“The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, “Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!” 23 As they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, 24 the commander ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. He directed that he be flogged and interrogated 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 lot of money for my citizenship.” “But I was born a citizen,” Paul replied. 29 Those who were about to interrogate him withdrew immediately. The commander himself was alarmed when he realized that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains.” Acts 22.22-29
Paul inadvertently bought himself a moment of reprieve by giving his testimony. And the people listened to Paul intently up to the point where he mentioned that God sent him to minister to the Gentiles. This was simply too much. It was unacceptable. They believed God was sent only to the Jews even though Isaiah 49.6 says, “I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
When Paul mentioned this, the Roman commander “ordered he be flogged and interrogated.” But as they were preparing to flog him, Paul said, “Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been found guilty?” Smart move Paul! Using his Roman citizenship as a means to his defense. And it worked! When the centurion heard Paul they were shocked that Paul was a Roman citizen. The commander returns to Paul and boasts that he had to “paul a lot of money” for his citizenship. Paul replies, “But I was born a citizen.” And those soldiers planning on interrogating him “withdrew immediately….” alarmed when they realized they had put a Roman citizen in chains.
Paul was no dummy. He most certainly did not want to get flogged, but he was willing to suffer, as he had in the past, for Christ. However, in this instance, there was a way out — which could extend his ability to minister. He was indeed a Roman citizen and without a trial, they could not continue to punish him. Paul was using his background once again to continue the spread of the Gospel. Just as he had used his Jewish connections to get him into the Temple and in front of the crowds, now he was using his Roman identity to put a reprieve on the beating.
In Philippians 3.20-21, Paul speaks about another citizenship, not Roman or Jewish but heavenly. “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” This is our true identity as followers of Jesus. We are not merely citizens of the country in which we belong, we are citizens of Heaven. Our spiritual passport says, “Child of the Most High King of Heaven.” This is our new identity and this should be where we place our hope.
This citizenship is open to all people. Male, female, Jew, Greek, slave or free, as Paul writes. Anyone can have assurance that when we die, we will go to Heaven. And while we live, we will live as children of the King. And speaking of kings, the coronation of King Charles was wonderful to behold. It’s fascinating to me. But in truth, on Heaven, each of us can be intimately connected to the King Jesus. Even King Charles paid tribute to the One King Eternal Jesus Christ.
Let’s take a moment this day to do two things — 1) recommit our lives to King Jesus, and 2) give thanks for our citizenship which is in Heaven. Rest in the fact that God has saved you, he loves you, and he has written your name in the Lambs book of life at the moment of your surrender to his will and to his ways.
“O Lord God you are good. Thank you for helping me remember that I belong to you. Just as Paul sought respite in his identity, our true likeness is found in you. We have this citizenship in heaven with you and we eager await the return of our Savior. Come now, Holy Father, return quickly. Redeem us from this flesh into a glorious representation of the Son. Fill us with the power of your Holy Spirit. Remind us of our worth in you. That we are children of the King both now and forever. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen