Question? Are we fair?
21 Then He (Jesus) said to me, ‘Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.’” 22 And they listened to him until this word, and then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!” 23 Then, as they cried out and tore off their clothes and threw dust into the air,
24 the commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks,
and said that he should be examined under scourging,
so that he might know why they shouted so against him. 25
And as they bound him with thongs,
Paul said to the centurion who stood by,
“Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman, and uncondemned?”
26 When the centurion heard that,
he went and told the commander, saying,
“Take care what you do, for this man is a Roman.”
27 Then the commander came and said to him,
“Tell me, are you a Roman?”
He said, “Yes.”
28 The commander answered,
“With a large sum I obtained this citizenship.”
And Paul said, “But I was born a citizen.”
29 Then immediately those who were about to examine him withdrew from him; and
the commander was also afraid after he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him.
In summary, after Paul told the Jews, speaking in their own language, that Jesus sent him to the Gentiles they were outraged. The commander ordered Paul to be lashed to find out why the people were outraged. Paul appealed to his Roman citizenship. The commander questioned Paul, and he withdrew the punishment.
Do we understand both parties in a dispute – are we fair?
The commander seemed so rash to punish Paul without even knowing what was said. Maybe the commander was upset that he gave Paul permission to speak to the people, but the speech caused an uproar.
This commander didn’t hear either side of the story, but he visually seen how angry the people were against Paul, so he assumed that Paul was guilty. The commander was so unfair. Mathew Henry commentary asked an excellent question, why did the commander only wish to whip Paul? To be logically fair, shouldn’t the commander of asked for one of the mob to be scourged as well to obtain the truth?
Let us be more patient than this commander, let us patently listen to both sides of the story. Specifically, let us listen carefully when dealing with our children, our spouse, other church members.
If your son is often in trouble, and another report comes to you of another transgression, let us not jump to condemnation just because of his past. Let us be patient and listen.
If we are listening to a friend complain about their spouse, let us not hate their spouse without hearing the other side of the story.
Be patient and fair.
Do we fear man more than God?
Once the commander heard that Paul was a Roman citizen, he did not proceed with the scourging. Why? Roman government officials were accountable for how they kept the peace and treated fellow Romans. Remember how the Ephesian city clerk brought peace to the mob. He said in Acts 19 verse 40, “For we are in danger of being called in question for today’s uproar, there being no reason which we may give to account for this disorderly gathering.”
The commander was more worried about being disciplined by his leaders than doing the right thing or someday answering to God at the judgement. I’m glad governments do have oversight because the accountability is good. However, for Christians, let us try to always be aware that we will answer to God for our actions, and that should motivate our good works more than simply being men pleasers.