Summary: When we accept Christ we are born again, with all of the rights of a citizen of Heaven.
Reverend Jason R Besse
Text: Acts 22: 25-29
Intro: The story we read today comes from the book of Acts. The book of Acts takes us from the Ascension of Jesus, to the day of Pentecost, where 70 were filled with the Holy Ghost in the upper room in Jerusalem, to the establishing of the Church and the spreading of the Gospel into the entire world. At this time in the history of the church the Apostle Paul, recently converted on the road to Damascus has come back to Jerusalem to tell the church leaders not only of his conversion, but of his calling to spread the gospel of Christ to the Gentiles. Paul was a unique individual, he was a Pharisee as was his father before him and, because he was born in Tarsus which was granted legal standing by Rome he was also a Roman citizen. A man trained in the Laws of the Jewish people, with the rights and freedoms of the Gentiles. Paul was the perfect candidate to bring the Jewish Messiah to the Gentile people. Unfortunately, the Religious leaders in Jerusalem didn’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah; in fact they had been the ones who had tried him and told Pilate to crucify him. And even if they had believed, the very idea of spreading the gospel to the gentiles was anathema to them. The gentiles weren’t under Abrahams promise, they weren’t the chosen people, and this man dared to proclaim that God told him to go and preach to them? The very idea was absolute blasphemy. The Jewish leaders were so mad they wanted to kill Paul then and there. They caused so much commotion that the Roman police force in the area had him locked up for questioning. As the Roman Centurion prepared to beat a confession out of Paul, he was reminded that to imprison a Roman citizen and to beat him without being condemned in a trial was punishable by death. Paul was saved from prison that day because he was born free.
We as American citizens know what being free is. Our founding fathers fought for the freedoms that we share today. Our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution and our Bill of Rights, are all documents that express our rights as Americans. The Freedom of Speech, the right to bear arms, the right to a trial by jury and to confront your accused is all awarded to us because we live in America. What we are doing right here in this very room, talking about our religious beliefs freely and without fear is a right afforded to us as Americans. It is important to know what your rights are. When the police arrest you they are required by law to inform you of your Miranda rights. If we don’t know what rights we have, how will we be able to defend ourselves when attacked? If Paul hadn’t known his rights as a Roman citizen, he would have been wrongly imprisoned and beaten and couldn’t have done a thing about it. Paul was set free because he knew his rights.
My favorite verse in this passage is verse 28, after hearing that Paul was a Roman citizen; the chief captain told him that he was a citizen as well. Look what it says:
Act 22:28 And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was [free] born.
The Captain wasn’t born a citizen; he had to buy his freedom and pay to have his rights. Back in those days you could buy your way into citizenship. If you had enough money or could garner enough political favor, you could buy your way into the kingdom of Caesar and be considered a Roman. Paul didn’t have to buy his way. He didn’t have to bribe an official to be grafted into the kingdom. Paul’s citizenship was by right of birth.
Everyone here today, if you have accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior are citizens of another kingdom…the kingdom of Heaven. And like Paul, we didn’t have to buy our way in. As a matter of fact no amount of money or prestige can get you into Heaven. Our money and power here on earth are as filthy rags when compared to God’s riches in glory. The Captain used wealth and position to gain admittance. But wealth and position mean nothing to God. Moses was adopted into the royal family in Egypt. He had Power, Prestige, Presence, and Position. But God took him away from all of that, sent him to the back of a desert, and had him tending sheep when he revealed himself to Moses. Jacob was born into one of the most wealthy and prestigious lines in Israel’s history. He had stolen his birthright from his brother and all of the power that was entailed therein. But, out in the wilderness, with just a rock for a pillow God revealed himself. Samuel was Israel’s greatest Judge, but he was a servant, cleaning the temple when he was called. David was destined to become the King of Israel, but he received his calling while tending sheep. Peter, the spokesman for the 12 Disciples, the man who received 3,000 converts after preaching one sermon was out on a boat catching fish when Aaron came and told him about Jesus. Their money and prestige didn’t get them into the family of God, they were born free the day they accepted the call. When you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior you were born again. You were born free into the family of God, and just like Paul, your citizenship has rights that are associated with it.