Question: who am I? I survived one earthquake, three shipwrecks, twenty-four hours afloat in the open sea, countless beatings, the “39 lashes” five times (forty lashes kill a person), a nearly fatal stoning, losing and receiving my sight, a basket ride down a city wall, the bite of a poisonous snake, treachery, lengthy imprisonments, a plot by men who vowed not to eat until they killed me, riots, and finally I was beheaded. For a great portion of my life, my own countrymen hated me and marked me out. I was also a committed believer in Christ Jesus, and after I stopped destroying His disciples, I dedicated my life to His service. Who am I? “An apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God” (2 Cor 1:1 NASB) – the Apostle Paul.
Paul, also called Saul, lived around the beginning/middle of the 1st century, at the time when the Roman Empire stood on the threshold of its zenith. He was a Jew, yet he was born in Tarsus of Cilicia, a port city in what is now Turkey. Rome had granted Tarsus’ citizens the privilege of Roman citizenship, and Paul used his citizenship more than once during his life to ensure fair treatment from the Romans. From his youth, Paul was a Pharisee–a member of a powerful Jewish political and religious division that stressed strict adherence to the laws given to the Israelites by God at the beginning of the Jewish nation. Paul was brought up in Jerusalem and educated “strictly according to the law of our fathers” (Acts 22:3) under Gamaliel, a respected member of the Jewish Council. The Jews hated Christianity, and Paul was Jewish, “zealous for God,” and therefore of the same opinion. It is even said that he was “breathing threats and murder” against the Christians. He watched with great approval the bloody stoning of the first Christian martyr, Steven. And, with the consent of the Jewish Council and the high priest, Paul traveled from house to house, arresting and throwing into jail all those who believed in Jesus Christ. Paul had become one of Christianity’s most formidable foes.
But the Lord Jesus Himself met Paul while he was traveling to Damascus to hassle the Christians there. Under a blinding flash of light, Paul fell to the ground as a voice said, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4 NASB) The voice gave directions for Paul to enter the city, but when the light left, Paul had become blind. His friends that had traveled with him took his hands, and together they made their way into Damascus. Paul did not eat or drink for three days. After this, he was visited by a man named Ananias, also a law-abiding Jew, whom the Lord had told about Saul. Ananias came and laid his hands on Saul’s eyes, and right away something like reptile scales dropped from them. He was miraculously able to see again. He was also filled with the Holy Spirit and became a radically changed man. This was the beginning of Paul’s world-spanning ministry.
|Paul's journeys (www.wcg.org)
As soon as he was saved, Paul began preaching and debating, even though he was wholly inexperienced in his Christian life. He had always been energetic, and now proved to be sort of a rabble-rouser. He debated brilliantly with the Jews in Damascus, proving Jesus is the Christ. The Jews were at first astonished at the change in Paul, and then began plotting his murder. After escaping Damascus by being lowered in a basket from the city wall during the night, Paul journeyed to Jerusalem. He had some trouble associating with the Christians there at first, for they feared him due to his infamous reputation. After a man named Barnabas convinced the believers that Paul was safe, Paul again began to preach and debate, this time with Grecian Jews. Once more, he became the target of a murder plot. The church heard of it and took him and packed him off to Tarsus. Though it might have not been totally related to Paul, after he left it is stated that the church “enjoyed peace” throughout Israel! (Acts 9:31 NASB)
|Paul in Athens
In the beginning of the book of Romans, Paul states that he is “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ called…to be set apart for the gospel of God.” (Romans 1:1) Paul gave up every part of himself to God and received a lot more than he gave! He gave weakness and gained wisdom, humility, honesty, eloquence. He stood before kings and emperors and proclaimed his message with boldness. He wrote thirteen letters which are now books of the Bible, plus other letters to his churches. His wisdom in the matter of spiritual things was vast, yet he was also humble, hoping that he would not boast, “except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 4:16 NASB) Because of his commitment to serve God, he was faithful even until death, preferring to suffer, because “even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. (1 Peter 3:14 NASB)
Another trait of Paul’s which helped him live a successful life was this–he never wasted his time. As is stated earlier, he did not take a year or two to adjust to the idea of being a Christian or slowly feel his way into ministry. Instead he “immediately” (Acts 9:20 NASB) catapulted right into the eye of the storm. Paul kept himself constantly on the move during his post-conversion life, making three missionary journeys around the world as it was known at that time. He established churches and kept a close eye over them, visiting or else writing when he could not be with them bodily. He worried ceaselessly about his friends and the churches and never stopped communicating with them, even up to the point of death. He fully realized his purpose in life and always lived according to that knowledge.
In addition, Paul’s influence on the world has been immense. His writings fill up about half of the New Testament, the second half of the Bible–the best-selling book ever. His is the text that Christians most often use for evangelizing. The “Roman Road,” found in the book of Romans, precisely maps out the plan of salvation and eternal life:
Romans 3:23: “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”
Romans 5:8: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 10:9-10: “…that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation." (NASB)
Those that were converted to Christianity through his ministry in turn converted others, creating a giant web of Christians throughout the planet. Paul’s followers carried his message to where he could not go himself. And his written words have carried even further.
The Apostle Paul is my hero. I realize that my choice is not at all original, but in picking a hero, it is not originality that must dictate one’s choice. I want my life to look like Paul’s did, even if it means going through all the sufferings he did and being a martyr for Christ’s sake. I admire his wisdom, influence, and faith, and his energy and even rabble- rousing spirit spur me to be more active in my life. He is an example to me of submission to God’s plan for someone. Paul lived his life at first as a sinner, yet was so radically transformed by God that he became, arguably, the greatest apostle of all time. Thousands became Christians through his spoken ministry, and millions more continue to turn to God through his writings. That’s the kind of legacy I want to leave. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” Romans 12:9
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Last edited 1/9/2017 4:28:50 PM