Paul argues in Philippians 1:12 that his imprisonment and persecution has worked out for good. He doesn’t focus on the suffering or the inconvenience but is looking for unexpected results. We know that Paul had a 12 good thingsdream of going to Rome to share Christ with the people there, but could never quite work out the details to make the voyage. It wasn’t until he was arrested and imprisoned in Caesarea that he appealed to Caesar and Herod agreed to send him to Rome to stand trial before Caesar. All these trials worked together to bring about the reality of Paul’s prayer. Most people know that Paul had three missionary journeys. I like to refer to his trip from Caesarea to the prison in Rome as his fourth missionary journey. It was an all-expense paid trip to the world capital where he would now have the privilege of sharing the gospel with some of the most influential citizens in the city; the Praetorian Guard.

I know many people who prefer the King James translation of the Bible. It’s certainly a beautiful rendition of God’s Word and much of my memory work is still in that translation. But there are some unfortunate passages in that version. Philippians 1:13 is one of those. It renders the verse as, “So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places.” I’ll let J. M. Boice explain. He says, “Unfortunately, the King James translators did not possess all of the information we have today, and as a result the translation they made is in error. The word translated “palace” is the word praetorium, which the ancient translators thought referred to a building. Since the seventeenth century, however, many ancient manuscripts have been uncovered that mention the Roman Praetorium, and in none of these manuscripts does the word ever refer to a palace or to a building of any kind. In all of them it refers to people, to the praetorian guard. This guard was the official bodyguard of the emperor, which took charge of all imperial prisoners. Knowing this, it is now necessary to translate the verse: “So that my bonds in Christ are manifest to the whole praetorian guard and to all others.” The New King James corrected the problem and translates it as, “palace guard.”

According to Kent Hughes, “The imperial guard, the praetorium, consisted of 9,000 handpicked soldiers who were honored with double pay, good pensions, and special duties.” Hughes as well as other sources say that part of their duties was to guard imperial prisoners. So Paul’s imprisonment brought the Gospel to the very heart of secular authority and power in Rome. That’s what Paul had prayed for! We may not know how many believed but we know there were a significant number. These guards were often referred to as a “oikonomia” or a household. They were the household of Caesar. By the time Paul writes his letter to the Philippians from this jail in Rome there were many. He closes his letter in Philippians chapter 4 by sending greetings to the Philippian saints from all those in Caesar’s household. Obviously, he is referring to those converted during his imprisonment. Paul’s prayer of having fruit in Rome came true. It might not be what Paul had originally envisioned, but isn’t that the way God works in our lives too?