At the stoning of Stephen, the outer garments of those doing the stoning were laid at the feet of a young man named Saul, the one who consented to Stephen’s death. At that time the church at Jerusalem was suffering a great persecution, which scattered all of the brethren throughout Judea and Samaria, except for the apostles (Acts 8: 1). But wherever the disciples preached the gospel, it prospered. This angered Saul, who went to the high priest to obtain letters so that he could go to Damascus, enter the synagogues, and bring back bound to Jerusalem any Christians (Acts 9: 1, 2). But as Saul and his caravan neared Damascus, Jesus appeared to him in a bright light, and this changed Saul’s life forever (Acts 9: 3, 4). The Lord directed the disciple Ananias to go to Saul, but Ananias, who had heard of Saul’s reputation, feared. But the Lord reassured Ananias in the words of our text. Saul’s name was eventually changed to Paul, which means “little.”
Paul was born in the Roman city of Tarsus and he claimed Roman citizenship. As a boy, Paul learned the art of tentmaking, which he used to pay necessary expenses. Physically, Paul had weak eyes, was of a small stature, and was not naturally a gifted speaker. But mentally, Paul was a giant, he was unrivaled as a reasoner, and he was educated under the famous rabbi, Gamaliel. From a religious standpoint Paul was a Jew from the tribe of Benjamin, he was a Pharisee, was fully consecrated to God, was zealous for the traditions of the law, and was perhaps a member of the Sanhedrin.
Paul took the place of Judas as not only one of the twelve Apostles, but as the greatest of the Twelve. His writings of the New Testament are more than the other eleven Apostles combined. They include: Luke (Luke acting as Paul’s amanuensis), Romans, I and II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I and II Thessalonians, I and II Timothy, Titus, Philemon and Hebrews. Through the power of the holy spirit Paul became a powerful and persuasive preacher. His travels were extensive, and included three missionary journeys. Many churches were established during the course of his travels. Paul was also a faithful pastor to the brethren, as can be witnessed in his many epistles.
Paul’s Missionary Journeys
(1.) Paul’s first missionary journey (46-48 A.D.) began at Antioch (Acts 13, 14). Barnabas had become a prominent leader in the church there, and Paul became his associate. The church was involved in missionary work, so they chose Paul and Barnabas, as their representatives, to go out and preach the gospel. John Mark went with them as their assistant. They went from Antioch to the seaport of Seleucia. Then they took a ship to Cyprus. After landing at Salamis, they traveled to Paphos, and from there they sailed to Perga (on Turkey’s southern shore). They came into the province of Galatia, where they concentrated their time and efforts in Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. When they entered a new town they would typically go to the synagogue where they would share the gospel on the sabbath day. This first journey produced fruitful results, for in each city many became Christians. Paul later addressed the epistle of Galatians to this district.
(2.) Paul’s second missionary journey (49-52 A.D.) departed from Antioch, with Silas as his associate (Acts 15: 36-18: 18). They traveled through modern Turkey to the Aegean port of Troas. Paul received a vision which directed him to go to the Roman city of Philippi in the province of Macedonia. He established a church there, witnessed by his letter to the Philippians. From there he travelled Thessalonica and Berea. His preaching at Athens met with little success. However, his work at Corinth met with good success. Paul then returned to Caesarea, visited Jerusalem and came back to Antioch.
(3.) Paul’s third missionary journey (52-57 A.D.) centered in the city of Ephesus, from which the gospel probably spread into the surrounding cities (Acts 18: 23-20: 6). From Ephesus he carried on a correspondence with the Corinthian church and possibly other churches. While in Corinth at the end of this journey, he wrote the Epistle to the Romans.
(to be continued)