Summary: Jesus paid the ultimate price for the ultimate right, which was the right to become a child of God. As Christians we have a right to confess our sins, be forgiven, and become children of God. As Americans we have a right to share this good news with anyone.
On Sept. 17, 1787 the leaders of our nation signed a document, which is to our freedom as
Americans what the New Testament is to our freedom in Christ. They signed the
Constitution Of The United States, and that is now the longest lasting Constitution every
drawn up by leaders of a major nation. It is not perfect, and it has been changed
considerably. Some of it is outdated and as obsolete as the musket, but it is still the solid
foundation for most all of the values we treasure as citizens of the this great land.
Abraham Lincoln said of this valued document, "Let it be taught in the schools, in the
seminaries, and in colleges, let it be written in primers, in spelling books, and in almanacs, let
it be preached from the pulpits, proclaimed in legislative halls and enforced in courts of
justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation." In other words, if
you are truly an American, you will base your legal and political convictions on this
document, just as you base your theological convictions on the Bible. There is much truth to
this, but the analogy does break down, for the Constitution is manmade, and as good as it is,
it is not God's Word, and so it can be, and has been changed. Nevertheless, it is one of the
wonders of the world in its impact on man's freedom under government. Constitutions all
over the world have been developed by using it for a guide.
The Apostle Paul was fortunate to have lived at a time when he had the blessing of a form
of government that was based on law and not men. Roman law was concerned about justice
and fairness. Paul appealed to Caesar because of his reputation for justice and fairness.
Augustus Caesar, whom God used to make the decree that brought Joseph and Mary to
Bethlehem, was known for his zeal in justice. He stayed in court until nightfall, and when he
was ill he would have himself carried to court, or sometimes have the cases brought to his
sick bed in the palace. He fought hard to make and enforce laws that encouraged and
protected the family. He was strongly anti-divorce, and he was strict on limiting the obscene
in the theatre.
Tiberius Caesar followed in his footsteps and spoke often to the Senate about the sanctity
of the law and their duty to uphold it. The point is not that pagan Rome and it rulers were
perfect or ideal. The evil and folly are abundantly evident, but the point is, they had an
empire that was the most powerful and longest lasting in history because they had law and
order, and because justice was highly prized. This was a life-saver for Paul because he was
often in serious trouble with the Jews who wanted him legally eliminated. There are ten
occasions in the book of Acts where they plotted to kill Paul.
On this occasion of our texts he was under arrest because the Jews were furious over his
preaching that God loved the Gentiles equally with the Jews. When they heard this, their
hatred was so aroused that they shouted, "Rid the earth of him! He is not fit to live." The
Roman guards saved Paul's life, for they were in the process of inflicting their judgment of
capital punishment upon Paul. We see this clearly stated in 21:31 where we read, "While
they were trying to kill him, news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the
whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar." These government agents saved Paul from the
religious mob, but they could not grasp what the riot was all about, and why the Jews were so
angry at Paul.
They decided to get at the truth by beating it out of Paul. Paul did not see a lot of value
in being rescued from one beating to take another, and so he said to the Roman who was
preparing him for a flogging, "Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who has not been
found guilty?" Paul is not doing research on the law at this point. He already knows the
answer. He is asking this to reveal his rights as a Roman citizen. His question set off an
immediate alarm. The Centurion went to his commander, and he came and talked to Paul
about his citizenship. This put a definite damper on the inquisition, and all those connected
with the incident made themselves scarce. They were hoping Paul would never recognize
them, for they had already violated his rights by putting him in chains.
Paul could have taken them to court and many heads could have rolled because of this