Acts Lesson Forty-eight: Acts 22:22-29 – Paul Under Roman Protection
They listened to him up to this word. Then they raised their voices, shouting, “Wipe this person off the earth—it’s a disgrace for him to live!” 23 As they were yelling and flinging aside their robes and throwing dust into the air, 24 the commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks, directing that he be examined with the scourge, so he could discover the reason they were shouting against him like this. 25 As they stretched him out for the lash, Paul said to the centurion standing by, “Is it legal for you to scourge a man who is a Roman citizen and is uncondemned?” 26 When the centurion heard this, he went and reported to the commander, saying, “What are you going to do? For this man is a Roman citizen.” 27 The commander came and said to him, “Tell me—are you a Roman citizen?” “Yes,” he said. 28 The commander replied, “I bought this citizenship for a large amount of money.” “But I was born a citizen,” Paul said. 29 Therefore, those who were about to examine him withdrew from him at once. The commander too was alarmed when he realized Paul was a Roman citizen and he had bound him. (HCSB)
I’ll divide this lesson into two sections.
- The reaction of the mob and Paul being brought into the barracks – verses 22-24.
- Paul declares he is a Roman citizen – verses 25-29
The Reaction of the Mob and Paul being brought into the barracks
If we remember back to the last lesson, Paul’s final statement was relaying to the Jewish mob that Jesus intended to send Paul to the Gentiles. The very mention of the term “Gentile” set the crowd off once again and made the situation spiral out of control.
Let’s take a detailed look at these first few verses.
- At the mention of the term Gentile, the crowd increased their vehemence against Paul.
- In addition to their previous call to “take him away,” they now added, “it’s a disgrace for him to live.”
- There are several possible interpretations of the phrase “flinging aside their robes.”
- They may have torn them as a gesture of horror, in the Jews’ minds, of Paul’s blasphemy.
- They cast aside their robes in preparation for stoning Paul.
- They shook their robes as a symbolic means of removing the contamination of Paul’s statement.
- They waved them in collective outrage.
- The meaning behind throwing dust in the air could also have multiple meanings.
- It may have been another gesture of horror at the perceived blasphemy.
- They may have thrown the dust at Paul because they didn’t have anything else available in the temple courtyard.
- Because of the crowds’ reaction, Claudius was confident Paul was some type of criminal.
- Claudius ordered his troops to move Paul into the barracks and use the standard Roman method to find out the truth from a slave or a common person, the scourge.
- This form of torture was done with the flagellum.
- Using a flagellum was an exceedingly cruel manner of scourging that was done by beating the bare flesh with leather thongs that had rough pieces of bone or metal inserted into the ends. The leather thongs were connected to a wooden handle.
- This form of beating was more severe than the beating by rods that Paul and Silas experienced in Philippi.
- It was the same beating that Jesus experienced before being crucified.
- It was not uncommon for those being scourged with a flagellum to die during the beating.
Paul Declares He is a Roman Citizen
Knowing exactly what type of beating they were getting ready to inflict upon him, Paul plays his trump card, announcing that he is a Roman citizen. Let’s take a detailed look at this section.
- As they prepared Paul to receive his scourging, he asked a rhetorical question.
- “Is it legal…to scourge…a Roman citizen?”
- The answer is an unequivocal “no.”
- In fact, when they chained Paul earlier in the chapter, that violated his Roman citizenship.
- Falsely claiming to be a Roman citizen would result in punishment far worse than the scourging Paul was about to receive.
- Roman laws clearly forbid treating a Roman citizen in this manner.
- An officer who did torture a Roman citizen would be guilty of a serious breach of Roman law.
- Once Paul told the centurion he was a Roman citizen, that information was hastily relayed to Claudius.
- Once Claudius found out that Paul was a Roman citizen, he went to verify the claim himself.
- One can only imagine the confusing thoughts going through Claudius’s mind when thinking about the series of events that brought Paul into the Roman barracks.
- At first, he thought Paul was an Egyptian revolutionary.
- He then found out he was a Jew.
- Paul was a citizen of the important city of Tarsus.
- Paul was a cultured person.
- He spoke polished Greek.
- Now he learns that Paul is also a Roman citizen.
- Not only was Paul a Roman citizen, but he was also born a Roman citizen.
- A person could become a Roman citizen through several means.
- It could be given for a specific service to the state.
- It could be given for military duty.
- Slaves of a citizen who were freed on the basis of service to their owners were granted citizenship.
- When a town or village was given colony status, all those residing there were given citizenship.
- They could be born a citizen.
- They could purchase citizenship.
- The idea of purchasing citizenship was an issue that was increasingly abused during the reign of Emperor Tiberius Claudius Caesar.
- Since the Roman commander Lysias took the name Claudius, it is highly likely he purchased it during the reign of Tiberius.
- It was also common to take the name of the patron through whom the citizenship was obtained, hence the commander’s name of Claudius Lysias.
- There has been much speculation about how Paul’s family received their citizenship.
- One theory is the family was part of a large resettling of Jewish freedmen by Pompey in Cilicia in 63 b.c.
- Another is that the family tentmaking trade benefited the Roman military, and they were rewarded with citizenship.
- One of Paul’s ancestors may have received citizenship for valuable service rendered to a Roman administrator or general in either the Gischala region of northern Palestine or at Tarsus.
- While we don’t know how Paul became a citizen, it was clear to Claudius that Paul was a Roman citizen of considerable status.
- Now that Paul’s citizenship was established, they stopped the intended scourging and most likely removed the chains from Paul.
- At this point, Paul’s location within the Roman barracks could be viewed as protective custody rather than an arrest.
- Paul’s next defense would be before the Sanhedrin.
- The first is a carry-over from verse 21. Never be afraid to follow the path that God has laid before you. Jesus had clearly instructed Paul to take the Gospel to the Gentiles. His obedience to those instructions was what led him into the Roman barracks. Sometimes God will lead us down a path that may be difficult or dangerous. At those times, we need to step out in faith and trust that God will provide and protect us.
- Don’t abuse the law but use it to protect you and advance the Gospel. Paul knew the horror of the flagellum. It far surpassed the beatings he had previously received. Therefore, at the opportune moment, he informed the Roman soldiers of his citizenship. We should also use laws to protect us and advance the Gospel when necessary.