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The Life Of Paul

About 14 books of the New Testament were written by Paul. Paul was undoubtedly one of the most-used people ever selected by Christ for the spreading of the Gospel. We have all heard about many of the things Paul said, but how much do we know about Paul the person?

Today I want to provide you this sermon in a Bible Study format, to talk to you about what the Bible says about the life and person of Paul.

1. First, let's look at some background information about Paul:

Paul was born at Tarsus, in the province of Cilicia (south central Turkey, not far from Cypress).

Acts 22:3 "I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today.

He was born a Roman citizen.

Acts 22:25-28 As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there, "Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn't even been found guilty?" {26} When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. "What are you going to do?" he asked. "This man is a Roman citizen." {27} The commander went to Paul and asked, "Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?" "Yes, I am," he answered. {28} Then the commander said, "I had to pay a big price for my citizenship." "But I was born a citizen," Paul replied.

Paul's name was originally Saul.

Acts 9:11 The Lord told him, "Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying.
Acts 13:9 Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said....

Paul was born and raised an Israelite (a Benjamite).

Phil 3:4-6....... If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: {5} circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; {6} as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.

Paul was also a Jewish citizen of Tarsus, the capital of Cilicia in southern Turkey.

Acts 21:39 Paul answered, "I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no ordinary city. Please let me speak to the people."

By trade, he was a tentmaker.

Acts 18:1-3 After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. {2} There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, {3} and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them.

Paul was very zealous for Judaism.

Gal 1:14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
Also remember what we read in Phil 3:5 where Paul expounds on being a Pharisee and Hebrew of Hebrews.

Paul used his strict Pharisaical background.

Acts 23:6 Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, "My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee. I stand on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead."

We read in Acts 22:3 that Paul trained under Gamaliel, but who was Gamaliel?

Acts 5:34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while.

We know that he had a sister in Jerusalem when the Jews plotted to kill him.

Acts 23:16 But when the son of Paul's sister heard of this plot, he went into the barracks and told Paul.

Paul may have been married.

In 1 Cor 9:1-6 Paul is talking to the Corinthians about the rights of an apostle.
Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? {2} Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. {3} This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. {4} Don't we have the right to food and drink? {5} Don't we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord's brothers and Cephas ? {6} Or is it only I and Barnabas who must work for a living?

Paul was a member of the Jewish council.

Acts 26:10 And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the saints in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them.

2. Now let's look at a chronology of major events in Paul's life:

We'll begin with Paul's (Saul's) persecution of every Christian he could find.

Acts 6:15-7:3 - Stephen condemns the Jewish religious leaders (but not Judaism):
All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel. [A display of Supernatural Radiance] {7:1} Then the high priest asked him, "Are these charges true?" {2} To this he replied: "Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran. {3} 'Leave your country and your people,' God said, 'and go to the land I will show you.'.....

And Stephen describes the experiences of the Patriarchs and Joseph and Moses and David and Solomon and the building of the temple.

Skipping to verse 48:

Acts 7:48-53 "However, the Most High does not live in houses made by men. As the prophet says [Isa 66:1-2]: {49} "'Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be? {50} Has not my hand made all these things?' {51} "You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! {52} Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who PREDICTED the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him-- {53} you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but HAVE NOT OBEYED IT."
Continuing in verse 54-8:3 When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. {55} But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. {56} "Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." {57} At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, {58} dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. {59} While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." {60} Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he died. {8:1} And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. {2} Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. {3} But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison.

And in chapters 22 and 26, Paul reiterates how he consented to and was involved in the persecution of Christians:

Acts 22:4 I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison,

Acts 22:20 And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.'

Acts 26:9-11"I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. {10} And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the saints in prison, and when they were [to be] put to death, I cast my vote against them. {11} Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. In my obsession against them, I even went to foreign cities to persecute them.

Are we ready for that kind of persecution? How close are we to the tribulation?

