The Lord Jesus Christ personally called Paul to faith and service. From that point on it was Paul whom Christ used to:
1) Write thirteen of the New Testament books.
2) Win the first European convert to Christianity (Acts 16:14, 15).
3) Become the great missionary founder of churches abroad.
4) Win many Jewish and countless Gentile people (he became “an apostle to the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13).
5) Explain the doctrines of the new faith by his many letters to the churches.
6) Suffer many things for Christ’s sake.
Many lessons can be learned from the life of Paul in the New Testament. Paul said of himself:
1) “I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise” (Romans 1:14).
2) “I am ready to preach the gospel” (Romans 1:15).
3) “I am not ashamed of the gospel” (Romans 1:16)
4) “I am appointed for the defense of the gospel” (Philippians 1:17).
5) “I labored more abundantly than they all” (1 Corinthians 15:10).
The above texts give us some concept of the Apostle Paul’s commitment to Christ. Note that Paul was a tireless worker for his Lord and Savior, a fervent preacher of the gospel, a great apostle and teacher, and a courageous spiritual warrior (2 Corinthians 4:6-8).
46-1 Paul’s Early Life
From this passage and others, some facts concerning Paul’s early life can be constructed.
1) He was born about 1 B.C. He was raised in Tarsus (Acts 21:39), a rich commercial center near the Mediterranean, and the capital city of the Roman province of Cilicia (today’s southeast Turkey). Tarsus, along with Athens and Alexandria, was one of the three great eastern university cities.
2) He had a strict Jewish upbringing. He was a Jew of the Dispersion, from the tribe of Benjamin. He was circumcised when he was eight days old. Later he went to Jerusalem for rabbinic studies, and apparently read and spoke Greek and Hebrew fluently (Philippians 3:5; cf. Acts 21:37, 40).
3) He studied under the famous Rabbi Gamaliel I, who was to become known as one of the seven great rabbins of Jewish history (v. 3). He became a strict Pharisee. He mastered rabbinic law, and became zealous for Pharisaic Judaism to the point that he, in the name of God, persecuted those whom he thought were abandoning the Jewish faith (Philippians 3:5, 6; cf. Acts 22:3, 4).
4) He was a freeborn Roman citizen (Acts 22:25-29). This status gave him many legal rights and privileges to travel more freely, which would be helpful during his later missionary journeys and legal hearings (Acts 16:37-39).
5) In the Bible he is first called Saul and later called Paul. The best explanation for the dual names of Saul and Paul is that the former was his Hebrew name, while the latter became his name to the Greco-Roman world (Acts 13:9).
46-2 Paul’s Conversion
Entire volumes have been written on the subject of Paul’s conversion, due to its unique and overwhelming circumstances, as a proof of the truth of Christianity. This conversion took place about A.D. 32.
1) Paul originally had been a total unbeliever in Christ as the Messiah and Resurrected One, or that Christianity possessed any valid truth at all (1 Timothy 1:13).
2) Paul had demonstrated total rejection of Christianity by fervently persecuting Jews who had received the new faith (vv. 1, 2).
3) While journeying to Damascus to persecute the Christians of that area, “a light shone around him from heaven: (v. 3). Being blinded by that light (Acts 22:11), he “fell to the ground” (v. 4). The Lord Jesus then instructed Paul to go to Damascus where he would be told what to do (v. 6).
4) Three days later, in Damascus, Ananias was sent to Saul (Paul), and Saul’s blindness was lifted. Ananias instructed him further in Christ’s will for his life, and then baptized him into the new faith (vv. 9-18).
5) Ananias’ vision confirmed the reality of Paul’s. Ananias saw a vision to go to the church’s number one enemy; at the same time Paul saw a vision of Christ, which converted him and told him to await further instructions at Damascus. The timing of the two visions defies human coincidence and confirm the supernatural origin of both (vv. 10-16).
6) Note Christ’s call to Paul: Christ instructed Ananias to go to Paul, which Ananias apparently communicated to Paul.
a) Paul was “chosen” by Christ (v. 15), whereas he himself had not chosen Christ, but rejected Him.
b) Paul was “to bear My [Christ’s] name” (v. 15), whereas he had attempted to blot it out.
c) Paul was to preach Christ “before Gentiles” (v. 15), whereas, being a Pharisee, he would have fled from the Gentiles.
d) Paul was shown “how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (v. 16), whereas he had sought only to bring pain to Christ and Christ’s followers.
7) Paul, for the rest of his life, unswervingly maintained that he personally had seen Christ, and had been sent into service by Him – the credential of an apostle (1 Corinthians 15:5-9).
8) Paul, for the rest of his life, “labored more abundantly than they all” (1 Corinthians 15:8-10).
