Biblical Story Of Apostle Paul And Its Lessons
BIBLE TEXT: ACTS 7:58, 9:1-43, ACTS 13
Apostle Paul was named Saul at birth in a city called Tarsus. He was of the tribe of Benjamin. He was an educated and disciplined Pharisee. This position earned him great respect and influence among the Jews of his time. He likewise had quality background education in both Hebrew Bible and the Jewish tradition. This was the backdrop against which his passionate hatred for the new Christian movement springing up in and around Jerusalem lies.
Consequent upon this passionate and intense hatred for the Christians, he started persecuting them with a great and burning zeal. Ironically, he thought he was doing God a favour, for he thought the Christians were blaspheming the name of God.
Historical background of Apostle Paul
Apostle Paul was a descendant of the tribe of Benjamin, but had the status of Roman citizenship. He completed his education under the influence of his teacher, a renowned doctor of the law, Master Gamaliel. Upon the completion of his education, he became a Pharisee.
Apostle Paul was not only educated, he also learned a trade, tent making. This allowed him to earn a living throughout his lifetime.
At the onset of the spread of Christianity in Jerusalem, Apostle Paul (then Saul) became one of the hostile opponents of the gospel. He would enter into houses of the believers and drag them out to prison. He personally witnessed the stoning of Stephen, the first Christian martyr; in fact, the young men that stoned Stephen dropped their clothes at his feet.
The conversion of Saul to Paul
In his eagerness and zeal to fight the spread of Christianity, Paul who was then Saul, went to the High Priest and requested for letters of introduction to the synagogues in Damascus(sort of warrant of arrest) to enable him arrest and bring back any convert to Jerusalem.
As he was drawing near to the city of Damascus, a great light from heaven suddenly flashed at him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice that said, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Paul asked, “Who are you Lord?” The voice answered him, “I am Jesus, whom you persecute. Get up and go into the city, there you will be told what you must do.” The other men who were travelling with him were terrified, hearing the voice, but seeing no one.
By the time Saul got up from the ground, he could not see again. The people travelling with him took him by the hand and led him into the city of Damascus. He was completely blind for three days, and he didn’t eat nor drink anything for those three days.
Paul became an Apostle of Jesus Christ
While Paul was in Damascus, God ordered Ananias, a Christian living in the city to locate Paul and pray for him for the restoration of his sight. When he came, Paul was already expecting him because he had also seen a vision from Jesus.
Immediately Ananias touched Paul, he received his sight. He arose, ate, recovered his strength and was baptized.
Thereafter, Paul stayed in Damascus for a while, preaching in the synagogues that Jesus was the Son of God. In fact, all those who heard him preaching could not believe their ears. They kept on asking that, “Is this not the man who persecuted the believers in Jerusalem? Did he not come here to arrest the believers and take them back to the chief priests?”
Despite all these, Paul became more and more eloquent and his preaching more forceful. The Jews in Damascus became angry at his preaching and plotted to kill him. When Paul learned of the plot, he escaped from the city by night through a basket which was let down the wall of the city.
When Paul got back to Jerusalem, he tried to join the believers, but they were afraid of him because of his past records as a persecutor. Barnabas, a Jewish convert, testified of his genuine repentance.
Paul’s missionary journeys
Apostle Paul had experienced how pleasant it is to know Jesus Christ as Lord and savior. In his bid to share this good news with others as well, Apostle Paul embarked on three missionary journeys.
On his first missionary journey, he, together with his two companions, Barnabas and John whose surname was Mark, sailed to the island of Cyprus. There, while preaching the gospel, they met one sorcerer whose name was Barjesus, also called Elymas. He attempted to refute the teaching of Paul and his friends. The apostles cursed him, and he became blind. The proconsul was so impresses by this event, that he became a believer. They also went to Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe, spreading the good news of the gospel.
During Paul’s second missionary journey, he had already separated from Barnabas and John. So he chose Silas based on the recommendation of the brethren. Along the line, Timothy also joined the duo. They went through to different cities with the gospel, like Macedonia, Philippi where they met with and converted Lydia, (it was in this same city that Paul and Silas were jailed, and after praying and singing were delivered), Thessalonica, Berea and Athens.
On these various missionary journeys, Apostle Paul shared the Gospel, planted new churches, and kept in touch with the new Christian converts won for training, encouragement, and admonition.
Paul’s third missionary journey took him to cities like Corinth and Ephesus.
LESSONS FROM THE LIFE OF APOSTLE PAUL
We can rightly term Paul as an MVP in the days of early Christianity. Out of the 27 books in the New Testament, he wrote 13. Although he was not one of the disciples of Jesus, yet he was a man of influence, whose life is full of lessons for us to learn.
- No one is beyond the redeeming love of God: Considering the life that Paul lived before his conversion, we can attest to the fact that no one is beyond the reach of the redeeming love and mercy of God. Paul was a chief sinner, a persecutor, a blasphemer and what have you. However, the Lord reached out to him on the way to Damascus and he later became a mighty vessel in the hands of God. This makes it clear that God can use anybody in His service, no matter how hostile they have been before. God can change people completely and equip them for the work He wants them to do.
- Apostle Paul had a new identity after his conversion: This new identity had to do with his relationship with Jesus Christ. He now identified himself with the One he has been persecuting in the past. This is evident in the way Apostle Paul introduces himself in his letters; “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ…”(Romans 1:1), “Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ…” (1Corithians 1:1), “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ….” (Philippians 1:1), etc.
- Paul was humble: Despite his level of achievement secularly and spiritually, he never saw himself as infallible. He had reasons to boast, but he chose to remain humble and heavenly-minded. (1Corinthians 9:27). He always acknowledged the fact that he was prone to sin (Romans 7:15). He also didn’t think highly of himself, he was subject to correction.
- Focus on God’s calling: Apostle Paul remained focused on God’s calling for his life. He never allowed anything to distract him from the assignment that God gave him. He lived for the propagation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He knew his purpose on earth and went after it with force. He focused on God, who is his rewarder. (Colossians 3:23-24).
- Contentment: Paul learned contentment in his work of the gospel. Despite all that Paul suffered, he did not give up. In Philippians 4:11-13, Apostle Paul spoke extensively on how to be content with what you have. “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” It is Jesus who gives us strength and grace to be content in any circumstance.
- Eternity in mind: Paul had his eyes on the ultimate prize, which is eternity. All his actions, preaching, missionary journeys, were all with one goal: to make heaven with as many people as possible. In one of his letters to the Corinthian church, he said, “whether we are in this body or away from it, our goal is to please him…we must all stand before Christ to be judged…” (2 Corinthians 5:9-10).