25About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were unfastened. 27When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. 28But Paul shouted in a loud voice, "Do not harm yourself, for we are all here." 29The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30Then he brought them outside and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" 31They answered, "Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." 32They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.33At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. 34He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.
35When morning came, the magistrates sent the police, saying, "Let those men go." 36And the jailer reported the message to Paul, saying, "The magistrates sent word to let you go; therefore come out now and go in peace."37But Paul replied, "They have beaten us in public, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and now are they going to discharge us in secret? Certainly not! Let them come and take us out themselves." 38The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens; 39so they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city. 40After leaving the prison they went to Lydia's home; and when they had seen and encouraged the brothers and sisters there, they departed.
Another gritty and dramatic depiction of the early Christian movement is presented above: imprisonment after a beating, an earthquake that opened prison doors, a jailer and his household baptized in Jesus' name.
But in the second part of the passage we get something mildly unexpected. Paul, after being freed, does not depart quietly. He protests! Paul tells the police that he and Silas as Roman citizens were unjustly treated. No due process of law. No trial. No legal verdict. They were beaten and imprisoned without the recognition of their Roman rights. The police in turn tell the magistrates about this infringement of Paul and Silas' Roman rights. The magistrates are now worried that their jobs are on the line for their unjust and illegal treatment of Paul and Silas.
What are we to make of this?
That Paul shouldn't have complained? That he should have been thankful to God that he was set free without making a stink?
There's no clear moral to this story. But perhaps what the passage suggests is that in Paul's mind he was perfectly in his rights as an Apostle and as a Roman citizen to lodge such a complaint. Just because you are an Apostle, a citizen of Heaven, does not mean you are no longer a citizen of earth. Paul has a "dual citizenship" so to speak and where it is just and proper, Paul has the right to make use of his rights of Heaven and of earth. The use of such dual rights is compatible with each other. There's nothing "spiritual" about denying one's earthly rights.
When family members of Kenneth remind the US Gov't to protect Kenneth as an American citizen, that's not objectionable. When US Congressman Frank Wolf stands on the House floor and calls the US Gov't to stand against the persecution of Christians in different parts of the world, that's not objectionable.
For many of us, the gift of US citizenship is one of the great earthly gifts bestowed from Heaven. (I'm not going patriotic here, waving the Stars and Stripes.) I'm simply calling to our attention that we, like the Apostle Paul, enjoy a dual citizenship. And we have been given certain rights and privileges for being citizens of Heaven and of a nation. Let's use our rights wisely and for God's glory.
Let's pray: Father, we thank you that we belong to the City of God, that we have the full rights of belonging to Heaven, your Kingdom. May we make use of our heavenly rights. We also thank you for our earthly citizenship. And may we use these rights as well. We pray for the release of our friend Kenneth. We pray for the persecuted church around the world. We pray for the US Gov't. May you grant to our political leaders your wisdom, in such a challenging time as this. May you protect us today. In Jesus' name, Amen.