Acts 28:16


I. A FINAL PERSONAL TESTIMONY OF INNOCENCE. It is full of manly courage and simplicity. It was no subversive teaching or conduct that had brought him into his present position. No definite charge had ever been proved against him. Like the Master, it was as a fulfiller, not as a destroyer, that he had wrought. It was for the "hope of Israel "he had suffered. Great teachers are always fulfillers. But because they see that truth is not stagnant, but living, they are accused of innovation. When we accuse others of innovation, let us ask whether it be not that our own garb of thought has grown old. The whole New Testament story is one long protest against imposing fetters on the freedom of the living spirit and the course of truth.

II. A FINAL CONFESSION. Of Jesus as the Messiah. And a final argument with his countrymen. To point back to Moses and the prophets in evidence of this was to show that the doctrine of the cross and the resurrection was the fulfillment and consummation of the ancient faith of Israel. But this was no cold statement, no perfunctory statement. From morning till evening Paul labored with his countrymen's souls. Men are never weary of speaking of that of which their hearts are full. It is not the argumentative side of Christian truth on which every preacher or teacher can dwell. But whatever be the aspect of truth and life he conceives with force and which possesses his soul, let him speak and not be weary. The result will be the same as with Paul, and cannot be expected otherwise. Some will be persuaded, others will disbelieve. The clear expression of any positive truth will be echoed in assent and resisted in negation. Perhaps we can never be sure that we have spoken the truth until we have met opposition.

III. FINAL EFFUSION OF LOVE. He addresses them as brethren, and after telling them of the enmity and persecution he had experienced at the hands of their fathers in Palestine, he still knocks once more at the door of their hearts. The prophetic words of his close are full of a solemn pathos. The audience, disunited, falls to two sections. It is not that division begins with the preaching of the gospel, but the hidden disunion of the heart is brought to light. The sun does not produce difference, but only reveals difference, which could not be recognized in darkness. Hardness of heart is both a natural consequence of contempt of the truth, and a Divine judgment upon it. But the aurora of the future shines brightly against this dark background of Israel's rejection. No sin, no ingratitude of man, can dim the splendor of that eternal heaven of grace. If the Jews will not come to the great supper of God, the Gentiles shall fill his house. - J.







And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard.
Within a circuit of little more than twelve miles more than two millions of inhabitants were crowded. In this prodigious collection of human beings, there were of course all the contrasts which are seen in a modern city — all the painful lines of separation between luxury and squalor, wealth and want. But in Rome all these differences were on an exaggerated scale, and the institution of slavery modified further all social relations. The free citizens were more than a million; of these, the senators were so few in number as to be hardly appreciable; the knights, who filled a great proportion of the public offices, were not more than 10,000; the troops quartered in the city may be reckoned at 15,000; the rest were the plebs urbana. That a vast number of these would be poor is an obvious result of the most ordinary causes. But in ancient Rome the luxury of the wealthier classes did not produce a general diffusion of trade, as it does in a modern city. The handicraft employments, and many of what we should call professions, were in the hands of slaves; and the consequence was that a vast proportion of the plebs urbana lived on public or private charity. Yet were these pauper citizens proud of their citizenship, though many of them had no better sleeping place for the night than the public porticoes or the vestibules of temples. They cared for nothing beyond bread for the day, the games of the circus, and the savage delight of gladiatorial shows; manufactures and trade they regarded as the business of the slave and the foreigner. The number of slaves was perhaps about a million. The number of the strangers or peregrini was much smaller; but it is impossible to describe their varieties. Every kind of nationality and religion found its representative in Rome.

(Dean Howson.)

I. FOR THE APOSTLE; the aim of his life is fulfilled, and the end of his life is determined.

II. FOR THE GENTILE WORLD; it becomes serious with its gracious invitation, but serious also with the setting of its glory.

III. FOR JUDAISM; in Rome the apostle turns himself for the last time to his people; the kingdom now comes to the Gentiles, and Rome supplants Jerusalem.

IV. FOR CHRISTIANITY; in Rome bloody contests await it, but also most glorious victories.

(K. Gerok.)

