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Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles


he Roman soldiers brusquely prepared Paul for scourging. This vicious lashing was a fast and effective way to get to the truth of the dispute that had arisen between the apostle and some Jews in Jerusalem.

As the Roman soldiers yanked the clothes from his back, Paul asked the centurion overseeing the punishment, "Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn't even been found guilty?" (Acts 22:25, New International Version).

Paul's question about the rights of a Roman citizen immediately thwarted the soldiers' intentions. The rights of a Roman citizen could open many doors throughout the empire and automatically nullify this kind of abuse of position by petty officials.

The centurion scurried to his commander to warn him of the possibility of illegally mistreating a Roman citizen, a serious offense anywhere in the empire.

The garrison commander approached Paul cautiously. Could this man, who had somehow so provoked the local Jewish leadership, really be a Roman citizen? The officer knew he had better tread carefully.

He asked Paul, "Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?" (verse 27). Paul responded that indeed he was.

The officer had to accept Paul's answer at face value for several reasons. First, he had already made the mistake of not conducting an inquiry of his prisoner beforehand. Second, if his prisoner were indeed a Roman citizen, he ran the risk of losing his position and-in a worst-case scenario -his life.

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