlightened, the unenlightened, and the great Overruler.
This piece of sacred history suggests—
I. THAT SOMETIMES THE BLACKEST DEEDS LIE AT THE DOOR OF THE ENLIGHTENED. Who more enlightened than these Jews, so far as outward privileges were concerned? They had the fullest opportunity of knowing the truth and of acting uprightly. They "had the mind" of God; revelation had shone on their path with full, strong light. Yet we find them (Acts 25:2, Acts 25:3) endeavoring to get Paul into their power, that they might deliberately assassinate him. And we again find them fiercely preferring charges against him which they could not prove (Acts 25:7). And again we find them demanding judgment against him when no crime had been established (Acts 25:15). In how dark a light does their action appear! The men that would have shuddered at a small and venial impropriety or omission do not scruple to do rank injustice, to commit murder! They were neither the first nor the last to make this fatal mistake (Luke 11:42; Matthew 7:21-23). There have been, and are, many souls who have accounted themselves, and have been reckoned by others, peculiarly holy, at whose door lie the most serious sins, who are living lives utterly evil in God's sight, and who will awake to condemnation and retribution at the last (Psalms 139:23, Psalms 139:24).
II. THAT SOMETIMES THE UNENLIGHTENED EXHIBIT ADMIRABLE VIRTUES. The Roman had been far less favored than the Jew in the great matter of religious privilege. Not unto him had been "committed the oracles of God;" not to him had psalmists sung and prophets prophesied. Yet we find the Roman sometimes exhibiting virtue of an excellent order. We find this here. Festus, indeed, desired to "do the Jews a pleasure" (Acts 25:9). What governor would not? But he did not commit any act of illegality or injustice in order to do this, and we find him on two occasions resolutely declining to yield to pressure when he could not do so without departing from fairness (Acts 25:4, Acts 25:5, Acts 25:15, Acts 25:16). This worthiness of behavior may have been due to respect for law rather than regard for individual right; but it was honorable and excellent, as far as it went. The self-control it indicates contrasts strongly with the abandonment to passionate hatred which disgraced the Jews. Virtue is sometimes found unassociated with religion.
(a) unsatisfactory to God in its nature, and it is
(b) uncertain in its duration. All moral excellency should be built on spiritual convictions. Then, and then only, is it pleasing to God and certain to endure.
III. THAT DIVINE PROVIDENCE IS PRESIDING OVER ALL EVENTS. Had Festus, "willing to do the Jews a pleasure," consented to Paul's being brought to Jerusalem (Acts 25:3), he would have fallen a victim to their murderous machinations. Then the Church of Christ would never have had some of those Epistles which now enrich our sacred literature, and which we could ill spare from the sacred volume. But "his hour was not yet come"—his hour of martyrdom, his hour of holy triumph, his hour of deliverance and redemption. "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints," and vainly is the persecutor's arm uplifted if God does not mean that the blow shall fail. So with all events. The Divine Overruler is "shaping the ends" of all things, directing the course and tracing the bound of our activities, compelling even the wrath of man to praise him, conducting all things to a rightful and blessed issue.—C.
Mismeasurement of the great and small.
There is something ludicrous as well as instructive in the scene which Festus here describes to Agrippa. Nothing could well be more incongruous than a Roman judge presiding at a tribunal before which "niceties of the Jewish religion" were brought up. He would feel utterly unsuited for the work, and he gladly enough availed himself of the presence of Agrippa to gain some notion of the subject which had so completely perplexed him. It appeared to him that the men over whom he was called to rule were permitting themselves to be passionately absorbed by questions not worthy of a moment's consideration. It probably also occurred to him that one at least was strikingly and unaccountably indifferent to those things to which alone he himself attached importance. How thoroughly he mismeasured everything we see if we consider—
I. THAT HIS OWN POSITION AS PROCURATOR OF JUDEA WAS A MATTER OF THE LEAST IMPORTANCE. Doubtless to him that seemed the one substantial fact in comparison with which "certain questions of the superstition" (religion) of the Jews and of "one Jesus" were small indeed. Now, we are only interested in Festus because of his accidental association with these questions. But for this connection not one in a thousand who now know something about him would have even heard of his name. How important to each one of us seem his own personal affairs—his income, his position, his reputation, his property! In how brief a time will these things be as nothing—his possessions scattered, his name forgotten, his office handed over to another! It would do us all good to be occasionally asking of ourselves—What will be the value of the things we prize so highly "when a few years are come"?
