‘So the commander went over and asked Paul, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” “Yes, I certainly am,” Paul replied. “I am, too,” the commander muttered, “and it cost me plenty!” Paul answered, “But I am a citizen by birth!”’ (Acts 22:27-28 NLT).


Paul’s Roman citizenship was often a help to him as he traveled throughout the empire spreading the gospel. Being a Roman citizen gave him certain rights. One of those rights was the right to a trial before any punishment might be administered. It was this right that Paul brought to the attention of the Roman soldiers who were preparing to lash him with whips after finding him at the center of a riot in Jerusalem. The soldiers had already tied him down and were preparing to beat him when he asked, “Is it legal for you to whip a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been tried?” At this the soldiers withdrew and were afraid because they had violated his rights.
Another right of Roman citizenship was the right to appeal to Caesar, a privilege that Paul claimed when later the Roman governor of Judea continued to hold him without a trial. In this way, he was finally able to carry the gospel to Rome as the Lord had put in his heart to do.
Paul’s Roman citizenship was often a help to him as he carried the gospel to the Gentiles, but his greater joy was in his heavenly citizenship. For as he wrote to the church at Philippi, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20).
PRAYER: Lord, on this day when we celebrate our nation’s independence, we thank You that we live in a country where we have the freedom to worship and witness without hindrance. We also give thanks to You for all the men and women who paid the ultimate price for our national freedom. We do not take it for granted. Yet even more, we give thanks for Jesus who paid an even greater price for our citizenship in heaven. Help us to remember that our freedom isn’t free. It was paid for in blood. May we always exercise the benefits You have given us in order to carry Your gospel to the nations of the world. In Jesus’ name, amen.