The Dynamic Story of Paul the Apostle: Part 4, The Conclusion

Paul needed much rest at home in Syria after his second missionary trip, so he spent his time with the Antioch Christians and other apostles. He preached and taught at the Antioch schools. But, after a couple of years, he felt it was time to revisit his established churches and friends across Asia Minor.

* SPECIAL NOTE: Bible scripture does not specify if Timothy traveled with Paul on this trip. It was rare for missionaries to travel alone in biblical days, but it appears Paul did just this on his journey.

Paul’s Third Missionary Trip map courtesy of FreeBibleImages.org

GALATIA and PHYRYGIA (Acts 18)

Approximately 53 A.D., Paul headed northwest to check in with his first established churches in Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Pisidian Antioch. He put a fresh heart into their leaders and congregations. As he traveled from town to town, his old friends, Aquila and Priscilla, sent him news of a powerful speaker who arrived in Ephesus. Apollos was an enthusiastic Jew, born in Alexandria, Egypt, who was highly recommended to preach by their Ephesian friends. But, there was one problem – Apollos’ knowledge of Jesus stopped at John’s baptism. So, Priscilla and Aquila (the first Christian missionary team) taught him of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. Then Apollos left for Corinth, and Paul headed down the mountains for Ephesus.


EPHESUS (Acts 19)

Soon after Paul’s arrival in Ephesus, he met twelve disciples, and a conversation began with questions and answers. He discovered they only knew of John’s baptism and had not been born again by faith in Christ. They were, for sure, Apollo’s students. Paul taught them the complete gospel. He baptized them in the name of Jesus, and they praised God in tongues.

The next three months, Paul spoke to the Jews in their synagogue. He tried to convince them of the realness of God’s kingdom. A resistance formed as evil rumors swirled about the Christian way of life. The Jews rejected the reason for Jesus’ crucifixion and especially the resurrection. So, Paul stopped teaching in the synagogue. The twelve disciples and Paul set up a new worship place in the school of Tyrannus for the next two years. Paul taught there in the afternoons when Ephesians took their siesta – it was less risky than mornings. Many Jews and Greeks from Asia attended his daily lessons. Paul also wrote letters to the church in Corinth (known as 1 Corinthians), as they were struggling with moral issues.

School of Tyrannus image courtesy of FreeBibleImages.org

God worked powerful miracles through Paul, which spread quickly around the area. Soon people started taking pieces of his clothing and began touching the sick with them. They believed his items healed others. A Jewish exorcist tried his hand at this when an evil spirit spoke back to him, asking who he was – he wasn’t Paul. This ended in a bloody brawl, and the news of the incident led Jews and Gentiles to believe only God was behind the voice. It led to witches and warlocks burning their books of spells and incantations and sovereignty for Paul ruled the land.

It wasn’t long before another large ruckus in Ephesus occurred over Paul’s presence. (Acts 19: 21-34) Demetrius was a silversmith for shrines of the goddess, Artemis, and he employed many artisans in the city. His business was failing because Paul discredited his statutes as being a real god. So, he gathered all his workers, and they rioted. After several hours of ranting and screaming, the town clerk settled everyone down and sent them home.

Paul called the disciples together and gave them lots of encouragement. He said his goodbyes and left town quietly on a ship headed to Macedonia.


MACEDONIA (Acts 20)

The apostle stayed a short three months in Greece. While Paul was there, he revisited his churches in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea and encouraged the ministry. He also wrote another letter to the church in Corinth (known as 2 Corinthians in the Bible) as some false disciples attacked his reputation.

Paul’s initial plan was to return to Syria via Jerusalem. However, he learned of his death plot by some Jews who would attack him on the ship. So Paul returned to Macedonia by land and gathered some apostles who would meet him in Troas – Timothy, Sopater from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, and Tychicus and Trophimus from western Asia.

Paul stayed for Passover Week in Philippi and set sail for Troas.


