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.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus.
Paul’s life displays God’s ability to transform a person from a persecutor of the church to one of its most effective missionaries. Paul’s ministry spans many years, geographically covering almost the entire Roman Empire and thirteen books of the New Testament (Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Philemon, Titus, and 1 and 2 Timothy) are attributed to Paul.
Paul, known as Saul before his repentance, is born in Tarsus (Acts 22:3), an important city in the Roman Empire. Paul is thoroughly Jewish, but his birthplace affords him the privileges of Roman citizenship, something he later uses to his advantage in sharing the gospel (Acts 16:12 – 40; 22:24 – 29; 23:23 – 24; 25:11 – 12).
As a young man, Paul is actively involved in persecuting the early church and imprisoning Christians for their faith (Acts 8:3; 9:1 – 2; Philippians 3:6). He is present and complicit when the first Christian martyr, Stephen, is stoned to death (Acts 7:58). As a member of the conservative Pharisee sect of Jews (Acts 23:6; Philippians 3:5), Paul attains a high level of theological education studying under Gamaliel, a well-known rabbi (Acts 22:3).
As Paul travels to the city of Damascus to arrest Christians, a light from heaven flashes around him. He hears a voice from heaven ask, “Saul, why do you persecute me?” This encounter with Christ leaves Paul blinded. When a Christian named Ananias prays for Paul, his sight is restored. Paul is then baptized and spends time with the disciples in Damascus (Acts 9:2 – 19).
Shortly after his repentance, Paul goes to the desert area of Arabia and returns to Damascus (Galatians 1:15 – 20). He spends three years there before returning to the cities of Asia Minor. Paul’s bold preaching and his repentance from persecuting Christians becomes widely known in the region, making him a target for church persecutors. A group of Jews attempts to kill him in Damascus (Acts 9:23 – 25), causing him to flee to Jerusalem.
When Paul arrives in Jerusalem, many Christians fear and do not trust him. Then Barnabas, a well-respected disciple who would later accompany Paul on his first mission, meets Paul and convinces the church that his repentance is genuine (Acts 9:27).
Paul goes on to become the greatest missionary of the early church. He takes four missionary journeys, founding, establishing, and teaching churches throughout the Roman Empire. As such, he becomes the apostle to the Gentiles, or the non-Jews. His letters instructing, correcting, and encouraging these churches and the leaders he appoints over them comprise a large percentage of the New Testament.
Paul endures many hardships during his ministry. He is persecuted, stoned, arrested, beaten, shipwrecked, and imprisoned. He preaches the gospel both when he is free and when he is imprisoned. He is ultimately sent to Rome, where, according to church tradition, he is executed by beheading because of his faith in Jesus Christ.
This blog post has been adapted from The MostSignificant People, Places, and Events in the Bible. You can learn more about it here.