Paul’s return to Jerusalem was surrounded by controversy and tumult. After being almost killed by a mob in the city he was dragged away by soldiers bound and arrested. Paul was permitted to make a defence to the crowd who had almost killed him and they listened to the point where he told them The Lord told Paul he was to go to the Gentiles.
At that point the crowd erupted once more chanting that he should be taken away and put to death. They were throwing dust into the air and hurling their cloaks in their anger at what Paul was saying, so the soldiers dragged him away and took him into custody.
The reaction then of the soldiers is the next trial Paul had to suffer and how he handled it was interesting for we see the hand of The Lord in Paul’s actions and responses as he was bound for glory.
Bound for Glory
When the soldiers brought Paul into the barracks they could not understand why the crowd had erupted. They had heard the tumult and shouting but clearly there was nothing they heard that warranted the outrage of the crowd.
Clearly the soldiers must have though Paul was a pretty nasty sort of fellowbased on the reaction of the crowd, so they decided they needed to get to the truth.
Their methods for seeking the truth of people they arrested were not humane. They bound Paul and stretched out his body in preparation for a severe flogging with whips. Extracting truth in those days was a process of torturing the truth out of the person by inflicting severe pain.
Such was the suffering Paul had to suffer for the sake of the glory of The Lord. Indeed he suffered physically many times at the hands of men as we see him describe in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28.
23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one-I am talking like a madman-with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.
Paul suffered many times an in many ways for the sake of The Lord and The Lord had forewarned him that this would happen. But we also see in many of these situations the hand of The Lord guiding and directing the events and leading to a glorious and blessed outcome. Such was the case here when the Roman soldiers bound him to be flogged.
The Lords Protection
As Paul was about to be flogged he spoke out to the centurion of the guard saying in verse 25,
But when they had stretched him out for the whips, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?”
Paul had been selected by The Lord for the work he was to do to carry the word of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the known world. But he was also born a Roman citizen in the town of Tarsus in the region of Cilicia.
It was not uncommon for Jews to be Roman citizens for I recall reading somewhere that many of the merchants and traders of the world were given citizenship, which passed down to their families, so they could easily move around the Roman Empire trading their goods and wares for the benefit of all. Whether this is so or not I cannot confirm, but it does make a lot of sense. Anyway, whatever the reason it is clear that Paul was indeed a Roman citizen, which made the events that were to follow much clearer.
The Lord had selected Paul and knowing that He would take the word to Rome, I am sure that Paul’s citizenship was all part of the grand plan of The Lord for the expansion of the gospel. Certainly without the citizenship Paul’s task would have been much tougher and he may never have made it to Rome.
Paul appealed to the centurion who then took his message back to the tribune in shock at what he had been instructed to do. You can see the shock of the centurion and the subsequent fear of the tribune in verses 26-29 saying,
26 When the centurion heard this, he went to the tribune and said to him, “What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman citizen.” 27 So the tribune came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” And he said, “Yes.” 28 The tribune answered, “I bought this citizenship for a large sum.” Paul said, “But I am a citizen by birth.” 29 So those who were about to examine him withdrew from him immediately, and the tribune also was afraid, for he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had bound him.
Clearly flogging a citizen of Rome was not something lightly undertaken, especially as Paul had not been before the tribunals, nor had he been charged with nor convicted of any crime. The authorities were quite fearful for the citizenship of Rome carried great weight and with it the authority and protection of the emperor.
This was not the only time Paul used this citizenship to advantage for we see that when he and Silas had been publicly beaten and imprisoned. And again we see the fear of those who had done these things when they heard that Paul and Silas were roman citizens. Note in Acts 16:37-39.
37 But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.” 38 The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens. 39 So they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city.
So Paul’s plea as a Roman citizen carried much weight and I am certain that when The Lord was selecting Paul for ministry, He was aware that this citizenship would stand Paul in good stead and also greatly enable him in his work as he spread the gospel throughout the empire.
A Lesson For Us
We too can never underestimate the things that The Lord is doing in our lives and the selection and status of where we are as The Lord works in us and through us. He chooses His servants very carefully for the work he wants them to do, and that may include our place and status in society or even our citizenship as Paul discovered, which enables the gospel to go into places it may otherwise not have reached.
The Lord has given each of us certain talents, skills and abilities and He will use those in His service when the situation permits. He also allows us to go through certain events and even sufferings so that these things can be used. In fact everything that happens to us in our lives can be used in the work of The Lord.
Do you have skills and abilities greater than some others? Are you perhaps a person able to make music, sing, play an instrument or such? Are you good with people? Do you have skills with numbers, finances, artistic ability or physical strength? Are you a person able to stand and speak to others? These are just some of the talents that The Lord could certainly use to assist and aid others in the pursuit of the growth and glory of His kingdom.
Then there are other things He can use which may not be immediately obvious. Are you a person who suffers physically? Are you handicapped in some way? Do you or have been severely I’ll with some complaint, condition, malady or disease? Have you suffered loss through disaster, disease or other means? Then these too are experiences The Lord can use in service to His people.
I have often said that you cannot know a person until you have walked a mile in their shoes. Thus I cannot know what it is like to suffer some diseases such as chronic heart disease, cancer or any of the other serious illnesses of our time. But someone else who has been through those things or is going through them is much better able to support another sufferer because they understand from personal experience what I may only know in passing.
The Lord can and will use anything in our lives just as he used Paul’s Roman citizenship to proclaim the gospel throughout the Roman Empire. So if you are experiencing things that you wish you were not, remember two things.
- Whatever it is when you are finally called to the lords kingdom and living with Him it will be over
- Whatever it is The Lord can and may use it in His service.
So do not be downhearted but look up and praise The Lord. You may be bound with some problem but consider it in this way, as Paul did. You too are bound for glory.
(Photo sourced from stock.xchng taken by Ramzi Hashisho)
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