The finish line

Paul’s second letter to Timothy is believed to be the last message he wrote before he was beheaded by the Roman Emperor Nero. His instructions to Timothy reflected the importance of having a successful transition after Paul was removed from his leadership role. Paul encouraged Timothy to not be ashamed of the work he had been called to do and told him to “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:1). Paul also focused on the process of sanctification which he probably thought Timothy was going through in order to prepare him for the increased responsibility he would have after Paul was gone. Paul told Timothy regarding confessing his sins, “If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21).

Paul used his own life as an example for Timothy to follow in his pursuit of evangelism and told Timothy that he should expect his ministry to be challenged by unbelievers. Paul said, “You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:10-12, ESV). One of things that Paul was clear about was that suffering and doing God’s work would always go hand in hand. There was no way to escape the persecution that resulted from preaching the gospel.

Paul told Timothy, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Greek words Paul used that are translated perfect and thoroughly furnished had to do with the process of sanctification being completed in the life of a believer. Paul linked scripture to this process and indicated that God’s word is sufficient to complete that process. There is no other requirement to reach spiritual maturity than to understand or fully comprehend all of God’s word.

Paul concluded his final message with these words, “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8). Paul had likely already been condemned to death when he wrote this message to Timothy. Paul was careful to note that he didn’t expect to be used any further in his ministry of preaching the gospel. It was Paul’s imminent death that prompted him to urge Timothy to keep his ministry going. Paul’s mention of a crown of righteousness was probably meant to encourage Timothy to work as hard as he had to spread the gospel around the world because he would be rewarded in heaven.

Paul’s comparison of the completion of ministry to a good fight and a finished course was his way of communicating the importance of endurance in serving God. Roman boxing was popular in the time period in which Paul lived. “Some boxers were known for their skill; others were known for simply being able to take punishment…Romans used gloves with pieces of metal placed around the knuckles (caestus) to inflict the most damage possible. Moreover, there was no time limit or weight classification. Proclaiming a winner resulted from either a knockout or the conceding of defeat by one of the boxers” (, Ancient Roman Sport). Paul’s declaration that he had fought a good fight implied that he had knocked out his opponent or at the very least gotten him to concede defeat.

Paul talked about his conflict with Satan in his second letter to the Corinthians. He stated, “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure” (2 Corinthians 12:7). The Greek word translated buffet, kolaphizo (kol-af-id’-zo) means “to rap with the fist” (G2852). Paul indicated the source of his afflictions were the revelations he received which were a progressive, private unveiling of the otherwise unknown and unknowable facts about God (G602). Paul’s numerous epistles are a testimony to the surpassing knowledge he had of Jesus and his future kingdom on Earth.

Paul likened his career in ministry to a race that was completed. Interestingly, Paul didn’t say he had won the race, but had merely finished the course. Paul’s humility in judging his importance in spreading the gospel around the Roman Empire showed that he genuinely viewed himself as an instrument in God’s hand. Paul didn’t take credit for any of his accomplishments. Most of what Paul talked about had to do with the suffering he endured while serving in the ministry of Jesus Christ. In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul boasted of his sufferings and mentioned in detail the various trials he had experienced (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). The only evidence that Paul was content with what he had done at the end of his life was his statement, “I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). The Greek word translated kept, tereo (tay-reh’-o) means to fulfill a command (G5083). In other words, Paul felt he had done everything God had told him to.

False teachers

The Apostle Paul’s letter to Titus focused on the practical matters of running an evangelistic ministry. Paul started out by warning Titus about people that were in the ministry because of the money they could extract from unsuspecting Christians. Paul used strong language to condemn these false teachers and told Titus, “For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain” (Titus 1:10-11). Paul’s comment about those who were of the circumcision was not meant to condemn Jews that had gone into the ministry, but those who taught that circumcision was necessary for salvation or sanctification by God. This was a hot topic that went back to the beginning of Paul’s ministry when he and Barnabas had to meet with the elders in Jerusalem to convince them that Gentiles should not be expected to follow the Mosaic Law (Acts 15:1-2).

Paul pointed out to Titus that the gospel was not something that needed to be interpreted by believers. He said, “This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply that they may be sound in the faith; not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth” (Titus 1:13-14). The Jewish fables Paul was referring to weren’t stories from the Old Testament, but unscriptural Jewish myths, something like what we call today old wives tales, things that people believe as a result of customs and practices that have developed over time. These beliefs have no basis in reality or factual scientific findings, but are believed to be true only because someone said so.

