Sketches From The Life of Paul
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 22: Paul Appeals to Caesar
The trial was a scene of passionate, unreasoning clamor on the
part of the accusers, while Paul with perfect calmness and
candor clearly showed the falsity of their statements.
Review and Herald Publ. Assoc.
The governor appointed in the place of Felix,
was Porcius Festus, a far more honorable ruler.
He had a higher sense of the responsibility of his
position, and, refusing to accept bribes, he [p. 247] endeavored to administer justice. Three days
after his arrival at Caesarea, Festus went up to
Jerusalem. Here he was speedily importuned
by the Jews,
who lost no time in presenting their
accusations against Paul. The long imprisonment
of Paul had not softened their malignant
hatred, nor shaken their determination to take
his life. They urged that he should be tried by
the Sanhedrim, and requested that he be immediately
sent to Jerusalem. Although this request
was so plausible, it concealed a deep-laid plot.
They were resolved not to leave him even to the
decision of the Sanhedrim council, but to
summarily dispose of the case by murdering him on
At Caesarea, Festus had already met the popular
clamor against Paul, but at Jerusalem the
demand for his death was not merely the cry of the
mob. A deputation of the most honorable
personages of the city, headed by the high priest,
formally presented the request concerning Paul,
not doubting that this new and inexperienced
official could be molded at pleasure, and that to
gain their favor he would readily grant all that
But Festus was not a man who would sacrifice
justice to gain popularity. The Jews soon found
that they were dealing with one who more
resembled a Gallio than a Felix. With keen
insight he penetrated the motive that prompted
their request, and courteously declined to send
for Paul. He stated, however, that he himself
would soon return to Caesarea, and that he would
there give them a fair opportunity to prefer their
charges against him.
This was not what they wanted. Their former [p. 248] defeat was not forgotten. They well knew that
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 answered decidedly that whatever their
practice might be, it was not the custom of the
Romans to sacrifice any man's life merely to
gratify his accusers, but to bring the accused
face to face with his accusers before impartial
witnesses, and to give him an opportunity to
defend himself. God in his providence controlled
the decision of Festus, that the life of the apostle
might be preserved.
Finding their purposes defeated, the Jewish
leaders at once organized a powerful deputation
to present their accusations at the court of the
procurator. After a stay of eight or ten days
in Jerusalem, Festus returned to Caesarea, and
the next day took his seat at the tribunal to hear
the case. The Jews, on this occasion being
without a lawyer, preferred their charges themselves.
The trial was a scene of passionate, unreasoning
clamor on the part of the accusers, while Paul
with perfect calmness and candor clearly showed
the falsity of their statements.
The Jews repeated their charges of heresy,
treason, and sacrilege, but could bring no
witnesses to sustain them. They endeavored to
intimidate Festus as they had once intimidated
Pilate by their pretended zeal for the honor
of Caesar. But Festus had too thorough an
understanding of the Roman law to be deceived
by their clamor. He saw that the real question
in dispute related wholly to Jewish doctrines, [p. 249] and that, rightly understood, there was nothing
in the charges against Paul, could they be proved,
that would render him worthy of death, or even
imprisonment. Yet he saw clearly the storm of
rage that would be created if Paul were not to be
condemned or delivered into their hands.
He looked with disgust upon the scene before
him,—the Jewish priests and rulers, with scowling
faces and gleaming eyes, forgetting the
dignity of their office, eagerly reiterating their
accusations, in tones that grew louder and louder
until the tribunal rang with their cries of rage.
Heartily desiring to end it all, he turned to Paul,
who stood calm and self-possessed before his
adversaries, and asked if he was willing to go to
Jerusalem under his protection, to be tried by the
This would virtually transfer the matter from
Roman to Jewish jurisdiction. Paul knew that
he could not look for justice from that people
who were by their crimes bringing down upon
themselves the wrath of God. Like the prophet
Elijah, he would be safer among the heathen
than with those who had rejected the light from
Heaven, and hardened their hearts against the
truth. When his life had been imperiled by
the wrath of his enemies, it was heathen
magistrates that had been his deliverers. Gallio,
Lysias, and even Felix, had not hesitated to
proclaim his innocence, while every Jewish tribunal
had condemned him, without proving his guilt.
