Paul the Apostle – The Champion of the Christians
One of the well-known earliest Christian missionaries, together with St. Peter and St. James, Paul the Apostle has forever left his image upon the world. He is also known as Paul the Apostle and Paul of Tarsus, but he preferred to be called Apostle to the Gentiles.
Paul is known as the writer of more New Testament Bible books than any other. Pauls’ life remains of interest to so many, from being dedicated to the persecution of Christians to becoming a Christian missionary who preached about God and became a martyr, dying for his faith in Jesus as God’s only son, the Messiah, who came to take our sins and provide us eternal salvation. Paul’s life is mostly described in the book of Acts.
Originally named Saul, Paul was born in Tarsus, a Roman citizen from the Jewish tribe of Benjamin. His parents were Gentiles, who had not fully converted to Judaism known as God-fearers. It is said that Paul the Apostle was the first in their family to become fully converted to Judaism. He trained as a rabbi at the age of fourteen, which molded him to be a man of firm beliefs and fiery spirit. He took Judaism earnestly and did everything to stop Christianity. In fact, it is said that he was there when the first ever recorded martyr of Christians, Stephen, was stoned to death. Even though he did not participate in the act, he encouraged the violent deed which resulted in Stephen’s death.
The first meeting of Paul the Apostle with Jesus Christ happened on his way to Damascus, when Paul intended to continue persecuting Christians. While on the road, Paul and all those present saw a great light come from heaven. “He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ So he said, “Who are you, Lord?” The voice replied, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting! with a voice asking Paul, “Why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4-5)
After his meeting with Jesus, though his spiritual eyes were open, Saul could see nothing with his eyes as Jesus blinded him temporarily as a marker of the event. Paul’s traveling companions had to guide Paul on his way to Damascus by hand. He regained his sight when Jesus instructed a devout Christian, Ananias, to lay hands on and pray for Saul. This encounter converted Paul into a Christian, changing his eternal life forever. From that moment forward, Paul the Apostle preached Christianity in Damascus before making his enemies furious, wanting to kill him.
Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem where they received authorization from the leaders of the Church, including Peter and James, to preach the message of Jesus to the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria and Cilica.
Paul made many missionary journeys all over the Roman Empire, building churches, preaching the gospel, and giving strength and encouragement to early Christians. One such journey was with Barnabas and John, otherwise known as Mark, when they went to Cyprus to minister to both Jews and Gentiles. During another journey to Antioch, he was joined by Silas and Judas, also called Barnabas, who were also appointed by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. Paul and Barnabas had a disagreement about John who had left them in Pamphylia. Paul was against him joining them, and so they parted company leaving Paul with Silas. Timothy joined Paul and Silas in Lystra. They went to Corinth, where he stayed for about a year and a half. It is believed that Luke joined them later in Greece (Acts 20:2).
The other sojourns were marked by Paul and his teams lengthy visits in different places. Paul’s team was dispersed throughout various places to preach. He suffered much in spreading the Gospel. He was even stoned, though not killed, while preaching to Lystra.
Paul had a brilliant mind, wide knowledge of philosophy and religion, and an understandable explanation of the Gospel. He wrote letters which make up most of the books of the New Testament of the Bible, providing a solid foundation of Christian theology as he was guided by the Holy Spirit.
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