25 “But when they had stretched him out for the whips, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and un-condemned?” 26 When the centurion heard this, he went to the tribune and said to him, “What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman citizen.” 27 So the tribune came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” And he said, “Yes.” 28 The tribune answered, “I bought this citizenship for a large sum.” Paul said, “But I am a citizen by birth.” (Acts 22:25–28 (ESV)
You never know when the LORD will use the circumstances of your birth, life and ministry to remind you of His providential care. How could Paul have known, either as a child or as a new believer in Christ and as an apostle about to be flogged by the Romans, that God would use the apostle’s Roman citizenship to prevent such a scourging?
The Romans stretched Paul out for the whips. The whips in question were made of leather thongs with bits of metal or bone attached at the ends. It could maim for life or kill. Jesus was scourged with such a whip (John 19:1). Thus far, Paul had been beaten (Acts 18:22-23; 2 Corinthians 11:24-25) but never endured this kind of severe punishment, which could not be inflicted on a Roman citizen without due process of law.
Just as the scouring was about to begin, Paul said to the centurion in charge of the scourging, ““Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and un-condemned?” The obvious answer to this rhetorical question was “absolutely not.”
Upon hearing this statement, Luke records the centurion’s reaction. “When the centurion heard this, he went to the tribune and said to him, “What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman citizen.”
Luke then recorded the tribune’s response. “So the tribune came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” And he said, “Yes.” Paul’s answer prompted the tribune to ask a follow-up response. The tribune answered, “I bought this citizenship for a large sum.” Paul said, “But I am a citizen by birth.”
Dr. John MacArthur writes, “Roman citizens were exempted (by the Valerian and Porcian laws) from such brutal methods of interrogation. Paul now exerted his rights as a Roman citizen. His claim would not have been questioned, because the penalty for falsely claiming Roman citizenship was death.”
Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “Roman citizenship was highly prized, usually given only to those of high position or those who had performed some valuable service to the state. It was then passed on to one’s family, as in Paul’s case, since he is a citizen by birth.”
As we will soon see, the scouring plans are stopped and Paul will be held in the barracks while the tribune Claudius Flavius (Acts 23:26), weighs his legal options.
Regarding God’s providential care, the more perceptive you are the more awe you’ll have. May you have a blessed day.
Soli deo Gloria!