What happened to Paul after he arrived in Rome?
The life of the apostle Paul is not always easy to piece together. We saw previously that after his conversion and his escape from Damascus (Acts 9:25), he did not go to Jerusalem immediately as Luke implies (Acts 9:26), but spent three years in Arabia, which Paul mentions in Galatians 1:17. Thus, there was a three year period that Luke does not account, because he did not witness it. Paul, however, fills in the gaps to create the entire picture.
The same situation is seen with his journey to Rome and his appearance before Caesar. Let us first summarise the account, and then look at the details. At his conversion, God calls Ananias to go to Paul. Ananias is hesitant, having heard how Paul (Saul at the time) was persecuting Christians. God tells him to go because Paul was his vessel to proclaim his Name to nations and kings, and the children of Israel. Later, Paul appears before Felix the governor, then before Festus, and there insists on granting Paul his wish to appear before Caesar (Nero, none other than a king, just by a different name.).
Paul then travels to Rome, and after a perilous journey, spends two years living in his own house, seemingly free to live a normal live. Acts ends with this piece of news. Nowhere does it refer to the reason he went to Rome in the first place – to appear before Caesar. In fact, the Jews in Rome account that they had not received any notice from Judaea in this regard. The problem comes with one verse of the account of the time at sea. Acts 27:24 states that an angel appeared to Paul who told him not to fear, as he had to appear before Caesar. Clearly this did not happen, if we read the account in Acts.
We find the answer elsewhere. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul writes this:
21Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren which are with me greet you. 22All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar's household. – Philippians 4:22
If the name Caesar was reserved for the head of the Roman Empire, then it is unlikely that the name could be used for anyone else. Thus, is appears as if Paul, true to his nature, would have befriended those in the household of the Caesar. After all, this was Paul’s mission: to bring the gospel to as many people as possible, including nations and kings (Acts 9:15). When the angel appeared to him on the ship, he brought the same message (Acts 27:24). When Paul arrived in Rome, he was given his own house, with a soldier to guard him (Acts 28:16, 30). It is very important to read the last phrase of Acts: “no man forbidding him”. It is thus clear that Paul was not imprisoned at that time, although he could have been imprisoned afterwards.
It was during this two years home arrest, that Paul wrote some of his epistles, including Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. From these, we deduce what trials he faced during his Roman imprisonment.
History tells us that Paul successfully defended himself, but this is never clearly reflected in Scripture. However, if we look at 2 Timothy 4:16, we read that Paul writes to Timothy that during his first defence (“answer” in the King James Version), nobody assisted him. Eusebius records that “after defending himself successfully, it is currently reported that the Apostle again went forth to proclaim the Gospel, and afterwards came to Rome a second time, and was martyred under Nero.” (Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica, 2.22). There are also many other early church writings which say he was released and embarked on new missionary journals. It was only later that Caesar Nero had him executed.
What is the point we are trying to make?
Often we read the Bible superficially and never give the Holy Spirit the chance to really work and open up Scripture to us. We need to ask questions, and then endeavour to find answers. Only then does the Word make sense. Spiritual growth through studying the Word is not an option; it is imperative:
1I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. – 2 Timothy 4:1-4
We, and not just Timothy, are called to preach, any time and any place. We are called to counter false teaching (reprove), point out false teaching (rebuke), and warn (exhort) with patience, and anchored in biblical doctrine. Why? Because there will be a time when “they” (luke-warm believers) will surround themselves with “teachers” (false teachers, false prophets, and those who are not totally committed, or are caught up in systems that prevent them from teaching what they should) that teach what they, the hearers, want to hear, instead of what they should hear. They will turn away from solid biblical doctrine, and will rely instead on fables (false teaching, outside of Scripture).
The question is if you as individual reading this, want to be part of “they” mentioned above. If not, then you need to grab your Bible now and start reading critically, every day. Make notes, ask questions, research, and find answers. It genuinely appears as we are in the time of lukewarm Christians, who will be spat out. Do not be one of them.