And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard…
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.)
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.