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Paul the Apostle, also known as Paul, Paulus, and Saul of Tarsus (c. AD 9 - c. AD 67) was, together with Peter, the most notable of early Christian missionaries. Unlike the other Apostles, Paul did not know Jesus during his ministry. Paul came to believe through a vision of Jesus on the Road to Damascus, while on his way to persecute Christians in that city, and stressed that his apostolic authority was based on this vision. Paul wrote that he was not taught the Gospel by anyone, but received it "by the revelation of Jesus Christ".
Paul was one of the most prolific writers of the New Testament, along with Luke the Evangelist, and much of his life story is related in the Acts of the Apostles. Paul was a bold missionary, establishing Churches across Asia Minor (including Ephesus), Greece, the Islands, and Rome. Paul saw visions, healed the sick, raised the dead, cast out devils, and preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ to believers and the heathen.
Throughy his teachings and exortation, Paul is one of the most influential early Christians.
Early Life, Conversion, and Comission
|The Twelve Apostles|
Two primary sources are avialable in reconstructing the events of Paul's life: Paul's own surviving letters, and the narrative of the Acts of the Apostles, which draws from eyewitness accounts.
Paul was born in Tarsus (Acts 22:3) in Asia Minor, modern-day Turkey, under the name Saul. He was a Pharisee (Phil 3:5) of the tribe of Benjamin (Phil.3:5), and a Roman citizen. Saul studied in Jerusalem under the Rabbi Gamaliel, well known at that time, and the scriptures indicate that he was unmarried. It appears that his mother was alive during at least a portion of his ministry, and he possibly had a brother, Rufus, based on a literal reading of Romans 16:13.
Saul first appears in the pages of the New Testament as a witness to the martyrdom of Stephen (Acts 7:57-8:3). He describes himself as a persistent persecutor of the Church (1 Cor 15:9, Gal 1:13) (almost all of whose members were Jewish or Jewish proselytes), until his experience on the Road to Damascus which resulted in his conversion. In Acts there are three accounts of this experience, Acts 9:1-20, Acts 22:1-22, and Acts 26:1-24, the first of which is partially reproduced below:
- And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. (Acts 9:3-6)
After being blinded by the light, Saul's sight was restored in Damascus by the prayers of the disciple Ananias, and he was baptized. Immeditaly after, Saul began preaching in the Synagoges that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He later related his commission from Jesus:
- for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. (Acts 26 16-18)
After his conversion, Saul first went to Arabia, and then came back to Damascus (Gal 1:17). His preaching in the local synagogues got him into trouble there, and he was forced to escape, being let down over the wall in a basket (Acts 9:25). Three years after his conversion, he went to Jerusalem, where he met James, and stayed with Simon Peter for fifteen days (Gal 1:13–24). Saul apparently attempted to join the disciples and was accepted only owing to the intercession of Barnabas (Acts 9:26-27). Saul again got into trouble for disputing with "Hellenists" (Greek speaking Jews and Gentile "God-fearers"), and so returned to Tarsus.
Nothing is told of the fourteen years that elapse before Barnabas seeks Saul and brings him back to Antioch (Acts 11:26). When a famine occurrs in Judaea, around 45-46, help was sent by the hands of Barnabas and Saul; and Saul then returned to Antioch. According to Acts, Antioch is the city where the followers of Jesus were first called Christians.
Paul travelled extensively, spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul almost always traveled with a companion, including Barnabas, Silas, Titus, Timothy, Mark, Aquila and Priscilla and Luke.
First Missionary Journey
Barnabas and Saul went to Cyprus, Barnabas's home (Acts 13-14), and then sailed onward to visit the towns of southern Asia Minor, which is in present-day Turkey: Perga, Antioch, Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. This journey was accompanied by healings and persecutions.
Second missionary journey
Paul and Silas went to Derbe and Lystra, the Phrygia and northern Galatia, to Troas, when, inspired by a vision they set off for Macedonia (Acts 16:1-18:22). At Philippi they met and brought to faith a young girl called Lydia, whom they baptised together with her family; there Paul was also arrested and badly beaten.
