Paul - the Prisoner of Jesus Christ: Continued

Acts 23‑28  •  19 min. read  •  grade level: 12
We now come to his fourth arraignment-that before the new governor of the province, Porcius Festus-and it is remarkable to notice the undeviating hatred of the Jews against him. The moment the new governor came up from the seat of government to the capital city of his new province, the high priest and the chief of the Jews instigated him to send for Paul to Jerusalem, in order that they might again attempt to assassinate him. Festus, however, possibly saw through their plans, for he determines that the trial should take place at Caesarea; and surely we may again own the hand of God in this as in chap. 23:16, in protecting His servant. Angels are God's ministering spirits, in this dispensation doing His bidding even at Gentile courts (Daniel 10:13-2013But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia. 14Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days: for yet the vision is for many days. 15And when he had spoken such words unto me, I set my face toward the ground, and I became dumb. 16And, behold, one like the similitude of the sons of men touched my lips: then I opened my mouth, and spake, and said unto him that stood before me, O my lord, by the vision my sorrows are turned upon me, and I have retained no strength. 17For how can the servant of this my lord talk with this my lord? for as for me, straightway there remained no strength in me, neither is there breath left in me. 18Then there came again and touched me one like the appearance of a man, and he strengthened me, 19And said, O man greatly beloved, fear not: peace be unto thee, be strong, yea, be strong. And when he had spoken unto me, I was strengthened, and said, Let my lord speak; for thou hast strengthened me. 20Then said he, Knowest thou wherefore I come unto thee? and now will I return to fight with the prince of Persia: and when I am gone forth, lo, the prince of Grecia shall come. (Daniel 10:13‑20)), and doubtless God overruled the arrangement concerning Paul's examination. Paul is now arraigned before Festus, and calmly and with the dignity of one consciously walking with God defies his accusers to bring aught against him. Festus plainly sees he is innocent, but wishing to become popular amongst the Jews now at the commencement of his rule, asks Paul would he go up to Jerusalem; but Paul knew that the time was past for Jerusalem, and that the Lord wished him now to testify at Rome and therefore, availing himself of the last appeal open to every Roman citizen, appeals to Augustus, the then emperor of Rome. Festus but concedes to Paul what was his right. Agrippa, however-a higher dignitary than even Festus, as shown not only by the title of "king" but also by Festus' deferential manner towards him-now comes upon the scene on a visit to Festus, and of Paul the latter speaks to Agrippa, referring to Paul's testimony " of one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive." Agrippa desires to hear him, thus accomplishing the purpose of God announced to Paul in chap. 9:15-that he should testify before "kings," &c.; and in all this we may well observe God's hand. It was His desire that "every creature" should hear the gospel (Mark 16:1515And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. (Mark 16:15)), and thus even the highest in office are made responsible through the faithful testimony of His beloved servant. As in the time of the Lord, so in the time of His apostle-the spoken word will testify against them at the last day (John 12:4848He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. (John 12:48)).
