Roman Citizenship: Acts 22:22-29
“22) They listened to him up to this statement, and then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he should not be allowed to live!” 23) And as they were crying out and throwing off their cloaks and tossing dust into the air, 24) the commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks, stating that he should be examined by scourging so that he might find out the reason why they were shouting against him that way. 25) But when they stretched him out with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman and uncondemned?” 26) When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and told him, saying, “What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman.” 27) The commander came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman?” And he said, “Yes.” 28) The commander answered, “I acquired this citizenship with a large sum of money.” And Paul said, “But I was actually born a citizen.” 29) Therefore those who were about to examine him immediately let go of him; and the commander also was afraid when he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had put him in chains.” Acts‬ ‭22‬:‭22‬-‭29‬
Because Paul addressed the crowd in the Hebrew dialect and not in Greek, the commander most likely did not understand Paul’s address to the Jewish people. He merely saw their reaction and concluded that Paul was guilty of a grievous crime.
It escapes reason why the commander missed Paul’s concession in Acts 21:39 to the commander that he was a citizen. Maybe it was the heat of the moment, but this detail was totally missed by the commander in the heat of the riot.
As soon as the soldiers were back in the barracks, the commander ordered Paul to be examined by scourging. Jesus Himself was scourged before His crucifixion. This is often done by stretching a man between two whipping posts and either whipping him or burning him with hot thongs. The method was used to force a confession of guilt. Many innocent men and women falsely confessed to crimes to stop the terrible torcher.
It was at this point that Paul questioned the commander about the legality of scourging a Roman citizen. That brought a swift halt to the proceedings as the commander reported the news of Paul’s Roman citizenship to the centurion. It was strictly illegal to put a Roman citizen in chains or torcher them in any way to get a confession of guilt. They had to be tried on the merit of the evidence. Though this brought relief from torcher and bondage in chains, it did not bring his freedom from being held in custody.
As the Paul’s story unfolds it seems that he and the commander established a friendship. Undoubtedly, Paul shared the gospel with him. According to Philippians 1:12-13 many soldiers entrusted to guard Paul were exposed to the gospel. Some became believers.
I believe that God puts people in our path for a reason. He wants us to be salt and light to everyone we meet. We are His witnesses in the world.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global