Paul’s condemnation of false teachers went so far as to say they were outright liars that should be shunned by believers. He stated, “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” (Titus 1:16). Paul sought a balance between doctrine and practice, in his own life in in the lives of those who followed his teaching. The thing that Paul detested about false teachers was that they pretended to be something that they weren’t. Paul’s test of authentic faith was a life that was lived consistent with the teachings of Jesus. “The false teachers stood condemned by the test of personal conduct” (note on Titus 1:16). The Greek word Paul used that is translated works, ergon refers to an effort or occupation. The Greek word ergates which is derived from ergon is sometimes used figuratively of a teacher of God’s word. Jesus talked about ergates in many of his parables about laborers or workers in God’s kingdom. In his parable of the worker in the vineyard, Jesus stated, “For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is a householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard” (Matthew 20:1-2).

Jesus made it clear that there were wages or rewards for working in God’s kingdom. Some people may have interpreted that to mean that teachers of God’s word should receive pay while they are on Earth. It seems likely that Jesus was referring to rewards in heaven, which Paul also eluded to in some of his epistles (1 Corinthians 3:8, 14; Colossians 3:24). What Paul was trying to get straight in his letter to Titus was that seeking financial rewards for preaching the gospel was wrong and anyone that used that as a motive for doing God’s work should be condemned and treated as an unbeliever (Titus 1:16). The Greek word Paul used that is translated reprobate in Titus 1:16, adokimos (ad-ok’-ee-mos) means worthless. Basically, what Paul was saying was that the false teachers good works weren’t worth a penny and didn’t deserve any reward from God.

A pattern

Paul wrote two letters to Timothy, a man he described as “my own son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2). Paul’s relationship with Timothy was like no other and the fact that he wrote two letters that were intended to be personal instruction to him showed that Paul cared a great deal about Timothy’s spiritual well-being. Paul warned Timothy about the trials and tribulations of being in the ministry and gave him the responsibility of following in his footsteps after he was imprisoned in Rome. Paul reminded Timothy that he had formerly been a blasphemer, and a persecutor, but he had obtained mercy from God because he did it in unbelief (1 Timothy 1:13). Then he said in a very straightforward manner, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am the chief” (1 Timothy 1:15).

Paul’s attitude about God’s grace was that he could save anyone, even the worst of sinners that deserved to go to hell. Paul explained to Timothy that he had been saved for the purpose of showing others what God could do. Paul said, “However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life” (1 Timothy 1:16, NKJV). The Greek word translated pattern, hupotuposis (hoop-ot-oop’-o-sis) refers to something that is meant to be copied or imitated (G5296). What Paul was getting at was the idea that God had made him into a cast or die, a mold if you will, that others could be poured into as a means of replicating the results of his ministry. Paul wanted Timothy to understand that his life would have similar characteristics to his own if he continued in the ministry.

Paul concluded his personal exhortation by stating, “Timothy, my son, here is my word to you. Fight well for the Lord! God’s preachers told us you would. Keep a strong hold on your faith in Christ. May your heart always say you are right. Some people have not listened to what their hearts say. They have done what they knew was wrong. Because of this, their faith in Christ was wrecked” (1 Timothy 1:18-19, NLV). Paul’s instruction to “Fight well for the Lord!” was most likely referring to spiritual warfare and was reiterated in 1 Timothy 6:12 where Paul said, “Fight the good fight of faith.” The pattern that Paul was setting forth for Timothy was not only to believe God’s word, but to do what God told him to. Paul wanted Timothy to act in accordance with his calling into the ministry and not be afraid to take risks even if it meant ending up in prison like he had.

The untold story

When the Apostle Paul finally arrived in Rome, he met with the Jewish leaders there and explained his situation to them. “Then they said to him, ‘We neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor have any of the brethren who came reported or spoken any evil of you. But we desire to hear from you what you think; for concerning this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere'” (Acts 28:21-22, NKJV). Paul spent two years under house arrest in Rome and according to 2 Timothy 4:16 appeared before Caesar Nero, but was not convicted. Then, as far as anyone knows, he was released and allowed to continue his ministry.

