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Born Protected

Acts 22:26-30
When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. 'What are you going to do?' he asked. 'This man is a Roman citizen.' The commander went to Paul and asked, 'Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?' 'Yes, I am,' he answered. Then the commander said, 'I had to pay a lot of money for my citizenship.' 'But I was born a citizen,' Paul replied. Those who were about to interrogate him withdrew immediately. The commander himself was alarmed when he realised that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains. The commander wanted to find out exactly why Paul was being accused by the Jews. So the next day he released him and ordered the chief priests and all the members of the Sanhedrin to assemble. Then he brought Paul and set him before them. (NIVUK)

This is an embarrassing moment for the Roman military commander in Jerusalem. Paul had been ambushed in the temple in Jerusalem by religious traditionalists who dragged him out into the streets to kill him (Acts 21:30). Such public disorder was illegal in Roman provinces, so the military soon arrived on the scene (Acts 21:32). They separated Paul from the mob, assuming that he caused the trouble, chaining him to two soldiers (Acts 21:33). Then he was allowed to explain himself to the crowd, from the safety of the barracks' steps (Acts 21:40).

Perhaps the Commander hoped to understand the disturbance from what Paul said. However, when Paul said that God had sent him to the Gentiles, the crowd erupted in anger again. So the officer tried to pacify them by having Paul flogged before being questioned (Acts 22:24). But just before the brutal beating was due to start, Paul asked the centurion if it was legal to flog a Roman citizen without a trial or guilty verdict (Acts 22:25).

The commander realised that he may have ill-treated a Roman citizen, so he asked Paul directly – who said that being born in Tarsus automatically made him a Roman citizen. The commander had to buy that privilege with a lot of money. As far as the commander could see, Paul was involved in a religious dispute with the traditionalists but had to be released from his shackles. He would let the Sanhedrin Court resolve whatever the contentious issue was.

In all of this, Paul was protected by two births: his physical birth as a Roman citizen and his spiritual new birth after he encountered the living Lord Jesus. The Lord knew Paul from before he was born. Through the 'accident' of being born in Tarsus, God had provided Paul with an international passport and military protection. God planned that Paul should take the gospel into the heart of the Roman Empire, proclaiming Christ to Caesar himself (Acts 23:11). So, despite Paul's ambush, arrest and captivity, he was not distressed. He knew he had been born again into God's family, and He would look after him. The Lord will watch over you too, using all the 'accidents' of your background and life to enable you to serve Him safely (Romans 8:28). The Lord is Sovereign over you, and everything which affects you, because you are His child. Your life and ministry has been known by Him from before you were born (Isaiah 49:1-3). So be confident.

Sovereign Lord. Thank You that You know the end from the beginning. Forgive me for my anxiety and despair when I am threatened for living and speaking for Jesus. Help me to understand that You are in command of every person and circumstance and that You bring everything together for my good and the blessing of others. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams