Friday, July 31, 2015

A Portrait of Apostle Paul

The apostle Paul wasn't always a Christian advocate. He studied Hebrew Scriptures and traditional writings with his father in his childhood home in Tarsus. At age ten, he was sent to Jerusalem to study with Rabbi Gamaliel a respected Pharisee and grandson of Rabbi Hillel. Rabbi Hillel established the rabbinical school that believed that tradition was superior to the Law. The religious school of Gamaliel followed an oral interpretation of Scripture. Relying upon a system of Scriptural exegesis, learned men met to discuss Old Testament passages. Students were taught to question, doubt and contradict what they read by providing varying interpretations and presenting illustrations to support the differing interpretations. As a rabbinical student of Gamaliel, Saul was a first hand witness of the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:58). Later, Saul embarked upon a journey to Damascus to persecute some early Christians. He was stopped on the road by a flash of light that blinded him. "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" Jesus asked (Acts 9:3-4). This incident changed the direction of Saul's life and his name. He became a follower of Jesus instead of persecuting others for their belief in Jesus as the promised Messiah. After converting to Christianity and completing many years of training and fellowship with other Christians, Paul was now ready to begin his ministry. In Pisidian Antioch Paul began his Christian ministry with Barnabas at his side. He realized his primary ministry was to bring the Gentiles into the body of Christ after addressing a crowd in a synagogue. He witnessed to Jewish unbelievers first because his Jewish background increased his compassion for salvation for his Jewish brothers and sisters. Paul's missionary travels were extensive. Some of the places he visited included Galatia, Phrygia, Ephesus, Corinth in Macedonia, Caesarea, Jerusalem and Rome. Paul's education in Scripture helped him to learn and understand the doctrines of the early Christians and relate those ideas and concepts to the early biblical knowledge he received. Paul saw human history from a divine perspective acquired both as a student of Gamaliel and from his encounter with Jesus during his desert wanderings before he began his ministry to the Gentiles. Paul was extremely intelligent and this intelligence helped him debate philosophical and religious topics with the most educated scholars. As a Roman, Tarsian, Hebrew and cultural Greek, Paul understood that often society misunderstands the role and nature of God and the relationship that God hopes to have with man on earth. Paul's ministries are recorded in the book of Acts. This authoritative resource provides many accounts of how Paul served as a missionary to the Gentiles. Acts describes the events of Paul's three missionary journeys in the Roman Empire. The apostle planted churches, preached the gospel message and provided strength and encouragement to early Christians. God gave Paul strength, wisdom and endurance that would enable him to carry out the work entrusted to him by Jesus. God changed Paul so that he could embrace the power that God gave him to preach the Christian life to others. Although Paul was small in stature, he suffered physically during his travels. Many missionaries are inspired by his ability to persevere and minister to others during adversity. Paul is credited with saying "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me," (Philippians 4:13).

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