As we conclude our look at the life of the apostle Paul, let me offer one final observation.
Some people scratch their heads over Acts 27 and 28. These chapters detail Paul’s trip to Rome to stand trial before Nero. Luke chronicles the voyage, the storms, and the shipwreck. God had appeared to Paul in a vision with this prediction in Acts 23:11, “You must testify in Rome.” But all the circumstances seemed to mitigate against this. Paul gets arrested in Jerusalem, goes thru unbelievable trials, gets put in prison in Caesarea, is threatened with assassination by the Jews, is nearly drowned in the Mediterranean, is nearly killed by the soldiers and is attacked by a snake!
Satan always tries to thwart God’s plans! He tried to use Pharaoh to drown baby Moses. He tried to use Haman to exterminate the Jews. He tried to use Herod the Great to destroy baby Jesus. He tried through the storm at sea to silence Paul. But God was not about to let anything stand in the way of his purpose! Paul arrives safe and sound in Rome.
But he arrives as a prisoner. That doesn’t seem compatible with the providence of God. But John Stott points out three things that resulted from the trials that Paul endured.
- Paul’s witness was expanded. He witnesses to Christ in the presence of the Caesar, Nero. This fulfilled Acts 27:24, “You must stand trial before Caesar.” This was the world’s most prestigious court. Paul would share his testimony with the world’s most powerful person. Nero was a bloodthirsty genius. But he heard about Christ because Paul was on trial.
- Paul’s witness was enriched by his time in prison. He spent two years in prison in Caesarea, 6 months on his voyage to Rome, and another two years in prison in Rome before his execution. Some would argue that these were wasted years. But nothing could be further from the truth. During these years he writes his prison letters. Out of Paul’s time in captivity, we receive the blessing of distinctive letters like Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians.
- Paul’s witness was authenticated by his sufferings. Nothing proves the sincerity of our beliefs like our willingness to suffer for them. Paul was ready to die for the gospel. His converts needed to be ready to live for it! Paul’s courage and faith in the face of suffering underscored the credibility of his testimony!
Paul’s life is a testimony to the grace and sovereignty and providence of God! When you go through times that are tough, just remember: God may be up to something!