Paul wrote from prison:
“The things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ.”
- Philippians 1:12-13
How could Paul's imprisonment turn out to the furtherance of the Glad Tidings? That very imprisonment meant that for 24 hours a day the apostle was bound with a chain to a Roman soldier, who could not leave him even if he wished to. The apostle's right arm was chained to the soldier's left with a "coupling-chain" or handcuff, and as the guards were changed, day by day, many a solder would hear the gospel from Paul's lips, "so that my bonds have become manifest in Christ in the whole of the Praetorium."
It is not quite certain what is meant by the "Praetorium." Probably it was not the imperial palace, as our English version would suggest, but rather it almost surely means the great "Imperial Guard," who were quartered in a fortified camp on the east side of Rome. It is said to have consisted of 10,000 picked men, all of Italian birth. As each guard returned to the barracks after his spell of duty, he would tell his comrades of the strange prisoner he had been watching that day: not a criminal, not a political prisoner, but a prisoner solely for Christ's sake. So, his bonds became manifest to all, to the whole camp, as "in Christ."
Through the mercy of God, you and I are not bound to anyone with a coupling-chain, but we are daily brought into contact with many. We go to school, or to the shop or office; we do our shopping; the baker calls, or the postman. I wonder, is it manifest to each that we belong to Christ? Are these daily contacts for the furtherance of the Glad Tidings? Were Paul in our place, they surely would be.
God may use even a child for this work. I recall a boy of 12 or 14 who was used to lead a man to Christ by giving him a tract each time he left his film to be developed. At first the man laughed at him, but he told me himself that the child was really the means of winning him to Christ. And after he was won, he used to open his shop in the evenings for gospel meetings, and who knows how many others were won?
G. Christopher Willis