A captive audience

by Stan Mitchell

“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ”(Philippians 1:12,13, ESV).

I remember a man who smuggled Bibles into the Soviet Union describing what happened when the authorities questioned him. He would be in one of those rooms with a glass window, rather like the police interrogation room depicted on police shows on television.

Realizing that there were probably several of the interrogator’s superiors on the other side of the glass window, he decided to preach the Gospel. Thus he neatly turned the tables, changing them from captors to captive audience.

I can just picture Paul, chained to a grim Roman soldier. He would have been a member of the Praetorian Guard, a sort of Green Beret division of the Roman army. Every day, while Paul consulted with Christian brethren who visited, he was forced to listen.

When Paul offered Biblical solutions to church problems, he overheard. He couldn’t help it! When one of Paul’s antagonists entered, he would observe Paul use scripture and Christ-like love to win him over.

So what could Roman authorities do? Replace an increasingly sympathetic soldier with another? Sure! And Paul would influence him, too! And the next, and the next, until the whole “palace guard” had heard the Gospel!

I can almost detect the twinkle in Paul’s eye when a new guard – the evening shift – would come in and growl: “Give me your arm, preacher man. I’m chaining you up.”

Soldiers changed from physical to spiritual warfare. Captors became captive to Christ. Iron chains became bonds of God’s love. What hordes of Barbarians had failed to do in a frontal attack on the Imperial Palace … the prisoner-preacher had done with his message.

Do you have an audience? They will hear only if you speak!

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