Interesting Bible People: Paul
Paul, First Known As Saul
Paul started out life with the name Saul. He was Jewish but also a Roman citizen because his home town was Tarsus. He became a pharisee, a strict sect of Judaism which was based on keeping the laws of the religion. Paul was almost certainly a married man, as this was a requirement of being a pharisee. Paul was at first a determined opponent of the Christian way and persecuted the christians.He certainly is one of the interesting Bible people.
The photo is mine
In Murderous Mood
A Young Man
At some point Paul moved to Jerusalem and studied under the renowned teacher Gamaliel. Once, when the authorities were wondering what to do with the christians, Gamaliel advised caution. He said that if the christians were just a human sect they would fizzle out, but if they were from God the Jewish authorities could find themselves fighting against God. Not a good idea. Paul however did not follow this advice and when the Jewish leaders stoned Stephen Paul was looking after their coats and agreeing with what they were doing.
He became very zealous at wanting to stamp out what he saw as an anti-Jewish cult. He heard that there were very active christians in Damascus so gained permission from the temple authorities for him to go to Damascus to have the christians killed. He set off in a murderous mood. But things were about to take a strange turn in his life.
A Big Turnaround
An Amazing Encounter for Paul
Paul was riding on his way to Damascus, with several companions. Suddenly intense, bright light flashed on his eyes. He fell to the ground and cried out,"Who are you Lord? " He heard a reply, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting." Some have suggested that Paul had an epileptic fit, but there is no firm evidence for this. He was blinded and had to depend on his companions to take him to Damascus. There in a few days he met Ananias, who had been told by Jesus that Paul was coming. Ananias was worried about the meeting because he had heard of Paul's intentions in coming to Damascus. Paul was a changed man, already completely devoted to Jesus. Ananias prayed for Paul and he was able to see again.
Naturally the other christians were very suspicious of Paul. Paul preached in the synagogue that Jesus was the Messiah. There was a plot to kill him but at night his friends lowered him over the city wall in a basket and he got away and went to Jerusalem. There he tried to join the christians but they were afraid of him. Then a man who was to become a life-long friend took him under his wing. He was called Barnabas and he took Paul to the apostles.
Paul's Story on Video
The First Missionary Journey
At some point Paul went back to Tarsus, his home town. The church at Jerusalem sent Barnabas to Antioch where many Greeks had become christians. He went to Tarsus to find Paul and brought him back to Antioch. Barnabas and Paul stayed here for whole year they taught the people. After this time the Holy Spirit made it clear that Paul and Barnabas should go on what became their first missionary journey. they also had John Mark with them. First they went by ship to Cyprus. It was always their custom to preach in the Jewish synagogues first. Paul next went to Pisidian Antioch, which is not the same as the Antioch last mentioned. Again Paul preached in the synagogue but was rejected by the Jews. Paul declared that he had been sent to the Gentiles. There wewre many gentils worshipping God at the synagogue and they were pleased that Paul was bringing the Gospel to them. The Jews made trouble for Paul and Barnabas so they left and went to Iconium.
In Iconium, as was their usual practice they went to the Jewish synagogue. Many Jews and gentiles believed Again the Jews made trouble. Paul and Barnabas heard there was a plot to stone them so they left and went to Lystra and Derbe. In Lystra, by the power of Jesus Paul was able to heel a crippled man. This caused a great stir and the people decided that Paul and Barnabas were gods, Zeus and Hermes. they got animals ready to sacrifice. Paul and Barnabas said, "What are you doing? We are only humn like yourselves. Paul spoke of how God alone should be worshipped. He was the one who gave them rain and crops. They only just managed to stop them sacrificing to them. The persecution reached a high level. Jews from Antioch and Iconium came and stirred up the crowd. They stoned Paul and dragged outside the city and left him for dead. The believers gathered around him and he got up and went back into the city. The next day Paul and Barnabas left for Derbe. They had a good response in that city. Then very bravely they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch encouraging the believers to continue in their faith. After calling in at more places they returned to the original Antioch from which they had set out and reported the progress of the gospel. They paricularly reported on how the gentiles had been receptive to the good news.
