Are you thankful for your earthly citizenship? Whether it is to the United States of America or to the nation of Israel, or Russia, or the United Kingdom, etc. Are you truly thankful for your citizenship?
In at least one point in time the apostle Paul was grateful for it. Reading from Acts 25 today…
“But Festus, willing to do the Jews a pleasure, answered Paul, and said, Wilt thou go up to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these things before me? Then said Paul, I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest. For if I be an offender, or have committed any thing worthy of death, I refuse not to die: but if there be none of these things whereof these accuse me, no man may deliver me unto them. I appeal unto Caesar. Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, Hast thou appealed unto Caesar? Unto Caesar shalt thou go.” Acts 25:9-12 (KJV)
Paul is on trial. Something to consider; if Paul consents to go to Jerusalem he may be consenting to his death, before he reaches Jerusalem. He has no assurances that he will reach that city. However, with the protection of Roman guards, he is fairly certain he will reach Rome.
I am going to let a scholar from many years ago comment on these verses…
IV. Paul’s appeal to the emperor, and the occasion of it. This gave the cause a new turn. Whether he had before designed it, or whether it was a sudden resolve upon the present provocation, does not appear; but God puts it into his heart to do it, for the bringing about of that which he had said to him, that he must bear witnesss to Christ at Rome, for there the emperor’s court was, ch. 23:11. We have here,
1. The proposal which Festus made to Paul to go and take his trial at Jerusalem, v. 9. Festus was willing to do the Jews a pleasure, inclined to gratify the prosecutors rather than the prisoner, as far as he could go with safety against one that was a citizen of Rome, and therefore asked him whether he would be willing to go up to Jerusalem, and clear himself there, where he had been accused, and where he might have his witnesses ready to vouch for him and confirm what he said. He would not offer to turn him over to the high priest and the sanhedrim, as the Jews would have had him; but, Wilt thou go thither, and be judged of these things before me? The president, if he had pleased, might have ordered him thither, but he would not do it without his own consent, which, if he could have wheedled him to give it, would have taken off the odium of it. In suffering times, the prudence of the Lord’s people is tried as well as their patience; being sent forth therefore as sheep in the midst of wolves, they have need to be wise as serpents.
2. Paul’s refusal to consent to it, and his reasons for it. He knew, if he were removed to Jerusalem, notwithstanding the utmost vigilance of the president, the Jews would find some means or other to be the death of him; and therefore desires to be excused, and pleads, (1.) That, as a citizen of Rome, it was most proper for him to be tried, not only by the president, but in that which was properly his court, which sat at Caesarea: I stand at Caesar’s judgment-seat, where I ought to be judged, in the city which is the metropolis of the province. The court being held in Caesar’s name, and by his authority and commission, before one that was delegated by him, it might well be said to be his judgment seat, as, with us, all writs run in the name of the sovereign, in whose name all courts are held. Paul’s owning that he ought to be judged at Caesar’s judgment-seat plainly proves that Christ’s ministers are not exempted from the jurisdiction of the civil powers, but ought to be subject to them, as far as they can with a good conscience; and, if they be guilty of a real crime, to submit to their censure; if innocent, yet to submit to their enquiry, and to clear themselves before them. (2.) That, as a member of the Jewish nation, he had done nothing to make himself obnoxious to them: To the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest. It very well becomes those that are innocent to plead their innocency, and to insist upon it; it is a debt we owe to our own good name, not only not to bear false witness against ourselves, but to maintain our own integrity against those who bear false witness against us. (3.) That he was willing to abide by the rules of the law, and to let that take its course, v. 11. If he be guilty of any capital crime that deserves death, he will not offer either to make resistance or to make his escape, will neither flee from justice nor fight with it: “I refuse not to die, but will accept of the punishment of my iniquity.’’ Not that all who have committed any thing worthy of death are obliged to accuse themselves, and offer themselves to justice; but, when they are accused and brought to justice, they ought to submit, and to say both God and the government are righteous; as it is necessary that some should be made examples. But, if he be innocent, as he protests he is, “If there be none of these things whereof these accuse me,—if the prosecution be malicious and they are resolved to have my blood right or wrong,—no man may deliver me unto them, no, not the governor himself, without palpable injustice; for it is his business as much to protect the innocent as to punish the guilty;’’ and he claims his protection.
3. His appealing to court. Since he is continually in danger of the Jews, and one attempt made after another to get him into their hands, whose tender mercies were cruel, he flies to the dernier resort-the last refuge of oppressed innocency, and takes sanctuary there, since he cannot have justice done him in any other way: “I appeal unto Caesar. Rather than be delivered to the Jews’’ (which Festus seems inclined to consent to) “let me be delivered to Nero.’’ When David had divers times narrowly escaped the rage of Saul, and concluded he was such a restless enemy that he should one day perish by his hands, he came to this resolution, being in a manner compelled to it, There is nothing better for me than to take shelter in the land of the Philistines, 1 Sa. 27:1. So Paul here. But it is a hard case that a son of Abraham must be forced to appeal to a Philistine, to a Nero, from those who call themselves the seed of Abraham, and shall be safer in Gath or Rome than in Jerusalem. How is the faithful city become a harlot!
MATTHEW HENRY COMMENTARY
Let us be thankful for the blessings of our freedom we have; and make use of them as God and this life provide.
I want you to remember that the best citizenship is the Heavenly citizenship available only through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Call on His name, and He will give you the New birth (John 3:3, 16).