The Apostle Paul

The Apostle Paul

2 Corinthians 1: 22-33 & 12: 1-10

1. Introduction

Greek Paulos, meaning ‘small.’ Paul is undoubtedly one of the greatest of early Christians. Though small in stature his effect on believers through the ages has been enormous and his accomplishments for the truth - incalculable. Let us briefly consider the life and work of this ‘small/big man’ who came to understand the purpose of suffering as few others do.

Paul studied at the feet of Gamaliel, a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin and renowned teacher of Yahweh's law. (Acts 22:3, Acts 5:34-39)
Acts 22: 3: I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.
Acts 5: 34: Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space;
35: And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men.
36: For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought.
37: After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed.
38: And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought:
39: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.

Paul (Saul of Tarsus) was a Roman citizen (Acts 9:11, 21:39, 22:3, 16:37, 22:25-26).
Acts 9: 11: And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth,
Acts 16: 37: But Paul said unto them, They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out.
Acts 21: 39: But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and, I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people.
Acts 22: 25: And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned?
26: When the centurion heard that, he went and told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman.

Every Jew is taught a trade as a boy, so that he may become self-supporting. Paul was a maker of tents.
Acts 18: 1: After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth;
2: And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them.
3: And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers.”

It is important to remember that the early apostles all supported themselves. Modern leaders who totally depend on a church organization for their livelihood are less able to preach - or even accept - testing truth. Always there is in the back of their minds the thought ‘What will I do if I am dismissed from my job? What about my family, my house, my car?’

2. Misguided Zeal

No person of whatever race and however talented can be really effective in Yahweh's work unless he is under the direct supervision of the Holy Spirit. Paul's background and knowledge of Yahweh's law, great though it was by human standards, was, nevertheless, not enough. Before his conversion he reasoned like an unconverted man; and his decisions resulted in misery and death for many true believers. It was necessary for Paul to be converted, to respond to the Spirit of God, to yield to the Saviour. Until that process was complete, Paul's understanding of spiritual concepts and values was limited. Consider Yahweh's mercy to Paul the Persecutor who by his own admission wrought havoc in the church.
Acts 7: 58: And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul.
59: And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.

Acts 22: 4: And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.
5: As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished.

Acts 22: 20: And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him.
Acts 26: 9: I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
10: Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them.
11: And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.”

Galatians 1: 13: For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it.”

3. Conversion & Commission

The turning point in Paul's life was his conversion. It was spectacular to say the least. He actually saw and heard Jesus Christ at about noon on the road to Damascus. And from Yeshua the Messiah of Israel, Paul received his commission. Consider their meeting.
Acts 9: 1-9 Read this passage through.
Acts 9: 1: And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,
2: And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.
3: And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:
4: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
5: And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
6: And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.
7: And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.
8: And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.
9: And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.

Acts 26: 14: And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
15: And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.
16: But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;
17: Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,
18: To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.”

Important directions Paul received: NOTE: Here are lessons for every preacher, particularly those of us who are of small account in men’s eyes, to go and do likewise. The Saviour's commission to his ministers is:
Matthew 28: 18: And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
19: Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

4. Historical Record

I quote a few facts about the apostle Paul from the Westminster Dictionary of the Bible:
Death, resurrection and ascension of Christ: AD 30
Conversion of Paul: AD 35
Paul's First Missionary Journey: AD 46-48?
Paul's Second Missionary Journey: AD 51-53
Wrote 1 and 2 Thessalonians: AD 52-53
Paul's Third Missionary Journey: AD 54-58
Wrote the epistles to the Galatians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Romans: AD 55-58
First Roman imprisonment: AD 61-63
Wrote epistles to the Colossians, Philemon, Ephesians, Philippians: AD 62-63
Release from first Roman imprisonment: AD 63-64
Wrote 1 Timothy, Titus, 2 Timothy: AD 64-67
Death of Paul: AD 67-68

5. Paul’s Sufferings

Paul suffered more than most believers ever will. But in hissufferings he learned a lesson very few learn: Suffering is the lot of all mankind, believers included. They suffer like other people. The difference is that when a true believer suffers he/she has the comforting assurance of faith that suffering has a divine purpose and will one day end. One day we shall all fully understand why God allowed us to suffer. It's so easy to complain when suffering strikes home and family; but before you begin to complain, think on these verses:
2 Timothy 3: 12: “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”
2 Corinthians 11: 22: Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I.
23: Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.
24: Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.
25: Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;
26: In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;
27: In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
28: Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.
29: Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?
30: If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.”

2 Corinthians 12: 7: And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
8: For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
9: And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10: Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

6. Paul’s Letters

Paul left this world a heritage in letters second to none. He documented for future generations some of the greatest truths the human mind has been privileged to ponder. He analyzed human motives, examined the spiritual parameters of repentance, mercy, faith, grace, humility and love. He charted a course which every believer should study. Paul's letters are often difficult to understand; and some believers think that he swept aside the commandments of God. But they are mistaken, because:

Paul never contradicted the writings of Moses or any other Bible prophet.

He went deeper than most in explaining spiritual concepts, but he never, never contradicted the message of the rest of Scripture; and in no way did he intend his writings to be placed above the laws which the Almighty gave through His servant Moses. Many Christians misunderstand this fact to their own hurt.
2 Peter 3: 15: And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;
16: As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
17: Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.

7. Summary

All too soon we reach the end of the road. The years fly by at what seems a frightening pace; and before we realize it we are at the finishing post. For many it is a time of painful regret: wasted years, wasted money and wasted opportunities. For others it is a time to look back and take stock of how one has done. The apostle Paul did this and here is his testimony of his own life:
2 Timothy 4: 5: But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.
6: For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.
7: I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
8: 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.”


In the Son’s Name - For the Father’s glory.
Max W. Mader