Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence which I make now unto you.CHAPTER 22
What a scene it was! On the stairs, midway between the temple-court and the fortress, stood the Apostle in chains, his person showing the effects of the beating he had received. Around him were the well-armed Roman soldiers, and below the multitude, with up-turned faces, still wildly gesticulating and only becoming more silent when they heard the first words from Paul’s lips in the Hebrew tongue.
He relates his great experience. They were impatient listeners; the storm broke with the word “Gentiles.” Another great tumult resulted and the many voices demanded that such a fellow should not live. It was a scene of utmost confusion.
The chief captain seems to have been ignorant of the Aramaic dialect. He gave orders that Paul be now removed into the castle itself, and be examined by scourging so that he might find out why they cried so against him. He was led away, and everything made ready for the cruel treatment, when the prisoner spoke: “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned?” The centurion reported this to the chiliarch, the chief officer, who at once appeared on the scene. When he discovered that Paul was indeed a Roman by birth, they left their hands off of his person, and even the chiliarch was afraid. It was a highly illegal act to bind a Roman.
Not a few had pointed to this as a prominent failure in the career of the Apostle. According to these critics he made a grave mistake when he pleaded his Roman citizenship; he should have been silent and taken the unjust and cruel treatment without a murmur. If some of these harsh critics of the beloved Apostle were placed in the same condition, what would they do? As one has truly said: “It is easy to be a martyr in theory, and such are seldom martyrs in practice.” He had a perfect right to tell the ignorant officers of the law who he was, and thus prevent a flagrant and cruel transgression of the law. And yet his conduct in Philippi was far different. Why did he not announce his Roman citizenship there? The power of the Spirit rested then upon him; it is different here.