Pastor’s Desk July 1st

Scripture Passage:  And the chief captain answered, “With a great sum obtained I this freedom.”  And Paul said, “But I was born free.”  Acts 22:28
 
Dear Friends,
 
     This year marks the 234th anniversary of the signing of our Declaration of Independence from the British government.  We often forget that the signers of the Declaration were issuing their own death warrants.  Debates had taken place across the thirteen colonies where heated discussion had often turned into confrontation.  There were those who wished to remain loyal to the crown.  They had business investments and family ties that linked them to the crown and British Parliament.  We were, in fact, colonies of the British government.  The cost of the French and Indian War fought on the North American continent had brought financial hardship on all British subjects and parliament was looking for ways to raise funds to offset its cost.  People in England did not feel it was right for them to bear the cost alone.  The Americans felt that each tax placed upon them to raise these funds was unfair and that they were not properly represented by having duly elected representatives speaking for them in parliament.  The battle of words and rebellion continued for over ten years until our forefathers came together and asked Thomas Jefferson to draft an official declaration of independence. The signing of that document brought about the declaration of war and the American Revolution began.
 
     Just over a year beforehand, Patrick Henry addressed the Second Virginia Convention held at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia on March 23, 1775.  In a fiery conclusion to his rebuttal speech given in response to those wishing to remain loyal to the crown, he spoke these words: “Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace – but there is no peace.  The war is actually begun!  The gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms!  Our brethren are already in the Field!  Why stand we here idle?  What is it that gentlemen wish?  What would they have?  Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?  Forbid it, Almighty God!  I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”  With these words the smoldering fires of revolution were ignited and the colonist fight for freedom began.
 
     The Apostle Paul was in Jerusalem where he was thrown out of the temple and a militant mob attempted to kill him.  He was rescued by the chief captain of a centurion guard whose name was Claudius Lysias.  (Acts 23:26)  Claudius had obtained his freedom by either bribing a corrupt official or paying for sponsorship by a high ranking member of Roman society.  This would explain his name, since the freed man often took the name of his sponsor. There was no other way for freedom to be obtained in Roman culture.  Paul was given the opportunity to speak for himself on the stairway of a near- by castle.    The words of his testimony only infuriated the crowd and led to Paul being escorted away to be examined by scourging.  On the way, Paul asked the captain if it was lawful to scourge a Roman citizen who had not been condemned.  The captain asked him if he was a Roman citizen and he answered, “Yes.”  The captain was amazed because he had heard Paul’s testimony that he was a zealous Jew raised a Pharisee.  How could a Jew be a Roman citizen when he himself had to pay a great price to become one?  Paul’s answer was that he was free born.  Most scholars trace this back to his father even though it is never explained how this transpired.
 
     Paul received two types of freedom and both came from the lineage of his father.  He was given Roman citizenship by being born to a man who was already a citizen.  Paul had nothing to do with it.  He just enjoyed the benefit of being a son.  The second freedom was given to him by being born into the family of God.  His heavenly father was the source of his citizenship and his big brother paid his ransom.  Once again he had nothing to do with it. This holiday season celebrate the freedom you have being a citizen of these United States of America.  But do not forget to celebrate the freedom you have in Christ Jesus.  The benefits of being “free born” are out of this world.
 
In Christ,
Pastor Johnny