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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Acts 25 – Can Festus Find a Speedy Answer to Paul?

A new governor came on the scene. Maybe Festus imagined that he would have more success in dealing with the problem of Paul. Unlike his predecessor Felix, Festus liked to sort out cases quickly. So the case of Paul was reopened, but it was obvious that Festus’s sympathies were with the Jews and not with the apostle. Paul realised that things looked serious, so he decided to use his right as a Roman citizen to appeal to Caesar. This request may not have bothered Festus in that it soon would take a troublesome case out of his hands. The only problem he had was that he found it difficult to identify a substantial accusation against Paul.

Yet it is obvious that Festus found Paul intriguing and even although decisions had been made about his future trial in Rome the governor was still thinking about the case. His difficulty was that he did not know a great deal about the Jewish religion, especially concerning what he regarded as a small group within it who were advocating that their leader Jesus was alive after having been put to death. Probably he regarded such an idea as silly, yet he knew that his prisoner Paul did not seem like a person who would adopt silly ideas.

Festus’ intrigue was shared by his royal visitor Agrippa, and so another opportunity was given to Paul to address earthly rulers, and as one would expect from Festus it took place on the next day. Whereas those earthly rulers were hoping to have their puzzlement about Paul solved, what we are seeing here is the King of kings repeatedly bringing his ambassador into the rooms of earthly power to speak about the only permanent kingdom. Psalm 2 comes to mind, with its warnings to the rulers of the earth to listen to the words sent from heaven by the exalted Son.

Festus was not the last earthly ruler to misunderstand the Christian faith. Today we see political leaders assuming that they have power to direct the church, without being aware that its ruler is not them, but the risen and exalted Jesus. Moreover, they also imagine that it can be classified along with other religions whereas true Christianity is unique, experiencing the life-giving and grace-transforming power of the Spirit day by day. Further, they cannot understand true leaders who hold uncompromisingly to what they believe about the authority of Christ and the Day of Judgement, and who are prepared to affirm it before the highest earthly authorities.

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