Acts – Paul the Apostle – Wayne Barber/Part 23
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1992|
|Paul has been left in prison for two years, and not one single charge has been leveled against him. Now this is against all Roman law. However, they do it. The Jews want Paul convicted and subsequently put to death, but they cannot support any charges against him. What is God doing? Why is He allowing him to be in prison for two years with no charge leveled against him?|
Ephesians 1:1; Acts 24:27-25:12
Paul: The Messenger – Part 11
Turn with me to Acts 25. We are going to find Paul on the road to Rome. He is in Caesarea, about a two days journey from Jerusalem, and he is in the custody of the Roman officials that are there. Verse 27 of chapter 24 is very helpful to us. “But after two years had passed, Felix,” the governor of Caesarea when Paul was taken there, “was succeeded by Porchius Festus; and wishing to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul imprisoned.” Paul has been left in prison for two years, and not one single charge has been leveled against him. Now this is against all Roman law. However, they do it. The Jews want Paul convicted and subsequently put to death, but they cannot support any charges against him. What is God doing? Why is He allowing him to be in prison for two years with no charge leveled against him?
Well, turn back Acts 19:21. We know that God had set the course for Paul, and the course involved going to Jerusalem and then going to Rome. Now it’s one thing to know where you are supposed to go and where you are supposed to be. It’s another thing to get involved with how God is going to accomplish all of that. Most of the time it is not in the way we thought He would accomplish it. Verse 21 reads, “Now after these things were finished, Paul purposed in the spirit [The word “purposed” means he put it deep inside of his spirit. Obviously God had spoken to him.] to go to Jerusalem after he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, saying, ‘After I have been there, I must also see Rome.’” He knows he is supposed to go to Jerusalem. He knows he is supposed to go to Rome.
Now, look in 20:22-23. Let’s remember that he expected trouble when he got to Jerusalem. This was not a surprise to him. God had revealed to him that it was going to be difficult. “And now, behold, bound in spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there.” The word “knowing” there means not fully knowing. Verse 23 says, “except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me.” That is exactly what happened. Trouble was waiting on Paul. Paul gets to Jerusalem, and the leaders of the church say, “Paul, there are a lot of rumors circulating about you. Here you are a Jew, now converted as a believer. They are saying you preach against the Tabernacle, against the Temple, against Judaism, and all these things. We know you don’t do that, but we need to dissolve the rumors for some of the believers who are still very legalistic. They are having trouble with you. Now go down to the Temple and cleanse yourself.”
Well, Paul, being obedient to the elders of the church, does what they tell him. He does not want to cause a problem. He is not there for the believers. He is there for the unbelievers. He does not want to start a ruckus with the Christian community. He goes down to the Temple and does exactly what they say. However, some unbelieving Jews from over in Asia Minor, probably from the area of Ephesus, come over, and they see him in the Temple and immediately start bringing false accusations against him. You know the story. A riot breaks out. I mean you really have to get involved in this thing to feel it. They want to kill him. They drag him out of the Temple. They are beating him. They are trying to kill him. Somebody runs and calls the cops. Who are the cops? They are the Romans at that time. They were in civil authority. Lysias, the commander of the Romans, runs down with a group of men, and they put Paul under arrest, thinking he’s the bad guy. He is the only guy who is honoring God in the whole bunch, but they put him under arrest, thus, getting him out from among the Jews who were trying to beat him to death.
Well, a hostile mob continues to prey after him. Then a group of folks decide they are going to assassinate him. They make a pledge to fast until he is actually dead. The Romans find out about it, so they escort him out of town, 470 soldiers. He even gets to ride a horse out by night. They sneak him out over to Caesarea. There in Caesarea, he is under Felix, and Felix puts him on trial. No charges can be proven. As we saw in 24:27, he is left there for two years.
