Paul's imprisonment in Caesarea

by Dr. Samuel Lee   09/10/2000     0 reads


Acts 24:1-26:32

Key Verse: 26:6

“And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our fathers that I am on trial today.”


1.  Why and how was Paul transferred to Caesarea? (Ch 23) Read

  24:1-21.  What was the accusation made against him? (1-9) What was

  his testimony? (10-21) What did Felix's response to Paul reveal

  about him?  (22-27)

2.  Read 25:1-12. How did the new governor, Festus, handle Paul's

  case?  Why did Paul appeal to Caesar? How was God's hand evident in

  this?  (22:21; 23:11)

3.  Read 25:13-27. How did Paul come to speak before King Agrippa? Read

  26:1-8. What did Paul say about his background? What was the hope

  for which he was on trial? (6; Isa 11:1)

4.  How did Paul describe his meeting with the Risen Jesus? (9-18) What

  was the grace and apostleship which the Risen Jesus gave Paul?

  (15-18; 1Co 15:9,10)

5.  Read 26:19-23. How did Paul respond to the vision and command of

  the Risen Jesus? What did he preach to everyone? What specific task

  did Jesus give him?

6.  How did Festus and King Agrippa respond to Paul's message? What

  does this reveal about them? How did Paul challenge King Agrippa?

  What can we learn from Paul?



Acts 24:1-26:32

Key Verse: 26:6

“And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our fathers that I am on trial today.”

As we studied in the last lesson, Paul visited Jerusalem to help his

poverty-stricken people with the offering he collected from the Gentile

churches. Also, through his testimony he wanted to help his people open

their spiritual eyes to see God's great purpose for them to be a

priestly nation and a light for the Gentiles. But some Jews who were

prejudiced toward Gentiles stirred up the people until the whole city

was aroused.  Because of this, the commander of the Roman army came and

arrested Paul and kept him in custody in the army barracks. In this

way, Paul became a prisoner without any clear charges being brought

against him. Today's passage is the story of Paul's imprisonment in

Caesarea. During his imprisonment, Paul stands trial before the Roman

governors Felix and Festus and before King Agrippa. In these trials

Paul does not defend himself; rather, he is eager to explain his hope

in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I.  Paul s trial before Felix (24:1-27)

Paul was transferred from Jerusalem to Caesarea by the commander of

the Roman army because a homicide squad plotted to kill Paul. Caesarea

was the headquarters of the Roman army in that province, and it was the

place where, 20 years before, Peter had a vision telling him to accept

the first Gentile believer, Cornelius, an officer in the Roman army.

After Paul was transferred to Caesarea, the high priest Ananias went

down to Caesarea with some elders and a lawyer named Tertullus and

brought charges against Paul before Felix the Roman governor. Tertullus

began his speech with a passage of almost nauseating flattery, with

which even he himself was disgusted. His charge was that Paul was a

troublemaker--a pestilence, a ringleader of the Nazarene sect, in

contemporary terms, a cult leader--who desecrated the temple by

bringing Trophimus into it. The charge was not because he had broken

any law, Roman or Jewish, but because Paul had a personal commitment to

Jesus, not to Judaism. Paul could have defended himself in order to

preserve his own life. But he did not. Rather, Paul did not fail to

explain his faith in the resurrection. Look at verse 15. "...and I have

the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of

both the righteous and the wicked." Paul had hope in eternal life and

the kingdom of God; he also proclaimed God's judgment.

Governor Felix, who had married a Jewess, was impressed by Paul and

later sent for him to explain the gospel more fully (24). What did Paul

say to him? Look at verse 25. "As Paul discoursed on righteousness,

self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said,

'That's enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I

will send for you.'" Obviously, Felix was an unrighteous man, a man of

loose life. He had the desire to do what was good, but he could not

carry it out because he was a slave of sinful desires. His agony of

soul must have been indeed great, crying out, "What a wretched man I

am!" (Ro 7:14-24) According to Romans 2:8, he was a man fit for God's

righteous judgment. He knew he should turn to God. But in his

covetousness he called Paul frequently, hoping that Paul would bribe

him. He was a man of split personality, a mental patient. Felix was

succeeded by Festus.

II. Paul s trial before Festus (25:1-12)

Festus was a typical bureaucrat. As soon as he came to his position

as the Roman governor of the province, he made a plan to ingratiate

himself to the Jewish leaders. So he went up from Caesarea to

Jerusalem. There the chief priests and Jewish leaders appeared before

him and presented their charges against Paul. In their plot to kill

Paul, they requested Festus to transfer him from Caesarea to Jerusalem.