Nothing is more striking in this account of the various examinations of the apostle than his manly bearing in the presence of his judges. We are forcibly reminded of how, when Jacob was brought into the presence of Pharaoh (Gen. 47:77And Joseph brought in Jacob his father, and set him before Pharaoh: and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. (Genesis 47:7)) he took the place of superiority, for "without all contradiction, the less is blessed of the better" (Heb. 7:77And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better. (Hebrews 7:7)), and bestowed his benediction on the haughty monarch of Egypt. Paul was consciously walking with God, and thus was in no way dismayed at his position; with the answer of a good conscience he could confront those who were at this time in the possession of the throne of the world. Paul is not afraid to relate the whole story of his life. He had done it once before to the Jewish mob, he does it now before King Agrippa, and thus we have three succinct accounts of his conversion, chap. 9, 22, and the one before us, each supplying some additional particulars to the one that had preceded it. Paul had always had the desire to serve God. The Pharisees were, in his day, those who most zealously observed the law. He had been the straitest of Pharisees, but there had been a promise of a Messiah to come, made unto the fathers. Abraham had heard of Him (Gen. 22:1818And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice. (Genesis 22:18), Gal. 3:1616Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. (Galatians 3:16)). The promise had been confirmed to Isaac (chap. 26:4), and to Jacob (chap. 28:14), and in the hope of the fulfillment of this promise the twelve tribes were even then serving God night and day. And here we may well pause to meditate for a little upon this verse, for it is a very remarkable one. Why did the apostle speak of "twelve tribes," seeing that ten had been carried captive by the King of Assyria (2 Kings 17), and had never returned, and those who were then in the land were but a remnant of the other two tribes (Judah and Benjamin) that had been carried captive by the King of Babylon, and out of whom but a small remnant had returned, as recorded by Ezra and Nehemiah, in the days of the Kings of Persia? The reason is simple. Unlike Elijah, who believed that he only was left (1 Kings 19:1414And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away. (1 Kings 19:14)), while all the time God had 7000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal, Paul entered into God's mind concerning Israel, and saw by faith the nation in all its perfection as awaiting the fulfillment of the promise made unto the fathers. He knew that amidst the ruin consequent upon their rejection of God, God had still a remnant according to the election of grace, that this remnant were maintained by God during the long "night" season of darkness that had come upon them for their sins, and that presently, in the "day" time of blessing that was to come, they would again take their place of allegiance to God, and realize the fulfillment of the promises made unto their fathers. Observe here a Greek version reads "night and day," and not "day and night," as in our version.
The faith of Paul is well worthy of imitation by us who, although we see around us the ruin of that Church which once appeared so fair when formed by the hand of God at Pentecost (Acts 2:41-4741Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. 42And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. 44And all that believed were together, and had all things common; 45And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. 46And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, 47Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. (Acts 2:41‑47)), must remember that the body of Christ is just as perfect as it was in the apostles' day, and will be till the Lord returns. The "twelve loaves" (Lev. 24:5-95And thou shalt take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes thereof: two tenth deals shall be in one cake. 6And thou shalt set them in two rows, six on a row, upon the pure table before the Lord. 7And thou shalt put pure frankincense upon each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, even an offering made by fire unto the Lord. 8Every sabbath he shall set it in order before the Lord continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant. 9And it shall be Aaron's and his sons'; and they shall eat it in the holy place: for it is most holy unto him of the offerings of the Lord made by fire by a perpetual statute. (Leviticus 24:5‑9)) represented the twelve tribes of Israel; every Sabbath were they to be renewed; purity was to characterize them, and they were the portion of the priests only. So with us, 1 Cor. 10:16, 1716The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? 17For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. (1 Corinthians 10:16‑17) tells us that "we being many are one loaf" (Greek). On the first day of the week the loaf with us is renewed, and purity must be our character (1 Cor. 3:1616Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16)), who are now "an holy priesthood." (1 Peter 2:55Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:5)).
In the breaking of bread we express that to which we belong-the body of Christ. And this is as perfect as in Paul's day, having for its nourishment the joints and bands (Col. 2:1919And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. (Colossians 2:19)), and Christ's gifts, until He comes (Eph. 4:4-144There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. 7But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 8Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. 9(Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; (Ephesians 4:4‑14)). Blessed thus to see the body, from God's point of view, perfect as ever. But I resume: Paul shared the hope of the twelve tribes, viz., that the promises would be yet fulfilled, and seeing that Christ, raised from the dead, was "the seed" in whom these promises were to be fulfilled, he had forsaken that in which he was brought up for Him, and this formed the ground of his accusation before the Jews.
In the story of his conversion he keeps back nothing, for the account of his wickedness in his unregenerate state would but magnify the grace of that God who had saved him, and could save, too, those to whom he spake; and in the detail of the Lord's appearing to him, in the 16th and 17th verses, we get two additional particulars which the other accounts leave out, and which are of much interest.
He was to be a minister and a witness, "both of those things which thou hast seen, and of the things in which I will appear unto thee." At the time of his conversion he became possessor of certain truths, but these were to be increased by further revelations, until the whole canon of Scripture was completed through him; for to him "it was given to fulfill (fill up or complete) the word of God" (Col. 1:2525Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; (Colossians 1:25)).
