The Life of Paul

 
 

by

Mary Giangreco


Introduction


Saul, who we know as the Apostle Paul, was from Tarsus and had inherited a Roman citizenship (Acts 22:25-28).  With written letters to the Damascus synagogues, he was on a quest to destroy the way of the Christians and bring them bound to Jerusalem.  On the road to Damascus, Jesus shined around him as a bright light saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4).  Saul responds, “Who are you Lord?”  This question was the beginning of an unconquerable, impenetrable, invincible relationship for Paul, fulfilling not only the true call on his life, but always remaining in relationship with Him.  Jesus responds to Paul’s question, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.  It is hard for you to kick against the goads” (Acts 9:5).   Life was never the same for the Apostle Paul after his conversion.


Paul’s Healing, Receiving the Holy Spirit and Preaching About Jesus


Paul was three days without sight after having an encounter with Jesus.   During this time he remained in pray and didn’t eat or drink.  God calls upon His disciple Ananias to meet with Paul.  Ananias at first was afraid to meet with him because of his reputation; he obeys the Lord and meets with him anyway.  When Ananias met Paul he talked of the experience he had on the road to Damascus.  Ananias laid his hands on Paul and he received his sight and the Holy Spirit.  Paul ate and he “Immediately preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God” and the Christ (Acts 9:17-20).   Needless to say the Jews were not happy about this.  They plotted to kill him but to no avail.  Their plot became known and the disciples took Paul by night and let him down through the wall in a large basket” (Acts 9:21-25) and he was on his way.  He didn’t give up but continued on with three missionary trips. This was the beginning of Paul’s preaching ministry. 


Three Missionary Trips


The first journey (A.D. 48-49) concentrates on the Galatian cities of Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe.  After this journey, a council is held among the apostles and elders of the church in Jerusalem to determine that the Gentile converts need not submit to the Law of Moses.  The second missionary journey (A.D. 50-52) brings Paul once again to the Galatian churches, and then for the first time on to Macedonia and Greece.  Paul spends much of his time in the cities of Phillippi, Thessalonica, and Corinth, and later returns to Jerusalem and Antioch.  In his third missionary journey (A.D. 53-57), Paul spends almost three years in the Asian city of Ephesus before visiting Macedonia and Greece for the second time.  Although he is warned not to go to Jerusalem, Paul cannot be dissuaded.1


The First Missionary Journey


At the church in Antioch, certain men of God, along with Barnabas and Saul (Paul), ministered to the Lord with fasting, and the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”  The men continued to pray and fast and laid hands on Paul and Barnabas and sent them as the Holy Spirit directed.  Paul and Barnabas, with John Mark as an assistant, began their first missionary journey together.  They traveled to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus. Arriving in Salamis they preached the gospel in the synagogues of the Jews (Acts 13:1-5).  Paul and Barnabas preached as they traveled and upon their arrival at Paphos there was a Jewish sorcerer named Bar-Jesus.  He was close to the governor, Sergius Paulus, who is described as an intelligent man.  Sergius invites Paul and Barnabas, as he is interested in hearing the Word of God.  Bar-Jesus tries to discourage Sergius Paulus from meeting with Paul and Barnabas.  IT was his plan to keep Sergius from hearing the Word of God and experiencing his conversion to Christ.  Paul, filled with the influence of the Holy Spirit, named the operating devils, “deceit” and “fraud,” calling him the “son of the devil,” “enemy of all that is righteousness” and “perverting the straight ways of the Lord” (Acts 13:6-12).   Paul declared Bar-Jesus to be blind for a time and he was.  Needless to say, once the demons were out of the way, Sergius Paulus became a believer (Acts 13:11-12).


Angry Jewish Leaders


Paul and Barnabas preached the gospel wherever they went and signs followed.  In Perga they went to the synagogue and gave the people a history lesson, beginning with slavery in Egypt, through to Jesus forgiving sins.  That day when the people left the synagogue they asked Paul to return the following week; and he did.  The entire city showed up.  The Jewish leaders were there and seeing all the people they became jealous, cursing and arguing against what Paul said.  Paul was bold and stood his ground saying, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:16-46).  The Gentiles were delighted, believing and receiving eternal life.  The angry Jewish leaders ran Paul and Barnabas out of town.  They just shook the dust of that town off their feet and went on their way to Iconium where they had many converts (Acts 13:47-52).


