The apostle Paul was one of the bible's most profound and highly used missionary and evangelist responsible for
a great deal of the organization known as the Christian Church. He has been instrumental and credited with building the body
of Christ on earth, to the extent that billions of human beings have been directly or indirectly affected by his ministry.
Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he wrote the foundation documents for the Christian way of life, the Word of God
which has changed the lives of millions.
He was born
in an Asian city now located on the southern coast of Turkey called Tarsus. His parents were Jewish, presumably strict Pharisees.
They were also Roman Citizens.
At the age of 14 Paul was sent to Jerusalem to train to be a Rabbi. His teacher was a prominent man named Gamaliel. Rabbis,
at the time, were also taught another trade. The idea was to keep teachers from becoming a burden on society. They also wanted
to have something to fall back on during hard times so Paul was trained to be a tent-maker.
Paul grew to be a man of firm convictions and fiery temperament. He always acted on his beliefs. Thus, when he was
confronted with what he took to be a heresy to Judaism, he worked with all his might to quell it. This heresy would one day
come to be known as Christianity and Paul was among the foremost of its persecutors.
Paul was present at the stoning of Stephen, and though he did not participate, he encouraged the violent act that destroyed
the first of the martyrs. He then participated in a general persecution including, "going from house to house, he dragged
out the believers, both men and women and threw them into jail."
He then undertook a mission to Damascus. There he intended to continue attacking Christians. However, on the way, he had a vision. This
vision is described several times in the Bible, three times in the book of Acts. Paul saw Jesus who asked why Paul persisted
in persecuting Him. He then commissioned Paul to preach His message to the Gentiles.
This meeting with Jesus converted Paul into a Christian. Searching his soul, he undertook
the mission he believed had been given to him directly by Jesus. He preached in Demascus for three years. Despite his enemies
determination to kill him so he continued to preach and teach deliverance throughout the land.
Now when Paul became
a Christian, his very thorough education was enormously helpful. He was able to assimilate Christian doctrines rapidly and
relate them accurately to the Scripture teaching he had received. From his education, both from Gamaliel and in the desert
from the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul developed a divine viewpoint attitude toward human history.
Paul knew that the existence
of God can easily be perceived by anyone, that man can become aware of God, but that many men's deliberate sin halted this
good beginning by immoral activities which accompanied their idolatry. Therefore, Paul had an intense hatred of idolatry of
Paul's teaching shows that the only reality is God. Idolatry distorts man's conception of the world and external
nature. Idolatry is the enemy of mankind.
Paul knew the law of growth of human nature. As a Roman, Tarsian, Hebrew,
and culturally Greek, he knew of the many distortions of the life of his society. As a nation becomes unhealthy, development
is halted. Societies errors as to the nature of God and the true relation of God to man prevented nations from getting rid
of their besetting evil.
The books of Acts is the chief authoritative record for the ministries of Paul and the other
The Lord made Paul a missionary
to the Gentiles, even revealing to him during the period of his arrest in Palestine, and during his subsequent
trials before Jewish and Roman authorities, that he should "be of good cheer, for you must bear witness of Jesus at Rome."
He went to Jerusalem and there gained official sanction from the elders of the
Church, including Peter and James, to bring the message of Jesus to the Gentiles. Along with Barnabas, he then went on his
first Missionary Journey to Cyprus Antioch in Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. During this journey they met many hardships.
Paul was even stoned, though not killed, in Lystra. It was an ironic twist that Paul underwent the same gruesome punishment
he had sanctioned for Stephen and for the very cause Stephen had suffered.
It has been said that if it were not
for Paul and a few others such as Barnabas that Christianity would have remained a small unknown branch of Judaism. Paul was
the leading missionary to the Gentiles.
Gentiles are the name given to
people who are not Jewish. While many within the early church were determined that a Christian must first become a Jew, Paul
insisted that this was not the case. Paul recognized that the message of Jesus was for all men. In a letter to the Galatians
he thoroughly spelled out a case for the message of Jesus being a "New Covenant" with humanity.
Abraham accepted God of his free-will,
and God favored Abraham for this reason. This was the covenant that God made with Abraham and his descendants. The laws given
to Moses were not set down for another couple hundred years. So Paul believed that they were not part of the original bargain,
but were given later to Moses as an intermediate guide until Jesus came to set down the new "Law" and the New Covenant. He
noted that Jesus died on the Cross not only for our sins, but to take on the burden of Mosaic Law. Thus, a Christian need
not first become a Jew in order to follow Jesus. Paul said that like Abraham Christians are saved by their faith alone.
This insistence would have huge
repercussions in the early 1500s when the reformation was sparked by Martin Luther in Germany. One of the
differences between Luther and the Catholic church was Luther's belief, based on the writings of Paul, that men could not
be saved by their good works but only on their belief in God. Of course, the debate over how important acting like a Christian
is has raged ever since.
Paul, himself, seems to have been
of the opinion that faith was all that was required. Nevertheless, a truly faithful person would act Christianly.
He succeeded in making Christianity
a universal religion, not just in the spiritual sense but also in the physical sense. Spreading the Gospel far and wide across
was Paul's mission. His missionary journeys brought him to Asia Minor, Greece, Macedonia and eventually
Rome. There is no question
that his Roman citizenship and his intense training as a Pharisee helped him immensely in this mission. He was arrested several
times because of his preaching and several times was saved because of his elevated status within the Empire.
Besides being a fiery orator, Paul was also a capable writer.
His letters make up the bulk of the epistles in the Bible. Because his writings were so treasured, they are among the most
studied today. The words of Paul carry weight far greater than those of James or Peter, some of whose letters also survive.
Paul's thoughtfulness, gentleness and steadfastness infuse his letters and they also infuse the close adherents of his words
Paul was a charismatic individual.
He was a sure leader of men. Seldom did he doubt himself. He saw his mission as not only bringing the "Good News" to the Gentiles,
but also to organize the Church so that it would grow, even when he was not present to urge it on. Thus, he created an organization
and trained leaders. This organization would one day become modern Christianity as it came to supersede the original authority
of the Church in Jerusalem.
Today Christians see Christ somewhat
through the prism of Paul's teaching. Paul's follower, Luke, would write one of the Gospels as well as the Book of Acts. Paul
was vitally shaped by a dramatic meeting with Christ on the Road to Demascus and it was this drama, coupled with his fervor
that would mold Christianity for the next two Millenia.
Ultimately, it was Paul who both physically and theologically
made Christianity a "universal" church.
Eventually, Paul was condemned and executed in Rome. In my opinion this final statement represents what every Christian
should be able to express when their time on this earth has come to a close
"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."
I pray at this site and through
this ministry God has birthed in me, every person who comes into contact with Damascus Road Ministries will be able to declare
with certainty and humbleness, the same words. As I dedicate my life as Paul
did, I pray the Christ in me can deliver the way Paul’s ministry has delivered throughout the ages.