Monday, March 26, 2007

The Glory of Christ spread through chains

“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial (praetorian) guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ”

In Rome there were for basic types of custody: imprisonment (with or without chains), military custody (which might include being chained to a soldier), release into the custody of a trustworthy person, and release on one’s own recognizance.[1] More than likely Paul would have been in military custody. It is quite likely that while Paul was dictating this letter he would have been chained to a Roman guard.

It is not difficult to imagine that Paul would have had a significant influence upon these men that he was chained to. They would have undoubtedly witnessed Paul’s character, his attitude, and his deep love for Jesus Christ. It would not be hard to imagine Paul even preaching sermons to these men. These men were chained to the preaching of the gospel—Paul had a captive audience. With each shift change Paul would have a new person to share the gospel with. You can see then how Paul’s chains where used to spread the gospel all throughout Rome. As William Hendriksen noted, “Paul’s case and even better, Christ’s cause, became the ‘talk of the town’.”[2]

It is also possible that Paul’s imprisonment would have been a little different. Even if Paul where not specifically chained to a Roman guard (praetor) Paul’s meaning does not change: The gospel is not hindered in fact it is actually advancing. As Hendriksen further commented, “when the apostle went to Rome as a prisoner, it was in reality the gospel that went to Rome”.[3] What Hendriksen is saying is that no matter where Paul was or in what circumstance he was in the gospel went with him. Even in his death Paul would bear witness to the greatness of Christ.

The questions that we must ask ourselves today are thus:
  • If I were chained to a guard would they consistently here the gospel and see the gospel modeled in the way I lived my life?
  • Does the gospel go with me wherever I go? Meaning: Am I a witness to the greatness and glory of Jesus Christ no matter where or in what circumstance I am in?
Tomorrow we will learn about the second way the gospel is advancing through Paul’s imprisonment. Today we learned that Paul’s chains are advancing the gospel into the community at Rome. Tomorrow we will see how the gospel is advanced inside the Church through Paul’s imprisonment.

[1] Arnold, Clinton. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Background Commentary. p351
[2] Hendriksen, William. NT Commentary: Philippians, Colossian, Philemon. p69
[3] Ibid, p68

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