Sermon: Heavenly Citizenship And the Coming King Acts 22:22-23:11

Heavenly Citizenship And the Coming King

Acts 22:22-23:11

Introduction

There are those in the pages of Scripture who started out well. Last week we looked at the doctrine of perseverance and saw how important it is to end well. We saw the importance of remaining faithful throughout all different circumstances. Paul is that wonderful example of finishing the race well.

One man who started well but ended terribly was named Demas. He was one of Paul’s traveling companions and started well. So well that Paul trusted him and let him in to be part of the inner circle of missionaries…
Colossians 4:14 (ESV)
14 Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas.
Philemon 1:23-24 (ESV)
23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you,
24 and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.
2 Timothy 4:9-10 (ESV)
9 Do your best to come to me soon.
10 For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.

Demas started well but then the things of this world began to attract his affections and Paul would end his letter to Timothy with the sad news that Demas had left the faith in love with this world.

There is an important principle underlying our text today and that is the call for all of us to not love this present world but to look forward to the world to come.
TT- Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ
Human need met by text

What defines you? For some, it’s a title they have. Perhaps it’s significance they find holding a certain title. ETC

Acts 22:22-23:11 (ESV)
22 Up to this word they listened to him. Then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live.”
23 And as they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air,
24 the tribune ordered him to be brought into the barracks, saying that he should be examined by flogging, to find out why they were shouting against him like this.
25 But when they had stretched him out for the whips, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?”
26 When the centurion heard this, he went to the tribune and said to him, “What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman citizen.”
27 So the tribune came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” And he said, “Yes.”
28 The tribune answered, “I bought this citizenship for a large sum.” Paul said, “But I am a citizen by birth.”
29 So those who were about to examine him withdrew from him immediately, and the tribune also was afraid, for he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had bound him.
30 But on the next day, desiring to know the real reason why he was being accused by the Jews, he unbound him and commanded the chief priests and all the council to meet, and he brought Paul down and set him before them.
1 And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.”
2 And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth.
3 Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?”
4 Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God’s high priest?”
5 And Paul said, “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’”
6 Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.”
7 And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided.
8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.
9 Then a great clamor arose, and some of the scribes of the Pharisees’ party stood up and contended sharply, “We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?”
10 And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force and bring him into the barracks.
11 The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”

1. Paul’s First Defense, I Am A Roman Citizen

22 Up to this word they listened to him. Then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live.”
23 And as they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air,
24 the tribune ordered him to be brought into the barracks, saying that he should be examined by flogging, to find out why they were shouting against him like this.
25 But when they had stretched him out for the whips, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?”
26 When the centurion heard this, he went to the tribune and said to him, “What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman citizen.”
27 So the tribune came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” And he said, “Yes.”
28 The tribune answered, “I bought this citizenship for a large sum.” Paul said, “But I am a citizen by birth.”
29 So those who were about to examine him withdrew from him immediately, and the tribune also was afraid, for he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had bound him.
Here in this section we have learned something never before disclosed about the Apostle Paul, he was a Roman Citizen. We already knew that he was a Jew and that he was from Tarsus but now we are informed of his Roman Citizenship.

What is so significant about this that Luke would mention it no less than six times in this short section?

One could become a citizen by either birth or buying the privilege. Paul’s birth in a Jewish family occurred in the city of Tarsus within the province of Cilicia (Acts 22:3). Although a Jew, his birth in the city grants him citizenship. This is due to Tarsus’ designation as a “free city” by Rome. The commander, however, had to pay a large sum of money to be a citizen.[1]

Some theologian question whether Paul should have played his Raman-Citizen-Card or not in this situation. They think that he should have let that fact remain unknown, thinking that he would have now lost all connections with the Jews in Jerusalem. He no longer would have had much of any influence at all with them given the fact that he is now viewed as a Roman.

This attitude is really unfounded. Paul, after all, was the missionary to the Gentiles. If Paul would have endured this torture, he may have died from it.

24 the tribune ordered him to be brought into the barracks, saying that he should be examined by flogging, to find out why they were shouting against him like this.
You might know this but here was an example of Rome at its most torturous. When they examined someone by flogging, they removed the clothes from their back and stretched them over something and the whip would literally slice through the flesh. If that wasn’t enough, the whip used was laced with chips of bone which would be embedded in the person’s skin and they the whip was pulled back, ripping as it came out. Many would not survive.

Why was obtaining citizenship such a coveted prize?  Citizens enjoyed a wide range of privileges and protections, which varied over time and place. Some of the more common rights and benefits were:

  • The right to vote in assemblies and stand for civil or public office
  • The right to make legal contracts and hold property
  • The right of immunity from some taxes and legal obligations
  • The right to sue (and be sued) in the courts
  • Citizenship also came with the right to have a legal trial where a person appears before a proper court in which to defend themselves. This right also includes the ability to request Caesar here a case.

Additionally, citizens could not be tortured or whipped (scourged), nor could they receive the death penalty, unless they were guilty of treason. It is this right that kept the apostle from a severe flogging, in order to gain information, at the hands of soldiers (Acts 22:23-29).

Paul’s right to a trial before Caesar was used to avoid be tried in Jerusalem. If he went to the city from Caesarea, his murder would almost certainly occur along the way (Acts 25:1-3). Jerusalem also had many people who hated him. We find Paul making use of his Roman citizenship in Acts 25.[2]

Because Paul was a Roman Citizen he had the right to a fair trial. He knew a trial help in Jerusalem would surely end in his death, so he makes an appeal (as a Roman Citizen) to be tried in Rome.

