Felix was an unusual character who had a reputation for ruling with 'cruelty and corruptiblity'. He was married to the Jewish princess Drusilla, the daughter of Herod Agrippa who had jailed Peter. Drusilla was Felix's thrid wife. Felix heard the case five days after Paul's arrival.
Fernando comments on how seriously the Jewish leaders took the case. The High Priest Ananias himself made the 65 mile journey to Caesarea along with the elders and the lawyer Tertullus. Tertullus begins by using flattery on Felix which was common at the time. The title 'most excellect' was for someone of a higher social rank than Felix. He was probably preparing Felix for his charge that Paul was a disturber of the peace.
There were four charges agaisnt Paul. Fernando comments that Paul proves his innocence to Felix on each charge. They said that Paul was a public nusiance, 'a troublemaker' but he had only been in Jerusalem for twelve days and had not had the time to be a troublemaker. He agitated the Jews and caused riots wherever he went in the temple. Paul accusers had no proof to back up their charges.
Paul was apparently a ringleader of the Nazarene sect but Paul backed this up by saying he was not a leader of a cult' he was a member of the Way, a sect which had similiar beliefs to the Jews. Lastly they said that Paul tried to desecrate the Temple by bringing a Gentile into the inner courts but Paul had actually come to Jerusalem to give money to the Jewish Christians.
This is the only place in Acts where speechs take a form of debate. paul conducted his defense agasint a professional orator in an able manner according to Winter. When the debate was over it was clear that Felix should have released Paul, but he was reluctant to displease the Jews. He postponed the decision and put Paul in the custody of a centurion.
Several days after the trial he came with his wife to listen to Paul speak about faith in Jesus. As Paul spoke about rightousness, self-control and the judgement to come Felix was afraid and said 'Thats enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient i will send for you.' Marshall believes that Felix had no intention of repenting. Money was foremost in his mind. Neil said that taking a bribe was quite in character for Felix. He puts off making a decision on Paul's case and lets it drag on until the end of his rule, two years later.
Festus replaced Felix from AD59-61 and was a much more honourable man as he tried to be fair in all cases.The chief priests tried to have Paul trialled in Jerusalem because they were planning an ambush to kill him along the way. Hewitt states that it is to Festus' credit that he is not taken in by the Jews and refuses to agree to their request. He invited them to Caesarea to put their charges agaisnt him there.
When Paul appeared the Jews brought the same charges agasint him that Tertullus had brought but they could produce no evidence. Pual stated he ahd done no wrong against the Law, the temple or against Caesar.
Festus wishing to do the Jews a favour asked Paul if he would be willing to stand trial in Jerusalem but Paul refused realising his chances of a fair trial would be slim. He decides to appeal to Caesar as he is a Roman citizen. If he has done anything wrong deserving death then he is prepared to die. He may have felt this was his only way of getting to Rome.
Bruce comments that Festus was probably relieved by Paul's decision as he could now escape making a difficult one. "You have appealed to Caesar, to Caesar you will go"
A few days later King Agrippa and his sister Bernice arrive on a state visit to Festus. Festus explained that at the trial Paul wasnt any with any of the crimes he had expected. Festus explains that he was at a loss how to investigate such mattters. Agriipa then asked to hear the man himself.
Stott says that the trial before Agrippa is the longest and most elaborate of the five. Bruce says that the speech is a defense of how Paul's life has changed in conforming to the Gospel.Fernando says that this speech is Paul's fullest testimony in Acts since it describes his pre-Christian activity, his conversion, his calling and his mission.
Paul begans with complementing the King and urging him to listen 'I am fortunate to defend myself before you.. since you know well the Jewish customs'. Paul refers to his own upbringing under Gamaliel. Paul is on trial because of his hope in the resurrection of the dead. He describes how he persecuted Christians. He got letters from the Chief priests and put many in prison- and when they were sentenced to death he voted agaisnt them.
Paul relates the remarkable experience he had on the road to Damascus He relates how he and his companions were struck to the ground by the heavenly light- but he doesnt mention his blindness or sight being restored. The big focus was on what the Lord had said.
Marshall points out that Paul realises two things when he hears 'I am Jesus and you are persecuting me'. Firslty Jesus who was crucified is now alive and secondly, when you persecute Christians you persecute Jesus. Ananias plays no part in this account. Paul obeyed and done exactly as he was told by calling people to repent.
It was because of his approach that he was seized in the temple and when he was tried to be killed, God was with him. Paul repeats the contents of his message. That Chrsit would suffer. He would be the first to rise from the dead and that he would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles.
Festus did not understand what Paul was saying and he replied with 'You are out of your mind'. He might have thought this well educated man is perhaps too educated for his own good.
Paul makes a missionary appeal to Agrippa 'You know these things- nothing was hidden away. Do you believe the prophets- I know you do!' Agrippa replies in a light hearted manner 'Do you think in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?' Guy suggests that Paul had embarassed Agrippa as he is backed into a corner.
He cant say he doesnt believe the prophets and lose the respect of his Jewish listeners. On the other hand, he may make Agrippa look foolish. When Festus and Agrippa left the chamber to discuss the case privately, Agrippa assured him that Paul had done no wrong and they realised he was innocent. Paul could have been set free if he didnt appeal to caesar. Festus had no choice but to send Paul to Rome.