How did Paul reach Rome? The answer will yield us —

I. ENCOURAGEMENT FOR FAITH. Paul reached Rome —

1. In answer to prayer (Romans 1:9, 10; Romans 15:23, 30-32). God knew the longing of his heart, and had promised him that to Rome he should go (Acts 23:11; Acts 27:24).

2. By an answer long delayed. He had been praying for it "many years," and the years of prayer were followed by years of weary suspense. I can imagine the Tempter in the apostle's prison in Caesarea saying with a taunting smile, "Fine progress this, Paul, on your way to Rome!"

3. By strange and unexpected paths. At last he reached Rome; but how? As a prisoner, in company with a gang of criminals, after shipwreck, viper stings, etc. A strange way this of answering his prayers! And yet his prayers were answered. Every plot of his enemies, every outrage upon justice, every blast of the tempest, brought him nearer Rome. Did Paul know what he was praying for? If he had he would not have shrunk back. Our faith must not fail because our prayers seem for years to be in vain, nor when the answer is different from what we expected.

4. In complete fulfilment of the promises of God. Though he came as he never expected, as "an ambassador in bonds," yet he reached the court to which he was commissioned by Christ. The promise of God was more than fulfilled. Paul reached Rome better fitted, through his trials, for his work, and to find his work itself made easier. For —(1) He came well advertised. The whole story of his long imprisonment had gone before him. The sympathy of the disciples was drawn out in his behalf. He had been brought to the notice of powerful officials. Julius, the centurion, had conceived for him a great regard, and we can easily believe that he committed him to Burrus, the prefect of the praetorians of Rome, with warm words of praise. It is not surprising that Burrus separated him from the other prisoners, suffered him to "dwell by himself," "in his own hired house, and to receive all who came in unto him."(2) With a strengthened faith. God had sent him trials, but great deliverances and precious visions too. No doubt now that he was where God wanted him to be — a mighty addition to any man's power. Once fairly within the walls, I seem to hear him say, "Rome at last! Assassins, prisons, storms, vipers — all defeated! My God can do anything for me. I will never be afraid again."

II. INSTRUCTION AS TO DUTY. He is an example to us —

1. In his missionary zeal. We have already quoted passages which show his strong desire to visit Rome. The same deep desire appears at other points in the history (Acts 19:21). What is the reason of this earnest "longing" (Romans 1:13-15)? Rome was a Gentile, i.e., a heathen city which needed the gospel. This was enough for Paul. More work is the working Christian's reward.

2. In his use of God's promises. He makes them a spur to effort, and not an excuse for his own slackness and delay. The same promise of God which forbids us to worry commands us to work.

3. In his use of present opportunities. Paul, while he had that great mission to Rome on his heart and in his eye, did not fail to do all the good he could on the way. The ship in which he sailed was a small parish, and he looked after it well. And it was a hard parish — that wet, foul, crowded, half-mutinous ship. Ministers who think themselves too large for small parishes God will think too small for large ones. He has no use at Rome for men who are too fine to gather sticks and teach barbarians at Malta, or who cannot compel respect for their religious manliness even on a dirty ship, in dreary storms, with a cross, discouraged, heathen crew.

(A. Mitchell, D. D.)

I. WHY DID PAUL VISIT ROME?

1. Because God willed it (Acts 9:15; Acts 23:11).

2. But Providence is always correlated with individual choice.(1) Paul was anxious for his fellow Christians exposed to the dangers of that proud centre of paganism (Romans 1:11).(2) Paul knew the value of Rome as a strategic point, in the work of bringing the world to Christ. Jerusalem and Rome were the centres from which went out the world's transforming forces — the one the home of Divine government; in the other, the god of this world was enthroned. Resting his two hands upon them, he would sway the whole world to the foot of the cross. It is also interesting and instructive to notice how the strong arm of paganism, in its stability and justice, was Paul's refuge from the murderous intent of the Jews. As God raised up Cyrus, so he raised up the Caesars; and in Paul appealing to Caesar we have an instance of the service rendered by the enemies of the gospel to its thorough establishment.

