I asked myself this question along with, what would it be like to live in the first century and be part of the fledgling Christian church? It’s knowing the church at its purest — not yet corrupted by greedy, prideful and vain men. I looked for a novel, but couldn’t find one. So, I wrote one.
11 It was three months after the shipwreck that we set sail on another ship that had wintered at the island—an Alexandrian ship with the twin gods as its figurehead. 12 Our first stop was Syracuse, where we stayed three days. 13 From there we sailed across to Rhegium. A day later a south wind began blowing, so the following day we sailed up the coast to Puteoli. 14 There we found some believers, who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we came to Rome.
15 The brothers and sisters in Rome had heard we were coming, and they came to meet us at the Forum on the Appian Way. Others joined us at The Three Taverns. When Paul saw them, he was encouraged and thanked God.Acts 28:11-15 NLT
An Excerpt from Deo Volente: God Willing, available on Amazon (affiliate link).
Puteoli, Italia, circa 61-65 AD
Note: Puteoli is today’s Pozzouli, Italy
From an early age, Anthony Supreus showed an ability to deal with people in an honorable manner, so he was in charge of meeting the arriving cargo ships that carried the goods for his family’s imported goods store. He dealt with ship captains, sailors, stevedores and dockworkers that unloaded the ships— Roman, Greek, Egyptian, Nubian, Carthaginian, Ethiopian and Phoenician. Then they transported the merchandise to the store where his mother and sister then took inventory and prepared everything for distribution or for sale in the shop.
That morning, Anthony watched as The Castor and Pollux of Alexandria approached the dock, the dock workers were ready with the boat hooks to pull it in and secure it to the moorings. The ship’s prow proudly bore the figureheads of the twin gods. Sailors arranged the gangplank and the captain walked ashore.
“Good morning,” Anthony greeted him. “I am Anthony. Our workers will help you unload the ship.”
“Thank you. My name is Lateef. To be honest with you, that is not of major concern to me at the moment.”
“What do you mean?”
“I am wondering…” He pulled Anthony aside away from the sailors and dockworkers unloading the ship. “We have a special passenger.”
“Yes, but I am afraid that he may be in danger. I need to find if there are any Christians here.”
“Christians?” Anthony thought for a moment. “Actually, I have heard that a small group of them migrated here after Nero burned Rome and blamed them. I can find out where they meet.”
“But what do I do with the passenger until you find them?”
“We can take him to our store. He will be safe there.”
“Are you sure?”
“Very well. I will bring him.” Lateef turned and boarded the ship and returned with an elderly man and helped him down the gangplank. A Roman Centurion and two other men followed.
“Anthony, this is Paul of Tarsus and his companions, Luke and Aristarcus. He is a leader of the Christians on his way to Rome to stand trial. His Roman Centurion guard is Julius.”
“An honor to meet you, hello.” Anthony bowed slightly and took Paul’s hand.
“The pleasure is mine. Thank you for giving us shelter. We have had a rough journey.”
“Please come with me.” Anthony led them toward the forum.
With the Centurion securely outside guarding the door to the Supreus’ apartment, Paul captivated Anthony and his family telling of his conversion:
“I persecuted the followers of the Way up to the point of death by binding both men and women and putting them in prison. While I was on my way to Damascus, a great light from heaven suddenly shone about me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’
“I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’
“Then he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.’
“I asked, ‘What am I to do, Lord?’
“The Lord said to me, ‘Get up and go to Damascus; there you will be told everything that has been assigned to you to do.’
“I was blinded by the light, so my companions led me to Damascus where I was given back my sight and was told that God chose me to witness to all men of what I have seen and heard.”
The Holy Spirit stirred and softened their hearts.
“What do we need to be saved?” Anthony’s father, Emilius asked.
“Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved. Be baptized washing all your sins away calling on his name and then help spread the good news of our Lord Jesus.”
“I believe.” Emilius said
“Yes, I believe” Anthony, his mother and sister said.
Paul rose and said, “Then let us go right now to the beach and I will baptize you into God’s family.”
The next day, Anthony helped Paul locate the small group of believers and Paul continued telling of his missions.
“In Lystra, the Lord helped me heal a crippled man and when the crowd saw what I had done, they thought their gods had come down to them in human form. They called my companion Barnabas “Zeus” and they called me “Hermes” because I was the chief speaker. The priest from the temple of Zeus came with sacrificial bulls to offer to us.
“When we heard of this, we tore our clothes and shouted to the crowd, ‘Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living god, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them.
“Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. But then they stoned me and dragged me outside the city and left me for dead.”
At the mention of this, the people in the room gasped.
“As you can see, because of God’s will, I am fine.”
“Tell us more.”
“Yes. Tell us more!” The group pleaded.
Word spread that Paul was in Puteoli and believers traveled from as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns north of Puteoli to see him. Paul thanked God for this and it gave him courage.
Paul spent the next days teaching them, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit.
After seven days, Anthony and his father stood with Paul and the believers from the north at the gate to the city on the Via Appia. The believers would escort Paul, his companions and his Centurion guard to Rome.
“Anthony, Emilius, thank you both for your hospitality. You have been so kind.”
“Thank you, Paul, for teaching us about the Lord,” Emilius said.
Paul placed his hand on Emilius’ shoulder. “Emilius, as I leave I want to commission you as bishop of the new church of Puteoli.”
Emilius gasped. “Paul, I will be honored to lead God’s church here.”
Paul turned to Anthony and placed his hand on his shoulder. “Young man, you have shown a great ability to learn languages and talk to all types of people. I commission you to go into the countryside and spread the truth about Jesus and his Kingdom.”
“Paul, I too will be honored to serve the Lord and spread his good news.”
“Now, I must go. The blessings and grace of our Lord Christ Jesus and the Love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you forever.” Paul hugged them both and along with the group of believers headed north toward Rome.
From a Question to a Novel
That’s what I built the story around. Anthony, now a Christian, meets Claudia, the daughter of the local magistrate and falls in love. Yes, it’s a Romeo and Juliette story, but with a nicer ending. See, Claudia is betrothed by domineering father to a man twice her age. Can Anthony stop the wedding in time? Can he convince Claudia to leave behind all the Roman gods she grew up knowing and convert to Christianity? Later on, can they escape the eruption of Vesuvius?
It’s a good read if you like historical fiction. I had fun researching and writing it. Right now, I have fun researching and writing a blog article every night to put the Good News of Jesus’ true salvation in a way that people can understand how it really works.
Let’s get back to basics. Back to the simplicity of the Acts 2 church as Peter said…
38 Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away—all who have been called by the Lord our God.”Acts 2:38-39 NLT
Believe. Repent. Be Baptized. Receive the Holy Spirit.
- Believe — have Faith — that Jesus is the Christ and He died taking your sins away forever.
- Repent of your sins — stop sinning! Do a complete 180 in your life and surrender your life to Him.
- Be Baptized — show the world and yourself that you have died to your old life and are born again in Christ.
- Receive the Holy Spirit in your heart.
Soli Deo Gloria — To God Alone Be the Glory!
Top image from Sweet Publishing / FreeBibleImages.com (CC BY-SA 3.0)