TROAS (northwest Turkey) (Acts 20:7-8)

All the disciples gathered to meet Paul when he arrived in Troas. On Sunday, they met the church congregation, and Paul preached long into the night. As Paul talked, a young man named Eutychus went to sleep sitting on a windowsill of the third-story room. He toppled out the window and was declared dead. Everyone began crying and gasping at the horrible sight. Paul ran down the steps and stretched himself over Eutychus. Squeezing him tightly, Paul said, “No more crying. There’s life in him yet.” The boy was alive so Paul continued telling stories of faith until dawn.

A short week later, Paul wanted to get back to Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost. The disciples met him in Assos and then watched him board the ship for Miletus (southwestern Turkey).


MILETUS

Paul sent messengers to Ephesus for the elders in the church to join him. After three years of working closely with the church, it was necessary to have a final conversation with the bishops. He owed it to them.

When everyone arrived, he began the speech with his qualities, characteristic of his servitude. He talked of being a humble yet persecuted servant of God, but through it all, he still encouraged them to continue spreading the word of God. Now it was time for his sad news… (Acts 20:17-35)

22 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.

25 “Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. 26 Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. 27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. (Acts 22-28) NIV

Paul gained a reputation for being against the Law, and he knew he would be killed when he returned to Jerusalem. Through tearful goodbyes and prayers, he encouraged the elders, and they walked him to the ship.  He could see the fear in their eyes, so they knelt on the beach and prayed together one last time.

Ruins of Ephusus

CAESAREA (Acts 21:7-16)

Paul stayed with Philip the Evangelist for several days. On the fourth day, Agabus, a prophet from Judea, came to visit Paul. Dramatically, he prophesied Paul getting mobbed and imprisoned if he went to Jerusalem. Paul didn’t budge nor show fear.

He responded to Agabus, “You’re looking at this backwards. The issue in Jerusalem is not what they do to me, whether arrest or murder, but what God does through my obedience.”

A couple of days later, a group of friends escorted Paul to Jerusalem where everyone stayed at the home of Mnason, a disciple.


JERUSALEM (Acts 21:27-36)

Paul was in Jerusalem for a week when some Jews from Ephesus spotted him in the synagogue. At once they ran and grabbed him. They screamed he was the man who was telling lies against the Jews. Soon the whole city came to get in on the upheaval. They dragged Paul outside the synagogue and beat him until soldiers arrived and arrested him. As they took him to the holding cell, Paul requested to speak to the crowd. He told the Jews he was Saul of Tarsus and gave them some background of his history.

Paul goes to jail.

People began shaking their fists and cursing, so the police dragged him inside the jail. The Roman centurions wanted to interrogate Paul under torture to find out what he did wrong, but when they realized he was a Roman citizen, they took him before the high priests.

Paul gazed at Chief Priest Ananias and said, “Friends, I’ve lived with a clear conscience before God all my life.”

The priest’s aides slapped Paul across the face for being disrespectful to the Chief Priest. He apologized and explained he didn’t know he was a high priest. Paul knew the council consisted of both Pharisees and Sadducees so as he spoke who he was, their decision to keep him split in half. A violent council caused the centurions to take him back to jail, for his safety.

That night, as Paul slept behind bars, Jesus spoke to him. “Have courage! For as you have testified about Me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”

The following morning, Paul’s nephew arrived at the jail, and he was allowed to speak to Paul. He informed him of a plot to murder his uncle by some Jews in Jerusalem. His nephew also talked to the captain of the jail. An ambush was set to occur if he removed Paul from the jail. The captain immediately placed a plan in action.

About 9 PM that evening, two hundred soldiers, seventy cavalrymen, and two hundred light infantry were placed in Caesarea.  Paul was transported safely and placed on house arrest in King Herod’s official quarters.