II. WHEN WAS PAUL AT ROME? He arrived in the spring of A.D. 61, and he "dwelt two whole years in his own hired house." Evidently when those two years had been completed Paul was still in active labours, or his beheading would have been mentioned. In this abrupt ending of the inspired account we have conclusive proof that the Church is to live, not mainly by the light of her history, however privileged, but in the presence and strength of Him who said, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."

III. HOW WAS PAUL EMPLOYED WHEN AT ROME? What could he do, a prisoner constantly chained by the hand to a Roman soldier (Ephesians 6:20)?

1. Despite the weariness of his journey by sea and by land, he allowed only three days to pass before he called the chief brethren of the Jews together, explained his position, reaffirmed his loyalty to the hope of Israel, and held a further meeting with a somewhat disappointing result.

2. As "the care of all the churches" still pressed upon him, letters were written to Philippi, Colossae, Ephesus, and to Philemon.

3. Then came the long-looked-for trial, and as Roman justice was not yet dead, the imperial verdict brought an acquittal.

4. Thus released, in the spring of A.D. 63, for five years to come, his hands, freed from fetters, were eager in the work of his Master.

5. In the spring of A.D. 68, he is again a prisoner at Rome, from which he wrote one more epistle (the second) to Timothy, whom he summons, bidding him use all "diligence to come before winter." He needs the cloke and parchments. What a suggestion of prison damps! Yet bodily weakness did not enfeeble the pure flame of his intellect and soul. The parchments were probably copies of the Old Testament, and possibly some of his own inspired epistles.

6. On a summer day — May or June A.D. 68 — a sword glistens for a moment in the sunlight, and then that form, worn by weary marches, by frequent stoning, by cruel stripes, by shipwreck, by fastings, by repeated incarceration, is at rest.

(S. L. B. Spears.)

I. WHAT A WORLD OF THOUGHT IS OPENED WHEN WE THINK OF ST. PAUL AND ROME TOGETHER! The first is among the most prominent characters in God's history of the world; the second is a representative of the might and majesty of earthly dominion. There is moral beauty on one side, material grandeur on the other. The spiritual teacher shows us what goodness could do, witnessing for God in the midst of an evil world; the conquering nation, aiming at universal empire, shows us what could be accomplished by strong wills and daring enterprise, combined with favouring opportunities and political sagacity of the highest kind. We hear of Rome, and think at once of crushing power, well symbolised by the beast which Daniel saw, "exceeding dreadful, whose teeth were of iron, which devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet." We hear of St. Paul, and think at once of a suffering man, beset by enemies and persecutors, yet in his feebleness, with no weapons but truth and charity, casting down many a stronghold, and winning blessed triumphs over the powers of this world and the powers of darkness. He entered Rome a prisoner. Its streets were busy with life; citizens were abroad on business or pleasure. In that vast assemblage of untold multitudes human society would be presented in all its various aspects, from the patrician who had a hundred slaves drudging in his halls, to the captive soldier who had walked in procession behind some general's car of triumph, and might soon be called to make sport for the populace, while he fought for his life against fearful odds. Along those peopled highways St. Paul would travel, and look around him at all that was new and wonderful, not like one who came to feed an eager curiosity, but with the inward feeling that God hath sent him thither; and that there, among those teeming multitudes, were some whom God's word might reach. There was nothing of fear, we are sure, and nothing, probably, of sadness, in his countenance as he paced those endless streets. He came charged with a message from the King of kings.

II. LITTLE DOES MAN'S JUDGMENT, AS THE TIDE OF EVENTS ROLLS ON, ACCORD WITH GOD'S. The first have become last, and the last first, since then. Nero has gone down to his grave with shame. And what is proud Rome itself? A city of ruins. And if we ask where her successor is to be found, we can name no other than London; and if the stranger who catches a first glimpse of its distant outline, asks what is the dome that towers over every meaner edifice, the answer itself marks the strange revolution of which I have been speaking — the lifting up of some, the casting down of others. Never let us think that contrasts of this kind are things of the past only. How little, often, are our great men, and how great our little men! What base, earthly, mammon-loving selfishness is seen in high places, and what heroic virtues are found often among those who drudge for a bare living.

