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Sketches From The Life of Paul

by Ellen G. White

Chapter 26: Sojourn at Rome.

Contents  Preface.  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  ...

According to Roman law, the trial of Paul could not take place until his accusers should be present in person to state their charges against him. They had not yet come from Palestine, nor was it known at Rome whether they had even started on the long journey. Therefore the trial might be postponed indefinitely. Little regard was shown for the rights of those supposed to have violated the law. It was often the case that an accused person was kept in prison a long time, by the delay of the prosecutors to prefer their charges; or his trial might be deferred by the caprice of those in power. A corrupt judge could hold a prisoner in custody for years, as did Felix in the case of Paul, to gratify popular prejudice, or in hope of securing a bribe. These judges were, however, amenable to a higher tribunal, and this would in some measure serve as a restraint upon them. But the emperor was subjected to no such restraint. His authority was virtually unlimited, and he often permitted caprice, malice, or even indolence, to hinder or prevent the administration of justice.

The Jews of Jerusalem were in no haste to present their accusations against Paul. They had been repeatedly thwarted in their designs, and had no desire to risk another defeat. Lysias, Felix, Festus, and Agrippa had all declared their belief in his innocence. His enemies could hope for success only in seeking by intrigue to influence the emperor in their favor. Delay would further their object, as it would afford them time to perfect and execute their plans. [p. 281]

In the providence of God, all this delay resulted in the furtherance of the gospel. Paul was not condemned to a life of inactivity. He was allowed free intercourse with his friends, and was permitted to dwell in a commodious house, where he daily presented the truth to those who flocked to listen to his words. Thus for two years he continued, "preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, will all confidence, no man forbidding him." And his labors were not confined to the preaching of the gospel. The "care of all the churches" still rested upon him. He deeply felt the danger that threatened those for whom he had labored so earnestly, and he sought as far as possible to supply by written communications the place of his personal instruction. He also sent out authorized delegates to labor among the churches he had raised up, and also in fields which he had not visited. These messengers rendered him faithful service, and being in communication with them, he was informed concerning the condition and dangers of the churches, and was enabled to exercise a constant supervision over them.

Thus while apparently cut off from active labor, Paul exerted a wider and more lasting influence than he could have exerted had he been free to travel among the churches as in former years. As a prisoner of the Lord, he had a firmer hold upon the affections of his brethren in the faith, and his words commanded even greater attention and respect than when he was personally with them. When they first learned that their beloved teacher had been made a prisoner, they mourned and would not be comforted. Not [p. 282] until he was removed from them, did they realize how heavy were the burdens which he had borne in their behalf. Heretofore they had largely excused themselves from responsibility and burden-bearing because they lacked his wisdom, tact, and indomitable energy; and now, left in their inexperience to learn the lessons they had shunned, and feeling that they were never more to be benefited by the apostle's labors, they prized the warning, counsel, and instruction which he sent them, as they had never before prized his teachings. And as they learned of his courage, faith, and meekness in his long imprisonment, they also were stimulated to greater fidelity and zeal in the cause of Christ.

Among the assistants of Paul in his labors were many of his former companions and fellow-workers. Luke, "the beloved physician," who had attended him in the journey to Jerusalem, through the two years' imprisonment at Caesarea, and upon his last perilous voyage, was with him still. Timothy also ministered to his comfort. Tychicus was his mail-bearer, taking his messages to the different churches which they had visited together. Demas and Mark also were with him.

Mark had once been refused by Paul as unworthy to accompany him, because, when his help was much needed, he had left the apostle and returned to his home. He saw that, as Paul's companion, his life must be one of constant toil, anxiety, and self-denial; and he desired an easier path. This led the apostle to feel that he could not be trusted, and that decision caused the unhappy dissension between Paul and Barnabas.

Mark had since learned the lesson which all [p. 283] must learn, that God's claims are above every other. He saw that there is no release in the Christian warfare. He had obtained a closer and more perfect view of his Pattern, and had seen upon his hands the scars of his conflict to save the lost and perishing. He was willing to follow his Master's example of earnestness and self-sacrifice, that he might win souls to Jesus and the blessedness of Heaven. And now, while sharing the lot of Paul the prisoner, Mark understood better than ever before, that it is infinite gain to win Christ at whatever cost, and infinite loss to win the world and lose the soul for whose redemption the blood of Christ was shed. Mark was now a useful and beloved helper of the apostle, and he continued faithful even unto the end. In writing from Rome just prior to his martyrdom, Paul bade Timothy, "Take Mark, and bring him with thee; for he is profitable to me for the ministry."

Contents  Preface.  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  ...

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