"Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained."
(2 Timothy 2:8-9 NKJV)
When the apostle Paul arrives in Jerusalem, as described in Acts chapter 21, fierce hatred is unleashed against him, to the point that they cry out against him. As with Jesus, Jerusalem turns out to be a hostile city for him. Going to the temple, he is recognized, led out to be lynched, and rescued in extremis by Roman soldiers. Accused of teaching against the Law and the temple, he is arrested. Thus begins a peregrination as a prisoner, first before the sanhedrin, then before the Roman procurator in Caesarea, and finally before King Agrippa. God allowed Paul to be wrongfully arrested in Jerusalem, and then held in prison in Caesarea by Governor Felix, despite the fact that Felix knew full well that Paul was innocent. Humanly speaking, it might seem strange that God had allowed this precious instrument of the gospel to be kept in prison for two years. Something similar happened to Joseph in Egypt. The ways of the Lord are not our ways. God had a greater plan in which it was necessary for Paul to be sent as a prisoner to Rome. All this Paul could not know while he was in prison in Caesarea. Only time to come would reveal it.
On record he was Saul of Tarsus, in the recent past a persecutor beyond measure of those of the New Way, early Christians. Before the dazzling experience on the Damascus road, a circumcised Jew, Pharisee, fundamentalist, fanatic and violent as he would later present himself (Galatians 1:13). He himself called himself a zealous persecutor (Philippians 3:6). But all his past will prove useful for the developments of the Kingdom of God, such as Roman citizenship by birthright. In fact, going back to the events of Acts, Felix kept Paul in prison for two years, even though he knew he was innocent. He sent for him frequently to speak with him. He expected, however, to receive a financial offer from Paul. Insane, he expected to be "bribed." He did not know who he was dealing with. The persecutor is now persecuted, reviled and mistreated because of Christ, but he does not stop testifying to his faith. When Felix is replaced by Porcius Festus, the latter notices that the apostle is detained without just cause, but to please the Jews he leaves him in prison. Paul is called upon to defend himself against the charges, and eventually appeals to Rome. Before being expatriated, Festus takes the opportunity of a visit from King Agrippa II to confront him in search of a solution. Before the king, Paul's apologia is transformed into an effective and powerful testimony of faith.
Paul's events in prison tell us how nothing is left to chance. Every event in our existence is part of the divine plan. Governments and rulers succeed one another on the scene conditioning our lives, but still remaining the architects of God's will. Paul is in chains, but the Word is free! We too have been given the mandate to proclaim the gospel in every place and time, to those who listen to us and to those who show opposition or try to silence us. The purpose is summarized in these words "to open their eyes and convert them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive through faith in me forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among the sanctified" (Acts 26:18). A free Word will not be afraid to say that people are guilty before God, and that being under the power of Satan they need deliverance and forgiveness. Let us strive to proclaim the death and resurrection of Jesus, for it is through His sacrifice and resurrection that forgiveness exists. Salvation requires repentance along with faith. And conversion always manifests works worthy of repentance. "This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life" (1 Timothy 1:15-16). This is the gospel of which we are not ashamed.
Weekly Bible Reading Plan # 07
February 12, Leviticus 13; Matthew 26:26-50
February 14, Leviticus 14; Matthew 26:51-75
February 14, Leviticus 15-16; Matthew 27:1-26
February 15, Leviticus 17-18; Matthew 27:27-50
February 16, Leviticus 19-20; Matthew 27:51-66
February 17, Leviticus 21-22; Matthew 28
February 18, Leviticus 23-24; Mark 1:1-22