III. MARK THE DILIGENCE AND PROMPTITUDE OF THE APOSTLE IN HIS NEW SPHERE OF ACTION (vers. 17-24).

1. For two whole years, which had elapsed when the history was finished, St. Paul's preaching work was continued. He was bound, but not silenced; and so little jealous, at this period, were Nero or his officers of any rival creed that the man who said that other religions were lies, and that only by the name of Christ could men be saved, spake "with all confidence, no man forbidding him," and with much success. So "the kingdom of God," often, "cometh not with observation." Thus the wheat groweth while men sleep. It was not strange that St. Paul should be brought to Rome; but, assuredly, we should not have expected that he would be brought thither in chains, and then have liberty to preach to all comers. Had he been at large, his zeal might have prompted him to preach in the Forum, as it prompted him to preach on Mars' hill. In that case, short work might have been made with this troubler of the peace of Rome; but, as God ordered it, His servant was guarded without being positively secluded. His hired house was his castle, and it was kept by one of Caesar's soldiers, and numbers resorted thither from day to day; and soon, in the very household of the emperor, some were found who became obedient to the faith. Never let us think that nothing can be done for Christ but in some way that shall fix upon us the gaze of our fellow men. Godly zeal need not stand upon the public highways, nor lift its voice among the throng; it may love the shady nook, and work effectually in some secluded sphere. Only let us not plead modesty when our real feeling is deadness of heart towards spiritual things, and the reason why nothing is ever attempted for God is just this — that we are sinfully pleased and contented with the world as it is.

2. But Paul's spoken words in Rome are for the most part lost. Other words, however, are recorded, which shall never perish. Read the Epistles to the Ephesians, the Philippians, the Colossians, and think what a treasure that was for the Church of his day, and ours to gain from his captivity. How would the distant brethren be stirred up to holy zeal and diligence when the words of so brave a captain charged them to be "strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might!" How would some learn to bear their crosses when, after years of captivity, while he longed to be astir, yet was willing, if God so willed it, to be "an ambassador in bonds," they received the welcome letter, and met with those comforting words, "I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content;" "I can do all things through Christ which strengthened me!"

(J. Hampton Gurney, M. A.)

Our study is the study of a single character.

I. PAUL THE PRISONER. Captivity was to Paul nothing new. He had been "in chains oft." He had just come out of a long bondage at Caesarea. We must note the unswerving faith of the prisoner. Doubt sometimes gets into the heart of the Christian. Environment will have its effect. And many, applying the inductive method to an oppressed and harassed life, conclude: No God; or a God who is ignorant; or a God who does not care. Others interpret obstruction as a providential closing of a chosen way, and turn aside to easier paths. But with Paul doubt had no chance. He knew that he was an apostle not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father. No one could convince him that he was not called to preach the gospel of the Crucified. And in all the events of his life, however mysterious, he saw the moving of a Divine hand. For Paul the prisoner, then, there was no fainting, no failure of faith, no shifting of his convictions, no trimming of his message. "For the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain." That hope, as Paul saw it, was the living and dying Jesus. There was another chain which bound Paul. It was the invisible chain of love which linked him to his Lord. The chain on his wrist was a symbol of captivity. The chain on his heart was a token of freedom.

II. THE PRISONER AS A PREACHER. Doubtless his preaching began with the first guard to whom he was bound. But his public preaching seems to have begun with this appointed meeting. The substance of his message is compressed into the twenty-third verse, though we need to put with this the last two verses of the lesson. The kingdom of God, that was his theme. He preached it, we may be sure, with all the energy of his soul. They were not abstract ideas hard to be grasped which he put before them, but truths vitalised with the life of the incarnate God. The kingdom of God was no new invention. Its foundations had been laid long before the birth of the Babe. He had come to reveal to men the nature of God and the eternal principles on which the kingdom should be builded. It was Paul's high mission to connect old systems with new. So he goes back to Moses and the prophets. His theme was the sublimest which ever gained possession of the mind of man, but it was by no means easy to overcome the prejudices which had been growing and strengthening for generations. From morning until evening the work went on. Here was the preacher, right in the heart of the Roman capital, the centre of earthly power. But the resplendent name of Rome wrought no spell on Paul. His thought was busy with the splendour of a kingdom which should be universe-wide and eternity-long.

