Do you know the Apostle Paul?
Written by Jay Yeager
Friday, 02 October 2015 04:40

Do you know the Apostle Paul?

     The apostle Paul stands tall among members of the church of Christ, although that is not where Paul placed himself (Ephesians 3:8). From his conversion to Christ until the time of his death, Paul was a man clothed with humility (I Peter 5:5). Yet, to know this man who came to love Jesus with all his heart, you must start with a time when that was not the case.

     Our first glimpse of Saul (who is also called Paul Acts 13:9) is at the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:58-60). Years later Paul would say, “And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I was also standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him” (Acts 22:20).

     That was the beginning of his vicious assault upon the name of Jesus, and the church that Jesus loved and gave himself for. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). Do you know who penned that passage, Paul did, but in Acts chapter eight is was very different. In Acts 8:3 this is written, “As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison”. Saul the persecutor is how one would define the first part of his life.

     Please understand, Saul was ignorant of the truth of God, and that by his own admission (I Timothy 1:13), but he was very knowledgeable in Jewish law and traditions. Having gone to the school of Hillel, and studying at the feet of a renowned teacher by the name of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), Saul was educated, but blinded by what he had been taught. He did not see Jesus as the Messiah, the Savour of the world (John 4:42; I John 4:14).

     In Romans 10:1-3, Paul wrote of his Jewish kinsmen, and said this; “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to stablish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God”. Paul at this time was standing in those very shoes.

     That would soon change on the road to Damascus. Saul left Jerusalem with a single thought in mind, namely, to arrest any who believed in Jesus Christ and bring them bound to Jerusalem (Acts 9:2). However, by the time he reached Damascus (about 120 miles Northeast of Jerusalem), Saul was ready to become a Christian, and preach the very thing he sought to destroy (Galatians 1:23).

     What happened? A bright light shining from heaven sent Saul to his knees, and the words of Jesus opened his heart, and caused him to cry out “…Lord, what will you have me to do…? (Acts 9:4-6). Saul would learn that salvation did not come from hearing and seeing Jesus. Please note; Saul would be the last to see Jesus, and said so, “And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time” (I Corinthians 15:7). Paul was not one of the twelve apostles, but he was called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God (I Corinthians 1:1; Romans 1:1; Galatians 1:1 et al). Last, but not least, Paul was not a wit behind the chiefest apostle (II Corinthians 11:5; 12:11).

     But that did not happen on the road to Damascus, when Saul asked, “Lord what you will have me to do?” Jesus said unto him, “Arise and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do” (Acts 9:6). Saul arose, unable to see, he was led by the hand to the city of Damascus. For three days, without eating or drinking, a believing and penitent Saul prayed, waiting to hear what he must do. In the words of Saul, when Ananias came unto him, it was with a message from on high, “…The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard” (Acts 22:14-15).

     That was the message, now the instruction. Here is what you must do “And now why tarriest thou? arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). No one can be saved in sin (Isaiah 59:1-2; Ephesians 2:1); baptism is the act where sins are washed away. Those who deny that baptism is necessary to be saved have closed their eyes to a truth taught repeatedly in the New Testament. I cite just a few for your honest study: Matthew 28:18-19; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; 8:12; 35-39; Romans 6:3-5; I Peter 3:21.  There is an Old Testament passage that comes to mind for those who teach that salvation comes before baptism. “There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness” (Proverbs 30:12).

Do you know the Apostle Paul?

     Like every Christian, Paul rose from the watery grave of baptism forgiven for his past sins. Humbled and grateful, Paul would pen for all the world to read, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am chief” (I Timothy 1:15).

     Paul became a Christian with a path laid out for him to follow, for Jesus said this unto him. “Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they might receive forgiveness of sins, and an inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me” (Acts 26:17-18).

