Study Starter: Caesar’s Household
By: Christopher Wiles
I marvel at the spread of the gospel of Christ. The speed at which it travelled, the depth at which it spread in all cultures, the variety of the class systems who grasped it’s grace amazes me. So I wonder in awe at a seemingly small and insignificant verse found in the tail end of Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
“All God’s people here send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.” – Philippians 4:22
Paul likely resides within the prisons of Rome as he writes his letter of joy to his family in Christ near 600 miles away (as the crow flies). Ending his letters with salutations is not abnormal, yet Paul draws a purposeful distinction by throwing in the Greek word “malista” here. This word often translated “chiefly” “especially” or “greatly” gives us an idea that the deep healing faith in Christ seeping into Caesar’s house would encourage Christians. Here’s why it would encourage them and should encourage us today.
The “Caesar” at the time of Paul’s writing was Emperor Nero who was one bad man. Adam Clarke’s commentary writes of Nero thus, “a more worthless, cruel, and diabolic wretch never disgraced the name or form of man.” Nero was infamous for his treatment of his enemies and of Christians. One particular story of drowning his stepson on a fishing trip to remove a potential rival sticks out in my mind as a particularly diabolical act.
The fact that faith could infiltrate into the abode of the greatest Christian persecutor of the times would indeed bring joy and hope to our brothers and sisters in Christ abroad in the Roman empire. Who were the converts? How deep did the faith travel in Nero’s house? These are questions we don’t have many answers to, although Josephus the Historian does mention that Nero’s second wife, Empress Poppea, was a “deeply religious woman”. Could faith in the God above reached all the way up to Nero’s wife? We likely won’t know till we see the saints on the other side of life.
Yet we can be filled with joy and hope at the thought of Christ’s gospel reaching the presence of even the most resistant of places. Have you given up hope on someone because of their desire to oppose the will of God in their life? Take courage, if grace can reach deep into Caesar’s house, it can reach anywhere.
“Jesus told him, ‘Don’t be afraid. Just believe.’” – Mark 5:36b