And they spoke to him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.…
I. PAUL'S RIGHT AS A ROMAN CITIZEN. To Paul this was invaluable. It was in itself an honour, and would be everywhere so regarded. It gave to him who enjoyed it the protection of the best system of laws known among men. In any part of the world, moreover, where the Roman power extended, it conceded that right. A Roman citizen might not be crucified, nor scourged. The privilege of Roman citizenship also secured the right of a public trial. This tended, in an eminent degree, to maintain justice.
II. THE MANNER IN WHICH THESE RIGHTS HAD BEEN VIOLATED. The wrong done was a palpable injustice, in all respects, at variance with the requirements of the Roman law. They were condemned unheard; and at the demand of a mob; they were publicly whipped; they were cast into prison. Every one of these things was contrary to Roman law. They suffered, moreover, further indignities at the hands of the jailer.
III. THE PROPRIETY OF THE DEMAND THUS URGED. The principles of the gospel seem to require that we should bear injuries not only with no malice, but even with no resistance (Matthew 5:39-41; 1 Corinthians 6:6-8). But note —
1. That the conduct of the Saviour interprets His own words. In the numerous injuries which He suffered at the hands of individuals, He offered no resistance. Yet, in entire consistency with all this, when He came in contact with the law, and when, under the forms of law, injustice was about to be done, He demanded that the provisions of the law should not be violated (John 18:23).
2. This leads us to notice, then, the value of law for the protection of rights. That value was recognised by Paul on other occasions (Acts 23:2, 3; Acts 25:11). The history of the world, in regard to law, has been a little more than a succession of struggles to secure the rights of individuals against arbitrary power; and the points gained in that respect have been the beginning of new eras in the history of the world, each of these epochs sending its influence far into the future. Law itself, as we now have it, has been the slow growth of ages; and is the result of effort to save from arbitrary punishment. Under wise provisions, in favour of general liberty and individual rights, we are permitted to live; and the business of the world now is to protect and defend these principles as the ground of security in all time to come. They are of inestimable worth, and it is every man's privilege and duty to appeal to them and to demand that they shall be observed and enforced. Pym and Hampden are immortal as having defended the great principles of liberty; and Paul stands thus among the great benefactors of mankind for having asserted and maintained the right of an appeal to the law.
3. It remains only to remark, in the vindication of the conduct of Paul, that the character of a good man belongs to the public, to virtue, to truth, to religion. Paul had not only his own individual rights to maintain, but he was a representative man, entrusted with the rights pertaining to the Christian religion. All that he had endured in his imprisonment, he could privately and personally bear and forgive. But the public wrong which had been done was a wrong to justice; and not only so, but a wrong to religion; a wrong to him as the minister of religion; a wrong which, if acknowledged, might greatly hinder the success of his future labours.
(A. Barnes, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.