At the time of his conversion, he received the truth that Jesus was the Son of God, for he immediately preached it (Acts 9:2020And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. (Acts 9:20)), and thus he was a minister of the gospel-what he calls, in 2 Cor. 4:44In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. (2 Corinthians 4:4), "the glorious gospel," or, as it should be read, " the gospel of the glory." This was his first ministry, for he had two (see Colossians 2:23-25, and Eph. 3:6-96That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: 7Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. 8Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; 9And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: (Ephesians 3:6‑9))—-that of the Gospel and that of the Body, and both these were revealed to him at the time of his conversion, for he not only saw that Christ in the glory was the Lamb that was slain, but he also saw that He and the saints on earth were of one body. "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest." These then were the things he had seen, but the Lord had yet further revelations to make to him until the Scripture was completed, and as instances of these I would point you to 1 Cor. 11:23-26; 15:20-29; 123For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: 24And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. 25After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. 26For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come. (1 Corinthians 11:23‑26)
20But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. 21For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 23But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. 24Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. 25For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. 26The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. 27For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. 28And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all. 29Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead? (1 Corinthians 15:20‑29)
Thess. 4:15; 5:11. Of course the apostle was inspired to write all his Epistles, but these were especial revelations concerning the truth of the Body which had been entrusted to him.
This is the first particular of interest which this account gives us. The second is, the promise of deliverance from the people of Israel, and from the Gentiles to whom he was sent. Had God forgotten His promise, seeing that Paul was now a prisoner of the Gentiles, and handed over to them by the Jews? No; but the apostle's self-will (for he was but a man) had prevented its fulfillment. His mission was to the Gentiles, but he would return to Jerusalem, and thus his Lord's care of him was obstructed. How often do the servants of the Lord now by their self-will hinder the loving purposes of God concerning them? Doubtless the Lord raised up other instruments to open the Gentile eyes, to bring them from their natural state of darkness into the light of life, from the power of the god of this world to that of the living God, to receive at His hands the pardon of their sins, and the inheritance for which with other saints in light they had been made meet through faith in Jesus. How beautifully complete is this testimony! (v. 19.) Paul could but obey such a vision, and from that day to the present time had been God's witness of these things, and now was accused of the Jews for showing the fulfillment of the very things that their own Scriptures had foretold should come to pass. Festus, utterly untouched by this testimony, proclaims Paul to be mad, but Agrippa evidently was not unmoved, for before them all he had to confess, " In a little you will be making a Christian of me." Full of faith and the Holy Ghost the apostle replies, "Would to God that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds." A noble wish, dictated by a heart filled with the love of God. He could not desire a better thing for them, for how contemptible was all the King's dignity as compared with that of his prisoner, an heir of God and a joint-heir with Christ! Of Agrippa we hear no more. In glory it will be known whether he was saved. But his heart was evidently softened towards his prisoner, for had he not appealed to Rome he might have been set at liberty.
It is most blessed to see these two closing chapters of this interesting record of the Acts of the Holy Ghost, the complete way in which this noble servant of Christ lived above the circumstances in which he was placed. He had doubtless failed (and where shall we find perfection but in Christ?) to carry out the purpose of God for which he was set apart, but his failure only the more manifestly sets forth the riches of God's grace, who at the moment of his greatest need exhorted him to " be of good cheer," and so completely strengthened him for the trial he was about to undergo, that in every position in which we henceforth find him whether it be in the midst of the shipwreck scene (comp. 2 Cor. 11:2525Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; (2 Corinthians 11:25)) or bound with a chain as prisoner at Rome, or brought before the "lion" Nero, the Roman Emperor (2 Tim. 4:16,1716At 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. 17Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. (2 Timothy 4:16‑17)), we find him completely master of his position, and standing for God in the world.