Link to a Map of Paul's First Missionary Journey
- First Missionary Journey
It's good to get a grip on where these things happened.
What to Do with the Gentiles
People came to Antioch from Judea and were saying that unless the gentiles were circumcised, according to the law of Moses, they could not be saved. Paul and Barnabas vigourously disputed this with them. So along with other believers, they were appointed to go up to Jerusalem and discuss this matter with the apostles and elders. They were welcomed at Jerusalem and reported how so many gentiles had come to faith in Jesus. There was much discussion and then Peter stood up and reminded everyone of how he had gone to the gentiles, they had believed and had received the Holy Spirit, so why did they want to lumber the gentiles with circumcision as it obviouly was not necessary. He said that both the circumcised and the uncircumcised were actually saved by faith in Jesus, both the same way. They sent a letter by Paul and Silas to the gentiles to tell them they did not need to be circumcised but that they should live a Godly life. Paul and Barnabas, Silas and Judas Barsabas took the letter to Antioch.
Some time later Paul said to Barnabas that it would be good to re-visit all the young christians they had seen on their first journey. Barnabas wanted to take John Mark with them, but Paul refused to as John had left them part way through their first journey. They had a sharp disagreement about it and parted company. Barnabas took John Mark and went to Cyprus. Paul chose Silas to be his companion and went through Syria and Cilicia building up the churches in their faith.
The Second Missionary Journey
Paul and Silas travelled to Derbe and then on the Lystra where Paul had been stoned and left for dead.Here there was a believer called Timothy. his mother was a Jewess believer and his father was a Greek. He was well-spoken of by the other believers and Paul decided to take him along on his journey.
Paul and his companions went to the regions of Phrygia and Galatia, that is modern Turkey. they prayed for guidance from the Holy Spirit and were directed not to go to certain places. Paul had a vision one night of a man pleading with him to come to Macedonis and help them. This he saw as guidance to go there.They travelled by sea and eventually came to Phillipi, a Roman colony and leading city of Macedonia. In Acts chapter 16 verse 12 it says, "We atayed there several days." That "we" tells us that the author of Acts, Luke, was also travelling with Paul. On the Sabbath they went to the river because this was a known place for prayer. There were women there and Paul and his companions spoke to them. One of the women was Lydia, quite a prosperous woman who was a dealer in purple cloth. She worshipped God. she andmembers of her household believed what Paul was teaching about Jesus and they were baptized and she invited them to her home..
Paul and Silas Put in Prison
Another time Paul and his companions were going to the prayer place when they were followed by a slave girl who earned lots of money for her owners by fortune-telling. She walked behind Paul and kept saying, " These men are servants of the most high God, who are telling you the way to be saved." She kept this up for many days. Paul realized she had a spirit in her causing this and he became troubled and finally said, "In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!" The spirit left her.
the owners were furious as they realised their golden goose would not be laying any more eggs for them. They grabbed hold of Paul and Silas and took them to the market place to face the authorities. They told the magistrates, "These men are Jews and are putting our city in uproar by teaching things not lawful for us Romans." They were severely flogged and thrown into prison. The jailor was told to keep a close eye on them, so he put them in stocks.
So how to Paul and Silas react to this treatment? At midnight they were praying and singing hymns to God and the other prisoners were listening to them. So Paul kept on telling the good news even in this difficult situation. Suddenly there was a strong earthquake.Everything was shaken and the prison doors flew open and everyone's chains came loose. The jailor came and thought his prisoners had escaped and was so distraught that he was going to kill himself with a sword, but Paul shouted out, "Don't do yourself a mischief, we are all here." The jailor called for lights and rushed in to see Paul and said, "What do I have to do to be saved?" Whatever he meant by that Paul replied, " Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." Then they were taken to his house and spoke with his whole family telling them the word of the Lord. The jailor attended to their wounds from the flogging and then he and his family were baptized. Then the jailor gave them a meal and joy filled everyone's hearts.