CAESAREA: PAUL ON TRIAL (Acts 24:1-21)

Within five days, the Chief Priest Ananias arrived with a trial lawyer, and they presented the governor with their case against Paul. They charged him with disturbing the peace, stirring up riots against Jews all over the world, and being the ringleader of the Nazarenes.

Paul defended his innocence. “It’s because I believe in the resurrection that I’ve been hauled into this court. Does that sound to you like grounds for a criminal case?” They dismissed Paul until the captain decided a resolution. Meanwhile, he remained at King Herod’s home where he was allowed freedom in the house and visitors who could help him.

Paul was heartbroken the church never came to his defense as he maintained house arrest status for the next two years. During this time, a Jewish couple, Felix and Drusilla, listened to Paul talk about Jesus Christ, moral discipline, and the coming Judgment. One day, Felix was replaced by the new governor, Porcius Festus. For sure, his agenda was not a good one.

Festus went to Jerusalem to see the high priests and top leaders, and he renewed their vendetta against Paul. They wanted him sentenced to death. Ten days later, Paul was led into the courtroom with jeering Jews. He asked for an appeal to Caesar in Rome, and it was awarded because it was a religious argument. Paul had the right to defend his innocence.

Several days later, King Agrippa and his wife, Bernice, asked to meet Paul as they wanted to hear his story. Paul was led into the Great Hall. Festus began by saying all the charges made by the Jews were lies and nothing else. Paul took the stand and told of his background and history. (Acts 26)

It was too much for Festus! “You are out of your mind, Paul! Your great learning is driving you insane.”

Paul appealed to their sense of religion. King Agrippa, the governor, Bernice, and their advisors stood up and left the room. They quickly agreed on Paul’s innocence. Agrippa faced Festus and said, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”


SAILING FOR ROME (Acts 27:27-28:5)

Under the supervision of a centurion named Julius, Paul and a few other prisoners boarded a ship headed for Rome. They sailed close to the shoreline because the strong winds were blowing against them. Then they transferred onto another ship at the port of Myra. The weather was horrific until they reached the island of Crete at the start the winter. Paul saw disaster ahead if they set sail any further, but the centurion ignored him and headed for Phoenix, a few miles further ahead.

No sooner was the ship out to sea when the gale-force winds struck and they lost control. With lifeboats readied, they drifted near some rocky shoals of an island, but it was impossible to get ashore. The ship’s drift anchors stopped them for crashing into the rocks from the whipping wind.

For two weeks the ship drifted on the Adriatic Sea until they realized they were approaching land. Paul gathered everyone together and asked them to eat some bread for strength. By daybreak, the centurion could see a beach so he decided to run the ship upon the sand. They hit a reef, and the boat began to break into pieces. Everyone swam to the shore.

The passengers soon learned they were on the island of Malta as natives came to their rescue. The head man of the island, Publius, took them into his home. He fed them and left them stay for three days, but the crew spent three months on Malta, waiting for another ship.


ROME

House arrest was imminent for Paul again as he entered Rome in 60 A.D. He stayed in his own private quarters with a soldier assigned to watch over him for two years. Many visitors came to see him, and he presented all matters of the Bible to them. He continued to preach God’s word as a prisoner of Jesus Christ.


CONCLUSION

What a cliffhanger! As I researched what happened to Paul after his Rome arrest, I found a lot of articles written by biblical scholars relishing in their own opinion. The Bible, though, does not speak of how, where, or why Paul died. We may assume Nero’s military beheaded him or he passed away as a martyr, after the Great Fire of Rome in July 64 A.D. Persecution of Christians was at an all-time high during this period in history. Are we to understand, then, Paul was released after his trial in Rome? There is no clear indication to confirm this question.

Paul’s entire story is written in the Book of Acts. However, it is believed many of the passages are not entirely accurate because they are missing Paul’s letters which revealed his deepest thoughts.

The apostle wrote four books of the New Testament during this last segment of his life:

            Acts 18:22-38:  Paul’s detailed his final meeting with the elders of the church in Ephesus in Miletus.

