Guests: Brant Berglin and Carl Cosaert
Relevant Verses: Acts 24-26
Leading Question: Have you ever had to testify on your own behalf in a court of law? What was that like for you?
1. Following Paul’s arrest in Jerusalem, he was transferred to Caesarea, where he was held for about two years. While there, he was questioned by the Roman governors Felix and Festus, and also King Agrippa II.
Paul Before Felix (Acts 24:1-17)
Notice the three charges that are brought against Paul. Are any of them accurate charges?
In his defense, Paul refers to himself as “a follower of the Way” rather than as a Christian, even though the term “Christian” was in use at that time. Why do you suppose he does this? What does this title “follower of the Way” suggest about the early believers? How is being a “follower of the Way” different than “being a Christian” or “being a member” of the Seventh-day Adventist church?
In verse 25, we read that Felix became afraid as Paul talked. What was he afraid of? How did he respond to his fear? Do we often respond to fear in the same way?
Paul Before Festus (Acts 25:1-12)
Although two years had passed and a new Roman governor, Festus, had come to power, the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem had clearly not forgotten about Paul. What is the approximate shelf-life of hatred? Does jealousy, bitterness, and hatred diminish or grow over time?
Paul seems to have concluded that he would never receive a fair trial in Caesarea or Jerusalem, so he appeals directly to Caesar. Are there times when a believer ought to appeal to a secular power for protection? Might we even go to court against a fellow believer who is perhaps harassing us?
Paul Before Festus and Agrippa (Acts 25:13—26:32)
Once again in his trials, Paul makes it clear that the fact of Jesus’ resurrection is crucial. He believes that he is on trial because of this very conviction.
What do we know about Agrippa and his sister Bernice? What difference does this background make in the trial narrative we are reading?
As he had done before the Sanhedrin, Paul defends himself before Agrippa by telling his story. He doesn’t argue over points of law, but rather, testifies as to what God has done in his life. If we were brought before a court of law and questioned about our faith, what story would we have to tell?
One of my favorite lines in Acts is what Paul says to Agrippa after he has told him of Jesus’ appearance on the road to Damascus. Paul says, “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven” (Acts 26:19). What about us? Has God called us to a specific task? How have we responded? Have we become side-tracked? Are we being “obedient to the vision” that God has given to us?
Festus responds to Paul’s story by accusing him of being insane (Acts 26:24). Are there things that we believe that outsiders would consider insane? Should we share these beliefs openly, or keep them from those who would not understand?
2. At the conclusion of these trials, Agrippa declares that Paul could have been set free if he hadn’t already appealed to Caesar.
So, had Paul made a mistake? What would have happened if he had indeed been set free?
3. Both Jesus and Paul went to Jerusalem, despite the fact that they knew they would be arrested there. Both are beaten, and appear before the Sanhedrin and then other Roman authorities.
What are the other similarities and differences between their stories?