Iconium


In Iconium Paul and Barnabas went to the synagogue of the Jews, preaching the Word to the great multitudes of people. Both Jews and Greeks believed.  The unbelieving Jews poisoned the minds of some of the Greeks causing strife.  But Paul and Barnabas prevailed speaking boldly in the Lord, bearing witness of the Word with signs and wonders following.  There was still a division in the city among the people.  Violence broke out and the people, along with the rulers, were plotting to stone Paul and Barnabas. When they became aware of this they fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia and the surrounding regions (Acts 14:1-6).


Lystra


In Lystra there was a certain crippled man, who had never walked.  This man heard Paul speaking.  While Paul observed him, he perceived by the Spirit that the man had faith to be healed.  He said to the man,” Stand up straight on your feet?”   The man leaped and walked.  It was as though the man was brewing with faith waiting in expectation for his moment.  The man and Paul were on the same wave length in the spirit.  When Paul said what he said, the man was ready and without thinking he leaped from his sitting or laying down position.  A miracle took place for this man who was crippled from birth. When the people saw what Paul had done, they thought the gods had came to visit them.  They called Paul, Hermes and Barnabas, Zeus.    Paul and Barnabas tore their clothes, which was a Jewish expression of horror and revulsion, at the blasphemy.2    Paul said we are men, persuading you to turn from these idles and turn to the living God.  But with everything that Paul said to them, the people did not restrain themselves from doing sacrifice to Paul and Barnabas (Acts 14:8-14).


The Stoning But Not Unto Death


Trouble was brewing among the Jews from Antioch and Iconium.  They arrived in Lystra to kill Paul.  They caused commotion and strife among the people to the point that they stoned Paul, almost to death.  God wasn’t done with Paul.  The disciples gathered around his stone-beaten body and he rose up.  I believe that they prayed for him and didn’t just gather around staring at him.  The next day Paul and Barnabas press on in spite of the stoning and were on there way to Derbe (Acts 14:9-20).  “When they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:21-22).  They returned to the church in Antioch and reported their first missionary journey (Acts 14:26-28).


Paul’s Second Missionary Journey


Timothy


Paul went through Syria and Cilicia confirming the churches (Acts 15:41) and came to Derbe and Lystra. There they found a disciple named Timothy, the son of a woman who was a Jewess and who believed, though his father was Greek.  Timothy was spoken of well by the brothers in Lystra and Iconium and Paul asked him to join him and Silas on the missionary journey.  Timothy was circumcised for his safety by Paul because the Jews knew his father was a Greek.    As Paul, Silas and Timothy “went through the cities,” they made known to them, “the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem.  The churches were strengthened in faith, and increased in number daily” (Acts 16:1-4).


Vision of a Man in Macedonia  

  

This time they set out by land rather than sea, traveling the Roman road through Cilicia and the Cilician Gates, a gorge through the Taurus Mountains, then northwest toward Derbe, Lystra and Iconium.  The Spirit told them not to go into Asia, so they turned northward toward Bithynia.  Again the Spirit said no, so they turned west through Mysia to the harbor city of Troas.3  Paul had a vision of a man in Macedonia, Greece pleading with him to come to them.  After the vision they concluded that God wanted them to go and bring the gospel.  They finally reached Philippi, a Roman colony inside the Macedonian border, and stayed there for several days.  On the Sabbath they went outside the city to a river bank where some people met for prayer.  This was an uncovered amphitheater where prayer and worship took place because there was no synagogue. Apparently, few Jews lived in this Roman colony, because if there were as many as ten heads of families in a community, the Jews were required to form a synagogue.  Jewish women were not obliged to attend public worship, but these devout ladies customarily prayed outside the city.4 There were many places like this among the Jews on the sea sides or on rivers.  It was in this place that Paul, Silas and Timothy taught the gospel to some of the women.  There, Paul met a woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God.  She, along with her household and guests were baptized.  She invited Paul, Silas and Timothy to say in her home (Acts 16:9-15). 


