The Apostle Paul

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The Apostle Paul was of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of pure descent, born at Tarsus, a city of Cilicia, a fact which gave to him the privilege of Roman citizenship. He was a disciple of Gamaliel and a strict Pharisee. He is first introduced to us as a young man named Saul, at whose feet the witnesses who stoned Stephen laid their clothes. Afterwards he became a violent persecutor of the saints, both of men and women, acting with great zeal, thinking he was doing God’s service. His conversion as the effect of the Lord’s appearing to him was unique, and he was so completely changed that he became at once as bold for Christ as before he had been a persecutor of Christ. He immediately preached in the synagogues that Jesus was the Son of God. This was the distinctive point of his testimony. As the Jews sought his life at Damascus, he departed into Arabia, where doubtless he had deep exercise of heart and learned more of the Lord.
First Missionary Journey
After three years he went up to see Peter at Jerusalem, where he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus. The Jews again seeking his life, he was conducted to Cæsarea and sent to Tarsus, his native place. From thence he was fetched by Barnabas to go to Antioch, where the gospel had been effectual, and there they both labored. After having, in company with Barnabas, taken supplies to Jerusalem (his second visit), on occasion of a dearth, he commenced his first missionary journey to Cyprus and Asia Minor. He and Barnabas returned to Antioch, where he remained “a long time.” A dispute arose as to Gentile converts being circumcised; he went with Barnabas to Jerusalem concerning that question and returned to Antioch. This city had become a sort of center of the activity of the Spirit. Being far from Jerusalem, it was less influenced by Judaizing tendencies, though communion with the saints there was maintained.
Second Missionary Journey
Asia Minor, Macedonia and Greece were the sphere of Paul’s second missionary journey. Having differed from Barnabas, because the latter wished to take John with them (who had left them on the first journey), Paul selected Silas for his companion and departed with the full fellowship of the brethren. During part of this journey Timothy was one of the company. He abode a year and a half at Corinth, where he wrote First and Second Thessalonians. He visited Jerusalem at the feast and then returned to Antioch.
Third Missionary Journey
He took his third missionary journey through Galatia and Phrygia. When he visited Ephesus, he separated the disciples from the synagogue, and they met in the school of Tyrannus. At Ephesus he wrote First Corinthians and probably Galatians. After the tumult raised by Demetrius, he went to Macedonia, and there wrote Second Corinthians. He again visited Corinth and wrote Romans.
The Jews seeking his life, Paul went through Macedonia, sailed from Philippi, and preached at Troas. At Miletus he gave a solemn parting address to the elders of Ephesus and took his leave of the disciples at Tyre, where he was cautioned not to go to Jerusalem. At Cæsarea also he was warned of what awaited him at Jerusalem, but he avowed that he was ready not only to be bound, but also to die for the name of the Lord Jesus.
First Imprisonment
Paul arrived at Jerusalem just before Pentecost. In order to prove himself a good Jew, he was advised by the brethren to associate himself with four men who had a vow on them. But while carrying this out, he was seized by some Asiatic Jews and beaten. He was rescued by Lysias, the Roman chief captain. After appearing before the council and again being rescued by him, he was sent off for his safety by night to Cæsarea. There his cause was heard by Felix, who kept him prisoner, hoping to be bribed to release him. Two years later Felix, when superseded by Festus, left Paul in bonds to please the Jews. On appearing before Festus, to save himself from being sent to Jerusalem, there being a plot to waylay and murder him, Paul appealed to the emperor. Agrippa and Festus finally heard his case and sent him to Rome. The ship, however, was wrecked at Malta, where they wintered, all on board having been saved.
Two Years in Rome
On his arrival at Rome, Paul sent for the chief men of the Jews and preached to them: Some of them believed, though the majority rejected God’s grace (thus fulfilling Isaiah 6:910), which should henceforth go to the Gentiles. He, though still a prisoner, abode two years in his own hired house. There he wrote Colossians, Ephesians, Philippians and also Philemon.
Freedom and Second Imprisonment
The history of Paul to this point is given in the Acts of the Apostles, but there are intimations in Paul’s epistles that after the two years at Rome he was liberated. His movements from that time are not definitely recorded. Apparently he visited Ephesus and Macedonia (1 Tim. 1:3), wrote First Timothy, visited Crete (Titus 1:55For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: (Titus 1:5)) and Nicopolis (Titus 3:1212When I shall send Artemas unto thee, or Tychicus, be diligent to come unto me to Nicopolis: for I have determined there to winter. (Titus 3:12)), and wrote Titus. The early writers say that he went to Spain, which we know he desired to do (Rom. 15:24,2824Whensoever I take my journey into Spain, I will come to you: for I trust to see you in my journey, and to be brought on my way thitherward by you, if first I be somewhat filled with your company. (Romans 15:24)
28When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain. (Romans 15:28)
). He visited Troas and Miletus (2 Tim. 4:13,20), wrote Hebrews, and when a prisoner at Rome the second time, wrote Second Timothy while expecting his death. Early writers say that he was beheaded with the sword, which is probable, as he was a Roman citizen.
Paul’s Commission and Gospel
Paul received his commission directly from Christ who appeared to him in glory, and this source of his apostleship he carefully insists on in the Epistle to the Galatians. New light as to the church in its heavenly character came out by Paul, who was God’s special apostle for that purpose. To him was revealed the truth that the assembly was the body of Christ, and the doctrine of new creation in Christ Jesus, in which there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile. This caused great persecution from the Jews and from Judaizing teachers, who could not readily give up the law, nor endure the thought of Gentiles having an equal place with themselves. This Paul insisted on: It was his mission as apostle to the Gentiles. To Paul also was committed what he calls “my gospel” — this was the gospel “of the glory of the Christ” (2 Cor. 4:4 JND), which not only brings salvation, great as that is, but it separates the believer from earth, and it conforms him to Christ as He is in glory.
Paul the Servant
Paul was an eminent and faithful servant of Christ. As such he was content to be nothing, that Christ might be glorified. To the Thessalonians he was gentle as a nurse who cherishes her children (1 Thess. 2:7). However, to the Corinthians he was severe when they were allowing sin in their midst. To them he had to assert his apostolic authority when slanderers were seeking to nullify his influence among them. To the Galatians he was still more severe, for they were in danger of being shipwrecked as to faith by false Judaizing teachers who were undermining the truth of the gospel.
Paul’s Inner Life
In the epistles we get a few glimpses of the inner life of Paul. After having been caught up into the third heavens, he prayed for the removal of the thorn in the flesh, which had been given him lest he should be puffed up, and he was told that Christ’s grace was sufficient for him. He could say, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Cor. 12:910). He also could say, “To me to live is Christ,” and, “This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:1314). As a martyr, he reached that goal.
The catalog Paul gives of his privations and sufferings in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 discloses the fact that but a small part of his gigantic labors is recounted in the Acts.
Concise Bible Dictionary