Paul's Imprisonment

Paul’s Imprisonment

Text: Philippians 2:17-30


I.         We all have a tendency to make assumptions about what does not appear

            A.        Those assumptions help us to organize what we do know

            B.        We do this whether we are trying to determine why someone walked by without saying “Hi!” or when we read the Bible.

            C.        Yet, at times those assumptions lead us to make incorrect conclusions

                        1.         The appropriate response would be to discard the assumptions and start over

                        2.         Some find this difficult. They’ve held the assumptions so long that they forget that they were based on an absence of evidence

            D.        I was asked how Paul could have left Titus in Crete - Titus 1:5

                        1.         In order to answer that question, we need to establish what we do know

                        2.         We will note possibilities, but avoid making assumptions

II.        The book of Acts ends before Paul’s life ended

            A.        Like most of the apostles, we are not told how or when Paul died.

            B.        Near the end of Acts, Paul has been arrested and held several years in Caesarea while Felix waited for a bribe that never came - Acts 24:26-27

            C.        When threatened with being taken to Jerusalem, where he would likely be assassinated, Paul finally used his right as a Roman citizen to appeal his case to Caesar - Acts 25:10-11

            D.        Even though Paul was sent as a prisoner to Rome, he did not travel alone

                        1.         Notice the use of “we,” indicating that Luke traveled with Paul - Acts 27:1

                        2.         Be aware that we are not told how many traveled with Paul and Luke

                        3.         We know that Titus had traveled with Paul in the past - Galatians 2:1-3

                        4.         That Titus could have been among Paul’s traveling companions cannot be ruled out.

            E.        They land in Crete - Acts 27:8

                        1.         Notice that the stay is not a short one - Acts 27:9

                        2.         We don’t know how long they stayed, just that considerable time passed

            F.        Paul had written the Roman brethren that he would like to go to Spain after seeing them - Romans 15:23-25, 28

                        1.         Things didn’t go quite as Paul planned.

                        2.         After going to Jerusalem, he was arrested, but he did go to Rome – as a prisoner instead of a free man

III.       The prison letters

            A.        The letters Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon were written while a prisoner in Rome

                        1.         Ephesians 3:1; 6:20

                        2.         Philippians 1:7

                        3.         Philemon 1:1, 10

            B.        II Timothy also mentions Paul being in prison, but details are different from the other letters, as we will examine shortly - II Timothy 1:8

            C.        The writer of Hebrews also mentions the author being in prison - Hebrews 10:34

                        1.         And that the author was in Italy at the time - Hebrews 13:24

                        2.         He also mentions that Timothy was recently set free - Hebrews 13:23

                                    a.         While the word can mean released from prison, it can also mean sent away as in being released from an obligation

                                    b.         We know that Timothy spend time with Paul while he was in prison in Rome - Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; Philemon 1

                                    c.         We also know that Paul planned to send Timothy to Philippi - Philippians 2:19

                        3.         Because of the similar circumstance and the fact that many Greek manuscripts, though not all have Paul’s name attached, it is assumed that Paul wrote Hebrews.

                        4.         One additional point is that Paul states that he signs all his letters in a similar fashion - II Thessalonians 3:17-18. Compare this to Hebrews 13:25

IV.      Differences

            A.        Differences in future plans

                        1.         There is a distinct in Paul’s view of the future between his other letters and II Timothy

                        2.         Prison letters

                                    a.         Paul was wondering if it was time for his departure, but much has been accomplished - Philippians 1:7, 12-14, 21-26

                                                (1)       Note especially Paul’s confidence in verse 25.

                                                (2)       He planned to come to Philippi again in verse 26,

                                    b.         Paul planned to send Timothy to Philippi and to follow shortly himself - Philippians 2:19, 23-24

                                    c.         To Philemon Paul tells him to have a room ready - Philemon 22

                                    d.         If Hebrews is included, we have a hope to be restored shortly - Hebrews 13:19, 23

                        3.         I Timothy and Titus

                                    a.         Plans to winter in Nicopolis (western edge of Greece) - Titus 3:12

                                    b.         Wording is such that Paul is likely already in Nicopolis and is writing Titus from there.

