v. 16. At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me. I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.
v. 17. Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.
v. 18. And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Here was another cause for deep sorrow which Paul felt constrained to register here: At my first defense no man stood by me, but all deserted me; may it not be charged to their account! It appears from these words that Paul had had a hearing, he had had one opportunity to refute the charges made against him. It was upon this occasion that he had a bitter experience, one which might have discouraged a Christian with less character. According to Roman law he was entitled to a certain number of witnesses or patrons, whose business it was to assist him. If anyone might have expected loyalty from his friends, surely the great apostle was entitled to this consideration. But the opposite was the case. All the men upon whom he had thought he could depend absolutely had scented danger for their own persons in the proceedings and had deliberately deserted him. They were not strong enough in faith to be equal to the situation. But here also Paul suppresses all resentful and vindictive feelings, rather making intercession for the weakness of those whom he still believed to be Christians at heart, asking that this defection might not be charged to their account.
As for Paul, he had a better advocate than any friend could have furnished him: But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, that through me the preaching might be fulfilled and all the heathen might hear; and I was delivered from the mouth of the lion. When he was forsaken by men, the Lord Himself was his Patron, whose support was worth more than all the assistance of men. He it was also, Christ the Lord, that granted to His servant strength in richest measure, thus enabling him to bear also this affliction with fortitude. And what is more, He gave him the courage to proclaim the Gospel-message in the very midst of his enemies. His defense of his cause, at the first hearing, had at least this effect, that he was given some respite, thus being enabled to gain time for a very necessary piece of work, namely, that of completing arrangements to have the Gospel sent out into all the countries of the known world. The mission of Crescens in Galatia or Gaul and that of Titus in Dalmatia were but a beginning for the carrying out of plans by which all nations should hear the glorious news of their salvation through Jesus Christ. Thus Paul can joyfully record that he had been torn out of the lion's mouth, that he had escaped, for the time being, from all the perils with which his enemies planned to overwhelm him. It does not seem, from the entire context, that Paul had actually been condemned to be thrown to the lions, and this would not seem very probable.
Once more the apostle voices his firm trust in the power of his Lord: The Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. This is putting the Seventh Petition into the form of a definite statement, which shows the nature of faith. From every evil work, from all the cunning, trickery, and power of Satan, from all the wickedness and persecution of the children of the world, out of all these evils the Lord will deliver and rescue His servant, so that, in the end, his enemies will be put to shame. Where the faith of Christ's servants is rooted and grounded in the Word of God, in the power of the Lord, there all the attempts of their enemies to harm them must come to naught. And if temporal death seems to have gained the victory and separates the soul from the body, the believers again are the gainers, for their inheritance in heaven is thereby given to them, they are kept by the power of Jesus Christ, their Lord, unto salvation. And therefore they gladly join in the doxology of St. Paul and give all honor and glory to Christ, who is God with the Father and the Holy Ghost, world without end. As often as a Christian thinks of the immeasurable blessings which have been imparted to him in Christ, he cannot refrain from voicing his thoughts in joyful thanksgiving to his Lord.