Anyone who follows the news around the world knows that justice does not always prevail in the courts. Corrupt judges and dishonest witnesses can all lead to a miscarriage of justice. The same was true in Paul’s day.
Now in Caesarea, Paul stood trial before Felix as his accusers presented their case. First, Paul was accused of being a riotous troublemaker. This was a political accusation, and a serious charge in the eyes of the Romans. Second, Paul was accused of being “a ringleader of the Nazarene sect” (v. 5), a social charge of being a separatist in an empire that valued order. Third, Paul was charged with attempting to desecrate the temple, a weighty religious charge for which the Romans gave the Jews authority to prosecute.
Paul quickly pointed out the lack of evidence for these accusations. First, Paul denied the charges of being a troublemaker. His desire to worship God stirred up no crowds and created no disturbance. Second, he was no sectarian separatist. Admittedly, he was “a follower of the Way” (v. 14), but as a faithful Jew who adhered to the law and prophets. In following Christ, he was in fact following God’s promises in Scripture.
Third, Paul denied desecrating the temple. He went to the temple ceremonially clean, and came to Jerusalem only to worship and to present an offering to the poor. In fact, none of their accusations had any evidence, and the real accusers (certain Asian Jews) were not even there!
The case was clear, but instead of acquitting Paul, Felix kept him under house arrest for two years—he hoped for a bribe and wanted to curry favor with the Jews. A miscarriage of justice, to be sure, but as we will see, God’s plans were not to be thwarted.