When Paul's visit sparked a riot in Ephesus, the Romans came and took him into protective custody. Not too protective, though. The Roman officer in charge wanted to know why all the ruckus and figured he’d beat it out of Paul. But Paul was a Roman citizen and, as such, had certain rights.
But when they had stretched him out for the whipping, Paul said to the army officer standing there: “Is it lawful for you men to scourge a man that is a Roman and uncondemned?” Well, when the army officer heard this, he went to the military commander and made report, saying: “What are you intending to do? Why, this man is a Roman.” So the military commander approached and said to him: “Tell me, Are you a Roman?” He said: “Yes.” The military commander responded: “I purchased these rights as a citizen for a large sum [of money].” Paul said: “But I was even born [in them].” Immediately, therefore, the men that were about to examine him with torture withdrew from him; and the military commander became afraid on ascertaining that he was a Roman and that he had bound him. Acts 22:22-29
Paul never came out from under house arrest. He appealed his case to Caesar. The book of Acts from this chapter on relates his travels to Rome. Along the way he met a bevy of officials, some petty, some major, and he pitched Christianity to each one. They all ran for cover, same as folks do today. They all had their reasons, same as folks do today.
First off was provincial governor Felix:
Some days later Felix arrived with Drusilla his wife, who was a Jewess, and he sent for Paul and listened to him on the belief in Christ Jesus. But as he talked about righteousness and self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and answered: “For the present go your way, but when I get an opportune time I shall send for you again.” Acts 24:24-25
What was it that made him sweat? All was fine until Paul brought up “righteousness and self-control and the judgment to come.” Felix wasn‘t really that great of a guy:
[Wikipedia on Antonius Felix:" Felix’s cruelty and licentiousness, coupled with his accessibility to bribes, led to a great increase of crime in Judaea. To put down the Zealots he favored an even more violent sect, the Sicarii ("Dagger-men"), by whose aid he contrived the murder of the high-priest Jonathan. The period of his rule was marked by internal feuds and disturbances, which he put down with severity."]
We run into that a lot, too. Sure, the truth promises a world without war…who wouldn’t want that? And a world without sickness, or even death. An earth made beautiful…..same as God originally intended it….sure does sound appealing. If only it were not for that “righteousness and self-control and the judgment to come!” We live in a time in which people want to do exactly what they want to do. The title of a current JW publication says it all: “What Does God Require of Us.” Surely when man and his Creator meet up, it won’t be the man telling God how things should be done. (though you'd never know that to hear certain ones bellyache on the web. Just like at Ezekiel 18:25: And you people will certainly say: “The way of Jehovah is not adjusted right.” Hear, please, O house of Israel. Is not my own way adjusted right? Are not the ways of you people not adjusted right?) He does require certain things of us...adjustments in our thinking and ways and of living.... otherwise life would already be panacea, all problems would be readily solved and we wouldn’t need him.
Felix didn't release Paul. He handed him off to the next governor, Festus. (Unlike, Felix, the internet has very little to say about Festus of the Bible, but a great deal to say about Festus Haggen, the scruffy sidekick of Marshall Dillon in Gunsmoke. Such is today's culchure.) Festus heard Paul out and thought he would make for great entertainment when his crony king Agrippa rolled into town. Over after-dinner drinks, perhaps, Festus briefed Agrippa on Paul’s plight:
“There is a certain man left prisoner by Felix, and when I was in Jerusalem the chief priests and the older men of the Jews brought information about him, asking a judgment of condemnation against him. But I replied to them that it is not Roman procedure to hand any man over as a favor before the accused man meets his accusers face to face and gets a chance to speak in his defense concerning the complaint. [actually, he replied just the opposite. He was more than ready to hand Paul over………….Acts 25:9-11] Therefore when they got together here, I made no delay, but the next day I sat down on the judgment seat and commanded the man to be brought in. Taking the stand, the accusers produced no charge of the wicked things I had supposed concerning him. They simply had certain disputes with him concerning their own worship of the deity and concerning a certain Jesus who was dead but who Paul kept asserting was alive. So, being perplexed as to the dispute over these matters, I proceeded to ask if he would like to go to Jerusalem and there be judged concerning these matters. But when Paul appealed to be kept for the decision by the August One, I commanded him to be kept until I should send him on up to Caesar.”
