Lesson 14: Paul's Journey to Rome - Part 2
Lesson 14: Paul’s Journey to Rome Part 2
I. PAUL’S IMPRISONMENT AND MINISTRY IN ROME
Hi, I’m Carl Laney and we’re looking at the second session of Paul’s journey to Rome and the ministry that he had during his time in Rome. Have any of you ever been in prison? Well, I’ve been in prison, I’ve been in the Oregon State Penitentiary several times as a visitor mind you not as a inmate. I remember one time when I was visiting an inmate there, a member of our church, and I got distracted by our conversation and didn’t realize that the time for visitors to leave had passed. When I got up to leave I was told I had to wait until the next hour to depart. So, I was there in prison for the next hour against my will, wanting to leave but could not. I tell you that was a very long hour as I waited there for the next time that I could depart from the state penitentiary. That was a long hour to be there against my will when I really wanted to be doing other things. But Paul was in prison but it wasn’t exactly like our state penitentiary for as we come to our study today we are going to discover that Paul’s situation in Rome was really more like house arrest than being in a state penitentiary. So, we read about Paul’s situation in Acts 28:17 and following.
Let’s have a word of prayer and thank the Lord for this section of scripture. Father we are thankful for Paul’s ministry in Rome, we’re thankful for the letters that he wrote during this time and for how they have influenced and affected our own lives. Bless our time, guide us as we study your word. May the Holy Spirit truly be our teacher and guide as we consider these things. In the name of our Savior we pray.
So, what was Paul’s situation like there in the city of Rome? Well, Luke describes it for us in Acts 28:17 and following. We see that Paul’s situation was more like house arrest. He is said to have been allowed to stay in his own rented quarters, verse 30. He stayed two full years in his own rented quarters, welcoming all who came to him. Paul was a prisoner, but he had quite a bit of freedom. He had freedom to welcome visitors. He had freedom to teach and to write. Paul was there in confinement, and we’re told in verse 16 that he had a soldier guarding, a soldier who was guarding him, so he was something like a political prisoner. Although Paul would have been paying his own rent under house arrest, he would have had quite a bit of freedom to carry on his ministry and to teach and to write during this time in Rome. It mentions that there was a soldier guarding him and over in Phil. 1:13, Paul tells us more about these soldiers that were guarding him. The soldiers that were guarding Paul were the members of the Praetorian Guard. This was an elite group of soldiers, and their primary function was to guard the Imperial Palace and protect the Emperor and his family. They were also responsible for guarding political prisoners and Paul was, at this time, a political prisoner. It was a pampered unit, these Praetorian Guard, they were paid three times the ordinary salary of a Legion, a common soldier. They could retire after 16 years of service rather than after 20. They quite a bit of power, at later times we find that the Praetorian Guard sometimes even removed an emperor, as they did with Caligula, they murdered him and then replaced him with another emperor, Claudius. These soldiers took turns guarding Paul, and Paul had the opportunity to testify to what was a rather captive audience there guarding him in his house. You can imagine as these members of the Praetorian Guard rotated in and had to guard Paul, Paul had the opportunity to share his faith with them. In Phil. 1:13 Paul says that members, the Praetorian Guard came to faith during his time of house arrest and witness in Rome.
Paul didn’t waste any time in making contact with the Jews after he got to Rome. We’re told by Luke, that after three days there in Rome he invited the leading men of the Jews to his residence. He held what you might regard as a press conference. He wanted to tell them why he was there. He told the events, he told and recounted the events that had led him to Rome. Although he had been severely mistreated by the Jews of Jerusalem, notice that Paul makes no complaints against them. He simply recounts the fact, that he was arrested in the temple area and that he was taken to Caesarea, and that he was held there and that finally he appealed to Caesar, and on the basis of that appeal he was brought to Rome. In 28:20 he tells us why, he tells his readers why he was imprisoned. He says, “for this reason I requested to see you and to speak to you for I am wearing this chain for the sake of the hope of Israel.” What is the hope of Israel? Paul talks about the hope of the resurrection, could that be it? The hope of the coming of the Messiah, a Messianic hope. Perhaps the hope of the kingdom. The hope of Israel of might include all of these things. The hope of the coming of the Messiah and the inauguration of his kingdom and the resurrection of the saints that would be there in his kingdom in the future. Such hope can only be realized through Jesus Christ.
