“For if I am an offender, or have committed anything deserving of death, I do not object to dying; but if there is nothing in these things of which these men accuse me, no one can deliver me to them. I appeal to Caesar” (Acts 25:11, NKJV).
Paul had been falsely accused of sedition against Rome and crimes against the Jews and kept imprisoned by an unscrupulous governor (Acts 24:5-6, 22-27). Two years later, he is before another Roman governor (Festus) answering these false charges (Acts 25:7-10). His appeal to Caesar’s court for judgment indicates several things worthy of our consideration and practice. (1) Paul put himself under the authority of civil government. We do not see Paul arguing against the government’s authority to adjudicate disputes of its citizens. Although the government was suppressing his rights (as Felix detained him, hoping for a bribe), Paul did not become violate. Neither should we when those in authority oppress us (1 Pet. 2:14-20). (2) It is right to seek justice from civil authorities. God ordained civil government to address the primary purpose of protecting the innocent and punishing the guilty (Rom. 13:1-4). Paul’s “appeal to Caesar” was the exercise of a legal avenue for justice and protection from the Jews who were trying to kill him (Acts 25:2-3). (3) If we violate the law, we should accept our punishment without objection. Paul was willing to be executed if he “committed anything worthy of death.” If we are guilty of violating the law, we ought to admit it, accept our punishment, and repent of our transgression against the Lord (Rom. 13:4-5). While our citizenship is in heaven, we are to be honorable citizens of society (Phil. 3:20; 2 Cor. 8:21).
8 “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, ‘These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life: 9 “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.” (Revelation 2:8–9, NKJV)
It is said that the city of Smyrna in the first century claimed to be “first in beauty, first in literature, first in loyalty to Rome” (Commentary of Revelation, Hailey, 125). It was the seat of the Caesar-cult that afflicted the church during that period. So, Christ assured the saints at Smyrna that He is the First and the Last. No doubt, His primacy of deity and His power over death emboldened them in the face of what they were about to suffer for the name of Jesus (Revelation 2:10). Jesus knew their works (toil), their tribulation (distress and oppression), and their poverty (they were rich in faith, James 2:5; Matthew 6:20). Jesus also knows the words and deeds of the enemies of righteousness, just like He knew those who claimed to be God’s people (Jews) but were not His people (cf. Romans 2:28-29). Those who oppose and oppress Christians and their faithful service to Jesus are a congregation of Satan, serving his evil intents and aims. Take heart and be strong, Christian, when the world hates you. Know they hated Jesus before they hated you (John 15:18). Christ is Lord, not Caesar or any other ruler on earth.
15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk. 16 And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men. 17 Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? 19 Show Me the tax money.” So they brought Him a denarius. 20 And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” 21 They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:15–21, NKJV)
In their vain attempt to ensnare Jesus, the Pharisees and Herodians assumed intrinsic conflict between the government of God and the government of men. Yet, the kingdom of God is spiritual; it is “not of this world” (Jno. 18:36). The kingdoms of men exist by the will of God, who is Sovereign over all (Acts 17:26; Dan. 4:25, 32). Therefore, there is no inherent conflict between God and “Caesar.” God commands us to pay our taxes and honor our rulers (Rom. 13:7; 1 Pet. 2:17). Christians willingly submit to the ordinances of men unless doing so violates the revealed will of God (Rom. 13:1; 1 Pet. 2:13-16; Acts 5:29). Christians are not anarchists, but patriots, who “honor the king” as they “fear God” (1 Pet. 2:17).