TIMELINE FROM HIS BIRTH TO HIS FINAL MISSIONARY JOURNEY
Paul The Apostle was actually born as “Saul”. He was born in Tarsus around A.D. 1 to A.D. 5, in a province in the Southwestern corner of modern day Turkey. In “But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean (ordinary) city.” He also identifies himself in “For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham of the Tribe of Benjamin”.
Even though Saul was Jewish, he was also a Roman citizen, as his parents were Roman citizens. Unlike Jesus’s other early followers, who were mostly Palestinians, Saul, being a Roman citizen, implies he was at least moderately well-off. This Roman citizenship also granted him a certain respect wherever he went in the empire.
At age thirteen, Saul was sent to Israel to learn from a Rabbi named Gamaliel, a doctor of law, who had a reputation among all the people Under the teaching of Gamaliel, Saul mastered Jewish history, the Psalms, and the works of the prophets. His education would continue for five or six years, as Saul learned such things as dissecting scripture. Saul went on to become a lawyer, and all signs pointed to his becoming a member of Sanhedrin, the Jewish supreme court of 71 men who ruled over Jewish life and religion.
As previously noted, the Book of Acts gives us a historical look at Paul’s life and times.
Saul was zealous for his faith, and this faith did not allow for compromise. It is this zeal that led Saul down the path of religious extremism.
Saul considered christianity to be a false religion. A religion that was in direct conflict with the Jewish tradition he so devoutly followed. He was so zealous for Judaism, and so against this new religion (christianity), that he actively persecuted christians. “And I persecuted this way unto death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.”
In we know he witnessed and approved the stoning of Stephen, who was a christian
Saul was dedicated to the persecution of the Jews and the early Disciples of Jesus in the area of Jerusalem.
However, God had other plans for Saul. Along the road to Damascus, the resurrected Jesus appeared to Saul and questioned him as to why he was persecuting him. “. . . . Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” It is interesting to note that Jesus equates persecution of his followers to be the same as persecuting him personally. Saul responded by asking Jesus who he was. Jesus said unto him, “I am Jesus of Nazareth, who thou persecutest”.
It is clear from the account in that Saul responded in obedience to Jesus’s words. Saul’s heart was ready to be changed.
When Jesus appeared to Saul, Jesus appeared to him in a great light. Saul was blinded by the light for three days. His sight was later restored by Ananias of Damascus. From this encounter with Jesus, Saul (Acts 13:9) from then on, became known as “Paul The Apostle”. Paul was not one of the original twelve disciples; he never met Jesus before Jesus was crucified. Paul came to be a follower of Jesus after Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection when Jesus confronted him in a blinding light.
I believe that Paul, though he had an incorrect understanding of all that was happening in the religious climate of his time, was a sincerely devout man, dedicated to serving God. From the moment he was saved, he began teaching about Jesus (Acts 9:20-21). Over the next several years, Paul traveled extensively, planting churches wherever he went. Much of the New Testament that we have today is made up of his letters to some of those churches.
We know that Paul wrote at least 13 letters that are included in the New Testament. Scholars have debated whether or not Hebrews was written by Paul; if Paul wrote Hebrews, that would make his total contribution to the Bible, 14 books, of the 27 books of the New Testament.
The following is a breakdown of the letters Paul wrote and the possible time frames in which he wrote them:
I And II Thessalonians
I And II Corithians
(During Paul’s first Roman Imprisonment)
I Timothy, Titus
(During Paul’s second Roman Imprisonment)
Although Paul penned or dictated these letters, he makes it clear that he is speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The other Apostles, as well as the early church, accepted these letters as words from God Peter 1:20-21, Jesus Himself told Paul that He was sending him as a witness of all God would teach him
Therefore, we can rest assured that Paul’s words to the churches are inspired by the Holy Spirit and relevant for us today.
So, what can we learn from the life of the Apostle Paul?
First, we can learn that God can save anyone. The remarkable story of Paul repeats itself every day as sinful, broken people; people all over the world are transformed by God’s saving grace in Jesus Christ. Some of these people have done despicable things to other human beings. When we read the story of Paul and know what he had done, it is difficult for us to believe that God would allow into Heaven religious extremists who murder innocent women and children. The story of Paul is a story that can be told today. He isn’t worthy in our eyes of a second chance. Yet, to God he is worthy. The truth is that every person matters to God, from the “good, decent,” average person to the “wicked, evil” degenerate. Only God can save a soul from Hell.
Second we learn from the life of Paul that anyone can be a humble, powerful witness for Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:19) tells us that Paul “served the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to (him) through the plots of the Jews”. Paul was not afraid to tell others what the Lord had done for him.
Finally, we learn that anyone can surrender completely to God.
Paul had surrendered his life fully, trusting God for everything.
At the start of his ministry, Paul spent much of his time in Jerusalem. Later, he traveled through Asia Minor, to Greece, and Rome.
After his wonderful conversion, Paul met Peter, James, and John in Jerusalem. Later, he was sent forth with Barnabas to preach from the church in Antioch. Here, we begin the story of the first time Barnabas and Paul were sent out as missionaries.
Note: Barnabas was a man who was very instrumental in the spread of the Gospel in the early days of the church. He was a Jew from the Tribe of Levi. Because the people of the church were skeptical of Paul’s true purpose in coming into their ranks, Barnabas had already met Paul and was willing to stand up and vouch for Paul’s authenticity as a christian. On the word of Barnabas, they allowed their former enemy to become one of them.