Paul in Malta: Page 6 of 6 (series: Lessons on Acts)
by John Lowe
And so we went toward Rome.” After they had stayed seven days at Puteoli, they set out on the final leg of their journey to Rome, which they chose to travel by foot, for the journey could be made by ship. Perhaps there wasn’t a ship that was going to Rome. There is no way at this time to know why they took the land route. Rome was the metropolis of Italy, the seat of the empire, and mistress of the whole world; it is so well known, that it did not need to be described. It was built on seven hills, and some say it got its name from Romulus the founder of it. Romulus and Remus brought it into the form of a city; it was built more than seven hundred and fifty years before the birth of Christ.
At last, Paul’s burning ambition to preach the gospel in Rome is being fulfilled. Rome was approximately 150 miles by the Appian Way highway from Puteoli.
15 And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii forum, and The three taverns: whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage.
“And from thence,” that is, from Rome, where they were going.
“When the brethren heard of us.” The Christians who were at Rome are here called, “The brethren.”Word has reached the brethren in Rome that Paul is on his way. Between Puteoli and Rome there was constant communication. The seven days that Paul had spent in Puteoli would have given Christians there plenty of time to make the whole Christian body in Rome aware of his arrival in Italy and of the time when he would set out towards Rome.
The practice of traveling a great distance to meet somebody that men delighted to honor was common enough. When the Christians at Rome heard that the Apostle and his friends had landed at Puteoli, and were on their way to Rome, a number of them decided to head for Puteoli and meet them somewhere along the Appian Way, which runs between the two cities. These were members of the church at Rome; for there was a church in Rome before this time. Before this, the apostle had written a letter to them, called the Epistle to the Romans, in which he treats them as a church.
There is no place in the Word of God where it says who planted the Gospel in Rome. It does not appear that any Apostle was employed in this work. It was probably carried there by some of those who received Christ as their Savior on the day of Pentecost. The following two verses would seem to confirm this:“Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5) . . . Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome” (Acts 2:10). And it is a reasonable assumption; since we do not know of any other theory than this—that it was these Christians that planted the Gospel at Rome.
“They came to meet us as far as Appii forum and The three taverns.” “When the brethren in the city of Rome heard of us (heard we were coming to Rome), they came to meet us” on the great military road, called the Appian Way, which was built by the consul, Appius Claudius. Some came “as far as Appii forum,” a distance of fifty miles from Rome, meanwhile, others waited for us at “the three taverns,” which was twenty miles nearer to Rome. This outpouring of brotherly love rejoiced the soul of Paul.
We are nowhere told the names of those who made up the reception committee that went to welcome him to Italy, but I suggest that those whose names are mentioned in the sixteenth chapter of Romans (The Epistle to the Romans was written in 57 a.d., or at least five years before this time), which lists some of the Apostle’s friends in Rome, may have been part of that group that went to join Paul and to accompany him the rest of the way to Rome. The names mentioned in Romans 16 are: Aquila and Priscilla, Epænetus; Andronicus and Junias, who are both spoken of as having been formerly fellow-prisoners with the Apostle; Rufus, Herodion and Apelles, who are mentioned there in terms of the greatest affection. They could hardly have failed to be among the company at Appii Forum; that is, if they were there at the time
The “Appii Forum” was a small town about 50 miles from Rome. The remains of an ancient city are still seen there. It is on the borders of the Pontine Marshes. The city was built on the celebrated Appian Way, or the road from Rome to Capua. The road was constructed by Appius Claudius, and probably the city was founded by him also. It was called the forum or marketplace of Appius, because it was a convenient place for travelers on the Appian Way to stop for some rest and refreshment. It was also a famous marketplace of peddlers and merchants; it was near the sea, and was frequented by sailors. Unfortunately, it abounded with shop-keepers of bad character. The older translations use the word taverns, which gives the wrong impression in our time. The Latin word for tavern has a different meaning than the English word; the Latin simply means a shop of any kind, whereas the English word is used for a place where alcoholic beverages are sold. Given that the Appian Way was only one of two ways by which travelers could go from Appii Forum to the Imperial City, it was natural that the Christians from Rome would halt there and wait for the Apostle’s arrival.
“The Three Taverns,” like “Appi Forum” was a small town that was built beside the Appian Way, and it was closer to Rome by about twenty miles than was “Appi Forum.” This place, at first, was probably a place for booths or sheds, three of which were remarkable; other houses were built there in course of time, and the whole place became known as “The Three Taverns,” after the first three remarkable booths set up there.
Probably the greater part of the company of Christians remained at “The Three Taverns,” while the remainder went on to meet Paul, and to rejoice with him on the way to Rome. The Christians at Rome had doubtless heard much of Paul. The interest which the Roman Christians felt in the apostle was made apparent by their coming so far to meet him, though he was a prisoner.
“Whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage.” “He thanked God” for he had long zealously desired to see the Christians of Rome (Romans 1:9-11; Romans 15:23, Romans 15:32). He was now grateful to God that the object of his long desire was at last granted, and that he was permitted to see them, though in bonds. He had been brought through so many calamities, and was now so near the place that he longed for, and then to be met by a part of that Church to which, some years before, he had written an epistle. He gave thanks to God, who had preserved him, and took fresh courage, in the prospect of bearing there a testimony for his Lord and Master. “When Paul saw them (those who came to meet him), he thanked God (for the sight of them) and took heart and courage" from their friendliness and their counsel. The presence and counsel of Christian brethren is often of immeasurable value in encouraging and strengthening us in the work and trials of life. He went on cheerfully, and in high spirits, towards Rome; in hope of seeing the rest and believing that God had some work for him to do there.
When thinking and writing about his coming to Rome, Paul had never thought that his first visit there would be as a prisoner. He had hoped (Romans 1:11-12) to come as the bearer of some spiritual blessing, and to be comforted by the faith of the Roman brethren. How different was the event from what he had pictured. But yet here were some of the brethren, and their faith and love were made manifest by their journey to meet the Apostle, and no doubt they brought with them the salutations of all the Church. This was something to be thankful for. The prisoner would not be without sympathy, and the spiritual gift might be imparted even though Paul was no longer free. The cause of Christ was advancing; and cheered by the evidence of this the Apostle’s heart revived.
Notice that Paul is grateful to God even though the trip had been anything but smooth. Are we thankful merely to arrive safely or do we demand from God no complications and no discomforts
1 Freestone: Any stone, such as sandstone, that can be freely worked or quarried,
especially one that cuts well in all directions without splitting.
2 Ell: An ell is a unit of measurement, originally a cubit, i.e., approximating the length of a man's arm from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger, or about 18 inches.
3 Vesicle: a small bladder like cavity, especially one filled with fluid.
4 Quinsy: An abscess in the tissue around a tonsil usually resulting from bacterial infection and often accompanied by pain and fever.
5 Praetor was a title granted by the government of Ancient Rome to men acting in one of two official capacities: the commander of an army (in the field or, less often, before the army had been mustered); or, an elected magistratus (magistrate), assigned various duties (which varied at different periods in Rome's history).
6Honorarium is a payment in recognition of acts or professional services for which custom or propriety forbids a price to be set: