After his third missionary journey, Paul traveled to Jerusalem, even though he knew it would get him in trouble.
Jews from Asia (Turkey) accused Paul of disrespect for the law and the temple. They falsely claimed that he had brought an uncircumcised friend into the temple. The Roman government arrested Paul to prevent a riot.
The case was a challenge for the Roman governor. On one hand, there was no valid accusation against Paul. On the other hand, releasing him to the Jews would result in violence. Paul was therefore kept in jail.
Paul’s journey to Rome
When the Roman governor intends to bring Paul back to Jerusalem, where the Jews are likely to assassinate them, he appeals to the emperor. Any Roman citizen had this right to appeal to the highest court in Rome.
Paul travels to Rome under military guard. On the way, the ship is shipwrecked in a terrible storm. The crew and prisoners survive miraculously.
Paul’s two years in Rome
We hear nothing about further accusations from the Jews; the legal case against Paul evaporates. Paul is kept under guard for two years, but is allowed quite a bit of freedom.
From his rented house in Rome, the apostle speaks with the Roman Jews and other visitors. The book of Acts ends by observing that the kingdom message continues to be preached.
We don’t know what happened after two years; was Paul condemned to death or released?
Philippians 1: Paul talks about his imprisonment
The epistle to the Philippians is one of the epistles Paul wrote from jail. (Probably from Rome, but it may have been an earlier imprisonment.)
Paul sees his imprisonment as an advantage: he can now preach Christ to the Roman military guard. He hears about other preachers, some of whom have impure motives; but Paul’s priority is that people hear about Christ.
About the upcoming trial, Paul is optimistic. “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21) If he is sentenced to death, he will go to Jesus Christ. If he is set free, he can continue working for the gospel.
Philippians 2: Being imitators
The Philippians viewed the Christian life as imitation: they wanted to imitate Paul, who in turn imitated Christ. Based on their experience with Hellenistic philosophy, they interpreted this imitation as a focus on enlightenment and self-realization. Paul tells them instead to work on unity, mutual care, humility.
Their role model should be Jesus Christ, who gave up his divine glory, humbled himself to the level of a servant and was willing to die. That is the true path to glory. Not pulling yourself up, but receiving glory from God as reward for obedience.