Luke is setting the pieces of the puzzle in front of us and we must begin putting them together.

Acts 22:21 (ESV)
21 And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.

God is working out His plan to have Paul go to the nations with the Gospel. He is using Paul’s Roman Citizenship to get him to Rome.
While his Roman Citizenship was temporarily being used as a shield against potential torture and death, Paul never viewed it as something to trust in for security.
Philippians 3:17-21 (ESV)
17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.
18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.
19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.
20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Notice with me the contrast Paul is making in this text…There are those who have become enemies of the cross of Christ. These enemies are marked with their love for this world and its goods. By contrast, he shares that we (Paul and the other Christians) are not setting their minds on the things of this world because this is not where we are citizens. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, your citizenship is in heaven and we are marked by the fact that this world has no power over us since we are waiting for Jesus to be revealed (second coming).
Paul is explaining an end times reversal. Currently, Rome looks to be in charge and there is some value in Roman Citizenship, however, when Jesus returns, the only citizenship that will matter is the heavenly citizenship.
2. Paul’s Second Defense, I Am A Pharisee

30 But on the next day, desiring to know the real reason why he was being accused by the Jews, he unbound him and commanded the chief priests and all the council to meet, and he brought Paul down and set him before them.
1 And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.”
2 And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth.
3 Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?”
4 Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God’s high priest?”
5 And Paul said, “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’”
6 Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.”
7 And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided.
8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.
9 Then a great clamor arose, and some of the scribes of the Pharisees’ party stood up and contended sharply, “We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?”
10 And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force and bring him into the barracks.

The commander now takes Paul to the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin is the ruling counsel in Jerusalem. Some present were Pharisees and some were Sadducees. This issue that will arise is that the Pharisees believe in the resurrection of the dead and the Sadducees do not.

Paul is standing before the council…

1 And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.”

Upon uttering these words, the high priest has Paul literally punched in the mouth to symbolize that what he had just spoken was considered blasphemy against God. To consider that he was in right standing with God and sent by God to the Gentiles was not compatible.

3 Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?”
Here, Paul plays off of Ezekiel 13:10-16 where Ezekiel uses the very same phrase to depict a wall that is about to fall over. Then, of course, we remember when our Lord uses the phrase whitewashed tombs to depict the hypocrisy of those Jewish leaders who were trying to condemn Him.

Matthew 23:27-28 (ESV)
27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.
28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Then, Paul does something amazing here. He explains that he too is a Pharisee. Not only a Pharisee but literally, the son of a Pharisee or we could say born into the Pharisee tradition and raised as such.

He was born a Roman Citizen, which was more substantial than the commander who had purchased his citizenship. He also was born a Pharisee, which was more than most of these men could claim and yet they still hold him in contempt.

He then begins to share the gospel with them, which includes the resurrection of Jesus, which the Sadducees do not believe. So, another riot breaks out and the Roman commander has to rescue Paul a second time with Roman soldiers.
10 And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force and bring him into the barracks.

What value did Paul place on his being a Pharisee?

Philippians 3:4-11 (ESV)
4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more:
5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee;
6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.
7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ
9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—
10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Paul’s early life revolved around his credentials as a Pharisee. He derived significance from his achievements in this world of religion.
Now, everything has changed for Paul…
Let’s pick up now back in Barracks,

3. Paul’s Heavenly Citizenship

11 The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”

First, Paul did not use some sort of ingenious trick to get the religious leaders fighting as some say. He was sharing the Gospel with those who were there like he would wherever he went. Testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem

Jesus tells Paul that he will get an audience in Rome. He will share the Gospel there as well. Paul knows this will happen because he has experienced divine guidance and divine providence already. If God says it, it will happen.

I want to look at the opening words of this passage briefly today.

What Jesus did…

The Lord stood by him- Paul was a citizen of heaven. His King was Jesus. The heavenly kingdom ruled by Jesus was what Paul was waiting for. His King was not a King who forgets His people.
Our world today is filled with kings and presidents and everything in between who do NOT care one bit for you. Listen, we are nothing to them. Whether we live or die doesn’t matter one bit to them.
But, there is a King who rules perfectly. Who is returning to take rightful claim over what is his…
Jesus is the rightful King. Paul understands this truth far better than any other human ever did. He was blessed to see the risen Lord and here is one of the times.
He is sharing with us today that King Jesus is the true King and He will stand by you and never leave you. He knows who you are. He cares for you. He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. The earth is the Lords.
What Jesus said…

Take courage

Take courage church! When times are difficult, take courage. When you’re not sure what is going to happen next, take courage.

When you’re wondering what will happen in the future… Take courage

Paul had a vision from the risen Lord who told him not to worry because he would go to Rome and be His witness there. You might be thinking, I wish Jesus would do that for me…
He has done more.

We know the end as well…
Revelation 5:6-10 (ESV)
6 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.
7 And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne.
8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

 

Additional Application

Take courage, Jesus is reigning in heaven and is someday returning to lay hold of His rightful kingdom on earth…

I pray your kingdom is the heavenly kingdom

Exhortation

 

 

[1] http://www.biblestudy.org/roman-empire/how-difficult-was-it-to-obtain-roman-citizenship.html

[2] http://www.biblestudy.org/roman-empire/how-difficult-was-it-to-obtain-roman-citizenship.htmlSermon:

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