II. THE MEETING WITH THE JEWISH LEADERS, 28:17-31
A. The Ministry to the Jews, 28:23-28
We find that the Jews in Rome hadn’t heard about Paul’s case, hadn’t heard about his arrest but they were interested in his views. We neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor have the brothers come here to report anything against you, anything bad against you but we desire to hear you. We want to know your views and we want to know concerning this sect. Notice that they are referring to Christianity as a sect of Judaism, it wasn’t a separate religion it was a stream of messianic hope within the Jewish faith, so they were interested. Paul then appointed a day, a day was set where they could come to his lodging, notice they came to his own lodging in large numbers and Paul was testifying to them. What was he saying to these Jews who came to him? What was he telling them about?
1. Proclamation Concerning the Kingdom, 28:23, Acts:1-3
Verse 23 gives the answer to that question. He was testifying about the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus. This was Paul’s message, it was a message about the kingdom, God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule. And that kingdom would ultimately be realized through Jesus Christ, when the Son of God the Promised Messiah, came and offered his kingdom to Israel. Paul probably recounted how Jesus had come, born of a virgin, born in fulfillment of the Messianic promise, and had offered the kingdom to Israel. Remember the words of Jesus, repent the kingdom is at hand. Paul probably recounted how his own Jewish kinsmen rejected Jesus’ offer of the Kingdom, and rejected his kingship. Matt. 12 recalls that situation and the unpardonable sin as the Jewish leaders, the leaders of the nation rejected their Messiah.
Paul probably went on to say, that although Israel rejected their king and his kingdom God’s promises could not be abrogated. God’s promises were unconditional, the kingdom would one day be inaugurated, but it would have to be postponed because of the rejection of the king. Jesus tells a parable about that in Luke 19 how the kingdom is going to be delayed because of the rejection by the king.
Paul may have used some of the parables that Jesus spoke in chapter 13 to tell about how the kingdom is developing in this present age. It’s like a mustard seed that’s going to start very small but it’s gong to grow to great proportions. It’s like leaven put into a loaf of bread and the leaven begins to affect the whole and Paul was no doubt telling a little bit about how the kingdom was developing in this present age. The kingdom is a spiritual reality in this present age. To be ultimately culminated when Jesus returns and establishes his throne here on this earth. Paul was emphasizing that Jesus is the one who has come to rule and reign the kingdom, and that he must return to fulfill these promises. He was seeking to persuade his listeners to believe in Jesus as the Son of God and the Messiah.
2. Response to the Message
We see the response to the message. Some were being persuaded but others would not believe. Some embraced this messianic hope and its fulfillment in the person of Jesus. Others were spiritually blind to the things that Paul was saying and they were arguing among themselves and turn to leave, but Paul had one final word and his final word was a quotation from Isa. 6:9-10, the Lord had told Isaiah the prophet that his message would not be received because of the unbelief of the Jewish people.
3. Blindness of Israel, Acts 28:25-27, Isaiah 6:9-10
When Jesus spoke and taught the Jewish he also quotes this passage from Isa. 6:9-10, that speaks of the unbelief in the hearts of the people in his day. Then Paul quotes this passage as well, a passage that reflects the unbelief of the Jewish people. The heart of this people has become dull and with their ears they scarcely hear, they’ve closed their eyes, they’ve reject the truth of God. And yet, in spite of the unbelief of the Jewish people, in Paul’s day and in Jesus’ day and in the time of Isaiah one day the Jewish people will believe. This is prophesized for us in Zech. 12:10-13:1, where it says one day they will see him whom they pierced, and they will repent and embrace their Messiah. The Lord will pour out upon them a spirit of cleansing and forgiveness and they will become what they were always intended to be, the people of God. God will inaugurate his New Covenant with a future remnant of believing Jews at the time of Jesus return.
