The Lord stood with me - When all human help failed, God, in a more remarkable manner, interposed; and thus the excellency plainly appeared to be of God, and not of man.
That by me the preaching might be fully known - When called on to make his defense he took occasion to preach the Gospel, and to show that the great God of heaven and earth had designed to illuminate the Gentile world with the rays of his light and glory. This must have endeared him to some, while others might consider him an opposer of their gods, and be the more incensed against him.
I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion - I escaped the imminent danger at that time. Probably he was seized in a tumultuous manner, and expected to be torn to pieces. The words εκ στοματος or εκ βρυγμου λεοντος ῥυεσθαι, to be rescued from the mouth or jaws of the lion, are a proverbial form of speech for deliverance from the most imminent danger. Several writers think Nero to be intended by the lion, because of his rage and oppressive cruelty. But Helius Caesarinus was at this time prefect of the city; Nero being in Greece. He was a bloody tyrant, and Nero had given him the power of life and death in his absence. The apostle may mean him, if the words be not proverbial.
Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me - Though all “men” forsook me, yet “God” did not. This expresses a universal truth in regard to the faithfulness of God; see Psalm 27:10; compare Job 5:17-19; Isaiah 14:1-2.
That by me the preaching might be fully known - The word “preaching,” here probably means “the gospel as preached by him.” The word rendered “might be fully known” - πληροφορηθῃ plērophorē̄thē- means “might obtain full credence;” that is, might be fully confirmed, so that others might be assured of its truth. The apostle doubtless means that on his trial, though forsaken by all men, he was enabled to be so steadfast in his profession of the truth, and so calm in the prospect of death, that all who witnessed his trial saw that there was a reality in religion, and that the gospel was founded in truth. He had maintained as a preacher that the gospel was able to support the soul in trial, and he was now able to illustrate its power in his own case. He had proclaimed the gospel as the true system of religion, and he was now able to bear testimony to it with the prospect of approaching martyrdom.
The sentiment of this passage then is, that the truth of the gospel is made known, or that men may become fully assured of it, by the testimony which is borne to it by its friends in the near prospect of death. One of the most important means of establishing the truth of the gospel in the world has been the testimony borne to it by martyrs, and the spirit of unwavering confidence in God which they have evinced. And now, one of the most important methods of keeping up the knowledge of the value of religion in the world, and of convincing men of the truth of Christianity, is the spirit evinced by its friends when they are about to die. Men judge much, and justly, of the value of a system of religion by its power to comfort in the day of calamity, and to sustain the soul when about to enter on an untried state of being. That system is of little value to mankind which leaves us in the day of trial; that is of inestimable worth which will enable us to die with the firm hope of a brighter and better world. A Christian, having served his God faithfully in life, may, therefore, be eminently useful when he comes to die.
And that all the Gentiles might hear - Paul was at this time in Rome. His trial was before a pagan tribunal, and he was surrounded by Pagans. Rome, too, was then the center of the world, and at all times there was a great conflux of strangers there. His trial, therefore, gave him an opportunity of testifying to the truth of Christianity before Gentile rulers, and in such circumstances that the knowledge of his sufferings, and of the religion for which he suffered, might be conveyed by the strangers who witnessed it to the ends of the world. His main object in life was to make the gospel known to the Gentiles, and he had thus an opportunity of furthering that great cause, even on what he supposed might be the trial which would determine with him the question of life or death; compare the notes on Romans 1:10.
And I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion - This may either mean that he was delivered from Nero, compared with a lion, or literally that he was saved from being thrown to lions in the amphitheater, as was common in Rome; see the notes on 1 Corinthians 15:32.
It is not uncommon in the Scriptures to compare tyrants and persecutors with ravenous wild beasts; compare Psalm 22:13, Psalm 22:21; Jeremiah 2:30. Nero is called a “lion” by Seneca, and it was usual among pagan writers to apply the term in various senses to princes and warriors; see Grotius, in loc. The common interpretation here has been, that this refers to Nero, and there is no improbability in the interpretation. Still, it is quite as natural to suppose that the punishment which had been appointed for him, or to which he would have been subjected, was to be thrown to lions, and that in some way, now unknown to us, he had been delivered from it. Paul attributes his deliverance entirely to the Lord - but what instrumental agency there may have been, he does not specify. It seems probable that it was his own defense; that he was enabled to plead his own cause with so much ability that he found favor even with the Roman emperor, and was discharged. If it had been through the help of a friend at court, it is hardly to be supposed that he would not have mentioned the name of him to whom he owed his deliverance.
Since 1844 I have been engaged in public labor. I am always strengthened by the Lord. I realize that a power from above is imparted to me, giving me physical, mental, and spiritual efficiency. I have the full assurance that Christ gives me His sustaining grace and the evidence that He is the light of the world. I acknowledge His power. I desire to do all I possibly can for Him while I live. I want, in calm, perfect trust, to commit the keeping of my soul to God against that day. When my work here is ended, I shall rest. Sleeping in Jesus has no terror for me. In the morning of the resurrection I shall see Him as He is.... TDG 24.3Read in context »
The only reliable record of the occasion is given by Paul himself, in his second letter to Timothy. “At my first answer,” the apostle wrote, “no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.” 2 Timothy 4:16, 17. AA 493.1
Paul before Nero—how striking the contrast! The haughty monarch before whom the man of God was to answer for his faith, had reached the height of earthly power, authority, and wealth, as well as the lowest depths of crime and iniquity. In power and greatness he stood unrivaled. There were none to question his authority, none to resist his will. Kings laid their crowns at his feet. Powerful armies marched at his command, and the ensigns of his navies betokened victory. His statue was set up in the halls of justice, and the decrees of senators and the decisions of judges were but the echo of his will. Millions bowed in obedience to his mandates. The name of Nero made the world tremble. To incur his displeasure was to lose property, liberty, life; and his frown was more to be dreaded than a pestilence. AA 493.2
Without money, without friends, without counsel, the aged prisoner stood before Nero—the countenance of the emperor bearing the shameful record of the passions that raged within; the face of the accused telling of a heart at peace with God. Paul's experience had been one of poverty, self-denial, and suffering. Notwithstanding constant misrepresentation, reproach, and abuse, by which his enemies had endeavored to intimidate him, he had fearlessly held aloft the standard of the cross. Like his Master, he had been a homeless wanderer, and like Him, he had lived to bless humanity. How could Nero, a capricious, passionate, licentious tyrant, understand or appreciate the character and motives of this son of God? AA 493.3Read in context »
Paul concluded his letter with personal messages to different ones and again repeated the urgent request that Timothy come to him soon, if possible before the winter. He spoke of his loneliness, caused by the desertion of some of his friends and the necessary absence of others; and lest Timothy should hesitate, fearing that the church at Ephesus might need his labors, Paul stated that he had already dispatched Tychicus to fill the vacancy. AA 508.1
After speaking of the scene of his trial before Nero, the desertion of his brethren, and the sustaining grace of a covenant-keeping God, Paul closed his letter by commending his beloved Timothy to the guardianship of the Chief Shepherd, who, though the undershepherds might be stricken down, would still care for His flock. AA 508.2Read in context »