III. THE PRISONER AS A PROPHET. Prophecy in its narrower range is foretelling; in its wider range it is teaching. To preach Jesus was a high privilege to Paul in prison. But he was granted a privilege infinitely higher than that. Paul thanked God for his chains. Many of his hearers thanked God for his chains. And we of today are blind and dumb and our heart is waxed gross if we do not thank God for the chains of Paul. Some of the sublimest truths of revelation are ours because the chains were his. Here was the mysterious Providence through which God worked out the fulfilment of His plan for a completed revelation. Four of the immortal Epistles of Paul were written at just this time.

(J. H. Masom.)

I. WE SEE PAUL PREPARING THE GROUND FOR HIS WORK.

1. He began, in his last efforts as in his first, with the Jews. He was one of them and understood them. They were at least part way to Christianity because they believed in the true God. But in their case, as in every man's, opportunity does not settle destiny, but rather the action of man's will upon opportunity.

2. Conciliation characterised Paul's approach to his own nation. He did not know what rumours concerning him might have come across the sea, so he felt it necessary to begin with a personal explanation and defence. Paul was not a scheming sophist who used a shrewd tact wherever he went simply to gain a hearing, concealing his antecedents and real character. Candour was the very soul of his being.

3. Prejudice at once confronted him. They probably told the truth when they said they had had no communication concerning Paul with the men of Judaea (ver. 21). But they knew more probably than they said concerning Christianity. There was a Christian Church in Rome of some years' standing. That they had no relations with it shows they were hostile to it. The sneering generality concerning Christianity's ill-repute was more definite in their minds than they cared to have Paul guess.

4. Hardness of heart is thus brought to view again as the condition of the Jews before the preaching of Paul.

II. The first meeting, which Paul had thus tried to use to prepare the way pleasantly for a plain Christian talk, was followed by a second, WHICH PAUL USED FOR THE PRESENTATION OF THE GOSPEL.

1. His doctrine is set before them in unmistakable form. He wishes to conciliate them, but he must tell them the plain truth.(1) The kingdom of God is the subject of his testimony.(2) Jesus was set forth as the centre of this kingdom in Paul's address (ver. 23). To understand it is to understand Him, and vice versa. Christ is interpreted to us by our study of the meaning of the kingdom of God.(3) The Scriptures formed the foundation of Paul's argument with these Jews (ver. 23).

2. The reception of Paul's address is chronicled (vers. 23, 24).(1) There was interest evidently, for they stayed to listen "from morning to evening."(2) The gospel now as always acted in two ways — it was a savour of life or a savour of death. "Some believed the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved" (ver. 24). The magnet draws or it does not draw. There is no third possibility.

3. Paul's warning (vers. 26, 27). They all departed. The gospel had not conquered them as a company, though some believed. Paul makes one more attempt to reach them as they go, using the words of their well-known Scriptures.(1) These were words for them to remember.(2) These were harsh words. Paul had reasoned quietly and in a conciliatory way, without success, humanly speaking. Severity remained to him and he employed it. Harsh as they were, they were really beneficent. So Paul wished they might be to his Jewish auditors. It is no kindness to withhold from men the knowledge of the penalty of unbelief.(3) Paul warns the Jews that God will pass them by and give His salvation to the Gentiles if they do not accept it (ver. 29).

III. PAUL'S LIFE AT ROME IS DESCRIBED.

1. He had —(1) A considerable amount of freedom (ver. 30).

2. Misfortune was thus turned into good fortune (see Philippians 1:12-18).

IV. We have here THE CONCLUSION OF THE BOOK OF ACTS. It has sometimes been called abrupt. But —

1. The gospel is shown to have been preached apostolically from Jerusalem to Rome. Representatively the whole world had been evangelised. The type was complete of the actual proclamation of the Cross to all the nations. This is the object of the Acts. The book is not a life of Paul.

2. The cause is everything, the instrument is nothing. Rome hears about Jesus Christ. No matter about Paul.

V. CLOSING THOUGHTS.

1. The kingdom is infinitely greater than any who serve it. The message is more than the messenger. Let us lift up the Cross and hide ourselves.