B. Two-Year Ministry and Four Letters, 28:30-31
Luke goes on to emphasize that Paul spent two full years there under house arrest in Rome. He stayed two years in his own rented quarters, and was welcoming all who came to him. What was Paul doing during this time? We notice in verse 30 on he was preaching the Kingdom of God, God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule. A spiritual reality to ultimately realized in physical form when Jesus returns. This is what Jesus was preaching during the 40 days after his resurrection before his ascension, Act 1:3. This is what Paul preached when he went to the synagogue, the Kingdom of God. This is what Paul was preaching during his two years of house arrest when he was in Rome, this is great theme of God’s Kingdom. He was also teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. Teaching how Jesus fulfilled the prophecies about the Messiah. His message was about Christ and his kingdom.
Paul was also engaged in a writing ministry during this time in Rome. We have four New Testament letters that take their historical setting from Paul’s two years of house arrest, while he was there in Rome. As he was waiting for his appeal before Caesar, Paul took a pen and some paper and began writing letters. A letter to the Ephesians, a church he had ministered in for three years. A letter to the Philippians, a church had planted on his second missionary journey. A letter to the Colossians, a church he hadn’t planted but his disciples had planted, and ministered in and then he wrote to his friend, Philemon concerning a runaway slave.
III. FACTS ON EPHESIANS
A. Author, 1:1, 3:1
Let’s take a look at these letters, that Paul wrote during this time of his imprisonment. There are some blanks that you can fill in as you follow on in your notes. The first letter we believe Paul wrote was his letter to the Ephesians. The Pauline authorship of this letter is attested by internal evidence as well as the writing of the church fathers which confirmed that Paul is the author of this letter.
There is a question as to the identity of the recipients because the words “at Ephesus” are absent from the oldest Greek manuscripts. The letter we call Ephesians may have been addressed to a single church but then was later adapted to general reading by deleting the name “at Ephesus.” Or it was written originally for general publication, and one particular copy was addressed to the church at Ephesus. The letter may have been what we call an encyclical, a letter intended to be read by a circle of Christian churches. We usually associate it with the situation at Ephesus, but it might have been written to another group and one copy ended up at Ephesus, or perhaps it was written as a general letter and the Ephesians eventually added “at Ephesus” to identify themselves with this letter.
C. Date, 3:1. 4:1
Paul wrote this letter during his two years imprisonment in Rome, and since Paul doesn’t anticipate any reference to his release we believe this letter was probably written early and perhaps as early as the fall of AD60.
D. Historical Setting, Acts 18:19, 19:8-10, 20:31
1. Paul Spends Three Years in Ephesus
Paul’s first visit to Ephesus was on his second missionary journey, when he dropped off Aquila and Priscilla there. Later he came back on his third journey and Paul spent three years ministering in Ephesus. For two of those years he taught at the school of Tryannus.
2. The Importance of Ephesus
Ephesus, as you recall, ranked with Alexandria and Antioch of Syria as one of the most important cities of the eastern Mediterranean world. It was not only an important city commercially but was the worship center for the Goddess Artemis, or Diana, whose imagine was housed at the Artemision, this great temple that was four times the size of the Parthenon.
E. Purpose & Theme, 4:1
The letter that Paul wrote to this church sets forth the kind of conduct which is consistent with the believer’s position in Christ, and I believe the theme is really captured in the words Christian conduct. Paul is telling these believers how they need to live their lives. How they need to walk the walk of faith.
The Book divides nicely into three sections based on the words sit, walk, stand.
1. SIT: Position in Christ, 1-3
In the first section of Ephesians Paul emphasizes that we are seated with Christ in the Heavenlies, verse 13, you have believed were seated with him, seated with Christ in the Heavenlies. What a privilege to be seated with Christ in the Heavenlies, and he talks about our position in Christ and all that is ours based upon our salvation.
