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Prejudice and Protection

Acts 22:22-25
The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, 'Rid the earth of him! He's not fit to live!' As they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, the commander ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. He directed that he be flogged and interrogated in order to find out why the people were shouting at him like this. As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there, 'Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn't even been found guilty?' (NIVUK)

Paul was given the opportunity to speak to the religious people in Jerusalem, who were trying to kill him (Acts 21:39-40). They were proudly prejudiced, believing that God only loved them and not the Gentiles. Paul said that God had sent him away from Jerusalem, because His people refused to listen to His Word, to preach to the Gentiles in other countries - who would listen (Acts 22:17-21). This was God's plan to protect His apostle's life so that he could be a gospel-bearer and church planter in many other cities. But almost wherever he went more prejudiced people stirred up trouble for Paul: either he stayed under God's protection or escaped.

However, when the crowd heard Paul effectively say that God loves Gentiles, they were furious. Even though God promised to Abraham that all nations would be blessed through his descendants (Genesis 12:3), they did not want to hear. Worse than that, they now wanted Paul to die. But he was under the protection of Roman soldiers; and in God's sovereignty the commander had given permission for Paul to speak to the crowd of accusers.

The commander now ordered that Paul should be taken into the barracks to quieten the riot and try to find out the cause of the uprising. As usual, he ordered that the prisoner be beaten before the questioning. But Paul, who was a Roman citizen, asked the officer in charge of the punishment if it was legal to flog a Roman citizen without a trial and a guilty verdict. Paul appealed to the protection of the legal system but it was all part of God's protection.

It is important to realise that in different ways, people who do not know Jesus are prejudiced against Him and His people. Like with Paul, it takes divine revelation to remove that prejudice (Acts 9:3-6). But it is also important to understand that God knows how to protect and deliver His people (2 Peter 2:9), lest threats and fear conspire to paralyse us or cause us to panic. Believers live in the tension between dangerous prejudice and divine protection. How God will protect is His business, but He has promised that He will never leave His people alone and unguarded (Matthew 28:20). So be aware of the reality of the spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:10-12), and the reality of the Lord's strategic protection; and go forward in His Name, in confidence.

Father God. Thank You for loving all You have made, and for protecting Your people. Forgive me for being unprepared in the spiritual battle, or for being frightened, forgetting Your promise to protect me. Please help me to move forwards in confidence. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams