1. Then when Festus was come into the province, after three days he went up to Jerusalem from the city of Cesarea.2. And the high priests and chief Jews informed him of Paul, and besought him, 3. Desiring favor against him, that he would send for him to Jerusalem, laying await to kill him by the way.4. But Festus answered, that Paul should be kept at Cesarea, and that he himself would go thither shortly.5. Therefore, let them, saith he, which are able among you, go down with me, and if there be any fault in this man, let them accuse him.6. And after that he had staid more than ten days among them, he went down to Cesarea; and on the morrow he sat down in the judgment-seat, and commanded Paul to be brought.7. Who being come, those Jews which came from Jerusalem stood about him, laying many and great crimes to Paul's charge, which they could not prove.8. Forasmuch as he answered, That he had neither offended anything against the law of the Jews, neither against the temple, neither against Caesar.
1. Then when Festus. The second action is described in this place, wherein Paul hath as hard a combat, and is in no less danger than in the first. Seeing he was left in bonds, Festus might suspect that the cause was doubtful, and so gather an unjust prejudice. But there was another thing which was cause of great danger. We know that new rulers, because they will win the favor of those who are in the provinces, use to grant them many things at their first coming; so that it was to be thought that the death of Paul should be to Festus a fine means to win favor with all. Therefore, the faith of the holy man is assailed afresh with a new trial, as if the promise had been vain whereto he had hitherto trusted; but the grace of God doth so much the more plainly show itself in delivering him, because, contrary to all hope, he is delivered out of the jaws of death. The Jews prevent the governor with their false accusations, yet they do not as yet seek to have him punished, but they do only desire that he may not be brought into any foreign court to plead his cause. They desire that ambitiously as a great benefit, which was to look to equal. How is it then that they do not obtain, save only because God doth hold the mind of Festus, so that he doth stoutly deny that which he was afterward ready to grant? And as the Lord did then hold his mind bound with the secret bridle of his providence, so when he granted him freedom of will he bound his hands, that he could not execute that which he would. Let this confidence support us in dangers, and let it also stir us up to call upon God; and let this make our minds quiet and calm, in that the Lord, in stretching forth his hand, and breaking such a strong conspiracy, did show an eternal example of his power in defending his.
5. Those, therefore. It is in the Greek word for word, [literally] Those who are mighty or able; yet he meaneth those who can conveniently. Also, we may easily conjecture, that they did object the trouble and charges, and besought the governor that he would not make weary with a superfluous journey so many of their chief men, and also certain which were very aged; but would rather (which he might easily do) command Paul to be brought by a few keepers [guards]. Therefore, lest they complain that he is burdenous unto them, he unloadeth them of this necessity, and giveth them leave to choose out from among themselves such as they will. In the mean season, he doth sufficiently declare that he doth not believe their false reports; and he professeth that he will be an upright judge, and will do nothing but according to the truth of the matter. The next sentence also is diversely read among the Grecians. For some books [manuscripts] have the same which is in the old interpreter but eight or ten days. If this reading like us, the sense shall be, that the governor came shortly after to Cesarea, lest the Jews should be importunate upon him under color of his long tarriance. The other reading, which is more usual among the Grecians, shall have another meaning; though he stayed long enough at Jerusalem to hear the matter, yet did he not hearken to their requests, who would have Paul brought thither; whence we may gather a probable conjecture, that he already knew of their laying await.
7. Many and grievous crimes. So long as Paul lived under the law, his integrity was well known and famous. Again, when he was converted to Christ, he was a singular pattern of innocence. Yet we see how he is subject to many slanders, cruel and false accusations. And this is almost always the estate of the servants of Christ, wherefore they must be the more courageous, to pass valiantly through evil report and good report; neither let them think it strange to be evil reported of where they have done good.
In the mean season, they must do their endeavor, that they may not only have a clear conscience before God, but that they may be very well able to defend themselves before men, when they have time and place. For Paul doth not fail in his cause, but courageously setteth the defense of his innocency against their false crimes. Furthermore, let us note that the wicked can never be bridled, but they will speak evil of good men, and will impudently slander them; for they resemble the nature of Satan, by whose spirit they are led. Therefore, whereas we be commanded to stop the mouth of the wicked, it must not be so taken as if he shall be free from all backbiting, whosoever shall behave himself uprightly, but that our life may answer for us, and may wipe away all blots of false infamy. So we see the adversaries of Paul, though they had a favorable judge, yet their slanders were all in vain, seeing he did defend and avouch his innocency by his deeds. And yet it is likely that they wanted not false witnesses, neither were they slack in suborning them; but because the Lord giveth his servants invincible strength, so that the brightness of honesty doth drive away their vain clouds; they are ashamed, and at length they depart from the judgment-seat with this infamy, that they were false accusers. But the defense of Paul doth show what things the Jews laid principally to his charge. The first crime was ungodliness against God, that he overthrew the law and polluted the temple; the other, rebellion against Caesar and the Roman empire, because he raised tumults everywhere. He was helped by the singular grace of God to answer and refute both, who maketh the innocence of his as bright as the morning.