Chapter 1
Introduction

Except for the Lord Jesus himself, no person has been more influential in the history of the church than Saul of Tarsus. Paul's influence upon the early church's most cherished convictions is so clear and powerful that scholars debate whether Paul is a mere follower of Jesus or the actual founder of Christianity. Paul himself settled that debate when he described Jesus Christ as the cornerstone of the church (Eph 2:20) and the head of the church (Col 1:18). Paul insisted that Jesus has preeminence in all things, in both the church he founded by his death and resurrection and the creation he fashioned by his indescribable power.

In the same breath, though, Paul acknowledged the important role he fulfilled in the church by saying that God's household was "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets" (Eph 2:20). Paul laid more bricks in the foundation of the church than any other apostle. He wrote thirteen of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament. Nearly half of the New Testament documents bear his name. Although some of Paul's letters are brief compared to other New Testament books, his epistles comprise approximately one-fourth of the total volume of the New Testament.

Approximately sixteen chapters of the book of Acts focus on Paul's persecution of the church, his conversion, his missionary labors, and his arrest and imprisonment. When these chapters are combined with Paul's letters, Paul may be recognized as the author or subject of nearly one-third of the New Testament. Paul's influence on the development of Christianity is without parallel. He was highly effective as a Christian missionary and church planter and is a key interpreter of Jesus' life, death, resurrection, and return.

Except for Jesus of Nazareth, no man's life has been more fascinating. The dramatic conversion that transformed the most vehement opponent of the Christian faith into the most faithful servant of Christ still seems unbelievable to those unfamiliar with the amazing power of God. The plots to assassinate the apostle, the brutality of the tortures he suffered, the courage he displayed in the presence of kings, the brushes with death he experienced, and the betrayal of friends that grieved him make Paul's story one filled with an intrigue and suspense that even modern thrillers cannot match.

This book will attempt to introduce readers to this amazing man and his incredible story. The disclaimer the apostle John made when he attempted to describe the life and teachings of Jesus (John 21:25) seems appropriate here as well: "And there are also many other things that [Paul] did, which, if they were written one by one, I suppose not even the world itself could contain the books that would be written."