But Paul said unto them, They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast [us] into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out.
Note 2 at Ac 16:37: Roman law forbade any Roman citizen to be bound or beaten without having been condemned at a trial (Ac 22:25-29). No Roman could be sentenced to death without the opportunity to confront his accusers face to face (Ac 25:16). The Romans considered any injustice done to a citizen as an insult to all of Rome. Therefore, any Roman official who violated these laws would certainly have been punished, possibly by death.
Note 3 at Ac 16:37: It is very interesting that Paul and Silas didn't inform the magistrates that they were Roman citizens before they were beaten. They could have avoided the stripes and imprisonment. On another occasion, Paul avoided a beating by revealing his citizenship. There is no explanation given as to why he didn't do the same here. However, it is evident that it actually worked out better the way it happened.
Suffice it to say that the Lord must have led them to do it the way they did. Most people wouldn't even have been open to the Lord leading them in a direction like that, because it would have involved physical pain and personal suffering. People will never successfully be led of the Lord until they deal with "self."
Note 4 at Ac 16:37: This could be taken as Paul getting even with the magistrates for their treatment of him and Silas. However, that would go directly against Jesus' teachings (Mt 5:38-48) and Paul's own teaching in Ro 12:17-21. Therefore, Paul's motive for this could not have been vengeance.
It is possible that Paul wanted his reputation to be cleared publicly for the sake of the Gospel. The magistrates had publicly condemned them as criminals, thereby slandering the Gospel that they preached. A public apology would once again allow their message to go forth, and even further it as their vindication became the talk of the town.
It is also possible that Paul desired to put these rulers in their place to stop them from further harassing them or the other believers as they continued to spread the Gospel. These magistrates were terrified, knowing that if Paul and Silas protested their treatment in Philippi, they could be expelled from office or even killed (see note 2 at this verse). Paul and Silas had them "over a barrel."
Paul took advantage of the situation to further the cause of Christ, thereby establishing a precedent that occasionally it is needful for we Christians to exert ourselves and demand the rights given us by our government. This does not mean we can just disregard Jesus' instructions about turning the other cheek. It all comes down to motives. If our motive is to inflict pain on the one who has hurt us, then it would be wrong to defend ourselves. If, on the other hand, we bear no malice and legitimate actions can be taken to prevent an injustice from happening again, then proceed.
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