3. Now let's read about Saul's conversion:

Acts 9:1-19 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He went to the high priest {2} and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. {3} As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. {4} He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul , Saul, why do you persecute me?" {5} "Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked. "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied.
The words in verse 5 of the KJV, "it is hard for you to kick against the pricks" are not found in most other versions. They ARE found, however, in Acts 26:14 and mean "It is hard for you to kick against the goads [the cattle prods].
{6} "Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do." {7} The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. {8} Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. {9} For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything [probably caused by fear]. {10} In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, "Ananias !" "Yes , Lord," he answered. {11} The Lord told him, "Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. {12} In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight." {13} "Lord," Ananias answered, "I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. {14} And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name." {15} But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go ! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. {16} I will show him how much he must suffer for my name." {17} Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord--Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here--has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit." {18} Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized [in order to receive the Holy Spirit], {19} and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus.

Next, we will read about Paul's journey to Arabia.

Paul was called by Jesus Christ and God the Father. He goes on to describe how God directed his entire life so that he could be used for God's purpose. These scriptures exemplify that it does not matter how nefarious or abhorrent your past, God can still use you:

Gal 1:1 Paul, an apostle--sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead--
Verses 11-17 I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. {12} I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. {13} For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the Church of God and tried to destroy it. {14} I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. {15} But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased {16} to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, {17} nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia [for instruction] and later returned to Damascus. {18} Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days.

It is not clear whether Paul's instruction from Jesus Christ lasted the whole three years, but it apparently took place near the real Mount Sinai which is in Midian, in northwest Arabia. If his instruction from Christ took only a small portion of the three years, then Paul was demonstrating a certain degree of independence from Peter and the other apostles by staying with them for only fifteen days following the three year period since his conversion.

4. Corinth was a very lewd city - but very zealous too. But the Corinthians questioned Paul's authority:

We read in 1 Cor 9 that Paul might have been married. But let's read it again, noticing what he said about being an apostle. The definition of the word apostle is "one sent forth," such as an envoy or missionary.

1 Cor 9:1-3 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? {2} Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. {3} This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me.
2 Cor 11:1-11 I hope you will put up with a little of my foolishness; but you are already doing that. {2} I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him [not tainted by other religions]. {3} But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. {4} For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached,

[Isn't that what we have today? There are many so-called 'Christian' churches, each preaching a different Jesus. Even Islam has a Jesus.]

or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. {5} But I do not think I am in the least inferior to those "super-apostles." {6} I may not be a trained speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way. {7} Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge? {8} I robbed other churches by receiving support from them so as to serve you. {9} And when I was with you and needed something, I was not a burden to anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied what I needed. I have kept myself from being a burden to you in any way, and will continue to do so. {10} As surely as the truth of Christ is in me, nobody in the regions of Achaia will stop this boasting of mine. {11} Why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do!

Paul received inspiration directly from Christ:

1 Cor 11:23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread...

You might also read Galatians 2 and Acts 9.

Paul's view of himself was very humble. He recognized that Christ gave him the abilities that he had and that all apostles were inspired to give the same message:

1 Cor 15:8-11 ... and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. {9} For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. {10} But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them--yet not I, but the grace [unmerited pardon] of God that was with me. {11} Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.

In 2 Cor 12, Paul glories in his achievements (which are really praises to God), yet follows up on that by saying that God keeps him humble because of his infirmity (which was apparently his eyesight):

2 Cor 12:1-7 I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. {2} I know a man in Christ [speaking of himself] who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven [where God lives]. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know--God knows. {3} And I know that this man--whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows-- {4} was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell. {5} I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. {6} Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say. {7} To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.

5. Paul's Health Problems:

In Galatians 4, Paul gives us further insight into his health problems:

Gal 4:13-15 As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. {14} Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. {15} What has happened to all your joy? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me.

Galatians 6:11 also gives us the same insight:

Gal 6:11 See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!

But even with his poor eyesight, he apparently wrote better than he spoke:

2 Cor 10:10 For some say, "His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing."

6. The Corinthians made more account of false apostles than of Paul. In 2 Cor 11 he felt obliged to compare himself to them and describe the hardships he had faced in their behalf.

2 Cor 11:16-33 I repeat: Let no one take me for a fool. But if you do, then receive me just as you would a fool, so that I may do a little boasting. {17} In this self-confident boasting I am not talking as the Lord would, but as a fool. {18} Since many are boasting in the way the world does, I too will boast. {19} You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise! {20} In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or pushes himself forward or slaps you in the face. {21} To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that! What anyone else dares to boast about--I am speaking as a fool--I also dare to boast about. {22} Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham's descendants? So am I. {23} Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. {24} Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one [Deut 25:3]. {25} Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, {26} I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. {27} I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. {28} Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. {29} Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? {30} If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. {31} The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying. {32} In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. {33} But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands.

