Bo Wagner is pastor of the Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, NC, a widely traveled evangelist, and the author of several books. His books are available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com

My newest verse-by-verse Biblical commentary, Philippians: The Treasures of Joy (Here is a link you can copy into your browser – https://a.co/d/edLbhuK) is now in print. And my mind is still much absorbed with this thank you note that Paul wrote to the church at Philippi and the joy that the gospel brings, even into the most unthinkable of places…

Had you walked the halls of Nero’s palace during his fourteen-year rule of darkness, you would likely have felt as if Hell itself had come to the surface and taken up residence among men. Nero was sixteen years old when he became Caesar, and he wasted no time at all in establishing himself as one of the most dark and debauched tyrants to ever live.

Nero was a deadly sort. How wicked does a man have to be to murder his own mother? And yet, that was the fate of Agrippina. He did not stop there, though. He also murdered his brother and two of his wives. One of those murdered wives was kicked to death – while she was pregnant. Never one to miss a good opportunity, though, he presented one of his wife’s severed heads to his new lover, Poppaea. Because nothing says “be my valentine” quite like the head of the former valentine presented to you on a platter.

Needless to say, that gift was also a warning never to cross the one who gave it.

Nero was also deeply debauched. Whispers of the day were that his mother, Agrippina, was far more than just a mother to him. That alone, though, would never satisfy his filthy and insatiable appetite. He was known to disguise himself and go out drinking, brawling, and frequenting houses of prostitution. He also had a particular palace dedicated to his depraved pursuits. And in something that any modern psychologist or criminologist would have a field day with, Nero, who had gotten to missing one of his murdered wives (who was no longer there because, you know, he killed her), noticed a boy who reminded him of her. He then had the boy castrated and took him as a lover in her place.

And then there was his infamous hatred of Christians. Nero famously tortured them in the most horrible of ways at every opportunity. The man was twisted, bloodthirsty, and as demonic a man as ever lived.

Hang with me; we are about to start getting to the joy part of the story.

As Paul put pen to parchment to write to the church at Philippi, it was about A.D. 61 or 62, some ten years after he first set foot in Philippi. He was right then in his first imprisonment in Rome and not sure how things were going to come out for him. And yet, the Epistle he wrote contains not a hint of darkness in his heart. In this short book of just four chapters, he used the word joy six times. For a bit of perspective on that, Philippians is one of Paul’s shortest letters, and yet he mentions joy more times in Philippians than in any other letter he wrote. Both Romans and 1 Corinthians are four times as long as Philippians, and yet neither of them has as many mentions of joy as Philippians does. And he also uses the word rejoice eight times, rejoiced one time, and rejoicing one time as well.

The man was in prison.

It was in Acts 16, during his second missionary journey, that Paul came to know the Philippians. He was the one who first brought the gospel to that part of the world, which is significant to us because we now know that part of the world as Europe, and from Europe, it made its way to America.

Many people were saved during that mission trip. But great opposition also arose, and Paul and Silas became the first Christians to suffer for the gospel’s sake in Europe. They were badly beaten, thrown into prison, and unsurprisingly, used that as an opportunity to share the gospel. They ended up winning their own jailer to Christ.

When Paul was released and left Philippi, the fledgling church there determined to support him financially. Philippians 4:15-16 says, “Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.”

They continued to support him throughout his ministry. And while he was in Rome, sometimes in prison, sometimes in a rented house, they sent an offering to him by the hands of Epaphroditus. And they did so according to Philippians 1:5 so that they could partner with him in getting the gospel to others.

And that brings us to the “Oh!” moment in this book of joy. At the very end of the book, Paul wrote words to them that often go overlooked but are, in fact, the entire point:

Philippians 4:22 All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar’s household.

The Caesar that Paul wrote about in this verse was Nero. Nero now had saints, people who had been born again, in his household! The Philippians had supported Paul, Paul had been taken to Rome, and while there he had the means to continue ministering both in and out of prison. And as a result of his work and perhaps even of others as well, some unnamed people who were living in the darkest, most hellish and depraved spot on all of planet Earth came to know Christ as their Lord and Savior.

The joy of the gospel is that it can go anywhere and change anyone.

Pastor Wagner can be contacted by email at 2knowhim@cbc-web.org, and his books are available by clicking the “Store” link above.

Feature Photo (Of an amazing painting by author/artist Angela Buff) by Pastor Bo Wagner