“If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.” (Acts 25:11 ESV)
These last few chapters of the Book of Acts seem redundant, as Paul continues to defend himself against more authority figures, answering charges that technically aren’t charges at all. Governor Felix has been succeeded by governor Festus, before whom Paul stands, on his way to stand before King Agrippa. He answers the same accusations made by the Jewish leaders and provides the same testimony he’s given before, albeit with nuanced differences.
What is Luke’s purpose in reporting yet another defense?
Perhaps the Spirit of God is guiding Luke to demonstrate Paul’s all-encompassing passion: preaching the gospel! Paul makes this passion clear in his epistles. He lived, breathed, and died by the gospel. Since Christ said to Ananias, speaking of Paul, “. . . he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15), Paul has followed this mission closely. That is, Paul was determined to bring the gospel to Gentiles, and one of the means by which he would accomplish this was by testifying about Christ in front of Gentile rulers!
And so, for Paul, his situation wasn’t drudgery, or mere formality, or red tape; nor was it an opportunity to seize power. Rather, Paul saw his defenses as opportunities to present the true King to the earthly kings.
Indeed, he defended himself. But more so, he attempted to persuade King Agrippa to believe and follow Christ. Seeing these authority figures saved was the foremost concern in Paul’s heart.
What about us? When we think of authority figures, what comes to mind? Mistrust, abuse of power, oppression, incompetence? Are we primarily concerned with legislation and voting people into and out of power? These things have their place, and much of the mistrust is warranted, but at the end of the day, our primary disposition toward our earthly leaders ought to be to see them come to Christ!
May our time in Acts 25-26 reorient our hearts toward love for lost sinners, including those in power, based upon our understanding of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ!