posted on Aug, 1 2014 @ 05:04 PM
At the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Romans, he tells them how much he wants to visit them, and how much this desire is constantly in his
“… asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you”- Romans ch1 vv9-10
On the same page, in many Bibles, we can read at the end of Acts how Paul did indeed arrive at Rome.
So it seems, on the face of it, that Paul’s repeated prayers had been answered.
Yet it’s also possible to see Paul’s arrival in Rome as the result of a sequence of events which can be traced back through Acts and in the other
One way to reconcile the two viewpoints would be to understand the train of events as the means by which God answered Paul’s prayer.
In which case, tracing the sequence would give us an insight into the way God works.
We can think of a few sequences which are really part of the background of the prayer.
They include the train of events which brought about Paul’s conversion to Christianity.
They include the train of events which got him selected in Antioch for the task of teaching the gospel elsewhere.
They include the train of events which established a community of Christians in Rome.
All these are part of the reason why Paul’s prayer to be able to visit Rome was formulated in the first place.
We don’t know what had been “preventing” him (v13). The expense or danger of the journey? A sense of commitment to his churches in Greece and
We can only know some of the events which got the prayer answered, but the chain includes;
1) Paul was born with the status of “Roman citizen”.
We know about this from his conversation with the centurion (Acts ch22 v28).
This brings out a very important point, that the train of events which got Paul’s prayer answered had already begun, long before Paul himself could
have known that he was going to make that prayer.
The events which gave him that status must have taken place before he was born.
2) Paul was more successful, in mission, with the Gentiles than he was with the Jews.
This can be illustrated by what happened in Antioch of Pisidia;
“Since you thrust it from you…behold we turn to the Gentiles”- Acts ch13 v46
3) Paul allowed his Gentile converts, and even encouraged them, not to adopt the customary rituals of the Jews.
This can be seen from Galatians ch3
4) The Jewish Christians, especially those of Palestine, disliked the fact that he allowed such licence.
Hence the controversy in Galatians ch2.
5) The church in Jerusalem was poor.
Some scholars like to trace this back to the episode in Acts ch4, when the wealthier members sold their property for the common benefit.
Apart from that, the first evidence comes from the time of the Agabus prophecy about “a great famine all over the world”.
The response of the church in Antioch was to send relief to the brethren in Judea, as though they would need it more.- Acts ch12 vv27-30
6) The leaders in Jerusalem made a bargain with Paul.
“They gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship…only they would have us remember the poor”- Galatians ch2 vv9-10
We gather from the other letters that “remembering the poor” is a euphemism for “raising money to help the church in Jerusalem”.
This almost looks like a condition imposed in return for their acceptance of his approach to the Gentile mission.
7) Paul kept his side of the bargain.
As we learn from his letters, he spent much energy trying to ensure that a healthy fund would be raised from his churches. 2 Corinthians chs. 8&9
8) Paul accompanied the fund to Jerusalem.
This was only basic prudence. He could hardly leave it in the custody of anyone else.
Luke does not tell us about this motive for the final journey to Jerusalem, but Paul does in Romans;
“At present I am going to Jerusalem with aid for the saints”- Romans ch15 v25
9) Paul was not put off by the prophecy of Agabus.
The warning was given that the Jews would bind Paul and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.- Acts ch21 v11
This is an interesting insight into the way that prophecy might work, because the Jews did, in effect, make Paul a prisoner of the Romans, but not
quite in the way described.
It implies that the prophecy came to Agabus in the form of a faint understanding of the future, which he was then left to express it in his own
10) Once in Jerusalem, Paul was asked to make visits to the Temple
This was another consequence of Jewish suspicion about Paul’s Gentile policy.
Now that he had delivered the collection to the leaders of the Jerusalem church, they thought of a way to improve the opportunity.
They had four men who had taken vows and were about to fulfil them.
If Paul were to sponsor them, which would include paying their expenses in the Temple, that would be a public demonstration to the Jews and the Jewish
Christians that he was not abandoning the Law in his own person. Acts ch21 vv23-24.
11) The Jews reacted against Paul’s presence in the Temple.
The above suggestion sounded like a good idea, but it went badly wrong.
The Jews of Jerusalem must have been somewhat paranoid about the person of Paul, and they were more than ready to add two and two to make five.
They had already seen Paul in the streets with non-Jews.
When they saw him in the Temple, they jumped to the conclusion that he had brought the non-Jews in with him, and violence followed- vv27-30.
12) The Roman garrison saved Paul from immediate death.
Their primary concern was the maintenance of order.
First priority, to end a state of lawless riot by removing the cause.
Second priority, to protect a possible victim of lawless riot.
Paul might or might not be a criminal of some kind, but he would have to be dealt with in due form- vv31-35.
13) The Romans would not release Paul to liberty.
The Jewish authorities were claiming jurisdiction, and it might be thought appropriate to release him for trial in Jerusalem.
So the Roman authorities under Felix would hold Paul for as long as it took for them to make up their minds.
14) The new governor Festus wanted to resolve the dispute by conceding most of the Jewish demand.
“Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem and there be tried on these charges before me?”- Acts ch25 v9
15) Paul appealed to Caesar against this method of resolution.
Presumably this privilege was available to him because of his status as a Roman citizen- vv10-12.
Of course this appeal made it necessary for him to be transferred to Rome.
16) The voyage to Rome was completed safely.
A number of subsidiary factors were involved in this last link in the chain, including;
a) When the ship was driven by the storm, it was not wrecked until land was close at hand.
b) When the soldiers were intending to kill the prisoners, the centurion would not allow them, because Paul had already done so much to encourage the
people on board.
c) When Paul was attacked by a dangerous snake, it was not allowed to kill him.
Whatever obstacles had been standing in his way, when he first made this prayer, these had now been overcome.
God had answered his prayers, and had, in a very roundabout way, brought him to Rome.
It’s worth noting, once again, that this prayer was fulfilled by the outcome of a very complex network of apparently secondary causes, which had
already begun operating long before the prayer itself could have been consciously formulated.
Perhaps this offers an insight into God’s management of the universe in response to prayer.