Paul is left to rot in prison in Caesarea by Felix because Paul would not take Felix’s hints to pay him a bribe in order to be released:
“Now three days after Festus had arrived in the province, he went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. And the chief priests and the principal men of the Jews laid out their case against Paul, and they urged him, asking as a favor against Paul that he summon him to Jerusalem – because they were planning an ambush to kill him on the way” (Ac 25:1-3).
Two long years for Paul. A burning, unwavering hatred by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, so deep that their lust for assassination continues unabated. Because of what follows, it appears that Festus has been made aware of the plot to kill Paul, as shown by how Festus reacts to their slimy petition:
“Festus replied that Paul was being kept at Caesarea and that he himself intended to go there shortly. ‘So,’ he said, ‘let the men of authority among you go down with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them bring charges against him’” (Ac 25:4-5).
The Jerusalem leaders, having dealt with temptation and disobedience, cannot now avoid the trappings of blatant disunity from God. They have now received a warning from God, subtle as it is, through Festus. And in the absence of repentance they are about to encounter wise judgment through the presence of Festus:
“After he stayed among them not more than eight or ten days, he went down to Caesarea. And the next day he took his seat on the tribunal and ordered Paul to be brought. When he had arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him that they could not prove. Paul argued in his defense, ‘Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense’” (Ac 25:6-8).
Because Festus agrees with Paul that his accusers cannot prove any of their charges, it seems that Festus can declare Paul innocent right here and now! And while we could rightly dispute the honesty of Festus in what happens next, we must remember that the result is in complete harmony with the ultimate plan of God, with which Paul is in perfect unity with God!
“But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, ‘Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem and there be tried on these charges before me?’ But Paul said, ‘I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you yourself know very well. If I then am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.’ Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, ‘To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go’” (Ac 25:9-12).
Paul could agree to a trial in Jerusalem conducted under the aegis of Festus. And he likely would be acquitted, give the absence of evidence and proof against him. But to Paul, he must be obedient to God’s command he received back in Chapter 23 during the tumult before the tribunal in Jerusalem. Do you remember it?
“’Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome’” (Ac 23:11).
Thus Paul heads for Rome as commanded.
So by Paul’s example, what are we to do in perfect unity with God, his Son, and through the Holy Spirit within us?
Obey all commands.
Testify about the facts recorded in the Bible wherever God leads us, to whomever accuses us of lying.
There is no wrong time or place to testify about Jesus, the resurrected Lord of all!