Following the Footsteps of Paul: Rome
Paul had a longing to visit the believers in Rome. He wrote a letter to them called the book of Romans;
“For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you…” (Romans 1:9-11)
Paul finally made it to Rome, but not under the circumstances he had envisioned. He was held there under house arrest in AD 62. He lived in a rented house and was allowed to receive visitors but was kept under guard, perhaps in chains (Acts 28:16ff)
He was imprisoned again under the Emperor Nero in AD 66-67. Tradition tells us that during this time Paul was martyred by beheading.
The Rome Paul walked in was a testimony of power and greatness:
It’s practically indestructible buildings and monuments, raised with huge quarried stone, covered with marble and decorated with scenes of the gods in battle and triumph;
It’s wide Agora, bustling with commerce trading the products of a conquered world;
It’s senatorial power, a collaborative force whose decisions could raise up or destroy kingdoms in the distant corners of the world.
And who can resist the Roman Legion? To this day the pictures of it’s armoured legionnaires are an impressive testimony of determined force.
Everything about Rome spoke of triumph and greatness. The Romans themselves believed that their kingdom would last forever.
What could one man, beaten, scarred, chained and imprisoned hope to accomplish in the face of this mighty kingdom?
Today we know the answer to that question. Today Rome is filled with the most amazing cathedrals. Within three hundred years of Paul’s death Christianity was the official religion of Rome. The remnants of Rome’s power lie in broken rubble but the kingdom which Paul proclaimed has swept around the world. For it is not a physical kingdom. It was not a matter, as Paul wrote to the Romans, of eating and drinking -but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Rom. 14:17).
Today the body of Paul lies in a cathedral built over the graveyard where his body was buried in ignominy. But the testimony of his life is proclaimed by the paintings in this beautiful cathedral named after him, “St. Paul Outside the Walls.”
Here are Paul’s concluding words for his life and ministry, written while he was imprisoned in Rome;
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day —and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2Tim. 4:7,8)
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