Acts of the Apostles 22:22 – 30
22Up to this point they listened to him, but then they shouted, “Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live.” 23And while they were shouting, throwing off their cloaks, and tossing dust into the air, 24the tribune directed that he was to be brought into the barracks, and ordered him to be examined by flogging, to find out the reason for this outcry against him. 25But when they had tied him up with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who is uncondemned?” 26When the centurion heard that, he went to the tribune and said to him, “What are you about to do? This man is a Roman citizen.” 27The tribune came and asked Paul, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” And he said, “Yes.” 28The tribune answered, “It cost me a large sum of money to get my citizenship.” Paul said, “But I was born a citizen.” 29Immediately those who were about to examine him drew back from him; and the tribune also was afraid, for he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had bound him. 30Since he wanted to find out what Paul was being accused of by the Jews, the next day he released him and ordered the chief priests and the entire council to meet. He brought Paul down and had him stand before them.
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So, Paul had begun by telling his story to the crowd, but when he came to the point where he said Jesus told him to go to the Gentiles, the crowd began shouting that Paul should not be allowed to live! They threw off their cloaks and began throwing dust into the air, preparing to throw stones. The soldiers immediately drew Paul inside the fortress; but the tribune still wanted to know what this was all about; he figures he can get the truth from Paul if he has him flogged, and orders that. The soldiers strip Paul and tie him up in preparation for flogging (by which they would “examine” him for the truth). Paul quietly asks, “Is it lawful for you to flog a Roman citizen?” Of course, Paul knew that it was not! The soldiers immediately back off, and the centurion in charge goes to the tribune and tells him “This man is a Roman citizen.” The tribune comes to Paul and asks him – is it true? Are you a Roman citizen? To make a false claim of Roman citizenship was punishable by death. Paul answers, “Yes.” The tribune says to him that he paid a large sum for his citizenship, but Paul replies that he was born a citizen. This is a man of some importance, thinks the tribune – and yet he still wants to get to the bottom of this disturbance. He releases Paul, keeping him in the fortress for his safety, but calls a meeting of the Sanhedrin and brings Paul before them.
Paul’s relationship with the Romans who will hold him prisoner from this point of the story forward is interesting. As one of the Jews, he had been treated with contempt – flog him, he’ll tell us the truth; but when he announces his Roman citizenship the attitude changes. As a Roman citizen he is respected, and given certain privileges. He will spend much time in the company of the Roman soldiers over the next years – their respect for him will grow from respect for his Roman citizenship to respect for him as a man. Some will even come to believe in Jesus through the way he lives his life, his character and kindness.