And so we came to Rome. The brothers and sisters there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these people Paul thanked God and was encouraged.
Paul on the Appian Way
Luke’s first-hand account tells us that Christians came a day’s journey from all around Rome to welcome Paul. The Forum of Appius was a marketplace on the Appian Way, about 40 miles southeast of Rome. The ancient historian Horace mentioned the site as a post station, one day’s ride from Rome, “full of boatmen and cheating innkeepers.”
Three Taverns was another station along the Appian Way where three roads intersected about 30 miles outside of Rome. The place originally had three main shops designed for travelers: the general store, the blacksmith, and the so-called, “refreshment house.”
The Forum of Appius and Three Taverns are two locations most people skip over in scripture, but they are fascinating geographical markers in biblical history. Their inclusion also shows that real people were traveling from real places to greet the renowned evangelist.
Apparently, the Christians in Rome were well aware of Paul before he arrived in chains about 60 AD. A few years earlier, when Paul was in Corinth, he wrote a letter to the Roman church. He intended to follow his letter with a personal trip, but his plans were interrupted when he was arrested in Jerusalem and imprisoned at Caesarea for two years.
Paul and Rome
Now, he finally made the trip to Rome, but as a prisoner. And even after a two-year wait, many Christians were there to see in person the man who had encouraged them so much in writing. Paul’s letter to the Romans had made its rounds through the community. It began with a powerful declaration:
“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of every one who believes, first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” (Romans 1:16)
Paul then went on to use several people and events from the Old Testament to set up the Gospel message. He used Adam to explain the concept of inherited sin. He used Abraham as an example of righteousness being credited by faith. And he used David, who shared the heart of the Gospel some 1,000 years earlier, when he said:
“Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.” (Psalm 32:1-2)
The “Roman Road”
Over the centuries, Paul’s letter to the Romans has been known for its clear presentation of the Gospel. Within the verses is a step-by-step route, which has been appropriately called the “Roman Road.”
- For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
- But God demonstrates His love toward us, in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
- For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
- That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)
This simple presentation of the Good News of Jesus Christ has been used in evangelism
for nearly 2,000 years.