And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard…
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.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him.