Civis Romanus Sum
In the morning the magistrates sent a message to say Paul and Silas could be released and sent on their way. Paul declared that he was a Roman citizen and would not go untl the magistrates escorted them out. The magstiates were most alarmed to hear that their prisoners were Roman cicitzens and came to apologise and escort them from the city. Roman citizens had certain rights and one was that they could not be flogged without a trial. Paul and Silas went to Lydia's house where they met with the other christians and encouraged them. Then they left.
Thessalonica and Berea
Paul and Silas next travelled to Thessalonika. As usual he taught in the synagogue and persuasively showed them how the scriptures, our Old Testament, explaining that the Messiah had to suffer and rise again, and that Jesus was indeed this Messiah. Some of the Jews and a large number of God-fearing Greeks with a few well known women were persuaded by Paul. But other Jews were jealous of this attention and caused trouble, forming a mob and causing a riot. they seached for Paul and Silas in the house of a man called Jason. When they couldn't find them they dragged Jason out and took him to the city officials. They said men who had caused trouble all over the world had been welcomed by Jason. They said they had defied Caesar's decrees saying there was a king other than Caesar. Everthing was in uproar. The officials made Jason pay bail and let him go.
As soon as it was night Paul and Silas were sent on their way to Berea. They went to the synagogue. What tenacity of purpose, never put off by their bad experiences. The Bereans were more prepared to listen and spent a lot of time searching through the scriptures to see if what Paul said tallied with them. Many Jews believed as did Greek men and women. But the Jews who did not believe from Thessalonika heard of Paul's success at Berea and came to stir up trouble. Silas and Timothy stayed at Berea but the Bereans sent Paul to the coast. He was escorted to Athens by some of the brothers. When they returned Paul sent word that Silas and Timothy should join him as soon as possible.
Paul in Athens
While Paul waited for Silas and Timothy in Athens he looked around. He was very upset to see that Athens was full of idols. Again he went to the synagogue to explain that Jesus was the Messiah. Paul never gave up on his mission, he was always taking every oppotunity to tell the Good News about Jesus. He also spoke with people in the market place. He got into arguments with two groups , the Epicureans and the Stoics. They took him to a special meeting place, the Areopagus where they wanted him to explain his teachings to them. The Athenians here spent all their time listening to new ideas. Paul stood up to address them. He said he could see they were very religious, they even had an altar to an unknown God. He said he would tell them about this unknown God. He said he was the God who made everything and that he was so great that he did not live in a man made temple and that he is not far from any one of us.He quoted one of their poets who had said, "In him we live and move and have our being." He said that God requires us all to repent and mentioned Jesus rising from the dead. Some jeered at this, but others wanted to hear more from Paul. Several became believers, including Dionysius and Damaris.
After this Paul travelled to Corinth. Here he made friends with Priscilla and Aquila. He stayed with them. They had a lot of things in common as they were all tent makers. Paul always carried out his trade of tent making wherever he went, so that he was not a financial burden on anyone else. Aquila and Priscilla had come from Rome, because the Emperor Claudius had commanded that no Jew should stay in Rome.
As usual Paul went to the synagogue and tried to convince both Jew and Gentile of the truth about Jesus. the Jews would not listen so Paul said that from now on he would go to the Gentiles. however the leder of the synagogue then believed in Jesus, with all his family. Then many of the Corinthians became christians.They were baptized.
The Lord encouraged Paul by telling him not to be afraid to speak because he would not be attaked here because many people would believe.. Paul stayed there teaching for about eighteen months. However the Jews next took Paul to court, but when the judge Gallio heard it was all about religious disputes he had no patience with it and sent them all away..
Paul stayed in Corinth for quite a while but then sailed off to Syria, calling in at various places. He took Priscilla and Aquila with him. At Cenchrea he had his hair cut off as he had made a vow.
Various Commentaries Mainly on Ephesians
The letter to the Ephesians would have been written at a later date than Paul's visit there. He was keen to encourage them and teach them more of the Christian life.
