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RECIPIENTS OF GOD’S GREAT GRACE – THE PRAETORIAN GUARD




Members of the “praetorian guard” (Philippians 1:13, NASB), or “imperial guard” (CSB), were hand-picked veterans of the Roman army, expert in hand-to-hand combat, battle-tested, battle-hardened, and often battle-scared. Chosen as bodyguards to Caesar, they were intensely loyal to the crown and became known as part of “Caesar’s household” (Philippians 4:22). The scholars don’t seem to know how many there were, or why they were tasked with guarding a prisoner from Jerusalem.


Outfitted and equipped with a helmet, armor covering his chest, a heavy leather belt, sandaled feet, and carrying a shield and sword, he was always ready for a fight (Ephesians 6:13-17) … a fight that he would mercilessly win.


Paul knew many of them well. Like a Siamese twin, Paul had been attached, shackled, handcuffed to a praetorian guard… twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week, for at least two years (Acts 28:16, 30).


Paul had been imprisoned before (2 Corinthians 11:23-25). In Philippi, he and Silas had been flogged and thrown into the dungeon where they were chained, and their feet secured in stocks (Acts 16:22-26). In Rome, under house arrest (Acts 28:30), Paul enjoyed certain freedoms, but he was always handcuffed to an imperial guardsman. Always.


Let’s imagine… one of the guards was Brutus. After Brutus had been chained to Paul for twelve hours, Malcus took his twelve-hour shift. Never one to miss an opportunity, Paul systematically and tirelessly shared his faith with the guards. Brutus, Malcus, and the others were a captive audience for the great evangelist. Paul must have told them stories about Jesus, His miracles, His ministries, and His message. He told them about the promised Messiah, His sinless life, His vicarious death, His stunning victory over death and the grave, His ascension into heaven, and His promised return!


Certainly, Paul told the guards about his own hate-filled existence as a persecutor of the church, about his Road-to-Damascus experience, and about his indescribable conversion from Judaism to Christianity.


In exciting detail, Paul talked about the moment when the Philippian prison shook with the power of God. Brutus leaned in to hear… “Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the jail were shaken, and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s chains came loose” (Acts 16:26).


Paul laughed about being a long-winded preacher. “The day before I was to leave Ephesus and return to Jerusalem, I taught until after midnight. A young man named Eutychus was sitting on a window sill and sank into a deep sleep … When he was overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was picked up dead” (Acts 20:9). Brutus listened. “By the power of Jesus, Eutychus came back to life!”


One-by-one, Brutus, Malcus, and the others, heard the Gospel of Salvation. Paul compassionately explained, “You too can be saved by grace, through faith in Jesus.” And one-by-one they knelt before the King… not the king of Rome, but the King Eternal.


How many of the guards actually humbled themselves and became disciples of Jesus? We don’t know, but we know that the Gospel impacted all of Caesar’s staff, including the imperial guard (Philippians 4:22). Many must have come to saving faith in Jesus.


Somebody might ask, why didn’t God let Paul continue his missionary journeys? Paul explained, “I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually advanced the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard, and to everyone else, that my imprisonment is because I am in Christ” (Philippians 1:12–13).


Why was Paul imprisoned in Rome? Brutus would answer, Paul came to Rome with the Gospel of grace … God’s amazing grace … for me!