Paul: Radical on Trial

It’s funny how some things never change. The spokesman of a radical cause gets arrested and while many are glad to have him off the streets, his arrest makes his cause more popular and many others rally to his side. Even his critics, just by criticizing his cause “raise awareness” of it and that wins more people to it, though not intentionally.

That’s exactly what happened to Paul when he was arrested for preaching the gospel in Jerusalem. Rather than feel sorry for himself in his current circumstance, he rejoiced in what it was accomplishing.

But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel. (Philippians 1:12)

Bad publicity is still publicity. Paul understood this and even though his circumstances were not ideal, he rejoiced because the message of the gospel was not just getting out but being magnified. In a sense, Paul was a radical. He would never say that of himself or view himself that way but given his message and the resistance it generated from both the Jews and the Roman government it is clear they saw him that way.

What were the results of his arrest?

His bonds gave Paul unprecedented access to the highest levels of government. In Acts 24-25 Paul ‘s message had incited a riot that led to his arrest. His arrest, however, allowed him an audience before several key officials where he was repeatedly allowed to enter the message of the gospel into evidence. This never would have happened had he not been incarcerated. Standing on trial for his alleged crimes in Jerusalem then gave him the opportunity to appeal his case to Caesar, where again he got to enter the gospel into evidence as his defense. So, now his “bonds in Christ [were] manifest in all the palace,” meaning Caesar’s court. His cause was not being silenced; it was gaining ground!

Others, for various reasons, were being emboldened by Paul’s arrest to preach the gospel. It’s a strange phenomenon, but we see it even today. When a radical is arrested, others are emboldened to preach his message. This is not to equate Paul with radicals. He never promoted violence and he never sought to topple governments. He also was not belligerent or unreasonable in the presentation of his message but his message was perceived by those in power as being radical and so he was treated as one.

Not everyone who spread Paul’s gospel message did it for the right reasons. Some preached “Christ even of envy and strife; and some of good will” (Philippians 1:15). In either case, the message of Christ was still getting out. So, Paul’s goal was being met even though, ultimately his efforts would lead to his execution. Paul may not have been a radical in the full sense of the word but sacrificing himself for his cause is as radical as it gets. The question is: How radical for Christ am I willing to be?

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