Paul the Apostle (Greek: Παῦλος Paulos, c.5 – c. 67), original name Saul of Tarsus (Greek: Σαῦλος Saulos), was a Christian missionary who took the gospel of Christ to the first-century world. He is generally considered one of the most important figures of the Apostolic Age. In the mid-30s to the mid-50s, he founded several churches in Asia Minor and Europe. Paul used his status as both a Jew and a Roman citizen in his ministry to both Jewish and Roman audiences. The COGIC venerates Saint Paul as one of the most important and influential apostles of Christianity, alongside the Apostle Peter.
A native of Tarsus, the capital city in the Roman province of Cilicia, Paul wrote that he was "a Hebrew born of Hebrews", a Pharisee, and one who advanced in Judaism beyond many of his peers. He zealously persecuted the early followers of Jesus of Nazareth and violently tried to destroy the newly forming Christian church. Paul's dramatic conversion experience with the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus dramatically changed the course of his life.After his conversion, Paul began to preach that Jesus was the messiah and the Son of God. His leadership, influence, and legacy led to the formation of communities dominated by Gentile groups that worshiped Jesus, adhered to the "Judaic moral code", but relaxed or abandoned the ritual and dietary teachings of the Law of Moses. He taught that these laws and rituals had either been fulfilled in the life of Christ or were symbolic precursors of Christ, though the exact relationship between Paul the Apostle and Judaism is still disputed. Paul taught of the life and works of Jesus Christ and his teaching of a New Covenant, or "new testament", established through Jesus' death and resurrection.Thirteen of the twenty-seven books in the New Testament have been attributed to Paul, and approximately half of the Acts of the Apostles deals with Paul's life and works. However, only seven of the epistles can be accepted as being entirely authentic. The other six are believed to have come from followers writing in his name, using material from Paul's surviving letters and letters written by him that no longer survive.
Conversion to Christianity on the Road to DamascusEdit
Paul's conversion can be dated to 31–36 A.D. by his reference to it in one of his letters. It took place on the road to Damascus where he reported to have experienced a vision of the resurrected Jesus. The account in Acts 9 says that both Saul/Paul and the men that were with him heard the voice asking, "Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?" (The account in Acts 22:9 says his companions saw the light, but did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to Saul.) Saul asked, "Who are you, lord?", to which the voice replied, "I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do". From that experience he was blinded for three days and had to be led into Damascus by the hand. His sight was restored by Ananias of Damascus. This extraordinary life-changing experience and revelation convinced Paul that God indeed had chosen Jesus to be the promised messiah.
At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. All those who heard him were astonished and asked, "Isn't he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn't he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?" Yet Saul grew more and more influential and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.
Post-conversion change of heart and mindEdit
Paul asserted that he received the Gospel not from any man, but by "the revelation of Jesus Christ". In the opening verses of Romans 1, Paul provides a litany of his own apostolic appointment to preach among the Gentiles
- Paul described himself as
- a servant of Christ Jesus
- having experienced an unforeseen, sudden, startling change, due to all-powerful grace—not the fruit of his reasoning or thoughts.[Gal. 1:12-15] [1 Cor. 15:10]
- having "seen" Christ as did the other Apostles when Christ "appeared" to him[1 Cor. 15:8] as He appeared to Peter, to James, to the Twelve, after His Resurrection[1 Cor. 9:1]
- called to be an apostle
- set apart for the gospel of God
- Paul described Jesus as
- having been promised by God beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures
- being the true messiah and the Son of God
- having biological lineage from David ("according to the flesh")
- having been declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead
- being Jesus Christ our Lord
- the One through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, "including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ"
- lives in heaven
- is God's Son
- would soon return
- The Cross
- The Law
- he had believed Gentiles were outside the covenant that God made with Israel
- he now believed Gentiles and Jews were united as the people of God in Christ Jesus[Gal. 3:28]
- had believed circumcision was the rite through which males became part of Israel, an exclusive community of God's chosen people[Phil. 3:3-5]
- he now believed that neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but that the new creation is what counts in the sight of God,[Gal. 6:15] and that this new creation is a work of Christ in the life of a believer, making them part of the church, an inclusive community of Jews and Gentiles reconciled with God through faith[Rom. 6:4]
- had believed his violent persecution of the church to be an indication of his zeal for his religion[Phil. 3:6]
- he now believed Jewish hostility toward the church was sinful opposition that would incur God's wrath[1 Thess. 2:14-16] :p.236 He believed he was halted by Christ when his fury was at its height.[Acts 9:1-2] It was "through zeal" that he persecuted the Church,[Philippians 3:6] and he obtained mercy because he had "acted ignorantly in unbelief".[1 Tim. 1:13]
- The Last Days
- had believed God's messiah would put an end to the old age of evil and initiate a new age of righteousness
- he now believed this would happen in stages that had begun with the resurrection of Jesus, but the old age would continue until Jesus returns
Paul preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ for many years all over Palestine, Southeastern Asia, and Europe and while he was under house arrest wrote several epistles to the Christian churches throughout Europe and Asia, which later became books of the Christian Bible (or the New Testament) under the reign of the first Christian Roman Emperor, Constantine.
In 2 Corinthians 11:20-32 Paul provided a litany of some of his adversities as a missionary. In comparing his experiences to those of some of the "most eminent apostles", he wrote that he:
- worked much harder
- was in prison more frequently
- was flogged more severely
- had been exposed to death again and again (five times he received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one, three times was beaten with rods, once he was pelted with stones)
- was shipwrecked three times, spending a night and a day in the open sea
- was constantly on the move
- had been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from his fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers
- had labored and toiled and had often gone without sleep
- had known hunger and thirst and had often gone without food
- had been cold and naked
- to escape arrest by the governor of Damascus, he was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and got away
According to early Christian historians, Paul met his fate in Rome, the capital of the Ancient Roman Empire, when he was on trial and was sentenced to death by beheading, however, the life history of Saint Paul in the Bible ends with him landing on the Island of Malta (or Melita) after the Roman ship he was going to be carried to Rome in was destroyed in a storm. The Biblical narrative of his life ends by saying, "Paul continued to spread the Gospel of Jesus from the Island of Malta and continued to work miracles from God and no man was able stopped him from doing so."
Today, in the Catholic Church, Paul is revered and venerated as one of the most important and holy saints of the Christian faith.
In the COGICEdit
In the COGIC, Paul is not venerated or revered as a saint, but he is venerated as one of the most important and righteous apostles of the Bible to ever spread the Gospel of Christ Jesus. Unlike in the Catholic Church, Paul is not honored with a special celebration, as none of the saints of the Bible are honored in the COGIC with special celebrations, however, many Christian preachers in the COGIC often use Paul and many of the other Biblical saints in their sermons and as exemplary examples of what God wants people to do for the church and for Him.