22. FIRST IMPRISONMENT IN ROME

Upon his arrival at Rome, Paul, with the other prisoners, was delivered to “the captain of the guard” (Acts 28:16, KJV), probably the chief of the Praetorian Guard (the imperial guard stationed at Rome) in charge of prisoners who appealed to the emperor.

At this time the office was held by Burrus, a man of good principles, one whose restraining influence had helped to curb the emperor Nero’s excesses. Paul, presumably on the recommendation of the centurion who had escorted him from Caesarea, was permitted to stay in his own living quarters, being guarded, however, by a soldier (v 16), to whom he was chained (see Acts 28:20; cf. Eph 6:20; Col 4:18).

28:16  Now when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard; but Paul was permitted to dwell by himself with the soldier who guarded him.

It should be noted, however, that important textual evidence may be cited for the omission of the clause “the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard” (see SDACom 6:461).

Three days after his arrival in Rome, Paul invited the Jewish elders to visit him. After he had explained to them the reason for his imprisonment they agreed on a time for Paul to expound to them the Christian doctrines.

On the appointed day many came to his lodging to hear him as he “testified the kingdom of God.” This meeting lasted all day, during which the truths that Paul preached were doubtlessly debated back and forth.

At the end of the meeting some believed and some, probably the majority, did not; “they agreed not among themselves.” At this Paul quoted from Is 6:9, 10, reproving the unbelieving for refusing to accept the light that had come to them (Acts 28:17–28).

28:17  And it came to pass after three days that Paul called the leaders of the Jews together. So when they had come together, he said to them: “Men and brethren, though I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans,

28:18  who, when they had examined me, wanted to let me go, because there was no cause for putting me to death.

28:19  But when the Jews spoke against it, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar, not that I had anything of which to accuse my nation.

28:20  For this reason therefore I have called for you, to see you and speak with you, because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.”

28:21  Then they said to him, “We neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor have any of the brethren who came reported or spoken any evil of you.

28:22  But we desire to hear from you what you think; for concerning this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere.”

28:23  So when they had appointed him a day, many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening.

28:24  And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved.

28:25  So when they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers,

28:26  saying, ‘GO TO THIS PEOPLE AND SAY: “HEARING YOU WILL HEAR, AND SHALL NOT UNDERSTAND; AND SEEING YOU WILL SEE, AND NOT PERCEIVE;

28:27  FOR THE HEARTS OF THIS PEOPLE HAVE GROWN DULL. THEIR EARS ARE HARD OF HEARING, AND THEIR EYES THEY HAVE CLOSED, LEST THEY SHOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES AND HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, LEST THEY SHOULD UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEARTS AND TURN, SO THAT I SHOULD HEAL THEM.” ‘

28:28  “Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!”

28:29  And when he had said these words, the Jews departed and had a great dispute among themselves.

The book of Acts and the Bible account of the apostle’s life is rather abruptly ended at this point with the statement that Paul, clearly still a prisoner, was nevertheless able to live for 2 years in his own rented lodging , obviously under guard, and had visitors to whom he preached Christ (vs 30, 31).

28:30  Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him,

28:31  preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.

For the rest of the story of Paul’s life we must depend upon scant clues found in his various epistles written during and after his 1st imprisonment in Rome, upon statements contained in other early writings, and upon tradition.

The epistles of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon were written during this 1st period in Rome.

These epistles reveal that the imprisonment was a trying experience for the aged apostle (Eph 3:1; 6:20; Col 4:18; Phm 1, 9, 10). From Acts 27:2 and Eph 6:21 we know that Luke, Aristarchus, and Tychicus were his companions.

He also had with him Mark, Justus, Epaphras, and Demas, possibly for only part time (Col 4:10–12, 14; cf. 2 Ti 4:10) Epaphroditus delivered Paul’s epistles to the Philippians (Php 2:25–30).

Tychicus carried the letter to the Ephesians (Eph 6:21, 22) and, accompanied by Onesimus, the letter to the Colossians (Col 4:7–9), and the one to the Christian slaveowner, Philemon. Onesimus, Philemon’s slave who had escaped to Rome, seems to have been converted by Paul at Rome (Col 4:9; Phm 10). From Php 4:18 we learn that the Philippians sent gifts to Paul delivered by Epaphroditus.

NEXT TIME

23. SECOND IMPRISONMENT AT ROME, AND DEATH