Acts 25:1-27

  • 7 November 2021
  • Stuart Robinson

All Saints’ Day

Political expediency.

That is the context of Acts 25.

An egregious – shockingly bad, self-serving abuse of power has just taken place…indeed it was systemic.

The Roman governor of the region where Paul had been arraigned on spurious charges, Felix, placed him under lock and key (24:23) in the hope that Paul might offer him a bribe. 

Governor Felix spoke with Paul frequently but the only thing that Paul shared with him was the urgency of turning to Christ (24:24-25).

At the end of his term, Felix was succeeded by Governor Porcius Festus…who continued to pervert the course of justice by leaving Paul to languish in prison for a further two years. 

That is, 730 days, or 17,520 hours of privation and callous indifference.

As Dan explained last week, Porcius did this, to keep the peace; to grant a favour at Paul’s very great expense to the apostle’s Jewish detractors (24:27).

And the rot set in.

Having compromised his authority in the incarceration scandal, the religious leaders, including the chief priests, come back to Governor Porcius Festus with a plan to ambush and kill Paul as he is transferred from one jurisdiction to another (Acts 25:3).

After spending ten days with these supposed exemplars of godliness and morality, Porcius Festus persuades them to again bring charges against Paul in a newly convened court – but as none of the accusations ‘stick’, Festus suggests that Paul be transferred to Jerusalem where the ambush will take place.

Now, Paul exercising his right as a Roman citizen – appeals to a higher authority, that of the court of the emperor in Rome.

So Porcius Festus declared (perhaps relievedly) – so be it, Paul: ‘To Caesar you will go’ (25:12). 

I heard a new word the other day that describes this chaos – ‘omnishambles’. 

A tragic mess from every perspective.

Except one.

You may recall that proverb I quoted the other week.

Here it is again (and I’d be pleased if you committed it to memory), “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan, that can succeed against the Lord”. Proverbs 21:30.

Not only will Paul be delivered to Rome – as Jesus promised he would be (in Acts 23:11), but on the way, Paul will be afforded the opportunity to share the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection with his fellow prisoners AND with the women and men who ruled the world at that time.

Let me show you what I mean:

Though corrupt, do you recall how Governor Felix used to regularly visit Paul in prison and how Paul, rather than a payoff, shared the good news of Jesus and of the coming judgement?

Well, that Felix had a wife whose name was Drusilla, and she too heard Paul preach and teach and St. Luke (who is compiling this information) tells us that Drusilla was a Jewish woman (Acts 25:24). 

It means that she had a religious disposition and with it, an expectation that Messiah would come.

Now then, Drusilla was no ‘ordinary’ Jewish woman.

Far from it. 

Yes, she was married to Governor Felix – but she was also a member of the famous, or perhaps infamous, Herod family.

The Herod family exercised dynastic kingship or rule across the regions, under Rome.

And it turns out that Drusilla had a sister. 

Her name was Bernice.

And Drusilla and Bernice had a brother. 

His name was Agrippa.

King Agrippa.

And at that time – due to spousal deaths and other relational irregularities, Bernice was living with her brother Agrippa – and together they were exercising their magisterial rule over the province.

So, Drusilla’s sister and brother – the royal family, tell Governor Festus – upon hearing of Paul’s ongoing detainment, his preaching concerning ‘a dead man named Jesus whom he claimed was alive’ (25:19), and his appeal to Caesar – that they too would like an audience with Paul (25:22).

Governor Porcius Festus may have been surprised by this, but he does not show it. 

He immediately complies with the king’s request and the next day has Paul brought up from the cells to the audience room.

What seemed like a tragic mess is now a remarkable showcase for the gospel.

St. Luke wants us, the reader, to note that not only do Agrippa and Bernice arrive in great pomp and ceremony butthey also fill the audience room with ‘high ranking military officers and the prominent men of the city (25:23)’.

I put it to you that in God’s grace, the leaders and legislators of the community have been providentially gathered for a presentation of the gospel.

The world comes to Paul.

From ‘omnishambles’, the omnipotent God of grace will advance his purposes and plans such that each person in that room will be presented with the risen Christ’s claim on their lives.

Indeed, King Agrippa, after hearing Paul speak about Jesus famously declares, “do you think in such a short time you can persuade me to become a Christian, Paul?” to which Paul replies, “short or long, King Agrippa, I pray to God that not only you, but all who are listening today may become what I am…except for these chains” (Acts 26:28-29).

Well, that is instructive, don’t you think?

Paul does not pray that those who subjected him to two years of humiliation and hardship be called to account.

Nor does he pray that he’ll be released from this seemingly impossible assignment to live out his days in quiet obscurity.


Paul prays that the siblings on the throne will become disciples of Christ; that they might place their lives in Jesus’ hands; that they might themselves become conduits of the gospel; that they might become as Paul is. 


He recognises that in the ‘omnishambles’ that is the ‘Herod’ family, and in the corrupt and bitter leaders of contemporary religion, and in the flawed rule of Rome, there also is found the plans and purposes of God; flawless and incorruptible.

And that us why he could write to the church in Rome – his terminal destination, these words, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purposes” – Romans 8:28.

May we pray?

Would you help us see, Heavenly Father, in the ‘omnishambles’ of our world and quite possibly in our own situations – that you are at work – advancing your glorious gospel and conforming us to the image of Christ.

To this end, may we with St. Paul and your saints of every age, pray that those with great power and those with none, might come to know this risen Christ, and the attendant assurance of his good and gracious purposes.


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