Paul was weary of strife, weary of the fierce
reiteration of charges, again and again refuted,
and as often renewed. His active spirit could
ill endure the repeated delays and wearing
suspense of his trial and imprisonment. How
repulsive to him had been the daily contact with [p. 250] the coarse, idle, unprincipled soldiery, the
frequent sounds of contention, and the rumors of
strife and bloodshed between Jew and Gentile.
He had nothing more to hope for from Jewish
priests or rulers; but as a Roman citizen he had
one special privilege, he could appeal to Caesar,
and for a time, at least, his enemies would be
kept at bay.
To the governor's question, Paul made
answer, I stand at Caesar's tribunal. Here, and
not before the Sanhedrim, I ought to be judged.
Turning to the procurator, he appealed to him
directly: Even you, Festus, are convinced that no
charges have been sustained against me. I have
never in any respect wronged the Jews. If I
have committed any crime, it is not against them,
but against the emperor; and if found guilty, I
do not refuse to die. But if the accusations they
bring against me cannot be proved, no one can
give me into their power as a favor. I appeal
Festus knew nothing of the conspiracies of the
Jews to murder Paul, and he was surprised at
this appeal to Caesar. It was not flattering to
the pride of the Roman procurator, that the first
case brought before him should be thus referred
to higher authority. However, the words of the
apostle put a stop to the proceedings of the court.
Felix held a brief consultation with his counsel,
and all agreeing that the appeal was legally
admissible, he said to the prisoner: "Hast thou
appealed unto Caesar? unto Caesar shalt thou go."
This was said in a tone and manner which seemed
to imply that Paul little knew what an appeal to
Once more the hatred born of Jewish bigotry
and self-righteousness had driven the servant of [p. 251] God to turn for protection to a heathen ruler. It
was the same hatred that forced the prophet
Elijah to flee for succor to the widow of Sarepta;
that constrained the heralds of the gospel to
proclaim their message to the Gentiles. It is the
same spirit that the people of God in this age
have yet to meet. In the great crisis through
which they are soon to pass, they will become
better acquainted with the experience of Paul.
Among the professed followers of Christ, there is
the same pride, formalism, vainglory, selfishness,
and oppression, that existed in the Jewish nation.
Before the warfare shall be ended and the victory
won, we as a people are to experience trials
similar to those of Paul. We shall encounter the
same hardness of heart, the same cruel determination,
the same unyielding hatred.
Men professing to be representatives of Christ
will take a course similar to that taken by priests
and rulers in their treatment of Paul. All who
would fearlessly serve God according to the
dictates of their own conscience, will need moral
courage, firmness, and a knowledge of God and
his word, to stand in that evil day. Persecution
will again be kindled against those who are true
to God; their motives will be impugned, their
best efforts misinterpreted, their names cast out
as evil. Then will it come to pass, as foretold by
Christ, that whoever shall seek to destroy the
faithful, will think that he is doing God service.
Then Satan will work with all his fascinating
power, to influence the heart and becloud the
understanding, to make evil appear good, and good
evil. Then it is that he is through his agents to
"show great signs and wonders, insomuch that,
if it were possible, they shall deceive the very
elect." [p. 252]
God would have his people prepared for the
soon-coming crisis. Prepared or unprepared, we
must all meet it. Only those whose characters are
thoroughly disciplined to meet the divine standard
will be able to stand firm in that testing time.
But when enemies shall be on every side,
watching them for evil, the God of Heaven will
be watching his precious jewels for good. When
secular rulers unite with the ministers of religion
to come between God and our conscience, then
those who cherish the fear of God will be revealed.
When the darkness is deepest, then the light of a
noble, Godlike character will shine the brightest.
When every other trust fails, then it will be seen
who have an abiding trust in God.
The stronger and purer the faith of God's
people, and the firmer their determination to obey
him, the more will Satan stir up the rage of those
who claim to be righteous, while they trample
upon the law of God. In that coming emergency,
rulers and magistrates will not interpose in
behalf of God's people. There will be a corrupt
harmony with all who have not been obedient to
the law of God. In that day, all time-servers,
all who have not the genuine work of grace in
the heart, will be found wanting. It will require
the firmest trust, the most heroic purpose, to hold
fast the faith once delivered to the saints.
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"Address Before Agrippa"