Paul came to Ephesus. Here he taught in the synagogue as was his usual practice. Many Jews and Greeks believed in Jesus .Many people had been involved in witchcraft and magic but now they brought spell books and made a huge bonfire. These books were worth fifty thousand pieces of silver. This showed how much they were changed. However there was a man called Demetrius who was a silver smith and made silver shrines of Diana. This was lucrative work as there was a great demand for them. He called all the craftsmen together and explained how Paul had been persuading people that made objects were not gods at all. He argued that not only was their trade at risk but also there was a danger the temple of Diana would be despised. The traders were angry and began to chant,"Great is Diana of the Ephesians." The whole city was in confusion and they rushed to their meeting place. They seized two of Paul's companions. Paul wanted to go in and speak with the craftsmen, but his friends would not let him. The traders would listen to arguments from no-one. For almost two hours they chanted, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians." Eventually the city clerk was able to quieten them. He said,"Men of Ephesus who is there that does not know that the city of Ephesus is temple guardian of the great goddess Diana? Therefore since this cannot be denied, you ought not to do anything rash. You have brought these men here, who are neither robbers of temples nor blaspemers of your goddess. If Demetrius and his fellow traders have a case against anyone the courts are open and there are Roman proconsuls. Let them bring charges against these men. We are in danger of being called in question for today's uproar." Then he dismissed the crowd.
Paul Prepares to Go to Jerusalem
Paul travelled around many of the places he had already visited. He encouraged all the converts and taught them from the scriptures. He and his companions, including Luke who wrote all these things down, settled at Troas for seven days. In an upper room, made warm by many lamps, Paul preached until midnight. A young man called Eutychus was sitting in a window and grew drowsy and then fell into a deep sleep. Eventually he fell from the third story and they picked him up dead. However Paul went down, threw himself upon him and put his arms around him. Paul said ,"Don't worry he is still alive." Indeed Eutychus was alive again. Imagine they amazement and relief.
Next Paul and his companions set off for Jerusalem. Paul said that he was troubled about going to Jerusalem because he did not know what would happen to him there, except that the Holy Spirit was telling him that in every city chains and tribulations awaited him. He said that this did not matter to him so long as he finished the job given to him to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. He also knew that he would see the people of Ephesus no more. He warned that there would be opposition to the gospel when he was gone. Everyone was very upset to see him go. They took him to the ship and there was a sad farewell.
Still Further on the Road to Jerusalem
Paul travelled to Rhodes, past Cyprus and to Tyre. Then on to Caesarea. Here he stayed with his companions in the house of Philip the evangelist. Here a prophet named Agabus took Paul's belt and bound it around his own hands. Then he said,"Thus says the Holy Spirit, "So shall the Jews of Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and give him over to the Gentiles." When they heard this all Paul's companions pleaded with him not to go to Jerusalem. Paul was distressed because he was sure he was meant to go to Jerusalem. He asked them to stop pleading with him as he was quite ready to die in Jerusalem for Jesus. The friends stopped trying to dissuade him and said, The Lord's will be done." They travelled on to Jerusalem and the brothers there were very pleased to see them. The next day Paul and his companions went to meet James and the other elders. Paul told them how many Gentiles had put their trust in Jesus. In return they told him about the many Jews who had believed. The elders told Paul that there was a rumour going around that Paul was telling the Jews who lived with the Gentiles to give up the law of Moses.To proove this was false they wanted Paul to go up to the temple and perform a religious rite. They agreed the Gentiles should not eat food offered to idols, or blood and to keep away from sexual immorality.
Uproar in Jerusalem
Paul went to the temple and was seen by some Jews who had come from Asia (modern Turkey). They stirred up the crowd shouting that Paul had been teaching against the Jews and the temple. They also said that he had taken Greeks into the temple. They had previously seen an Ephesian christian with Paul and had assumed he had taken him into the temple. This was not the case.