9) Christ’s appearance to Paul launched him upon a career which:
a) Constantly proclaimed Christ for over three decades;
b) Took Paul fearlessly into martyrdom (2 Timothy 4:6-8), according to the written testimony of the church fathers;
c) Took Paul, as originally promised, to preach to kings (v. 15);
d) Took Paul on three great missionary journeys and on a voyage to Rome, unparalleled in that age for endurance, singleness of purpose, and scope;
e) Caused Paul to endure continual perils and suffering, possibly unmatched in the annals of religion or mankind (2 Corinthians 11:22-33);
f) Made him the greatest of all time in establishing churches, year after year;
g) Produced the greatest religious teacher ever seen in the church or the world, aside from Christ.
Such a life could come only from a complete commitment in response to a true conversion call by Christ (Galatians 1:11, 12).
46-3 Paul’s Early Ministry
Now that Paul was called by Christ to preach the gospel, did he at once become the leader of the church? Was he recognized immediately as the chief apostle? The answers to these questions are most informative.
1) After his sight returned and he was baptized, Paul bore witness to his new faith in Christ at the synagogues in Damascus (vv. 19-22).
2) All saw his changed life (v. 21).
3) He increased in spiritual wisdom (v. 22).
4) He journeyed to Jerusalem and spent fifteen days with Peter (Galatians 1:18).
5) Some of his former friends were now his enemies (vv. 23-25).
6) He now desired to fellowship with Christ’s people (V. 26).
7) God raised up a Christian friend for Paul (Barnabas), who introduced him to other believers (v. 27). New believers need Christian friends. God greatly used this friend in Paul’s future life and ministry.
8) His witness to his fellow Greek-speaking Jews caused such a furor that “the brethren… sent him out to Tarsus” (vv. 29, 30).
9) His old friend Barnabas brought him to Antioch of Syria to serve as a co-worker in the Gentile church (Acts 11:25, 26).
It is clearly seen from the above that although Paul was converted at the age of about thirty, he was not instantly rushed off to “stardom” by God. Rather, he was trained and nurtured step by step, combining witnessing in the present with solid preparation for the future.
46-4 Paul’s Evangelistic Missionary Ministry to the Gentiles
The apostle Paul, while in a time of prayer, was called by the Holy Spirit to proclaim to those in other lands the gospel of salvation in Christ. The church at Antioch of Syria, after fasting, praying, and the laying on of hands, sent out Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:1-3). This era in Paul’s life was to span about nine years. During this period he:
1) Preached the gospel to Jews in synagogues (Acts 18:4);
2) Preached the gospel to Gentiles (Acts 13:47, 48);
3) Received gifts for his support (Philippians 4:14-17);
4) Planted and established churches (Acts 14:23);
5) Wrote letters to churches (2 Corinthians 1:1);
6) Wrote letters to individuals (Philemon 1);
7) Made land journeys (Acts 13:14-14:6);
8) Made sea journeys (Acts 20:6);
9) Debated for the truth at a church council (Acts 15:6-22);
10) Performed miracles (Acts 19:11, 12);
11) Heard the voice of God (Acts 22:18, 21);
12) Was attacked by mobs (Acts 16:22, 23);
13) Was arrested by the Romans (Acts 21:32, 33);
14) Was put in chains, yet sang and rejoiced (Acts 16:24, 25).
Paul’s evangelistic ministry can be outlined by his various missionary journeys.
1) First missionary journey (Acts 13:1-14:28). The first journey was launched at Antioch of Syria (Acts 13:1-3) in company with Barnabas and John Mark. Eventually John Mark left Paul and Barnabas, and returned to Jerusalem before the party left for the regions of Pisidia and Cilicia. The first missionary journey ended at Antioch of Syria.
2) The Jerusalem council (Acts 15:1-35). This meeting was an example of a Spirit-filled church seeking God’s answer to a problem, and finding it in unity.
a) Legalists demanded that the Gentile converts observe the Mosaic laws (Acts 15:1). Paul and Barnabas argued against this (Acts 15:12).
b) James (the younger half-brother of Jesus), the spokesman and apparent chairman of the council, announced that God’s will was that Gentiles be admitted into the church, and that they need not observe the Jewish ceremonial laws. The Gentiles were admonished, however, to avoid the appearance of condoning idolatry, immorality, and the drinking of blood (Acts 15:19-22).
3) Second missionary journey (Acts 15:36). The second journey started at Antioch.
a) Paul took Silas; Barnabas took John Mark, due to a disagreement between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:36-40). Paul and Barnabas agreed to go separate ways; neither spoke ill of the other afterwards. God blessed both.
b) Paul and Silas visited the churches established on the first missionary journey (Acts 15:41-16:5).
c) Then the vision of the needy Macedonian (Acts 16:9) led them to take the gospel westward into Europe, rather than eastward. Thus, Christianity began it expansion through the world. In Europe they visited Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth, and then Ephesus in Asia Minor (Acts 16:12-18:19). The journey ended at Antioch of Syria.
4) Third missionary journey (Acts 18:23-21:17).
a) The third journey began at Antioch of Syria, then on to Ephesus, Macedonia, Troas, Miletus, Tyre, Ptolemais, and Caesarea. It ended in Jerusalem.
b) Paul was arrested a Jerusalem by the Romans (Acts 21:32, 33), when the Jewish crowd rioted against his preaching. In God’s providence, his arrest and future trials proved to add evangelistic opportunities.
