At the time of Paul’s conversion, God revealed that he would bear testimony of the gospel “before the Gentiles and kings” (Romans 9:15). Paul has already stood before Claudius Lysias, and Felix, and now Festus, and in the next chapter of Acts (26) he will stand before “king” Agrippa and Bernice. Before very long, he will stand before Caesar. God always keeps His promises.
But notice how the promise of God pertaining to Paul’s mission and ministry is being fulfilled. It is not through one event alone, or through one person. It is by means of God’s orchestration of a host of people and events. God has used Paul’s love for his people and his desire to bring a gift from the Gentile churches to get Paul to Jerusalem, even when he knew that his arrival would result in “bonds and afflictions.” He also used the counsel of the Jerusalem church leaders, who loved Paul and who shared his faith, along with the opposition of the Jerusalem Jewish leaders, who hated Paul and the gospel. He has used Claudius Lysias, and his meticulous care in protecting Paul’s rights as a Roman citizen, as well as the self-seeking efforts of Felix, who sought to use Paul to further his own interests. And now, He has used the inexperience and indecision of Festus. By means of all of these elements, God has given Paul a platform, an occasion to speak, without opposition from the Jews, and before the leading men of Rome who are in Caesarea, including Festus, King Agrippa, and Bernice. How marvelous are His ways!
The experience of Paul has a great deal to say to each of us. God has given us His precious promises, too. Some are promises which include all the saints, while others may be only for certain saints. But we can be assured that just as God fulfilled all of His purposes and promises pertaining to Paul, so He will do and in through us. And, just as He accomplished these in ways we would never have predicted, so He will do through us.
From a human standpoint, one could look at the events of Paul’s arrest and numerous trials as a “comedy of errors.” These things have taken place out of sheer ignorance or prejudice (the accusation that Paul sought to desecrate the temple), out of desire to do one’s job well (Claudius Lysias), out of sinful self-interest (Felix, and also the Jewish leaders), and out of ignorance (Festus). But as our chapter unfolds, Paul is given the opportunity to proclaim his faith, apart from the constraints of a courtroom, where one’s testimony is always limited to what the court desires, and where the opposition of the Jews is absent. And while Paul’s audience begins with only Festus, it continues to grow throughout the chapter (by what seems to be a coincidental dropping in of Agrippa and Bernice) until an auditorium of celebrities is gathered to hear the gospel.
The point I am trying to make is simply this: THE GREATEST OPPORTUNITIES FOR MINISTRY OFTEN COME DRESSED IN THE FORM OF FAILURE OR OF FRUSTRATING CIRCUMSTANCES, WHERE WE SEEM TO BE LIMITED. It is not until the end of chapter 26 that we begin to see how the hand of God has been behind all of the frustrating events of Paul’s life over the past two years, in order to give him the opportunity of a lifetime, to proclaim the gospel to people who he would never have encountered in the normal course of events, or even as a result of his finest efforts. Paul did not plan these events, nor was his the prime mover in bringing them to pass. Neither was any other person. God was a work here, causing all things to work together for good (Romans 8:28), for the proclamation and advancement of the gospel.