Sabbath School Lesson 25 – “He Could Have Been Freed”
Sabbath, June 23, 2018
“The Lord Jesus demands our acknowledgment of the rights of every man. Men’s social rights, and their rights as Christians, are to be taken into consideration. All are to be treated with refinement and delicacy, as the sons and daughters of God.
“Christianity will make a man a gentleman. Christ was courteous, even to His persecutors; and His true followers will manifest the same spirit. Look at Paul when brought before rulers. His speech before Agrippa is an illustration of true courtesy as well as persuasive eloquence. The gospel does not encourage the formal politeness current with the world, but the courtesy that springs from real kindness of heart.”
–Gospel Workers, p. 123.
1. With what evil plan in mind did the Jews request Festus to bring Paul from Caesarea to Jerusalem for trial? Did Festus consent to this?
Acts 25:1-5 Now when Festus was come into the province, after three days he ascended from Caesarea to Jerusalem. 2Then the high priest and the chief of the Jews informed him against Paul, and besought him, 3And desired favour against him, that he would send for him to Jerusalem, laying wait in the way to kill him. 4But Festus answered, that Paul should be kept at Caesarea, and that he himself would depart shortly thither. 5Let them therefore, said he, which among you are able, go down with me, and accuse this man, if there be any wickedness in him.
“This was not what the Jews wanted. They had not forgotten their former defeat at Caesarea. In contrast with the calm bearing and forcible arguments of the apostle, their own malignant spirit and baseless accusations would appear in the worst possible light. Again they urged that Paul be brought to Jerusalem for trial, but Festus held firmly to his purpose of giving Paul a fair trial at Caesarea. God in His providence controlled the decision of Festus, that the life of the apostle might be lengthened.” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 429.
Paul’s defense before Festus and others
2. What did the apostle Paul say when the Jews appeared in Caesarea to accuse him and ask for him to be put to death? What did Festus state after hearing the apostle’s defense?
Acts 25:10-12 Then said Paul, I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest. 11For if I be an offender, or have committed any thing worthy of death, I refuse not to die: but if there be none of these things whereof these accuse me, no man may deliver me unto them. I appeal unto Caesar. 12Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, Hast thou appealed unto Caesar? unto Caesar shalt thou go.
“Once more, because of hatred born of bigotry and self-righteousness, a servant of God was driven to turn for protection to the heathen…. Among many of the professing followers of Christ there is the same pride, formalism, and selfishness, the same spirit of oppression, that held so large a place in the Jewish heart…. In the great crisis through which they are soon to pass, the faithful servants of God will encounter the same hardness of heart, the same cruel determination, the same unyielding hatred.” –Conflict and Courage, p. 354.
3. Later, what did Festus tell King Agrippa and Bernice when they visited him in Caesarea? In contrast to the Jews, what was his view of Paul and his case?
Acts 25:13, 14, 25-27 And after certain days king Agrippa and Bernice came unto Caesarea to salute Festus. 14And when they had been there many days, Festus declared Paul’s cause unto the king, saying, There is a certain man left in bonds by Felix:… 25But when I found that he had committed nothing worthy of death, and that he himself hath appealed to Augustus, I have determined to send him. 26Of whom I have no certain thing to write unto my lord. Wherefore I have brought him forth before you, and specially before thee, O king Agrippa, that, after examination had, I might have somewhat to write. 27For it seemeth to me unreasonable to send a prisoner, and not withal to signify the crimes laid against him.
“And now Paul, still manacled, stood before the assembled company. What a contrast was here presented! Agrippa and Bernice possessed power and position, and because of this they were favored by the world. But they were destitute of the traits of character that God esteems. They were transgressors of His law, corrupt in heart and life. Their course of action was abhorred by heaven.
“The aged prisoner, chained to his soldier guard, had in his appearance nothing that would lead the world to pay him homage. Yet in this man, apparently without friends or wealth or position, and held a prisoner for his faith in the Son of God, all heaven was interested. Angels were his attendants. Had the glory of one of those shining messengers flashed forth, the pomp and pride of royalty would have paled; king and courtiers would have been stricken to the earth, as were the Roman guards at the sepulcher of Christ….
“Festus discerned that the question in dispute related wholly to Jewish doctrines, and that, rightly understood, there was nothing in the charges against Paul, could they be proved, that would render him subject to sentence of death, or even to imprisonment.” –The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 434, 435, 429.
4. What did King Agrippa II, son of Herod Agrippa I, allow the apostle to do when he appeared before him? Were the apostle’s words only a personal defense, or were they actually an inspired message to the hearers?
