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