Not only did Paul know through the Scripture that God’s word could not be chained, he had also witnessed it in his life. In his travels throughout the Mediterranean world, he had seen the good news of Jesus transform the lives of countless people. In Ephesus, Athens, Corinth, Philippi, Rome, etc., he had seen people respond to “the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). They were cleansed “by the washing with water through the word” (Ephesians 5:26). Sin was renounced, Christ was enthroned, and the kingdom came more and more in the lives of disciples. He would tell the Corinthians:
Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 6:9-11).
Now as he sits in a Roman dungeon and writes of God’s word being unchained, you wonder if these memories were pouring through him. Whatever he might have been thinking of, we know this—even in his incarceration, Paul was in fact an unchained disciple. No shackles could take away the freedom and liberation he had through Jesus and His word.
This is a truth disciples desperately need to grasp. Our time is no different than any other in that there are some people choose to live in defiance and rebellion to God’s word. Ironically, but I suppose not surprisingly, they proclaim their brokenness and confusion as freedom and liberation and the rest of the world joins in the chorus. Even among those who claim to be followers of Christ, there are some who want to distort and compromise God’s word in an attempt to accommodate them. However, Christ made it clear that true disciples abide in His word, they know the truth—and the truth sets them free (John 8:31-32). Freedom is not something we give ourselves through following our baser desires; it is something Jesus does for us through His word.
When Paul bid a tearful goodbye to the Ephesian elders at Miletus (Acts 20), he warned them of the dangers that were ahead (v. 29-30). Then he said, “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (v. 32). The way to be on guard (v. 31) was to be in the unchained word.
It’s no different today.