It is clear from Acts 13:1-21:17 that Paul went on three missionary journeys. There is also reason to believer that he made a fourth journey after his release from the Roman imprisonment recorded in Acts 28. The conclusion that such a journey did indeed take place is based on: (1) Paul’s declared intention to go to Spain (Romans 15:24,28), (2) Eusebius’s implication that Paul was released following his first Roman imprisonment (Ecclesiastical History, 2.22.2-3) and (3) statements in early christian literature that he took the gospel as far as Spain (Clement of Rome, Epistle to the Corinthians, ch. 5; Actus Petri Vercellenes, chs. 1-3; Muratorian Canon lines 34-39). (Paul’s Fourth Missionary Journey, pgs. 1738-1739)

The reason Luke didn’t include Paul’s fourth missionary journey in his book of Acts may have been because he thought Paul’s arrival in Rome signified the accomplishment of the goal of his ministry. Another reason may have been because Luke left Paul in Rome and didn’t know what happened to him. Paul stated in 2 Timothy 4:16, “At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.” Paul went on to say, “Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully know, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of a lion” (Acts 4:17). “Since as a Roman citizen, Paul could not be thrown to the lions in the amphitheater, this must be a figurative way of saying that his first hearing did not result in an immediate guilty verdict” (note on Acts 4:17).

Although the details of Paul’s final arrest and death by execution are not included in the Bible, it is believed that his second letter to Timothy was written shortly before he was beheaded in Rome. In that letter, Paul disclosed that “only Luke is with me” (2 Timothy 4:11). If Luke and Paul were separated after his first imprisonment in Rome, they were reunited sometime before his death around 67 or 68 A.D. Paul concluded his second letter to Timothy with these final words, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil assault, and He will bring me safely into His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (2 Timothy 4:18, AMP).

A living testimony

The encouragement Paul received from the Lord gave him confidence in spite of overwhelming circumstances during his voyage to Rome. The angel of God said, “Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you” (Acts 27:24, NKJV). After 14 days of being driven up and down the Adriatic Sea by a typhoon like east-northeast wind, the ship Paul was sailing in drew near to land. It says in Acts 27:29-31:

Then, fearing lest we should run aground on the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern, and prayed for day to come. And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, when they had let down the skiff into the sea, under pretense of putting out anchors from the prow, Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” (NKJV)

Paul believed that God was going to keep him alive, but he was apparently under the impression that everyone in the ship had to stay together in order for them to be delivered from their adverse circumstances. In a similar fashion to Jesus’ last meal with his disciples, Paul “took bread, and gave thanks to God in presence of them all: and when he had broken it, he began to eat” (Acts 27:35). At this point in his journey to Rome, Paul became a living testimony to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul didn’t preach a sermon to the men he was sailing with; he intended to show them that God would preserve their lives if they believed what he told them.

Paul and his sailing companions became shipwrecked on an island called Melita, also known as Malta (Acts 28:1 and note). Luke’s account of the situation showed that the local people considered Paul and the other prisoners to be dangerous criminals, and yet they showed them kindness by starting a fire for them because of the rain and cold (Acts 28:2). Luke stated:

But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand. So when the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped the sea, yet justice does not allow to live.” But he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. However, they were expecting that he would swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had looked for a long time and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god. (Acts 28:3-6, NKJV)

Paul didn’t correct the natives viewpoint of him, but rather went on to further demonstrate his superhuman power by healing the father of the chief man of the island (Acts 28:8). Although there is no record of anyone on Malta being converted during Paul’s three month stay there, it seems likely that the people that lived on the island were greatly impacted by Paul’s living testimony. According to wikipedia, “Malta has a long Christian legacy and its Archdiocese is claimed to be an apostolic see (an apostolic see is an episcopal see whose foundation is attributed to one or more of the apostles of Jesus or to one of his close associates) because Paul the Apostle was shipwrecked on “Melita.”

An alternate route

Paul’s determination to reach Rome in his journey across the continents of Asia and Europe was somewhat hindered, but also helped by his imprisonment in Cesarea. Because he was a Roman citizen, Paul was able to appeal to Caesar and set in motion his transport to the capital of the Roman Empire (Acts 25:12). After sharing his testimony with King Agrippa and his sister Bernice, Paul was finally sent to Rome by way of a military escort. It says in Acts 27:1-2, “And when it was determined that we should sail into Italy, they delivered Paul and certain other prisoners unto one named Julius, a centurion of Agustus’ band. And entering a ship of Adramyttium, we launched, meaning to sail by the coasts of Asia; one Aristarchus, a Macedomian of Thessalonica, being with us.”