Acts 26:1, 6, 9, 19, 21, 22 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself:… 6And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers:… 9I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth…. 19Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:… 21For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me. 22Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come.
“Paul related the story of his conversion from stubborn unbelief to faith in Jesus of Nazareth as the world’s Redeemer. He described the heavenly vision that at first had filled him with unspeakable terror, but afterward proved to be a source of the greatest consolation–a revelation of divine glory, in the midst of which sat enthroned He whom he had despised and hated, whose followers he was even then seeking to destroy. From that hour Paul had been a new man, a sincere and fervent believer in Jesus, made such by transforming mercy.
“With clearness and power Paul outlined before Agrippa the leading events connected with the life of Christ on earth. He testified that the Messiah of prophecy had already appeared in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. He showed how the Old Testament Scriptures had declared that the Messiah was to appear as a man among men, and how in the life of Jesus had been fulfilled every specification outlined by Moses and the prophets. For the purpose of redeeming a lost world, the divine Son of God had endured the cross, despising the shame, and had ascended to heaven triumphant over death and the grave.” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 436.
5. What did Festus say after hearing the wonderful defense of God’s servant? To whom of those present did Paul appeal to prove the truthfulness of his testimony?
Acts 26:24-27 And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad. 25But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. 26For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner. 27King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.
“The whole company had listened spellbound to Paul’s account of his wonderful experiences. The apostle was dwelling upon his favorite theme. None who heard him could doubt his sincerity. But in the full tide of his persuasive eloquence he was interrupted by Festus, who cried out, ‘Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.’ ” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 437.
King Herod Agrippa’s conviction
6. Unlike Festus, how did King Agrippa answer Paul’s direct question?
Acts 26:28, 29 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. 29And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.
“Deeply affected, Agrippa for the moment lost sight of his surroundings and the dignity of his position. Conscious only of the truths which he had heard, seeing only the humble prisoner standing before him as God’s ambassador, he answered involuntarily, ‘Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.’ ” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 438.
“Kings and governors were charmed by his reasoning, and as with zeal and the power of the Holy Spirit he preached Jesus and related the interesting events of his experience, conviction fastened upon them that Jesus was the Son of God. While some wondered with amazement as they listened to Paul, one cried out, ‘Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.’ Yet the most of those who heard thought that at some future time they would consider what they had heard. Satan took advantage of the delay, and, as they neglected the opportunity when their hearts were softened, it was forever lost. Their hearts became hardened.” –Early Writings, pp. 207, 208.
7. What was the final decision of the court after hearing Paul’s experience of conversion and the gospel message? How was it possible for the Jews to assert that Paul was worthy of death when the court determined that he might have been set free?
Acts 26:30-32 And when he had thus spoken, the king rose up, and the governor, and Bernice, and they that sat with them: 31And when they were gone aside, they talked between themselves, saying, This man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds. 32Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar.
“Though Agrippa was a Jew, he did not share the bigoted zeal and blind prejudice of the Pharisees. ‘This man,’ he said to Festus, ‘might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar.’ But the case had been referred to that higher tribunal, and it was now beyond the jurisdiction of either Festus or Agrippa.” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 438.
“Yet, two years afterward, the result of that day’s proceedings saved the life so precious to the cause of God. Festus, finding that his own judgment of the case, on grounds of Roman justice, was sustained from a Jewish standpoint by the protector of the temple, sent a letter to the emperor, stating that no legal charge could be found against the prisoner. And Nero, cruel and unscrupulous as he was, dared not put to death a man whom Lysias, Felix, Festus, and Agrippa pronounced guiltless, and whom even the Sanhedrin could not condemn.” –Sketches from the Life of Paul, p. 260.
For additional study
“Hear him in the court of Festus, when King Agrippa, convicted of the truth of the gospel, exclaims, ‘Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.’ With what gentle courtesy does Paul, pointing to his own chains, make answer, ‘I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.’ Acts 26:28, 29.” –Education, p. 67.
“All should have something to say for the Lord, for by so doing they will be
blessed. A book of remembrance is written of those who do not forsake the assembling of themselves together, but speak often one to another. The remnant are to overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony…. We should not come together to remain silent; those only are remembered of the Lord who assemble to speak of His honor and glory and tell of His power; upon such the blessing of God will rest, and they will be refreshed.
“We should improve every opportunity of placing ourselves in the channel of blessing…. The convocations of the church, as in camp meetings, the assemblies of the home church, and all occasions where there is personal labor for souls, are God’s appointed opportunities for giving the early and the latter rain.” –The Faith I Live By, p. 246.