Paul received the Macedonia call in Acts 16.6-10. This vision of a man standing and begging him to come to this northern Greece territory prompted Paul and his companions to travel to Philippi, a Roman colony then, and also a leading city of the district of Macedonia. Looking for a place of prayer in Philippi, Paul meets the woman, Lydia, who is a dealer in fabrics and purple cloth. God opens the heart of Lydia to Paul’s message of the gospel, she and members of her household are baptized and the beginning of a church congregation in Philippi begins. Continuing to meet at the place of prayer, Paul meets another woman whose chance meeting leads to a much different outcome for Paul. The woman, or slave girl as she is called, was a fortune teller (I think of a gypsy), and made a great deal of money for her owners in Philippi. Paul comes to know this girl (consumed with an evil spirit) better and eventually drives the evil spirit away. Disrupting a money making business in a Roman colony had its consequences for Paul and his companion Silas. The two are seized, dragged, severely flogged, and thrown into prison by the magistrates of Philippi. They were placed in the inner cell of the prison and fastened with chains.
With an attitude of thanksgiving, in spite of the chains, Paul and Silas sing and pray at midnight and no doubt provide a refreshing sound to the other prisoners in confinement. From these chains and the praises of thanksgiving that ensued, the church in Philippi grows with the miraculous story of the jailor’s conversion (and his family) and the addition of the jailor’s family to the disciples in that city.
Several years later, Paul again finds himself in chains in possibly the worst of prisons in downtown Rome. His “thanksgiving” attitude has not diminished as he writes (or has written thru dictation) several letters from his cell. Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, and Philippians are all thought to have been written by Paul while in prison in Rome about 60 A.D. The Philippian church hears of Paul’s imprisonment. To help, they dispatch a church member, Epaphroditus, to travel the great distance to Rome bringing gifts to their beloved Paul. They are fully aware that it was through Paul’s chains years earlier that the gospel saving message of Jesus Christ was presented in Philippi and they stand ready now to assist Paul in Rome as he once again is shackled with chains. Paul’s response is seen in the four chapters of the Philippian letter which Epaphroditus will carry back to Philippi. The words of “joy” and “rejoice” are used 14 times and throughout the letter, the reader sees nothing but thanksgiving, praise, and hope. No despair, no doubt, no complaining, no fussing…..all is well with Paul in spite of his chains and thanksgiving abounds!
As written in the Ancient Words: Phil 1.7 “It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and whether I am in chains or defending and conforming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.” Phil 1.13 “As a result, it has become clear….. I am in chains for Christ.” Phil 1.14 “ And because of my chains….. proclaim the gospel without fear.” Phil 1.17-18 “The former preach Christ….. while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached…. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice! (Chains or not!)
Scott and Jane Johnson minister with East Faulkner Church of Christ and BRG Bible. Bible questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.