Life Sketches – Though a Prisoner, Still Free

There are many people among the higher classes today to whom vice, presenting its glittering allurements, ends up holding them willing captives. However, the gospel has always achieved its greatest success among the humble class of men and women of this world who are willing to make a break from sin.

The apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians says, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.’ Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For the Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are” (1 Corinthians 1:18–28).

A good example of how this works is found in the experience of Paul when he was taken to Rome the second time. The first time he arrived in Rome with letters proclaiming his innocence from people like Festus and Felix and Lysias, and at his trial, he was acquitted and set free. But, when Paul was seized in the house of a disciple in Troas and arrested the second time, he was taken to Rome as a poor and friendless prisoner.

That time he would not be able to attract the attention of the wealthy nor the titled class of Roman citizens whose whole lives, physical, mental, and moral, were on a completely different plane than that of the apostle. To them, just as today among the higher classes, vice presented all its glittering allurements and held them willing captives. Within the city of Rome, there were a multitude of servants and slaves who were toil-worn, want-stricken victims of Roman oppression. There were poor slaves who were ignorant and degraded, but in spite of their condition, they were willing to listen to the words of Paul. They found in the faith of Christ a hope and a peace that sustained them and cheered them under the hardships of their lot in life.

So, the apostle’s work in Rome as a prisoner began with the humble and the lowly, the servants, the slaves with whom he came in contact and who visited him at his home. However, this invitation of salvation soon reached the very palace of the emperor.

Rome was at this time the metropolis of the world and the haughty Caesars were making laws for nearly every nation upon the earth. The king and the court were either completely ignorant of who Jesus of Nazareth was, or they regarded Him with hatred and derision. Yet, in less than two years during the time of Paul’s first imprisonment, the gospel found its way from the prisoner’s lowly home into the imperial halls.

Paul was in bonds as an evil doer. His enemies thought that his life work as an apostle was ended, that he could not go out and do public evangelism as he had done in Athens, Corinth, and Ephesus, and other cities in the Roman Empire. But, as Paul wrote to Timothy, “the word of God is not bound” (2 Timothy 2:9 KJV). And we find that Paul, in his chains in Rome, in a situation that seemed that it would be impossible for him to do anything for the cause of Christ, became one of the most effective evangelists that there has ever been in the history of the world.

In Philippians 4:22, Paul says, “All the saints greet you, but especially those who are of Caesar’s household.” Nero was the Roman Caesar at that time. History shows that in no other place existed an atmosphere that was more hostile to Christianity than the Roman court when it was administered by such a monster of wickedness as was Nero.

Nero seemed to have obliterated from his soul every trace of the divine and even the human, and totally bear the impress of that which was Satanic. His attendants and his courtiers in general were of the same character as himself – fierce, debased, and corrupt. To all appearance it would be impossible for Christianity to gain a foothold in such a wicked place. And yet, in this case, as in so many others, Paul’s assertion that he made to the Corinthians in his second letter to them was proved true.

He said, “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4). Trophies for the cross of Christ were won even in Nero’s household. From the vile attendants of an even more vile king were gained converts who became the sons of God.

These servants in Nero’s household were not Christians secretly. They were Christians openly and were not ashamed of their faith, even though they knew that at any time it could cost them their lives. These converts felt the warmest affection for those who were older in Christian faith and experience, and they were not afraid or ashamed to call them brethren sending special greetings to the other churches that had been raised by Paul.

Paul could no longer publicly proclaim the faith of Christ with winning power and with signs and miracles as he had done in previous years. Because he was under house arrest, he could only proclaim the truth to those who came in contact with him at his own house. He was apparently cut off from public labor, yet it was during that time when the greatest victory was won for the truth of the gospel in the headquarters of the Roman Empire.

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul writes, “I want you to know, brethren, that 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; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear” (Philippians 1:12–14).

It was not by his sermons that the apostle gained this great victory, but by his chains. It was by his bonds that the attention of the court of the Caesar had been attracted to Christianity. It was as a captive that he had captured rulers. It was with his chains that he had broken the bonds of so many souls who had been held in the slavery of sin.

