Adversity Appeared to Expand
But Transitioned Toward an End
The persecution of Paul ended in Rome where he was taken to present his appeal but the accusers did not show. Events during the trip threatened to expand his adversity but instead became opportunities for Paul to start his Rome gospel mission. Through the events we learn about a dispute ending because the accuser backs down and an adversity appearing to expand as it transitions toward an end.
We conclude our current study on Responding to Adversity with a discussion of Paul’s voyage to Rome and the end of his persecution. The persecution started in Jerusalem. Later, he was moved to Caesarea, where he was tried in court; first under Governor Felix and later under Governor Festus. As we discuss in a previous bible study under Submitting to Due Process in Adversity, Paul determined during trial under Festus that he was unlikely to find justice through the trial in Caesarea. Therefore, he appealed to Caesar. The appeal required he be taken to Rome to present his case for judgment by the emperor.
He was taken to Rome. However, his accusers did not follow him and did not arrange for any representation at his appeal hearing. The case appears to have simply fizzled out as the bible provides no information about any hearing of his case in Rome. Instead, after an initial period as a prisoner in Rome, he spent about two years there free to interact with people normally [Acts 28:30–31]: “Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.” Thus, the persecution ended within a short time of his arrival in Rome and became a launch pad for his gospel mission there.
This discussion of the end of Paul’s adversity of persecution focuses on two lessons. First, we note that his accusers “did not show” and their failure to show may have been the primary reason the persecution just fizzled out. We discuss this aspect of his experience along with other examples of an adversity ending because the accuser backed down. Second, we note that his adversity threatened to expand as its end approached during the trip to Rome. We draw examples from previous studies to understand that an apparent expansion of adversity could at times be the beginning of the end of the adversity. We note that Paul’s adversity was indeed a vehicle that conveyed him to Rome to extend his gospel mission.
The Lord Jesus appeared to Paul with a message of comfort during persecution in Jerusalem. He encouraged Paul to proceed through the persecution in good spirit knowing that God was with him and will guide him to extend his gospel mission to Rome. The encounter provides a message to all through Paul to recognize a “Rome” at the end of every adversity and proceed through with courage and faith based on living in the image of God.
We continue the study series on Responding to Adversity with a discussion of Paul’s interaction with Christ in Jerusalem following a day that showed him potentially vulnerable to the on-going persecution. During the day, Paul faced a council of chief priests and the Sanhedrin in a judicial hearing to determine why he was being accused. The hearing showed him as maybe anxious to end the persecution as he engaged in an angry altercation with the high priest and apparently sought to exploit doctrinal differences between Pharisees and Sadducees.
God appeared to Paul that night, physically as the Lord Jesus. He encouraged Paul and revealed to him a purpose of the persecution [Acts 23:11]: “… Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.” This was a message of comfort through courage in adversity, not only to Paul, but also through Paul to every Christian. God is aware and with you as you confront adversity. Look beyond the circumstantial details of the adversity and focus on believing that God has a purpose for your experience and will intervene as he chooses to lift you beyond the current bitterness and onto greater and pleasant fulfillment. Jesus did not discuss the persecution with Paul except that he should respond with “good cheer” knowing he will go to Rome on his mission of testifying to the gospel. The message was an assurance that the persecution will not get the better of him: he should focus on the ultimate purpose as he confronts the day to day occurrences of the persecution. He gives the same message to every Christian today.
To understand the message better, we examine Paul’s interactions at the judicial hearing, first with the high priest and second, the Sanhedrin.
During trials in Jerusalem and Caesarea after his return from Ephesus, Paul demonstrated respect for Jewish laws and custom and for constituted authority. Also, he invoked his civil rights several times to win protection under the law.
BASIS FOR RESPECT FOR AUTHORITY As Paul explained in his letter to the Romans several years later [Romans 13:1–7], and Peter in his epistle [1 Peter 2:13-18], respect for authority is part of God’s mandate and a key aspect of Christian responsibilities to society. People in authority positions (such as president or prime minister, king or queen, governor, clergy, teacher, supervisor, parents, or any person in a position of leadership) help to preserve and propagate natural order and are God’s channels for protecting the good elements of society from the bad. Therefore, we honor God when we respect human authorities.
TWO-PART BIBLE STUDY In this two-part bible study, we discuss Paul’s trial in Jerusalem and Caesarea and subsequent transfer to Rome, to highlight interactions with his Jewish accusers and the Roman authorities and his invoking his rights of citizenship as part of his defense. The current discussion builds on the discussion of his Jerusalem trials in Part 1. Here, we discuss the trials in Caesarea and his transfer to Rome, where he preached the gospel as he did previously in Jerusalem, thereby fulfilling God’s promise to him regarding the trials.