by Gordon Franz
The 2011 Talbot Bible Lands study tour is now history. Throughout the trip one verse repeatedly went through my mind. In Romans 10:15, the Apostle Paul, quoting from Isaiah 52:7, wrote: “And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things’” (NKJV).
The apostles and early church missionaries were “sent” with the “gospel of peace” to proclaim the greatest news in the world: the forgiveness of sins, a home in heaven, and peace with God. Because of His death, burial and resurrection, when a person puts his trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior, he receives forgiveness for his sins and eternal life (1 Cor. 15:1-4; Rom. 4:5; 5:1; Eph. 2:8-9; Phil. 3:9). The Lord, in His providence, had the Romans build a complex road system for military purposes; ironically, these roads enabled the early church to spread the gospel of peace!
Our focus on this study tour was the travels and ministry of the Apostle Paul. One of the highlights of the trip was walking the last two miles of the Appian Way into Rome. This was the road Paul and the Roman brethren walked into Rome on at the end of the book of Acts (28:14-16). Before our hike, I reminded the students of the different Roman Roads that we had already walked on this trip, the same roads that the Apostle Paul had walked.
The first road we walked on for about a mile was the Via Taurus, a beautifully preserved road between Tarsus and the Cilician Gates. Paul and Silas walked this road at the beginning of Paul’s second missionary journey (Acts 15:41-16:1) for the purpose of following up on Paul’s first visit to the churches of southern Galatia to see how they were doing (Acts 15:36). Paul probably walked this road at the beginning of his third missionary journey as well (Acts 18:23).
The second road was the Via Sebaste (“Emperor’s Road”), which connects Konya (Iconium) with Psidian Antioch. Here we walked over a still existing Roman bridge. Paul and Barnabas walked the road and crossed the bridge twice during their first missionary journey as they planted churches and later strengthened, encouraged, and appointed elders in every church (Acts 13:51 and 14:21-23).
The third Roman Road was to the west of Assos. Paul walked this road alone on his third missionary journey when he went from Alexandria Troas to Assos on what might be called his “Gethsemane Walk.” He had been warned by the Holy Spirit, probably first by prophets in Alexandria Troas, that he would be imprisoned in Jerusalem (Acts 20:22-23). In the solitude of this walk, he would have had time to reflect on the words of the Lord Jesus in Gethsemane, “Nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42; see Wilson 2010: 360).
The fourth Roman Road was inside the city of Alexandria Troas leading to the harbor. After the vision in which Paul received the “Macedonian Call” (Acts 16:8-11), Paul, Silas, and Timothy walked this road to board the ship bound for Macedonia.
The fifth road was the part of the Via Egnatia which connected Kavala (Neapolis) and Philippi. Paul walked on this road on at least two occasions. The first time was when he and his party arrived in Macedonia on his second missionary journey (Acts 16:11-12); the second time was at the end of his third missionary journey (Acts 20:6).
The early church did not have the modern conveniences that we have today for spreading the gospel: television, radio, the Internet, cars, buses, and airlines. When they were “sent,” they walked, rode a donkey or a horse-drawn cart, or sailed on a ship, but they went forth with the gospel.
The trip is history, but I am looking forward, Lord willing, to 2013.
2010 Biblical Turkey. Istanbul: Zero.
For pictures of the trip, see: