I, Paul, am a prisoner of Christ Jesus because of my preaching to you Gentiles.- Ephesians 3:1
When three ships docked in Boston harbor on December 16th, 1773, with a valuable cargo of tea, the Bostonians were furious, and the tea finished up in the harbor. The Americans were exhilarated by this act of defiance, the British outraged. Samuel Johnson, the British man of letters, said, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” A few months later, Patrick Henry, the Virginian legislator, dramatically encouraged patriotic fervor. As he knelt before the Continental Congress he said, “Is life so dear, our peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God!” Then leaping to his feet he threw wide his arms, shouting, “Give me liberty,” and then, holding an imaginary dagger to his chest, he added, “or give me death!” Johnson and Henry held two entirely different views of the American Revolution!
When the Apostle Paul arrived in Rome, it appeared to all who knew him that he was a prisoner of Caesar, bound for death. But Paul thought otherwise. He said, “I, Paul, am a prisoner of Christ Jesus because of my preaching to you Gentiles” (Eph. 3:1). Paul was not foolish enough to ignore the fact that he was being held at the mercy of a tyrannical Caesar. But in his mind he was the prisoner of Jesus. If Jesus wanted him free, even Caesar could not hold him; and if he was not freed, then Jesus wanted him in captivity. Paul’s point of view and that of others were clearly at odds!
Paul added that he was also a prisoner because of his “preaching to you Gentiles” (3:1). In actual fact, Paul was in Rome because, as a Roman citizen, he had the right to appeal to Caesar and he had exercised this right. But that was not important to Paul. What mattered was that he had been the given the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles. This had upset the Jews who had stirred up trouble for him, which led to his near lynching, his rescue by the Roman garrison, and his eventual trip to Rome (see Acts 21–28). In Paul’s view, he was in Rome simply because Christ wanted him to preach to the Gentiles there.
In Rome, Paul was in deep trouble—but it did not bother him at all. Not only was he confident in the lordship of Christ—even over Caesar—he also was convinced that his ministry of the gospel was more important than life itself.
So who was right? Was he an unfortunate wretch under a death sentence or Jesus’ triumphant servant, bound for glory? You decide!
For Further Study: Ephesians 3:1-13