The patience and meekness with which Paul submitted to a long and unjust imprisonment resulted in drawing the attention of the public and forced the conviction on many people that where there was such willingness to suffer, there must be an unwavering faith in the doctrines that were being presented.

Paul’s cheerfulness under affliction and imprisonment was completely unlike anything they’d ever seen from other prisoners. People were impressed that there must be a power abiding with this man that is higher than any human influence.

His courage and his faith were a continual sermon. And so it happened that when to all appearance he could do the least, when his power and usefulness seemed to be wholly cut off, it was then that he was gathering souls for Christ from fields from which he was apparently totally excluded.

We need to learn a lesson from his example. When a servant of God is withdrawn from active duty and his voice is no longer heard in encouragement, or reproof, or counsel, as human beings we are short sighted, thinking that his or her usefulness as a servant of God is at an end. However, that is not how God regards it. These mysterious providences that we see, over which we so often lament, are designed by God to do something that otherwise would never get done.

When a Christian manifests patience and cheerfulness under bereavement or suffering and when a Christian meets death with the peace and calmness of an unwavering faith in God, then it is that he or she may accomplish more to subdue the opposition of enemies than could ever be done by active missionary labor.

When through the malice of Satan and his agents God’s children are persecuted and their active labor is hindered, and they are cast into prison as was Paul, or they are dragged to the scaffold or the stake, it is then that the truth gains a greater triumph. Those who before doubted are now convinced of their sincerity, and when a Christian seals his faith with his blood, from the martyr’s ashes spring forth an abundant harvest for the garner of God. As Tertullian said 1800 years ago, “The blood of Christians is seed.”

So, if you are a Christian and find yourself in a situation where you can no longer actively labor for God and His truth, God has not laid you aside. He will use you effectively whether you are well or sick, whether you are in trouble or affliction, trial or persecution. Whatever your situation, if you are trusting in God, He will use you to win other people to the gospel.

When the grave receives a child of God, the Bible says, “He being dead still speaks” (Hebrews 11:4). Patience as well as courage has its victories. Converts may be made to Christianity by meekness as well as by boldness in enterprise. The Christians had been hoping that when Paul came to Rome, he would be able to hold evangelistic campaigns and win people to Christ and that from Rome, Christians would go out to the whole inhabited world to finish the gospel story. The whole world would then be told the story of the cross and the resurrection and hope of the Christian.

However, their hopes were crushed when the apostle arrived at Rome in chains as a prisoner. Yet, we find it was as a prisoner that he had the greatest success. As a prisoner he gained access to people in the court and in the household of Caesar, that he would never have been able to have access to in any other way. O, friend, we need to learn the lesson from the apostle Paul’s imprisonment, that whatever situation we may be in, if we are put in prison unjustly, if we are treated dishonestly, by the law, by the court, by the government, by whomever, as a Christian, we have a hope in Christ that should never be able to be daunted, whatever other men or groups of men do to us.

It is the witness we provide when we are being treated unjustly which proves that our religion is not just talk, but that it is real, and that the power of God is actually operating in our life. Paul wrote to the Philippians, “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” (Philippians 4:21, 22). Whatever difficult or unpromising situation you may find yourself in, you can still be a Christian.

Nero was of a most despicable character. During the first year of his reign he poisoned his own stepbrother who was actually the rightful heir to the throne. After this, he descended from one vice and crime to another even worse than the former, until eventually he murdered his own mother. He then murdered his wife. In fact, there was no atrocity which he was not willing to perpetrate, no vile act to which he would not stoop. Anybody who had a noble mind felt abhorrence and contempt for this person. The details of the iniquity that was practiced in his court are too degrading and horrible for description. His abandoned wickedness created disgust and loathing even among those who were forced to share his crimes.

