Acts 22:22–29 (NKJV)
22 And they listened to him until this word, and then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!” 23 Then, as they cried out and tore off their clothes and threw dust into the air, 24 the commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks, and said that he should be examined under scourging, so that he might know why they shouted so against him. 25 And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who stood by, “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman, and uncondemned?”Acts 22:22-29
26 When the centurion heard that, he went and told the commander, saying, “Take care what you do, for this man is a Roman.”
27 Then the commander came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman?”
He said, “Yes.”
28 The commander answered, “With a large sum I obtained this citizenship.”
And Paul said, “But I was born a citizen.”
29 Then immediately those who were about to examine him withdrew from him; and the commander was also afraid after he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him.
After Paul announced that he was the apostle to the Gentiles, and that the message of the gospel was to be preached to all men, the crowd reacted violently. They shouted and threw dust in the air, tearing off their clothes. They were ready for battle, and the commander ordered him taken into the barracks to be beaten, in an attempt to calm the crowd. When they were preparing to beat Paul, he invoked his Roman citizenship. When they realized he was Roman, they questioned him, the commander spouting off about how much he had paid for his citizenship. Paul again confirmed that he was a citizen by birth. After the soldiers were convinced, they loosed him and withdrew from him, trying to decide what to do next.
Paul invoked a secular privilege in order to avoid a beating. While some may think this was manipulative and cowardly, to me it seems ingenious. Paul knew he had further work to do. He did not need to be stopped by another beating at this time, and his Roman citizenship was legitimate and real. Sometimes it is useful to use whatever you have at your disposal to further the cause of the gospel.
Some believe in complete pacifism as the right way of life for a Christian. Some believe that Christians should defend their rights at all cost. However, I believe it is sometimes proper to utilize all resources possible to be able to facilitate the spread of the gospel of Christ. It should be proper to stand up for one’s rights in order to keep the gospel free. Don’t become a revolutionary by killing and taking territory, but do use all legal means to keep the church and Christianity free in light of the adversarial stance the world can take against the church. Be a person that strategizes with wisdom and love to make the gospel effective!