2. WALK: Walk in the World, 4:1 – 6:9
Beginning in Chapter 4 Paul goes on to talk about how we ought to conduct ourselves in the world. In 4:1 he says, “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,” our walk in the world a worthy walk.
3. STAND: Stand Against the Devil, 6:10-24
In the last section Chapter 6 Paul talks about our stand against the evil one. Our stand against the Devil. He urges us to be strong in the Lord and to put on the full armor of God that we will be able to stand firm, 6:14 against the attack of the evil one. He talks about the armor that God has provided his people to stand firm and to stand strong against Satan’s strategy.
The letter to the Ephesians is a letter that helps us to understand the greatness of God’s gift of salvation. Here we discover in Ephesians God’s plan for salvation. God’s plan for salvation is always the same. It’s always by grace through faith based on blood. By grace through faith based on blood. That plan of salvation was true for Noah, it was true for Abraham, it was true for Isaiah the prophet, by grace through faith based on the blood that Jesus would eventually shed. The blood of the bulls and goats that were offered by the Levitical Priests of ancient times simply anticipated what Jesus would do with his sacrifice on the cross. In the letter to the Ephesians we find that we are saved by grace through faith based upon the blood of Jesus. That’s the means of salvation in every age. There’s only one way of salvation and that’s by grace through faith based upon the blood of Jesus.
IV. FACTS ON PHILIPPIANS
A. Author, 1:1
That’s the message of Ephesians. We move to Paul’s next letter and this is the letter that he wrote to the church at Philippi. A church that Paul had a vey special relationship with. Both internal evidence, and the testimony of the church fathers, indicate that this letter was written by Paul.
B. Readers, Acts 16:13, 20:21
There’s no doubt in this letter as to where it was written, it was written to the church at Philippi. Largely a Gentile church and a city that was very strategically located as the gateway to Europe. This was an important place. It was situated just ten miles north of the Port of Neopolis, the terminus of this great Egnatian Way that traveled across the area of Macedonia. Philippi commanded the fertile plain through which this travel route passed so Philippi was a strategic location.
C. Date, 1:7, 13, 17, 1:19, 2:24
As we try to date this letter we believe it was written late in Paul’s imprisonment, because he anticipates his release. In 1:19 Paul says, I know this will turn out for my deliverance,” and in verse 26 Paul says, that he expects to see these believers again.” In Chapter 2:24, Paul says I trust that I, myself, will becoming shortly. So Paul seems to be anticipating his release from prison, so we’re going to date this probably the early spring AD62, late in Paul’s imprisonment, shortly before his release.
D. Historical Setting, Acts 16:11-40
1. Return of Epaphroditus to Philippi, 2:25-30
Paul’s first visit to Philippi was on his second missionary journey, and the immediate occasion of this letter was the return of Epaphroditus, to Philippi following his visit an illness that he had contracted while he in Rome. Paul took the opportunity to commend his fellow worker Epaphroditus and to write this letter to the Philippians about a variety of matters.
2. Paul, a Roman Citizen, Acts 16:22
Philippi was a Roman colony and the people there were recognized as Roman citizens with the same legal privileges and responsibilities as those living in Rome itself.
E. Purpose, 1:12-26, 3:2-11, 4:10-20
Paul wrote to encourage joy and unity among the believers. In addition, he wants to provide news of his own circumstances and to warn against the influence of the Judaizers. In 3:2-11 the talks about the Judaizers, the same situation he addresses in his letter to the Galatians. Paul concludes his letter to the Philippians with a little thank you note as he expresses his appreciation for the gift that they sent and was probably carried by Epaphroditus to Rome for Paul.