Demon Possessed Woman


One day when Paul, Silas and Timothy were going to the river to pray, a certain woman possessed by the spirit of divination, who made money for her masters through fortune telling, followed Paul, Silas and Timothy down to the river.  She said, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation” (Acts 16:16-17).  She did this for many days and finally Paul discerns the spirit and says, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.”(Acts 16:18)  The spirit left her that very hour.  The masters of the girl, when they found out what Paul did, were outraged because they could no longer use the girl for profit.  Paul and Silas were manhandled by the authorities and taken to the magistrates and the command went out to beat them with rods.  After this they were “put in the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks” (Acts 16:19-24).  Roman stocks were not only made to keep one from escape, but were made with holes wide enough apart so as to stretch the legs and bruise the feet to cause great pain and injury.  This, with the stripes beyond moderation, made them suffer agony.  But in spite of this, they could sing and pray5 (Acts 16:25).


At midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing to God; the prisoners listening.  There was an earthquake that shook the foundations of the prison and the doors were opened and chains were loosed for everyone.  The keeper of the prison awoke from a deep sleep to see the prisoners free and as he was about to kill himself, Paul stopped him.  Jailers were responsible for prisoners under the penalty of death.  This one chose suicide rather than face the death he feared at the hands of the Romans.6  Almost immediately the jailer wanted to know how to be saved.  Paul didn’t miss a beat and said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:26-31).  The jailer and his household were saved.  The jailer showed kindness to Paul and Silas he washed their stripes and immediately he and all his family were baptized.  He gave them food and he rejoiced having believed in God with his entire household (Acts 16:33-34).


Paul continues the missionary journey through Amphipolis, Apollonia, to Thessalonica, Macedonia, Brea, Macedonia (Acts 17:1-9), Athens, Greece (Acts 17:15-34), Corinth, Greece (Acts 18:1-17), Cenchrea, Greece (Acts 18:18).  Back across the Aegean Sea to Ephesus, Asia Minor (Acts 18:19-21), Caesarea, Samaria (Acts 18:21-22), Jerusalem (Acts 18:22) and back to Antioch, Syria (Acts 18:22).7


Paul’s Third Missionary Journey


Ephesus


After a long stay in Antioch, Paul was on his way to Galatia and Phrygia, “strengthening all the disciples” (Acts 18:23).  When he reached Ephesus, he found some disciples and asked them if they have received the Holy Spirit when they believed.  They hadn’t heard of the Holy Spirit.  They had only been baptized in the baptism of John unto repentance.  “Paul laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied” (Acts 19:1-6).  Paul headed straight to the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months concerning the kingdom of God.  There was an outbreak of persecution because some were hardened and did not believe.  Paul went to the school of Tyrannus taking the disciples with him, reasoning with them daily.  This continued for two years and all who lived in Asia heard the word of God both, Jews and Greeks (Acts 19:8-10).


God worked extraordinary miracles through Paul.  There were people who brought handkerchiefs or aprons to Paul, they had only to touch his body and the anointing of healing went with the pieces of cloth and healed the sick.  “Many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all.”  “The value of them totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver.”  “The word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed” (Acts 19:11-12, 19-20).   


Macedonia


Paul departs Ephesus and sails across to Macedonia.  From here he went to Greece and stayed for three months.  Persecution of the Jews broke out so he returned to Macedonia.  Upon his returning to Macedonia, Sopater of Berea accompanied him to Asia along with Aristarchus, Secundus of The Thessalonians, Gaius of Derbe, Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia.  These men went ahead of Paul and waited in Troas for him.  Paul sailed from Phillippi and five days later he joined them at Troas where they stayed for seven days.  The first day of the week the disciples came together; Paul was scheduled to leave the following day.  At the breaking of bread, Paul spoke a message to them until midnight.  There sat a certain man at a window sill that fell asleep as Paul was speaking he fell from the third story window and died.  Paul went down and fell on the man, Elijah style, and embraced him, saying to the others who gathered around, “Do not trouble yourselves, for his life is in him.” The young man was alive and well.  This is only one of the many miracles Paul performed to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:1-12).   


Conclusion


Paul, a Hebrew of Hebrews, was persecuting the Christians before his encounter with Christ.  He becomes one of them and preaches the gospel with signs following and with persecution on his heels.  He is a great example for us today of pressing on for Christ.  The lesson learned is to keep pressing on in the faith and the preaching of the Word of God, no matter what the persecution.  I have only scratched the surface on the missionary journey of Paul.  I hope this lesson would cause you to do further study and empower you, making the call and election sure.