6/26/16 The Consequences

As the sun rises, the generals who sentenced Paul and Silas to the beating and imprisonment meet again.  They are worried that they may have acted too hastily in trying to avoid a riot and pacify the crowds.  “After all,” one points out, “we never even gave them an opportunity to defend themselves.  It really wasn’t a trial at all, just a sentencing based on the word of the accusers.”  The others agree, and after a short deliberation, decide that the best course of action is to just quietly let the men go free.  Calling the same soldiers who beat Paul and Silas yesterday, the generals order them to go to the prison and have the guard release them.  The soldiers do as ordered, and the prison guard goes down to the dungeon, where Paul and Silas have returned after their visit to the guard’s home, to relay the good news.  “The soldiers have just come from the council of generals.  They are ordering me to let you go free.  Please, go in the peace of our Messiah, Jesus.”  But Paul has no intention of letting the matter go without a fight.  He knows his rights, and he knows that if these generals get away with what they have done this time, it won’t be the last time innocent citizens are wrongly convicted and punished for crimes they did not commit.  “We are Roman citizens, and they have beaten and imprisoned us without so much as a trial!  There’s no way I’m letting them get rid of us quietly.  Tell them to come to us personally to release us!” Paul says indignantly.  The guard’s face turns white at his words, and he quickly goes to the soldiers to relay Paul’s response.  The soldiers also look alarmed by this news, and they do not relish the thought of passing this information along to the generals.  But they do, backing away quickly as soon as the information is given.  The generals exchange nervous looks.  “Roman citizens?  Did anyone know that they are Roman citizens?”  “It doesn’t matter.  Ignorance is no defense.  We didn’t even give them the opportunity to tell us that.”  “What are we going to do?  It’s bad enough not giving them a trial if they weren’t citizens, but we all know that beating a Roman citizen, especially in public, is an offense punishable by death!  We have to think of something fast to placate these men.”  So they decide to go personally to the prison and speak with Paul and Silas.  They apologize profusely and beg the men to forgive them, because they only did it to stop a riot.  Paul gives them a proper dressing down and warns them that this is never to happen again, not even to prevent a riot.  The generals, chagrined but grateful that the two men are not going to press charges against them, agree, and Paul and Silas are escorted out of the prison.  They go directly to Lydia’s house, and after freshening up and encouraging the brothers and sisters meeting there, decide to move on.  Luke, though, remains in Philippi, in order to continue to work with the new believers there and strengthen the new church.

 

Acts 16:35-40

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