46-5 Paul’s Letters
(2 Thessalonians 3:17)
The apostle Paul has been called the world’s unrivaled letter-writing genius of all time. In the present verse he explained that his personal signature certified the authenticity of each of his letters. The words, “not to be soon shaken…by letter, as if from us” (2 Thessalonians 2:2), suggest that someone may have sent these Thessalonians a fraudulent letter, as if from Paul; or some may have misunderstood his first letter to them. During his evangelistic missionary journeys Paul wrote Romans, First and Second Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, First and Second Thessalonians, First and Second Timothy, Titus, and Philemon.
46-6 Paul’s Imprisonments and Final Journeys
This period of Paul’s life covers the events from his arrest in Jerusalem to his martyrdom.
1) Arrest (Acts 21:18-23:22). Paul and Luke returned to Jerusalem from the third missionary journey. James asked Paul to make an appearance in the temple to show others that he, in his ministry to the Gentiles, still walked orderly and kept the law (Acts 21:24). Paul was accused of bringing a Greek into the part of the temple forbidden to Gentiles. A riot ensued, and Paul testified of his conversion (Acts 21:40-22:22). Another riot erupted, and Roman authorities brought him before the Sanhedrin (Acts 22:30-23:10). After a third threat to Paul’s life, the Romans finally moved Paul out of Jerusalem, for his own safety, to the Roman coastal city of Caesarea (Acts 23:23).
2) Caesarean imprisonment (Acts 23:23-26:32). Caesarea was the Roman capital of Judea, where the governors lived and held court. Paul was tried there before Felix the governor for having incited a riot in a Roman province, for which he could be sentenced to death. Felix secretly wanted a bribe from Paul for his release. After two years of imprisonment, Festus arrived and the new governor. Felix, willing to please the Jews, left Paul bound (Acts 24:26, 27). At a hearing before Festus, Paul appealed to Caesar on the grounds of his right as a Roman citizen (Acts 25:11). Shortly thereafter, Festus discussed Paul’s case with the Roman-appointed King Agrippa II. After the king heard Paul, it was determined that he should sail to Italy for his appeal before Caesar (Acts 27:1).
3) Voyage to Rome (Acts 27:1-28:15). This is one of the great sea adventures of all time. The captain and crew did not want to spend their winter in dull Fair Havens (Acts 27:8). Against Paul’s advice they risked all to set out for Phoenix (Acts 27:12), a better harbor and more of a playground city. A storm came up (Acts 27:14), but, according to God’s word to Paul, none of the 276 aboard lost their lives (Acts 27:22-25, 37, 44). Acts 27:31 is a classic in the paradox of human means versus God’s will. Paul told the centurion that if he allowed the sailors to abandon ship and save themselves, other lives would be lost. The ship foundered, but all landed safely on the island of Melita (today’s Malta).
4) First Roman imprisonment (Acts 28:16-31). Paul spent the next two years in Rome, again awaiting trial. He preached Christ throughout this period (Acts 28:30, 31), and some were saved, even among Caesar’s household (Philippians 4:22). During this time Paul wrote, among other letters the three great Christological epistles: Ephesians, Colossians, and Philippians. Paul noted that his imprisonment had “turned out for the furtherance of the gospel” (vv. 12-14).
5) Persecution (2 Timothy 1:8, 12, 16, 17; 2:9; 4:6-8). When Rome burned, Nero blamed the Christians and began persecuting them. Our last glimpse of Paul finds him at the focus of this persecution, uttering these last, noble words of inspiration: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).
Master Outline 46 – Paul, An Apostle
 Christ used Paul for what six (6) things?
 What five (5) things can we learn from the life of Paul?
 In what year was Paul born and where?
 What were the three (3) great eastern university cities?
 What famous Rabbi did Paul study under?
 How do we know Paul was a total unbeliever of Jesus Christ in his early years?
 What did Paul experience on the Damascus Road?
 What happen when Ananias obeyed the Lord and visited Paul?
 What does the statement, “Ananias vision confirmed the reality of Paul’s” mean?
 What four (4) things did Ananias confirm to Paul?
 Paul’s experience with Jesus Christ did what seven (7) things to his career?
 What nine (9) steps in Paul’s life confirm that the Lord combines witnessing in the present with solid preparation for the future?
 After being sent out by the church at Antioch of Syria over the next 9 years, what are the fourteen (14) major events we see in Paul’s life?
 Describe Paul’s four (4) major evangelistic journeys.
 The Apostle Paul has been called the _________________ unrivaled __________________
__________________ ___________________ ____________________ _________________
 What thirteen (13) books did Paul write on his evangelistic missionary journey?
 What brought about Paul’s arrest?
 Who tried Paul in the Caesarean court?
 How long was Paul imprisoned in Caesarea?
 Describe the events surrounding the landing at Melita.
 How long was Paul in prison at Rome?
 What three (3) letters did Paul write while in jail at Rome?
 What was Paul’s statement about his imprisonment at Rome?
 What did Nero blame the Christians for?