“And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned? When the centurion heard that, he went and told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman.” (Acts 22:25–26, AV)
Years ago, I purchased a boat built in 1959. The motor was shot and I found a guy selling one on Craigslist for $350. Now you can imagine, purchasing a 35-horsepower outboard motor for that price meant that something had to be wrong with it. I spend a few dollars more and purchased a new wiring harness and some plugs and got the engine running. I was a bit nervous when taking the boat out into the sound for the first time. Mainly, I was worried about blowing the old engine and being stuck in the middle of the sound. My solution was to join SeaTow. They gave members certain privileges that included certain discounts and most importantly free assistance and towing if something went wrong while on the water. There were certain privileges to being a member.
Similarly, there are certain privileges to citizenship. As a citizen of the United States, for example, you have the privilege to vote in federal elections. This makes sense since only citizens have a true vested interest in the nation. Citizens also have the possibility of running for a federal office and holding federal jobs. There are also certain federal benefits available only to US citizens.
In Paul’s day, citizenship also had its privileges. At that time, Rome had mastered and controlled the area around the Mediterranean. This included various areas set up as Roman provinces. One of which was Judea. Roman citizenship afforded certain privileges throughout the Roman Empire. One of these was the right to due process. A Roman citizen could not be punished without a fair trial. He could not be flogged. So, in a Roman province and non-Roman citizen, such as the Jews in Judea, could basically be punished at the whim of the Roman magistrates. The Jews did not have the rights of a citizen.
In this passage, we see that Paul again claimed his Roman citizenship. It is interesting when you consider that Paul was a real Jew and also a real Roman citizen. How did he, a Jew, obtain Roman citizenship? Paul became a Roman citizen because his parents were citizens. We do not know how Paul’s parents became Roman citizens, but the main point here is that citizenship has its privileges.
However, Paul had another citizenship. One with even far greater privileges that that of a Roman citizen. Paul, like you and I who have believed, was a citizen of heaven. Paul wrote of this, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20, ESV). This heavenly citizenship carries with it tremendous privileges. These include the riches of heaven, which include the forgiveness of sin, and eternal life. While these privileges look to our future, we have present privileges. We have the ability to petition the heavenly Father at any time. We have the presence of Jesus with us always. We have already been set free from the mastery of sin in our lives. We have the Holy Spirit to guide, comfort and empower us to overcome the struggles of this life. I could go on with all the privileges that come with being a citizen of heaven, but space in this devotion will not permit. Just remember and give thanks for the awesome privileges that we have because of God’s grace manifested to us by faith in Jesus Christ alone.