Question: "How was Paul a Roman citizen?"

Answer: Paul the apostle was a Roman citizen. Unlike others in his time who had to buy their citizenship, such as the Roman commander in Acts 22:28, Paul was born a Roman citizen (Acts 16:37). The fact of his Roman citizenship is explicitly stated in Scripture and was something that Paul used on occasion to his advantage.

Paul was a Roman citizen by birth, and Tarsus, where Paul was born, was a free city (see Acts 21:39). The Emperor Pompey made Cilicia a Roman province in 64 BC, and its capital, Tarsus, was a free city from the time of Augustus. Although it is unknown exactly how his parents became citizens of Rome, Paul was a Roman citizen by birth, which was a privilege many did not have. Some could buy Roman citizenship, but it was pricey (see Acts 22:28). The privileges of citizenship explain how Paul escaped flogging in Acts 22:25–27 and was able to appeal for a hearing before Emperor Nero in Acts 25:10–11.

God used Paul’s background for His glory, and Paul testified that “God . . . set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace” (Galatians 1:15). With his Jewish upbringing and knowledge of Greek culture and philosophy from his time in Tarsus, Paul was prepared for ministry to both Jews and Gentiles throughout the Roman world. Paul’s status as a Roman citizen by birth benefited him greatly as he traveled on his missionary journeys to fulfill Jesus’ words that he would be a “chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel” (Acts 9:15).