About Jesus - Steve (Stephen) Sweetman
The apostle Paul was familiar with the legal systems of both Jewish and Roman culture.
Although he was a Jew, he possessed Roman citizenship (Acts
22:29) that provided him with certain legal liberties, liberties that he
did not hesitate to use when needed.
While carrying out an
ill-advised plan by the church elders at Jerusalem
that was meant to appease the Christian Jews, Paul was arrested without
due cause by the Jewish temple authorities (Acts 21:33).
He was subsequently handed over to the Roman authorities in
We have no legitimate
Biblical or historical record of Paul's court proceedings in Rome. Many believe, as I tend to
believe, that he was acquitted of all charges, released, and traveled to
Spain to preach, as was his desire (Romans 15:24).
Upon his return to Rome
he was arrested for the crime of not relinquishing his allegiance to
Jesus. In compliance with
his teaching that Christians are to submit to government (Romans 13:1),
and, balancing submission to government with his loyalty to his Lord, Paul
willingly and without resistance submitted to the state's punishment for
his act of civil disobedience.
Around 64 to 66 A D Paul
laid his head on a Roman chopping block where a soldier's sword sliced
Paul's head from his shoulders. Paul's
final and most powerful witness for Jesus was demonstrated when his head
plummeted to the ground in a bloody mess.
I'm convinced that with
love in his eyes, Paul shared Jesus with the soldier who beheaded him.
He would have done so because God's love was the compelling force
in his life (2 Corinthians 5:14). Paul's
fight of faith was over. It
was a fight he waged, not with the Roman state, but with the demonic
forces that influence all nations.
Even though he exercised his legal liberties in defence of
himself, he knew that no legal or legislative system could help him in
his fight with the unseen evil world behind Rome. He had more effective
means at his disposal than his civil and legal liberties (Ephesians 6:10
example, as he encouraged us to do (1 Corinthians 11:1, Philippians
3:17) I conclude the following. As
Christians, we are entitled to exercise any legal liberty at our
disposal in defence of any injustice done to us.
As Christians, we acknowledge our fight of faith is not with the
state, but with the demonic armies influencing all states.
As Christians, we implement all spiritual means we possess in
both the defence and proclamation of the gospel.
As Christians, even in the midst of injustice, we never forsake
our mission to lead people, including those who oppose us, to Jesus.
As Christians, we never replace preaching Jesus
with legal or legislative reform because that saves no one. As Christians, we submit to ungodly government, balanced by our
loyalty to our Lord. As
Christians, if need be, we willingly and without resistance, submit to
any punishment placed on us by the state for any act of civil
disobedience we commit. As
Christians, we lay down our lives for the sake of those we are
called to lead to Jesus, and that, is our most powerful witness for our