Philippians 1:16 declares, “and most of the brothers in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” Paul’s boldness was contagious. These Christians were in Rome, the seat of power. They were directly under the shadow of Nero. Yet, stirred on by Paul’s example, they were bold in the preaching of the gospel.
What better symbol of Roman strength and power than the awe-inspiring Praetorian Guard. These were the Navy Seals of their day. These were the renowned Seal Team Six. So powerful were they that the Caesars feared a military coup by them at any time. Ironic, since the Praetorian Guard was established to serve as the personal protection team for the Caesars in the first place.
If you want a symbol of Roman power and strength look no further than the Praetorian or Imperial Guard. We could take this one step further. It was this world of Roman power into which Christ came, in which the Apostles ministered, in which the New Testament authors wrote, and in which Christianity came into being. And to all of those things, Rome stood opposed, violently opposed.
How delightfully ironic, in light of all of this, are the words of Paul in Philippians 1:12-13:
But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ.
We can take this one step further still. Paul himself is a delightful gospel irony. I suspect any early Christian would shudder at the mere mention of the name Saul. In fact, they precisely did. And yet the gospel penetrated Paul’s stone-cold heart. Paul’s rage-filled eyes were opened to the truth, beauty, and joy of the gospel.