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which the historian of the Acts tells us no more than that "Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concerned the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him." (Acts xxviii. 30, 31.) The Epistles written in the course of these two years are those to the Ephesians, the Philippians, the Colossians, and to Philemon.
The Epistle to the Ephesians was written while Paul was a prisoner (iii. 1), an ambassador in bonds (vi. 20), and sent by the hand of Tychicus (vi. 21).
The Epistle to the Philippians was written from Rome (iv. 22). St. Paul had sent Epaphroditus to Philippi (ii. 25), who had returned, bringing back a most satisfactory account of the Philippian church (iv. 18). St. Paul was himself hoping to send Timothy to them (ii. 19), and ere long to visit them himself (ii. 24); there were at this time believers in the household of the emperor (iv. 22).
The Epistle to the Colossians.In this Epistle we have mention of the churches of Colosse, Laodicea, and Hierapolis, none of which are spoken of in the Acts, and which Paul had never visited (ii. 1). They seem to have been founded by the labours of Epaphras (i. 7, and iv. 13), himself a Colossian, who was with the apostle when he wrote this letter (iv. 12). There were also at this time sharing the bonds of the apostle Aristarchus (iv. 10) the Macedonian, who had joined him in his voyage to Rome (Acts xxvii. 2), Marcus (iv. 10), the John Mark, who had been the occasion of his separation from Barnabas (Acts xv. 37), Luke,
Demas (iv. 14), Jesus, called Justus* (iv. 11), and Timothy (i. 1). We hear of Archippus, a minister of the Gospel at Colosse (iv. 17), and are informed that the letter was sent by the hands of Tychicus (iv. 7) and Onesimus (iv. 9).
The Epistle to Philemon is a letter of a private nature addressed to Philemon, a wealthy Christian at Colosse (v. 1), whose slave Onesimus had been, having run away from his master, while yet a heathen. Onesimus having been converted by Paul (v. 10), was sent back by him to Philemon, whom the apostle begs to treat Onesimus kindly for his sake. The letter is addressed to Archippus (v. 2), as well as to Philemon. Epaphras (v. 23), Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas (Luke), (v. 24), and Timothy (v. 1), are all with the apostle.
It appears then from these four Epistles that the apostle resided at Rome in the company of some of his most intimate friends and fellow-labourers, that in the course of his residence he received communications not only from churches founded by himself, but from others which owed their origin to the labours of some among his disciples. In particular the important churches of Colosse, Laodicea, and Hierapolis, having been established by Epaphras, looked to St. Paul as their chief adviser, and longed for his presence to confirm and settle them. The work of the Gospel went
on too at Rome.
Some among the emperor's
*Justus.-This man is not to be confounded with Justus of Corinth (Acts xviii. 7). That Justus was a Gentile proselyte ("one that worshipped God" means this): this Jesus, surnamed Justus, was "of the circumcision."
attendants embraced the faith, and through their influence he was in expectation of his liberation. Nor was the labour of the apostle confined to the great. A fugitive slave, like Onesimus, shared his attention and love, and was sent back to his master, not now a servant, but as a beloved brother. So that St. Paul's imprisonment was in every way advantageous to the progress of the gospel. The Christian church at Rome was formed and settled under his own eye; and his position was such that he could receive messages from and communicate freely with the various Gentile churches in Asia, in Macedonia, and in Greece.
The two Epistles to Timothy and that to Titus belong to a period not included in the Acts. The Acts mentions that St. Paul was at Rome "in his own hired house two whole years." As we know Luke was there with him, it seems probable that the history of the Acts closes with the release of Paul, which there is every reason to believe took place at that time, though it is not mentioned by the sacred historian.
In the Epistle to Titus the apostle speaks of intending to winter at Nicopolis (iii. 12.); and the subject of it being directions to Titus as to the fulfilment of the duties of an overseer of the church of Crete, where the apostle had left him (i. 5), there can be little doubt that St. Paul's visit to Crete was after his release from Rome, and that upon leaving that island he appointed Titus its bishop.
The First Epistle to Timothy states that Timothy had been left at Ephesus with the same office as that of Titus at Crete (i. 3), and the directions contained in the two epistles are very similar. St. Paul says that he
left Timothy at Ephesus on his way to Macedonia, and he certainly had not done so in any of these visits to Ephesus which are recorded in the Acts. Timothy also accompanied him, as we have seen, to Rome, and there can be little doubt that this appointment of Timothy at Ephesus took place after St. Paul's release.
Hence we learn that St. Paul, having been liberated from his bondage, travelled to Crete, Asia, and Macedonia, and appointed Titus as the first bishop of Crete, and Timothy first bishop of Ephesus.
It is generally related by ancient writers that St. Paul was again imprisoned at Rome, and there suffered martyrdom. We have no express Scriptural authority, but
The Second Epistle to Timothy was evidently written at time when the apostle knew that he was shortly about to be put to death (iv. 6). We find by it that St. Paul had now dismissed most of his old friends to various places (iv.10). Demas had forsaken him; his constant companion Luke alone remained to comfort and support him (iv. 11). The Epistle closes with an entreaty to Timothy to hasten unto him to take a last farewell; and it is a beautiful close to a life spent in zealous labours for the benefit of mankind, that he desires Timothy to bring Mark, the person whom, in earlier days, he had refused to take with him. "Take Mark and bring him with thee, for he is profitable to me for the ministry." (iv. 11).
Thus did St. Paul finish his course in joy, peace, and love. "I have fought a good fight," are his own touching words; "I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous
Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing."
There is nothing in the Epistle to the Hebrews to mark with certainty either the time or place at which it was written.
It is to be observed that the subscriptions to the several Epistles stating when they were written have not any real authority, and are not to be considered as part of the inspired volume.