preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered.Acts 28:31(NASB)
Following his two-year imprisonment in Antioch because of the accusations made against him by the religious leaders in Jerusalem, Paul was taken as a prisoner to Rome where he was incarcerated for a further two years, awaiting his trial. However, Paul did not bewail his confinement, for he knew that "all things work together for good for those that love God and are fitting into His plans." Instead, he rejoiced that he was a prisoner of Jesus Christ, blessed to be able to fellowship in the suffering of the Lord, Whom he loved so dearly.
Soon after his arrival, Paul called the Jews living in Rome to his lodgings where he testified to them about the kingdom of God (which Israel had rejected at Christ's first coming, which will finally be fulfilled at His second). From morning to evening, he attempted to persuade them of the truth about Christ and explained that Jesus was the Prophet of whom Moses spoke, the King from the line of David, the High Priest of God after the order of Melchizedek.
And although some were persuaded, others would not believe. Finally, Paul found it necessary to rebuke his fellow Hebrews by saying: "The Holy Spirit rightly spoke through Isaiah the prophet to your fathers, saying, 'Go to this people and say, "You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; and you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; for the heart of this people has become dull, and with their ears they scarcely hear. They have closed their eyes; otherwise, they might see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and I would heal them."'" And so, for the third and last time in his ministry, we hear Paul's scathing rebuke: "Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen."
Paul saw his four-year-long Roman imprisonment as God's gracious hand of blessing on his life, for it enabled him to share the good news of the gospel of grace with groups of individuals, both Jew and Gentile, that may never have heard the truth of the gospel of Christ. One very telling testimony of God working through Paul's ministry is encapsulated in a simple sentence he wrote in his letter to the Philippians: "All the saints in Rome, and especially those from the house of Caesar (Paul's prison guards) salute you."
During his imprisonment in Rome, God enabled this devoted apostle of Christ to rent his own house, where he was able to use his tent-making skills to support his time in prison. He did not consider the Roman soldiers who were commanded to guard him day and night, to be a disadvantage. Rather, they were a captive audience, for all of his jailers heard the gospel and many came to faith in Christ, which must have given Paul great joy.
And it was not only his Roman guards that benefitted from Paul's preaching of the kingdom of God and teachings concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. During his imprisonment in Rome, Paul penned the epistles to churches at Ephesus, Philippi, and Colossae, and he also wrote a beautiful personal letter to his friend Philemon. All of these writings have become an incredible source of blessing and spiritual instruction to centuries of Christians.
Paul's imprisonments, both in Rome and elsewhere, did not hinder him from testifying to the truth of God's Word to whosoever would listen. Things that others would consider to be a ministry stumbling block, Paul used as a springboard to share the glorious truth of the gospel of Christ. He used obstacles that were placed in his path as opportunities to testify to the gospel of God and to witness to the salvation in His Son, Jesus Christ.
The book of Acts was Luke's final commentary on the life of Paul and His ongoing ministry. However, Luke did not end his account to Theophilus by recording the beheading of this great apostle of Christ, which appears to be recorded in the writings of some of the Church fathers. Rather, he finished his account by relating the spreading of the gospel into the Gentile world and the amazing accomplishments that can be achieved by a defender of the faith and a devotee of Christ, whose life is spirit-filled and completely surrendered to God.
Our final glimpse of Paul in the very last verse of Acts shows him "preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, and unhindered."
What a great encouragement and witness to all the people of God. May we allow obstacles in our lives to become opportunities to speak the truth of the glorious gospel of Christ. May we preach the Word, in season and out of season. May we die to self so that we can live entirely for Him. May we mirror Paul's passion for Jesus and preoccupation with the gospel, and say with him, "That I may know Him and the power of His Resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead."
Heavenly Father, thank You for Paul who had such confidence and boldness to share those things concerning our Lord Jesus Christ. I pray that my life would be lived in such dedicated abandon to my Lord and Saviour, and with Paul, may my life's cry be: "To live is Christ and to die is gain." In Jesus' name, AMEN.