Paul The Apostle Of The New Testament Religion Essay
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Paul the Apostle is one of the most important people in the New Testament. He wrote more books in the New Testament than any other author. This man did not start out as the person he was in the end however, for he was not always a Christian or lover of them. For a person to know who they are and where they come from is one thing, but to trade all one knows in for a different identity, life, and religion is something else altogether. Paul lived a life that was life changing, as well as world changing, to those he came into contact with. Paul was a very hard and rugged man and would not have made it through everything he encountered if it had not been for; the way he was raised as Saul, his conversion to Christianity, and his ability to place the mission of God before his own.
Paul was born as Saul in the city of Tarsus, a commercial city in Asia Minor, located not too far from the Mediterranean coast. He more than likely was named after the first king of Israel, King Saul. His mother and father were Jewish, his father being a Pharisee from the family line of Benjamin, the son of Jacob. Being born and raised in a place like Tarsus made him aware of many other types of people from all walks of life. He encountered sailors, soldiers, merchants, wealthy and poverty stricken people. He also learned the trade of tent making while growing up in order to earn a decent living. In the tradition of the family during that time, whatever the father did as a trade the sons did also. The textile industry of that day, which included tent making and outer garments, did a fairly lucrative profession back then due to the presence of the sailors and soldiers ordinarily needing shelter from the elements. Not only was Saul born a Jew but he was also a Roman citizen. No one knows for sure; however it was Roman law that if a person was born free anywhere in the Roman Empire then they were Roman citizens. When males were born to Jewish parents they were dedicated to the service of God and brought up in very strict Jewish religious custom. Saul's mother read the Torah to him until around age four or five and then his father became his teacher for a year. By the time he was about six years old he was taken to school to learn the teachings of Moses in Hebrew and Greek, memorizing them as the teacher recited them. This took a lot of hard work and concentration on a young child's part but this is how serious his parents were about their tradition and religious belief. At fourteen or fifteen years old it was off to rabbinical school to study under Gamaliel, who was considered the master Rabbi. After studying under Gamaliel he became a Pharisee, for he said of himself in the bible; "Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee" (Acts 23:6). (Nelson) In the transition of studying in Tarsus and then studying in Jerusalem, Saul discovered that to be a Pharisee meant something totally different. He had learned that in Tarsus, it meant to observe the teachings of Moses and its interpretations by the Rabbi. In Jerusalem it meant to be a separatist and legalistic in your views concerning the Law. This is a major turning point in the life Saul. These men sought to hurt or even kill anyone who opposed them or called them out on their wrong doing. This is the advanced education Saul now received and had a fire in his heart to carry out this new standard of belief and teaching, this belief system that exchanged the spirit of the law for the letter of the law. Unlike the person he was a few years earlier he now becomes a crazed, heartless, religious fanatic that desires to destroy anyone that believes openly what is contrary to what he believes. He gets to the point where he not only kills Christians but because of his deep hatred for them, he also rounds them up to bring them into the city for torture, entertainment and sport. He goes all out persecuting Christians for what he believes is right; things like getting written permission to drag people from their homes to bring them to Jerusalem; until one day he has an experience on the Damascus road. (Boyd)
While traveling from Jerusalem to Damascus on a mission to round up Christians, Saul had an experience he would never forget. As he rode down the Damascus road, all of a sudden he fell off the horse he was riding and a bright light shined all around him. (Acts 9:3-4) (Nelson) So bright in fact, that he was blinded by it. He heard a voice he thought to be a man but later recognized that it was not a man but the very Christ he persecuted by persecuting the Christians. This was another major turning point in the life of Saul. He now goes from persecuting, killing, beating, and torturing Christians to becoming one. His blindness lasted for three days and then he was healed of his blindness by the laying on of hands as it had been previously told to him. His name now is changed from Saul to Paul and he leaves Damascus and goes to Arabia in order to get to know the God of his salvation personally. He knows who God is by the letter of the written law but now needs to know Him by the spirit, so he gets away for approximately three years to spend time with God. After Paul returns to Damascus he proves hands down that Jesus is the Messiah, just like Jesus said He was, and the Jews there tried to kill him because he now preached the truth of the law they knew and recited. Paul's escaping with his life from this death attempt became the catalyst to him going from place to place and city to city spreading the Gospel. He was however, made an Apostle, and commissioned to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, the Grecians and all the non Jewish people, and convert them to Christianity and not the Jews. (Boyd)
Paul began to travel on what is known as his missionary journeys throughout Asia Minor encountering manifold crises and near death experiences. He forged very strong relationships with men and women of like passion for God and His work as well as establishing many churches and installing pastors to oversee them as he traveled. He visited the churches he established and wrote letters to them when he could not physically be there. These letters came to be known as the Pauline epistles in the New Testament. These same letters serve today as direction and guidance for holy living. Paul the Apostle was shipwrecked several times, attacked, arrested, beaten with rods, and left for dead; yet persevered until he had accomplished his mission. Absolutely nothing but death would keep Paul from fulfilling the destiny that was his to complete and he did not taste of death until he knew he was ready. However, when the time had come for him to die they executed him. Ordinarily, they would have crucified him but it was unlawful to crucify a Roman citizen, so he was beheaded. Paul the Apostle was a great man in history and his life lives on through the pages of Holy Scripture. (Boyd)
Boyd, Robert T. Paul the Apostle. Iowa Falls: World Bible Publishers, 1995
Holy Bible: King James Version. Nashville: Nelson, 1999
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