On turning to the text, we now find him a prisoner, handed over to a captain of the Emperor's regiment along with other prisoners, and surely we may say it was with a sad heart the apostle turned his back upon those he loved so well, his own nation who had now so fully and decidedly rejected grace. The Lord, however, did not permit him to go without the company of those dear to him in the Lord-Luke (as evidenced by the "we" of v. i. &c.) the Author, was with him, as also Aristarchus of whom we first heard in chap. 20:4. This was apparently a most devoted man. There is no account of any accusation against him, and yet Paul (Col. 4:1010Aristarchus my fellowprisoner saluteth you, and Marcus, sister's son to Barnabas, (touching whom ye received commandments: if he come unto you, receive him;) (Colossians 4:10)) speaks of him as his " fellow prisoner," and surely we may argue from this, that he willingly devoted himself, and surely it was a high honor to devote himself thus (1 John 3:1616Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. (1 John 3:16)), to accompany the apostle to prison, and share his chain with him, and it would seem that he was not alone in this act of devotedness, for in Philem. 1:2323There salute thee Epaphras, my fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus; (Philemon 23), the same honorable mention is made of Epaphras, and inasmuch as both are spoken of by the apostle as his fellow-laborers (Philem. 1:2424Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlaborers. (Philemon 24), Col. 4:1212Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. (Colossians 4:12)), it has been thought by some that these two devoted ones took it in turns to share the apostle's confinement with him.
It is further worthy of remark how God inclined the hearts of those in whose charge he was to entreat the apostle " courteously " (v. 3., chap. 28:7, 16), doubtless they saw he was unjustly accused, and did their best to alleviate his sufferings.
In the 10th verse, the man who was acting for God, and, therefore, able to enter into God's mind, prophesies of the loss that should come on the ship. Unheeded, however, he was; for the natural man could not but think that those educated to the sea must know more about these things than one who was not. Even so in the present day. "Unlearned and ignorant men" may prophesy of the coming judgment, but they are not believed, while those trained up in the schools of theology will be eagerly listened to. How important for us to confer not with flesh and blood, but to be led of the Spirit only.
Again, in the 21st verse, we find God acting in His faithful servant. In order to arrive at the mind of God, he had for the time abstained from those things that might excite the flesh, and now he becomes God's mouthpiece. And here, digressing for a moment, I would ask you to observe how in Dan. 1 we find the prophet in like manner keeping himself from those things that might excite the flesh, and in chap. 2 we find him used by the Lord to unfold His counsels. He is for God in the first chapter, God is for him in the second. Paul, then, now becomes God's mouthpiece, because God had given him the lives of those who were with him, though the ship itself would be lost. We have read of how Noah's family was saved through his uprightness; and how Lot's daughters, wicked in themselves, escaped through their father's righteousness. But here we have God interfering in a new way, and preserving the lives of the 276 persons who were with Paul in the ship. Paul believed God that it should be even as He had told him. And so we find in the last verse that they all came safe to land.
The Island of Malta, in the Mediterranean, was the place on which their lot was cast, and here God vouchsafes signs and wonders at the hands of His servant. Not unmindful of the necessities of the body, as we find also from 2 Tim. 4:13-2113The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments. 14Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works: 15Of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words. 16At 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. 17Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. 18And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 19Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. 20Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick. 21Do thy diligence to come before winter. Eubulus greeteth thee, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brethren. (2 Timothy 4:13‑21) (the winter rendering his cloak necessary), he sets an example by gathering sticks, and a viper fastens on his hand; but the suspicions of the poor countrymen are changed to awe when the beast is shaken off without injury. In this, and in the miracle on Publius' father, Mark 16:1818They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. (Mark 16:18) is brought to our minds. And now the hospitable shores of Malta are left, and Italy is in due time reached. And here the apostle's heart, somewhat downcast, naturally, on account of the ordeal he was about to pass through, was cheered by meeting brethren in the Lord, and he thanked God and took courage, and here his prayer, as recorded in Rom. 1:10-1210Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you. 11For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; 12That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. (Romans 1:10‑12), is granted, and he at last finds himself in the great capital of the Gentile empire. His rejection, and in rejecting him they rejected his Master and his doctrine, had been complete and final at the great city of the religious world, Jerusalem. A further test was now about to be applied to the inhabitants of the great city of the civil power.
