And they listened to him until this word, and then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!” Then, as they cried out and tore off their clothes and threw dust into the air, the commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks, and said that he should be examined under scourging, so that he might know why they shouted so against him. And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who stood by, “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman, and uncondemned?” When the centurion heard that, he went and told the commander, saying, “Take care what you do, for this man is a Roman.” Then the commander came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman?” He said, “Yes.” The commander answered, “With a large sum I obtained this citizenship.” And Paul said, “But I was born a citizen.” Then immediately those who were about to examine him withdrew from him; and the commander was also afraid after he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him. The next day, because he wanted to know for certain why he was accused by the Jews, he released him from his bonds, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down and set him before them.
Paul’s Citizenship, Paul’s Persecution & Claim to Legal Rights
- He was rejected by the mob. At hearing the word “Gentile” they reacted violently. Furious, they demanded Paul’s death. They were apparently getting ready to stone him because they removed their outer garments. The Jewish mob here did not object to Paul reaching out to the Gentiles because there were Gentile converts to Judaism. Their objection was that the Gentiles were being given the privilege of following God without becoming Jews first. They were not being required to be circumcised and accept the Jewish Law.
- He was rescued again by soldiers. This time, those in charge of the situation were fed up with the entire situation. They simply did not understand why the crowd was so violently opposed to Paul and they were determined to find out by beating him.
- Paul’s claim to legal rights as a Roman citizen was listened to very carefully. No Roman citizen could be beaten. It was the law. If you were found guilty of beating a Roman citizen you might lose your own life. A Roman citizen was a privileged person of the Empire and literally had the protection of the Emperor.
- Paul verified his citizenship before the commander. His claim to citizenship was greater than that of the commander.
- Paul’s rights were respected. In fact the commander was afraid because of Paul’s claim. The soldiers had over-stepped the law and he might be held accountable, since he was in charge.
- In his search for the truth, the commander called the Sanhedrin Court for an official meeting to get to the bottom of the matter.
Note: First of all, God used Paul to be a witness of God’s grace. He faced opposition but was not concerned about saving his own neck as much as he was to publish the good news. He was committed to Christ. Secondly, God will use us in various situations if we will be committed to Him. If we are truly committed, he will use us so that He might receive glory. All too often we approach God and want to be used of Him first, and then we will be committed.
- In this passage of scripture, Paul quickly points out his citizenship status, his relationship to the Roman State, the condition of his citizenship. His was that he had been born a citizen. The commander had purchased his. There were privileges as a citizen of Rome.
- As a child of God we have dual citizenship. One is our citizenship of this country and the greater of the two is our citizenship in heaven. We were physically born of woman to this earthly citizenship and spiritually born of the Lord Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit at our confession of sins into the citizenship of heaven.
- We, the family of God, are fellow citizens of all God’s children throughout the world. Like it or not you are brother or sister to red, brown, yellow, black and white. You are brother or sister to Spanish, Colombian, German, Russian, Japanese, Chinese, Angolan, Cuban, Egyptian and every other nationality under the sun if they have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ. Get used to it! You are a multiracial family. If you have a problem getting around to that kind of understanding perhaps a bit of confession regarding your bigotry is in order. God’s Word says we are neither Jew nor Greek but have all been made one in Christ.
Philippians 3:17-20 (The Amplified Bible) – Brethren, together follow my example and observe those who live after the pattern we have set for you. For there are many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, who walk (live) as enemies of the cross of Christ (the Anointed One). They are doomed and their fate is eternal misery (perdition); their god is their stomach (their appetites, their sensuality) and they glory in their shame, siding with earthly things and being of their party. But we are citizens of the state (commonwealth, homeland) which is in heaven, and from it also we earnestly and patiently await (the coming of) the Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah) (as) Savior, who will transform and fashion anew the body of our humiliation to conform to and be like the body of His glory and majesty, by exerting that power which enables Him even to subjecting everything to Himself.
- If our citizenship is in heaven, then we have a pattern to follow after. God must be first in every area of our life. If we are going to be members of His church (the Body) then we must be pure, holy, without spot, without blemish, an example to those about us. Our citizenship is not to be taken lightly or for granted. If we are His representatives here on the earth we must walk according to the Word of God.
Philippians 1:27 (The Amplified Bible) — Let your conduct (citizenship) be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.