There began to be a riot. The people seized Paul and dragged him from the temple. They were planning to kill him but news of the uproar reached the commander of the Roman troops. The people were beating Paul, but when the commander arrived they stopped. The commander arrested Paul and put him in chains. He asked who he was and what he had done. There was utter confusion so the commander ordered that Paul should be taken into the barracks. The soldiers carried him up the steps. Paul asked if he could speak to the people. The commander said he could. Paul stood up and spoke in Aramaic. Because he spoke in Aramaic they listened to him. He went through his life story, telling them how Jesus had appeared to him on the road to Damascus. He told them how he had been sent to the Gentiles. As soon as he mentioned the Gentiles the crowd turned nasty and said he was not fit to live. The commander saw that things had worsened and ordered the soldiers to take Paul into the barracks.He said he should be flogged and questioned to see why the people were so incensed. They made to do this but Paul said,"Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen, who hasn't even been found guilty?" The centurion told the commander who came to Paul and asked if it was true. The commander said that he had paid a big price for his own citizenship. Paul told him that he had been born a citizen.The commander ws alarmed because he had put Paul in chains when he was a citizen of Rome.
Paul Speaks to the Sanhedrin
The Sanhedrin was the high council of the temple at Jerusalem. Paul was taken before them to defend himself. He said he had fulfilled his duty to God. The high priest ordered him to be struck on the mouth. Angrly Paul said, "God will strike you, you white washed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you violate the law by having me struck." Those standing near him said,"You dare to insult God's High Priest?" Paul replied that he did not know he was the high priest.
In the room there were two factions, the pharisees and the sadducees.Paul decided to cause a split between these two. He announced that he was a pharisee himself and that he stood trial because of his hope in the resurrection of the dead. This was a clever move. Sadducees do not believe in resurrection but the pharisees do. There was uproar. The pharisees sided with Paul. the Roman commander rescued Paul from this dispute and took him to the barracks.
That night Paul had a message from Jesus, who said," Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jeruslem, so you must also testify in Rome."
Paul Taken to Felix at Caesarea
The next morning the Jews hatched a plot to kill Paul. Forty of them vowed they would not eat or drink until Paul was dead. Fortunately Paul's nephew heard of the plot and told Paul, who sent him to the commander. The commander gave orders for a large company of soldiers to take Paul, that evening to Caesarea. The commander was called Claudias Lysias. He wrote to Felix the governor telling him of the plot on Paul's life. He said he had also told Paul's accusers to take their case to Felix. Paul was kept under guard in Herod's palace.
Five days later Ananias the High Priest went to Caesarea taking a lawyer named Tertullus. They brought their charges against Paul to Felix. Tertullus flattered Felix and declared that Paul was a trouble maker. He said he was the ringleader of the Nazarene sect and had tried to desecrate the temple. Paul defended himself. Felix did not make a decision immediately but ordered that Paul be kept under guard but to have some freedom and his friends would be allowed to visit and help him. A few days later Felix had Paul come before him again. Paul spoke about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come. Felix was afraid, interrupted him and sent him away again, saying he would listen to him at a more convenient time. He was hoping Paul would offer him a bribe. This went on for two years. Then there was a successor to Felix. This was Festus. Because Felix wanted to please the Jews he left Paul in prison
Festus Deals with Paul
Festus went to Jerusalem and the high priest and his chief men lost no time telling him about Paul. They wanted Paul brought to Jerusalem but only because they had a plan to ambush him and kill him on the way. However Festus decided Paul should be kept at Caesarea and he would soon go there. Caesarea was a beautiful place. Ten days later they went to Caesarea. The next day Festus commanded Paul to be brought to him. The Jews made their serious complaints but they could prove nothing. Paul declared that he had not offended against either the Jewish laws of those of the Caesar. Festus asked Paul if he was willing to go up to Jerusalem to be judged. Paul realized this was not a good outcome and so appealed to Caesar as he was a Roman citizen.Festus agreed that Paul should go to Caesar in Rome.
After a few days King Agrippa and his sister Bernice came to Caesarea to meet with Festus. After a few days Festus told Agrippa about Paul. Agrippa was intrigued about this man who said Jesus was alive. Festus agreed to let him talk with Paul. The next day a grand meeting was held.Festus wanted to use this meeting so that he had something to write to Caesar Augustus about Paul's case.
