Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
As we saw yesterday, Paul is in prison awaiting trial before Caesar. He has been taken to Italy and is being guarded by the troops assigned to Caesar’s palace guard, a rather tough bunch to say the least. Last time, we saw that Paul was there in jail writing letters, and praying, but not for himself. Unlike what you or I might be doing, Paul is in prayer of thanksgiving for those to whom he writes, for they are remaining in their faith and spreading the gospel. In these verses, Paul reveals that he has been doing more than that.
It has “become clear” that he is in jail for Christ, so we can infer that he has been talking quite a lot as well. It would seem that he has been speaking boldly about Christ while in jail, and that has emboldened other believers to do the same. Caesar’s palace guard has heard all about Jesus, and the word has gotten out. Caesar’s entire palace has heard about Christ and the gospel because Paul is being held in jail! Let’s be careful here not to over indulge in speculation; Paul didn’t say that the whole palace has become Christian, but they have heard, and that is surprising enough under the circumstances.
There has been another result, and that is the effect this has had on the Christians in the larger community. They have become fearless in their determination to spread the good news in the city of Rome.
It may be hard for us to fully comprehend how significant this was, for we live in an age of information. It’s very easy for us to assume that by this time everyone would have heard about Jesus, but that cannot be true. The Roman Empire did not have satellite news, 24 hour reporting, radio, internet or even newspapers; the printing press was still almost 1,500 years in the future. The only way news could be spread was by word of mouth; one person to the next. For the gospel to travel all the way from Judea to Rome was a huge deal and Paul was spending his time in jail spreading the gospel. For those few Christians who were in Italy at this time to hear that Caesar’s palace guard were listening to the gospel meant that anyone in Rome was likely to listen, and they would have understood that this was a huge step forward.
Historical details aside, what does this say to us today? Put yourself in Paul’s situation; would we be so bold? Would we be able to stop feeling sorry for ourselves long enough to stay on purpose? Do we ever stay on purpose when things aren’t going our way? Has it even occurred to us that we should have a purpose? As we continue our journey through this letter, we will see what Paul would say to all these questions, and many more.