Paul, a Jewish Leader and a Roman Citizen
NOVEMBER 20 - Nº 324 Acts 22:25 – 23:10
The commander of the Roman troops in Jerusalem was confused. He couldn’t figure out what Paul had done to cause such an uproar in his city. He decided to have Paul chained, flogged, and interrogated until he was willing to confess to whatever crime he had committed. As Paul was being chained to a pole to receive the brutal beating, he turned to the centurion and asked, “Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn’t been found guilty?” The centurion stopped everything and reported what Paul had said to the commander. Although Paul had been raised in Jerusalem, he had been born in Tarsus—a free Roman city (unlike Jerusalem which was under Roman subjugation). This gave him all the rights of a Roman citizen. It was unusual for such a devout Jew to have these rights. The commander rushed over to see Paul. “Are you really a Roman citizen?” he asked. When Paul replied that he was, the military leader was shocked. It was against the law to chain a Roman citizen without allowing him a chance to prove his innocence. The commander could be severely punished if word got out that he had violated these rights. The men who were preparing to beat and interrogate Paul left immediately. The commander still wanted to know why the Jews were so upset with Paul. The next day he ordered the chief priests and the members of the Sanhedrin to assemble. He brought Paul into the meeting. Paul had been a voting member of this elite religious and political group before he met Jesus on the road to Damascus (see Acts 26:10). This was his first opportunity to address them since he had become a believer. He began by saying, “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.” This upset the high priest. How could anyone accused of such serious crimes claim to have a clear conscience? The high priest interrupted Paul and ordered the men standing near him to punch him in the mouth. “God will punch you, you hypocrite!” Paul responded. “You try to judge me according to the law, yet you violate it yourself by commanding that I be struck!” Now the members of the Sanhedrin were really upset! “How dare you speak to God’s high priest that way?” they demanded. Paul immediately apologized. “Brothers,” he said, “I did not realize it was the high priest who had spoken. And I know that the Scripture says not to speak evil about the ruler of your people.” Paul knew that the Sanhedrin was made up of two opposing groups: (1) there were the Sadducees who did not believe in resurrection after death and (2) the Pharisees who did. So, he said, “I am a Pharisee, and I am being judged because I believe in the resurrection of the dead.” Immediately the two groups started to argue and fight with each other. The Pharisees defended Paul while the Sadducees argued against him. One man angrily grabbed Paul and others tried to pull him away. The dispute became so violent that the commander ordered the soldiers to rescue Paul. They escorted him back to the barracks.
God often used Paul’s dual Roman and Jewish backgrounds to spare his life and spread the Gospel. Is there something unique in your past that sets you apart from your friends? Why do you think God allowed you to experience this? How can you use it to help others have a relationship with Him?