Saint Paul- the Thirteenth Apostle - Part 2
The Thirteenth Apostle
Preaching and teaching the gospel was like a fire welling up inside Paul; he could not, and there is no indication that he ever tried to, keep it contained. After the passing of 14-17 years Paul’s work for the Lord was just beginning.
Before I continue with the Apostle Paul I think it would be wise to go back briefly and speak a little on the atmosphere surrounding the new faith.
The Jerusalem Church was under the leadership of James, the Lords’ brother, and it was hosting two schools of thought. They both agreed that the law of Moses was binding on ‘all’ Christians of the Jewish race, but they could not come to an agreement whether the law should be binding on their Gentile converts; one said yes, the other, of which James was a representative said no. Though James proved to be an advocate of allowing the Gentile converts freedom from the law, he, as did the others, did not favor Jews and Gentiles sharing a common table, on which one occasion Paul was forced to rebuke Peter publicly when ‘certain men’ came down from James in Jerusalem. Galatians 2:12-16
The martyrdom of Stephen was a pivotal time for the new faith. The effects of this event would be felt well beyond the borders of Palestine. In Antioch, the capital of Syria, a remarkable meeting place of Greeks, Syrians and, Jews, the new faith would be tested in a cauldron of mixed beliefs. There, the Greeks heard the gospel from missionaries whose names have long perished, and they began calling the Christ’s followers ‘Christians’.
Antioch, one of the major centers of Christianity, would remain important in the spreading of the gospel well into the next century.
First Missionary Journey
By the year 51 or 52 A.D, under the rule of Claudius, there was a loud and noticeable commotion among the Jews as a consequence of the preaching by unknown missionaries that attracted the attention of Rome itself. Some five (5) or six (6) years earlier Barnabas had gone to Tarsus to bring Paul back so he could help with the work there in Antioch. During this time, however, Antioch was the center of Christian development. Paul, little did he know, was about to step into his appointed role as the ‘Thirteenth Apostle’.
Paul and Barnabas set out on, what would become known as, their first missionary journey. This missionary collaboration of Paul and Barnabas, described in Acts 13 and 14, would be remembered as the most fruitful missionary endeavor in the history of the Church. This great work resulted in the establishment of a group of congregations in southern Asia Minor, which was later addressed by Paul as those of Galatia.
I spoke earlier about the two schools of thought that were hosted at the Jerusalem Church under the leadership of James, the Lord’s brother. Well, now those two parties, or schools of thought, are about to collide on a grand scale and, Paul is right in the middle.
Beginning here in this corner of the world it was the appointed time for the gentiles to make their formal entry into the ‘Kingdom of God’, and their herald, who was to lead them, had been appointed. The growth of the Church in Antioch and the mixed congregations planted as a consequence in Cyprus and Galatia raised the bar on the question of Gentile relation to the ancient law of Israel.
Paul, taking Titus, an uncircumcised Gentile convert, with him up to Jerusalem to meet with James, Peter, and John as an example of genuine gentile conversion apart from the law, had overcome his first obstacle. The Jerusalem leadership, James, Peter, and John agreed that the field should be divided. James, Peter and, John would continue the mission to the Jews, while Paul and Barnabas go with their ‘free’ message to the Gentiles. Galatians 2:1-10
It was under this dynamic duo, Paul and Barnabas, that the gentiles was so firmly grafted into the faith of Jesus Christ. Even when they part ways the gospel was already an unstoppable force throughout the region. The world was indeed ready to receive the good news that so many would eventually give their lives for.
STAY TUNED FOR PART III