Apparently, Paul was allowed to take at least two of his traveling companions with him when he was taken to Rome. Aristarchus is identified in Acts 19:29 and 20:4 as a Macedonian of Thessalonica that accompanied Paul on his third missionary journey. Luke, the author of the book of Acts indicated he went with Paul to Rome by using the pronoun we when he said “we should sail” in Acts 27:1. Even though Paul was a prisoner, he was treated with respect, perhaps because of his Roman citizenship. It says in Acts 27:3, “And the next day we touched at Sidon. And Julius courteously entreated Paul, and gave him liberty to go unto his friends to refresh himself.”

The timing of Paul’s voyage was an issue because Luke tells us, “And when we had launched from thence, we sailed under Cyprus, because the winds were contrary” (Acts 27:4). The prevailing winds in the summer were westernly making a 1000 plus mile trip to Rome very easy, but the contrary winds caused their journey to become nearly impossible. Paul’s guard decided to change their route and sail directly to Rome from Alexandria (Acts 27:6). Paul told his captors, “Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives” (Acts 27:10). The centurion responsible for transporting the prisoners to Rome ignored Paul’s warning and in spite of their effort to get to Rome via an alternate route, they ran into a typhoon-like, east-northeast wind, which drove the ship away from their destination (note on Acts 27:14).

Luke tells us the situation became desperate “when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was taken away” (Acts 27:20). Paul’s confidence was evident when he “stood in the midst of them and said, ‘Men, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss'” (Acts 27:21, NKJV). Afterward, Paul reassured everyone by stating, “For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me” (Acts 27:23-25, NKJV).

Almost persuaded

Paul’s passionate testimony before Festus, King Agrippa, and his sister Bernice was probably the clearest presentation of the gospel he had ever made. Paul clearly outlined the steps he had taken to become the man that was considered an outlaw among the Jews and a hero among the many thousands of Gentiles that he had converted to Christianity. The central point of Paul’s argument was that he had encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, not only proof that he was indeed Israel’s Messiah but convincing evidence that he had actually been resurrected from the dead. Paul described his experience this way:

At midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me. And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” So I said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.” (Acts 26:13-18, NKJV)

Paul’s description of his heavenly vision was likely what made King Agrippa believe he was telling the truth about being converted to Christianity after he had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus. Paul told Agrippa that he had been arrested for doing that which he had been commanded by God. King Agrippa probably realized that Paul was upsetting the Jews because they didn’t want to admit that they had killed their own Messiah. Paul questioned Agrippa about his faith when he asked him, “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe. Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘You almost persuade me to become a Christian’” (Acts 26:27-28, NKJV).

In spite of his convincing arguments, Festus’ response to Paul’s testimony showed that he didn’t believe what he was saying. It says in Acts 26:24, “Now as he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, ‘Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!'” (NKJV). Even though Festus was skeptical about what Paul was saying, he agreed with King Agrippa that Paul hadn’t committed a crime. It says in Act 26:31-32, “and when they had gone aside, they talked among themselves, saying, ‘This man is doing nothing deserving of death or chains.’ Then Agrippa said to Festus, ‘This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.'”

Appeal to Caesar

Paul’s appeal to Caesar may have been unnecessary because after King Agrippa heard his case, he told Festus, “This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Cesar” (Acts 26:32). Paul believed it was God’s will for him to go to Rome. After he appeared before the Jewish Sanhedrin, it says in Acts 23:11, “the following night the Lord stood by him and said, ‘Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome'” (NKJV).

Even though Jesus told him he would be going to Rome, Paul didn’t know when or how he would end up there. Paul may have assumed that his arrest in Jerusalem would be the impetus for his appearance before Caesar. The most likely explanation for Paul’s appeal to Caesar was that he expected a trial in Jerusalem to result in a death sentence. Paul may not have wanted to take a chance with the Jewish leaders that had already made up their minds that he was a heretic.

King Agrippa’s visit to Cesarea, where Paul was being held prisoner, prompted Fetus to conduct a special hearing to determine what charges should be brought against Paul at his trial in Rome. Festus explained to King Agrippa that he didn’t know what to do because he didn’t think Paul was guilty of a crime worthy of death and yet Paul had appealed to Caesar and therefore must be sent to Rome. Festus wanted King Agrippa to help him determine if Paul had actually committed any crime.

The interesting thing about Paul’s situation was that he was acting on his belief that he was supposed to go to Rome and yet there didn’t appear to be any reason for him to appeal to Caesar. It’s possible that if Paul hadn’t appealed to Caesar, he would have been killed on his way back to Jerusalem for a local trial. Acts 25:2-3 tells us that the high priest and the chief men of the Jews petitioned Festus, that he would summon Paul to Jerusalem “while they lay in ambush along the road to kill him” (NKJV).

