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Commentary On Acts Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

Acts 25:13-21

13. And after certain days, king Agrippa and Bernice came to Cesarea to salute Festus.14. And when they had stayed there many days, Festus rehearsed Paul's cause to the king, saying, There is a certain man left in bonds of Felix: 15. About whom, when I came to Jerusalem, the high priests and elders of the Jews informed me, requiring judgment against him.16. To whom I answered, It is not the custom of the Romans for favor to deliver any man that he should perish, before he that is accused have his accusers face to face, and have license to answer for himself, concerning the crime laid against him.17. Therefore, when they were come hither without delay, on the morrow I sat on the judgment-seat, and commanded the man to be brought.18. Against whom when the accusers stood up, they brought none accusation concerning such things as I supposed: 19. But they had certain questions concerning their superstition (or religion) against him, and concerning one Jesus which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive.20. And because I doubted of this question, I asked him if he would go to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these things.21. And when Paul had appealed, that he might be kept unto the knowledge of Augustus, I commanded him to be kept until I might send him to Caesar.

13. And after certain days. This long narration tendeth to this end, that we may know that though the handling of the cause were broken off, yet were Paul's bands famous; and that he was nevertheless brought out of prison, that he might make profession of his faith, and dispute touching the gospel before a famous auditory; and again, that though he were contemned, yet was he not counted a wicked person, lest the glory of Christ should be abased by his slander and reproach, yea, that he had more liberty to preach the gospel being in prison, than if he had lived free in a private house.

King Agrippa and Bernice. It is certain that this Agrippa was son to Agrippa the elder, whose filthy and detestable death was set down in the twelfth chapter. When this man was made king of Chalcis, in his uncle's stead, after the decease of his father, he did afterward obtain a more large dominion. Bernice, of whom mention is made in this place, was his own natural sister, which was first married to Herod; king of Chalcis, her uncle, and did keep herself widow a certain season after his death, yet she did not live honestly and chastely during that time; for her great familiarity with her brother Agrippa was suspected. And to the end she might not be counted an incestuous person, she married with Polemon, king of Cilicia. Notwithstanding, because she gave herself more to lust than to chastity, she forsook him. The historiographers do nowhere say that she was her brother's wife; and Josephus, in his Life, assigned her a dominion of her own in part of Galilee. Therefore, it is to be thought that forasmuch as they were hardened in their wickedness, they dwelt together, not regarding what men did say; yet did they abstain from marriage, lest their incestuous marriage should betray and also augment their crime. Neither is it any marvel that he came for honor's sake to salute the governor, who did reign only at the will and pleasure of another, and did depend upon the beck and favor of the Emperor of Rome, which he was to retain and nourish by means of the governor.

14. When many days. Therefore, when (after some time was spent) they wanted matter of talk, as idle men use to invent somewhat whereon they may talk, mention was made of Paul; for Luke meant to note that, when he said that after many days were idly spent, Festus told the king of a certain man which lay bound. And although he doth here both touch the malice of the priests, and also make a show of wonderful equity on his part, yet in that he shortly after cleareth the party which was accused, he condemneth himself unawares, when as he confesseth that he was enforced to appeal that he might not be carried to Jerusalem.

But when Festus commendeth the Romans, he showeth what doth beseem judges. And if nature did tell profane men thus much, that they must admit no such favor as may oppress the guiltless, how much more must judges (who have the light of the word of God) be careful to avoid all corruption.

18. They laid no such crime to his charge. I marvel why Festus doth say, that there was no such crime objected to Paul as he supposed, seeing he was accused of sedition; but we may again conjecture by this, yea, plainly know, that their accusations were so vain, that they ought not to have been brought before the judgment-seat; as if a man did utter a slanderous speech unadvisedly. For which cause he saith, that the state of the cause did consist in questions of the law. Therefore, we see that he putteth a difference between those offenses which were wont to be punished by man's laws, and the controversy which was between Paul and the Jews; not that the religion ought to be corrupted freely, or that their malapertness is tolerable, who overthrow the worship of God with their own inventions; but because the man being a Roman, cared not for Moses' law; therefore he speaketh so disdainfully when he saith, that they did strive about their superstition; though this word deisidaimonia be taken of the Grecians, as well in good as evil part; to wit, because the worshipping of false gods was common in all places. Notwithstanding, his meaning is, that he careth not what manner of religion the Jews have. And no marvel if a man which was an ethnic, [heathen] and had not learned that the rule of godliness must be fet [sought] from the mouth of God, know not how to distinguish between the pure worship of God and superstitions.

Wherefore, we must hold fast that mark whereby we may discern the one from the other, that there is no godliness but that which is grounded in the knowledge of faith, lest we grabble [grope] in darkness. Moreover, the Romans were so drunken with prosperous success, that they thought that they were more acceptable to God than any other; as at this day the Turks, by reason of their manifold victories, deride the doctrine of Christ. This was a lamentable case, that a man being an unbeliever and idolater, sitteth as judge amidst the Jews, to give judgment of the sacred oracles of God according to his ignorance, but all the fault was in Paul's adversaries, who did not care for the majesty of God, so they might satisfy and obey their own madness. Notwithstanding, there rested nothing for Paul to do, but to clear himself of those crimes which were laid against him. So at this day, though inward brawls, which are among Christians, do defame the name of Christ and his gospel among the Turks and Jews, yet the defenders of holy doctrine are unworthily blamed, which are enforced to enter the combat.

Of one Jesus. It is not to be doubted but that Paul intreated, both gravely and with such vehemency as became him, of the resurrection of Christ; but Festus, by reason of his pride, thought it no meet matter for him to occupy his head about. He doth not, indeed, openly deride Paul, but he showeth plainly how negligently he heard him when he disputed of Christ. Whereby we see how little preaching availeth, yea, that it availeth nothing at all, unless the Spirit of God do inwardly touch the hearts of men. For the wicked do lightly pass over whatsoever is spoken, as if a man should tell them a tale of Robin Hood. Wherefore, there is no cause why the carelessness of many should trouble us at this day, seeing Paul prevailed nothing with Festus. But this place doth witness that many speeches did pass in the handling of the matter, whereof Luke maketh no mention. For he had spoken nothing as yet of Christ, and yet this latter narration doth show that Paul intreated seriously before the Jews of his death and resurrection. Which could not be, but he must needs intreat of the principal points of the gospel. Therefore, I guess that Paul did so handle the matter, that when he had refuted the false accusations of the Jews, wherewith they went about to burden him before the governor, having gotten a fit occasion, he began afterward to speak freely of Christ.

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