II. THAT MATTERS PERTAINING TO THE HEBREW FAITH ARE OF NO SLIGHT IMPORTANCE. "Certain questions of the religion" of the Jews would seem very trivial to a Roman ruler. But we know that they are worthy of the attention of mankind. Not only the great question of the Jewish Messiahship, but other and inferior matters respecting sacrifices and ordinances, have a place in our record which has outlived and will outlive proudest dynasties and mightiest empires. Students will read and investigate Leviticus and Deuteronomy when the annals of the empire are disregarded. Everything which bears on our relation to God, and everything which is even remotely related to that "one Jesus," has an interest which will not die.
III. THAT THE "ONE JESUS," TO WHOM FESTUS SO SLIGHTINGLY ALLUDED, WAS THE DESTINED SOVEREIGN OF THE RACE. Nothing could exceed the contemptuous indifference with which Festus speaks of the Savior (verse 19). Nothing was further from his thought than that this One would live forever in the honor and love of the world. But the Stone which the Jewish builders refused has become the Headstone of the corner, and the Prisoner whom the Roman soldiers crowned and clothed in cruel mockery now reigns in such majesty and wields such power as golden wreath and imperial purple will not symbolize at all. He who was dead, and whom Paul, the prisoner, so innocently and unaccountably "affirmed to be alive," is now worshipped as the risen, the reigning, the living Lord and Sovereign of mankind. How have Procurator and Malefactor changed places! How has the first become the last, and the last become the first! Let us
Power, degeneracy, and consecration.
That was a striking scene which is suggested to our imagination by these verses. The sacred narrative does not, indeed, waste words on a description of it, but it supplies enough to place the picture before our eyes (see Farrar's 'Life of St. Paul,' in loc.). It invites our attention to three subjects. We have—
I. THE REPRESENTATIVE OF WORLDLY POWER. "At Festus's commandment" (Acts 25:23). The Roman procurator may not have been present with "great pomp," but he could afford to dispense with glitter and show; for he had authority in his hand—he represented the power of the world. He was a citizen of the kingdom which had "in it of the strength of iron" (Daniel 2:41). He was a successor of another Roman who had lately said, confidently enough, "Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?" (John 19:10). As a Roman ruler, he felt that he held a sway over those around him, to which they could lay no claim and which they were unable to disturb. Human power is:
1. Coveted by many thousands.
2. Within the reach of very few; it is therefore continually sought and missed, and the failure to attain it is a source of a large amount of human disappointment and unhappiness.
3. Much less enjoyed, when realized, than its possessor anticipated; for it proves to be limited and checked by many things invisible from without, but painful and irritating when discovered and endured.
4. Soon laid down again. The breath which makes can unmake; men are often giddy on the height and they stagger and fall; years of busy activity quickly pass, and then comes sovereign death which strikes down power beneath its feet.
II. THE REPRESENTATIVE OF SPIRITUAL DEGENERACY. (Acts 25:23.) Both brother and sister, Agrippa and Bernice, were instances of this. They "saw the better thing and approved; they followed the worse." They "believed the prophets" (Acts 26:27); they knew the holy Law of God, but, instead of keeping it, instead of living before God and before the world in piety, in purity, in heavenly wisdom, they sacrificed everything to worldly advancement, to earthly honors, and even to unholy pleasure. How pitiable they seem to us now! That" great pomp" of theirs does but serve to make their moral littleness the more conspicuous. To rise in outward rank or wealth at the expense of character and by forfeiture of principle is:
1. Grievous in the sight of God.
2. Painful to all those whose judgment is worth regarding.
3. A most wretched mistake, as well as a sin.
4. An act, or series of acts, on which the agents will one day look back with deep and terrible remorse.
III. THE REPRESENTATIVE OF CHRISTIAN CONSECRATION. "Paul was brought forth" (Acts 25:23), he "had committed nothing worthy of death"(Acts 25:25), but yet "all multitude of the Jews "(Acts 25:24) were "crying out that he ought not to live any longer?' By his attachment to the truth and his devotion to the cause of Jesus Christ, he had placed himself there in captivity, charged with a capital offence, the object of the most bitter resentment of his countrymen. He had done nothing to deserve this; he had only taught what he honestly and rightly believed to be the very truth of God. He accepted his position, as a persecuted witness for Christ, with perfect resignation; he would not, on any consideration, have changed places with that Roman judge or those Jewish magnates. Christian consecration is:
1. An admirable thing, on which the minds of the worthiest will ever delight to dwell, lifting its subject far above the level of earthly power or worldly dignity.
2. Acceptable service in the estimation of Christ; to it the fullest Divine approval and the largest share of heavenly reward are attached.—C.
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
Tenacity in right.
Paul is brought before a fresh judge. He defends the principles of duty and right in the same spirit as before, with perfect boldness, as the state of the matter demands, and at the same time with due respect to the office of the judge.
I. CONSTANCY IN THE DEFENSE OF RIGHT. Let us view this in contrast:
1. To the audacity of the hypocrite. They brought many and heavy charges against Paul, which they were unable to prove. Again, "the servant is as his Lord." The substance of the charges, too, ever the same: transgression of the Law, desecration of the temple, revolt against the emperor. Simple and sincere, is the defense, in both cases (comp. Acts 25:8 with John 18:20, John 18:21).
2. To the insolence of the knave. Paul refuses no legal investigation. He stands firmly on the constitution of the state, before the tribunal of Caesar. The "powers that be" he taught were divinely ordained for the repression of evil-doers and the defense of the righteous.
3. To the obstinacy of the contentious man. He willingly subjects himself to any fair investigation and just decision of his case.
II. THE APPEAL TO THE EMPEROR. Some general allegorical lessons may be derived from this. The Christian may and should appeal:
1. From the sentence of the unjust man to the judgment of the just.
2. From the passions of the moment to the calm verdict of posterity.
3. From the opinions of the external world to the testimony of the inner world of conscience.
4. From the human tribunal to the eternal throne.
And as to the decision: "To Caesar thou shalt go!" It was partly Festus's, partly Paul's, and above all, that of Providence. So in our own life-crises. There is a coincidence of our own wishes with the external decision of another. Below or above both is the divinity that shapes our ends, the hand of him who causes all things to work together for good.—J.
Worldly judgment on religious matters.
I. ITS SHORT-SIGHTEDNESS. It sees no further than the principles of civil right (Acts 25:13-18). Herod Agrippa.
II. had come to pay his greeting to the new procurator (see Josephus, 'Life,' § 11; and 'Bell. Jud.,' Acts 2:1). It was only after Agrippa had arrived some days, that Festus seized the opportunity of bringing the matter before him, probably hoping, from his acquaintance with Jewish affairs, that he would help him to a decision concerning Paul. Festus states the rule of equity, the Roman custom of impartiality (Acts 25:16). He makes a parade of justice, but his secret feelings are hardly in harmony with his profession. He wanted to be popular with the Jews (Acts 25:9), and was only withheld by Paul's appeal to Caesar from sending him to Jerusalem. Festus would trim his sails to the wind. He is worldly in purpose, but would act on plausible grounds and render the show of the forms of justice.
III. ITS CONTEMPTUOUS ATTITUDE TOWARDS RELIGION. (Acts 25:19-21.) The word used by him is literally, "fear of divinity," not necessarily conveying the contemptuous sense of "superstition." But his whole tone is that of contempt: "Concerning one Jesus, who had died, whom Paul said was living." He looks upon the turning-point of Paul's preaching and of his contest with the Jews as a trifling matter, unworthy the serious consideration of educated men. And yet—apart from mere personal opinion—how much in the history of the world has turned upon this question! Agrippa's family had had much to do with "this Jesus," and the mention of his Name is like a renewed solicitation to the heart of the king. Festus's bearing is that of a man who rather prides himself upon superiority to all religious and ecclesiastical matters; and perhaps no wonder, considering the mixture of religions in the Roman world of the time.