     Paul would become an apostle unto the Gentiles (Romans 11:13), a work he would be uniquely qualified for inasmuch as he was a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia (Acts 22:3), and he was also a Roman citizen from birth (Acts 22:25-28). A citizenship that saved him from a scourging (Acts 22:24-25) and from certain death (Acts 25:2-3; 9-11). A citizenship that frightened the authorities in Philippi, when they realized they had beaten a Roman citizen that was uncondemned and cast him into prison to be held in stocks (Acts 16:23-38).

     Paul was the apostle unto the Gentiles which would be his primary responsibility, but not exclusively, for he preached to the Jews as well (Acts chapters 13 and 14). What did Paul preach? He preached the gospel, he preached Him, he preached the faith that he once tried to destroy (Galatians 1:11; 16; 23). The only mystery Paul preached was “That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel” (Ephesians 3:6). The body is the church where both Jew and Gentile could be reconciled unto God (Ephesians 2:16).

     The message did not set well with the Jews. Just the mention of the Gentiles caused an uproar, and here is why. Many of the Jews did not believe that the Gentiles were worthy of God’s love, certainly not worthy of heaven, and when Paul said that he was sent unto the Gentiles, the Jews cried out, “…Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live” (Acts 22:22).

     That type of animosity plagued Paul through three missionary journeys,. Congregations were born (established) in the midst of Jewish hatred. Thankfully, not all Jews shared their hatred for the gospel of Christ that was meant for all men for all time. As for the Gentiles, in almost the last words recorded in the book of Acts, Paul a prisoner at Rome spoke these words by inspiration. “Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it” (Acts 28:28).

     The apostle Paul penned at least thirteen books of the New Testament. The theme of those epistles can be likened to the theme of the entire New Testament, if not the entire Bible. Further, it expressed Paul’s heart-felt desire to preach the gospel to all who would listen.

     “I am a debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise and the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jews first, and also the Greeks. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:14-16).


The apostle Paul offered no apology for the gospel the preached

     The opposition Paul faced differs little from our own. The devil was there to blind the minds of all he could, just as he is today. “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (II Corinthians 4:3-4).  To others who needed to feel some type of spirituality, he offered a false religion (II Corinthians 11:14-15). Some knew it was false teaching and wanted it any way (II Timothy 4:2-4). Others did not know the difference (II Thessalonians 2:10-12; Matthew 7:21-23).

     Paul knew well his duty to faithfully preach the gospel, and after having done so, the outcome was out of his hands. “For we are unto God a sweet Savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are as the many which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ” (II Corinthians 2:15-17). Paul’s responsibility was to preach the word of God faithfully, and then the responsibility shifted to those who received the word. It would save some and condemn others.

     Paul offered no apology for preaching the singularity of the church:

  1. “And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Ephesians 1:22-23).
  2. “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18).
  3. “There is one body…”
  4. “And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby” (Ephesians 2:16).
  5. “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the Saviour of the body (Ephesians 5:23).

     Denominations? They were unknown in the first century. Please understand what that means. Peter, James, John, Paul and others were saved, being added to the Lord’s church. They lived and died in faith, never having heard of a denomination. From that I know this, denominations are not necessary to go to heaven, but the Lord’s church is, and the Lord’s church is not a denomination. That being true, and it is, who would want to be a member of a denomination???

     Do not listen to any other gospel; “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8-9).


The apostle Paul lived ready to leave this old world

     In II Corinthians 12:2-4, Paul speaking in the third person wrote this: “I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth; such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth; how that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which is not lawful for a man to utter”.

     What Paul heard he was not allowed to say, but whatever it was, it created a longing in him to depart from this present world. “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” “For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you” (Phi 1:21; 23-24).

     When the time of his death was near, this man, who had done so much for the cause of Christ, was able to write to his beloved Timothy (I Timothy 1:2) these parting words. “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (II Timothy 4:6-8).

     The apostle Paul was a man who lived for Jesus (Galatians 2:20) and died in peace. All should know and appreciate this devoted servant and follow him as he followed Christ (I Corinthians 11:1).

Jay Yeager