Benefits of Submitting to Due Process
Based on Paul’s Trials in Caesarea
Submitting to established authority and due process follows from our commitment to worship and serve God in every situation. Paul submitted to due process during his persecution and relied on it to defend himself through hearings and court trials in Jerusalem and Caesarea. One trial opened opportunity for him to appeal to Caesar and thus take a step toward fulfilment of God’s promise that he will go to Rome on a gospel mission.
Due process refers to a body of rules and regulations that defines the limits of human behavior in terms of lawful interactions among people and between people and authorities. Respect for established authority implies submitting to due process. As we discuss in previous bible studies such as Living to Receive God’s Intervention, respect for established authority is an aspect of God’s mandate that we worship and serve him in all situations: e.g., from Paul’s letter to the Romans, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established…” [Romans 13:1]; and from Peter, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right” [1 Peter 2:13-14].
We discuss Paul’s trials in Caesarea to understand what he did prior to and during the trials that illustrate his submitting to due process and relying on it for protection and defense. We learn based on Paul’s experience that respect for authority and due process is important in Responding to Adversity, because by doing so we uphold and live according to our commitment to worship and serve God in every situation, thus positioning ourselves to receive God’s intervention at his time. Submitting to due process implies a commitment to the applicable rules and regulations and requires a person with appropriate competence and authority. Although Paul was able to represent himself in the trials, submitting to due process in a modern day society often may imply seeking external professional representation such as by a lawyer, accountant, or other professional. Recognizing the need and securing needed assistance could be important to managing adversity.
Paul Submits to Due Process
We describe several examples of Paul submitting to due process as part of his response to persecution in Jerusalem and Caesarea. We have discussed several of the examples previously but summarize them here in addition to more detailed discussion of interactions during his trial in Caesarea before Governor Festus, which is the focus of the current study.
Right of Citizenship
On the day of his arrest in Jerusalem, Paul asserted his right of citizenship to protect himself from torture. As we discuss in a previous bible study under Diffusing Crisis to Manage Adversity, the Roman commander had ordered that Paul be flogged to aid interrogation. As the soldiers prepared him for flogging, Paul asked an officer standing nearby [Acts 22:25]: “Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been found guilty?” The officer consulted with the commander, who immediately verified Paul’s claim and rescinded the flogging order. Thus, Paul prevented the flogging by asserting his right as a Roman citizen. He understood the facts, legal principle, and process of applying the principle to assert his right. He bypassed the soldiers preparing him for flogging and protested to the officer, knowing the officer was more likely to understand and elevate his protest appropriately in accordance with due process.
Deference to the Roman Commander
Paul respected the authority of the Roman commander and deferred to him in matters that the commander could handle better under due process. For example, he deferred to the commander regarding a conspiracy against his life.
His nephew had informed him about the Jewish leaders and a group of more than forty men conspiring to lure Paul out on the road and kill him in an ambush. They conspired to request Paul be brought before the Sanhedrin again for more interrogation. Paul’s nephew heard of the plot and informed him. He did not try to take any action by himself but instead referred the nephew to the commander: “Then Paul called one of the centurions and said, ‘Take this young man to the commander; he has something to tell him’” [Acts 23:17]. The commander showed due diligence and urgency and had Paul transferred under heightened security to the custody of Governor Felix in Caesarea. Paul referred the information to the commander because he recognized the commander had the appropriate authority under due process to consider and act on such matters.
Trial Before Governor Felix
In the first trial in Caesarea before Governor Felix, Paul defended himself diligently and responded in detail to each accusation against him; notwithstanding that an interpretation of prior events could have led him to be nonchalant toward the trial.
Recall that Jesus appeared physically to him in Jerusalem prior to his transfer to Caesarea and revealed to him that the persecution will take him to Rome on a gospel mission. However, Paul did not know how or when he will go to Rome. He knew going to Rome was God’s promise. Also, he likely understood he needed to submit himself wholeheartedly to the legal process in order to place himself in position to receive fulfillment of the promise at a time and in a way consistent with God’s purpose for him in the persecution.