            1 Corinthians: This is the letter Paul wrote to the church in Corinth addressing immorality and divisions which had arisen among its members. He covered issues such as sexual immorality, marriage problems, and lawsuits with other believers. “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God” (6:9). He also corrected the doctrines which spoke of women in worship, the use of spiritual gifts, and observing the Lord’s Supper. Finally, he talked about the topic of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

            2 Corinthians: Written in Macedonia about 56 A.D., it is another letter to the church of Corinth defending and protecting his apostleship. Paul detailed the characteristics of an apostle so members could recognize a false prophet. He also spoke of the persecution of Christians, but he also instilled hope in Jesus Christ. Paul used the theology of his suffering as an example. The last thing he wrote in this Book was how to know if you are a real Christian. He said it was necessary to test yourself by examining the scriptures. (13:5)

            Romans: Paul wrote to the Romans from Corinth in 57 or 58 A.D. beginning the letter with “to all God’s beloved in Rome.” Addressing the Christian church of Rome, it is the most profound coverage of the Christian faith. He spoke that a believer’s relationship with God couldn’t be repaired by just good deeds, but by faith and serving the Lord. Paul also teaches about the sinful nature of man and how to gain freedom from the evilness of sin. Finally, he explained how to obtain a holy lifestyle; many makes the mistake of conforming their lives to the world, instead of to God.

Paul the Apostle was a real study in Christian character. The description of himself was so accurate -“a slave to Jesus Christ.” He served God first, man second, and himself last. His devotion to the Lord was like none other. I think he contributed more to the growth of Christianity than any other apostle.

This apostle is an exemplary example of working for God, be it as a missionary or in the ministry. In fact, Paul’s life parallels the missionaries who serve around the world today. These servants of God remain devoted regardless of the cost to their life. The courage to go into uncharted territories and preach Christianity can only be done through God’s anointment, and God bless them for this dedication.

Though Paul suffered many tribulations and felt deserted by everyone, he found strength in God through his weakness. I hope, one day, to meet Paul and find out the many stories he did not write about in the Bible. God gave him more than any person could handle, but God delivered the apostle by the grace of prayer. I encourage you to read Paul’s books in the Bible and learn to apply the scriptures to your own life. Absorb it, live it, and teach it… it’s Christianity. Thank you, friends, for reading this series – we hope you enjoyed it!


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The Dynamic Story of Paul the Apostle: Part 3, Second Missionary Trip

Paul and Barnabas settled back home and enjoyed leisurely visits with the disciples. They discussed their handpicks for church leaders in their first journey. They also detailed how God used them to open the door of faith to people of all nations. Excitement filled the air.

Not long after their arrival home, some Jews from Judea appeared at Antioch (of Syria) and insisted they must circumcise every man for eternal salvation. A fierce protest ensued, so the church sent Paul, Barnabas, and a few others to Jerusalem to settle the dispute. (Acts 15)

The Jerusalem conference happily received Paul and Barnabas. They knew about the good works of the two disciples. The meeting began, and it wasn’t long before they argued both sides. After a long period of heated discussions, James (the brother of Jesus) declared the decision. Non-Jewish people would not be burdened with circumcision. A letter would be given, instead, to every male – ‘Do not get involved in idolatry, guard the morality of sex and marriage, and do not serve offensive food to the Jewish Christians.’

Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch, reported the decision of the conference, and it relieved many – they were pleased with the result. It was time to return to their missionary work. Paul wanted to return to a few of his earlier churches to give them continuing encouragement. But Paul and Barnabas went their separate ways. Paul chose Silas, a leading member, and preacher of the early church, to make this three-year journey with him through Asia Minor.


