The Complete Story of Paul: The Apostle to the Gentiles…
Paul (previously called Saul of Tarsus; (5 BC – 64/65 AD), commonly known as Paul the Apostle, was a Christian apostle who spread the teachings of Jesus in the first-century world.
Generally regarded as one of the most important figures of the Apostolic Age, he founded several Christian communities in Asia Minor and Europe from the mid-40s to the mid-50s AD.
Paul’s original name was Saul of Tarsus, Tarsus in Cilicia [now in Turkey], and was one of the leaders of the first generation of Christians, often considered to be the most important person after Jesus in the history of Christianity.
In his own day, although he was a major figure within the very small Christian movement, he also had many enemies and detractors, and his contemporaries probably did not accord him as much respect as they gave Peter and James.
Paul was thirty years old when he was an official witness at the stoning of Stephen.
His Pharisaic zeal for God’s law and dedication to stopping the early spread of Christianity knew no bounds.
After seeing Stephen’s life taken, he leads the first great wave of persecution against the early church.
On reflecting on his pre-conversion days Paul says the following.
“For you heard of my (Paul is speaking) former conduct when I was in Judaism, how I was excessively persecuting the church of God and was destroying it; And I was advancing in Judaism far beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more abundantly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.”
(Galatians 1:13 – 14, HBFV)
Owing to Paul’s anti-christian beginning and his persecution of the church, he was compelled to struggle at first in order to establish his own worth and authority after his conversion.
How bad were the persecutions of Paul against the early New Testament church?
His dedication to eradicating those believing in the teachings of Jesus led him to take bold actions, such as going from house to house in order to find believers (Acts 8:1, 3)!
After his efforts to stop the spread of early Christian beliefs in Jerusalem, he sets his sights on achieving the even more audacious goal of removing any Christian influence in the synagogues of Damascus.
He receives written permission from the temple’s High Priest to rid the city’s synagogues of any who believe in “the way.”
His intention is to arrest those who believe Jesus is the Messiah and escort them back to Jerusalem for punishment.
It is during his trip to Damascus, however, that the pivotal event in the life of Paul occurs.
A spotlight from heaven shines on him (Saul) during his travel and the voice of Jesus asks “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?” (Acts 9:4)
God strikes him blind and his traveling companions must lead him to the city.
These events lead to his total repentance and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit.
God also heals him of his blindness.
After his conversion, the same zeal and single-minded dedication Paul had against Christianity transforms into a hyperactive-like quest to spread the gospel worldwide.
His amazing ministry lasts thirty-five years until his death at the age of sixty-six.
His accomplishments are astonishing given the rudimentary (by today’s standard) level of transportation and other difficulties that exist in the first century.
Paul is personally taught by Jesus, for three years, while living in Arabia.
During his ministry he resurrects at least one person from the dead and is resurrected himself after being stoned to death.
Paul carries out at least five evangelistic journeys, visits more than 50 cities in his travels and preaches the gospel to Emperor Caesar and his entire household.
He also writes no less than fourteen books (epistles) of the Bible (the most of any author), trains other evangelists and gospel preachers like John Mark and Timothy, and endures a total of more than five years in prison.
The apostle Paul, whose life was cut short by the Romans in 68 A.D., is easily the most influential Christian in the New Testament short of Jesus himself.
The Pauline epistles, also known as Epistles of Paul or Letters of Paul, are the thirteen books of the New Testament attributed to Paul the Apostle, although the authorship of some is in dispute.
Among these epistles are some of the earliest extant Christian documents. They provide an insight into the beliefs and controversies of early Christianity.
As part of the canon of the New Testament, they are foundational texts for both Christian theology and ethics.
Most scholars believe that Paul actually wrote seven of the Pauline epistles (Galatians, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Philemon, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians), while three of the epistles in Paul’s name are widely seen as pseudepigraphic (First Timothy, Second Timothy, and Titus).
Whether Paul wrote the three other epistles in his name (2 Thessalonians, Ephesians and Colossians) is widely debated.
According to some scholars, Paul wrote the questionable letters with the help of a secretary, or amanuensis, who would have influenced their style, if not their theological content.
The Epistle to the Hebrews, although it does not bear his name, was traditionally considered Pauline (although Origen, Tertullian and Hippolytus amongst others, questioned its authorship), but from the 16th century onwards opinion steadily moved against Pauline authorship and few scholars now ascribe it to Paul, mostly because it does not read like any of his other epistles in style and content and because the epistle does not indicate that Paul is the author, unlike the others.
Monday, July 18
The Winning Walk
by Dr Ed Young
A BASKET CASE
The apostle Paul was not an instant hit as a Christian apologist.
In fact, he spent ten years virtually in exile after his dramatic Damascus Road conversion.
For three years, he was in Arabia studying the scriptures-using his scholar’s mind to piece together the prophecies of the Messiah contained in the Old Testament with the Messiah who called him by name on the road that fateful day.
Then he returned to Damascus, bursting with insight and no doubt ready to set the world on fire.
But a funny thing happened. The Jews didn’t want to listen…they wanted to kill him.
So Paul went out of town in a slightly more humble way than he must have arrived: he was lowered over a wall in a basket!
Through disappointments and setbacks like this, God showed Paul that, although he was imminently qualified to preach to the Jews, he would become the primary evangelist to the Gentiles!
He had perfect credentials to win the Jews, and absolutely no common ground with the Gentiles.
After he was run out of Jerusalem as well as Damascus, Paul went away to Tarsus-literally “home to mama.”
Soon ten years had gone by, and Paul had failed in every effort at preaching the Gospel.
Have you ever felt like that?
Does it seem that, in spite of all your giftedness and willingness to serve, God has placed you on the shelf?
If so, take a lesson from Paul. What he discovered in his “decade of failure” was that, at best, he was a “basket case.”
The secret of the victorious, Christian life is NOT found in impeccable credentials or innate abilities.
Rather, it is found in this: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
Nothing more. Nothing less.
II Corinthians 11:33
And I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall…
Come join the Adventure!