And they gave him audience unto this word, and then lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live. And as they cried out, and cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air, The chief captain commanded him to be brought into the castle, and bade that he should be examined by scourging; that he might know wherefore they cried so against him. And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned? When the centurion heard that, he went and told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman. Then the chief captain came, and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? He said, Yea. And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was free born. Then straightway they departed from him which should have examined him: and the chief captain also was afraid, after he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him. On the morrow, because he would have known the certainty wherefore he was accused of the Jews, he loosed him from his bands, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down, and set him before them.
Many years ago, I had to read a little booklet about reactions because it was part of my training to be a camp counselor. I remember thinking about that book a lot when it came to the one or two kids in my cabin who really knew how to “push my buttons.” Fortunately, I am one who I is not quick on my feet when it comes to verbal responses. That is not saying that I do not wrestle with my attitude or with my late responses. Give me 10 minutes and I can verbally spar with the best of them.
When Paul announced to the Jewish crowd that Gentiles were welcomed by Jesus, the crowd went crazy with anger. The casting off of their clothes and throwing dust in the air was a common expression of outrage. To quiet the crowd, Claudius Lysias, the chief captain, ordered Paul to be brought to the castle for not only Paul’s safety from the crowd but also scourging and questioning. After all, surely this man did something criminal to make that many people crazy, so he would beat the truth out of him. Now remember, Claudius had just heard Paul’s Jewish testimony, he had no clue that he was a free-born Roman citizen. When Paul addressed his born citizenship to protect himself from a needless scourging, the captain marveled as he himself had to purchase his citizenship at great expense. (This citizenship was not from being from Tarsus as the city was not a Roman colony. His citizenship was probably because his father or grandfather was free because of military service.) The lex sempronia law protected a freeman of Rome from any kind of mistreatment. Claudius could already be in trouble because of putting Paul into bonds. He decided that it would be wise to put Paul, without constraints, in front of the whole Jewish Sanhedrin (the priests in leadership) to hear their complaint….another opportunity for Paul.
Paul’s reactions to the crowd was wise and Spirit-led. The Lord used Paul’s responses to soften the heart of Claudius to see that Paul was protected during a great riot. Responses are an important part of our testimony as they are a quick response to what is already in our heart. If we harbor bitterness in our heart, that bitter spirit will lash out in the most ugly way. If we have forgiveness and humility in our heart, that will also shine through as a beautiful testimony of being Spirit-filled. Not saying that we can’t be worn down, as we will see Paul’s reaction in the next chapter, but we can also see that God is good and can restore a right response when we turn our attitude back to Him. By the way, how are your reactions? Bitter or humble?
Written by Kaye Dee Richards. Kaye Dee lives with her husband Colin in Morrison, CO. They have 4 children, Joshua, Amelia, Victoria, and Julia.
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