2. The gospel is world-conquering. Rome hears and heeds not. But she shall heed yet.

3. Blessed are those who, with Paul, have a share, however humble, in spreading the kingdom of God. Is life worth living? A thousand times yes, when spent in this glorious service.

(D. J. Burrell, D. D.)

This brief summary of Luke is significant, however, for it reveals the man marching up to the gates of martyrdom at Rome with the same steady step and magnificent courage with which he faced Corinth and Ephesus and Jerusalem, only as the candle gets nearer the socket the flame lifts higher and the light grows brighter. We note some clear lessons which gather about this Roman visit.

I. IT PRINTS LARGE THE FACTOR OF PROVIDENCE IN ALL CHRISTIAN WORK AND LIFE. Providence is "a seeing before" and the consequent care and control over life and eveners which this Divine prevision makes possible. A doctrine, therefore, that carries the might-giving truth that the world in all its activities and powers is interpenetrated with a great, single, Divine plan which, in ordinary and extraordinary ways, is being wrought out under a plan which is not only indivisible but universal, reaching every force in nature, every event in history, and following the lives of men from the beginning to the end. But it is the unusual and the notable experience that fastens the mind upon this great omnipresent law of Divine superintendence in the affairs of men, and so we come out into the recognition and comfort of this law in all lives and in all Christian work. Seldom, however, is this factor of Providence so clearly seen as in this Roman visit of St. Paul. The great ambition of his life — to preach the gospel in the capital of the world — seemed doomed to disappointment, when, suddenly, through agencies unthought of, Paul, the prisoner, is transferred to Rome, where his residence for two years is under the protection of the empire against the bitter assaults of his countrymen and the violence of his enemies. Such privilege and care and his final acquittal before the court of the emperor reveal not only a hand of iron in a velvet glove, but that ever and always there "standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own." This lesson of God's providence and presence is timely for the nineteenth century of the Christian faith.

II. THIS ROMAN VISIT ALSO REVEALS THE POWER OF CHAINED HANDS AND LIVES IN THEIR POSSIBILITIES OF CHRISTIAN SERVICE. This spectacle of Paul, chained by his right hand to the left arm of a Roman soldier — a captive in his own lodgings — suggests a release from all his missionary obligations and the overthrow of all his plans. For what can such an one do against the paganism of Rome? "Now I would have you know, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the progress of the gospel; so that my bonds became manifest in Christ throughout the whole praetorian guard, and to all the rest; and that most of the brethren in the Lord, being confident through my bonds, are more abundantly bold to speak the word of God without fear." What a testimony to that factor of Providence in Christian work, whereby the obstacles of life become the forwarding agents of God's truth! We all know sick rooms that are the spiritual clearing houses for the neighbourhood in which they are; for when the heart is filled with the love of God and the brotherhood of man there will be not only songs in the night watches, but ceaseless and beneficent ministries by day. Are we bound with a chained or prisoned with the limitations of life? Be of good cheer; it may be for the larger hope of the world, and it can be for the glory of God.

III. FINALLY, THIS ROMAN VISIT REVEALS THE TREMENDOUS ODDS AGAINST WHICH THE CHRISTIAN FAITH IS MATCHED IN THE CONQUEST OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE.

(William H. Davis.)

I. IN THE FACT OF HIS BEING AT ROME, A DESIRE AND PURPOSE LONG CHERISHED WAS ACCOMPLISHED.

1. That desire was to preach the gospel there, and was in accordance with a general plan. The Saviour commanded His apostles to begin at Jerusalem (Luke 24:46, 47), the place in which was concentrated more of learning, wealth, and power than in all Palestine. Then, as now, great cities were centres of influence, and as that influence was mostly evil, it was important that they should be made centres of light. There was a tendency, therefore, always towards Rome. Before Paul went there the gospel had been carried there, and a church had been founded. The closing chapter of Romans contains numerous salutations to its members, and it is remarkable that a large number consisted of those who had been in some way connected with Paul (Romans 16:3-15). Paul, too, had sent to that church one of the most important of all his epistles.

2. The accomplishment of this desire was brought about in a manner which he did not anticipate. He had hoped to take Rome on his way in the carrying out of another purpose (Romans 15:24); but still he was in Rome, and he had the opportunity which he had desired. In like manner, often, our wishes are accomplished, and our prayers heard, in a manner altogether different from what we should have chosen, and in a way which leads us through many trials; but still the prayer is heard, and the desire is granted.

