Acts 25:1-12: Hammer Meet Anvil
February 18, 2023
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Leviticus 8-10, Psalm 40, Matthew 18:1-14, Acts 25:1-12
We come to the next stage in the process of Paul’s defense, and the attacks against him by the religious leaders at the time.
First of all, we are told that they want to get him to go back to Jerusalem because they are planning an ambush against him. Such is the way of attacks against the gospel and the preachers of the gospel. When arguments will not suffice—as they will not—violence is the recourse.
Second, Festus, though, either because he is aware of the plan, or because without extra reasons he is unwilling to cave into their demands, refuses to cede to their wishes to have Paul moved to Jerusalem. So a trial is set in Caesarea. God can use the intransigence of pagan rulers to the advantage of his gospel. The sovereignty of God is apparent through all these human maneuverings.
Third, the accusations against Paul are many and serious. But they cannot be proved. Do not expect to go through life as a follower of Jesus without being accused by legalists of many and serious things. But note they cannot be proved. Trust in Christ and continue to follow him as your conscience and the Word of God determines.
Fourth, Paul’s defense is brilliantly simple. He has done nothing against the Jewish law or the temple of Caesar. In general, the Roman law liked to protect local laws, so his defense in that regard related to the Jewish law and the temple is important. But most of all, as a Roman citizen, he makes it clear to Festus that he has not broken Roman law, he has done nothing against Caesar. So not only can charges against him not be proved, also what Paul has done is well within legal parameters. This should be enough to win the day.
But fifth, the religious leaders attempt to change the locus of the debate. If they can get Paul back on home territory, back to Jerusalem, they can either kill him as he is transported, or they will be able to exert more pressure on the authorities there. Festus, who has refused their request once, now puts the request to Paul. What will Paul do? On what grounds could he refuse?
And so, sixth, Paul famously appeals to Caesar. This is like appealing to the Supreme Court. These lower courts had achieved a stalemate. So Paul appeals to the highest court in the Empire: Caesar’s court.
Once again we learn of God’s sovereignty. We learn of the attacks that can come against preachers of the gospel, and Christians who follow Christ. We learn of the appropriateness of using legal procedure to try to protect the preaching of the gospel. And most of all, we learn that through it all, Christ and his gospel plan is not derailed but is being advanced. As the motto of the French Hugenots under persecution put it: The more they pound, the more they shout, the more they wear their hammers out!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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