F. Theme, 4:4
The theme of the Book is captured in Chapter 4:4, rejoicing in the lord, rejoice in the lord, again I say rejoice. Paul was under house arrest, at this time, and circumstances that weren’t exactly favorable. But nevertheless, he was saying rejoice and Paul was rejoicing himself in the Lord. As I look at this letter I’m impressed with Paul’s joy in the progress of the Gospel. Paul tells us in his letter to the Philippians he wants us to know that his circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the Gospel, 1:12. Even Paul’s house arrest there in Rome gave him opportunity to witness there in ways that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. Paul sees that his circumstances are actually serving to advance the Gospel. He talks about the Praetorian guard, who have come to faith and even members of Caesar’s household. Perhaps a reference to Caesar’s servants.
As I think about this little letter to the Philippians it really focuses our attention on the Lord Jesus Christ. I see in chapter 1:21, for me to live is Christ. That’s what living is all about, living for Christ, living through him. For me to live is Christ.
In Chapter 2 Paul emphasizes the fact that Christ is our example. He is seeking to encourage a humble attitude and he says that Jesus is the ultimate example of humility as he emptied himself taking on the form of a bondservant being made in the likeness of men. Paul encourages us to have that kind of a humble attitude as we serve others.
Then Paul talks about Christ, his goal. In 3:8 Paul says, I count all things to be loss, in view of their surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I’ve suffered the loss of all things. Paul says that he is pressing on toward the finish line and he desires to lay hold of Christ at the finish line. Christ is Paul’s goal in living.
At the end of the letter in chapter 4 Paul talks about Christ his sufficiency, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. In 4:19 he says, my God shall supply all your needs according to his richest in glory in Christ Jesus. Christ my sufficiency. So, this letter really tells us a lot about Jesus Christ. It’s a wonderful little letter.
V. COLOSSIANS & PHILEMON
A. Author, Col. 1.1, 4:18, Philemon 1, 9, 19
The next two letters that Paul wrote were letters addressed to the Colossians, and to Philemon who was a member of the church at Colossi. We will look at these letters together. The Pauline authorship of these two letters is well established, both by internal evidence and the testimony of the early church.
B. Readers, 1:2, 4:16
Paul wrote Colossians to the believers at Colossi but also intended that the Laodiceans read this letter 4:16, when this letter is read among you have it read in the church of the Laodiceans. So, Paul wants this letter to be shared, to go to the Laodiceans as well. Colossi is located about ten miles up the Lycus Valley from Laodicea on the main road to Ephesus and Ephesus is about 120 miles to the east of Colossi.
The letter to Philemon is more personal in nature but is also addressed to the church which met at Philemon’s house. So, Philemon is a member of the church and Paul, as he sends Colossians, adds a personal letter to Philemon that is for his benefit, but also for the benefit of the church. The close connect between Philemon with the Colossians indicates they belong to the same period, and it’s probable that Tychicus, accompanied by this runaway slave Onesimus, carried the letters to Colossi at the same time. Philemon and Colossians carried at the same time by Tychicus.
Since both of these letters anticipate Paul’s release, Colossians says, prepare me a place, and that Paul expects to be coming to the city soon. We believe that these were written late in his imprisonment probably shortly before his release in AD62.
D. Historical Setting, Acts 19:10, 26, Col 1:4, 2:1, 1:7-9, 4:12, 4:7-9,
A little bit more about the historical setting. So, here on this map you can see the location of Ephesus and up the Lycus Valley about 120 miles you come to Colossi. A little closer view brings us to the Lycus Valley area, and notice Hierapolis in the north part of the valley, Laodicea in the central part of the valley, and Colossi a little further east from Laodicea. All of these churches were no doubt planted by Paul’s disciples, while Paul was teaching in Ephesus at the school of Tyrannus.
The Gospel was introduced to Colossi during Paul’s long ministry at Ephesus, but Paul had apparently not visited the church. The occasion of writing was the arrival of Apaphrus from Colossi who brought news of a theological error circulating in the church. The primary problem with the Colossians was a deficient view of Christ and his work. Paul immediately sent Tychicus back to Colossi with this letter and a personal letter to Philemon along with Philemon’s runaway slave, Onesimus who had apparently been converted under Paul’s ministry. The purpose of Colossians is to extinguish this Colossian error by a presentation of the truth, the truth of Christ and his work. The purpose of Philemon is to encourage reconciliation between Onesimus, the runaway slave and his master, Philemon.