III. ITS IDLE CURIOSITY. This is represented by the bearing of Agrippa (Acts 25:22). He would like to listen to this remarkable prisoner, and his story and confession of faith. And, perhaps, there was something more than curiosity—a gleam of higher interest, a presentiment of the truth. The next day Agrippa and his sister enter the audience-chamber of Festus with great pomp, which is soon to pale before the simple majesty of the Divine Word and its messenger.
IV. ITS WANT OF INTELLIGENCE OF THE SPIRITUAL CHARACTER. "Behold the man!" (Acts 25:24; comp. John 19:5). Brought before Agrippa, as Pilate had sent Jesus to Herod (Luke 23:1-56. 7). It justly seems to the statesman unreasonable to send a prisoner without stating the charges against him (Acts 25:27). But statesmanship got the better of fairness in the case of Pilate (Matthew 23:1-39. 3). Unless rulers take care to make themselves fully acquainted with the facts, the show of fairness goes for nothing. How can a man without sympathy for conscientious convictions in religion, judge justly of a man who professes them? Here, then, worldly judgment is called to pronounce on facts which resist the judgment of the world. The hall at Caesarea is the scene of pompous worldly display, soon to be converted into the place of bearing of holy doctrine, and a judgment-scat of the Divine majesty.—J.
HOMILIES BY R.A. REDFORD
The way opened to Rome.
I. A WAY WHICH HAD TO BE CUT THROUGH JEWISH CRAFT AND MALICE on the one hand, and ROMAN INDIFFERENCE AND AVARICE on the other. Festers: a true heathen, ignorant, worldly, ready to use power for self-aggrandizement, hating the provincial strifes. The Jews: inveterate haters, keeping up their spite for two years; subtle-minded plotters, using Festus's visit to Jerusalem to get Paul into their power; absolutely unprincipled and false, ready to perjure themselves; and shameless in their fanaticism.
II. PROVIDENTIAL INTERPOSITION TO REMOVE OBSTACLES. Festus desired to remain but a short time in Jerusalem. Felix had probably left information which induced him to be cautious in dealing with Paul. Roman pride was roused by the transparent hypocrisy of the Jews. A rebuff of the Jewish leaders at the onset might be of service in ruling the province.
III. THE APPEARANCE OF PAUL IN COURT won upon the ruler's mind, and helped him to listen respectfully to his assertion of innocence. But the critical point was the reference of the case to Roman justice as such. Festus was forgetting himself; Paul brought him hack to his duty, "I stand at Caesar's judgment-seat." One stroke of honest truth smites down a host of lies (cf. Luther at Worms). The assessors were at hand. Festus might have done wrong had he been by himself, but with his council to bear witness, his own life was at stake. "Appeal unto Caesar" was the gate at last opened, and no man could shut it. There was a voice speaking to Paul which he knew could command Rome itself to obey.—R.
Paul in the presence of King Agrippa.
I. A GREAT OPPORTUNITY for the Christian CHARACTER to be shown forth, as unabashed in the presence of worldly splendors, as simple-minded and modest, as untempted by that fear of man which bringeth a snare.
II. As OCCASION eagerly seized by the apostle FOR TEACHING both the heathen and the Jew, that the gospel was not a mere idle question, or fanatical dream, or delusion, but a great reality, for which its preacher was ready to die if need be.
III. A STRIKING CONTRAST between the spiritually minded Jew, and the apostate and mere worldling, such as Agrippa.
IV. A PROVIDENTIAL PREPARATION for the future. The examination would both remove prejudice against Paul and put the whole matter more favorably before the emperor, where mere Jewish bigotry and intolerance would have little weight.—R.
HOMILIES BY P.C. BARKER
Acts 25:10, Acts 25:11
Courage to live.