Image of Paul’s second missionary trip courtesy of freebibleimages.org

LYSTRA/ PHRYGIA (Acts 14:8-16:40)

It was the fall of 51 A.D., and Paul and Silas arrived in Lystra. He met a disciple named Timothy whose excellent reputation preceded him. Paul took the young man under his wing and mentored him, but one stipulation applied before he could travel with Paul… he must be circumcised so he wouldn’t offend the Jews who lived in Lystra. Timothy became one of Paul’s most steadfast and trusted companions as they traveled from town to town, presenting the Gospel. Day after day, the congregations grew larger and stronger in faith throughout Lystra and Phrygia.


MYSIA to MACEDONIA (Acts 16:16-40)

The apostles went to Mysia (northwest corner of Turkey) at the suggestion of the Holy Spirit. They finally arrived in the seaport of Troas which sat on the Aegean Sea. Macedonia would soon prove to be an eventful trip.

The night of Paul’s arrival in Troas, he could barely sleep. He had a vision of a Macedonian standing on the far shore yelling to him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” Paul understood God’s message; He wanted Paul to settle into Europe, so he quickly put his plans and map in place.

When they arrived in New City, Paul and Silas walked to Philippi, the main city and a Roman colony of Macedonia. They prepared the list of cities they would visit, which also included Apollonia, Amphipolis, and Thessalonica.

Several days later was the Sabbath, and the apostles strolled down to the river where there was to be a prayer meeting. They sat amongst the women who gathered there and talked with them. Lydia, a purple-dye textile dealer from Thyatira, was a good God-fearing woman. She developed a lasting relationship with the disciples, and they even stayed as guests in her home until they moved to their next location. But, before the disciples left, Paul baptized Lydia and her family. Today, we know her in the Bible as the first European convert to Christianity.

Image of Lydia courtesy of freebibleimages.org

Some time passed, and a discerning incident occurred in town. The disciples ran into a slave girl on the street who was a psychic. She began following Paul around for several days, sarcastically yelling to everyone, “These men are working for the Most High God. They’re laying out the road of salvation for you!”

Paul became irate one day and turned to her, “Out! In the name of Jesus Christ, get out of her!” And the spirit departed from her.

When the slave girl’s owners realized their fortune-telling business was bankrupt, they gathered many people together. They searched and found Paul and Silas and viciously attacked them. The mob dragged the disciples by their feet into the market square where the police arrested them for disturbing the peace. They put Paul and Silas in a maximum-security cell with their legs clamped in round ironclads.

Paul and Silas in jail; image courtesy of freebibleimages.org

About midnight, other prisoners in the jail heard praying and singing of hymns. Paul and Silas were clearly amused at their arrest. Then, without warning, the ground beneath their feet started moving and shaking – it was an earthquake! The walls of the jailhouse shook, and every door flew open.

Badly shaken by the disruption, the warden fell on his knees before Paul and Silas. “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” The apostles stood shocked and examined his pitiful face.

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” The warden took Paul and Silas home. He bandaged their wounds and fed them a meal. In the morning hours, Paul and Silas baptized the jailer and his entire family.

The next morning, the court judges sent word the apostles were free. Paul objected based on the principle it humiliated them in public and good standing Roman citizens. Surprised the apostles were Romans, the judges hurried to them and apologized for the mishap. It was time for the ninety-seven mile trip to Thessalonica.


THESSALONICA (Acts 17:2-9)

Thessalonica was an ancient and prosperous city of Macedon in northern Greece. It was a major trade route with many cultures. Paul and Silas took refuge in a man’s home named Jason, who was a Jewish Christian.

A community of Jews inhabited the area, so Paul immediately preached in the synagogues, “this Jesus I’m introducing you to is the Messiah.” The apostle won many of the God-fearing Greeks. Mad with jealousy, the Jews gathered a group of brawlers off the streets, and they hunted every street in search of Paul and Silas. They broke into Jason’s house but couldn’t find the apostles, so they collared Jason and his friends instead and dragged them before the mayor.

The Jews yelled hysterically, “These people are out to destroy the world, and now they’ve shown up on our doorstep, attacking everything we hold dear! Jason is hiding them, these traitors and turncoats who say Jesus is king and Caesar is nothing!”