                                    c.         I Timothy 1:3 - Paul left Timothy in Ephesus while journeying to Macedonia

                                    d.         I Timothy 4:13 - Paul plans to join Timothy

                        4.         II Timothy

                                    a.         Paul is looking at the end of his life - II Timothy 4:6-8

                                    b.         Instead of planning on sending Timothy, Paul wants Timothy to come - II Timothy 4:9

                                    c.         Urges Timothy to reach him before winter - II Timothy 4:21

            B.        Differences in where people are

                        1.         While the mention of people in Paul’s letters are sometimes overlooked, they provide hints as to the time frame the letters were written

                        2.         Titus

                                    a.         Titus 1:4-5 - Titus has been left in Crete

                                    b.         II Timothy 4:10 - Titus left Rome for Dalmatia (Northwest of Greece, where modern-day Montenegro is at).

                        3.         Demas

                                    a.         Colossians 4:14 - With Paul in Rome

                                    b.         Philemon 24 - With Paul in Rome

                                    c.         II Timothy 4:10 - Deserted Paul and is in Thessalonica

                        4.         Mark

                                    a.         Philemon 24 - With Paul in Rome

                                    b.         Colossians 4:10 - With Paul and might come with the letters to Colosse

                                    c.         II Timothy 4:11 - Not with Paul, but Timothy is to find him and bring him along.

                        5.         Epaphrus

                                    a.         Philemon 23 - With Paul in Rome

                                    b.         Colossians 4:12 - Sends his greetings to Colosse

                                    c.         II Timothy 4:11 - Only Luke is with Paul

                        6.         Tychicus

                                    a.         Delivering the letters Paul wrote - Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7

                                    b.         Might be sent to Titus in Crete - Titus 3:12

                                    c.         Was sent to Ephesus - II Timothy 4:12

            C.        Differences in who is with Paul

                        1.         Philippians 4:22 - Sends greetings from those in Rome, including Caesar’s household

                        2.         Titus 3:15 - Mentions companions sending greetings

                        3.         II Timothy 4:11 - Paul only a has Luke as a companion

                        4.         Though he sends greetings from brethren in the area- II Timothy 4:21

            D.        Similarities in warnings

                        1.         Both I Timothy and II Timothy contains warnings concerning Hymenaeus and Alexander - I Timothy 1:18-20; II Timothy 2:17; 4:14-15

                        2.         This makes it likely that the two books are not that far apart in the time they were written.

                        3.         Because Titus and I Timothy contains many similar themes, it is assumed they were written around the same time.

V.        Conclusion

            A.        A small overlooked fact is that Luke states how long Paul’s imprisonment was at the end of Acts - Acts 28:30

                        1.         It is possible that the imprisonment continued thereafter

                        2.         But the wording seems to indicate that two years was its total extent.

            B.        Even more important is that Paul talks in II Timothy about his first defense and his deliverance - II Timothy 4:16-17

            C.        Some early Christian writers, such as Clement of Rome, while not inspired, do mention that Paul was released by Caesar, traveled two years in Spain, and was eventually arrested again.

                        1.         By reason of jealousy and strife Paul by his example pointed out the prize of patient endurance. After that he had been seven times in bonds, had been driven into exile, had been stoned, had preached in the East and in the West, he won the noble renown which was the reward of his faith, having taught righteousness unto the whole world and having reached the farthest bounds of the West; and when he had borne his testimony before the rulers, so he departed from the world and went unto the holy place, having been found a notable pattern of patient endurance. [I Clement 5:5-6]

                        2.         Moreover, the acts of all the apostles were written in one book. For 'most excellent Theophilus' Luke compiled the individual events that took place in his presence — as he plainly shows by omitting the martyrdom of Peter as well as the departure of Paul from the city [of Rome] when he journeyed to Spain. As for the Epistles of Paul, they themselves make clear to those desiring to understand, which ones [they are], from what place, or for what reason they were sent. [Muratorian Canon, 34-40]

                        3.         Such claims are certainly compatible with what the Scriptures state.

            D.        My best conclusion is that

                        1.         Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon were written by Paul while in prison in Rome and sent to these churches in the hands of Tychicus.

                        2.         Philippians, and likely Hebrews, were written just before Paul’s release

                        3.         I Timothy and Titus were written between Paul’s two imprisonments.

                        4.         II Timothy was written at the end of Paul’s life during his second imprisonment.