Oddly enough, and I really want you to see that the hostility of the Jews and the hastiness of the Romans to get involved and to take over this situation are two of the tools that God is using to get Paul to Rome. This is exciting. Now, if you miss this, you are missing something that is going on in the scripture. You are just reading black and white, and you are not realizing what is happening. Is God in control or is He not? Yes, He is. He said, “Paul, I want you to go to Jerusalem.” Now, little did Paul know that when he got there, it wasn’t going to be what he thought it was going to be. Then God said, “I want you to go to Rome, too.” He is going to take him to Rome, but not just before the Romans. He is going to put him before Caesar. The hostility of the Jews and the hastiness of these Romans are working in God’s favor to get him where He wants him to be.
I started to call this study, “God’s Flagging.” What does that mean? “God’s Flagging.” Have you ever hunted for deer? When you go deer hunting and you go in unfamiliar areas, you have to get something that is called flagging. You go to the store and buy some of this orange ribbon that’s called flagging. It is florescent orange, which means at night when you put a flashlight on it, it picks it up real quickly. Therefore, you can find your way. When you go in to put a stand up, you’ve got to flag your way in. In other words, you put a flagging there. You mark your way in to wherever your stand is.
We used to take a group down into Mississippi. There were two guys who helped us out. One was a fellow by the name of T. J., and the other fellow was named Wayne. The way Wayne would flag you into an area would be a little bit unorthodox. I mean, he did not realize somebody else was going to be following his flags to that area.
They would take you out in the morning early, an hour before daybreak. They get you out there and say, “Now, look. You see this little piece of flagging there.” “I see that.” “Well, if you will just follow those, I’ve got it marked all the way in and there is a beautiful stand in there. All you’ve got to do is follow the flagging.” “Okay.” They pull off and leave you standing there on a dirt road. They would drive off, and you have to work your way in. It’s a spooky feeling.
I remember one morning I went in. I went to the first flag, second flag, and the third flag. All of a sudden I caught myself looking for a flag. I couldn’t find one. It was thick. I mean, very, very thick. I looked over and it was just looked like a maze, like a jungle. I saw a little piece of ribbon and took that to be a flag. I am thinking, “Aw, come on, you don’t expect me to get through that. I am 6’7”. How am I going to get through this stuff?” I had to get down on my hands and knees and crawl through this stuff. I am thinking, “Is somebody pulling a joke on me?” That’s happened before.
I get to the other side, and it opens up just a little bit. Then there’s another little piece of ribbon and another jungle to walk through. After getting through those two areas, the most difficult areas that I had to go through, on the other side was the most beautiful stand. It was just gorgeous, but I had to go through those two flags in order to get where I was supposed to be. The two flags I did not want to recognize, because they were difficult, were the two flags that pointed the way to where I was supposed to be.
Now I know you are wondering, “What are you doing with this? Do you just want to talk about deer hunting?” No. When you follow the Lord, and He says, “Listen, you go where I tell you,” He has laid out the course for you. Paul said, “I have finished the course.” He’s got a course for me. He’s got a course for all of us. All of us are individuals. As you follow Him, He puts the flagging up. As a matter of fact, He explains His flagging in Proverbs 3:5-6: “Lean not on your own understanding. But in all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path.” In other words, don’t try to figure out what He is doing. Just follow the flagging. It might be something you don’t like, but that doesn’t mean anything because hinging on the unreasonable lies the unexpected. You’ve got to trust Him. That’s what faith is all about.
Isaiah 55:8-9 give another description of His flagging. “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts. Neither are my ways your ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” In other words, you can’t flag your course. God has to flag it for you, and you have to follow His flagging. God’s Flagging!
There are two flags that Paul has to follow in chapter 25. They are two that none of us like. If you talked about it to most folks, they would absolutely turn you off. They don’t want to hear it. They are two uncomfortable, discouraging types of flags that we’ve got to follow if we are ever going to get to where God wants us to get. They are going to come sometime into our life. I want you to look at the two of them. There are only two of them in chapter 25 as we kind of catch up with Paul in his journey.