The crowd of people and the mayor were alarmed by their charges. Jason had to post a heavy bail while the case was investigated. In the dead of night, Paul and Silas slipped out of town, but not before contacting Antioch (in Syria) to send Timothy to Berea.


BEREA (Acts 17:10-15)

A more matured Timothy joined the apostles in Berea, a city in northern Greece. They, again, met with the Jewish community and were treated so much better than in Thessalonica. The Jews were enthusiastic to hear Paul’s message, and many converted to Christians.

After only three months in Berea, reports filtered back to the Jews in Thessalonica that the three apostles were in town. Another Jewish mob scene began, and with the help of Timothy and Silas, Paul was put on a boat and taken out to sea. When Paul reached Athens, he sent word back to Timothy and Silas to come as quick as possible.


ATHENS (Acts 17:16-34)

Paul toured the city of Athens while he waited for Timothy and Silas to arrive by his side. The city was full of junkyard idols. Paganism gripped the town and works of art such as statues were pillaged. It was clear the Romans deserted the city. He spoke with many of the locals and developed good friendships. His preaching of Jesus and the resurrection was often met with sarcasm, but many were intrigued too. “That’s a new slant on the gods. Tell us more!”

They soon approached Paul to make a public presentation of “his God” at the Areopagus, a hill west of the Athenian Acropolis, where the government council often met.  He took his stand and faced the audience.

Image of Areopagus courtesy of freebibleimages.org

“People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.”

Paul’s notorious speech on that day won the conversion of a few people and some Greek poets who attended the program in Athens. A successful trip it was but fifty-five miles to the southwest, Corinth was calling him.


CORINTH (Acts 18:1-11)

Corinth was a thriving cosmopolitan city. Shortly after his arrival, Paul met Aquila and Priscilla, who shared the trade of tent making with him. They were new arrivals to Corinth too; since they were Jews, they were banished from Rome by the emperor, Claudius. A friendship quickly formed between the three, and Paul was invited to live and work with them.  But every Sabbath he was at the meeting place doing his best to convince both Jews and Greeks about Jesus.

At long last Silas and Timothy arrived and now he could devote his time to preaching, but something was wrong. They persistently argued and contradicted Paul, so he walked out and went to the home of Titius Justus. Titius was a God-fearing man who lived next to the Jews’ meeting place. Paul assigned Timothy to be one of his leading troubleshooters for congregational problems within the churches of Corinth.

Many Corinthians converted to Christianity, and with the Lord’s encouragement in the middle of the night, Paul was successful in his mission. He stayed another year and a half preaching while he also wrote two epistles to the church of Thessalonica. These earliest apostolic letters today are known as First and Second Thessalonians of the Bible.

Christian persecution, once again, played in the forefront. The Jews campaigned against Paul, hauled him into court, and filed charges of seducing people into acts of worship that were illegal. Gallio, the governor, could not have cared less so he let the charges drop against Paul.

Paul stayed a little while longer before he left Corinth with his friends, Aquila and Priscilla, at his side. He wanted to go back to Jerusalem to observe the Pentecost. They boarded a ship in the harbor town of Cenchrea and headed for Ephesus in present-day Turkey.


EPHESUS to CAESAREA (Acts 18:20-21)

Priscilla and Aquila got off the ship and stayed in Ephesus. They pleaded with Paul to stay awhile longer, but he promised he would come back soon. He left the ship briefly to preach to the Jews (the first person to preach Christianity in Ephesus) and then returned to take a boat to Caesarea.

Paul disembarked in Caesarea and headed to Jerusalem where he greeted the assembly of Christians. It was a long three years, and it was time to go back to Antioch and rest.

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SUMMARY OF PAUL’S SECOND MISSIONARY TRIP

During this second missionary journey, Paul formed many disciples from all backgrounds. He took a young Timothy under his wing and mentored how to preach and exhibit patience, purity, and integrity. It was important to encourage their congregations, or it will be lifeless.

