Learn About The Life And Ministry Of Paul The Apostle
Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Philippians 1:20b-21
Some are born great, some have greatness thrust upon them, and some could be dumped out of an airplane in a brown paper bag over a country where they had never sat foot, and they would still achieve greatness. These are the ones who are truly great. Such was the individual born long ago of Jewish parents in the university town of Tarsus, located in the Zagros mountains of Turkey. During the first part of his life, he was identified as Saul of Tarsus, but following a dramatic encounter with the risen Christ, he became known as Paul, the Apostle.
No other individual so shaped and molded the future of Christianity as did this scholarly and dedicated individual. As an author he contributed 13 books to the New Testament, writing more books than any other person, and second only to Luke in volume. As the theologian of the first century, he settled doctrinal issues, set in order rules for church government, and became the missionary who spread the Good News through the known world from Jerusalem to Rome, and perhaps as far west as Spain.
Following his conversion, which you can read about in the 9th chapter of the book of Acts, Saul, as he was then known, went on to Damascus where he recovered his sight following the blindness which had occurred as he traveled to Damascus. His conversion was immediate and complete. Whereas he had been the greatest enemy of Christianity, he became its great proponent and evangelist, traversing seas and continents in the relentless pursuit of converts.
When Paul appeared before a hostile mob in Jerusalem, he tried to explain what had happened. Here are his words: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city [meaning Jerusalem]. Under Gamaliel [one of the chief theologians of Jewish law], I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as also the high priest and all the council can testify. I even obtained letters from them to their brothers in Damascus and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished” (Acts 22:3-5), and that was when Paul had his encounter with Jesus Christ.
Following his conversion, Paul met with much skepticism from the Christian community, something which was to have been expected. After three years in exile in Arabia, he returned to Damascus and then to Jerusalem to meet with Peter and James, the Lord’s brother, who had become a leader in the church. He then went back to his hometown in Tarsus and made tents until, approximately seven years later, Barnabas sought him out and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord has need of you!”
Paul and his traveling companions made three extensive missionary journeys, and in the process, planted the flag of Christianity in many a town and city. He discovered how it was to be on the receiving end of a jail sentence and was often abused and imprisoned for his faith. Writing to the Corinthians he opened his heart, saying, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). He also told how he had received the traditional 39 lashes from his enemies on five occasions. Three times he was beaten with rods, once stoned, and so forth.
Tradition says that Paul sustained two long periods of prison, once for almost two years under house arrest in Rome, where he wrote letters to the churches, and then a final imprisonment about 67 A.D. when he was martyred. Paul’s goal: “Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:20b-21).
What a man!
Resource reading: Acts 9:1-31.