Paul's travels took him all over
the Mediterranean, including
Ephesus in Turkey
Paul, which is a Greek nickname meaning ‘titch', is the man who wrote most of the New Testament.
Originally called Saul, he was a highly educated and devoted Jew. Born in Tarsus (in what is now southern Turkey), he was also a Roman citizen.
He was extremely zealous for his Jewish faith, and fought violently against a worrying new sect that had arisen, whose members were following Jesus from Nazareth.
He wanted to crush this new Christian faith and was delighted to be present when Stephen, one of the early Christian leaders, was stoned to death.
Soon afterwards, he obtained permission to travel to the city of Damascus and bring followers of this new religion to justice.
On this journey to Damascus, however, everything changed. As he travelled along he was literally blinded by a light from heaven, and heard Jesus’ voice asking Saul why he was persecuting him.
Saul’s companions led their blind friend into Damascus, where a brave Christian called Ananias was told by God to go and bring God’s healing to Saul. As Ananias embraced his persecutor and called him ‘brother Saul’, Saul’s sight was restored and he saw clearly what had previously been hidden.
He felt God’s forgiveness and love, and began to perceive the great mystery that has been hidden from the wise but revealed to God’s little children. He received the Holy Spirit, was baptised, and spent three years in Arabia and then Damascus praying and learning, and allowing God to rebuild his broken life.
After this time, he spent a fortnight with Peter and James in Jerusalem, guided by the apostle Barnabas. It was perhaps natural that he and Barnabas were sent out on their first missionary journey together. Saul, or Paul as he later became known, took the message of Jesus to most of the Roman empire, embarking on a number of missionary journeys with various companions until he finally ended up in Rome itself, where it is believed he died and was buried.
Although he had never met Jesus, Paul taught people how Jesus was the fulfilment of all of God’s promises. Paul was very aware of how weak and imperfect he himself was, but wanted to share a God who worked even through Paul, the small one, with unimaginably great power and goodness. Paul teaches us that we come to God with less than nothing. We need to be remade, to die with Jesus and have him live in us.
This new life is only available in Jesus, and is offered to all who will ask. Paul teaches us that this new life is lived by God’s values and in God’s power, and that death has been defeated and is ‘great gain’ for those who are in Jesus.
Paul lived and wrote in a very different world from ours, but his story and his teaching speak freshly to each new generation, and lead us back to a timeless message of truth, peace, and life.
Pray: Father, you have shown through Paul that you have the power to transform any life—even the life of someone who has been violently opposed to you! I’d like to ask you now to transform my life: let me grow close to you, show me your forgiveness, let me receive a new birth in Jesus Christ. Amen.
Look up Paul’s ‘road to Damascus experience’ in Acts, chapter 9
Watch a video clip about how Paul went from murderer to messenger of God
Watch the first part of the movie Paul the Apostle
Read an article which reviews Paul’s life and his impact
Find out more about Paul in Wikipedia
Find out about St Paul’s possible tomb in Rome, excavations of which began in 2002
See the painting by Caravaggio of the Conversion of St Paul, c 1601
See the painting Saint Paul Writing His Epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne or Nicolas Tournier
Read the book In the Footsteps of St Paul, by Edward Stourton
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