In Philippi, Paul disciples and baptized a businesswoman by the name of Lydia. She was the very first person to convert to Christianity in Europe. Many Christian denominations today recognize her as a saint, especially in the Orthodox church. A modern baptistry is located, today, on the traditional site where Lydia was baptized by Paul. In, we have to wonder if he had Lydia in mind when he wrote: “Not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.” (Romans 12:11)

Paul developed a strong bond with the married couple Aquila and Priscilla. He disciples them, and they eventually became a first-century Christian missionary team. In some religions, we often think her to have been the first female preacher or teacher in early church history.

Image of Paul, Aquila, and Priscilla courtesy of freebibleimages.org

He planted the church in Philippi during his second missionary journey somewhere the year A.D. 49 or 50. His ministry was so successful that even when he left Philippi, the Philippian Christians supported Paul sending him monetary gifts at various times when he was in financial need. He wrote about this in Philippians 4: 15-16:

“When I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need.”

He loved them for their commitment to the Lord, and they became his closest friends.

During the time they imprisoned Paul in Philippi, he suffered mentally and physically, but he knew life was never truly hopeless. God can rescue us from any trouble. We can note the earthquake which occurred while he was in jail was not felt or observed anywhere else in Philippi – another of God’s miracles.

Athens was a disturbing experience for Paul as idolatry overpowered the beauty of this lost city. He wrote about it in the Book of Romans claiming Gentiles and Jews are under divine condemnation, hopeless and helpless, and in need of salvation. His Areopagus sermon was infamous, though, because it was his first attempt to explain the nature of Christ to highly cultivated philosophers. He emphasized the need to know God, rather than worshiping the unknown. The part of his speech which covered “the resurrection of the dead” was his kiss of death. The Greeks felt it foolish and impossible, so they threw out Paul’s entire message. We can find his ministry teachings to Athens in 1 Corinthians: Chapters 1, 2, and 3; Romans chapter 1; and Colossians chapters one and two. Paul never founded a church in Athens.

Corinth, though many people were Greeks, they were more worldly and from other parts of Greece and foreign lands. They were more receptive to Paul and his message that the Savior was the highest expression of love. He made it known there is no higher love than that which gives up a son to die for their sins. It was a different psychological approach to those who praised other gods. Paul successfully founded a church in Corinth.

I hope you are enjoying this series about Paul the Apostle. Next Sunday, I will conclude with his third and final missionary trip and the circumstances of his death. As many finds the Bible confusing, I pray I have shed a light and deeper understanding of the complexity of Paul.


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The Dynamic Story of Paul the Apostle: Part 1, The Conversion

The short, balding man with crooked legs leaned against the stone pillar of the Christian church and sneered at the attendees. As believers left the service, he picked up stones and threw them yelling, “Blasphemy! You mock my Messiah with your false religion! Run, or I’ll stone you to death too!” Saul of Tarsus never regretted watching Stephen get stoned to death. “Jesus the Savior”, he exclaimed, “only God is our Savior!” Stephen was a wicked and disgusting Christian, just as the people in this church, he thought to himself. It was Saul’s job to serve and protect God and the Jewish religion. All the talk of Jesus living on earth was lies so he would see to it Christians were imprisoned and killed for their false doctrines.

It was 33 AD, and Saul decided to leave his regular tent making job behind, and head to Damascus with three friends on a 136-mile trip. He was on a mission to arrest all Christians and bring them back to Jerusalem for prosecution by the Romans. Saul limped down the dusty road, when suddenly, a great light shone directly in his eyes. He stumbled onto the ground. As he glanced up, he witnessed a vision of the resurrected Jesus.

“Who art thou, Lord?”

