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Sketches From The Life of Paul

by Ellen G. White

Chapter 27: Caesar's Household

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Part:  A  B  C

The gospel has ever achieved its greatest success among the humbler classes. "Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called." It could not be expected that Paul, a poor and friendless prisoner, would be able to gain the attention of the wealthy and titled classes of Roman citizens. Their whole life [p. 290] —physical, mental, and moral—was on a different plane from his. To them vice presented all its glittering allurements, and held them willing captives. But from the toil-worn, want-stricken victims of their oppression, even from the poor slaves, ignorant and degraded as they were, many gladly listened to the words of Paul, and found in the faith of Christ a hope and peace which cheered them under the hardships of their lot.

Yet while the apostle's work began with the humble and lowly, its influence extended, until it reached the very palace of the emperor. Rome was at this time the metropolis of the world. The haughty Caesars were giving laws to nearly every nation upon the earth. King and courtier were either wholly ignorant of the humble Nazarene, or they regarded him with hatred and derision. And yet in less than two years the gospel found its way from the prisoner's lowly home into the imperial halls. Paul is in bonds as an evil-doer; but "the word of God is not bound."

Among the saints who send greetings to the Philippian church, the apostle mentions chiefly them that are of Caesar's household. Nowhere could there exist an atmosphere more uncongenial to Christianity than in the Roman court under such a monster of wickedness as then stood at its head. Nero seemed to have obliterated from his soul the last trace of the Divine, and even of the human, and to bear only the impress of the Satanic. His attendants and courtiers were in general of the same character as himself, fierce, debased, and corrupt. To all appearance it would be impossible for Christianity to gain a foot-hold in the court and palace of Nero.

Yet in this case, as in so many others, was [p. 291] proved the truth of Paul's assertion, that the weapons of his warfare were "mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds." Trophies of the cross were won, even in Nero's household. From the vile attendants of a viler king were gained converts who became sons of God. These were not Christians secretly, but openly. They were not ashamed of their faith. They felt the warmest affection for those who were older in Christian faith and experience, and they were not afraid or ashamed to acknowledge them as brethren.

And by what means was an entrance achieved and a firm footing gained for Christianity where even its admission seemed impossible? In former years the apostle had publicly proclaimed the faith of Christ with winning power; and by signs and miracles he had given unmistakable evidence of its divine character. With noble firmness he rose up before the sages of Greece, and by his knowledge and eloquence put to silence the arguments of proud philosophy. With undaunted courage he had stood before kings and governors, and reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, until the haughty rulers trembled as though already beholding the terrors of the day of God.

But no such opportunities were now granted the apostle, confined as he was to his own dwelling, and able to proclaim the truth only to those who sought him there. He had not, like Moses and Aaron, a divine command to go before the profligate king with the rod of God, and demand his attention, and in the name of the great I AM rebuke his cruelty and oppression. Yet it was at this very time, when its chief advocate was [p. 292] apparently cut off from public labor, that this great victory was won for the truth, and members were gained to the church from the very household of the king.

In his Epistle to the Philippians, Paul ascribes to his own imprisonment his success in bringing converts to the faith from Nero's household. He expresses himself as fearful lest the Philippians have thought that his afflictions have impeded the progress of the gospel. He assures them that the contrary effect has been produced: "I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; so that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places."

It was not by the sermons of Paul, but by his bonds, that the attention of the court had been attracted to Christianity. It was as a captive that he had conquered rulers. It was with his chain that he had broken from so many souls the bonds that held them in the slavery of sin. Nor was this all. He declares: "And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear."

The patience and meekness with which he submitted to a long and unjust imprisonment drew the attention of the public, and forced the conviction upon many minds that where there was such a willingness to suffer, there must be an unwavering faith in the doctrines advocated. His cheerfulness under affliction and imprisonment was so unlike the spirit of the unfortunate and afflicted of the world, that they could but see that a power higher than any earthly influence [p. 293] was ever abiding with him. His courage and faith were a continual sermon. And by his example, other Christians were nerved to greater energy. They felt that they would not be losers in becoming the advocates of truth and pushing forward the work from which Paul was temporarily withdrawn. In these ways were the apostle's bonds influential, so that when to all appearance he could do the least, when his power and usefulness seemed cut off, then it was that he was gathering sheaves for Christ, in fields from which he seemed wholly excluded.

When a servant of God is withdrawn from active duty, when his voice is no longer heard in encouragement and reproof, we, in our short-sighted judgment, often conclude that his usefulness is at an end. But the Lord does not so regard it. The mysterious providences over which we so often lament, are designed of God to accomplish a work which otherwise might never have been done.

Part:  A  B  C

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