Paul stands before the people sharing his testimony. All are listening until he makes ONE statement; “And He said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles’” (verse 21). The crowd goes wild and Paul is hurried inside the barracks.
That is where we left Paul last time. At the point where the crowd was calling out for his death. “Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live” (verse 22b). If that’s not wishing someone dead I don’t know what is. I would venture to say they didn’t accept Paul’s testimony.
Our tribune can’t figure out what has got the crowd so riled up. Surely the speech Paul just gave isn’t that provocative, is it? This city is in his charge and he has to get to the bottom of this or risk all out riots in the streets. His superiors would NOT look fondly on that!
As a Roman soldier and used to doing things the HARD way, he knows how pain seems to loosen a man’s tongue. He plans to beat the truth out of Paul as to what it is that he has done to cause such a stir in Jerusalem.
I don’t know if you have listened to the debates about the use of force to extract information or not. I have to some degree. Sometimes it seems to work and other times I think the one being tortured or beaten will say anything, true or not, to make the pain stop. The information obtained is not reliable. Apparently the Romans didn’t see it that way. They obviously hadn’t seen the studies from our recent history.
Paul was in for a flogging because the people were rioting! Why not punish the rioters instead? That makes more sense to me. Or better yet, question them instead. Paul had no control over the crowd, as was evident by his recent beating and their behavior during his speech. It feels like the tribune was putting blame where it didn’t belong. But then again, it was Paul’s words that got the crowd worked up.
Paul didn’t fight or struggle during this whole time with the soldiers. He allowed himself to be ushered into the barracks and stretched out for flogging. He wasn’t cursing at the soldiers or yelling about the unfairness of what they were doing.
At the last moment though Paul raised a question to the centurion who was standing by him. “Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?” (verse 25). No screaming. No name calling. No protesting. Just a question of law. This statement stopped them cold.
In Paul’s question he didn’t state the he himself was a Roman citizen, just is it lawful, what they were doing. The centurion made the appropriate assumption though and ran to the tribune. The tribune though had to check if Paul was asking a rhetorical question or one based on him being in fact a Roman citizen.
Paul’s answer changed EVERYTHING. It was fine for a Roman soldier to treat the people of the occupied territory any way they wanted. They were free from any real confines of law. But a Roman citizen was a person to be served, not subjected. Paul just moved from slave to master in their eyes. Paul was even more esteemed than the tribune even because Paul was a citizen by birth instead of one by purchase.
While looking at this passage I began thinking about our citizenship in Heaven. We are both citizens by birth and purchase. We can’t afford the purchase price so Jesus paid it instead. Once we receive Him we are “born again” into God’s family. Our inclusion into Heaven’s citizenship is an adoption but we are given all the rights as true heirs. As heirs we have authority over Satan and his servants. We don’t have to bow to him or fear his actions. He doesn’t serve us as the Roman soldiers served the Roman citizens but he no longer has the authority to bind us. We are no longer citizens of his kingdom.
We are citizens of God’s Kingdom. We are recipients of His care through His angels. We aren’t above the angels like the Roman citizens were with their soldiers but we receive the benefits of citizenship and care from God who is over the angels. They are His ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation (Heb. 1:14). They protect and care for us because we are His own. That’s the citizenship I want to hold onto!
Father God, thank You for adopting me into Your family. Thank You for my new birth into Your Kingdom. Please, never let me take that honor for granted. I’m SO glad I’m a part of Your family! I want to make You proud by living my life pleasing to You. Thank You for Your forgiveness when I fall short of that mark.
Thank You that I don’t have to fear Satan or those from his kingdom. My Big Brother beat him all to Hell and back!