Paul knows that he is "standing" (see Revised Version) already at the bar of Caesar. There he elects still to stand. And his formal appeal to Caesar is but the public and legal registration of his deliberate and decisive choice to that effect. There were, no doubt, two sides to the question that had been before Paul, though it savored ever so little of the nature of a question with him. The two sides were these—that justice was nearer him when he was before Caesar than when he might be before them of "Jerusalem;" and that nevertheless to consent to go, and to choose to go, to Caesar, to Rome, and to the likeliest prospect of justice, begged, in Paul's special case and character, very real courage—the courage to live. Notice, then, that the decision recorded in these verses was the decision of—
I. THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF INNOCENCE. It is not infrequently the case, in instances that do not touch the question of life, but do touch those of principle and duty, that even conscious innocence prefers the easier path of non-resistance and non-defense, when resistence and self-defense would be the right course. Nature, beyond a doubt, should often be mortified. But there is a nature also which should be observed and followed and obeyed. To stand up for one's own innocence is sometimes to stand up for all innocence.
II. CHRISTIAN PATIENCE. The Christian soldier, racer, workman, must fight to the end, must run to the goal, must labor till the nightfall. And this requires sometimes great patience. With Paul and others of the early Christians, whose names are now nowhere else but in that best place—" the book of life," this was true to such an extent, that a Divine maxim became formulated in Scripture for the behoove of it, and so it was written, "For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise" (Hebrews 10:36). Paul must have often felt, what he once said, "To depart and be with Christ were far better." Many a craven spirit faints. Many fail long before they have "resisted unto blood."
III. CHRISTIAN WISDOM. The true apostle, of whatever day, will consider many a question, not in its reference to his own individuality, but in its bearing upon the cause he has at heart. Many herein may err, therefore, "lacking wisdom." Paul saw that it was wisdom's dictate not to allow himself and his cause to be baffled. Let alone other aspects of the case, it was policy, and a right and holy policy to appeal to Caesar.
IV. CHRISTIAN DUTY. There yet awaited Paul some of the grandest opportunities of usefulness, all along the way to Rome and in Rome. His bonds were to be manifest "in the palace and in all other places" (Philippians 1:13). He was to gain many converts even "of Caesar's household." A "great door and effectual" was yet to be opened before him and the gospel he preached and loved so well, so faithfully. So it was duty to stand to his colors, though men might possibly taunt him that he was rather standing for his life.
V. THE SPIRIT'S OWN GUIDANCE. Already we have once heard that Paul was assured by the angel of the Lord, who stood by him at night, that "at Rome also" he should bear testimony to Jesus, as he had at Jerusalem. It is an infinite satisfaction to the heart's uncertainty, to the occasional distrust that a conscience feels with regard to its own verdicts, when Heaven's guidance is borne in upon one. This satisfaction Paul had. And though the vista which his own choice revealed to him terminated in a very arena of conflict most visible, but its severity, its amount, its terrors unseen, and not to be estimated, yet nor tongue nor heart falters. He appeals to Caesar, and "if he perish, he will perish" there.—B.
The translation which gives us the word "superstition" in this verse of our English Version, cannot be accepted as conveying the meaning of Festus. He would not have spoken of that which was, at all events nominally, the religion of Agrippa, as a "superstition." We may safely adopt the ordinary word "religion "—a word, even from the Jews' point of view, little enough appreciated by a Roman official—as found in the Revised Version. Great as was the practical injustice in some directions of Festus, for instance, in keeping Paul in prison; yet we cannot fail to note a certain truthfulness of his lip. He has already spoken sufficiently the acquittal of his prisoner. This he does again, privately, in conversation with Agrippa; and yet again tomorrow, without disguise, in the publicity of the open court. To that same lip it was also given to utter, at all events, the central truth about Jesus in his relation to men, however little he believed or understood it. We may notice here—
I. THE WIDE DISTANCE THAT SEPARATES THE MAN WHO HAS NO KNOWLEDGE OF REVELATION FROM HIM WHO HAS SOME SUCH KNOWLEDGE. Presumably, Festus had not the slightest inclination to speak slightingly to Agrippa of the religion of the Jews of Jerusalem. But nevertheless his tone is that of a man who speaks of what is utterly unintelligible to him. A Roman's worship was a strange thing; his religion a strange product under any circumstances—perhaps in nothing so strange as in this disabling quality of them. But the phenomenon, after all, is most typical. It is typical of all those in their measure, i.e. the measure of their time and place in the whole world's history, who are without true revelation. It shows these in the twofold aspect, and apparently contradictory aspects, of believing tar too much and far too little.
