A High View of Citizenship

The Apostle Paul had a high view of citizenship, as well as those who were attempting to flog him. The moment he uttered that he was a Roman citizen, things stopped. People were called in. Someone has said it was a punishable offense by death to claim Roman citizenship falsely. Nonetheless, citizenship was a big deal.

Rome evidently protected its citizens in a way that it did not others. These protections were afforded to Christians as well. Citizenship was actually bought by some. I’ve reflected upon the issue of citizenship below. I hope it will be helpful in promoting a high view of citizenship.

A High View of Citizenship

Citizenship, what a privilege. It was something fearful to hear about the apostle Paul to those who were seeking to harm him in Acts 22. 

“But when they had stretched him out for the whips, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?” When the centurion heard this, he went to the tribune and said to him, “What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman citizen.” So the tribune came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” And he said, “Yes.” The tribune answered, “I bought this citizenship for a large sum.” Paul said, “But I am a citizen by birth.” So those who were about to examine him withdrew from him immediately, and the tribune also was afraid, for he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had bound him.” (Acts 22:25–29)

Roman citizenship was  evidently a big deal. Rome was likely not the Babylon of the book of Revelation. If many of the the Postmillennials today are correct (and I think they are) Babylon was Jerusalem that was judged for its unbelief (Cf. Gentry, Wilson, others). Roman citizenship was positive. It carried with it tremendous privilege. 

One commentator describes the matter this way:

“The Lex Valeria and the Lex Porcia were ancient laws that prohibited the beating, and even the fettering, of Roman citizens, and this right was confirmed by the Lex Julia which gave citizens in the provinces the right of appeal to Rome. There were circumstances in which a magistrate might so act against a Roman, but only after a proper trial. It is quite clear that Paul had the law on his side in this particular instance (Sherwin-White, pp. 57–59, 71–76). We do not know how a Roman proved his citizenship; at the very least a formal claim to citizenship led to a stay in the procedure.” (TNTC)

The law rightly protected Paul. And there seems to be an added gravity that his citizenship was not bought but was by birth.  Another writer speaks about someone’s claim to citizenship if proved false would mean death; so no one claimed citizenship in Rome without seriousness.

Some conclusions:

1. A good government will put laws in place to protect its citizens.

2. Citizenship is thus a privilege and protection to its holders.

3. Citizenship is not something everyone had.

4. Citizenship in a good country that protects its citizens also affords protections to Christians from harm. This protection afforded by a high view of citizenship may protect its members outside of its own country.

5. Citizenship for those who do not inherit it by birth can cost a great deal.

6. Citizenship in Rome was taken with great reverence because of these things and likely other things.

7. Therefore, it seems that it is right to value citizenship and to use it appropriately. It also something that should be expected to cost something for those who are not citizens by birth. Open borders without any regulations is out of step with a high view of citizenship. And this high view of citizenship also must have positive implications as to how we might view the greater citizenship that Christians have in heaven. Lower the view of citizenship that protects its members in a certain country, they will likely not understand the great privilege otherwise. Government serves the Lord as it is appointed by the Lord. Therefore, it is right for citizenship to be taken seriously and with a high view.