Even those who were the closest to him were in constant fear as to what atrocities he would suggest next. In a place like that, how could anyone repent of their sins and choose to follow Christ? How could anybody render obedience? But the gospel was presented and there were souls in Caesar’s household who decided that they would obey and follow God at any cost. So, notwithstanding the obstacles and the dangers, they decided that they would walk in the light, trusting in God for an opportunity to let their light shine to others. Who could be placed in circumstances more unfavorable to a religious life or more dangerous for living a Christian life? Who could bring upon himself more fierce opposition than would those who chose to exchange heathenism for Christianity in the court of the Caesar?

The fact of the matter is, friend, that no human being is so situated that he cannot obey God. Today Christians have too little faith. They are willing to work for Christ and His cause only when they themselves see prospects for favorable results. But divine grace is able to aid the efforts of every believer, no matter what the circumstance is, because the Lord said to the apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you.” The Spirit of the Lord will exert its renewing and perfecting power upon every person who chooses to follow Christ and to be obedient and faithful to his divine Lord and Master.

God is the great I Am. He is the source of being, the center of authority and power. Whatever the condition or situation of His creatures, they can have no sufficient excuse for refusing to answer the claims of God. The Lord holds us responsible for the light shining upon our pathway. We may be surrounded by difficulties that appear formidable to us. Because the way they make a living involves disobeying the Lord, people say, “How will I make a living and obey the Lord?” People make all kinds of excuses, but Jesus said to the people that were listening to the Sermon on the Mount, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

Paul said, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

God is above all human authority and power. You may be surrounded by all kinds of difficulties, but the Lord is able to give you the grace, the power, the strength to obey Him, and to do His will in any situation. We don’t need to spend our time worrying about the future. All we need to do is remember the words of Jesus when He said, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matthew 6:34 KJV). Do not worry about what will happen next month, or ten months from now. Decide to follow the Lord today, and you will find day by day that you will receive all the grace you need to follow the Lord for that day. You do not need the grace of tomorrow today; all you need is grace to follow the Lord today and He is willing to give you all that you need if you are willing to follow and obey as were the servants in Nero’s household.

(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)

Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at:, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.

Prisoners Can be Redeemed – Bible Notes from Inside Prison Walls

Our situation, our race, or gender should have no bearing on our acceptance or our relationship with fellow believers. But our faith
and loyalty toward Jesus Christ should.


“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also [is] Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether [we be] Jews or Gentiles, whether [we be] bond or free . . . .” 1 Corinthians 12:12, 13.

To the Galatians, Paul wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28.

The thief on the cross is a primary example of how God uses each member of Christ to the advantage of glorifying His Son. The illustration also reveals that even a criminal can truly repent, defend the truth, and be accepted by Jesus: “And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, ‘Verily I say unto thee to day, shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:39–43.

The thief on the cross, in that day, believed and defended the truth. The Lord, through Paul and Silas, also drew the hearts of the prisoners, and a keeper of the prison sought salvation and was baptized. (See Acts 16:25–34.)

There were and will be individuals, convicted of wrongdoing, who follow the apostles’ ministry, who have and will continue to win souls in their situation. “Therefore judge nothing before the time.” 1 Corinthians 4:5.

Do We Remember Those in Bonds?

“Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; [and] them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.” Hebrews 13:3. Why? “The members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; . . . Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” 1 Corinthians 12:25–27.


Paul revealed in his letter to the Romans, “The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.” Romans 15:3. And the reverse is true; the same reproaches that fell on Jesus will also fall on us. “If they have persecuted me,” says Jesus, “they will also persecute you.” (See John 15:20–23.) Therefore, there is no room for anyone doing the Lord’s work to be reluctant or half-hearted in communicating with and encouraging those of us within prison walls who are receptive to the truth.


Jude wrote, “It was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort [you] that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” Jude 3. Did this counsel end with the apostles? As evil as these days are, it would be a shame if it did. The conclusion, according to the Bible is this:

“If ye fulfil the royal law according to the Scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin.” James 2:8, 9.

Testimony – From Prison in the Philippines

My name is Amelia Sanchez.* I am 35 years old and I am currently incarcerated in a prison in Manila where I have been for about two years. I was a very successful business woman prior to coming to this facility. The events that caused me to be in this place happened rapidly and caused me to lose everything dear to me in this life: family and friends, possessions, a business, but most of all my dignity as a person.