The theme of Colossians is the preeminence of Christ. You know a proper view of Christ is really a remedy for many doctrinal deviations. Paul begins in this letter focusing on the preeminence of Christ. This is one of the classic passages about the Lord Jesus Christ beginning in verse 15 where Paul says, He, Jesus, is the icon of the invisible God, the visible image of the invisible God. What Paul is saying is that you can’t see God, but you can see Jesus. When you see Jesus, you see what God is all about. Many people in the Roman Empire had never seen the emperor, most of them hadn’t seen the emperor. But they had seen his icon, he had seen the image of the emperor on a coin. They hadn’t seen the emperor personally, but they had seen his image. Paul is using this as an illustration, you haven’t seen God in his Spirit, but you have seen his icon, his image in the person of Christ. Get to know Jesus and you’ll know God.
As Paul deals with the deviations and the doctrinal errors as Colossi he emphasizes the fact that Jesus is enough. Christ is all and all you need. You don’t need Christ plus circumcision. You don’t need Christ plus Jewish tradition. You don’t need Christ plus philosophy. You don’t need Christ plus asceticism. Christ is all and all you need. It’s a great emphasis on Christ.
Paul’s personal letter to Philemon was carried by Tychicus, as he carried the letter to the church at Colossi. As Tychicus carried this letter, he was accompanied by this runaway slave, the slave of Philemon who had run away, and had eventually come to Rome, and Paul had the opportunity to led Onesimus to faith in Christ. Then Paul was troubled by the question, what do you do with a runaway slave who is now a brother? He has come to faith. Do you return him? Do you punish him? What difference does it make that this runaway slave is now a Christian, a brother in Christ? What do you do with a runaway slave? Paul’s letter to Philemon is designed to help Philemon to accept, and to welcome back, his runaway slave and help Onesimus go back to his master. Paul writes as he sends this letter to Colossians he writes a personal letter, “Dear Philemon, my fellow worker, my coworker in the faith.” In this letter Paul has a request for Philemon as well as a promise. The request to Philemon is to accept Onesimus, accept Onesimus as you would accept me,” Paul says in verse 17. If you regard me as a partner, and Philemon does, accept him, this runaway slave as you would me. Welcome him back as you would welcome me. If I were coming to Colossi, Paul is saying, you would come out and greet me warmly. You’d give me a hug, you’d welcome me into your home. Treat Onesimus, your runaway slave as you would welcome me. That’s his request and then he makes a promise. The promise backs up his request, he says, if he has done you anything wrong, verse 18, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. I, Paul writing with my own hand, I will repay. Paul says I’ll pay the debt that Onesimus owes you. Apparently Onesimus may have stolen some things or damaged some property when he left, Paul says charge it to my account, I will pay the debt. Paul’s intervention in behalf of Onesimus serves as a theological illustration. Paul by his own example illustrates that reconciliation is possible through a mediator. The mediator makes a payment to the offended party in behalf of the offender. As Paul made a payment or was willing to make a payment to Philemon in behalf of Onesimus the offender.
This little letter illustrates that reconciliation is possible through a willing and gracious mediator. The ultimate mediator is Jesus Christ. This willing and gracious mediator, by his payment, through his blood to God who had been offended by our sins makes reconciliation possible. We can be reconciled to God, on the basis of the work of our mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ. Isn’t that a wonderful theological illustration by Paul’s own example as the mediator between Onesimus and Philemon.
Paul completed his writing ministry in Rome. But what happened next? That’s an important question. Some think that Paul was killed, executed at this time. Others suggest that Paul was released at this time and perhaps his case ran to a statute of limitations, and since no charges were brought against him, the emperor finally said there’s no charges here, we have to release you. Perhaps the statute of limitations ran out and Paul had to be released. This is an intriguing question, what happened to Paul after Acts 28 and it’s a question we’re going to address in our next lecture.