Paul’s Appeal to Caesar’s Roman Courtroom

It is told that Philip of Macedonia fell asleep one day while hearing a case. Waking suddenly and not having all the facts of the case straight, Philip passed an unjust sentence on the man who was at Philip’s mercy. Stung by the sentence, the poor man cried out, “I ap … More

Appeal

Paul speaks in his own defense, stating that he has not broken the Law of his people and that he has not done anything against either the temple or the Emperor (v. 8). Festus, wanting to please the Jews, proposed to Paul that he go up to Jerusalem to stand trial (v. 9).  At this point Paul reminded Festus that Caesarea was the proper place for the trial (v. 10). Fearing that Festus was anxious to make concessions to the Jews and that his trial would no longer be conducted impartially, he appealed to Caesar (v. 11). Paul had been under house arrest for two years. To return back to Jerusalem would be returning to where the same fanatical assassins were all too eager to get their hands on him.

The right of appeal was an ancient and cherished right of Roman citizens. It could be invoked after a verdict had been given by a lower official, or earlier in the proceedings, as in Paul’s case. It guaranteed that the investigation would be transferred directly to Rome and the verdict would be made by the Emperor himself, who at this time was Nero. This is similar to the system in the United States today. If cases are not handled properly in the lower courts they can be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court. Now Festus had no alternative, as no lower official could refuse an appeal like this. The fateful words had been spoken, an appeal of a Roman citizen to Caesar, and Festus dared not ignore them. “Unto Caesar shalt thou go,” he said at last (v. 12). For Paul to appeal his case to a madman like Nero, who even later burned Rome and blamed it on the Christians, seems very foolish to us today because we know about Nero’s history. However at that time Nero had not yet shown his true colors. Actually the first five years of his reign were marked by moderation and justice, It seems that this was God’s will for Paul and His way of taking him to Rome (Romans 1:10).

Application

When things are not going the way I would like, I have the right to appeal, but never to demand. My attitude is more important than whether my preference is denied, or my rights are violated. Once I make my appeal, I need to rest it with the Lord regardless of what happens. (Romans 8:28).

Acts 25:8-12 (English Standard Version)

Paul argued in his defense, "Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense." But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, "Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem and there be tried on these charges before me?" But Paul said, "I am standing before Caesar's tribunal, where I ought to be tried. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you yourself know very well. 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." Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, "To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go."

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