August 29, 2022

Acts 16:37 Paul wouldn’t budge. He told the officers, “They beat us up in public and threw us in jail, Roman citizens in good standing! And now they want to get us out of the way on the sly without anyone knowing? Nothing doing! If they want us out of here, let them come themselves and lead us out in broad daylight.” (The Message Bible)

Paul and his traveling companion Silas had been tossed in jail in Philippi. Due to an earthquake, they had the chance to flee but chose not to, perhaps for the sake of the jailor who would have paid with his life if his prisoners escaped. But Paul had another card to play. He was not merely a traveling vagabond in these parts. He had been born as a citizen of the Roman Empire. The internet tells us, “Paul was a Roman citizen by birth, and Tarsus, where Paul was born, was a free city (see Acts 21:39). The emperor Pompey made Cilicia a Roman province in 64 BC, and its capital, Tarsus, was a free city from the time of Augustus. Although it is unknown exactly how his parents became citizens of Rome, Paul was a Roman citizen by birth, which was a privilege many did not have” (https://www.gotquestions.org/Paul-Roman-citizen.html). Philippi was a colony of Rome, designated as such after a famous battle there in 42 B.C. Colonies were places where land was given to retired soldiers. People in Philippi understood and valued citizenship. That is why Paul would later write to them in 3:20 of the New Testament book of Philippians, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Citizenship has its privileges and responsibilities. A colony was a little piece of the Empire even though it was miles separated from the homeland. Paul demanded to have his Roman citizenship respected as well as his heavenly citizenship. What would it mean to you to be a citizen of Christ’s empire? 

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