Saul/Paul (c.5 – c.67), was an apostle (though not one of the 12 Apostles) who taught the gospel of Christ to the first-century Gentile world. Through 3 missionary journeys, he founded several churches in Asia Minor and Europe. Paul used his status as both a Jew and a Roman citizen to advantage in his ministry to both Jewish and Roman audiences.
The Apostle Paul, the New Testament person second only to Jesus in prominence, was a man of single-minded devotion. His mission to take the Gospel to the Gentile world took him back and forth across the Roman Empire. It may not have seemed like it at the time, but Paul’s background prepared him to be the perfect choice for this God-ordained mission.
Saul was born in the city of Tarsus (in present-day Turkey), which was urban and diverse; it was one of the leading university cities of that day. There, Saul encountered all kinds of religious, cultural, and philosophical differences.
But, Saul was devoted to the faith of his ancestors. He studied under Gamaliel, grandson of Hillel, the most famous rabbi of his day. As an adult, Saul bore the markings of a rabbi. He was even a Pharisee.
Yet, in spite of or because of his background, God chose Saul to “carry My name before the Gentiles and their kings” (Acts 9:15). With one foot in the Jewish world and the other in Gentile cultures, Saul was ideally suited to take the gospel from one to the other.
Paul was a zealous man. He was passionate about whatever he did, and threw himself completely into the task at hand. And, as devoted as he was to his Jewish religion, he would become just as devoted to his relationship with Christ.
How passionate are you about Jesus?
* Our spiritual health is revealed by the things we get passionate about… and whether or not we get passionate at all.
Saul was a leader in the persecution of the early church. In the book of Acts, while traveling on the road from Jerusalem to Damascus on a mission to “bring them which were there bound into Jerusalem“, the resurrected Jesus appeared to him in a great light. Saul was struck blind, but after 3 days his sight was restored by Ananias of Damascus. Saul became Paul… and began to preach that Jesus of Nazareth is the Jewish Messiah and the Son of God.
His status as a Roman citizen – which suggests he belonged to the elite – gave him much freedom as he traveled the Empire. Paul used his citizenship not for his own gain, but to gain an audience with Caesar – knowing full well that to appeal to the Roman emperor (as only a Roman citizen could) was to put his very life at risk (Acts 25:11). And his life was in danger for most of his life as a Christian!
About half of the book of Acts deals with Paul’s life and works.
14 of the 27 books in the New Testament have been attributed to Paul.
Much of the doctrine accepted and practiced by Christians today comes from Paul’s writings.
Paul’s fate is not recorded in the Bible. But, it is believed he gained his audience before Caesar – the dangerous emperor, Nero, to be precise – where tradition says he became a martyr – beheaded – for his faith.
You can read Paul’s story in Acts 7:58—28:31. You can also pick up details about his life throughout the many NT letters he wrote.