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The Life of Paul, the Apostle

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Published on Oct 29, 2008

Thirteen books in the New Testament, name Paul as their author, and another one (Acts) devotes more than half its pages to describing how Paul was chosen to be an apostle and how he preached the good news throughout the Roman Empire. Acts 21.1-21 says that Paul was born in Tarsus, which was a major center for Greek education and culture. But as a Jew, Paul also studied in Jerusalem with Gamaliel, a leading teacher of the Law of Moses (Acts 22.3). Paul, whose Jewish name was Saul, was part of a religious group called the Pharisees (Phil 3.5), who believed that people could serve God best by strictly obeying the Law of Moses.

Paul's strong beliefs as a Pharisee led him to make trouble for the followers of Jesus (Acts 8.1-3; 9.1,2). Saul did his best to try to destroy the movement but was radically changed when the risen Christ appeared to him in a vision and chose him to be his follower and to spread the good news to all people (Acts 9.1-18; Gal 1.11-17; 1 Cor 9.1). After three years in Damascus (Gal 1.18) and after meeting with the leaders of the church in Jerusalem (Gal 1.18--2.10), Paul set out to preach the good news about Christ to the Gentiles.

From his letters and from Acts, we learn that Paul spent about fifteen years preaching and helping to create new groups of followers in Asia Minor and Greece, where he worked in important cities such as Ephesus, Colossae, Thessalonica, Athens, and Corinth. As he preached and taught the good news, he debated with philosophers (Acts 17) and worked with Jewish groups to show them that Jesus was the fulfillment of their hopes (Acts 18). He also faced persecution, was arrested, and tried to show the Roman officials that the followers of Christ were no threat to the Roman Empire (Acts 24,25).

Paul believed that Jesus was sent to obey God and to die as a sacrifice for human sin (Rom 3.24-26). Jesus was seeking to bring all people--both Jews and Gentiles--together as members of God's new people. God also sent the Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen the followers of Jesus, so they could serve God by telling the good news about Jesus and by loving one another. The Spirit, Paul said, produces love, joy, and peace (Gal 5), as well as the ability to do God's work in the world (1 Cor 14).

Paul was ready to accept death as a witness for Christ, knowing that God would raise him from death (Phil 3.10,11). Meanwhile, Paul expected Jesus to return to earth to make these poor bodies of ours like his own glorious body (Phil 3.21). Then Christ Jesus would defeat human sin and death once and for all (1 Cor 15.50-57).

Info from the American Bible Society, Bible Resource Center.


Movie excerpts from TBN Movie about Paul called: "The Emissary".

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