How did the Gospel of the Kingdom penetrate this huge, cosmopolitan city?
The truth is, we don’t know!
The New Testament never tells us when the church in Rome was started (founded). And, it never tells us who started the church.
Acts 2:10 tells us that on the Day of Pentecost, visitors from Rome were present in Jerusalem. Some of them may have been among the 3,000 who were saved that day
After being discipled in Jerusalem for a season, they would have returned to Rome and started a church. Following the pattern they learned in Jerusalem, they probably met together in a home, ate together, praised God together, prayer for each other, and exercised their spiritual gifts. All in a local house church.
As they ministered in the power of the Spirit, the house church would have grown and multiplied – meeting in two houses instead of one. From two it went to four and then to eight. Apostles and prophets and teachers (1 Corinthians 12:28) came in and began to equip the saints to minister. Soon there were house churches started all over the city of Rome. By the time Paul arrived, there were probably hundreds of them.
So, when we read about Paul going to Rome, we need to remember that Paul did not start the church at Rome. There was already a large population of Christians in the city when he arrived.
Paul was not even the first apostle in Rome. When he wrote the book of Romans several years earlier, he sent greetings to two apostles in Rome, Andronicus and Junia (Romans 16:7). So the Roman church was already an apostolic center before Paul arrived to visit and encourage the saints. Rome had apostles before Paul’s first visit. They were already equipping the saints to minister. In Romans 1:8 Paul tells the Romans, “Your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world.” This is being an apostolic center.
If the church in Rome was already planted and already had apostles, why did Paul need to go to Rome?
In Romans 1, Paul tells the Romans, “I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you that you may be strengthened.” The Roman church already had at least two apostles. Andronicus was a man; Junia was a woman. They may have been married. In Romans 16 Paul describes them. He says that were his kinsman. They were Messianic Jews. They had grown up with the rich heritage of the Word.
Paul says that Andronicus and Junia had both been in the Lord longer than he. They knew Jesus before Paul was even saved. They may have even been part of the original three thousand added to the Church on the Day of Pentecost. Paul calls them “fellow prisoners.” They had both suffered for the Gospel.
Finally, Paul tells us that Andronicus and Junia were both outstanding among the apostles. They were well-known apostles in Paul’s day. They may have been the founders of the church in Rome.
But as good as Andronicus and Junia were, Paul knew that they could not give the Roman church everything it needed. No one minister or team has everything a church needs to be healthy. No one person can give you what you need to achieve your destiny in the Lord.
Paul knew that the people at Rome needed his gifts also. Paul told the Corinthian church that he planted, Apollos watered, and God caused the growth. In Rome just the opposite happened. Someone else had planted, but Paul wanted to come and water what was there. He believed that God would bring the increase. And, as we will see, God did!
He wanted to add his distinctive gifts to the mix, to help them to the next level. This is how apostolic centers work. Apostolic centers are places where the church can cross-pollinate. At an apostolic center, ministers from other locations can share their teaching, their resources and their impartation.
One of the big problems we have had in the modern church is that many pastors seem to want to build their own empire, instead of God’s Kingdom. They get possessive of their sheep and don’t allow others to come in to teach and minister. They see going to others for ministry as disloyal. This removes the ability for the church to cross-pollinate which is needed in every church for it to reach it’s full maturity (see Ephesians 4:11-16).
Paul writes to correct this wrong approach to ministry in 1 Corinthians 3:4-23. In Corinth, some of the Christians were dividing up, based on which apostle they liked best. One said, “I am of Paul.” One said, “I am of Apollos.” Someone else said, “I am of Peter.” And the super-religious said, “I am more spiritual than all of you! I am of Christ.” Paul rebukes them all. He told them, “All of the apostles belong to you. You need them all.”