Life of Paul the Apostle

Last week’s blog on Lydia meeting the Apostle Paul really got me thinking about Paul’s life. Two specific points came to mind and I wanted to explore a little more on each point. First of all, I wondered why Paul would seek out a synagogue, or Jewish prayer house in Philippi (and everywhere he went) to spend the Sabbath? It seemed like an odd choice for someone who had renounced his Jewish faith and converted to Christianity. Wasn’t he known as the Apostle to the Gentiles? Who was the Apostle Paul in the Bible? 

The Apostle Paul- Plain blue book lying on a page filled with cursive writing, blue pen lying to the right of the book

Who was the Apostle Paul?

Paul, previously named Saul, was a Roman citizen, born in Tarsus, with a strong Jewish heritage. He was the son of a Pharisee and as a young man, was already a leader in the Jewish faith. He was famously active in his persecution of Christians and by his own words, he put many in prison and voted for the death penalty for them. His mission was to totally destroy the Christian church.

Paul’s Conversion

Paul’s dramatic conversion is related in Acts 9:1-30.  If you haven’t read it in a while, I highly suggest it. It’s such an amazing, one of a kind conversion story. Paul’s purpose is told by God’s own words: “This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.” v15.

And that’s exactly what Paul did. God’s directive was to carry his name to Jews and Gentiles. Paul’s own words from Romans 1:16 cement this: “For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.”

Paul Preaching the Gospel

By God’s own directive, Paul was to take the Good News to the Jews and the Gentiles.  What better place than a synagogue for that? When I think about it, I guess it gave Paul a pretty good opportunity.

Acts 17:1-2 “…They came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue.  As was Paul’s custom, he went to the synagogue service, and for three Sabbaths in a row he used the Scriptures to reason with the people.” 

Acts 13: 14-16 “And on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. After the reading from the Law and Prophets, the rulers of the synagogues sent a message to them, saying “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it.” So Paul stood up, motioning with his hand said: “Men of Israel and you who fear God, listen.” This was a common request to visitors, and Paul took advantage of this part of their service.

Acts 18:4 “And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks. This verse shows us that Paul was able to preach to both Jews and Gentiles in the synagogue. Obviously, the Gentiles were open to God’s word since they were in the synagogue, and so it would be a great place to preach his message.

Acts 14:1- “Now at Iconium, they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed.”  Success! Unfortunately, his success really agitated the Jews, and he was driven out of more than one place by an angry mob.

So now it makes sense to me!  Paul’s mission was to spread the Gospel.  What better place than to his old place of worship? He could easily preach to both Jews and Gentiles and had a built-in, large, captive audience.

The Apostle Paul- map with Romans 15:18.

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Paul’s Sufferings

That brings me to my second point of Paul’s life.

When Lydia believed, she became fearless. We discussed her courageous spirit last week and how we can overcome our fears of sharing the gospel. But I also thought of Paul, and what he overcame to persevere in his mission.

Paul gives an account in 2 Corinthians 11:24-27. Here’s what he endured in a list form:

Flogged 5 different times with 39 lashes of the whip.

Beaten with rods 3 times.

Stoned– Can you even imagine a crowd throwing rocks at you? It appears they injured him severely enough that they thought he was dead- “they dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead.” Acts 14:19

Shipwrecked three times

Constantly on the move due to danger from rivers, bandits, Jews, Gentiles in all areas he visited

Labored and toiled- also went without sleep, food, water, and clothing.

His list doesn’t even include the approximately 5 ½- 6 total years he spent in prison. He spent his Christian life as a hated and hunted man.

All this led me to wonder why I would think that the minuscule amount of suffering I have or would experience from sharing the gospel would hold me back?

No one likes to be rejected or made to feel unwelcome. But do hurt feelings or squeamishness even count as persecution? I feel like a wimp!

The Life of Paul 

•Paul never said “I’m done now. I’m retiring.”  Likewise, we are never to be done working to spread the gospel.

•Paul spent years studying the Torah. This knowledge came in pretty handy as he spoke the Scriptures and the prophecies of the Messiah after his conversion.  He spent 3 years in Arabia after his conversion studying for his mission. He knew what he believed and he knew how he wanted to say it.

I can’t say it any better than Peter in 1 Peter 3:15- “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” 1 Peter 3:15.

•Study the Word. Practicing what you would say to someone who asks you why you are a Christian might make you feel more at ease.

Paul Asks for Prayer

There are many instances where Paul asks for prayer for himself.

Isn’t it encouraging that Paul, even with all his study and knowledge, prayed in Ephesians 6:19- “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.

Pray these same things for yourself as well-for opportunities to speak, to know what to say, to be clear, bold, and unafraid, and that the message would be accepted.

Paul the Missionary

Paul tells us “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” 2 Timothy 3:12. He experienced far greater persecution than we ever will, but his strong faith kept him going. He is a great encouragement to all Christians to persevere in the tough times.

Paul’s conversion and missionary life were nothing short of a miracle. God specifically chose Paul for the job. Paul was obedient, but it was God’s work being done. Paul realized that it was Christ in him doing the work. “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me…” Romans 15:18

What will Christ accomplish through you in your home, your place of work, your school or your daily life?



Photo credit: Kingdom Bloggers, AnnMarie Anderson

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