A mock trial

Paul’s trial before the Roman governor Felix probably made it clear to him that his days were numbered. Similar to what they had done with Jesus, the Jewish religious leaders brought Paul to court with trumped up charges. Paul was accused of leading an uprising against the Roman government, but when it came down to it, he was really just a nuisance to those that wanted to live a compromised lifestyle.

Paul distinguished himself as a true believer. He testified that he was living according to God’s standards and said, “But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets.” (Acts 24:14, NKJV). Paul’s reference to believing all things was most likely meant to emphasize the importance of faith in worshiping God and to point out that Christianity was really about believing God’s word.

Paul might have been considered a traitor because he had once been a part of the Jews’ effort to stamp our Christianity. It is possible that some of the elders that came with the high priest Ananias to accuse Paul were once his friends. In his defense, Paul refrained from making any slanderous remarks, perhaps out of respect for the men he had once associated with. For the most part, Paul just said that what they were accusing him of wasn’t true (Acts 24:12).

Unlike his appearance before King Agrippa, Paul didn’t share his testimony with Felix. Most likely, Paul was merely testing the waters when he said, “that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust” (Acts 24:15). The topic of the resurrection was controversial not only because not all Jews believed in life after death, but also because the Gentiles were most likely offended by the idea that they would be judged by God. Like most unbelievers today, the Romans assumed that death was the end of a person’s existence.

Felix was married to a Jewess and had prior knowledge of the teaching of Christianity. He may even have heard the gospel before Paul came into his court. It says in Acts 24:22, “And when Felix heard these things, having more perfect knowledge of that way, he deferred them, and said, When Lysius the chief captain shall come down, I will know the uttermost of your matter.” The Greek term translated perfect knowledge implies that Felix had enough knowledge of the gospel to make a decision to accept Christ.

Felix might have thought he was doing Paul a favor by keeping him in prison and may have even seen himself as Paul’s protector. During the two years that Paul was under his guard, it says that Felix talked with him often and communed with Paul as if they were friends (Acts 24:26). In spite of the time they spent together, there is no evidence that Paul convinced Felix to accept Christ as his savior. In the end, it says only that after two years, “Felix, wanting to do the Jews a favor, left Paul bound” (Acts 24:27).

Final assignment

Paul’s appearance before the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem bore remarkable resemblance to Jesus’ appearance before the Jewish authorities on the night of his crucifixion. It says in John 18:19-23, “The high priest then asked Jesus about His disciples and His doctrine. Jesus answered him, ‘I spoke openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where the Jews always meet, and in secret I have said nothing. Why do you ask Me? Ask those who have heard Me what I said to them. Indeed they know what I said.’ And when He had said these things, one of the officers who stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, ‘Do You answer the high priest like that?’ Jesus answered him, ‘If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why do you strike Me?'” (NKJV).

Paul’s situation was similar, but when the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to strike Paul on the mouth, he responded, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! For you sit to judge me according to the law, and do you command me to be struck contrary to the law?” (Acts 23:3, NKJV). Paul’s feisty response may have gained him some respect with the council because he was able to convince the scribes of the Pharisees to listen to what he had to say. Afterward, they responded, “We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God” (Acts 23:9). Paul’s reprieve from judgment may actually have been the result of a divine intervention. It says in Acts 23:11, “But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, ‘Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome.'”

Paul understood his final assignment from Jesus to be that he was to share his personal testimony with the Roman emperor. When Paul later appeared before the governor Festus and was told his trial would be conducted in Jerusalem, Paul responded, “I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you very well know. For if I am an offender, or have committed anything deserving of death, I do not object to dying; but if there is nothing in these things of which these men accuse me, no one can deliver me to them. I appeal to Caesar.”

Paul’s determination to reach Rome was hindered by many natural and spiritual disasters. His first obstacle was a conspiracy to kill him before he could be taken out of Jerusalem (Acts 23:12-13). Paul’s sister’s son heard about this plot and informed Paul he was in danger (Acts 23:16). In an amazing rescue effort, Paul was smuggled out of the city of Jerusalem by the Roman chief captain that was responsible for guarding him (Acts 23:23-24). Paul was taken to a military post 30 miles from Jerusalem between Samaria and Judea where he remained for the next two years. During that time, Paul prepared himself for his final assignment of appearing before Nero by repeatedly sharing his testimony with the various Roman officials he came in contact with.