“When we entered Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself with the soldier who guarded him” (Acts 28:16). “Paul stayed two whole years in his own rented house. And he welcomed all who visited him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance” (Acts 28:30–31). For two years, while living in a rented apartment, and while shackled to a Roman guard, Paul preached the Good News of the Resurrected Redeemer to those that came and went!
Although restricted to his living quarters, Paul evangelized metropolitan Rome in much the same way he had the Galatian cities (Acts 13:14; 14:1), Thessalonica (Acts 17:1), Berea (Acts 17:10), Athens (Acts 17:17), Corinth (Acts 18:4), and Ephesus (Acts 19:8). In each of these cities, Paul went first to the synagogues. In Rome, Paul invited the synagogue’s leaders to come to him. After being in Rome only “three days he called together the leaders of the Jews. When they had gathered he said to them, ‘Brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our ancestors, I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans’ ” (Acts 28:17). “Many came to him at his lodging. From dawn to dusk he expounded and testified about the kingdom of God. He tried to persuade them about Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets. Some were persuaded by what he said, but others did not believe” (Acts 28:23–24).
When Paul wasn’t preaching to the Jews, he preached to his captive audience… to the big lug on the other end of the chain. Day after day, Paul was chained to a Roman guard (Acts 28:16), and day after day, Paul’s captors heard the Gospel, until the message of grace became “known throughout the whole imperial guard” (Philippians 1:12). How many Roman soldiers repented and believed the Gospel while chained to the great Evangelist?
One of the people that visited Paul was a runaway slave named Onesimus. Paul wrote to Philemon, his slave-master, “I, Paul, as an elderly man and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus, appeal to you for my son, Onesimus. I became his father while I was in chains” (Philemon 9-10). Paul had led Onesimus to saving faith in Jesus and was sending the runaway slave back to his master.
During his two-year imprisonment, Paul was supported by generous gifts from friends. No one was more generous than the folks in the church in Philippi. His thank you note read: “I have received everything in full, and I have an abundance. I am fully supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you provided—a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:18–19).
The two years of confinement were eternally productive. The Prison Epistles (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon), penned by Paul while in Rome, have touched the hearts and lives of countless disciples. To the Colossians, Paul wrote, “the Gospel … is bearing fruit and growing all over the world, just as it has among you since the day you heard it” (Colossians 1:5-6). To the church at Ephesus, Paul wrote, “pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel. For this I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I might be bold enough to speak about it as I should” (Ephesians 6:19–20). And to Philemon he added, “prepare a guest room for me, since I hope that through your prayers I will be restored to you” (Philemon 22). Maybe he was…
You’ve heard it: “Bloom where you’re planted!” … Paul bloomed in Rome!