Flag number 1, in 25:1-12, is the flag of persecution. You go to a meeting and say, “How many of you would like to get rich and be healthy?” Everybody stands up. “How many of you would like to be persecuted?” Everybody leaves and finds another meeting because they don’t want to hear that. Second Timothy 3:12 says, “And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” It’s coming. Look out. When it comes, it’s a flag. Follow it. On the other side of it will be the path God is directing you in your life.
God is powerfully using the hostility of the Jews. Now I want you to see this. Every time the Jews press to get a charge against Paul, they have to go to the Romans because Paul is now under their command. Therefore, Paul has to go to a Roman court. Now, remember, he is going to Rome, so the more hostile the Jews are, the more it forces him closer and closer and closer to where he is going, Rome.
God has already used their hostility to get him to preach a message of judgment in Jerusalem. Remember when he got there, he thought he was going to share his testimony. He shared how God spoke to him in a message to the Gentiles. What did they do? They rose up and began to throw dirt on him and began to try to kill him. They were hostile towards him. Why? Because, you see, the Jews had never accepted the fact that in the Abrahamic Covenant they were not to be an entity in themselves. They were to be a conduit through which all nations would be blessed. They didn’t realize that the seed promised to Abraham was not Isaac. It was Jesus. Galatians 3 tells us that through that seed all nations would be blessed. They rejected the mission call that God had to reach the Gentiles of the world. Paul had received it and obeyed it, and they could not handle that. They wanted to kill him as a result.
God got His message of judgment to them through Paul. Paul is saying, “I am going to the Gentiles, now.” God is saying through that, “Yes, and I want you to know, you rejected this call because you rejected my Son.”
Well now the Roman soldiers have stepped in. First, in Jerusalem they arrest him, save his life, and sneak him over to Caesarea. Now in 25:1 it is two years later. Felix has gone off the scene. A new governor has come on. His name is Festus. Look at 25:1: “Festus therefore, having arrived in the province, three days later went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea.” He goes up in order to do some business there. Look at verse 2. You would think that by this time, the hatred of the Jews would have subsided from Paul’s life. Oh no. It’s a lot worse now than it was before. “And the chief priests and the leading men of the Jews brought charges against Paul [this is two years later], and they were urging him.” Now, let me stop you right there. The word “urging” is a very serious word. They were begging him, “Oh, come on, man.” I mean, they were trying everything they could to get Paul to come back to Jerusalem.
Verse 3 continues, “requesting a concession against Paul, that he might have him brought to Jerusalem.” Why would they want him brought back to Jerusalem? It tells you in the verse: “(at the same time, setting an ambush to kill him on the way).” I’m telling you, Paul is in trouble, and he doesn’t even know it. I mean, he can lay down at night, and somebody is planning to kill him. He doesn’t even know what is going on. Here are the Jews trying to tell Festus, this new governor of all Judea, “Bring him up here. We want to try him up here instead of down there. It’s only two days away.”
Verse 4 reads, “Festus then answered that Paul was being kept in custody at Caesarea [in other words, he is safe], and that he himself was about to leave shortly. ‘Therefore,’ he said, ‘let the influential men among you go there with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them prosecute him.’” If you don’t see the sovereign hand of God in this thing, you are missing a beautiful point. God has just saved Paul’s life one more time. Paul doesn’t even know it. God has just used Festus, without even realizing it, to spare Paul’s life by not bringing him back up to Jerusalem. Why should he go back to Caesarea and come back to Jerusalem? He says, “No. I am going home. Ya’ll just go with me. Paul is safe there. Bring your charges to Caesarea.”
Well, they do. Verse 6 continues the story. “And after he had spent not more than eight or ten days among them, he went down to Caesarea; and on the next day he took his seat on the tribunal and ordered Paul to be brought.” Now watch what happens here. “And after he had arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him [Watch the next phrase] which they could not prove.” That’s very important. They never had a charge against Paul. It was all drummed up to begin with.
Verse 8 reads, “while Paul said in his own defense, ‘I have committed no offense either against the Law of the Jews or against the temple or against Caesar.’” Now what are they going to do? Here is Festus. They don’t have a charge. They can’t back up anything. Remember the Romans tried to pamper the Jews because it was the largest population that they looked over in that area. They wanted to keep good relationships with them.
