Paul’s Tragedy: How Trusting In Roman Citizenship Instead Of God Almost Cost Paul His Life

Paul, also known as Saul of Tarsus, was a Pharisee and a ruling elite of Israel before his radical conversion. He was a zealous murderer of Christians, and even was recorded making the first martyr, Stephen. Saul believed he was doing the right thing, but obviously he was persecuting the church of God.

One day on the road to Damascus, possibly to kill more Christians, Christ Jesus appeared as a blinding light startling his horse and causing him to fall to the ground, and asked him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4)

After this encounter, Saul was immediately blinded, and was given visions while he ate and drank nothing for 3 days, until God sent Ananias to lay his hands on Saul and restore his sight.

This incident is recorded in chapter 9 of Acts.

From that time on, Saul was known as Paul, but this is probably just his other name, as many commentators have noted. But Paul began preaching Christ as the Son of God, and began the work of Christ through bold evangelism. Paul was so bold that it got him into trouble more than once, and he was imprisoned on multiple occasions for his refusal to obey the orders to stop preaching, and also on false accusations by the corrupt religious leaders of Israel.

One one such occasion, God sent an angel to free Paul from prison. It ultimately ended with the prison guard and his family being converted. So God used Paul for wonderous works, and saved many through him.

Paul was born as a Roman citizen because his parents were citizens and he was born in Tarsus, a free city during the time that the Roman Empire occupied Israel. Paul esteemed his unique position as a Roman citizen, which gave him certain advantages that an ordinary Israelite would not have had.

One such right was the right to appeal to Caesar. And he took advantage of this benefit of Roman citizenship, almost to his demise.

Paul appeals to Caesar

One time when Paul was being falsely accused by the Jews, and they made grave accusations against him demanding punishment by death, Paul appealed to Caesar to have his case heard. After this, Paul appealed his case to King Agrippa with such eloquence and persuasion that King Agrippa said that he was almost converted to be a Christian. However, Agrippa said, “This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar” (Acts 26:32).

So, it happened that Paul leveraged his citizenship instead of his faith in God to provide. As a result, Paul’s life was put on the line multiple times on the way to Caesar. The first life-threatening incident occurred on the way to Caesar. Paul was shipwrecked, and him and the crew almost perished.

“But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon. And when the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind, we let her drive” (Acts 27:14-15).

Yet, God saved him and the whole crew. In fact, the command given to the soldiers was to have Paul and the other prisoners executed; but he escaped death due to the civil disobedience of a centurion.

“And falling into a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the forepart stuck fast, and remained unmoveable, but the hinder part was broken with the violence of the waves. And the soldiers’ counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out, and escape.

But the centurion, willing to save Paul, kept them from their purpose; and commanded that they which could swim should cast themselves first into the sea, and get to land: And the rest, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land” (Acts 27:41-44).

That was a close call, but not the last. Upon arrival to shore, Paul faced death another time, for as he gathered sticks for the fire, a viper bit him, and he should have died. Yet, Paul shook the snake off onto the fire, and to the amazement of the barbarians, Paul did not die, and they considered Paul a god, for it was miraculous.

“And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live.

And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm.

Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god” (Acts 28:4-6).

Finally, Paul faced death a third time by appealing to Caesar. However, God had other plans, and God did many wondrous works through Paul, and many were saved.

Yet, Paul faced death at least three times and much hardship because of one mistake: trusting in king and country, instead of trusting in God. Why place such value on the worldly system? Paul could have gotten off the hook before the shipwreck, or the poisonous snake bite, or the hardships that followed, or the meeting with Caesar, if Paul had not appealed to Caesar.

Trust not in the world

The lesson here is that it is not the world and the systems of the world that we should trust in, and that trusting in such systems could cause us much trouble. God was able to deliver Paul from all of the hardships, and Paul’s faith was strong, but he endured needless suffering all because he valued his Roman citizenship and appealed to the king of the land, Caesar.

Do you value your worldly citizenship, your worldly assets, or the politics and systems of the world? Or do you reject the world, and follow God’s path for your life? You need not worry about your worldly birthrights, your citizenship, or your rights on this Earth. You only need to trust God, and God will make things work out as He intended.

Trust God, and the kingdom of God. For we are not citizens of the world, but we are citizens of heaven. The world’s politics are for the people of the world, but our kingdom is not of this world. This is why Jesus refused to be made King as the people wanted, but instead made himself a lowly servent, and died a pauper’s death on the cross before his world-changing resurrection.

Because as Christ said when he stood accused before Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence” (John 18:36).

And it is why James said in James 4:4, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”

Our value system is not to be of the things of the world. Not worldly posessions, for our treasure is in heaven, not in this world (1 Corinthians 3:11-15). Not kings or rulers, for our King and ruler is Christ Jesus (Luke 1:32-33). Not political parties, for our compatriots and our family are those who do the will of our Father in heaven (Matthew 12:50).

Not rights and constitutions, for our rights are the power to become sons of God (John 1:12), and our constitution is the Word of God, the Bible, which is the foundation and basis for our beliefs (Matthew 7:24). Not citizenships or naturalization, for we are citizens of heaven and not of this world (John 17:14-16). Not immigration nor emigration, for we are to merely follow the path that the Lord has for us, and heed His voice when He calls us to come, and to go, and to do as He commands.

Treasure not the world’s systems, or the world’s governments, or the world’s policies, or the world’s citizenships, or the world’s rights, or the world’s constitutions, or the world’s countries, or the world’s kings or kingdoms; but treasure those things eternal, the things of heaven and the things of Christ. For all things in this world will pass away (1 John 2:17), and “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).


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