II. THE NATURE OF PAUL'S EMPLOYMENTS IN ROME. Many good men, in such circumstances would have felt that there was nothing for them but patiently to await and prepare for their trial. What could Paul now do in regard to the great purpose of his life? The field of usefulness which he saw open to him pertained to —

1. The Church. With not a few members of that church he had been elsewhere acquainted, and they would regard him with an interest which they would feel for no other man, and it was the natural prompting of affection which led them to go out to meet him (ver. 15), and to show him the highest honour. Paul found himself at home in their midst; and could cooperate with them in diffusing the gospel (Philippians 1:14).

2. His own countrymen. His conduct in seeking the earliest opportunity to lay his case before them, and his frank statement that he had nothing to accuse his own nation of (ver. 19), their honest avowal that they had not been prejudiced against him, and their willingness to learn his views, evince a high degree of sincerity on both sides, and might have promised the most happy results from the interview. But the result was as elsewhere — a part believed, a part blasphemed, a few were converted. To them, therefore, Paul uttered language such he had elsewhere used (ver. 28, cf. Acts 13:40).

3. The Roman people as such. His advantages for acting on such a population were indeed few. He could not occupy the Forum as he had Mars' hill; he had no direct access to Caesar's palace. He could only preach to those who came to his own hired house (Acts 28:30, 31). Yet his influence was felt more or less in the very place where he would most desire that it should be felt (Philippians 1:12, 13; Philippians 4:22).

4. The Churches. Four of his letters — that to Philemon, that to the Colossians, that to the Ephesians, and that to the Philippians — were written while he was awaiting his trial.

III. THE SPIRIT WHICH HE MANIFESTED. Note —

1. His forbearance towards those who had wronged him (ver. 19). We may advert here, also, to his kind feelings towards those who had perverted his doctrines, and had sought to propagate their own views, taking advantage of the fact that, being a prisoner, he could not openly counteract their statements (Philippians 1:16-18).

2. The manner in which he turned all that had occurred to good account. He saw the hand of God in it all, and felt assured that events, apparently most disastrous, had been overruled to the promotion of Christianity.

(A. Barnes, D. D.)

All who took an interest in Christianity in Rome, both Jews and Gentiles, gathered to him. Perhaps there was not a day of the two years of his imprisonment but he had such visitors. The Roman Christians learned to go to that room as to an oracle or shrine. Many a Christian teacher got his sword sharpened there; and new energy began to diffuse itself through the Christian circles of the city. Many an anxious father brought his son, many a friend his friend, hoping that a word from the apostle's lips might waken the sleeping conscience. Many a wanderer, stumbling in there by chance, came out a new man. Such an one was Onesimus, a slave from Colossae, who arrived in Rome as a runaway, but was sent hack to his Christian master, Philemon, no longer as a slave, but as a brother beloved. Still more interesting visitors came. At all periods of his life he exercised strong fascination over young men. They were attracted by the manly soul within him, in which they found sympathy with their aspiration or inspiration for the noblest work. These youthful friends, who were scattered over the world in the work of Christ, flocked to him at Rome. Timothy and Luke, Mark and Aristarchus, Tychicus and Epaphras, and many more came, to drink afresh at the well of his ever-springing wisdom and earnestness. And he sent them forth again to carry messages to his churches, or bring him news of their condition. Of his spiritual children in the distance he never ceased to think. Daily he was wandering in imagination among the glens of Galatia and along the shores of Asia and Greece; every night he was praying for the Christians of Antioch and Ephesus, of Philippi and Thessalonica and Corinth. Nor were gratifying proofs a wanting that they were remembering him. Now and then there would appear in his lodging a deputy from some distant church, bringing the greetings of his converts or, perhaps, a contribution to meet his temporal wants, or craving his decision on some point of doctrine or practice about which difficulty had arisen. These messengers were not sent empty away: they carried warm-hearted messages or golden words of counsel from their apostolic friend. Some of them carried far more. When Epaphroditus, a deputy from the church at Philippi, which had sent to their dear father in Christ an offering of love, was returning home, Paul sent with him, in acknowledgment of their kindness, the Epistle to the Philippians, the most beautiful of all his letters, in which he lays bare his very heart and every sentence glows with love more tender than a woman's. When the slave Onesimus was sent back to Colossae, he received as the branch of peace to offer to his master the exquisite little Epistle to Philemon, a priceless monument of Christian courtesy. He carried, too, a letter addressed to the church of the town in which his master lived, the Epistle to the Colossians.