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” (Acts 9:4-5)

Stunned and speechless, Saul’s friends backed up and looked away with their hands over their eyes. Saul trembled and staggered to his feet, but when he opened his eyes, he was blind! The men took Saul by his hands and led him the rest of the way to Damascus. Saul refused to drink or eat for the three-day trip. He could only stay in deep prayer with every step he took on the road. The Lord had revealed himself to Saul so what else could he do but praise God’s name? Everything he believed until now was wrong – the Mosaic Law. Jesus was the name he should worship!

Upon Saul’s arrival in Damascus, God ordered him to visit Ananias, a disciple (or prophet) of Jesus. As Ananias entered the room, he spoke to Saul, “Brother Saul, the LORD-Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here, has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Ananias laid his hand over Saul’s eyes and the “scales” of dead tissue on the surface of his eyes fell to the floor; Saul’s vision was restored again. The next event was even more profound for Saul was baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and filled with the Holy Ghost. It washed away his sins and he later adopted a new Christian name – Paul.

Now baptized in the Holy Spirit, Paul (Saul of Tarsus) quietly headed for Arabia. It was a spiritual retreat where he could learn about himself and the reality of his true Savior. He was comforted and strengthened by God’s powerful presence as he studied the scriptures of the Old Testament. It is here Paul met his confidante, a Christian leader called Barnabas, who put God before his physical possessions. It intrigued Paul that Barnabas sold a field and laid the money before the feet of the apostles. The mentoring relationship between the two men laid the groundwork for Paul’s future superb ministry. He also met with Jesus’ brother, James. God was preparing Paul’s way for the ministry for the next three years. (Galatians 1:18)

COMMENTARY:

Saul of Tarsus (modern-day Turkey), better known as Paul, was born into a devout Jewish family in 5AD. Most Jews, in biblical days, were not Roman citizens, but Rome gave him and his family the honor. It is an educated guess they were of moderate wealth, which made significant contributions to the Roman Empire. Citizenship outside of Italy was only granted to people of substantial influence.

At fourteen Paul went to Jerusalem and trained to be a Rabbi, an occupation he could fall back on if tent-making proved unsuccessful. It was during this time he became a man of firm convictions for the Jewish faith. His fiery temperament caused the death of many early Christians, including Stephen, the first martyr of Christianity. Paul went from house to house, dragged out men and women believers, and threw them into jail.

If we revisit history, Paul was born in the era of Jesus’ birth and entire life. Christianity was the newest religion established in the Middle East and very much frowned on by the Jews. They do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus for he was a mere prophet and son of God. Also, this new Messianic movement (as they called Christianity) denied Roman rule and antagonized much chaos throughout the land. Therefore, Paul’s anger triggered towards the blasphemy which Christians spoke – Jesus was “King of the Jews” and “Jesus the Messiah.”

What can we learn from Saul’s conversion? A person who persecutes a Christian is persecuting Jesus and this sin is mighty. The same fall-from-grace stands true today. The Lord will seek revenge on those who attempt to destroy His children. But like Saul, if we admit our sins and seek God, we will be forgiven.

A little-known fact about Paul, he was NOT one of the original twelve disciples. As he turned his love of God into mission work, many believers assumed God assigned him to be a disciple, but this was not true. Paul began using his name, “Paul the Apostle” in his later writings. He became a prolific writer for of the twenty-seven books in the New Testament, Paul wrote thirteen of them in his lifetime – 1st Thessalonians, 1st and 2nd Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, Philemon, and Romans.

I began this blog just before Paul converted to Christianity. We can read his conversion story in Acts 9:1-19; Acts 22:3-16; Acts 26:12-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:8-9. As I researched Paul, I realized his marvelous story spread over many books of the Bible; thus the motivation to condense all the chapters and tell of his life in one dynamic narrative.

Next Sunday, we will cover Paul’s tracks just after his conversion. We will examine the profound impact he established on Christianity during his first missionary trip. His life is nothing short of miraculous – he witnessed and lived through God’s blessings and love. Isn’t this something every Christian should strive to do?


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