“But I was actually born a citizen.”
Acts 22:17-23:10 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
“It happened when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, that I fell into a trance, 18 and I saw Him saying to me, ‘Make haste, and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about Me.’ 19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves understand that in one synagogue after another I used to imprison and beat those who believed in You. 20 And when the blood of Your witness Stephen was being shed, I also was standing by approving, and watching out for the coats of those who were slaying him.’ 21 And He said to me, ‘Go! For I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”
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.
30 But on the next day, wishing to know for certain why he had been accused by the Jews, he released him and ordered the chief priests and all the Council to assemble, and brought Paul down and set him before them.
23 Paul, looking intently at the Council, said, “Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day.” 2 The high priest Ananias commanded those standing beside him to strike him on the mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Do you sit to try me according to the Law, and in violation of the Law order me to be struck?” 4 But the bystanders said, “Do you revile God’s high priest?” 5 And Paul said, “I was not aware, brethren, that he was high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’”
6 But perceiving that one group were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, Paul began crying out in the Council, “Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; I am on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead!” 7 As he said this, there occurred a dissension between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor an angel, nor a spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. 9 And there occurred a great uproar; and some of the scribes of the Pharisaic party stood up and began to argue heatedly, saying, “We find nothing wrong with this man; suppose a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?” 10 And as a great dissension was developing, the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them and ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force, and bring him into the barracks.
Philippians 3:20 says: Our citizenship is in heaven. 2 Peter 2:9-11 says: But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, aholy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. These and other scriptures speak to the fact that as believers, as followers of Christ our identity is not based on our national origin or residence. We are to identify first as citizens of God’s kingdom and not as citizens of our nation. Some though, as in many things, take this too far. They determine that it is wrong to have loyalty to their nation, to take pride in their country. We, as believers, are citizens of the kingdom of God and as such we have all the rights, privileges and benefits of God’s kingdom, along with the responsibilities of obedience to the King. We are also citizens of this nation and as such we also have all the rights, privileges and benefits of citizenship, along with the responsibility to be obedient to the governing authority.
In today’s text it says: 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. 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?” 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.” The commander came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman?” And he said, “Yes.” The commander answered, “I acquired this citizenship with a large sum of money.” And Paul said, “But I was actually born a citizen.” 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. Paul clearly lived as a citizen and a servant of the kingdom of God, yet he took advantage of his rights as a Roman citizen. It was Paul’s demanding of his rights as a Roman citizen, which was responsible for much of his life’s mission and journey. In Acts 25:9-12 it says: But Festus, wanting to do the Jews a favor, answered Paul and said, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and there be judged before me concerning these things?” So Paul said, “I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you very well know. For if I am an offender, or have committed anything deserving of death, I do not object to dying; but if there is nothing in these things of which these men accuse me, no one can deliver me to them. I appeal to Caesar.” Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, “You have appealed to Caesar? To Caesar you shall go!” The letters Paul wrote to the church, the letters which make up much of our New Testament scripture were written as Paul was waiting to stand before Caesar. Paul’s rights as a Roman citizen were used by God to give us scripture.
Jesus Himself never rebelled against or despised His national heritage or His citizenship on earth. In Matthew 22:21 He said: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's." Jesus didn’t despise His earthly citizenship, He simply prioritized His kingdom citizenship. Jesus says: "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) We too should not despise, but rather prioritize our citizenship. The Declaration of Independence, which signifies the birth of the U.S. as a nation begins saying: When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness... Those who authored and signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 and those who framed the constitution of the U.S. didn’t despise the citizenship of the kingdom of God. From the very beginning, the birth of this nation God was acknowledged and honored. Separation of church and state was never meant to keep God out of government. It was and is meant to keep government from infringing on the rights and responsibilities of God’s kingdom. As believers, as followers of Christ, we should not despise nor neglect our rights or responsibilities as citizens of our nation. We should prioritize, put first the kingdom of God. Jesus taught us to pray: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Our desire should be that the realities, the rights, the benefits, the privileges and the responsibilities of the kingdom of heaven should be replicated in the rights, benefits, privileges and responsibilities on earth. 2 Corinthians 5:20 says: We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. As Christ’s ambassadors as ambassadors of our first kingdom, we should represent that kingdom to the one in which we reside.
Pray then this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. ‘Give us this day our daily bread. ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’
Happy Fourth of July! God bless America and America bless God!