Acts 25:1-12 Paul Exercises His Rights As A Citizen.
Festus succeeded Felix, and he wanted to do the apostate Jews a favour. So when he arrived at Jerusalem, the high priest and “chief men” sought to take advantage of Festus’ political ambitions (vv. 1-2). Again, they try to manipulate him, as they tried with those before him, to get him to summon Paul to Jerusalem, that they might ambush him and kill him (v. 3). But Festus had obviously seen this before, because like Felix before him, and the commander before him, he told them that he was going to Caesarea, and if they wanted to prosecute their case against Paul they needed to send those of their number who had authority to prosecute their case (vv. 4-5). So in Caesarea he sits to judge Paul’s case, and the apostate Jews sent a delegation to bear false witness against Paul (v. 6). However, Paul answered for himself, and these false witnesses could not prove any charge against him (vv. 7-8).
But Festus, again wanting to do the Jews a favour, decided that he wanted to grant their wish and take Paul to Jerusalem to judge his case there. However, Paul was granted these hearings because he was a Roman citizen, so Festus had no choice but to ask Paul if he was willing to be tried in Jerusalem (v. 9). So Paul made his appeal to appear before Caesar in Rome where, as he said, he “ought to be judged” (v. 10a). Anybody reading this story would have to ask, if Paul’s accusers could not prove their case before Festus in Caesarea, what good would come of going to Jerusalem to sit in front of the same people? Paul saw this scene before, and must have known that Festus had other plans in mind. Paul confronts Festus with the truth, that he had done the Jews no wrong, they could not prove their case, and this Festus just learned for himself (v. 10b).
The only real appeal which Paul had was not a change of location, but a change in courts and judge. No doubt Festus was upset that Paul was in effect going over his head. To his credit, and another example of providence in Paul’s favour, Festus confers with his own counsel, and ultimately grants Paul his wish, as was his right as a Roman citizen (v. 12). In this interchange we catch a glimpse of an aspect of Paul’s worldview. He told Festus that he did not object to dying, if it was for a just cause. However, he knew what his rights were, and he exercised these rights, under the rule of law, because as Festus now learned himself, there was nothing in the case of his accusers that warranted him being found guilty. He rightly surmised that Festus was simply trying to deliver him to his accusers (v. 11). We also should exercise our rights under the rule of law, even if we are willing to die for a just cause.