On February 17, 2017, at my arraignment hearing I was surprised to see a familiar friend who I was allowed to speak with for a short while. He said that he would come to visit me with a pastor friend of his. He kept his word and did come to the prison with his Pastor friend, Joenel Panganiban. Pastor Joenel brought LandMarks magazine to me where I was able to learn Bible truth. It was through his personal efforts and visits that I came to learn the gospel of Jesus. He really showed me that knowing and living for Jesus is the only reason for this earthly life, and the bonus is that a large number in this jail have come to understand the truths that I have learned.

Because of Pastor Joenel’s faithful encouragement, I now do my very best to live according to the truths of the Bible. I now know how to pray. I encourage my fellow prisoners with the same Bible truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the good news of salvation. I continually encourage them (a group of 30 now) to read the Bible and now have regular devotional time before 6:00 a.m. This daily practice has given us the name of “prayer warriors.” This has also been noticed by the personnel in charge of the jail and testify how well behaved this group is since Pastor Joenel has been our mentor.

In December 2017, we were allowed a special time with Pastor Joenel and his team who brought us food and gifts. On this blessed day we enjoyed Bible themed events and all the inmates happily joined in. The Bureau officers so appreciated the assistance and sacrifice of Pastor Joenel and his team that they were requested to return for the celebration of Women’s Month in March 2018.

I want to thank all the LandMarks team for such a wonderful magazine. The magazine has been such a blessing to me and to my co-inmates. Thanks to all who write the articles that teach us Bible truth and help us to grow in faith. We enjoy all that is contained in the magazine from the health articles, current events, the children’s corner, and crossword. Again, thank you and God bless you.

* [A pseudonym has been used to protect her identity.]

Children’s Story – Who Opened the Prison Door?

Hadewyck smiled as she hurried home along the cleanest street of the cleanest town in Holland.

“Jesus will make our hearts as clean as our town,” she whispered to her friend Elizabeth. “I wish all our neighbors would learn to love Him as we do!”

But in the town of Leeuwarden 400 years ago there weren’t many people who loved Jesus. In fact, most of them scowled at Christians and would not listen when Hadewyck and her friend tried to tell them of His great love.

One day rough soldiers arrested Hadewyck. They grabbed her arms so tightly that they hurt.

“Help me, Jesus,” she prayed as the cruel men rushed her along the street to jail.

“We’ll see if you’ll keep talking about your Jesus,” the jailer said. “I vow you’ll stop when you feel the thumbscrews!”

The key clicked in the lock, and Hadewyck was all alone in the prison cell. “Thank You, Jesus,” she prayed. “Thank You that they did not kill me.”

Sounds from the streets seeped through the keyhole, and Hadewyck counted the days by those noises. She knew when the heavy carts of wheat and corn were being hauled to the weigh bridge. She knew from the noise of the cattle when they were being driven to the market. And often she prayed.

One day as she was praying, a voice called her name. “Hadewyck!”

She looked around. There was no one in the room. Hadewyck kept praying, happy that no one could keep her from talking to Jesus.

“Hadewyck!” There was the voice again!

She looked at the door. It was shut, and there was no one in the room. She closed her eyes to talk to Jesus some more.

“Hadewyck! You must leave here!”

There had been no click of the key in the lock, but the door was open!

Hadewyck quickly drew her cloak around her shoulders and stepped into the street. But which way should she go? Where would she hide before anyone saw her? She stepped into a large church near the jail and walked up and down the aisles with the crowds of other people who were walking there. Then she heard the town drummer calling in the street, and her face turned pale.

“A female heretic has escaped!” the drummer shouted.

“The town gates have been shut,” the excited crowd whispered. “She’ll soon be caught!”

“She’ll feel the thumbscrews!” said a passerby on the street.

“But how did she get out? She must have been a witch to have opened the door!” said the jailer.

Hadewyck was sure from all the talk that she would soon be found in the church. She quietly slipped out.

The town drummer was going past. “A hundred guilders to the man who finds the heretic!” he shouted. “One hundred fifty guilders fine if anyone hides her!”