Agrippa told Paul to speak up about his case.. Paul gave an account of his life as a pharisee, his hatred for christians and persecuting of them. Then of his journey to Damascus and meeting with the risen Jesus. He then spoke of his travelling to tell all about Jesus. He again spoke again about Jesus rising from the dead. Festus spoke up saying he must be mad to believe that. Paul aserted that he was not mad. He spoke to Agrippa. He asked if he believed that prophets. He was indicating that the things he believed were spoken of by the prophets. Agrippa said that he was almost persuaded to be a christian. Paul said that he wished everyone present would be just as he was, except for his chains. Agrippa and Festus went aside to confer. They decided that Paul did not deserve death or even to be chained. Agrippa said that if he had not appealed to Caesar he could have been set free.
The Perilous Sea Voyage
Paul with some other prisoners was handed over to Julius, a centurion of the Augustan Regiment. He had Luke with him. They took ship and sailed along the coast and then reached Crete. It was coming up for the stormy time of year and Paul advised Julius that they should over winter in Crete as he forsaw travelling on would lead to disaster. However the helmsman persuaded Julius that it would be quite alright to continue. The harbour where they were was not suitable to over winter in and they planned to go around the coast to a more suitable harbour. However the weather over took them and they were soon engulfed in a huge storm. All sorts of measure were taken to cope with this including throwing away the cargo and the ship's tackle. After many days of being in fear of their lives, Paul had a vision from the Lord reassuriing him that he was destined to appear before Caesar and that God would also save the lives of all those with him on the boat. Paul encouraged everyone to believe this.
Soon the sailors sensed that land was near and they took soundings and found the water was getting shallower. Some of the sailors put the ship's skiff over the side, wanting to escape. Paul told Julius that he must not allow this if everyone was to be saved. The soldiers cut the skiff adrift. Paul advised everyone to eat to give them strength for the coming task of escape. There were two hundred and seventy-six people on board. Having eaten they threw out the rest of the wheat to lighten the boat. Daylight came and they could see the beach. They ran the ship aground. The soldiers didn't want their prisoners to escape and so planned to kill them, but Julius had grown fond of Paul and did not want him killed so would not let the soldiers have their way. He commanded that those who could swim should jump overboard. The rest used boards and parts of the ship to float to land.
Malta and Then Rome
IThe island they had landed on was Malta.The people there were very kind and looked after them. They made a fire as it was cold and raining. Paul gathered some sticks in a bundle and put them on the fire. Alarmingly a snake came out of the bundle and fastened onto his hand. The Maltese thought he must be a murderer who had escaped justice so far. But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and was not harmed. Everyone was watching to see if he would swell up and drop down dead. After a while when no harm came to him they changed their minds and decided he was a god. There was a leading citizen in that area whose name was Publius, he entertained them for three days. Publius had a sick father. Paul went to him laid lands on him and healed him. Many other sick people came to be healed.
After three months they set sail again and eventually arrived at Puteoli and found christians to stay with for seven days. Then they set off for Rome. Other christians came to meet them on their way and Paul was greatly encouraged. In Rome the centurion delivered Paul to the captain of the guard. Paul was allowed to live on his own with just a soldier who guarded him. After three days Paul was able to gather together the leaders of the Jews.. He explained why he had been brought to Rome. The Jews had received no word of this from Jerusalem. They asked him to tell them more about his beliefs on another day. He was able to explain everything about the teachings of the Jews and how it related to Jesus. Some were persuaded by him, others not. Paul then declared that he was now sent to the Gentiles. Paul lived two whole years in a rented house and had many people come to him. He enjoyed telling everyone about Jesus.
Some of Paul's Writings
This is the last we hear of the story of Paul. however more can be pieced together by reading his many letters. From these we find that he was shipwrecked several times. They are full of his teachings of how the Jewish scriptures relate to belief in Jesus. Here is a list of some of his letters:-
As you can see he was a very busy person.