1. They believe far too much; for they are sure to construct their own superhuman and supernatural. They will have their own pantheon in some sort.
2. And they believe far too little; for the verities of the true revelation of the superhuman and supernatural they are most averse to receive. Be the account of this what it may, it is but the expression of the thing of perpetual recurrence. The domain so wide, so dreary, of superstition lies where ignorance of true revelation is the appointed signal for men to make the materials of revelation unreal and incongruous for themselves. "Professing themselves to be wise, they become fools," not less in what they accept than in what they reject. What a world of thought and feeling, of meaning and of truth, was shut off from Festus, as his present language betrays him! And what a world of thought and feeling, of meaning and of truth, is shut off from any man and every man who is destitute of true revelation! If it have not yet traveled to him, it is at present his mysterious lot. If it have, and he reject it, it is his undeniable folly and guilt. Religion and superstition are not differenced by one not introducing the supernatural, while the other does introduce it. They both introduce it, and they both earnestly believe in it. They are differenced in that the one acquaints with what things are real and which it concerns us to know, beyond the ken of mortal eye or reason; but the other offers us imaginations, perhaps in every grotesquest form, for truth and stones for bread.
II. BRIEFLY EXPRESSED, THE VITAL FACT OF ALL CHRISTIAN TRUTH, OF ALL CHRISTIAN FAITH, OF ALL CHRISTIAN IMPULSE. "One Jesus, who was dead and whom," now no longer Paul alone, but a vast portion of the world, "affirms to be alive." It were past all his merit that it should be given to the lip of Festus to utter these words, the charter of our faith and hope and religion, that day, and to have them recorded as his. Yet there they were spoken by him, and here for ever they will lie. The dead and anon living One is the center of Christian faith, hope, love. It is the description he gives of himself: "I am he that liveth, and was dead, and, behold, I am alive for evermore" (Revelation 1:18). Three perennial springs—springs of heavenly truth and influence, issue out of these simplest and coldest words as uttered by Festus.
1. The death of Christ has
2. The life of Christ, after his death, has a very luster of light for us, if we think of it simply for what it teaches us about himself. It proclaims him, when all is considered, different from any other, unique among men, Prince of life, Victor over death. These are his own dignities. He shines wonderful in the midst of them, did we all but worship far away in wonder and admiration but mystery lost.
3. That risen life, and what followed it—the ascended life, have floods of joyful meaning for us, when we remember all that is distinctly revealed as involved in it for mankind and ourselves.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
Seeking favor to cover wicked devices.
Taking advantage of the anxiety to please his new subjects which would characterize the fresh governor, the enemies of St. Paul came to Festus asking a favor; not, however, that they directly asked for what they really wanted. They asked for Paul's trial at a Jerusalem court, where the ecclesiastical offences, with which he was charged, could alone be properly considered. They intended to take advantage of his journey to attack the party and kill Paul—a scheme which only religious bigotry could devise, for it was one which promised little success. Roman soldiers were not wont to lose their prisoners. The incident gives a painful illustration of the miserable servility of religious bigotry. Farrar says, "Festus was not one of the base and feeble procurators who would commit a crime to win popularity. The Palestinian Jews soon found that they had to do with one who more resembled a Gallio than a Felix." "Festus saw through them sufficiently to thwart their design under the guise of a courteous offer that, as Paul was now at Caesarea, he would return thither almost immediately, and give a full and fair audience to their complaints. On their continued insistence, Festus gave them the haughty and genuinely Roman reply that, whatever their Oriental notions of justice might be, it was not the custom of the Romans to grant any person's life to his accusers by way of doing a favor, but to place the accused and the accusers face to face, and to give the accused a full opportunity for self-defense." Felix may have given Festus some intimation of the enmity felt against this particular prisoner, and some account of the plot to assassinate him, from which he had been preserved by Lysias. Examining the character and schemes of these enemies of St. Paul, we note—
I. THEIR UNREASONABLE PREJUDICES AGAINST HIM. They were thoroughly "prejudiced,'' and religious prejudices are the most blinding and most mischievous that men can take up. No kind of argument, no statements of fact, ever suffice to correct such prejudices, as may be illustrated from both religious and political spheres in our own day. Things corrected or denied a hundred times over, prejudice will persist in believing. When prejudice says, "It must be," all the world may stand in vain and plead, "But it is not." The prejudice of these men declared that Paul had defiled the temple, but he had not; it said that he insulted the honored system of Moses, but he did not. Their eyes were blinded, their hearts were hardened, and all argument was lost upon them.
