Paul’s Roman Citizenship On Trial

“To enter the country of old age is a new experience, different from what you supposed it to be. Nobody, man or woman, knows the country until he has lived in it and has taken out his citizenship papers.” (Source Unknown, Lou Nicholes - Missionary/Author). … More

Citizenship

This passage is not the first time the fanatical Jews tried to prove Paul was breaking the Roman law (refer to Acts 16:19-24 and 17:6-7). They accused him of propagating an illegal religion. Judaism  was a recognized religion of the empire, and was given the protection of the courts (v. 12). The Jews wanted a legal verdict handed down branding Christianity, and ruling that Christians could be prosecuted for promoting an outlawed religion.

This same type of thing is happening in the world today in countries dominated by Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists. My wife and I were recently in India, which is controlled by a Hindu government.  They are in the process of making it a Hindu country. Recently they have passed what is called a “no conversion law,” which prohibits Christians from trying to lead people to Christ.

Because Paul was a Roman citizen, he could have defended himself but he didn’t need to because Gallio defended Paul and he refused to try the case. Gallio had already made up his mind that this was an internal Jewish religious dispute, and the case should not have been brought to him in the first place. If Paul had been required to witness before Gallio, and had Gallio ruled against him, then Paul’s career might have been different. Because Gallio would not get involved in cases involved in Jewish religious disputes, he was showing Paul and his disciples that they had the same rights as the Jews to practice and share their faith. The Jews must have been greatly disturbed by this verdict.

We find the Greeks took advantage of Gallio’s refusal to take the Jews’ side, and they took out their anger on the Jews by beating Sosthenes, who apparently was the ruler of the synagogue and one of the Jews who had pressed charges against Paul (v. 17). According to I Corinthians 1:1, Sosthenes eventually became a believer. Because of Gallio’s help and Paul’s Roman citizenship, he continued to have freedom to work in the city of Corinth. In this case the government worked for him.

Application

How much am I helping and encouraging God’s servants? I know that I could be doing more.

Acts 18:12-17 (English Standard Version)

But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal, saying, "This man is persuading people to worship God contrary to the law." But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, "If it were a matter of wrongdoing or vicious crime, O Jews, I would have reason to accept your complaint. But since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves. I refuse to be a judge of these things." And he drove them from the tribunal. And they all seized Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal. But Gallio paid no attention to any of this.

View this passage in NIV (Bible Gateway) »

More Acts commentaries

Acts 15:1-5
Jerusalem Council–Divisions Re: Circumcision

Acts 15:6-11
Jerusalem Council–Discussion Re: Moses’ Law

Acts 15:12-18
Jerusalem Council–Decisions Based on God’s Word

Acts 15:19-29
Jerusalem Council–Decisions for Unity

Acts 15:30-41
Paul and Barnabas Disagree About John Mark

Acts 16:1-5
Paul & Timothy – New Ministry Duo

Acts 16:6-10
Paul – Flexibility in the Itinerary

Acts 16:11-15
Lydia–Conversion to Christ and Hospitality Offered

Acts 16:16-34
Paul & Silas – Praising God While In Prison

Acts 16:35-40
Paul’s Ministry Produces "People” Change

Acts 17:1-9
Paul & Silas – Trust God’s Strategy for Ministry

Acts 17:10-15
Obstacles that Hinder the Work of the Lord

Acts 17:16-34
Religion ... Ridicule ... Results

Acts 18:1-4
Paul Adapts to His Audience

Acts 18:5-11
Opposition Enhances Ministry Results

Acts 18:12-17
Paul’s Roman Citizenship On Trial

Acts 18:18-23
God Works His Will in His Servants

Acts 18:24-28
Tactfulness–Words That Work Mightily

Acts 19:1-7
The Holy Spirit is a Person

Acts 19:8-16
Miracles Performed by Paul for Authentication

Acts 19:17-22
Beware of Cult Practices

Acts 19:21-41
Results of Religious Greed

Acts 20:1-6
Discipleship Despite Difficulties

Acts 20:7-12
When, Where, How & How Long to Worship

Acts 20:13-21
Paul–An Example of Faithfulness

Acts 20:22-24
Paul’s Determination To Go To Jerusalem

Acts 20:25-31
Paul’s Warning to the Ephesian Elders

Acts 20:32-38
Paul Shares About Giving

Acts 21:1-9
Paul Warned By the Christians

Acts 21:10-16
Paul’s Determination & Warning from Agabus

Acts 21:17-26
Compromise Recommended but Refuted

Acts 21:27-36
Disaster is the End Result of Compromise

Acts 21:37-40
Boldness At the Barracks