Paul was willing to give away all the worldly wealth and physical strength he had if it would bring the Corinthians closer to him:

2 Cor 12:15 So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well. If I love you more, will you love me less?

As I said earlier, Corinth was a very lewd city. Paul had soundly admonished them earlier to rid themselves of this sin.

2 Cor 13:1-3 This will be my third visit to you. "Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses." {2} I already gave you a warning when I was with you the second time. I now repeat it while absent: On my return I will not spare those who sinned earlier or any of the others, {3} since you are demanding proof that Christ is speaking through me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you.

The verse in 2 Cor 13:1 is a quote from Deut 19:15 which states:

Deu 19:15 One witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offense he may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.

Paul is warning that they need to determine the truth of the facts alleged against some offenders. As can be seen in 2 Cor 13:3, Paul is still having difficulty convincing the Corinthians that Christ is working through him; that he represented Christ. In any event, Paul is through playing games with them.

In 2 Cor 7 Paul points out that, though he teaches firmly, he does not mean to imply a lack of love for them, or expect a loss of love from them. In verse 3 he expresses the ultimate in brotherly love: He would live or die with them.

2 Cor 7:2-3 Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one. {3} I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you.

In 2 Cor 12:11 Paul declares his apostleship and he describes the lengths he has gone to befriend the Corinthian church. Paul uses satire to make his point.

2 Cor 12:11-13 I have made a fool of myself, but you drove me to it. I ought to have been commended by you, for I am not in the least inferior to the "super-apostles," even though I am nothing. {12} The things that mark an apostle--signs, wonders and miracles--were done among you with great perseverance. {13} How were you inferior to the other churches, except that I was never a burden to you? Forgive me this wrong!

In Phil 3 Paul encourages the Philippians to press on toward our goal and warn them that many of them live for pleasures and thereby become the enemies of the cross of Christ.

Phil 3:17-20 Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. {18} For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. {19} Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things [material things]. {20} But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, . . . . . . [Do we live for earthly pleasures or for our citizenship in heaven?]

As I have stated before, most people live for pleasures - they worship the god of pleasure.

7. Paul's last book includes commendations for those who helped him most. From his prison cell in Rome, Paul writes to Timothy, who was probably at Ephesus, to commend him and express his wish that he could see him.

2 Tim 1:1-5 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, {2} To Timothy, my dear son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. {3} I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. {4} Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. {5} I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.

In verse 15, Paul commends Onesiphorus for his kindness toward him while in prison.

2 Tim 1:15-18 You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus [Fi-je'lus] and Hermogenes [Her-moj'-enez]. {16} May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. {17} On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me. {18} May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day! You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus.

In 2 Tim 2, Paul exhorts faithfulness as a good soldier of Christ. He dismisses his own situation (being chained like a criminal) and accepts his own fate as a sacrifice for the elect.

2 Tim 2:8-13 Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, {9} for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God's word is not chained. {10} Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. {11} Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; {12} if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; {13} if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.

Do we disown or deny Christ by our words or actions as we associate with worldly people around us? If we do, the verses we just read are a warning of our fate.

In the final chapter of Paul's final book, Paul gives Timothy a solemn charge to do his duty zealously, that the times of apostasy are at hand, and that he, Paul, is near his end.

2 Tim 4:1-8 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: {2} Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction. {3} For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. {4} They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. [A perfect description of today's worldly preachers.] {5} But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. {6} For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. {7} I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. {8} Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Paul will have a very prestigious and responsible position in the Kingdom of God. In-as-much as he was the chief apostle to the gentiles, he will probably continue that role... and there are a lot of gentiles in this world!

Brethren, the Church has had many leaders in its long history, perhaps not many as eminent as Paul, but many nearly as dedicated. Paul dedicated his life to serving Christ in the saving of the saints. When the end of your life comes, will you be able to say as Paul said :

I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day.

Sermon given by Wayne Bedwell
28 January 2012
Copyright 2012, Wayne Bedwell

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