From there we circled round and reached Rhegium. And after one day, the south wind blew; and the next day we came to Puteoli, where we found brethren and were invited to stay with them seven days. And so we went toward Rome. (Acts 28:13-14)
The Church At Puteoli
Luke was a historian of the first rank detailing the early development of the church and the work of men like Peter and Paul throughout the Roman Empire. The gospel was first preached in Jerusalem by the twelve apostles, followed by many saints going throughout Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth teaching about Jesus Christ. In the first part of Acts, Luke details much of the work of Peter and the missionary journeys of the apostle Paul. Antioch of Syria was a hub of evangelism with men like Paul, Barnabas, and Silas going on preaching trips establishing churches in Salamis, Paphos, Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. Through the letters of Paul, churches in Corinth, Ephesus, Colosse, Philippi, Thessalonica, Rome, and the churches of Galatia are detailed with the early struggles of the first-century disciples.
Many churches attributed their beginnings to the work of Paul and his companions. While much of the New Testament will focus on the work of Peter and Paul, there were many unsung heroes of scripture that quietly worked to establish churches throughout the world. On Paul’s journey to Rome, his party was shipwrecked in Malta, fifty miles south of Sicily. After three months, the group began the final journey to Rome, landing at Syracuse and then reaching Rhegium. The next day they arrived at Puteoli, five miles west of Naples, where Paul and his companions found brethren and remained seven days. It must have been heart-warming for the apostle Paul to find a church of Christ in the city of Puteoli. The brethren were very hospitable and kind to the Romans and Paul and his fellow workers, including Luke.
Preaching the gospel is done by men of note like Paul, Peter, Barnabas, Timothy, and Silas, but there is a lot of work done by men and women whose names will never be known. Where did the church in Puteoli have its beginnings? When did the first convert in this Roman town learn the truth? How many members did the group have, and what challenges did they face? Luke offers no details, but it can be easily imagined how refreshing it was for Paul to find brethren in this little town 170 miles south of Rome. He would have warmly remembered the week he spent with the Puteolian brethren. It would be wonderful to think that Paul would occasion to visit them again, but nothing is known.
Many churches throughout the ages have quietly gone about their work of teaching, preaching, and showing kindness to others the world will never know. Their beginnings were not inscribed in the works of Paul. They may never leave a story for historians to write about, but churches like the one found in Puteoli are bastions of divine glory for the small work they carry out. One day a group of Romans soldiers with prisoners in tow came to the town of Puteoli, and the brethren showed Paul and his companions the grace of God. They quickly passed from the eternal canvas of God’s word, and yet their legacy remains today. This should inspire all of the churches of Christ to do everything they can do – wherever they are – with the means they have available – to show the world Jesus Christ. One day a man of God in chains may show up and need some encouragement and hope. There can be little doubt the week in Puteoli invigorated the apostle Paul to keep fighting the fight. A small band of Christians did what they were called to do. Let the congregation I am a part of follow the example of brethren in Puteoli.