Summary: As Paul stands before Festus he gives us an example of how a Christian should live as the citizen of an earthly nation.
A Father was trying to teach his fifth-grade son the value of tithes and offerings. The boy listened attentively, and then he went on to say, “I still don’t understand why you have to pay taxes.”
To this the Father replied, “Because the Bible says we must give unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar and unto God what belongs to God.”
His son looked puzzled. “That’s what I’m trying to tell you, Dad. Caesar died a long time ago.” (Taken from Jeff Hughes sermon Pomp and Circumstance on Sermon Central)
Ah the age old question, ‘As Christians what is our duty to our government? How do we treat our leaders especially if we don’t like them so well? If we are citizens of Heaven then what does that mean about our citizenship here? Do we owe a duty to our nation or is that secondary. Today, on July 3rd as we continue our series through the book of Acts we come to a passage that speaks to all of these questions if we are willing to listen to it.
To understand what it says we have to know who the people are that are mentioned, when you do that and then look at the words and actions of Paul I think that we get a clear picture not of how he would tell us to act as citizens of our nation, but a clear picture of how he actually acted as an apostle of God and a citizen of the Roman Empire, even towards people who maybe didn’t warrant respect in human terms.
As we begin to look at these people and this passage I think we can be informed by keeping the words of Paul in Romans 13:1 in mind. Paul wrote, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.” The words of Paul speak to a respect for the authorities in our life both on a personal and on a national level because God is the one who has put them there.
Act 25:1-12, “Three days after arriving in the province, Festus went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem, where the chief priests and Jewish leaders appeared before him and presented the charges against Paul. They urgently requested Festus, as a favor to them, to have Paul transferred to Jerusalem, for they were preparing an ambush to kill him along the way. Festus answered, ‘Paul is being held at Caesarea, and I myself am going there soon. Let some of your leaders come with me and come with me and press charges against the man there, if he has done anything wrong.” After spending eight or ten days with them, he went down to Caesarea, and the next day he convened the court and ordered that Paul be brought before him. When Paul appeared, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many serious charges against him, which they could not prove. Then Paul made his defense: ‘I have done nothing wrong against the law of the Jews or against the temple or against Caesar.’ Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, ‘Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there on these charges?’ Paul answered: ‘I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. If, however I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!’ After Festus had conferred with his council, he declared: ‘You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!’”
Those are the words of Paul but as we look at this passage the life of Paul carries with it the same message. Let’s look at the people that are involved in our passage today. First we have Festus. Festus was the new governor of the province, from history we see that he was just and efficient, from the passage we see that he was still a politician. To those people who say that the Bible is too old to be relevant we have this passage to show us that people are still people, no matter when they lived.
When this passage opens Festus has just arrived on the job. I say that we know he is just because that is what the contemporary historians of his day said about him. See as we look at this passage we are looking at the lives of real historical people, they lived. But we will also see that he was just by the wisdom and restraint that he shows in this passage.