Paul’s two-year incarceration in Caesarea is recorded in Acts 23:34 - 26:32.
Caesarea Maritima on the coast of Israel (not to be confused with Caesarea Philippi at the foot of Mt. Hermon) was about 60 miles northwest of Jerusalem. It was one of the crown jewels of the Roman Empire. Built by Herod the Great in honor of his benefactor Caesar Augustus (Octavius) for whom it was named, Caesarea was the Judean governor’s headquarters, and was called Judea Caput (Judea’s head). It was here that the Roman governors of Judea, including Pontius Pilate, lived in sensual luxury and splendor in Herod’s palace, which jutted out into the sea and featured a large indoor pool carved out of the seabed. With magnificent views of the striking blue waters of the Mediterranean, the city had a 4,000-seat theater, a 10,000-seat hippodrome (circus and stadion) that was used for chariot races and Greek athletic contests, a Cardo Maximus (main north-south colonnaded boulevard), fountains and temples and the palatial homes of the rich and powerful, a bathhouse featuring hot, warm, and cold water rooms. Caesarea’s 100-acre man-made harbor was “the greatest engineering wonder of its time.” Like other major Roman cities, Caesarea had an elaborate municipal water system. Every major city was supplied with great quantities of water which was transported via aqueducts then channeled throughout the city by a complex municipal hydraulic system. Water was brought to Caesarea from the Shuni spring 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) north via an aqueduct built by the Roman Tenth Legion.
There was a church in Caesarea (Acts 18:22). This is where Cornelius, the first Gentile convert, lived (Acts 10:1), though he might have been relocated by now. And this is where Philip the evangelist lived with his family (Acts 21:8). Paul was allowed visitation rights (Ac. 24:23).
Paul appeared before multiple governors and nobles. He appeared before Felix the governor of Judea and his wife Drusilla (Ac. 24:1-27), Festus the governor of Judea (Ac. 25:1-12), Agrippa II, a grandson of Herod the Great, and his wife Bernice (Acts 25:13 - 26:32). There were also chief captains and principle men of the city present (Ac. 25:23).
These encounters were recorded in Scripture as a witness to multitudes throughout the church age. In man’s eyes, it appeared that Paul was on trial, but in reality Paul was the ambassador of the Jesus Christ and it was his judges who were on trial before God as they were confronted with the claims of Christ.
There are many lessons here in how to deal wisely with the unsaved.
There are also lessons here for ministering the Word of God under a corrupt and unjust government. Rome had law and order and a semblance of justice, but the system was corrupt from top to bottom. It was ruled by wicked men who had their own best interests at heart and who used their positions to enrich and glorify themselves. Consider what Paul did not do in his two years in Caesarea:
- He did not fret about the oppression and injustice of his case.
- He did not focus his attention on the corruption of the Roman justice system.
- He did not engage in politics. Rome wasn’t a democracy, but there were all sorts of political things Paul could have gotten involved with.
- He did not campaign for social justice.
- He did not see himself as a victim of circumstances. He was kept at Caesarea illegally and unjustly, but that was not his concern. He did not worry or whine or complain. Believing Romans 8:28, he saw himself as the prisoner of Jesus Christ, not the prisoner of man, and sought to use every day for Christ’s glory. He kept his full attention on preaching the gospel and teaching the Word of God to as many as possible. As a consequence of his spiritual wisdom and singleminded devotion to His Master, only the Lord knows how much good Paul did for the cause of Christ just in those two years. He is the example for every preacher. “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Php. 4:9). See also 1 Co. 4:16; 11:2; Php. 3:17; 1 Th. 4:1; 2 Th. 2:15.
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