But Festus told them to come to Caesarea to press charges against Paul,

since he was in Caesarea.

When Festus came back to Caesarea, he convened the court and ordered

that Paul be brought before him. The Jews who had come from Jerusalem

inveighed against and besmirched Paul, bringing groundless charges

against him. Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, "Are

you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there on

these charges?" Paul answered, "I am now standing before Caesar's

court, where I ought to be tried" (10). Finally Paul said, "I appeal to

Caesar!" (11) Paul knew that appealing to Caesar was endangering his

life. When he lived for Jesus' name's sake, he became like a criminal.

Humanly speaking, he was a victim of Jewish pride and Roman rule. But

from God's point of view his suffering was not in vain. His appeal to

Caesar was not an act of betrayal of his people. In 19:21 he said, "I

must visit Rome also." Paul s plan to visit Rome was not based on his

selfish ambition; it was from the Lord Jesus.  Actually, Paul wanted to

remain in Jerusalem and help his people open their spiritual eyes to

see God's high calling for them to be a priestly nation and a light for

the Gentiles. But the Lord Jesus had a plan to send him far away to the

Gentiles. 22:21 says, "Then the Lord said to me, 'Go; I will send you

far away to the Gentiles.'" Again, 23:11 says, "The following night the

Lord stood near Paul and said, 'Take courage! As you have testified

about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.'" This was the

reason Paul appealed to Caesar. At his appeal, Festus was powerless to

do anything but grant his request. God was with Paul and delivered him

from the hands of his people. They say that at that time the Caesar was

Nero, an inhumane brute. But Paul did not mind to appear before such a

person in order to obey the world mission command of the Lord Jesus.

III. Paul before King Agrippa (25:13-26:32)

A few days later King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea to pay

their respects to Festus. Festus discussed Paul s case with the king.

Festus said, "When Paul s accusers got up to speak, they did not charge

him with any of the crimes I had expected. Instead, they had some

points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead

man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive....When Paul made his appeal

to be held over for the Emperor's decision, I ordered him held until I

could send him to Caesar" (25:18,19,21). King Agrippa wanted to hear

Paul. So Festus convened an assembly and Paul was brought before

Festus, King Agrippa and his officials (25:23-27). Festus confessed his

dilemma: "I found he had done nothing deserving of death, but because

he made his appeal to the Emperor I decided to send him to Rome. But I

have nothing definite to write to His Majesty about him. Therefore I

have brought him before all of you, and especially before you, King

Agrippa, so that as a result of this investigation I may have something

to write. For I think it is unreasonable to send on a prisoner without

specifying the charges against him" (25:25-27).

Then Agrippa said to Paul, "You have permission to speak for

yourself" (26:1). At this time also, Paul did not try to defend

himself. Rather, he wanted to evangelize these dignitaries. So he gave

his life testimony once more.  This time in his testimony Paul explains

God's world salvation plan based on the Scriptures, especially through

the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

First, "I, Paul, was a Pharisee." In 26:4,5 Paul said that he was a

Pharisee of all Pharisees. As a Pharisee he had hope in God's promise.

Look at verses 6,7. "And now it is because of my hope in what God has

promised our fathers that I am on trial today. This is the promise our

twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God

day and night. O king, it is because of this hope that the Jews are

accusing me." The key point of God's promise was that he would send a

Savior from the stump of Jesse (Isa 11:1). He was Jesus, who would die

for man's sins and rise again on the third day so as to bring all men

back to God's kingdom. Paul said he had the same hope and faith as his

people. Unfortunately, his people were not interested in history study

but only in Judaism, which was the short-cut in getting a good job. As

a result they forgot God's promise and were blinded by Judaistic

thinking. Paul said in verse 6, "And now it is because of my hope in

what God has promised our fathers that I am on trial today." Paul

claims that they had no reason to try him. Paul who knew the king's

background well said in verse 8, "Why should any of you consider it

incredible that God raises the dead?"

Second, Paul met the Risen Jesus (26:9-14). In this part Paul boldly

confesses the sins he had committed against God. He had tortured,

punished and killed the early Christians. It was out of his

self-righteousness based on Judaism.  In verses 9-11 he confessed as

follows: "I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible

to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is just what I did in

Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the

saints in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote

against them. Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have

them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. In my obsession

against them, I even went to foreign cities to persecute them."

