April 19, 2022
“The jailer reported these words to Paul: ‘The magistrates have sent orders for you to be released. So come out now and go in peace.’ But Paul said to them...”
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“The jailer reported these words to Paul: ‘The magistrates have sent orders for you to be released. So come out now and go in peace.’ But Paul said to them, ‘They beat us in public without trial, although we are Roman citizens, and threw us in jail. And now are they going to smuggle us out secretly? Certainly not! On the contrary, let them come themselves and escort us out! Then the police reported these words to the magistrates. And they were afraid when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens.” Acts 16:36-38.
In the Bible, believers in Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) are called upon to be servants to others for the sake of the Gospel. Often, it feels like we are called to be “doormats,” letting others trample over us. We are not to sue each other (1Cor 6:1-8), and we are to turn the other cheek and go the extra mile (Matthew 5:39-42).
Before we start feeling too sorry for ourselves, let’s be reminded of Jesus’ humility and sacrifice. He left the glory of Heaven to be born in a stable. He was brought up in the obscure town of Nazareth, hung around the poor and lowly, insulted & beaten by the proud pseudo-spiritual religious leaders, and willingly suffered a criminal’s death, all on our behalf.
But there is one situation in which we are expected to stand, adamantly refusing to give ground, and this is where the Gospel itself is at stake. In the words of Bible commentator David Stern, “If the Gospel can be served better by fighting back, we should fight back – the fighting, of course, to be conducted ethically and by spiritual means (2 Corinthians 10:3-5, Ephesians 6:10-18).”
In today’s chapter, we see Paul using several legitimate means: he mentions his Roman citizenship, points out the officials’ illegal behavior, and demands public redemption for public insults.
Paul does all this to ensure proper treatment, but not because of personal pride. His concern is not just for the Gospel only; he wanted to ensure that no one in Philippi would come away from the incident with the misimpression given by Paul’s accusers (Acts 16:20-22), that the message of Messiah is not for the Romans.
Bottom line: we are not called to be “doormats” for Messiah, letting people always trample on us. We are called to know God through a saving relationship with Messiah Jesus and to spread the “Good News.” There are times to be a suffering servant, and there are times to stand up and fight! In both instances, the goal is the furtherance of the Gospel.