II. PERSONAL FEELING INTENSIFIED RELIGIOUS PREJUDICE. Recall the scene in the court of the high priest, when the person occupying that office temporarily was reproved by the apostle. Nothing increases the hate in an evil-disposed man like his being publicly reproved or humbled. The Sadducees, who were the party to which the high priest belonged, would consider themselves insulted in the insult offered to him. And the Pharisee party were, no doubt, intensely annoyed by being drawn, on the same occasion, into a mere theological wrangle, which showed themselves up, and led to their losing their opportunity of killing Paul. So often personal feeling, injured pride, is at the root of religious prejudice and persecution. The fancied loyalty to God of the religious persecutor is really an extravagant anxiety about self.
III. FAILURE OF SOME SCHEMES AGGRAVATED THE EVIL PURPOSE. The scheme to kill Paul had been thwarted through Paul's nephew and the Roman officer; but the annoyance of failure prevented their seeing in the failure a rebuke. What the malicious cannot accomplish by open methods they will seek by secret ones, lowering themselves to any depths of meanness to accomplish their ends, even fawning upon new governors and begging personal favors. Beware of the debasing influence of cherished prejudices.—R.T.
Protestations of innocence.
The contrast between the two trials needs careful attention. "On the second occasion, when Paul was tried before Festus, the Jews had no orator to plead for them, so the trial degenerated into a scene of passionate clamor, in which St. Paul simply met the many accusations against him by calm denials." The Jews seem to have brought no witnesses, and the apostle knew well enough that no Roman judge would listen to mere accusations unsupported by testimony. On the one side was accusation without witness; it was enough if, on the other side, there was the plea of "not guilty," and the solemn protestation of innocence. The charges so clamorously made were:
1. Of Paul's heresy. He was declared to be a renegade Jew, whose teachings were proving most mischievous, and striking at the very foundations of the Mosaic religious system. St. Paul answered with an emphatic denial. He was but proclaiming those very truths for the sake of which the Mosaic system had been given, and of which it had testified, and for which it had been the preparation.
2. Of Paul's sacrilege. This was, in the view of formal religionists, the height of all crime. Their charge rested on a statement of fact: this Paul had brought Trophimus, an Ephesian, into the temple, in order to pollute their temple and offer them an open insult. This Paul simply denied. There was no such fact. He had not brought Trophimus into the temple; and, if the Roman governor took any notice at all of this charge, he would certainly have demanded witnesses to prove the fact, and have thrown the burden of finding the necessary witnesses on the accusers, and not on the prisoner.
3. Of Paul's treason. This the Jews could only insinuate, but this point they hoped would especially influence Festus. Such a man must be dangerous to the state; popular tumults have attended his presence in every city where he has gone. He ought not to be set at liberty. Festus was not in the least likely to be frightened into doing an injustice, and could read the character of his prisoner too well to pay any heed to their clamor and their insinuations. "If there was a single grain of filth in the Jewish accusations, Paul had not been guilty of anything approaching to a capital crime." It may be impressed that
Appeal to Caesar.