In verses 13,14 Paul tells how he met the Risen Jesus and what

happened to him after meeting the Risen Jesus. "About noon, O king,

as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun,

blazing around me and my companions. We all fell to the ground, and I

heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, 'Saul, Saul, why do you

persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads."' When Paul

persecuted the church of God, he thought he was serving God. But he was

not serving God; he was murdering the children of God, especially a

righteous man of God, Stephen. But when he met the Risen Jesus, his

eyes were blinded by the blazing light of the Risen Jesus. When he met

the Risen Jesus, he realized he was kicking against the goads. When he

met the Risen Jesus, he realized that he was a spiritually blind man

and a sinner, who was only hurting himself in his rebellion against


Third, Paul received grace and apostleship (15-18). At the moment Paul

met the Risen Jesus, he asked, "Who are you, Lord?" "I am Jesus, whom

you are persecuting," he replied. Then what happened? The Risen Jesus

gave him apostleship. Look at verse 16. "Now get up and stand on your

feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a

witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you." Paul was

an unforgivable sinner.  But the Risen Jesus did not talk about his

past sins. Paul was greatly moved by Jesus' way of dealing with him.

Jesus washed away all his sins through Ananias' help (22:16). Moreover,

the Risen Christ clothed him with God's grace. It was God's one-sided

love and forgiving love. So Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:10a, "But by

the grace of God I am what I am." Sometimes we want to forgive someone

who wronged us if he repents. This is not grace.  Grace is to forgive

others' sins unconditionally.

When God clothed him with his grace, it was to use him as an

instrument of righteousness. It was to proclaim God's grace through

his Son's death and resurrection. As verse 16 says, "I have appeared to

you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen

of me and what I will show you."

Fourth, Paul’s task. Look at 26:17,18. The Risen Jesus said to Paul, "I

will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am

sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to

light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive

forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith

in me." His specific task was to evangelize the Gentiles (17). His

specific task was to lead the Gentiles from darkness to the light.

Generally, people think they are happy if they have some achievements,

their own house, enough money to live on, or if they can give a good

education to their children. But Biblically speaking, they are living

in darkness. They are hopeless because they live under the power of sin

and death. One girl student had a hope of becoming a world famous

pianist. So she invested her youth in piano practice. She married a

medical doctor. She was happy for some time. But she got breast cancer

and suffered from it for seven years. After getting breast cancer she

realized her hope in the piano was useless. She began to put her hope

in the resurrection of Jesus. In the hope of the resurrection of Jesus

she overcame pain and death and gave a good influence to her children,

as well as to her one-to-one Bible students. Those who do not have hope

in the resurrection of Jesus live under the power and sting of death.

Godless people may look easygoing and prosperous. But they are not.

Those who have hope in the resurrection of Jesus labor in Jesus.

Sometimes it seems to be in vain, but their labor in the Lord is not in

vain. To those who have hope in the resurrection of Jesus, death is

like a catnap; it is only stepping through the pearly gates into the

kingdom of God. Paul again affirmed that he was saying nothing beyond

what the prophets and Moses said would happen, that the Christ would

suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to

his own people and to the Gentiles (23).

What was their response? Look at verse 24. "At this point Festus

interrupted Paul s defense.  You are out of your mind, Paul!" he

shouted.  "Your great learning is driving you insane." His problem was

that he did not know the spiritual world. What was King Agrippa's

response? Look at verse 28. "Then Agrippa said to Paul, 'Do you think

that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?'" His

problem was his unrepentant heart.  Agrippa and Festus became helpless

and said in verse 32, "This man could have been set free if he had not

appealed to Caesar." Their conclusion was indeed tragic. If they knew

that Paul had not committed any crime, they should have set him free.

But they ignored the truth that Paul was innocent.  Though they were

pompous in their fashionable clothing, they were rotten men in the

sight of God because they had no truth of God in their hearts.

In this passage we learn that living without the hope of the

glorious resurrection of Jesus is living under the power of sin and

death. On the other hand, those who believe in the resurrection of

Jesus have a living hope in the kingdom of God. We also learn that Paul

was in chains to defend and confirm the gospel of Jesus (Php 1:7). We

realize that all of us also must share God's grace with Paul to defend

and confirm the gospel of Jesus.  Christians must be defenders of the

gospel. May God bless you with the same hope in God as St. Paul.