Being a citizen of a country, in some cases, includes many advantages. If you are a citizen of the EU or USA, when entering certain countries you don’t need a visa. Here in the USA, the citizens take their citizenship very seriously. I read today of a man who as a US citizen came from the slums, studied hard, worked hard and became a US senator. He has just entered the race to compete for his party’s presidential candidate. Today we find that being a Roman Citizen had advantages for Paul. Please read:
Ac 22:23 As they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, 24 the commander ordered Paul to be taken into the barracks. He directed that he be flogged and questioned in order to find out why the people were shouting at him like this. 25 As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there, “Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been found guilty?” 26 When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. “What are you going to do?” he asked. “This man is a Roman citizen.” 27 The commander went to Paul and asked, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” “Yes, I am,” he answered. 28 Then the commander said, “I had to pay a big price for my citizenship.” “But I was born a citizen,” Paul replied. 29 Those who were about to question him withdrew immediately. The commander himself was alarmed when he realized that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains.
1) The angry mob.
Ac 22:23 As they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air.
There are three pictures here …
(i) Shouting literally means screaming as loud as possible.
(ii) Throwing off their cloaks means to be better equipped to throw stones and
(iii) Flinging dust into the air … flinging so violently and with such force shows they were going berserk … they were totally out of control.
The reason for this is because Paul declared himself Christian and had in his testimony pointed to Jesus as Messiah. This is the last thing they wanted to hear. To them it was blasphemy. This is the reason for them shouting … “Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!” … in the previous verse. Why … what is the reason for them causing such mayhem? Apart from Paul implying Jesus is Messiah … he says the Gentiles are now to be included into God’s Kingdom. This was anathema to them.
2) The commander prevented a lynching.
Ac 22:24 the commander ordered Paul to be taken into the barracks
This might not have defused the situation as the crowd would be continuing with their madness, but it removed Paul from their presence. It was also a thoughtful measure to protect both Paul and the mob from the arm of Roman law.
3) The commander interrogates Paul by instructing his men to flog Paul. There was a significant difference between the Jewish flogging (whipping) and the Roman Scourging (whipping). The Jewish one was forty lashes minus one with an ordinary whip. The Roman one was so bad that at times the beating resulted in the death of the victim. A Roman flagellum was used. The construction of the instrument (flagellum) was rope with metal balls, meatal spikes and bones imbedded into the rope tips. It was common that the beating was with such force that it often exposed the victim’s innards … and as said, often led to death. The idea of the interrogation was that Paul, strapped between two posts for the flogging and whilst this happened, interrogators would extract answers to questions they would ask the victim.
4) Paul uses his trump card. Paul said to the centurion standing there, “Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been found guilty?” He speaks to the centurion who is about to beat him … asking as to the legality of a Roman Citizen being beaten without having gone through a proper court hearing and being judged guilty. This is quite astounding because the Roman soldiers’ task was to be the guardians and protectors of their fellow citizens. All Roman citizens were exempt from this brutal flogging.
5) The centurion approaches the commander. Instructions had been given. This means orders are active and no one neglects to execute an order, yet the centurion realized that what Paul asked could result in discipline for both himself and his commander … so he stops strapping Paul and goes to speak to his superior.
Ac 22:26 When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. “What are you going to do?” he asked. “This man is a Roman citizen.”
It’s almost humorous … the subordinate asking the superior … “What are you going to do?” But then, the commander did instruct Paul to be flogged and only he could stop the flogging.
6) The commander now speaks to Paul.
Ac 22:27 The commander went to Paul and asked, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?”
He needs to hear it from Paul and gets the response … “Yes, I am.” This is a huge matter. The commander continues by saying … “I had to pay a big price for my citizenship.” This means he was not born a Roman citizen. He had to buy his citizenship whilst Paul was born one … “But I was born a citizen.” Somehow Paul’s father or grandfather must have been honored with Roman Citizenship for something done. So when Paul (and any other siblings or cousins) was born, he was automatically born a Roman Citizen.
7) Hearing this shocked the commander.
(1) Those who were delegated to interrogate him pulled back immediately. The word “withdrew” means “to cease to vex one” … cease to frustrate, trouble or harass one”. They were not even told to. They knew the law well enough … just as they knew the consequences should they break this law that protected the Empires citizens they were to protect.
(2) The commander who gave the instruction to flog was “alarmed” which means “to be struck with fear” or “to be seized with alarm.” Not only had he instructed the flogging, he had Paul chained (handcuffed). This resulted in:
Ac 22:30 The next day, since the commander wanted to find out exactly why Paul was being accused by the Jews, he released him and ordered the chief priests and all the Sanhedrin to assemble. Then he brought Paul and had him stand before them.
We shall return to this tomorrow, but for today …
(a) The commander stopped the flogging completely.
(2) He protected Paul from the mob.
(c) He arranged for the Sanhedrin to assemble.
He had the authority to “order” the chief priests and Jewish leaders to assemble. However bad Rome was in some ways, there were rules and regulations to follow and more especially when it came to Roman Citizens. The departing thought for us today is … God in His grace and mercy has plans for Paul. His apostolic ministry has not yet ceased. He shall therefore know God’s protection. This is true for you and me as well.
God is good, loving and gracious. He shall protect us as we serve Him and bless our faithfulness and be glorified. Amen.