The Word: And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Therefore come out now and go in peace.” But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.” The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens. So they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city. So they went out of the prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed. Acts 16:36-40 (ESV)
Understanding: This passage is not just about Paul’s experience but also what should be our experience.
- Roman citizens = Sons of God
- Uncondemned = Sanctified and free
- Beaten and imprisoned = Persecuted
- Afraid = Evil knows it cannot withstand God’s power
- Apologized = Bowing to God
- Asked them to leave = Knowing they cannot coexist with Truth
As sons of God we are joint heirs with Christ. What attends the throne for him attends for us as well, but we must be righteous and holy (sanctified) in our own position in order to exercise the full measure of our status as sons. We must live a freed life, knowing who we are and exercising the authority and dominion given us. Too often we surrender both. We are not strong enough or do not discern evil in its many disguises, and thus forfeit our protections.
Evil will always seek to disguise its true nature and purpose when interacting with us. It is our job to see through its many veils of deceit, to call it what it is, and to demand the rights that are ours as sons. When we do not then we are vulnerable to evil’s approaches, subtlety, seduction and persecution. But when we declare our position as sons and stand with God’s strength then evil must retreat. It cannot coexist with the Light of Truth that is in us because its purposes and the purposes of the Light are diametrically opposed. In the presence of Light evil must bow and leave, separating itself from purity and from us.
That is what should be. Why isn’t it always that way? Sadly it is because we allow evil to exist in us in the choices we make and the lives we lead. Many professing Christians live lives that are more closely aligned to evil than God. When we do this the forces of evil have legal right to work their plans for deceit and destruction in our lives. Only our genuine confession and repentance will appeal to the courts of Heaven, and only Yashua’s blood has the power to cleanse and restore us. Genuine repentance is the key. Without it we are forever lost. With it we are rescued and restored. We can choose to accept the misery and destruction that inhabits our lives, or we can choose to open our hearts to the indwelling of Freedom, Peace, Love and indescribable Joy. We choose to be prisoners or sons. How? By choosing what we allow to cohabit with us and what we set our hearts towards.
Why did Paul wait to declare his position as a Roman citizen until after he had been tortured and imprisoned?
Hypothesis: If Paul had declared his status as a Roman citizen he would not have been persecuted. The magistrates would have had no way to satisfy the claims against Paul and Silas, and the civil unrest would have continued to escalate. The magistrates would have been seen as weak and their administration damaged, but they would have had no reason to fear retribution by a higher authority. By waiting until after the persecution Paul’s declaration carried much more force. It placed the government under immediate threat of punishment by Rome and revealed its false claim of jurisdiction, in effect refuting its legitimacy and veracity before all present. An early declaration would have put them on notice and allowed them to manipulate circumstances, while the latter declaration effectively humiliated them and attacked their credibility.