Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, but especially those who are of Caesar’s household. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. (Philippians 4:21-23)
The Roman Empire was an iron giant that ruled the world for nearly 1500 years. It was ruled by harsh despots who imposed Roman law with the cruel hand of military might. Chosen as the fullness of time for the coming of God’s Son, it became the seed bed of the spread of Christianity to the world lasting for more than two thousand years. History is filled with the horrific deeds of the men who imposed imperial force on its citizens subjecting them to live in fear of death. None were as grand a master at the manipulation of power than Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus; better known as Nero. He murdered his mother along with thousands of citizens during his reign. The Great fire of Rome lasted six days and seven nights where it is said he sang as 10 of 14 districts of the city were destroyed. Assassination plots were met with wholesale slaughter of the innocents including Seneca, his close adviser. Nero found his place in history as the author tyranny and extravagance. And yet – found in his household were saints of God.
It is difficult to know the depth of influence the gospel had in the house of Caesar. Paul’s closing remarks in his letter to Philippi hint of those who were part of the palace where Nero lived either as family members of the Caesar or slaves and freemen. In either case, the realization that Paul would publicly announce the existence of children of God living in the household of a morally bankrupt man like Nero exalts the power of the gospel to be in the most unlikely place. That would seem to be the last place in the world that Christians would be found yet the gospel had the power to bloom in the harshest of environments. Against impossible odds the news of Christ drifted through the halls of Nero’s palace. Lives were changed to believe that Jesus was the Son of God and live with the hope of eternal life – in the household of Caesar. W. M. Taylor writes, “Christianity is not a thing of locality but of character. There are plants which will bloom in some latitudes and die in others, but Christianity can live where man can live, because it consists in the loyalty of the heart and life to Christ. Obadiah kept his conscience in the house of Ahab, Daniel his in the court of Babylon, Nehemiah his in the Persian palace. As Jonathan Edwards says, ‘The grace of God can live where neither you nor I can.’ In the abodes of poverty humble Christians are living as near to God as Enoch. Even yet, if we care to look for it, we may find the lily among thorns.”
Earlier in his letter to the Philippian church, Paul spoke of the impact of the gospel becoming evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest as he sat in a Roman prison. The gospel is the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes and that message can find its way into the most unlikely places. When men limit the power of the gospel to only those deemed worthy of its redemption the story of salvation is hindered. The household of Caesar had Christian’s living in its midst. These saints of God were subjected to the world of political intrigue, immorality, decadence and perversion but they kept their faith in God. What seems impossible for man is possible with God. His word can penetrate the darkest corners of Satan’s world and change hearts. Man is the one who limits the power of Christ. Paul affirms in his brief closing remark there is nowhere the message of Christ cannot change lives – even in the household of Nero.