Therefore, he submitted to due process—participated in the trial with due diligence, responded to Governor Felix’s questions after the trial, but ignored apparent expectation of bribery by the governor: “At the same time he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him” [Acts 24:26].
Trial Before Governor Festus—Appeal to Caesar
After Festus replaced Felix as governor, he convened the court in Caesarea to hear Paul’s case. He had denied a request by Jewish leaders to have Paul transferred to their custody in Jerusalem. Instead, he invited them to appear before him in Caesarea to make their case against Paul formally in court [Acts 25:4–5]: “Festus answered, ‘Paul is being held at Caesarea, and I myself am going there soon. Let some of your leaders come with me, and if the man has done anything wrong, they can press charges against him there.’”
Paul represented himself in the trial. He knew the applicable laws and process. Also, the system did not object to his representing himself. During the proceedings, after the Jewish leaders presented their case and Paul responded, he sensed based on a question from the governor that he could become a bargaining chip between the governor and Jewish leaders. He believed the trial needed to be referred to the next level in the process in order to protect his right. Therefore, he appealed to Caesar [Acts 25:10–11]: “Paul answered: ‘I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!’” Festus consulted with his council and announced his decision that Paul will be sent to Rome to present his appeal before the emperor [Acts 25:12]: “You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!”
An appeal to Caesar amounted to an appeal to the ultimate court. Paul submitted to due process by participating in the trial and relied on it to protect his right against potential abuse by the governor and his accusers. Furthermore, the appeal to Caesar will start him on a process of going to Rome in fulfillment of God’s promise that he will go to Rome on a gospel mission. Thus, Paul’s submission to due process became a vehicle for God’s intervention in his adversity.
Hearing Before King Agrippa
Governor Festus referred Paul to a hearing before King Agrippa, while Agrippa and his wife visited Festus in Caesarea, to help determine how to present the case to the emperor. Paul presented his case in detail as if Agrippa was the ultimate judge. He talked about his long experience among Jews, explained his understanding of why he was on trial, and used the opportunity to minister to Agrippa and his wife. His detailed presentation further illustrate his submission to due process.
In introducing the case to Agrippa, Governor Festus explained due process and the rights of the accused under the Roman administration. He explained an accused must be given timely opportunity to defend themselves against the accuser. Furthermore, an accused could not be condemned or punished before trial by competent authority [Acts 25:16–17]: “I told them that it is not the Roman custom to hand over anyone before they have faced their accusers and have had an opportunity to defend themselves against the charges. When they came here with me, I did not delay the case, but convened the court the next day and ordered the man to be brought in.” That is, due process defines how proceedings will be conducted to protect the rights of the involved parties.
Requirements for Due Process
Submitting to due process requires commitment to the applicable rules and regulations, competence (i.e., knowledge of the process and how to follow it), and authority to apply the competence. In all the trials and hearings, Paul knew the law, understood and was committed to the process, and had authority to represent himself. Therefore, he did not need external representation in order to submit to due process.
However, external professional representation may often be needed to follow due process in a modern-day society. A person may need representation by an attorney, accountant, real estate agent, or other professionals in order to follow or benefit from due process in a given situation.
Submitting to due process is necessary for the same reasons that motivated Paul to do so during his persecution. However, the approach to submitting will likely be different in a modern-day society, either because the involved person lacks the appropriate competence or the system does not permit self representation.
Summary of What We Learned
Submitting to due process is part of God’s mandate of respect for established authority. A person that submits to due process can benefit from protection of his/her rights under due process. Furthermore, submitting to due process contributes to fulfilling our commitment to worship and serve God in every situation, thus positioning a person to receive God’s intervention at his time and in his way. Paul submitted to due process and relied on it to protect and defend himself during his persecution by Jews in Jerusalem and Caesarea. Also, submitting to due process provided him opportunity to appeal to Caesar, thus taking a step toward fulfilment of God’s promise that the persecution will take him to Rome on a gospel mission.