Look at verse 9: “But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, answered Paul and said, ‘Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me on these charges?’” Now watch what Paul does. Paul knows what’s going on. He knows Festus. He knows the whole system. Verse 10, “But Paul said, ‘I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal.’” Why? Not just because he wanted to be before Caesar. God told him he was going to Rome. Paul, I think, at this point is in on God’s agenda. He knows what’s happening. He is standing there. Did he have a right to do it? Yes. He was a Roman citizen. He had every right under their judicial system to go before Caesar, and he hung on to it. It continues, “where I ought to be tried. I have done no wrong to the Jews, as you also very well know.”
Verse 11 reads on, “If then I am a wrongdoer, and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die; but if none of those things is true of which these man accuse me, no one can hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar.” Look at verse 1: “Then when Festus had conferred with his council, he answered, ‘You have appealed to Caesar, to Caesar you shall go.’” Alright! The angels of heaven were saying, “Okay. You said he was going to Rome! Look, Lord! He’s going to Rome! How did you do that?” God is sovereign, and He is in control. He is going to get the man to Rome. He said, “I want you to go to Jerusalem. I will take you to Rome. I’ll flag the way. You just watch for the flags.” Persecution was one of the flags. The more heat that was put on Paul, the more it forced him closer to the destiny that God had for him.
Do you remember back in Acts 16? Paul was on his second journey. We studied this. He was trying to get into Asia or Bithynia and couldn’t. God squeezed him over to Troas. He had a Macedonian vision. He goes over to Macedonia and then goes to Philippi, remember? Paul is not bothering anybody. There are no Jews there. He meets outside the city wall. Finally a little congregation begins to develop as he leads a lady, who was a seller of purple, to Christ. He leads a jailer to Christ when he is put into jail. He delivered the demonically-possessed girl. She was one of the converts. Remember how he was beaten and put into jail there? Then one night the earthquake came, and the jail doors opened. The jailer said, “Oh, what must I do to be saved?” I would have said the same thing. He gets saved along with his whole household. As a result of all of that, remember what happened? Remember how the officials found out he was a Roman citizen?
The same thing is happening here in this situation. They said, “Oh, no.” They were embarrassed. You can’t beat a Roman citizen without first of all putting him on trial. They said, “Will you please get out of town? You don’t realize what will happen to us if people find out.” Paul says, “Alright.” He leaves Philippi. There was persecution in Philippi. You say, “Oh, he has failed his mission. He didn’t do what God wanted him to do. Look, he was persecuted and run out of town.” Oh, no. Do you know where he goes? Thessalonica. I am telling you, one of the greatest little churches there has grown up as a result of his ministry. While he was being persecuted over in Philippi, God had a church on His mind. By squeezing him here, He pops him right over here, exactly where He wants him to be. Persecution became the very thing that led him to where God wanted him to be.
Now the word “persecution” in Greek means to pursue after like a dog on a trail. Have you ever been coon hunting? I don’t know why this is on my mind. When you go coon hunting at night you hear those coon dogs. You have never lived until you have heard those dogs. They start off with a low voice. Then they get on the trail, and it gets louder. Then they tree something, and they really howl! You always know where they are. I mean, you can just follow them through the woods. You know the dogs by name, and you say, “Oh, there’s Tom.” When a coon dog gets on a trail, that’s the word for persecute in scripture. It means to pursue after like an old dog on a trail. It just follows you everywhere you go.
Anytime you stand for what God stands for, anytime you preach what God says to preach, anytime you live the life that God wants you to live, persecution is going to follow you everywhere you go. Don’t ever think it’s going to leave you alone. Sometimes it is of lesser degrees, but it’s going to follow you everywhere you go. If you say you are a believer and there is no persecution in your life, you need to stop and ask the question, “Do I really believe the Lord Jesus Christ?” One of the first evidences that you truly know Christ and are walking with Him is the persecution that results. Light and darkness do not get along together.
