If “all things happen for a reason,” one might ask why is all this happening to the Apostle Paul? Despite any worldly philosophy, the Spirit of God is at work. ◊
We’ve all heard the common refrain from people, even with a misplaced implied nod toward Christianity, that “all things happen for a reason.”
While that’s not Biblical per se, I actually believe all things happen because we either act in the will of God or are disobedient or unaware of the will of God. As I’ve always said, if you step out in front of a moving bus, you’re going to get hurt or killed. That’s not God’s will, that just a dumb move.
And yes, God can turn all things that happen into good. He does so through His Spirit because He can, and He has a plan He wants played out, whether we know or care about it.
The Spirit Leads
Given that, in ACTS chapter 25 we find the Apostle Paul in continued dire straits under house arrest in Caesarea and bandied about between his lying Jewish accusers, who have a weak case, and the occupying Roman leadership who are confused as to why this man is even on trial.
Paul is at peace though because the Spirit of God has led him to this point. Recall that Paul was warned not to to go to Jerusalem when this all started:
- After all this had happened, Paul decided in the Spirit to go to Jerusalem. – Acts 19:21
- “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there.” – Acts 20:22
- Through the Spirit they [the disciples] told Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. – Acts 21:4
Even so, Paul is still in trouble after going to Jerusalem. And he’s getting a lot of attention by people in high places. Now it’s Porcius Festus, the new Roman local governor succeeding Felix.
Paul Before Festus
After two years in lockdown, Festus, the new Roman procurator over Judah, inquires into the case against Paul:
Three days after arriving in the province, Festus went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem, where the chief priests and the Jewish leaders appeared before him and presented the charges against Paul. They requested Festus, as a favor to them, to have Paul transferred to Jerusalem, for they were preparing an ambush to kill him along the way. Festus answered,
“Paul is being held at Caesarea, and I myself am going there soon. Let some of your leaders come with me, and if the man has done anything wrong, they can press charges against him there.”
After spending eight or ten days with them, Festus went down to Caesarea. The next day he convened the court and ordered that Paul be brought before him. When Paul came in, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him. They brought many serious charges against him, but they could not prove them.
Then Paul made his defense:
“I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar.”
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. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!”
After Festus had conferred with his council, he declared:
“You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!”
Festus Consults [Jewish] King Agrippa
Because Paul is a Roman citizen and has made an appeal to have his case heard before Caesar Nero, Festus must honor this request, but not before the Jewish King Agrippa gets in the mix and wants to meet him:
A few days later King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea to pay their respects to Festus. Since they were spending many days there, Festus discussed Paul’s case with the king. He said:
“There is a man here whom Felix left as a prisoner. When I went to Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews brought charges against him and asked that he be condemned.
“I told them that it is not the Roman custom to hand over anyone before they have faced their accusers and have had an opportunity to defend themselves against the charges. When they came here with me, I did not delay the case, but convened the court the next day and ordered the man to be brought in. When his 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. I was at a loss how to investigate such matters; so I asked if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial there on these charges. But 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.”
Then Agrippa said to Festus,
“I would like to hear this man myself.” He replied, “Tomorrow you will hear him.”
Paul Before Agrippa
Now Paul is brought before Agippa (grandson of Herod the Great who ruled and then died after Jesus was born) and his sister/lover, Bernice:
The next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp and entered the audience room with the high-ranking military officers and the prominent men of the city. At the command of Festus, Paul was brought in. Festus said:
“King Agrippa, and all who are present with us, you see this man! The whole Jewish community has petitioned me about him in Jerusalem and here in Caesarea, shouting that he ought not to live any longer. 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 a prisoner on to Rome without specifying the charges against him.”
The full conversation is played out in ACTS chapter 26.
What strikes me when reading the Book of Acts and passages like these about Paul’s travels and challenges just prior to his death in Rome, is the stark reality of human beings here with real words and emotions. Luke, the author of Acts, is traveling with Paul and is an eyewitness to these events.
We clearly see real leaders, both secular Romans and apparently religious Jews, acting in accordance with process and law yet with befuddled interest as they deal with is dubious case.
That this is God’s will is worthy of doubt when seen at first blush. Yet here we are centuries later reading and talking about the Spirit-led trials and tribulations of an obedient Christ-follower named Paul
Are you like Paul?
“But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!” – Acts 25:21