In introducing this subject, the difficulty in which Festus was placed should be shown. His predecessor had just been recalled, through the opposition of these very Jews who were now seeking a favor from him, and to resist them in their first request would be sure to excite a strong prejudice against him. So even Festus attempted the weakness of a compromise. He saw that the matter was not one with which a Roman tribunal could concern itself. It was really a locally religious dispute. So he thought he could meet the case by persuading Paul to go to Jerusalem to be tried, under the security of his protection. But the apostle knew the Jews much better than Festus did. Perhaps he was quite wearied out with these vain trials and this prolonged uncertainty. It seems that he suddenly made up his mind to claim his right of appeal as a Roman citizen, which would secure him from the machinations of his Jewish enemies. There are times when Christians may appeal to their citizen rights in their defense. This may be illustrated from such a case as that of the Salvation Army, and their right of procession through the streets. In times of religious persecution men have properly found defense and shelter in a demand for legal and political justice. Their hope has often lain in having their cases removed from the heated passionate atmospheres of religious courts to the calm atmospheres of strictly legal ones, though even our law-courts do not always keep due calmness when questions related to religion are brought before them. In this incident we may notice—
I. ST. PAUL'S SAFETY AS A ROMAN. Explain the privileges of Roman citizenship. No governor could give him up to the Jews apart from his own consent (Acts 25:16). Recall the circumstances under which Paul's citizenship had proved his defense.
II. ST. PAUL'S RIGHT AS A ROMAN PRISONER. A right of appeal from any inferior to the supreme court at Rome over which the emperor presided. Theoretically, this was a safeguard to justice, but in practice it proved rather a furtherance of injustice. The apostle was not likely to know all that was involved in his appeal. "There is obviously something like a sneer in the procurator's acceptance of St. Paul's decision. He knew, it may be, better than the apostle to what kind of judge the latter was appealing, what long delays there would be before the cause was heard, how little chance there was of a righteous judgment at last." The appeal must have been a surprise to all who heard it.
Acts 25:18, Acts 25:19
From Festus we learn what were the accusations made against the apostle by his Jewish enemies, and we see plainly that they cared only for the interests of party, not for the truth. It becomes evident that the point of difficulty was our Lord's resurrection, upon which St. Paul always so firmly insisted. That fact is the central fact of Christianity; and upon it the whole scheme of Christian doctrine rests. Note—
I. WHEREIN PAUL'S ACCUSERS FAILED. They could not prove any crime that was cognizable by the Roman authorities. They were in danger of being themselves charged with violence done to a Roman citizen.
II. WHEREIN PAUL'S ACCUSERS WERE WEAK. They brought before a civil judge only matters of opinion. On these freedom was allowed, so long as that freedom did not lead to acts of rebellion or disorder. They did not even bring matters of opinion that were of public concern, but only such as were made subjects of party contention. Their little isms they thought of more importance than the government of the empire. Festus haughtily says that the questions concerned their own superstition.
III. WHEREIN PAUL'S ACCUSERS CONFIRMED HIS TEACHING. They set out prominently Paul's great truth, that Jesus was alive, and had present power to save. From his enemies we learn what Paul preached—Christ risen; Christ living; Christ saving now. Christ, as "alive from the dead," is declared
We know clearly what made the Jewish party so mad against the apostle. No other apostle or disciple had shown, as he had done, what was involved in our Lord's resurrection. Still if our preaching is to be a saving power on men, we must declare Christ risen from the dead, and "able to save unto the uttermost all who come unto God by him."—R.T.
Interest in the prisoner' for Christ.
For the necessary accounts of Agrippa and Bernice, see the Expository portions of this Commentary. We only dwell on Agrippa's interest in St. Paul, as giving him an opportunity to preach the gospel before kings. Gerok gives the following outline as suggestive of a descriptive discourse, from which general practical lessons may be drawn:—The audience-chamber of the governor at Caesarea may be regarded from three points of view.
I. IT WAS A DRAWING-ROOM OF WORLDLY GLORY, by reason of the splendor of the assembled nobility.
II. IT WAS A LECTURE-ROOM OF HOLY DOCTRINE, by reason of the testimony made by the apostle.
III. IT WAS A JUDGMENT-HALL OF DIVINE MAJESTY, by reason of the impression produced by the apostolic discourse. The speech and its effects will be dealt with in the succeeding chapter.—R.T.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Acts 25". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Easter