What is going on in your life? Why are you fighting against the very thing He is trying to flag in front of you as the direction He is taking you. The worst kind of persecution is when it is in the form of prosecution. You know what prosecution is? Let me tell you what Webster says. Webster says prosecution means the act of relentless accusation in order to find somebody guilty. It’s relentless accusation. You know and I know, in a legal sense, that a prosecuting attorney may have the wrong information, but he will relentlessly use it to accuse you to try to come to a conviction of guilty. He may have the right information or he may have the wrong information, but he will use the information he has.
Folks, when you are persecuted in the form of prosecution, when people are relentlessly accusing you falsely, that can be one of the flags that God is continuing to use in your life. I want to show you that in Paul’s life. Look at Acts 25:13-32. God is using the legal system in an incredible way. He is moving Paul from person to person that He wants to be in front of. In Romans 13:1-3 Paul shows you what he thinks about the legal system. Look over there for just a second. This was written months before this took place. “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.”
Paul had a deep, deep, deep respect for authority and it shows here. He has already been before Felix. What did Felix do? He parked him in prison for two more years. He knew exactly what was going on. Acts 24:26 says he did it so that he could get a bribe, to get something out of him. He waited two years for Paul’s friends to bail him out so that he could make something off the deal, and none of them came through. For two years he gets to go and talk to Felix and witness to him and to Drusilla. That is what God wanted. God used the false accusations that were never supported to get the gospel to Felix and to his wife for two solid years.
Now here he is in this second appearance. As we read in Acts 25:12, God assures Paul that he is going to Caesar in Rome. “Then when Festus had conferred with his council, he answered, ‘You have appealed to Caesar, to Caesar you shall go.’” Now watch in verse 13. Another official comes on the scene. You ask, “Was he a Roman?” Well, yes and no. He was a king. Agrippa is his name. It says, “Now when several days had elapsed, King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea, and paid their respects to Festus.”
Oh, you’ve got to see this. King Agrippa is King Herod Agrippa II. There were seven kings in the Herod the Great Dynasty. In that dynasty they ruled Palestine from 55 BC to 93 AD. They were proselyte Jews. They were not Jews by birth. They were mostly proselyte Jews. They were appointed many times by Rome. They were comrades of Rome. So if you ask, “Are they Romans?” Yes, but no. They understood the Jewish beliefs. They believed in God. For the first time, Paul has got somebody in a legal sense sitting in front of him who believes God, believes Moses, believes the prophets and understands the Old Testament. God is using the court system to get the testimony of Christ out of Paul in a way that could never have happened any other way. He is moving him from place to place.
Well, Paul goes before Agrippa. Acts 25:13-22 is the story explaining how Festus explained to Agrippa, “Agrippa, I’ve got this guy, and I don’t know what to do with him. We can’t make a charge against him. What are we going to do?” Agrippa says, “Hey, I’d like to hear him.” He does hear him. Look at 26:28. After it is all over with, Agrippa is the one who said, “Paul, you almost make me want to become a Christian. You almost persuaded me to become a Christian.” In verse 32 it says, “And Agrippa said to Festus, ‘This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”
Do you hear what is happening? The accusations are not supported. Now they see that he is innocent, but what happened? Paul knows he has got to go to Rome, so he hangs on to his appeal to go to Caesar. He did not want them to set him free. He wanted to have an audience before the one God has destined him to stand before. Prosecution. Accusations. Accusations many times are the very flaggings God puts in our life that lead us exactly where He wants us to be. The more Paul was accused, even though they were false accusations, the more God would move him from place to place to place to place. He is going to get him to Rome, based on false accusations. That was His way of leading in Paul’s life.
Have you ever been accused of something? Have you ever had somebody prosecute you? I mean, sometimes you get a Christian against a Christian, and they won’t let off. You wonder, “What is going on, man? Get off my case.” God is using that prosecution to take you to a deeper place in the course that He has set before you.
