Appeal to Caesar

Paul’s appeal to Caesar may have been unnecessary because after King Agrippa heard his case, he told Festus, “This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Cesar” (Acts 26:32). Paul believed it was God’s will for him to go to Rome. After he appeared before the Jewish Sanhedrin, it says in Acts 23:11, “the following night the Lord stood by him and said, ‘Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome'” (NKJV).

Even though Jesus told him he would be going to Rome, Paul didn’t know when or how he would end up there. Paul may have assumed that his arrest in Jerusalem would be the impetus for his appearance before Caesar. The most likely explanation for Paul’s appeal to Caesar was that he expected a trial in Jerusalem to result in a death sentence. Paul may not have wanted to take a chance with the Jewish leaders that had already made up their minds that he was a heretic.

King Agrippa’s visit to Cesarea, where Paul was being held prisoner, prompted Fetus to conduct a special hearing to determine what charges should be brought against Paul at his trial in Rome. Festus explained to King Agrippa that he didn’t know what to do because he didn’t think Paul was guilty of a crime worthy of death and yet Paul had appealed to Caesar and therefore must be sent to Rome. Festus wanted King Agrippa to help him determine if Paul had actually committed any crime.

The interesting thing about Paul’s situation was that he was acting on his belief that he was supposed to go to Rome and yet there didn’t appear to be any reason for him to appeal to Caesar. It’s possible that if Paul hadn’t appealed to Caesar, he would have been killed on his way back to Jerusalem for a local trial. Acts 25:2-3 tells us that the high priest and the chief men of the Jews petitioned Festus, that he would summon Paul to Jerusalem “while they lay in ambush along the road to kill him” (NKJV).

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