Acts 25:1 Now when Festus was come into the province, after three days he ascended from Caesarea to Jerusalem.
2 Then the high priest and the chief of the Jews informed him against Paul, and besought him,
3 And desired favour against him, that he would send for him to Jerusalem, laying wait in the way to kill him.
4 But Festus answered, that Paul should be kept at Caesarea, and that he himself would depart shortly thither.
5 Let them therefore, said he, which among you are able, go down with me, and accuse this man, if there be any wickedness in him.
6 And when he had tarried among them more than ten days, he went down unto Caesarea; and the next day sitting on the judgment seat commanded Paul to be brought.
7 And when he was come, the Jews which came down from Jerusalem stood round about, and laid many and grievous complaints against Paul, which they could not prove.
In the world, decisions can be a long time coming. As we saw in a previous study, Paul had been kept in prison now for two years already. He was accused of crimes by the Jews, but as noted, only one accusation that might interest the Roman government.
Festus, being the new governor of that region, needed to acquaint himself somewhat with the people and the issues. The people also needed to have opportunity to meet with him. Thus he travelled to Jerusalem to meet with the Jews. We see that the religious false teachers made sure to meet with him and raise the issue of the apostle Paul with him. It is interesting how one man could raise such a stir among the people. We know it was not really one man, but it was the message that this man had. God’s Word is powerful. God’s Word will affect the hearers one way or another. It will bless those who are saved and wanting to grow. It will convict those who are either lost or carnal. The lost in particular, will not like what they hear and will try to avoid hearing the truth. In our context, the lost had made a place of influence for themselves. They wanted to guard their territory and the Word of God was an interference they did not want to have. They could not defend their false religion against the truth and thus, in their minds, the solution was to get rid of the truth.
In verse 3 we see that these false teachers had the same plan as before. They wanted Festus to order Paul to be brought to Jerusalem and on the way they would kill him and the matter would be solved. We see the hypocrisy here. These false teachers claimed to hold the “law” very high. The “law” to them was their distorted version of God’s law. One of the ten commandments is: “thou shalt not kill.” Yet, they wanted to kill Paul without just cause. It was his message they did not like. It was not that he had committed anything worthy of death.
We see again that God was still in charge. He would not force these false teachers to repent and be saved. That would not be true repentance. He would work in the heart of Festus to protect Paul even though he was not saved and did not care to be saved. Festus could not say that he cared about Paul. He did not know him at this point. However, God would work to protect His servant. As we have noted, God had more work for Paul to do. He was not sending Paul into hostile territory where he would be stoned or beaten often. He was protected in prison and given liberty to meet with and talk with all who would come to him.
In verse 4 we see that Festus did not agree with these false teachers. He was not going to be part of their evil plot. He likely understood what their desire was and he was not going to indulge them. Jerusalem was the religious centre for the Jews, but Caesarea was the political capital for the Romans.
In verse 5 he told them to travel to Caesarea with him and accuse Paul there. He desired to know if there was any wickedness in him. Festus, as a lost man, would be directed by God to hold to some semblance of just law. He would make sure that Paul had a fair trial. However, he would keep him in prison even though there was no crime committed.
In verse 6 we see that this matter was not of any urgency with Festus. He tarried in Jerusalem for more than ten days. It did not matter to him that Paul was in prison without cause. God would work with this unjust man for His glory. Paul had much to do while in prison. He could not travel, which would be different for him. However, he was content to do what he was called to do. He was not called to travel. He was called to preach the Word. This is something we who are saved need to keep in mind as well. Our government has kept those who do not obey its wicked demands, from being able to travel via public transit now for well over a year. I understand they are now considering dropping that restriction. There are professing Christians who took the shots so they could travel. There are others who did not take the shot but they are getting restless because they cannot travel. Those who are saved need to be reminded of why we are saved. We are saved to glorify God. We glorify God when we live humbly and obediently for Him. We glorify God when we preach His Word to those He sends our way. For years we have been able to travel quite freely. Although, over the past number of years more and more restrictions have been placed on those who travel. We have grown accustomed to having that freedom to go where we want to go when we want to go. It seems that time is over.
God’s desire is still for all people to be saved. He still wants His children to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. He will find a way to fulfil His plan. We need to be willing to adjust to His plan in His way. It is of no benefit to get the shots and then have health issues that interfere with the ability to preach the Gospel. It is true that God can protect people from harm in many different ways. It is also true that God gives us minds to reason with and when we know something is harmful, we do not deliberately participate in it and then tempt God to protect us.
Mark 16 states:
Mark 16:18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
There are lost people who take up serpents and they try to demonstrate that they are doing God’s will in playing with those venomous serpents. Every so often one of them dies from their foolishness. Just because others do not die does not mean they are doing God’s will.
We will see yet, that Paul would show us God’s design in giving that verse. Paul would be bit by a viper and he did not die. He did not go looking for that viper. He was a servant of God who was demonstrating his willingness to help keep a fire going. The viper was in the wood. Paul did not know that and he did not go looking for it. He was doing things that would give him an opening to preach the Word. The viper latched onto him and the people assumed he was a criminal and was going to die because because of that. When he did not swell up and die, they assumed he was a god. Paul was neither. He was a man of God who was doing what normal people do. God used that incident to open doors for Paul to minister to the needs of a pagan people who had not heard the Gospel.
We need discernment today as Paul did in his day. God will guide us and His guidance is not to cause His children to do things that are known to be harmful and unnecessary. With regard to the shots, we know that our country is one of the last to remove the restrictions. We have an ungodly leader who cares nothing for others and certainly cares nothing for God. Apparently he is in isolation again, claiming to have been infected with the virus again. He certainly does have a problem. His problem is not the virus, but rather, his problem is his wicked heart. We need to continue to pray for his salvation.
In our text, Festus did arrive back in Caesarea and he did bring Paul out of prison and he did prepare to hear the accusations brought against him. Paul did not need to travel. The others needed to travel. He was kept safe and he would have many more opportunities to preach the Word by humbly submitting to God’s will and not becoming frustrated with his lot in life.
We need to study God’s Word and let Him lead us in a way that glorifies His name. He is in charge, and He will open doors that no man can shut and He will shut doors that no man can open.