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