Sometimes what is just is not right, and what is right is not just – at least in legal terms. Sometimes the law’s rigidity actually keeps people from doing right, yet obeying the law and abiding by it is right. It’s a conundrum, one that Paul found himself facing in Acts 25 and 26.
After being arrested, Paul was transported to Caesarea where he would go before Festus, the Roman governor. Paul pled his case to Festus, and that’s when things went awry. In the same way that Pontius Pilate once privately declared Jesus innocent but then handed Him over to be crucified, so also Festus declared Paul innocent yet did not set him free.
Instead, he kept Paul until Agrippa, the Jewish King, could come down and hear him too. What Paul did, when given the opportunity to face Agrippa, was astounding. He did not plead his case legally. He did not argue his innocence, though he did make it clear that he was innocent. He did not try to argue the law at all. Instead, Paul gave full testimony to why he followed Jesus and why everyone else in the court should too.
The most natural thing for Paul to do would have been to try to save his own life. But what he did instead was try to save the souls of everyone present. Agrippa even scoffed at Paul, asking if he really thought he could convince Agrippa to believe, in such a context and in such a short time.
Paul’s response? “I absolutely hope so!”
Paul was drawing on the promise that God does not forget His saints and that the Lord gives power to His people in the moment they need it. He trusted in this and he declared it. He did not fear or cower or try to manipulate.
In the end, Paul was sent to Rome to face Caesar. It was legal, but it was not right. He was innocent but he was condemned. A Roman governor conspired with a Jewish king to kill an innocent man for honoring God. And the innocent man went willingly. Paul did not wonder what Jesus might have done. He did precisely what Jesus had done—he let them take him.
In a culture where we demand our rights, Paul’s humble obedience to the Lord in the face of a personal injustice gives us a gut-check. God works through seasons of ease as well as hardship, which means whatever season we’re in, God is with us, no matter how unfair things seem.
Written By Barnabas Piper