(J. Stalker, D. D.)

The words are connected with a wonderful chapter of Providence in the history of the apostle. There is also an application of its lessons to modern life.

I. THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF A LONG-CHERISHED PURPOSE. His heart had been set on visiting the Imperial city from an early date in his ministry. Why? His ambition was to comfort and strengthen the little company of believers in Christ. He recognised in Rome the great heart of the world, and was eager to take that for Christ. He never wasted his strength in places of small importance. He felt the importance and use of great cities. He had received the gospel in trust for his fellow men, and he must redeem that obligation in the most effectual manner. God opens to those faithful in the least the widest spheres of usefulness.

II. PAUL'S PURPOSE WAS NOT ATTAINED IN THE WAY IN WHICH HE EXPECTED IT WOULD BE REALISED. The Epistle to the Romans shows that he never expected to enter the imperial city as a prisoner. We set our hearts on some enterprise or some post of usefulness, and get it ultimately, but accompanied by something else of which we had no thought. It comes in a way which might sink us in despair. Why is this? It is to keep us all through our efforts at the feet of Jesus, and to impel us to depend entirely on Him. All through Paul's difficulties and trials God had been near him, and at each crisis had shown him special favour. When our opportunity comes it appears in a way to humble us in our own estimation and to increase our trust in Divine wisdom and love.

III. WHILE PAUL'S ENTRANCE INTO ROME WAS NOT QUITE WHAT HE EXPECTED, IT REALLY ACCOMPLISHED ALL HE DESIRED (Philippians 1:12-14). He had not all the opportunities he hoped and desired, but he did not commit the mistake of doing nothing. He knew the men then in the Praetorium might some day receive orders to go into Parthia, Germany, or Britain, and he endeavoured to enable them to act as missionaries, and carry the gospel wherever they went. Thus he spoke to each soldier chained to him, and thus was begun that great work which went on until the Thundering Legion became as famous in the martial annals of Rome as Havelock and his saints during the Indian Mutiny. Conclusion: there is a lesson of instruction and encouragement. God is answering our prayers when we think He is blighting our prospects. If we will but use our opportunities, we may find that our influence has gone round the globe with blessing. In Longfellow's poem the arrow and song were found again as they were sent out. But nobody can tell the history of impulses given, changes wrought, work of self-sacrifice and devotion suggested by fitting words dropped into human minds and human hearts. Let the struggling struggle on. Rome, or something better, will be reached at last. The Master never mocks us when He answers our requests.

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

With a soldier that kept him.
Not much privacy there. The constant presence of one whom we love may be very pleasant. A child seldom wants to be alone. There are friends who are never so contented apart as together. But to be always under the eye of an enemy, or of one who watches us with suspicion, is intolerable. A young man of upright character, in the service of a great corporation, found himself — as was every other of the employees — shadowed by a detective, after a robbery from the office of the company. Wherever he went he was watched, although quietly, and at a distance. He would hurry along the crowded street in the hope of getting out from under that eye; but when he looked back or across the way, he would find he had not escaped it. As he left his home in the morning, he saw that he was still under surveillance. When he looked out from the window of his darkened room before retiring, he would catch a glimpse, by the street lamp, of the man who never deserted him. The consciousness of this unfailing companionship became torture. He went to the superintendent of the company, and told him that while he was innocent of any wrong-doing, and was willing to be put to any fair test, he could not stand being always watched in this way. It was more than human nature could bear. No one of us is ever alone. There is an eye always on us (see Psalm 139:7-12). Is it the eye of an enemy, or of a friend? Are we under the constant watch of One whom we love and trust, or of One against whom we have offended, and from whose presence we have reason to shrink?

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