22:22-30 Up to this statement they listened to him, and then they cried, "Destroy such a fellow from the earth, for it is not proper for him to live." While they were shouting and waving their garments and throwing dust into the air, the commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks. He ordered him to be examined by scourging to find out why they shouted like this against him. And when they had tied him up with the thongs, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, "Is it right for you to scourge a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?" When the centurion heard this he went to the commander and reported it. He said, "What are you going to do? This man is a Roman citizen." The commander came to him and said, "Are you a Roman citizen?" He said, "Yes." The commander answered "I obtained this citizenship at a great price." But Paul said, "I was born a citizen," So at once the men who had been about to examine him stood away from him; and the commander was afraid when he realized that he was a Roman citizen and that he had fettered him. On the next day, wishing to know the truth about the accusation made by the Jews, he released him and ordered the chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin to assemble; and he brought Paul down and set him before them.
It was the mention of Gentiles which set the mob ablaze again. It was not that the Jews objected to the preaching to the Gentiles; what they objected to was that the Gentiles were being offered privileges before they first accepted circumcision and the Law. If Paul had preached the yoke of Judaism to the Gentiles all would have been well; it was because he preached the grace of Christianity to them that the Jews were enraged. They took the common way of showing their disapproval; they shouted and waved their garments and threw dust in the air, in the fashion of the east.
The commander did not understand Aramaic and did not know what Paul had said; but one thing he did understand--he must not allow a riot and must deal at once with any man likely to cause a riot. So he determined to examine Paul under scourging. This was not a punishment; it was simply the most effective way of extracting either the truth or a confession. The scourge was a leather whip studded at intervals with sharp pieces of bone and lead. Few men survived it in their right senses and many died under it.
Then Paul spoke. Cicero had said, "It is a misdeed for a Roman citizen to be bound; it is a crime for him to be beaten; it is almost as bad as to murder a father to kill him." So Paul stated that he was a citizen. The commander was terrified. Not only was Paul a citizen; he was born free, whereas the commander had had to purchase his freedom. The commander knew that he had been on the verge of doing something which would have involved certainly his dismissal and not improbably his execution. So he loosed Paul and determined to confront him with the Sanhedrin in order to get to the bottom of this trouble.
There were times when Paul was ready to stand on his dignity; but it was never for his own sake. He knew his task was not yet done; gladly he would one day die for Christ but he was too wise a man to throw his life away just yet.
-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)