Paul then set off for Thessalonica alone, and in Athens he gave his famous speech in the Areopagus (Mar's Hill). In this speech, he told Athenians that the "Unknown God" to whom they had a shrine was in fact "known", as the God who had raised Jesus from the dead. (Acts 17:16–34). Paul then travelled to Corinth, where he settled for three years. At Corinth the Jews charged Paul before the proconsul Gallio, who dismissed the charges. (Acts 18:12–17) From an inscription in Delphi that mentions Gallio, the year of the hearing is known to be 52.
Third missionary journey
Leaving Corinth, Paul continued travelling through Asia Minor and Macedonia, to Antioch and back. He caused a great uproar in the theatre in Ephesus, where local silversmiths feared a loss of income due to Paul's teachings. Their income relied on the sale of silver statues (idols) of the goddess Artemis, whom they worshipped, and the resulting mob almost killed Paul and his companions (Acts 19:21–41). Later, as Paul was passing near Ephesus on his way to Jerusalem, Paul chose not to stop, since he was in haste to reach Jerusalem by Pentecost. The church here, however, was so highly regarded by Paul that he called the elders to Miletus to meet with him (Acts 20:16–38).
Paul also supported himself during his travels and while preaching — a fact he alludes to a number of times (e.g., 1 Cor 9:13–15); according to Acts 18:3, he worked as a tentmaker.
Paul in Jerusalem
Paul and the apostles apparently met at Jerusalem several times. Unfortunately, there is some difficulty in determining the sequence of the meetings and exact course of events.
Paul and Barnabas were appointed to go to Jerusalem to speak with the apostles and elders, and were welcomed by them. At this meeting, Peter and James agreed with Paul's mission to the Gentiles (Acts15:9,29), and questioned whether Gentile converts needed to be circumcised (Acts 15:2; Gal.2:1). Paul also later recounts how he confronted Peter over his reluctance to share a meal with Gentile Christians in Antioch. Paul later wrote: "I withstood [Peter] to the face, because he was to be blamed" and said to the apostle: "If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?" (Gal. 2:11–14).
While in the temple at Jerusalem, some Jews from Asia Minor recognized him and stirred up the crowd. The crowd was about to kill Paul when the Roman guard rescued him, and after an unsuccessful speech in Aramaic (Acts 21:37-22:22), imprisoned him in Caesarea. Paul claimed his right as a Roman citizen to be tried in Rome, but owing to the inaction of the governor Antonius Felix, languished in confinement at Caesarea for two years.
When a new governor Porcius Festus took office, he held a hearing and sent Paul by sea to Rome. It was while journeying to Rome that Paul was shipwrecked on Malta, where he converted many to Christianity, including the Roman Governor Publius. According to Acts, Paul spent another two years in Rome under house arrest: "Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him." (Acts 28:31). The last source of information regarding Paul's life was his second letter to Timothy, which describes him bonds, indicates that his life is about to come to an end, and condemns certain men for leaving the faith - namely Demas and Alexander the coppersmith.
It is thought that Paul died as a martyr in Rome.
Paul was not a stranger to the supernatural, but witnessed, partook, and testified of many moves of the Holy Spirit.
- Paul spoke in toungues (I Corinthians 14:18)
- Paul was used to cast out demon spirits (Acts 16:18)
- Paul was used to raise the dead (Acts 20:9-12)
- Paul was unharmed by the bite of a venomous serpent, in fulfillment of Mark 16:16-18 (Acts 28:5)
- Paul was used to heal the sick by the laying on of hands (Acts 28:8)
- Paul was used to heal the crippled by command (Acts 14:8-10)
- Paul prophecied (Acts 27:10), and it came to pass (Acts 27:41)
- Paul was persecuted for his preaching by the established religions (Acts 23:2, 16:23, 14:19)
Paul taught baptism in the name of Jesus Christ, and that the Holy Ghost and the gifts of the Holy Ghost were given to all believers(19:2-6)
Paul wrote a number of letters to Christian churches and individuals. Those letters that have survived are all part of the New Testament Canon. A subgroup of these letters, written from captivity, are called the "prison-letters", and tradition states they were written in Rome (the prison-letters are marked with an "*").
- The Bible
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