Let me give you an Old Testament example. Remember when King David was out with his army and a man came out and cursed him? Old Joab said, “I’ll get him.” He pulled his sword out and was going to go over and kill the guy. David said, “Don’t you dare. God has a message for me to hear through his cursing.” What was it? You are a man of blood guiltiness. It was a message from God that David could never build the temple because of the blood that was on his hands. Solomon would be the one to build the temple. God used an accusation to show him something about himself.
Years ago, my wife and I had a bill which we had paid off on time. We moved right after that. Well, before long we got a notice in the mail that said we had not paid that bill. Has that ever happened to you? Doesn’t that make you mad? You know you have paid it. What’s the matter with those people? Well, they said that we hadn’t paid it. I thought, “Well, don’t worry about it. It will all work out.” Oh, it doesn’t work out. As a matter of fact, I got a letter from a collection agency. They are going to sue me because this bill has not been paid. Well, I got very upset. All of our boxes are still packed, and that check stub is in some box somewhere. We hadn’t even unpacked it, but I knew it was there.
One day they call our house collect, and my wife answered the phone. She took the call thinking it was somebody in our youth group. They just laid her out for not paying that bill. I came home and found out about it. We had been falsely accused! What are they doing to me? I stepped out of the realm of the spirit, and I jumped feet first into the realm of the flesh. I got in that attic, found the box and found the check. I went down to the church. I thought, “I am going to burn these people.” I made a copy of the cancelled check, and I wrote a letter that would make the hair on the back of your neck stand up and put it on church stationery! Bad. I sent the letter.
I forgot about it. It felt good. You know, it is only for a season. I want you to know this. When you do that kind of stuff, it doesn’t last long. Well, the church I was serving in had a dedication of the activities building in the new sanctuary that we had built. I was in activities work at that time, and I am standing over in the activities building. This lady walked up to me and said, “I am real disappointed in you.” I’ve heard that before, and I said, “Well, why? What have I done now?” She said, “Did you write a letter about three months ago to (and she mentioned the company)?” “Yeah, I think I did.” “Well, did you say some things in it that were very unkind?” “Ah, well, yeah.” She said, “Do you see that man over there by the punch bowl?” I looked over there, and there was a man getting some punch. I said, “Yes, ma’am.” She said, “Do you know who he is?” I said, “No, ma’am.” She said, “Well, first of all, he is one of the most respected persons who has ever grown up in this town. He has been part of this church for years and years and years.”
At this point, I had the gift of discernment. It is amazing. It just came upon me. I just somehow understood who this man was. She said, “He works for this company.” I said, “Oh.” She said, “As a matter of fact, your letter went across his desk, and he has been very offended. As a matter of fact, he wonders what kind of person you really are.”
Do you know what I had to do? It is tough being a Christian, isn’t it? I walked over, and I had to say, “Sir, my name is Wayne Barber.” I said it real fast so maybe he wouldn’t catch all of it. “I think you got a letter from me about three months ago.” He said, “Yes, sir. I sure did.” He looked me over from top to bottom. I said, “Well, sir. I need to confess to you a callousness of my flesh that I wasn’t even real sure was there. Because of the accusations of your company God chose to use that to take me deeper in my walk with Him.”
You see, accusations, whether they are right or wrong, are tools that God will use to make us deal with the ugliness of our flesh and get us more on course in the journey that He has set before us. Persecution, that’s bad, but when it’s in the form of prosecution, that’s worse. That is when it comes against you in the form of accusation, whether they be true or whether they be false. Those are two flags that we don’t like.
Someone said to me one day, “It is one thing for you to get the beam out. It’s another thing for God to use your brother to help you get the beam out of your own eye.” Oh, I don’t like that. Leave me alone. I’ll deal with my own life. Religion is a personal matter. Isn’t that a joke? Folks, listen; if you are being accused, if you are being persecuted or if anything is going on in your life, remember the sovereign hand of God. What is He trying to do in your life to get you to confess, to see, to recognize, to take you deeper into the course of the journey God has set in front of you? They can be good if you look at them in the right way. “All things work together for good to them that love God and are called according to His purpose.”