Surely now someone who knew her would see her and claim the hundred guilders! Where could she go? “Jesus, show me where to hide!”

The priest’s tall house stood beside the church. Hadewyck remembered that the maid who worked there was her friend. She stepped inside. No one heard her as she climbed the stairs. No one heard her as she opened the attic door and closed it softly behind her. She peeped through the window and saw soldiers rushing about. She quickly stepped away from the window, afraid that someone might look up and see her. She leaned against a chest to think.

“Thank You, Jesus, for keeping me safe so far,” she prayed. “Show me what to do next.”

A sound drifted through the attic door. “Maybe my friend is coming. I will listen for her.”

After a while she heard the girl cleaning the hall below. Hadewyck slowly went down the attic steps, stopping often to listen.

“Little one,” she whispered. “Little one!”

The girl looked up and smiled. Hadewyck had always been so good to her.

“Listen carefully, little one. I want you to go to my sister’s home. Please tell her husband to bring a boat to the back of this house for me tonight.”

The girl nodded and scurried down the stairs. Hadewyck heard the slam of a door and listened to the quick steps as they grew fainter.

The afternoon went by. At last it was dark outside, and the streets were quiet. Hadewyck crept down the stairs so carefully that her feet scarcely touched the steps. She walked lightly along the hall to the door that opened on the canal. Her sister’s husband was waiting in the boat. He reached up his hand to help her in the seat. Dipping his oars without a sound, he rowed to a place of safety.

“Jesus opened the prison door for me as He did for Peter,” Hadewyck told him. “He kept people from recognizing me in the church, and He kept me safe in the priests’ house until you came. I do thank Him tonight.”

For many years Hadewyck told people about Jesus’ love, and Jesus always kept her from harm. She lived until she was an old woman, and then she went peacefully to her rest.

Adventure Stories from History, Harvestime Books, Altamont, Tennessee 37301, 411–415.

Question & Answer – Why did Jesus not visit John the Baptist in prison?

It is very important to remember that whatever happens or does not happen the way we think it should, that all will work out for good to them that love God and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). John was called according to His purpose.

“Jesus did not interpose to deliver His servant. He knew that John would bear the test. Gladly would the Saviour have come to John, to brighten the dungeon gloom with His own presence. But He was not to place Himself in the hands of enemies and imperil His own mission.

  • Gladly would He have delivered His faithful servant.
  • But for the sake of thousands who in after years must pass from prison to death, John was to drink the cup of martyrdom.
  • As the followers of Jesus should languish in lonely cells, or perish by the sword, the rack, or the fagot, apparently forsaken by God and man, what a stay to their hearts would be the thought that John the Baptist, to whose faithfulness Christ Himself had borne witness, had passed through a similar experience!” The Desire of Ages, 224.

One very important point to remember is that Satan failed:

“Satan was permitted to cut short the earthly life of God’s messenger; but that life which ‘is hid with Christ in God’ (Colossians 3:3), the destroyer could not reach. He exulted that he had brought sorrow upon Christ, but he had failed of conquering John.” Ibid.

Remember the promise:

“Though no miraculous deliverance was granted John, he was not forsaken. He had always the companionship of heavenly angels, who opened to him the prophecies concerning Christ, and the precious promises of Scripture. These were his stay, as they were to be the stay of God’s people through the coming ages. To John the Baptist, as to those that came after him, was given the assurance, ‘Lo, I am with you all the days, even unto the end’ (Matthew 28:20 RV, margin).” Ibid.

John the Baptist in prison would not have chosen to be led any other way:

“God never leads His children otherwise than they would choose to be led, if they could see the end from the beginning, and discern the glory of the purpose which they are fulfilling as co-workers with Him. Not Enoch, who was translated to heaven, not Elijah, who ascended in a chariot of fire, was greater or more honored than John the Baptist, who perished alone in the dungeon. ‘Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake’ (Philippians 1:29). And of all the gifts that Heaven can bestow upon men, fellowship with Christ in His sufferings is the most weighty trust and the highest honor.” Ibid., 224, 225.