Saint Paul

Saul was a citizen of Tarsus who would later become Paul. He is called the apostle to the Gentiles. Brought up at Jerusalem, Paul lived with relatives, apparently in the home of a paternal aunt. We probably know more about Paul's appearance than any other New Testament character. He was a man of little stature, dark-complexioned, thin-haired upon the head, bowlegged, blind in one eye and a great hooked nose that sprang from the point where his thick eyebrows met, he was called an "ugly little Jew" and was described as having some deformity of body. The young scholar was unimpressive physically but his brilliant mind and intense piety attracted attention. He was considered full of grace, for sometimes he appeared like a man and sometimes he had the face of an angel.

Paul was a tentmaker by trade, an amazing servant of God, short in body, giant in zeal, soldier, teacher, wrestler, theologian, world-traveller, mystic. A contemporary of Jesus, he studied under Gamaliel in Jerusalem while Jesus was still alive. He began as an apostle of the Sanhedrin and was converted probably 3 years after the crucifixion. In his own words "I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers."

Saul was consenting unto Stephen's death. In this case the witnesses laid their coats at Saul's feet. Saul, it appears, was acting in official capacity as he observed the stoning. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and hailing men and women committed them to prison. Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word.. And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, and desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them in chains unto Jerusalem. Jesus had different ideas for Saul: for he is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake.

The Lord soon takes command of Saul's life. The arrogant Jew is now broken, blind and putty in Jesus' hands. So brilliant was the shekinah flash that all around him were blinded for a time. It would appear that his conversion was in 33 and his visit to Jerusalem in 35. For 8 years he was lost to history in his native city for the preparation of the ministry. Then Barnabas came and asked his aid in ministering to the church at Antioch. Working together in 43 or 44, they made so many converts that Antioch soon led all other cities in the number of Christians. He started from Syrian Antioch. He established centers in Ephesus and Corinth. His route was generally westward. If he followed the plan God laid out before him, the very next place he should go was Rome. But Paul wanted to delay his trip and go to Jerusalem.

Writing from Ephesus about the year 57, he reminded the Corinthians that it was Paul who delivered the Christian religion from Judaism, Jesus being the end of the law. When he came to Galatia, he was a sick man. Barnabas wished John Mark with them again but Paul would have nothing to do with the man who had deserted him. Paul and Barnabas split company forever. Paul wished in the most practical way to emphasize the unity of the church and wanted to take them away from a merely congregational outlook on the Church and to give them a vision of the one universal church of which they were a part.

We know from his letters that Paul was intense, sensitive, lacking in humor, given to moments of deep depression and of high, quivering exultation, unquestioning in his belief in God and in the validity of the Jewish law. Probably in 50 Paul left on his 2nd missionary journey. Tried and probably executed as an agitator, not as a Christian. 1st missionary tour 48 and 49, 2nd, 51-54; third 54-58; imprisonment at Caesarea, 58-60; imprisonment at Rome 61-63; 2nd imprisonment at Rome, probably 67-68... He lived in Rome in his own hired house.

Paul was condemned by Nero AD 62. Tradition says that after he was convicted, he was led some three miles outside of the city where he was beheaded on orders by Nero. In that he was a Roman citizen, he was not crucified as Peter is reported to have been. A church bearing his name marks a spot along the Ostian Way where his decapitated body was laid to rest.
[291, 292, 315, 318, 326, 327, 328, 332, 334, 345, 12, 23, 15, 374, Acts, 392, 402, 357, 296]

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