Acts 23: Rescued by Rome

Seemingly insignificant things can end up making a world of difference when God is concerned.

Paul is born in Tarsus in Cilicia making him a Roman citizen.  He is born a Jew, and it clear from today’s passage that it is this Jewish heritage that mattered most to Paul’s family.  These were Pharisees, apparently a long line of them (23:6).  Paul’s father will go to the expense and trouble to get him to Jerusalem to train under Gamaliel the Pharisee (22:3).  This is a good education.  By all of his own accounts scattered throughout Acts and his letters, it is this Jewish background that Paul gloried in.

And yet in today’s reading it is Paul’s Roman citizenship that makes all the difference between life and death.  The Jews are ready to tear him “in pieces” (23:10).  A gang of Jewish extremists have pledged not to eat or drink until they kill Paul (23:12).  An assassination plot is hatched (23:15).  But leave it to the Jews and Paul is as good as dead.

Ancient Roman Citizenship Diploma

It is because of his Roman citizenship that the Roman tribune is involved at this point.  The tribune’s greatest desire is simply to preserve peace, but he ends up protecting Paul nonetheless.  The tribune’s palace guard whisks Paul out of the fomenting Sanhedrin.  The Roman respect for law ensures Paul a fair trial.  An army of two hundred foot soldiers and seventy horsemen escort Paul out of Jerusalem and off to a Caesarean prison, and safety as well.  Ultimately, it is Paul’s Roman citizenship that will bring him to Rome so he can give his “testimony about [Jesus] in . . . Rome” (23:11).  Bottomline:

When I [the tribune] learned that he was a Roman citizen I went with the guard and rescued him. (23:27)

Where one is born is not nearly as important as what one does once one is born.  And yet Paul’s place of birth is what rescues him at this moment.

What seemingly insignificant detail from your life has turned out to have made a world of difference?

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Categories: Acts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “Acts 23: Rescued by Rome

  1. Melanie

    My great aunt’s 98th birthday is today. Millie is the youngest and last of five children, all of whom went to college, an unusual thing for a farming family of that era. This generation, my great aunts, great uncles, and grandparents, have had a more profound effect on my life than I would have admitted when I was a 20-something. I’ve been influenced positively by these five people’s faithfulness, humility, servant-mindedness, unselfishness, work ethic, and gratitude. They were not perfect people, I know. But even though four of the five are gone now, I continue emulate them and count it a blessing to have them as forebears.

  2. “You’ve been a good witness for me here in Jerusalem. Now you’re going to be my witness in Rome.”

    I wonder what Paul thought when he heard that. That sounds like a compliment, but it also seems like more out of an “out of the frying pan into the fire” thing.

  3. Eddy

    The comments at the start if this chapter about it being a good idea to follow the teaching of the Pharisees but to not follow the way they live their lives . . . that was rough. Especially thinking back to my time as a Bible teacher at Harding Academy.

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