“All the saints send you greetings, especially those from the household of Caesar.”
Paul, The Apostle of Grace
The name Caesar was the title given to the Roman Emperor who ruled the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire was the greatest power on earth and Caesar was the most powerful person on earth when Paul wrote his letter (AD 61) to the Philippian people while imprisoned in Rome. During Paul’s imprisonment, the Caesar was Nero.
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul says the saints from Caesar’s household sent their greetings to the Philippians. This means God’s grace had penetrated Caesar’s Palace!
How did the most powerful truth on earth penetrate the most powerful place on earth? Let’s take a look at the process that enabled the good news of grace to penetrate Caesar’s Palace.
Grace Penetrated Caesar’s Palace Through Disciples Preaching
After Jesus ascended into heaven, thousands of Jewish people from all over the world descended upon Jerusalem to celebrate the day of Pentecost, a Jewish festival (Leviticus 23:16). According to Luke, in the book of Acts, Jews from “every nation under heaven” were in Jerusalem for this celebration (Acts 2:5). One of these nations where people came from was Italy, specifically from the great city of Rome (Acts 2:11).
Before his ascension, Jesus instructed his disciples to go into every nation and take the good news of the Kingdom. This meant to tell people in every nation that Jesus was the Christ (Messiah) the prophets said would come, and that he lived, died, rose again, and would one day return to establish God’s kingdom on earth.
This was an impossible task for the disciples. How could they go into every nation? How could they speak the languages of the people of the nations? They could do neither. So God brought the nations to them and enabled them to speak the languages of the nations. Thus, in Acts 2:1-41, the people of the nations heard the good news about Jesus being the long awaited King who lived, died, rose from the dead, and who could save them so they could live in his kingdom when he returned to establish God’s kingdom on earth.
Some of those who heard the disciples speak that day and believed their message were those from Rome. It is highly likely they took the good news of Jesus being the Christ back to Rome. It is important to note, these believers only understood that Jesus was the Christ. The message of God’s grace was not known at this time because Jesus had not yet appeared to and given Paul the revelation of grace.
Grace Penetrated Caesar’s Palace Through Persecution
Thousands of Jewish people responded positively to the disciples message, concerning Jesus being the Christ. They fully expected Jesus to return quickly and establish God’s kingdom. So they stayed in Jerusalem awaiting his return. However, the majority of the Jewish people and leaders did not believe Jesus was the Christ. Because they feared that many others would believe Jesus was the Christ, which would gain momentum and result in a movement spreading the “false news that Jesus was the Christ” across the world, they began persecuting the believers in Jesus. Many were arrested. Some were killed. So they scattered, fleeing for their lives. Most surely, those who had come from Rome returned back to their home city, taking the good news about Jesus being the Christ with them and telling others in Rome about him.
Grace Penetrated Caesar’s Palace Through Paul
Paul, who ironically was one of those persecuting the believers in Jesus as the Christ, had an encounter with the ascended Jesus, where he, too, became a believer. Jesus gave Paul the revelation of grace, telling him he would carry the good news of God’ grace into the cities of the world (Acts 20:23-24). One of those cities was Rome. Jesus told Paul he must go to Rome to preach the good news of God's grace (Acts 23:11). Also, an angel appeared to Paul, telling him he would stand before Caesar (Acts 27:24).
Going to Rome to tell others about grace was a deep passion of Paul. (Acts 19:21; Romans 1:15). He mentioned in his letter to the Romans that he was eager to preach the gospel (grace) to them. This was because the Romans only knew about Jesus being the Christ, and about his death, burial, resurrection, and return to establish God’s kingdom. They had yet to be taught the fullness of the gospel of grace where they were no longer under law but under grace. Paul taught this to them when he wrote the book of Romans. Yet he still desired to visit them and personally teach them about grace. Eventually, he got this opportunity when he was arrested and sent to Rome to stand trial before Nero (Acts 21-28).
During his Roman imprisonment, Paul shared the good news of God's grace - all that God had fully, freely and forever done for us in Jesus. Those who listened to him heard him sharing that all would stand before God one day in judgment. Not only would God judge their deeds, but he would also judge the secrets of their hearts (Romans 2:16). He shared with them the law could not save them, but showed them they needed to be saved. Then Paul shared the good news that God loved people and was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their sins against them...that all their sins had been counted against Jesus in his death, and, through faith, could stand before God righteous. Furthermore, they heard Paul speak of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, the ascension of Jesus into heaven, and the return of Jesus to establish God’s kingdom on earth.
Those listening to Paul’s message of grace would have included the Praetorian Guards who were assigned to Paul. The Praetorian Guards were the elite Roman guards assigned to protect the Caesar. For two years, visitors were allowed to come to Paul’s residence, where he was under house arrest. Paul gladly welcomed all who came and joyfully told them about the kingdom of God and all that Jesus did for them so they could be a part of his kingdom. The guards would have heard Paul sharing all about Jesus with those who came to visit him (Acts 28:14-31). Thus, the visitors who came to learn from Paul, and some of the soldiers who heard him teaching, likely shared the good news about Jesus and the good news of grace with others in Rome.
As the good news about Jesus and his grace spread throughout Rome, it made its way into Caesar's household. Caesar’s household would have included those who held lowly positions, such as sweeping the floors of his palace, all the way to those who held high high-ranking positions, such as serving in his administration. Thus, the good news of God’s grace penetrated the palace of Caesar. The most powerful message on earth penetrated the most powerful place on earth. And in time, Paul would stand before Nero himself, the most powerful person on earth, who hated Christians, as Paul once did, who murdered Christians, as Paul once did, and tell him about his own encounter with Jesus...with grace. Paul would tell Nero about Jesus’ life, death, burial, resurrection, and return. He would tell him about the judgment to come. Then he would tell him about grace, that all of his sins were counted against Jesus, and that through faith he could be declared righteous by God, and one day live in God’s kingdom on earth.
God’s grace had penetrated Caesar’s Palace!
To read Brad's other teachings on Philippians, click below.