Verse 17.-Paul is not long idle; and, true to his own principles of making the Jew the first offer of grace, he calls their chiefs together, and tells them of "the hope of Israel." Of Him they had heard nothing, but of the sect they knew this that it was everywhere spoken against. What a testimony to the truths that they taught! That which judges the evil around it could never be popular, and this "sect," as they were pleased to call it, had already a bad name in the religious world. Now, as then, we shall find that those who hold the truth and teach it, will be deemed the off-scouring of the earth-but it is blessed to be permitted to share the place the Master took when He was here, and be with Him rejected of that which denies His name.
On the appointed day he put the truth before them, bringing their own law and prophets to bear on their consciences, but in vain, for though a remnant, as ever, such is the grace of God, was saved, the nation as a nation rejected the truth, and were given up to unbelief. And the apostle has no resource but to pronounce sentence upon them in the words of the prophet Isaiah (chap. 6) on His rejection as their earthly Messiah as heir according to the promises to Abraham, and of the throne of David, the Son had used the same words, Matt. 13:1313Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. (Matthew 13:13), and again in John 12:4040He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. (John 12:40), when rejected as the Son of God; and now we find Him finally rejected as the glorified Savior, and therefore His apostle follows in his Master's footsteps, and Israel's last chance is gone until the time that the feet of Him whom they pierced stand once more on the favored Mount of Olives, not now as the lowly Messiah, but as the Son of Man in power and great glory. Then shall they and all the tribes of the earth mourn, while we are in perfect happiness, having taken our place with Him in the glory that He has earned by His work, and possesses in His own right as the Son of God-nay, as God Himself.
The Gentiles now are the vessels of God's mercy, and to them the salvation of God is now sent and they will hear it. What a wondrous salvation is the salvation of God! Not only are we saved from our sins-this is certainly salvation -but we are saved in a style worthy of God, we are saved unto God, who is made known in Christ.
This was the salvation that old Simeon learned in Luke 2:25-3325And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. 26And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, 28Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, 29Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: 30For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, 31Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; 32A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. 33And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him. (Luke 2:25‑33). It says, "He blessed God and said, Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation." He had long waited for the consolation of Israel, and it was revealed unto him that he should not taste of death until he had seen the Lord's Christ. The moment he had got Christ in his arms he had seen and more than seen God's salvation. The hope of Israel was precious; but what was that compared with him when he held to his bosom God's salvation? The hope of Israel was earthly: but here was something better-God's salvation, a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Israel; therefore he could ask to depart. He by faith saw the consolation of Israel rejected and given as a light to the Gentiles, and therefore he cared not to stay-he was willing to depart. God's salvation gives you Christ, and Christ in glory.
And now this interesting chronicle of facts closes. The apostle's work was not over. For two years he dwelt in his own hired house a prisoner, but at liberty to preach and to teach all who came; and from the epistles we learn that the Lord used him much (Phil. 1:12,1312But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; 13So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; (Philippians 1:12‑13), Col. 4:22). From Rome the most of his epistles were written-Eph. 3:11For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, (Ephesians 3:1), Philippians, Col. 4:1818The salutation by the hand of me Paul. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you. Amen. <<Written from Rome to Colossians by Tychicus and Onesimus.>> (Colossians 4:18), Philemon, Heb. 13:2323Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty; with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you. (Hebrews 13:23)-and from them though we cannot gather much, yet we learn this of his subsequent history-that at his first examination he, like his Master, was forsaken of all, but the Lord only-and that, in the consciousness of having fought a good fight, and kept the faith, he was ready to be offered, being well aware that his departure drew nigh; but the crown of righteousness was ready for him, and he should have his desire to depart and be with Christ, even though he trod the very pathway that his Master had trodden before him (Phil. 3:1010That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; (Philippians 3:10), 2 Tim. 4:6-9, 16-186For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 8Henceforth 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. 9Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me: (2 Timothy 4:6‑9)
16At 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. 17Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. 18And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (2 Timothy 4:16‑18)
). Truly he could say, "To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." How good of the Lord to leave us such a record of His workings through His servants! May He bless these meditations to you! Amen.