Summary: When we accept Jesus as Lord there is an excitement. We want to save the world. But over time the world beats so many of us into silence. This message is about how the Apostle Paul refused to let circumstances keep him from finishing his race.

The book of Philippians – The Back Story

Roman Prison: The Tullianum (Keep)

When we read scripture sometimes knowing the circumstances from which they were written can paint what we read in a totally different light. Paul’s letter to the Philippians is an excellent example of this.

It’s common knowledge that the Apostle Paul wrote the epistle of Philippians from a Roman prison. He was imprisoned twice. He wrote the books of Philippians, Colossians and Philemon during his first imprisonment. He wrote Ephesians and Second Timothy during his second. In Rome, the wealthy who were accused of a crime were kept under house arrest until their trial. Rarely were they sentenced to die because they had enough money to buy their freedom from a death sentence. However, for the poor, justice was usually swift and often times fatal. But for the most feared and hated, prison served as a holding place, usually until death. So everyone in a Roman prison was literally on death row.

The most famous Roman prison can still be visited today. It has been called by several names, one of which is the Tullianum. It’s commonly referred to as the Tullianum Keep. This is where the Apostle Paul was imprisoned -- twice. It is located outside the Forum Romanum buried at the foot of the Capitoline Hill. Ancus Marcius, the fourth king of Rome constructed this dark, damp and foreboding subterranean structure.

If you were to enter the prison today, you would follow a series of steps down from the Capitoline. On a sunny day, if you look ahead you will see the remains of the glistening white marble of the Forum. But when you take a left turn you will walk down another series of steps and find yourself at the entrance to the underground prison. It is a small room with a hole in the floor large enough for one body to enter at a time. This is the entrance to the dungeon which was added by Servius Tullius, the sixth king of Rome.

The dungeon itself is about 12 feet deep in the ground. At the time of Paul’s imprisonments, it was a disgusting place. It was vile. It was filthy. And the stench was toxic. It was into this room about six and half feet high, 30 feet long and 22 feet wide that prisoners, who were condemned to die, either by strangulation or starvation, were thrown. The Apostle Paul had the privilege of spending the last days of his life in this place.

What I’ve just describe is bad but it’s not the worst part. The Tullianum Keep was part of Rome’s sewage system. Paul was shacked to a column with his hands above his head in total darkness with human waste floating around his up stomach. Because Paul was a Roman citizen, he had the right to receive and answer mail. By law a guard had to unshackle him and briefly release him from the filth so he could answer his mail.

It was under these conditions that Paul received the courier from the church at Philippi. His response is the letter that we now have come to know as the epistle to the Philippians. We’re not going to read the entire letter but I encourage you do so. And when you do, read it from the perspective that the church leadership is wrestling with some difficult issues and is seeking Paul’s counsel and guidance for dealing with them.

Now I don’t know how often Paul received mail but imagine spending your days and nights – and not being able to tell the difference between them – waist deep in human excrement. It would not surprise me if some prisoners died from the stench alone.

We’re going to read some of Philippians this morning. And with this back story, I’m sure you are going to see this letter in a totally different light. I certainly did.

Philippians 1:1-6

(1) Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:

(2) Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

(3) I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,

So what does this tell you about what Paul was doing while in prison? He’s thinking about the church at Philippi.

(4) Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy,

(5) For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now;

Now listen to what he’s about to say while he’s in prison ladies and gentlemen.

(6) Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

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