October 13 – Prison Letters – Prison Faithfulness

Read Acts 28:1-30

The final chapter of Acts may seem like an unusual place to begin a new segment of your Bible reading plan.  This likely appears to be a better chapter to end something than to start it.  Indeed, not only does this chapter draw the book of Acts to a close, but it also ties a bow on the detailed account of Paul’s missionary journey.  In traveling to Rome, one of Paul’s dreams had been realized (Acts 19:21).  To be sure, Acts 28 is the culmination of a process that began as Paul was seized seven chapters earlier and 1400 miles to the east in Jerusalem.

In many ways, however, Paul’s arrival in Rome represented a beginning.  It was the beginning of a two-year imprisonment that the apostle would endure in the capitol city of the Roman Empire.  And, it was the beginning of a unique phase of Paul’s ministry.  You see, although he was incarcerated, he, nevertheless, experienced some freedom when it came to sharing his faith, welcoming visitors, and teaching about the kingdom of God.

But Paul’s Roman imprisonment also provided him with opportunity to write letters.  These were not just any old letters for any old purpose.  No, included in his writing during this time period were the Spirit-inspired “prison epistles” of the New Testament.  That’s right, most theologians agree that the books of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon were penned during this time.  At least some of these letters were carried by Tychicus to their final recipients (Eph. 6:21, Col. 4:7) and were intended to have a wider reading audience than those recipients (Col. 4:16).

As has been already mentioned and as we will see in the days to come, this Roman imprisonment provided great opportunities for Paul to share his faith with unbelievers and to enrich the lives of Christ followers.  His experience, however, was far from that of a conference celebrity in a four-star hotel.  Paul had financial responsibilities and lived with the constant threat of execution hanging over his head.  And yet, he faithfully and joyfully carried out his commission.

This, my friends, is the starting point for our study over the next few weeks in the Prison Letters of Paul.  Stay with us.

Steve Kern

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