Monday, June 9, 2014


Acts 25:23, “So on the next day Agrippa 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 it.”

Pomp, noun A procession distinguished by ostentation of grandeur and splendor; as the pomp of a Roman triumph.  2. Show of magnificence; parade; splendor (Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language; 1828 Edition).

Soon after Paul’s conversion, the Lord spoke to Ananias regarding the nature of Paul’s future ministry, saying, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15).  So, as we read of Paul’s life and ministry, it is good for us to keep in mind what was happening to Paul—his troublesome circumstances did not come upon him by accident.  The Lord providentially worked to use Paul to “carry his name” before Jews, Gentiles, and even kings.  He did that through an array of circumstances, sometimes even using the animosity and contrary decisions of men, but ultimately he worked to guide Paul’s along in him ministry according to His predetermined plan.  God purposed to use the Apostle Paul to proclaim the truth about Jesus to unforeseen places in unimaginable ways.

So, according to God’s plan, Paul found himself imprisoned under Felix for a period of two years (Cf. Acts 24:27).  Ultimately Felix was deposed and succeeded by Festus.  In Jerusalem, before Festus, Paul’s opponents laid out their case against Paul.  Festus invited some of them back to Caesarea where he would hold a tribunal.  Paul’s opponents brought “many and serious charges against (Paul) that they could not prove” (Acts 25:7).  Paul defended himself and ultimately chose, rather than being sent back to Jerusalem, to appeal his case to Caesar (Cf. Acts 25:8-12).

King Agrippa and Bernice then arrived in Caesarea.  “Festus laid Paul’s case before the king” (Acts 25:25:14).  “Being at a loss how to investigate” the matter, he spoke to Agrippa about it (Cf. Acts 25:13-22).  “Then Agrippa said to Festus, ‘I would like to hear the man myself’” (Acts 25:22).  “So on the next day Agrippa 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 it” (Acts 25:23).

Agrippa was the son of Agrippa I and the great-grandson of Herod the Great.  He had been brought up in Rome and was a favorite of the emperor.  Through a series of empirical promotions Agrippa came to reign as King over an ever-expanding region.  Years later he would attempt to squelch the revolt by the Jews against Rome, and would side with Rome in the future destruction of Jerusalem.  Bernice was King Agrippa’s sister, one year younger than he was.  She had been engaged to a man named Marcus, but then married her uncle, Herod, king of Chalcis.  At his death, she went to live with her brother, Agrippa.  Rumors of their incestuous relationship flourished in both Rome and Palestine.  In an effort to silence the rumors she married another king, but several years later she returned to her brother.  Years later, she went to Rome, where her subsequent affair with Titus (the emperor) became a public scandal.

It was these two, Agrippa and Bernice, who “came with great pomp” and entered into the audience hall.  They were of the political elite.  They were individuals possessing wealth, power, and connections.  Their entrance was orchestrated to impress.  The military tribunes were there, as were the “prominent men of the city” (Acts 25:23).  They were no doubt dressed to the hilt and were quite a spectacle to behold.  The naïve observer might have supposed them to be of some degree of importance.  But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and from God’s perspective the prisoner Paul, not the King, was the most powerful and influential person in that room.  Paul had no entourage, but transformed lives lay in the wake of his gospel-preaching ministry.  He had no accompanying military tribunes, but Christ Himself stood with him and strengthened him (Cf. 2 Timothy 4:17).  No prominent men stood by his side, but he was beloved by countless brothers and sisters scattered throughout the region.  His entrance into the audience hall was accompanied by no pomp and circumstance, but in his faithful devotion to his appointed task he left behind a lasting legacy (Cf. 2 Timothy 4:7-8, 18).  Jesus’ ministry was not accompanied by pomp and circumstance either (Cf. Isaiah 53:2), Paul followed “in His steps” (Cf. 1 Peter2:21-23).

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