Here Agrippa [said] to Festus: “I myself would also like to hear the man.” “Tomorrow,” he said, “you shall hear him.” Therefore, on the next day, Agrippa and Bernice came with much pompous show and entered into the audience chamber together with military commanders as well as men of eminence in the city, and when Festus gave the command, Paul was brought in. And Festus said: “King Agrippa and all you men who are present with us, you are beholding this man concerning whom all the multitude of the Jews together have applied to me both in Jerusalem and here, shouting that he ought not to live any longer. But I perceived he had committed nothing deserving of death. So when this [man] himself appealed to the August One, I decided to send him. But concerning him I have nothing certain to write to [my] Lord. Therefore I brought him forth before you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, in order that, after the judicial examination has taken place, I might get something to write. For it seems unreasonable to me to send a prisoner and not also to signify the charges against him.”
Agrippa said to Paul: “You are permitted to speak in behalf of yourself.” Then Paul stretched his hand out and proceeded to say in his defense: “Concerning all the things of which I am accused by Jews, King Agrippa, I count myself happy that it is before you I am to make my defense this day, especially as you are expert on all the customs as well as the controversies among Jews. Therefore I beg you to hear me patiently.
Paul gives an account of his past and how he came to be where he was. Some of it is a bit much for Festus.....a man can only stand so much religion, after all.... who interrupted:
Now as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said in a loud voice: “You are going mad, Paul! Great learning is driving you into madness!” Acts 26:24
That, too, we get a lot. Though its not generally phrased that way. Usually it’s less respectful, more along the lines of “you've got your noses stuck in that Bible so much that......" and so forth. But “great learning” back then centered on spiritual or philosophical things, and Paul did center his life there, as do Jehovah's Witnesses today.
Paul wasn’t put off in the slightest. Rather, he homed in on Agrippa:
Paul said: “I am not going mad, Your Excellency Festus, but I am uttering sayings of truth and of soundness of mind. In reality, the king to whom I am speaking with freeness of speech well knows about these things; for I am persuaded that not one of these things escapes his notice, for this thing has not been done in a corner. Do you, King Agrippa, believe the Prophets? I know you believe.” But Agrippa said to Paul: “In a short time you would persuade me to become a Christian.”
Whoa! Back off, fella! Needless to say, we get that a lot, too.
At this Paul said: “I could wish to God that whether in a short time or in a long time not only you but also all those who hear me today would become men such as I also am, with the exception of these bonds.” vs. 29
Nothing great about the bonds! All else was good, though. His efforts to persuade in behalf of Christianity may have met with resistance, but Paul did establish his innocence of the charges against him:
And the king rose and so did the governor and Bernice and the men seated with them. But as they withdrew they began talking with one another, saying: “This man practices nothing deserving death or bonds.” Moreover, Agrippa said to Festus: “This man could have been released if he had not appealed to Caesar.” vs. 30-32
Paul’s appeal took him to Rome soon enough. His custody was relaxed and he had much freedom to move about. He went to the senior Jewish leaders to explain himself. Maybe they’d heard bad reports about him?
They said to him: “Neither have we received letters concerning you from Judea, nor has anyone of the brothers that has arrived reported or spoken anything wicked about you. But we think it proper to hear from you what your thoughts are, for truly as regards this sect it is known to us that everywhere it is spoken against.” Acts 28:21-22
Boy, do we ever get that! “Everywhere it is spoken against.” If that was a trademark of real Christianity back then, it is just as much so today. We’re sort of used to it, and in fact, would wonder what was wrong if it wasn’t the case. Christianity and “the world” are not supposed to be on friendly terms:
Adulteresses, do you not know that the friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world is constituting himself an enemy of God. James 4:4
The final verses of the book of Acts shows how Paul spent his final days in Rome.
So he remained for an entire two years in his own hired house, and he would kindly receive all those who came in to him, preaching the kingdom of God to them and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with the greatest freeness of speech, without hindrance. vs. 30-31
We kind of hope for that too, to be able to preach with freeness of speech and without hindrance. Sometimes that is the case. Sometimes not.