The Life of the Apostle Paul

Shipwrecked.

Attacked by murderous mobs.

Beaten. Starved. Imprisoned.

Betrayed by friends...


All to serve the one thing

he sought to destroy...

...Christianity.

Who was Paul?

Paul was an arch-enemy of Christianity, who amazingly became the greatest Christian missionary of all time. He authored more books of the Bible than anyone else and is called the "Apostle to the Gentiles."

Persecuted for Jesus Christ
Stoned and left for dead
Beaten with rods three times
Whipped with 39 lashes five times
Attacked by angry mob
Death threats

Background

Paul came from a well-respected family in Asia Minor (Turkey today) where his father was an official. He excelled in his studies and became a devout Pharisee. As a young man Paul—whose Jewish name was Saul—was sent to Jerusalem to study under the great teacher Gamaliel. He hated Christians and participated in the first execution of a Christian leader, a man named Stephen. Paul was determined to murder all those who followed Jesus, not just in Jerusalem, but elsewhere (Acts 7:54-8:3).

What was a Pharisee?

The Pharisees were a group of Jewish religious leaders who believed a person must keep every one of the traditions of Judaism, as well as the biblical commandments. The Pharisees were respected, but were legalistic. Jesus condemned them for being self-righteous and hypocritical (Matthew 23). Pharisees plotted to kill Jesus because of his popularity and claim to be God.

How did Paul become a Christian?

Paul asked the chief priest in Jerusalem to give him authorization to arrest any follower of Jesus in Damascus (about 100 miles away). On his way from Judea to Damascus, a light from heaven blinded him. He fell to the ground and a voice said, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" He answered, "Who are you?" The voice said, "I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. Get up! Go into the city, and you will be told what to do." Paul was told to go to a house and wait for a Christian man named Ananias to come restore his sight (Acts 9:1-12).

What did other Christians think?

The Lord spoke to Ananias, and Ananias was afraid. He knew Paul's reputation, but went to the house anyway. The Lord said that Paul was chosen to take the Lord's name to Gentiles, their kings, and to the Jews. Ananias placed his hands on Paul and his sight was restored. Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit and was baptized. He started speaking in synagogues and convincing people that Jesus was the Messiah. People were amazed and confused. The believers back in Jerusalem refused to believe he had changed until one of their leaders, Barnabas, vouched for him (Acts 9:13-28).

What did the Pharisees think?

Because the Lord, had spoken to him, Paul kept preaching in the synagogues in Damascus, saying that Jesus was the Son of God. He gave proofs from the Scriptures to show that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Bible prophecies. To the Jews, this was blasphemy and they were outraged. They plotted to kill Paul as he walked out of the city gates. Paul learned of the plot. His friends put him in a basket and lowered him down the city wall to escape (Acts 9:20-25).

Life as a Fugitive?

Instead of hiding out, Paul went to Jerusalem and boldly preached in the synagogues. He tried to convince people about Jesus. He preached fearlessly and debated at every opportunity. He received death threats and the Christians brought him out of Jerusalem. He went back home to Tarsus (Acts 9:28-30).

Is Jesus for the Jews Only?

During the early years of Christianity, most of the converts were Jewish. Jesus' disciples preached only to Jews. Yet as Jewish people scattered throughout the Roman Empire, they told their neighbors about Jesus. Many of these Gentiles (non-Jews) became followers of Jesus too (Acts 11:19-21).

Barnabas Finds Paul

Barnabas went to Tarsus and together he and Paul preached to non-Jewish people. At the city of Antioch, these believers were first called Christians. A famine hit Jerusalem and the Christians wanted to send relief to their fellow believers. They sent Barnabas and Paul back to Jerusalem with gifts. When their mission was accomplished, Barnabas and Paul, along with a young man named John Mark, headed back north to start a missionary journey throughout Asia Minor (Acts 11:22-30).