Acts 25–26; Psalm 134

Paul Appeals to Caesar

25 Now three days after Festus had arrived in ithe province, he went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. And the chief priests and the principal men of the Jews jlaid out their case against Paul, and they urged him, asking as a favor against Paul1 that he summon him to Jerusalembecause kthey were planning an ambush to kill him on the way. Festus replied that Paul was being kept at Caesarea and that he himself intended to go there shortly. So, said he, let the men of authority among you go down with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them bring charges against him.

After he stayed among them not more than eight or ten days, he went down to Caesarea. And the next day he took his seat on lthe tribunal and ordered Paul to be brought. When he had arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him mthat they could not prove. Paul argued in his defense, Neither nagainst othe law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor pagainst Caesar have I committed any offense. But Festus, qwishing 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? 10 But Paul said, I am standing before Caesar’s rtribunal, where I ought to be tried. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you yourself know very well. 11 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. sI appeal to Caesar. 12 Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.

Paul Before Agrippa and Bernice

13 Now when some days had passed, Agrippa the king and Bernice arrived at Caesarea and greeted Festus. 14 And as they stayed there many days, Festus laid Paul’s case before the king, saying, tThere is a man left prisoner by Felix, 15 and when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews laid out their case uagainst him, asking for a sentence of condemnation against him. 16 vI answered them that it was not the custom of the Romans to give up anyone wbefore the accused met the accusers face to face and had opportunity to make his defense concerning the charge laid against him. 17 xSo when they came together here, I made no delay, but on the next day took my seat on ythe tribunal and ordered the man to be brought. 18 When the accusers stood up, they brought no charge in his case of such evils as I supposed. 19 Rather they zhad certain points of dispute with him about their own religion and about aa certain Jesus, who was dead, but whom Paul asserted to be alive. 20 Being at a loss how to investigate these questions, I basked whether he wanted to go to Jerusalem and be tried there regarding them. 21 But cwhen Paul had appealed to be kept in custody for the decision of dthe emperor, I ordered him to be held until I could send him to Caesar. 22 Then eAgrippa said to Festus, I would like to hear the man myself. Tomorrow, said he, you will hear him.

23 So on the next day fAgrippa and Bernice came with great pomp, and they entered the audience hall with the military tribunes and the prominent men of the city. Then, at the command of Festus, Paul was brought in. 24 And Festus said, King Agrippa and all who are present with us, you see this man about whom gthe whole Jewish people petitioned me, both in Jerusalem and here, hshouting that he ought not to live any longer. 25 But I found that ihe had done nothing deserving death. And jas he himself appealed to kthe emperor, I decided to go ahead and send him. 26 But I have nothing definite to write to my lord about him. Therefore I have brought him before you all, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that, after we have examined him, I may have something to write. 27 For it seems to me unreasonable, in sending a prisoner, not to indicate the charges against him.

Paul’s Defense Before Agrippa

26 So lAgrippa said to Paul, You have permission to speak for yourself. Then Paul stretched out his hand and made his defense:

I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am going to make my defense today magainst all the accusations of the Jews, especially because you are familiar with all the ncustoms and ocontroversies of the Jews. Therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently.

pMy manner of life from my youth, spent from the beginning among qmy own nation and in Jerusalem, is known by all the Jews. They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that raccording to the strictest sparty of our treligion I have lived as ua Pharisee. And now I stand here on trial because of my hope in vthe promise made by God to our fathers, wto which xour twelve tribes hope to yattain, as they earnestly worship night and day. And for this hope zI am accused by Jews, O king! Why is it thought aincredible by any of you that God raises the dead?

bI myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of cJesus of Nazareth. 10 dAnd I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority efrom the chief priests, but fwhen they were put to death I cast my vote against them. 11 And gI punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them hblaspheme, and iin raging fury against them I jpersecuted them even to foreign cities.

Paul Tells of His Conversion

12 In this connection kI journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. 14 And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me lin the Hebrew language,2 Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads. 15 And I said, Who are you, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and mstand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, nto appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17 odelivering you from your people and from the Gentilespto whom I qam sending you 18 rto open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from sthe power of Satan to God, that they may receive tforgiveness of sins and ua place among those who are sanctified vby faith in me.

19 Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to wthe heavenly vision, 20 but declared first xto those in Damascus, ythen in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also zto the Gentiles, that they should arepent and bturn to God, performing deeds cin keeping with their repentance. 21 For this reason dthe Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. 22 eTo this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so fI stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what gthe prophets and Moses said would come to pass: 23 hthat the Christ imust suffer and that, jby being the first kto rise from the dead, lhe would proclaim mlight both to our people and to the Gentiles.

24 And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, nyou are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind. 25 But Paul said, I am not out of my mind, omost excellent Festus, but I am speaking ptrue and qrational words. 26 For rthe king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe. 28 And Agrippa said to Paul, In a short time would you persuade me to be sa Christian?3 29 And Paul said, Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day tmight become such as I amexcept for uthese chains.

30 Then the king rose, and vthe governor and Bernice and those who were sitting with them. 31 And when they had withdrawn, they said to one another, wThis man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment. 32 And Agrippa said to Festus, xThis man could have been set yfree if he had not appealed zto Caesar.


Come, Bless the Lord

A Song of mAscents.

134  Come, bless the Lord, all you mservants of the Lord,

who nstand oby night in the house of the Lord!

pLift up your hands to qthe holy place

and bless the Lord!

May the Lord rbless you sfrom Zion,

he who tmade heaven and earth!